Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by Ari McLeren

Standing in the tent before the messenger, Levi watched Gerard carefully as his eyes darkened and his grip on the paper grew so tight his knuckles began turning white.  Knowing Gerard needed a moment to think, Levi turned back to the messenger.  “That note details you are to be paid five hundred silver drogons.  You will receive the fee only when you have delivered your message.”

The messenger looked Levi up and down, noting his closed countenance that brooked no argument.  He was also well aware of the fact that Levi was in charge of the interrogation now that Gerard was focused on the letter.  He cleared his throat.  “I was sent from Nylot to bring word of the southern port cities.”

“And?” Levi ground out.

“It’s plague, sir, in the ports,” he stated solemnly, and both Gerard’s and Levi’s eyes snapped to the messenger’s to gauge his sincerity. 

“Where?” Levi demanded.

“Nylot and Devresh for certain, and it might have moved north along the coast before they closed down the cities.  I only just made it out before they shut the Nylot gates.”

Levi glanced at Gerard before asking, “Who gave you this message?”

“Some royal someone or another.  He brought the letter and some gold, told me what to say and where to go.  He was particularly insistent that I stop for nothing and no one but food and a new horse until I got the message to the Commanding Officer himself, and I did as told.  All I did is what I was told,” he insisted, unnerved by the displeased looks on both of the Commander’s faces. 

Levi had just one more question.  “When did you leave Nylot?” 

“Five days ago by horse.  Been on the go ever since.” 

Levi nodded once curtly, walking towards the tent entry.  “That is all.  You will be afforded food, a bath and a place to stay for the night.  We will settle the matter of your compensation in the morning.”

“B �"” he made to interject, but Levi pulled back the flap and yelled, “Guards!”

“Yes, Vice Commander?” one responded almost immediately.

“Please escort this man to a bunk for the night and offer him food and a bath.  Oh, and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.  We will speak with him again in the morning.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard nodded, and two came to stand next to the messenger, waiting for him to stand.  The man looked as if he wanted to protest, but he thought better of it when he looked at the guards.  He silently stood and followed them from the room, leaving Levi and Gerard alone in the tent once more. 

Levi watched carefully as Gerard walked to the chair that had been Levi’s and sat heavily, still gripping the note tightly.  When Gerard didn’t say anything for a few minutes, Levi asked, “Should I clear the area?”  Silence was the only response, and he could see Gerard’s brain was working frantically to put the pieces of some puzzle together.  Rather than waiting for a response, he opened the tent flap again and addressed the remaining guards in hushed tones.  He then secured the doorway and returned the messenger’s chair to its place behind the table, taking a seat and facing Gerard’s profile. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked quietly.  When he was met with no response, he leaned over to place a hand over Gerard’s clenched one, which was resting on his knee.  “You look as if you’ve seen a ghost,” Levi whispered. 

Gerard sighed and raised haunted eyes to look at Levi.  “I fear I might have,” he replied softly, and Levi’s face grew pinched with concern.

“What are you talking about?”

Gerard slowly slipped his fist from under Levi’s hand and opened the crumpled letter before offering it to Levi once more.  Levi took it carefully and scanned it once more.  “Those words at the bottom, have you ever seen them before?” Gerard asked. 

Levi read the foreign words once more, but they still didn’t mean anything to him.  “No, I haven’t, but if I had to guess, I’d say they’re probably from the old language.  Why?”

“They are from the old language.  They mean ‘the sun wavers.’”

“’The sun wavers?’” Levi repeated in confusion. 

“It’s a code used by the royal family, but it’s only meant for times of peril,” Gerard explained cautiously, and Levi’s confused expression slowly morphed into one of concern, but he didn’t ask what it meant �" he knew there were some things Gerard wasn’t allowed to tell him.  Gerard contemplated the repercussions of revealing the meaning of this code and then said, “It means the king faces death.”

Levi’s eyes widened a fraction of an inch as the full meaning of that revelation sunk in.  “But he is not dead?”

“Not when the letter was sent,” he confirmed solemnly.  After a moment of stillness, Gerard seemed to remember there was another part to the message, and turned to look at Levi.  “What did the messenger say after the letter?” 

“He brought news that there is confirmed plague in the southern port cities of Nylot and Devresh �"” he broke off suddenly when Gerard jerked up and began to hastily rifle through the documents on his table.  “What are you looking for?” Levi asked in concern, but it was as if Gerard couldn’t hear him.  Finally, he whipped out another letter bearing a royal seal and almost tore it in half in his haste to open it.  Whatever he saw made him collapse back into his chair and cradle his head in his hands.  Distraught at his partner’s pain, Levi knelt on the ground before him and placed his hands gently on Gerard’s knees.  “What is it?  Tell me what is happening,” he urged as softly as he could through his concern. 

“S**t!” Gerard yelled, slamming a fist on the table next to him before turning to look at Levi.  Levi’s green eyes may have been full of confusion, but they were also steady and gave him a focal point.  “It’s Devresh,” he explained, “The royal court has to be trapped at Devresh.”

“Why would the court be trapped in Devresh?”

Gerard motioned to the letter he had found on his table.  Levi scooped it up as Gerard continued, “They were on a tour of the port cities.  They began in the north and should have come upon Devresh in the last week or two.”

Levi’s eyes widened in understanding.  “They have locked the city walls since then.  That means the king is trapped in a plagued city.  The death he faces is illness.”

 “Not just the king,” Gerard added gravely.  “The king was traveling with the queen, my father and several other lords and advisors from court on a political visit to inspect the ports of Wyndfall.  They have effectively trapped some of the most important political figures in a nest of death and illness.”

“And that message at the bottom of the letter indicates that at least the king is sick?” Levi confirmed. 

“Yes, though that message was sent out several days ago.  He may have already recovered or he may have already passed the throne to my father,” he whispered in shock, still unable to fully believe what the letter indicated. 

“What about…” Levi began but hesitated.

“About what?”

“Well, your father was traveling with the king.  Is there any news of his welfare?”

Gerard’s eyes snapped wide at that realization.  “No, there is not.  This letter was simply delivered under the royal seal, but there are many who could have sent it on behalf of my cousin.  Oh, s**t,” Gerard moaned, placing his head in his hands once more.  “If anything happens to them…” he trailed off, unable to voice any sufficient misery he might experience at the loss of both his father and cousin in a single blow. 

Levi stepped between Gerard’s legs and wrapped an arm around his stiff shoulders, cradling him against his chest for the second time that night.  “No news is good news at this point.  We will make preparations and ride at first light.  You must be there to receive the news, whatever it is.”  Gerard wrapped his arms tightly around Levi’s waist and nodded.  They remained like that, absorbing the last few minutes of each other before they would have to prepare to meet whatever changes were coming their way.  Finally, Levi pulled back slowly and smoothed Gerard’s unruly hair from his face, placing a kiss on his forehead.  “Come, we have many preparations to make before dawn comes.” 

Gerard nodded and stood as well, ready to leave the camp as soon as humanly possible.  “I will arrange for horses and provisions to be readied for the journey.  It’s going to be a rough few days.”  

“Don’t forget your guard,” Levi reminded as he slid his knife back onto his belt. 

“No more than four,” Gerard conceded as he began throwing various things that needed to be packed onto his bed.

“At least six,” Levi countered, and was unsurprised to be met with a glare.  “We are riding hard and fast for a part of the country beset by plague.  You can imagine how hard it is to keep the peace amongst people fearing for their lives.” 

Gerard could tell Levi wouldn’t back down, so he gave a reluctant nod.  Besides, even if he didn’t order six guards, at least that many would ride with him once Levi spoke with them.  “I’m going to see that the guards and horses are readied for the journey.  Can you draft letters to the generals and next in commands detailing parts of the situation and assigning our replacements?”

“I’ll take care of it.  If I’m not here when you return, come find me in my tent.  I’ll need you to sign them.”  Gerard nodded agreement, and Levi swept out of the tent in the direction of his own. 

Barely more than an hour had passed when the sky began to lighten in the east, and the entire riding party met in the open area in front of the stables.  Guards were woken, provisions were packed, orders were signed and replacements officers were given command of the company.  Gerard was impressed with the speed with which everyone had prepared to leave, particularly the guards who had been woken from sleep. 

A groom brought Gerard his brown warhorse with his saddlebags already loaded.  He swung up into the saddle and wheeled to face the party as they all did the same with their own horses.  “It’s going to be a tough ride, men.  Devresh is on the opposite corner of this country, and we don’t have the luxury of a casual journey.  We ride hard, we ride fast and we only stop to rest the horses and hopefully ourselves.  If you’re not ready for this, let me know now, and you will remain with this company.”  He paused, but he had handpicked each one of the guards riding with them; he knew they wouldn’t back away from a challenge.  Gerard nodded when not one of the men showed hesitation.  “Then to the south road.  There isn’t a moment to lose.” 

Each of the horses turned and was guided down the main road in the center of camp with Gerard in the rear.  Levi pulled his dappled grey to the side and allowed the guards to pass, moving back into the road to ride next to Gerard. 

“You know that when we get to Devresh, none of us is going to be allowed inside,” Levi warned, sure this was a fact Gerard had yet to consider.

“Those gates are locked to keep people in, not to keep them out.”

“For good reason!” Levi hissed, glancing at the people beginning to mill about the camp.  He knew better than to mention what kept the gates of Devresh locked because panic would spread the minute they heard there was plague in the country.  It would take precious time for them to realize it was nowhere near them. 

Gerard glared at Levi.  “My father is in there,” he ground out, “and my cousin, too.  I will not abandon them to their fate.”

“I do not expect you to abandon them.  They are your family, and they and I both know you would never do that, but entering that city is the worst sort of gamble �" one with your life.  You can’t afford to lose.”

Gerard faced stonily ahead as they exited the end of the camp at the head of the southern road.  “We will deal with this when we get there.”  His tone made it clear the topic was no longer up for discussion, and he laid his heels into the sides of his horse and took off into the dawn. 

Levi whispered a quick prayer hoping everything they were riding toward was not as dire as it seemed before urging his horse to catch up with the others. 


© 2012 Ari McLeren


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Added on December 18, 2012
Last Updated on December 18, 2012
Tags: fiction, gay, marriage, responsibility, romance, royalty, slash


Author

Ari McLeren
Ari McLeren

San Diego



About
I am a 25 year old Southern California girl. I do math and science for fun, I like practicing my Spanish and I can quote Shakespeare, Austen and Rowling. Basically I'm a walking contradiction, and I.. more..

Writing
Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by Ari McLeren


Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by Ari McLeren


Chapter Two Chapter Two

A Chapter by Ari McLeren