Betrothed, p.9
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       Betrothed, p.9

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice

  Caitlin flew over the British countryside, a smile on her face. Beside her flew Sam, Polly and Caleb, holding Ruth. Caitlin held Scarlet on her back, who clutched her tight with her small hands.

  Caitlin thought back to Scarlet's expression when Caitlin told her that she could fly, and that she was going to take her with her up into the air. She had never seen anyone's eyes open so wide in her life.

  If Scarlet had been an adult, surely she would have dismissed it as being possible. But because she was a child, Caitlin could see in her face that she believed it, and was utterly thrilled - as if Caitlin had just confirmed to her that supernatural powers really do exist.

  Without hesitating, Scarlet had jumped onto Caitlin's back. Caitlin had told her to hold on tight, and a moment later they had all been up in the air. Caitlin could hear Scarlet shouting and laughing with joy as they flew off into the horizon, and could only imagine her thrilled expression.

  Caitlin thought back again to how they had finally decoded the riddle, of Scarlet's quick-witted solution. She marveled once again at how intelligent this child was. She had, somehow, managed to trump four adults, had managed to decode the riddle in a fraction of a second. Caitlin had never possibly imagined that the answer to the riddle would come from a child. She had vastly underestimated her: this was a special child. Caitlin felt so fortunate to have found her, and couldn't help wondering whether they had been destined to meet, whether this had all been pre-ordained.

  Windsor Castle. Of course. It was a place of legend, a place she had heard about only in textbooks. She was thrilled herself to be going there. The second Scarlet had mentioned it, it had felt right. And when Caleb then told her that Windsor Castle had been the seat of royalty for thousands of years, and had also been the place where King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table had actually met, she knew it was meant to be. If there were more ancient clues or relics to be found, she could think of no more appropriate place than Windsor Castle.

  It was only 20 miles away, just west of London. As they all flew through the air, at top speed, Caitlin looked down, and saw an endless stretch of forest pass under them, barely inhabited. She once again felt her stomach growl. But they flew so fast, there was no stopping now. It hardly took fifteen minutes from the time they'd left the river Thames until Caitlin caught her first glimpse of the castle.

  The sight took her breath away. In her journeys, she had been to some pretty magnificent places, but this one was close to the top. What struck her most was that the castle so big, spread out over so much land. It must have consumed hundreds of acres, and the walkway alone, a perfectly manicured path, stretched for miles. The land sloped gently upward, and finally brought the visitor to a massive, imposing gate.

  Up high, Caitlin had the benefit of flying over the gate, and from her bird's eye view, she could see what lay behind it. The castle had a huge inner courtyard, with manicured grass, and multiple structures spread out on either side. It seemed not like one castle but several, all welded together in one huge structure. At the far end it culminated in a circular building, high up on a hill, its ramparts reaching into the sky, set off from the rest of it, and surrounded by a moat.

  "A castle!" Scarlet shrieked in excitement, "a real-life castle!" Caitlin could feel her giddiness, and smiled at her enthusiasm, as Scarlet clutched her more tightly.

  "Will I get to meet a real-life princess?" Scarlet asked.

  Caitlin smiled wider.

  "Maybe," she responded.

  "That's the tower!" Caleb yelled out. "That's where King Arthur and his knights met. " He then pointed in another direction.

  "And there is Saint George's Chapel. Where rulers met for hundreds of years. " They flew over the castle's grounds, circling again and again, taking it all in. Caitlin was more impressed every time they flew over it. She felt something stir within her, and knew, just knew, that whatever clue was next, it was below. She felt encouraged again, as she knew she was in exactly the right place for the mission.

  "Where should we land?" Sam yelled out.

  Caitlin had been wondering the same thing herself. The castle grounds were so immense, the clue, whatever was, could be anywhere. More importantly, she noticed royal guards and soldiers standing watch in every direction, and knew that if they just landed smack down in the middle of the place, it might set off a confrontation.

  "Let's land outside the castle, and approach the main entrance formally. " They all seemed to like the idea, and they all dove down and landed out of sight, behind a group of trees.

  Caitlin set Scarlet down and Caleb set Ruth down, and Scarlet immediately grabbed Caitlin's hand, bouncing with joy, as the group of them walked towards the main gate.

  "Can we do that again!?" Scarlet asked. "I want to keep flying!"

  "Soon," Caitlin smiled. "We need to see the Princess first. "

  "Will she be wearing a crown?" she asked. "Can I wear it, too?"

  Caitlin smiled. "We'll see," she said.

  The five of them, Ruth in tow, approached the main entrance. Caitlin looked up at the towering stone wall, and it was much more imposing from down here. Before them stood several guards, standing at attention, blocking the door.

  Caitlin realized they must have seemed like a strange collection of people - her, Caleb, her brother, Polly, Scarlet, and Ruth. She worried for a second what the guard's reaction might be. She assumed it was not every day that a group of visitors appeared out of nowhere, and approached the royal palace.

  "The castle is closed for visitors," a guard snapped firmly, looking straight ahead, blocking their way.

  They stopped, and Caitlin stood there, contemplating her options. She was afraid something like this might happen. She wondered if they should have approached a different way.

  "But I have business here," Caitlin said.

  "What business?" the guard snapped back.

  "I'm on a mission. A very important mission. And it leads me to this place," Caitlin said, not wanting to divulge too much.

  "I'm sorry," the guard said. "No admittance without an invitation. " Caitlin began to feel anger burning inside her, but she breathed deep, finally able to keep her emotions in check.

  But her brother, Sam, was clearly not as restrained; he stepped up and got in the guard's face.

  "My sister said she wants to come in here," Sam said. "We're going in. " Sam reached out, and with a single hand, shoved the guard.

  Caitlin was amazed. By barely touching the guard, Sam sent him flying several feet, stumbling off his feet, bumping into another guard, and knocking them over.

  The dozen or so other guards immediately extracted their swords, and began to approach.

  Caitlin was annoyed. Sam should have been more cool-headed, held his emotions in check, and let her handle it. Now they had a fight on their hands. It was the last thing she'd wanted.

  Worse, Scarlet started crying, and Ruth started growling. Caitlin could feel herself tense up, and could feel the situation quickly growing out of control.

  Just as the guards were getting close, just as Caitlin was debating how best to take them out without hurting them, suddenly, thankfully, the large oak door opened.

  Out came strutting a single woman, dressed in the most beautiful clothing, and with the most beautiful jewelry, Caitlin had ever seen. She walked right up to them, blocking the guards' way, acting as interference between the two hostile parties, and momentarily setting the tension at ease.

  She walked right up to Caitlin, stopped before her, and stared.

  Caitlin could not believe it. Standing before her was a woman she loved, a woman who had once been a close friend.

  It was Lily.

  Lily stared back, expressionless, looking as regal as ever, and for a moment, Caitlin wondered if she remembered her.

  A tense silence hung in the air, as Lily stared, everyone waiting on her command.

  Finally, she broke
into a smile.

  "Caitlin," she said, smiling wide. "I told you we'd meet again. "

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