Next week, the last part will be up!
Previous: part six
Next: part eight
The further they moved from the forest, the better everyone began to feel. There were no more strange creatures or altercations as they travelled and the mood began to lighten. After several days, they reached the edge of the forest, and a few after that, they had nearly reached their destination. Despite his threat, Vince did not ask Farrow to leave once they had left the forest, and made no mention of parting with him as they continued on their way.
Instead of quizzing Farrow on his demonic powers, Reyst and Vince began to ask him about the Gypsies. He was a little reticent, but he shared with them what he knew.
“My mother was human,” he explained as they passed through a small valley between rocky hills, on their way to the lake. From here, they could see a much smaller, much less daunting forest ahead.
“Is that why you can use magic? I thought the Gypsies didn’t interbreed?” Reyst asked.
“I’m not entirely sure on the physical aspect, nor am I convinced that a demon couldn’t grant a Gypsy magic, either.” Farrow frowned to himself. “It’s quite a complicated topic, and I’ve not had anything to do with the Gypsies in quite some time.”
Ahead of them, several figures on horseback emerged, slowing their mounts to a trot as they reached the trio. Three men and one woman, all dressed for combat. Reyst saw Vince’s hand drop to his weapon as they approached.
“Who’re you?” asked the woman.
“Could as you the same thing,” Vince responded, moving his horse until he stood a little ahead of Reyst.
“Martin Varcose?” one of the men asked.
The three companions frowned. “You mean, are we Matin Varcose?” Vince queried.
“Obviously not,” the woman told her companions. “Fine, on you go.” She adjusted the sheath of her sword and rode past them.
“Oh… wait a moment,” Farrow called.
“Do you happen to belong to the Last Company?” As he continued, Reyst noticed the matching blue-trimmed cloaks they all wore. She also notice them take hold of their weapons.
“Who’s askin’?” said the woman.
“We wanna talk to Caevrin,” Vince said, catching on.
The three men snickered, and one of them called, “What makes you think he has time for you?”
“More o’ this,” grumbled another, “should we send these’uns back in pieces, too?”
“I know those rumours are nought but lies,” Farrow tried, cautiously, “you would have no work if you killed everyone that came about looking for him.”
The woman frowned, then turned with a shrug. “Doesn’t matter. Get along with you.”
“Wait!” Reyst wheeled her mount to face them fully. “He’ll speak with me, I know he will.”
One of the men laughed. “Why d’you think that, girl? We just tell him some redheaded wench wants his attention? He’s got enough wenches in the band and in taverns to-” A glare his female companion silenced him.
“Just tell him Reyst is here.”
It worked. The mercenaries departed to pass on the message and, just when Reyst thought they might not have taken the request, the woman returned with one of the men. The pair led them along the valleys, towards the lake until they reached an abandoned outpost in the woods.
There, they were able to tie their horses in the stable and follow the dour woman up through the large stone building. The closer they drew, the faster Reyst’s heart seemed to race. Would Caevrin be pleased to see her? Had he spent all this time thinking her dead and wishing to have her by his side once more?
She must have seemed nervous, because Farrow gave her a gentle squeeze on the shoulder as they drew to a small parlour with a simple table and were told to sit. Vince eyed the door with a little worry, but he kept his hand from his sword as he sat.
“All right, lovebird,” he told her, “you’d better have a good way to romance him back to the capital.”
She made to respond, but the door reopened and her heart skipped a beat.
Caevrin had been seventeen the last time she had seen him, and though he had been martially trained and she had thought him handsome, she could now that six years had truly turned him into a man. His raven-wing hair was now much longer and plaited loosely behind him. He wore the same uniform as the others, though their sigil was emblazoned on his tunic as well as his cloak. His armour looked worn but well-maintained and, as he stepped into the room as his eyes fell on her, he frowned.
“Who’re you three?”
Reyst felt a small pang in her chest. She stood and moved towards him but the woman they had spoken with earlier was behind Caevrin, and moved to place a hand on her sword.
“Caevrin, it’s me. It’s Reyst,” she implored, staring at him with desperation.
He looked at her for a very long moment and frowned. “You’re alive.” But his tone was flat, uncaring. “And no longer a young girl.”
Reyst looked down at herself, even the masculine clothing did not hide the fact that she was very much a woman. “I tried to find you once it was over, I was injured so it took some time for me to recover, but by then you’d fled.” The words came tumbling from her lips and Reyst hated herself for how childishly infatuated she must have sounded.
“Well,” he looked from Reyst to her companions, “it’s good that you weren’t killed. But what are you doing here?”
She opened her mouth to ask him if coming to find her lost love was not good enough of a reason, but thought better of it. Instead, she drew back from him and quietly took a seat.
Vince took the opportunity to stand, and to bow widely to Caevrin, “my liege.”
Beside Reyst, Farrow had to bite his lip to contain his amusement.
Caevrin was also not impressed. “…excuse me?”
“I come from the palace, your father has sent me to retrieve you. The kingdom is in dire need of a ruler. Surely you have heard of the king’s ill health?”
Caevrin leant on the doorframe, arms folded. “What has that got to do with me? I’m a mercenary, not some noble.”
“But you are-”
“Were,” the mercenary captain interrupted, “but I left that life.”
“But your claim to the throne…”
“I think you might have me confused with one of the princes. I’m the son of Duke Alron, but as I said, that life is behind me now.”
“So you haven’t heard…” Farrow seemed intrigued as he watched the man, speaking for the first time since they had entered the outpost.
Vince took charge once more, “That your father – your real father – is the king? Now that the princes are dead and His Majesty is soon to pass on, we need you to return and take the throne.”
There was a very long silence in which Caevrin’s pale eyes studied them all with incredulous disbelief. “Are you calling me a bastard?” He didn’t sound too offended, however.
“I thought… your mother, before you fled? Didn’t she…?” Vince was at a loss.
“She told me I had no right to be my father’s son, I didn’t think she meant that I was literally not my father’s son.”
“Oh… well… I was sent by the king himself. So I’m sorry to bring this news to you but you… well, you aren’t. Your father’s son, that is.”
Caevrin quirked a brow, and it surprised Reyst to see how little the news bothered him.
“The queen’s still alive,” he said with a shrug, “so the situation should sort itself out.”
“It would,” Reyst told him bluntly, “but without an heir she’ll marry the Tarrend emperor.”
That got a reaction from Caevrin and his female companion both. The woman bared her teeth and Caevrin frowned.
“After all the skirmishes we’ve had with ‘em,” growled the woman, “they’d take the kingdom completely if she remarried. The stupid bloody-” Caevrin’s hand on her should silenced her angry growls.
“And this is all true?” he spoke slowly, carefully.
Nodding, Vince reached into his cloak and produced a small piece of parchment. It was sealed in black wax. Caevrin opened it, read it, re-read it and placed it into his own pocket.
“Give me a moment,” he told them, as he and the woman retreated, shutting the door behind them.
The moment he was gone, Reyst slumped further down in her chair. Vince tossed her a sympathetic look. “Sorry, cousin, that could’ve gone better for you.”
“I guess six years is a long time,” she muttered, refusing to meet the eyes of the other two.
When Caevrin returned, it was by himself.
“Some of my men have confirmed your story,” he told them, “as does this letter. If the queen truly intends to marry Tarrend’s emperor, then we need to act. I will go with you.”
“And your mercenary band?” Farrow asked, curious.
“I did not lead it alone. Carlotta will take sole command of the Last Company. You can rest here this evening, I will leave with you in the morning.” He left them, then, and the three wandered awkwardly back outside. They were not invited to eat with the mercenaries, though a few of the men brought down meals for them. They did not see Caevrin again that night.
tl;dr – Princes, man…