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Part 1

Shay sat in the back of her cart with Alexi in her lap and Daniel sitting next to her. Along with several other families, the cart was full of people and the roads were rough but manageable. Leaving Vlakias so suddenly had come as a shock to them all.

Erik announced that they were to evacuate the city and head south to safety. Shay had less than two hours to pack everything she owned into four bags and flee the city. Erik had assigned two guards to her at all times and still, they stayed within a close distance, it gave her a sense of security and put some of her worries at ease.

Rayman had gone to Vori, where it all started and at first she had nearly gone crazy in worry until Erik himself brought her news that two scouts had seen him and his men on the road to Bienrior. Shay had been beside herself in concern of her husband.

Knowing Rayman was alive and on his way to meet them in Nolvis relieved an enormous amount of stress and anxiety. Erik, occasionally checking on them and making sure their every need was met added to that sense of security and safety that Shay was extremely grateful for. Erik had assured her all was well and everything would be okay. Those words, repeated over and over again in her head as they traveled and every time she thought of Rayman.

“Mother?” Daniel’s soft, sleepy voice woke her from thought.

“Yes, dear?” she turned and smiled.

“How far away is Nolvis?” he asked. “Will father be there?”

“I hope so.” she trailed off, worry creeping back. “Nolvis is only a day or two away now. We’ll be there soon.”

“I’m tired of riding in the wagon,” Daniel said. “I’m going to walk on the road for a bit. I saw some of my friends running ahead, I can still catch up to them.”

“Of course you can, honey.” Shay brushed his face with her thumb, wiping away dirt. “But promise me you’ll stay close and if I call you, come to me immediately.”

“Yes, mother.” Daniel shrugged away from her babying him. “We won’t go far, I promise.”

“Be careful!” she shouted as he jumped off the wagon and ran after his group of friends.

She secretly hoped they wouldn’t play ‘Swords and Shields’, a game where two sides fought one side with swords and the other side had shields. Shields had the advantage of blocking and pushing but couldn’t attack, while Swords could attack but couldn’t block.

Whichever side pushed the furthest would win, or if one side surrendered. Shay didn’t like the game herself, thinking it was too violent and caused too many injuries but Rayman had encouraged Daniel to play so Shay let him.

“What is the harm in a couple of bruises.” Rayman would say. “He is nearly a man, let him get roughed up a bit.”

Shay had relented and by doing so, realized the validity of what her husband was pointing out. Daniel had grown older and stronger for it. Letting off steam during a game was good for him and Shay acknowledged it. Daniel was eighteen now, he was taller than her now, his body growing stronger also. He was growing so fast, Shay couldn’t help but wish he would stay a boy forever.

She watched as the caravan caught up to the group of boys and could judge how the match was going as the game proceeded and enjoyed watching her son play. Alexi stirred in her lap and she glanced down at her daughter.

“Where is Daniel?” she asked, yawning.

“He is playing a game.” Shay pointed while kissing Alexi’s cheek.

“Where are we, mommy?” Alexi sat up and studied her surroundings.

“We are on the river road, nearing Nolvis, dear,” Shay repeated. “We’ll be there in a day or two,” she said before Alexi could ask. “And yes… father will meet us there, honey.”

“I’m hungry, mommy,” Alexi complained. “Can I have pie?”

“You ate all the pie, dear.” Shay smiled. “Here, there is bread.”

Alexi snatched it up and nibbled on it adorably.

“We’ll be there soon,” Shay whispered.



Part 2

The long line of people, traveling to Nolvis flowed across the bridge and began setting up tents on a hill near Nolvis. Erik had ordered they set camp here.

Shay’s wagon was led away from the rest and several guards helped her pitch two tents. Erik had given her one for the children and one for herself and for when Rayman joined them.

It took less than an hour but they arranged everything neatly and to her satisfaction. “Thank you, men.” Shay nodded. “I greatly appreciate your assistance and please thank king Erik for me if you see him.”

They nodded and left her to her business, while Alexi waved goodbye to them, whereas Daniel nodded his thanks.

“Alright you two, it’s getting late, I want you in bed,” Shay ordered. “It’s been a long journey and I want you two well-rested.”

“Yes, mother,” they said in unison, though Daniel looked disappointed.

Their faces brightened and pointed behind her. “Look, mommy.” Alexi grinned.

Erik stalked up to her, alone and looking rugged. “Shay.” he smiled. “I hope the journey wasn’t too hard on you.”

“You made it very comfortable for us, thank you, Erik.” Shay nodded, bowing slightly. “You have been very kind and generous to us.”

“Of course,” Erik said it like it was nothing. “You are like family to me and I know Rayman would do the same for me if I had family unattended. You are important to me.”

“If there is anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.” Shay offered. “Rayman will be grateful as well to you for your generosity.”

“I’ll be sure to let you know.” he smiled. “Now. Who is that?” Erik changed his voice into a higher pitch. “Is that Alexi? No… Alexi is a tiny thing. You’re too big to be Alexi.”

“It’s me!” she squealed. “I’m Alexi!” she rushed toward Erik, arms outstretched.

“Oh!” Erik huffed. “You’re so big!” scooping her off her feet, Erik threw her into the air.

She was giggling in joy and Shay savored the gleeful moment. “How old are you?” Erik asked with a silly voice. “Are you three? Are you four?” he joked.

“I’m six!” she pouted, crossing her arms.

“Six!” Erik exaggerated.

He set her down gently and Alexi ran to her mother, clinging to one leg. She hid half her body behind Shay, embarrassed somehow.

“Daniel.” Erik’s voice changed again, deeper. “You’ve been getting along well?”

“Yes, sir.” Daniel replied politely. “Do you have news about my father?”

“I… I don't.” Erik’s face frowned.

“Oh.” Daniel lowered his gaze in disappointment.

“Alright, kids.” Shay cut in. “Say goodnight and go to bed.”

“Goodnight,” they said as Daniel grabbed Alexi’s hand and led her to their tent. She grinned and waved at the king then disappeared behind the tent flap.

Shay moved forward and gave Erik a much-needed hug. “How are you, Erik?” she asked, knowing he was under an enormous amount of stress himself.

“I’m well. I’m lucky to have Jebbin and Torstein to help lead and give me advice.” Erik responded, his voice going lower. “I wanted to make sure you and the kids were well and settled in.”

“We’re fine, Erik. Thanks to you.” Shay patted his cheek, lovingly. “Are you meeting with Xerath?”

“Yes. Tomorrow in the morning,” he replied. “I will be very busy these next few days. If I’m unavailable and you need anything, let Jebbin know. He will take care of it.”

“I will, thank you,” Shay said, noticing his nervousness. “What is it? You can tell me.”

“You know… you are like a mother to me. I would trust you with my life but… I’m not sure how to tell you. It sounds… crazy.” Erik explained. “In Vlakias. The Vog, their leader, I just… don’t know how to feel about it all.”

Shay stepped back in confusion but ready to support him any way she could, her motherly instincts kicking in. “What do you mean?”

“I spoke to it,” Erik said quietly. “He spoke to me.”

“You spoke to the creature?” she asked in disbelief. “What did it say?”

“It told me… Rayman was alive. That Rayman accidentally killed his son. That’s why they came out of the caves and attacked Vlakias.” Erik said, unsure if what he said was coherent. “He gave me the option to flee Vulkira with my people or stay and fight them. I chose to flee.”

“Oh.” Shay was taken aback by the information. “Erik, you did what you thought was best for your people. If we had stayed and fought, I fear we would all be dead. You made the right decision.”

“Did i?” Erik asked, defeated. “I abandoned Vulkira. The people will hate me now.”

“I don’t. I love you no matter what.” Shay said forcefully, realizing he needed a push in the right direction. “You will do what is necessary for us all. I know you will make the right decisions that will benefit us. You mustn’t care what others think of you when you know in your heart you are doing what is best.”

She paused, letting that sink it. He looked defeated but her words reached him and he gave a faint smile.

“I believe in you and so does Rayman. Jebbin trusts you and Torstein will follow you anywhere because you are worth following, Erik.” Shay smiled at him, trying to encourage the young king. “If we had stayed and fought them, we surely would have lost. I saw the way they effortlessly broke our defenses and overwhelmed the entire city in a matter of minutes. You made the right choice. And don’t for one second blame yourself for what happened to Rayman. I know he won’t think it was your fault for sending them either, no one could know that would happen.”

“I needed to hear that.” he sighed heavily, then Shay moved to hug him. “Thank you… mother.” Erik smiled. “For believing in me. I will do whatever it takes.” his tone, more determined now.

“Don’t try and do it alone, you hear me?” Shay poked his chest. “You have people that love and support you. Share the burden.” her tone, motherly and worried for him.

He nodded politely and thanked her again. “I must go. I have much to think on. Goodnight Shay.”

“Goodnight, dear.” Shay smiled as he walked away.

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About the author

MorseCode

Bio: Hello, all. I am a new aspiring author and I'm extremely excited to share my stories. I've always loved writing and bringing the ideas in my head to life, though it was only recently that I began to write on a more serious level. I have many many books I wish to write and I hope I can share them with you all in the future. I have a lot to learn but I hope to grow into a more experienced and learned writer.

I don't shy away from gore, which will be present in all my books to come. I hate plot armor, and I do everything I can to make things as real as possible. Real decisions, consequences, logical outcomes, and making a darn good story are my main focus.

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