Chapter Five

Chapter Five

A Chapter by Ari McLeren

A few more moments of silence passed before the oldest girl turned to face them once more, her straw colored hair moved gently with the wind.  “My name is Elba, this is my sister Ira,” she said, motioning to the youngest girl, “and these are our cousins Luca and Emma.  We would like to thank you for all that you have done today.  If there is anything you need, we will try to help you in any way.”  She may have been young, her clothes ragged and her shoulders bent from the work, but her words spoke of a maturity beyond her years. 

“You have no need to thank us,” Gerard replied softly, still watching Luca sniffling in the arms of Emma.  Pity seized his heart because these were probably the only ones left.  His guards would have informed him if they had found anyone else.  Still, he had to know for sure.  “Are you the only people of Kolblim left?”

“Of course n�"” Ira stopped abruptly when her sister jabbed her in the arm.  “Ow!”  She glared at Elba as she rubbed the spot.  “What was that for?”

“Be quiet,” Elba hissed before turning to them.  “No, we are not.”

“Can you take us to them?”

Elba eyed them all up and down suspiciously, weighing her options.  Levi understood her hesitation.  “We are not here to hurt you.  We seek only information of all that has transpired here.”

“Why should we trust you?” Emma asked, her brother now standing at her side.

Gerard eased a gold ring off of his right hand and held it out to the children in front of him.  All four of them leaned in, but it was Elba who reached out and took the ring with deft fingers, turning it over so she could see the embossing on the top.  “I know you cannot read, but that image should be familiar to you.” 

“I know that picture!” Luca exclaimed.  “It’s on those papers they put outside the judge’s house.”

“What papers?” Elba asked.

“Papa said they were for the military.  Stuff about joining,” Emma explained. 

Elba looked back at the men.  “Is this a military ring?”

“Yes,” Gerard responded, thankful they recognized it.  “We are all soldiers, and we are here to find out what is happening with the sickness.”

Ira and Luca were now examining them with open fascination, but Elba and Emma still looked unsure.  “We don’t even know your names,” Emma finally said.

Levi gave a half smile while Gerard chuckled self-consciously.   “My apologies, how rude of us.  May I introduce Micah, Darren, Jordan, Bront, Derek and Jonah, all guards in the King’s army, and their Vice Commander Levi.”  Each of the men raised his right fist, thumb in the bend of the index finger, and touched it above his right brow in a sign of respect while Levi clasped his hands behind his back and nodded once.  Gerard adopted the same pose as Levi.  “I am Anthony, their Commander,” he finished, also nodding his head once.  He had never told his guards that he would be introducing himself by any other name, but they were well trained and no one showed any signs of surprise or confusion. 

Elba studied the ring one more time in her hand before holding it back out to Gerard.  “We will show you to the others.” 

“Thank you,” he said before turning to Jonah.  “The horses, if you please.” Jonah nodded and motioned Micah and Derek to follow him to where the horses were grazing. 

Emma walked to the pile of shovels they’d made before the service and awkwardly tried to scoop them all into her small arms.  Just when the pile looked on the verge of tumbling to the ground, Bront reached out quickly to steady them, and Emma gasped, unaware he’d walked so close.  “Easy,” he murmured when he recognized the fear that flashed through her eyes.  “Allow me, miss,” he continued in his heavily accented voice, reaching for the shovels she was still struggling to hold.  She hesitated a few seconds more before she allowed him to take all of the tools.  Gerard met Levi’s eyes, and they mirrored his concern.  These children carried far more fear and suspicion than any person should suffer. 

“Is it far to the others?” Levi asked gently, unwilling to provoke any feelings of misgiving they might have. 

The others looked to Elba for her answer.  “We have to go to the far side of the town, closest to the sea.”

“If you would like, we can give you a ride with our horses.”

Gerard watched as Luca and Emma’s eyes lit up, but Ira looked almost afraid, and Elba’s expression did not change.   “It is the least we could do for your help,” he said, and Elba nodded curtly. 

When Jonah and the others returned with the horses, Gerard explained they would be giving the children a ride and offered Luca the opportunity to ride with Jonah.  He could barely contain his laughter when the boy all but bounded over to the head of his guard, reaching out to stroke his horse’s flank with true pleasure.  He was about to offer Emma the option of riding with Levi when he noticed the girl had edged closer to Bront and his huge gelding.  Bront’s back was to the girl as he lashed the shovels to the back of his saddle, but when he turned and saw her there, he raised a questioning glance to his commander.  Gerard nodded, and Bront carefully lifted the girl into the saddle. 

Gerard turned to the remaining sisters.  “You are welcome to ride with myself and Levi,” he said, gesturing to his black and Levi’s grey.  Ira carefully approached Levi’s warhorse and held out her hand, jumping away in surprise when the horse snorted and pushed his nose into her palm. 

“It’s ok,” Elba soothed, taking her sister’s hand and walking her back over to the animal.  Together, they reached out to pet his smooth side, which calmed Ira greatly.  When Levi walked over an offered to lift her into the saddle, Ira simply lifted her arms and allowed herself to be set atop the great beast.  She seemed uncertain at first, but then she reached out to lay a hand on the horse’s neck, giving a small grin. 

Levi swung himself up into the saddle behind her as Elba walked over to Gerard.  He noticed her sizing up the horse and offered, “I can lift you up, if you would like.”

“I can do it,” she responded defensively, and then her shoulders stiffened.  She slowly turned to look at him.  “I mean thank you, but I’d like to try,” she said cautiously, as if she were afraid of his reaction. 

“Of course,” he responded kindly, moving to hold the horse steady while she mounted.  She carefully placed her left foot in the stirrup before reached up to grip the horse’s mane in her left hand and the back of the saddle with her right.  With a deep breath, she bounced on her right foot a few times before she pressed herself up into the air and swung her right leg over the saddle with just a little too much force.  Gerard’s hand snapped out to grab her left elbow and stop her from toppling over the other side. 

She inhaled sharply in fright, but she never once shrieked.  “Thank you,” she said when she’d found her balance.

“It was nothing,” he replied as she slid to the front of the saddle, removing her feet from the stirrups so he could mount behind her.  Her back was ramrod straight as he reached around her to grasp the reins, but she never pulled away from him.  “Lead the way,” he said, and she pointed across the cemetery.  Gerard turned the horse in the direction she indicated, and they all set off toward the village. 

The horses carefully picked their way through the graves, back up the hill and into the town once more.  The men couldn’t help but find it eerie that the main road held only sounds of their horses’ hooves on the cobblestones. 

After a few more moments, Elba signaled them to stop.  “You can stable your horses here.  They cannot go where we are going.”

Gerard indicated they all dismount before doing so himself.  He gave Elba the chance to do so herself but found himself waiting close by, just in case.  To her credit, she was able to swing off the horse with no incident.  Gerard turned to Jonah.  “Leave three to take care of the horses.  The rest of will continue on foot and return for them soon.” 

Jonah nodded and began to walk off when Elba interrupted, “Emma will stay with them.  She will show them the way when they have finished.”  Emma looked at her cousin for a long moment, as if she resented being ordered about, but she nodded agreement. 

Jonah selected Micah, Jordan and Darren to stay with the horses while everyone removed their saddlebags and slung them over their shoulders.  Once ready, Gerard and Levi continued on with the three children and the remaining three guards. 

After a moment of silence, Gerard sped up so he was walking right next to Elba.  “I hope you understand,” he said in a low voice so the other children might not hear, “I expect my men to be returned to me without incident.  We mean you no harm, but if anything befalls them because of you or your people, I will do whatever I deem necessary to get them back.”

“You will see them soon,” was her curt response before she sped up to walk in front once more. 

She led them to the far edge of the town, so close to the sea they could feel the spray on their faces, before she stopped in front of a plain building, gesturing them inside.  Levi looked at Gerard with a questioning glance, but Gerard could only shrug.  He was sure his men had searched this building along with the rest.  Elba followed them inside and took the stairs into the basement.  In the center she flipped over a rug to reveal a door in the floor, which she opened.  The stairway beneath was dark, but far in the distance, Gerard could just make out light of some sort. 

“Keep close, and watch your heads in the dark,” Elba warned before she, Ira and Luca entered. 

They followed carefully as the stairs gave way to a tunnel tall enough and wide enough for three men to pass abreast.  A lit torch was mounted to the wall a short distance into the tunnel, and Luca picked up a smaller torch from the ground and lit it from the sconce.  They began to make twists and turns in the earthen halls, and Gerard didn’t even bother trying to remember all of them.  He left that to Levi and Jonah, who were far better suited to remembering paths. 

It was several minutes before they turned a corner and came upon a doorway guarded by a single man.  When he saw them approaching, he lowered a makeshift spear in their direction and called, “Who goes there?”

“It’s me, Marn,” Elba replied, stepping from the shadows.  “These men are from the King’s Army.  They are here to learn about the sickness.”

“How can you be sure you can trust them?”

“They showed us the crest of the military.”  Marn still looked less than convinced, so she continued gently, “They helped us bury Sharae.  They gave her all the words.” 

Marn’s eyes softened at this revelation, and his spear returned to his shoulder.  “Are you truly here on the King’s business?” he asked, turning to them. 

“On our honor as soldiers,” Gerard returned solemnly. 

“Then you are welcome, but be warned: you will not find good news in Kolblim.” With that he pushed open the door behind him.

Elba guided them through into a large chamber filled with thirty or so people.  Gerard and Levi’s eyes scanned the room quickly, noting the state of the people and their quarters. 

“May I introduce the people of Kolblim,” Elba said soberly.  “We are all that is left.”

© 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


Ari McLeren
Ari McLeren

San Diego

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..

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