Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

A Chapter by Ari McLeren

Chapter Seven

 

As their designated hour came to a close, Gerard and Levi emerged from their room, prepared to learn as much as they could.  They joined the guards in the hallway, and a heavy pall seemed to hover over all of them as they returned to the main chamber in silence.

Many faces glanced up as they passed through the entry of the large chamber, including Marin.  “Have you rested so soon?” she asked in concern, coming to stand in front of them. 

“As much as this situation can allow,” Gerard replied gravely. 

Marin’s gaze lowered, and she nodded.  He did not need to remind these people of the tragedy they had faced.  “Please, come sit by the fire and have something to eat.  We will tell you what you wish to know.”  She gestured to several benches around the small blaze, and as they moved to sit, she motioned for Elba to join them from the edge of the room.  Marin and Elba shared a bench in the center of their group, though Elba’s discomfort was clear from the way she stared at her hands. 

Small children walked amongst them with baskets of bread and dried meat as Marin began her tale.  She spoke of a few people taking ill no more than three weeks ago, though no one thought anything of it until whispers from Devresh reached their ears, whispers of plague in the city.  Unfortunately, they found out too late.  The sickness had taken its first victims and moved on to strike more and more.  They tried everything they could to stop it, but it just kept spreading.  Ultimately, their numbers had been decimated, and the majority of the survivors were children, teens and young adults, so they retreated below ground to the tunnels used during the brutal, windy winters on these cliffs.  Here they stayed, hoping the illness had run its course and that help would come soon. 

“Do you have any ill villagers now?” Gerard asked as she finished her grim story.

“No, our last sick passed away in the night.  We believe it may be gone as the symptoms come on very quickly, and no one has them.  Besides, most of the people here are ones who had the sickness and survived.  They cannot get sick again.”

Gerard allowed that information sink in for a moment.  Only a fifth of the village’s people had survived the plague, but most who did had battled the illness and won.  There was some, if very little, hope in that. 

“And what do you know, Elba?” he asked kindly, noticing she hadn’t said a word the whole time. 

Her eyes snapped to him, and he wasn’t sure if it was anger or guilt he saw in her gaze, but in a blink of her eyes, it was gone.  “I know what is happening in Devresh, at least what was happening until a little over a week ago.” 

Both Gerard and Levi sat up straighter at this revelation.  “What can you tell us?” Levi urged when she was silent for a long while. 

“I know the plague broke out there at least three weeks ago, but like here, no one knew what was happening at first.  By the time the council knew how bad it was, the sickness had spread from the waterfront to all parts city.  They closed the gates two weeks ago to prevent the plague from getting out, but word had already come that Nylot and Corcola were affected.  I don’t know if it spread beyond that, but I do know that Devresh was suffering just as we were here, only much worse because there are so many people.  Buildings were turned into makeshift sick wards, and the body count grew so high that they were performing fire ceremonies right in the town square,” she told them in a flat monotone as she watched her hands fidget in her lap once more. 

Gerard closed his eyes in unsurprised agony at her bleak recounting, while Levi and the other soldiers watched her in muted horror. 

“And how do you know so much?” Levi asked finally in a curious tone that held no suspicion. 

She glanced up at him once more, and this time she continued to look at him as she said, “I have been to the city many times in the last few weeks, most recently to find both my mother and brother, who had been trapped there, had both succumbed to the sickness.” 

Levi’s eyes widened both in shock and pity, for she had buried her father earlier that day.  His face softened in sympathy for a young girl who had seen and experienced far too much.  “I am sorry for your loss,” he told her gently, and she nodded once. 

Gerard, though, could tell she didn’t want to be pitied, so he returned to the information she had given them.  “Did you say you had been in the city since the gates were closed?”

She nodded again.  “I was there eight day ago.”

Gerard’s heart lifted at that news.  If there was a way in, he should be able at least to get a message to his father, and with any luck, his father could get one to him.  “Can you tell us how to get in?” he asked, forcefully keeping his tone neutral. 

She looked at him in confusion.  “You haven’t had the sickness.  You don’t want to go in there.”

Gerard was unfazed by her assertion.  “But if I did, could you tell me how?”

She just looked at him for a moment, eyebrows knit in consternation, and he couldn’t help but feel she was taking his measure somehow.  Finally, she sighed.  “No, I can’t.  It would be impossible to find if you have not seen it before.”  Gerard opened his mouth to question her further, so she continued, “But I can take you there.”

“Why would you do that?” Levi questioned, immediately suspicious.

“Why not?” she countered, and Gerard watched as they locked eyes in a battle of wills. 

Finally, Levi conceded.  “Alright then, we accept your offer.”  Marin looked ready to protest, but she retreated under Levi’s intense gaze. 

With the information they needed at hand, Gerard was unwilling to spend a moment longer in this tiny town.  “We will ride before the hour is out,” he commanded, and his men all nodded.

“But �"” Marin immediately began to object, but Gerard continued.

“I will have two of my men remain here this night.  At first light they will leave bearing a command for sufficient food and aid to be delivered to you and your people.  You will not be forgotten.” 

“Thank you, sir, thank you,” she all but groveled as Gerard and his men stood. 

“Elba, can you be ready to ride in time?” 

She looked insulted at the question.  “Of course.” 

“Then we will meet you here shortly.  Jonah, Bront and Micah, gather your things and see that the horses are ready.  Marin will see that you have a guide to the surface,” he glanced back at her to make sure she understood it wasn’t a request.  When she didn’t disagree, he led them back down the hall from which they had entered, and Levi came to walk beside him. 

“I will draft the request for aid.”

“Make it clear the treasury will reimburse their contributions.”

Levi nodded though his thoughts were racing, for only the acting king could make such a unilateral decision.  But that’s what Gerard was with his cousin and father effectively captured.  For the time being, Gerard was king.  “And the second letter?” he finally asked, for he was well aware it did not take two men to deliver one request. 

“That one I must draft myself,” Gerard responded resignedly as they stopped outside the doors of the guards’ quarters, and he turned to the rest of his men.  “Jordan, Darren, I want you to remain behind to deliver the letters.  The rest of us will be leaving in a quarter of an hour.”

“Yes, sir,” they each intoned.

Gerard and Levi continued to their room where Levi proceeded to pull out paper, ink and two pens.  Gerard accepted one of the pens and a piece of a paper, and they sat down on opposite sides of the rough wooden table to compose their letters.  When they were done, Gerard signed each one and used a gold ring from his pack to press the royal crest into the wax of their seals. 

Gerard sat back and rubbed his face with his hands.  “It’s an explanation for my aunt, Princess Kaelyn.  She’s the most resourceful woman I know, and she will have some idea of what we should do.” 

Levi had never met the Princess, but she was well known throughout the kingdom for choosing to forsake royal tradition and become a priestess.  However, from the tales Gerard told, she was still active in court activities.  He reached over to place a hand on Gerard’s.  “I’m sure she will,” he replied encouragingly. 

Gerard turned his hand over so he could give Levi’s a squeeze.  Then he stood up to gather his things and return to the guards’ quarters, letters in hand.  Levi waited with Derrek in the hall while Gerard addressed Darren and Jordan in one of the rooms, giving them each a letter and explicit instructions in regards to the recipients.  They raised their fists to their foreheads in a parting salute as Gerard dismissed them and returned to the hall. 

Elba was waiting for them when they entered the main room.  Numerous pairs of eyes watched curiously as they crossed the floor, and Levi turned to Marin.  “We thank you for your hospitality, especially under the circumstances.”

“We thank you for coming too our aid.” 

They exited the tunnels quickly and rode out with the other guards, though with no horses to spare, Elba was forced to ride with Gerard once more. 

They were some distance from the town when Gerard leaned forward so Elba can hear him.  “I believe now is a good time for you to tell me why you are really helping us.”  He could tell she wanted to ignore him, but she had little choice. 

“Because my brother and I need to get far from Kolblim, and you can take us away,” she finally admitted. 

“You want me to take you both with me when I leave Devresh?”

She could hear the incredulity in his tone and hurried to continue, “Just until the nearest city.  We can’t stay in Kolblim.” 

There was desperation in her voice that he couldn’t miss.  “Why do you need to leave so badly?”

“Does it matter?”

“It does to me.”

She was silent for a moment, choosing her words carefully.  “The last time my family was all together, we were in Devresh for my father’s business.  When my brother fell ill, people were already whispering about a plague.  The talk frightened my mother, and she insisted my father take me and Luca from the city while she remained behind to care for Dana.  She wanted us as far away from the sickness as possible, but we never should have left.”  Her words were laced with guilt, and suddenly he understood.

“You were the first in the town to get sick, weren’t you?” 

She nodded slowly.  “I took ill first, followed by Luca.  It didn’t take long for others in the village to succumb as well.”

“Do the people blame you?”

“Not to my face,” she replied bitterly.  “Besides, there’s nothing left for us there.”

Gerard knew all too well what it felt like to have people talk behind his back.  “When this is done, I will be sure you receive what you have asked.” 

Elba’s shoulders practically sagged in relief, and Gerard was glad.  So many things had gone wrong, but this, though small, was one he could make right.

 

© 2012 Padfoot101



© 2012 Ari McLeren


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Added on December 25, 2012
Last Updated on December 25, 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