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Part 1

Eight Months Ago

 

“What is it Cnut?” Xerath asked while holding his two-year-old son.

The toddler squirmed and slipped down Xerath’s leg and darted for his mother, who was in the next room.

Xerath rushed over and caught Asar underneath his outstretched arms. “Mommy’s sleeping,” he whispered.

He sat him back down on his knee when Asar giggled then chomped on his father’s thumb. “Ah,” Xerath yelped.

Asar then sucked on his thumb and settled down, temporarily distracted.

“Uhm,” Cnut coughed. “The men have returned from Brez, sire.”

“Oh? I assume it is good news from the look on your face.” Xerath smiled. “Did they clear the camp?”

“Yes, sire. They left no one alive.” Cnut reported. “I pray this is the last bandit camp we will ever have to deal with.”

“As do I,” Xerath replied.

“The men want to see you, sire,” Cnut said. “I believe it would boost morale if you were to give a speech in their honor.”

“Of course, Cnut.” Xerath shifted Asar from one knee to the next, bouncing him up and down.

Cnut frowned, “Shall I tell them you will be down shortly?”

“What is it, Cnut? Do you not like children?” Xerath asked.

“I love children, sire.” Cnut scrambled. “They are a wonderful gift from God and should be cherished.”

Xerath pulled his head back and laughed, “Oh, Cnut. So you hate children.”

“Very much so, sire,” Cnut admitted. “They cry and poop everywhere, I wouldn’t last five minutes with one.”

They both chuckled and Xerath wiped away a tear from laughing, “I’ll be down shortly, Cnut. Inform Denna on your way out.”

Cnut left and Xerath walked over to the baby’s crib and placed Asar inside. He tickled his son’s belly and he kicked and squirmed again with laughter. A moment later, Denna knocked at the door.

“Come in,” Xerath said.

“You asked for me, lord?” Denna bowed.

“Yes. I need you to watch Asar. Cara is sleeping and I don’t want to wake her.” Xerath said, his attention still on Asar, giggling.

“I will watch him carefully, lord,” Denna replied.

“Bye-Bye,” Xerath said in a baby voice to Asar. “Daddy will be right back.”

“Thank you, Denna.” Xerath smiled, then walked from the room.

He turned right, down the hallway and made his way down a flight of stairs when he froze in his tracks. A tingle shot down his spine. He had heard something from upstairs and it was loud enough to worry him.

Trusting his gut, Xerath turned back up the stairs and into the hallway, where he saw his door open. He had closed it on his way out. A loud thump from the room made Xerath rush down the hall and dashed inside.

Horror and shock twisted his insides at the sight of Denna on the floor in a pool of her own blood, shaking from a slash to the throat. She held her hands to her neck in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding but Xerath’s attention shifted to the baby’s crib. A large pillow was stuffed inside over Asar, no movement or sound came from the crib.

All in an instant, another noise came from his room, where Cara slept, the door was cracked open and muffled screams forced him into action. Xerath sprinted past Denna and on his mad dash to Cara’s room pulled the pillow from the crib in an attempt to save Asar from suffocating. Bursting through the door, Xerath saw a figure in a black cloak and black mask straddling Cara. A knife from one hand was pushing closer to Cara’s struggling body, she was fighting the attacker and losing. The assassin’s knife was an inch from Cara’s throat as she tried to scream and fight. He had a hand over her mouth, muffling any sound she made, his right arm shoving down toward her neck.

Without a word, in two strides, Xerath lunged full tilt over the bed and slammed into the attacker, knocking him clean off the bed, giving Cara a chance to recover. The moment she was free she screamed for help and flipped out of bed to help Xerath. The entire castle must have heard her scream because shouting from the hall gave them hope of aid.

The hooded figure kneed Xerath in the groin and flipped him overhead in one fluid movement. The man, he guessed, moved so fast and with such strength, Xerath knew from one second, he was no match for the assassin.

Cara lunged at him, still screaming, and smashed into him before he could get to his feet. The assassin rolled with her like he did with Xerath and flipped her as well and she tumbled onto her back, knocking the breath out of her.

By this point, Xerath was to his feet and prepared for another attack but the assassin was too fast. Before he could move, the man in black flew forward, knife raised going straight for Cara’s stunned body. Xerath flung himself forward just in time and did a full body kick, knocking the assassin to the floor once more and slid into the bed frame with a crash.

Xerath landed on his back, his legs falling on top of Cara’s stomach, almost winding him but scrambled to his feet and cursed himself for not having a weapon. The assassin, relentless, flipped to his feet ready to strike again. He paused at the sound of guards at the stairs which meant they were moments away from bursting in to aid them.

Covered in black, he hissed through his mask and sprinted for the door, trying to escape. Xerath stood over Cara, protecting her so he didn’t have time to intercept him. He rushed after him and into the room where Denna and Asar were. To his surprise, the assassin ran straight for the balcony.

With a last-ditch effort, Xerath lunged forward and caught the assassin’s ankle, causing him to stumble. Off-balance and his forward momentum, the assassin couldn’t stop himself. He fell forward and hit the railing and was flung over the side. With one hand he caught himself and with audible annoyance, hissed again in frustration. Seven guards rushed into the room and quickly surrounded Xerath and Asar in protection.

“Find the queen!” one shouted.

Two men rushed into Cara’s room to find her on her knees, trying to stand but unhurt.

“It’s over!” Xerath yelled at the assassin, who hung off the balcony.

They approached the balcony slowly but Xerath noticed from behind the mask, the assassin smiled, then let go and fell two hundred feet to his death.

Xerath and the guards rushed to the edge and looked over the side and found nothing. No sign of the assassin, he had disappeared without a trace.

“NOOOOO!” a blood-curdling scream came from Cara.

One guard bent down to check on Denna but Xerath knew she was dead. Rushing over to Cara, she held Asar in her arms and wept uncontrollably and Xerath feared the worst, not wanting to believe it.

From the way Asar’s body hung limp, Xerath, with utter horror, saw his lifeless body cradled in his wife’s arms. Only a minute ago, he had held his son but now was dead.

The guards, completely dumbfounded, didn’t know what to do. They left quickly and waited outside the room.

Xerath bent down over his wife, embraced her weeping, shaking body, and broke into tears.



Part 2

“Find out who did this,” Xerath whispered.

Several female servants had moved Cara to her room but she refused to release Asar’s body from her arms. Her sobs continued and Xerath bent over in defeat as he spoke with Cnut.

“We’ve searched every inch of the castle, sire,” Cnut explained. “I am sorry, lord, but I think it’s time to accept he escaped. We won’t stop looking for the person who hired him, however, realistically, that is doubtful too as we have nothing to go off of.”

An overwhelming rage sparked inside Xerath, “I DON'T WANT YOUR EXCUSES, CNUT! FIND HIM!” he screamed. “YOU WILL NOT STOP SEARCHING UNTIL HE IS FOUND! DO YOU UNDERSTAND!

Cnut bent down from the sheer magnitude of his rage and power of his voice. “Y-yes, sire,” he whispered then rushed out of the room.

Cara was completely unresponsive and Xerath couldn’t stop going through the whole thing over and over again in his mind.

“If I had just come sooner. If I hadn’t left the room. Asar would still be alive.” those phrases repeated a million times, over and over again.

It haunted him. He could feel himself slipping. Xerath couldn’t hold it in anymore and began to weep again. Every bit of stress and tension slowly drained away as his tears wet his hands, soaking them. He tried to take comfort in the fact that Cara was still with him, but it didn’t relieve the pain of losing his son. His heart felt like it would tear in two and he clutched at his chest.

He pulled his hand away and realized for the first time, he was bleeding. His hand was soaked in blood. Xerath couldn’t remember when he was stabbed but it was deep and bled profusely. It had all happened so fast that he didn’t feel it till now, his adrenaline had finally worn off.

He grabbed a cloth and pressed it against his chest but said nothing and his tears still flowed. A gentle hand clasped his shoulder and he turned to see Cara kneeling next to him.

Her face was bright red and her eyes were puffy from crying. “Let me see,” she whispered softly.

Xerath leaned back and she opened his shirt to find two stab wounds. Cara nearly cried again at the sight of him. The loss of Asar had blinded her to her husband's pain, and the wounds he suffered from protecting her.

“Bring me bandages, alcohol, and stitches!” she yelled at the door. “Your king is wounded.”

A guard popped his head in, saw Xerath on the ground, and scurried away.

“I… I’m sorry C-” Xerath began.

“Shhh. Don’t talk.” Cara crawled up next to him and kissed his forehead.

Xerath melted into her embrace, resting his head into her bosom and they both wept for hours.

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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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