Today’s post is a combination of a short story and look into the pre-novel life of one of my characters in Following Orders.
I gazed out at the courtyard as panic swarmed in my chest. Those arrow wounds were not from a crossbow and they all knew it. How long did I have before they reported to King Artimus and he made the connection to me? Not long.
What to do, though, what to do? I pulled myself away from the window and paced the room, cape billowing behind me.
“Glen, dear. Do calm down. It was only the first battle. At this rate, you’ll be in a frenzy before the war is over.” My mother sat with her embroidery across her lap, stitching tiny red flowers in a field.
I paused in front of her. “Yes, but how many have died already?” And because of me, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t bring myself to say that to my own mother.
“And many more will die. That is war. We must choose to be grateful that we are still here and still together. The king hasn’t sent your brother out yet and that is something which we must appreciate.”
I paced back to the window sill and clenched it so that my knuckles whitened. King Artimus had gone down to meet his men in the courtyard. The captain spoke with him, holding an arrow. A desert tribe arrow. King Artimus glanced up to where I stood in the window and I jumped back, wanting to be sick. He knew.
I had thought to bring peace between Aronway and the desert tribes. They had received me royally and I had convinced King Artimus’s court to welcome them as well. Treaties were outlined. I spent my days glowing with pride and pleasure. Then the chieftains had returned to their people, supposedly to help their land through the harvest season. They were to return at first frost. But they had returned much earlier and with weapons in their hands. I had no doubt the blame for this war would lay directly at my feet.
I had minutes at most. What to do? If I stayed, execution likely awaited me. If not that, then exile at least.
My mind settled on a quick decision. I didn’t take the time to question it, but swiftly bent to kiss my mother and strode out of the room.
Every soldier I passed on the stairs or in the corridors made my heart pound harder. Were they the ones sent to arrest me? But I made it to the kitchen door and out to the stables.
It was quick work to saddle my mare, despite my shaking hands, and I led her by the bridle to the side gate. The guards there didn’t move as I passed through and I mounted only once I was out of their view. I had to keep a steady trot through the city. It was too crowded to gallop and I didn’t need to attract any suspicion.
But once I was in the bright country, I kicked my horse into a gallop, my tears flying from my face in the wind. As I rode, I couldn’t help it: I looked back.