The Survivors (The Eleven Years War: Book Two)

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Chapter Three

The home of Markos and Delia Smith had managed to escape the battle relatively unscathed, with only some plaster chipped off of the walls and a few shattered windows. It was located close to the castle, just a block away from the wall that shut it off from the rest of Semata, along with the homes of all the other craftsmen that worked for the royal family. The windows were dark when Silas arrived through the fog, with thick, green curtains drawn over them, as if nobody were home. He knew that even if they were there, they probably wouldn’t answer the door to him, a man the Giskens wanted dead, but he had to at least try; he couldn’t have Olrick’s parents finding out that he’d been arrested when the Giskens announced his execution.

He knocked firmly against the door when he got there. Please, answer; gods, let them answer!

After a minute, or so, light footsteps walked toward him from the other side of the door. The door cracked open and Delia poked her head out of the door.

Gods, she’d aged so much in the past few weeks: her brown hair was streaked through with gray and there were bags underneath her brown eyes. She wasn’t even forty, yet, and she was looking near fifty. Silas found himself worried about what news about her son would do to her if she was already worried sick about something.

She stared at his gray, mottled clothes for a few seconds. “Are you from the army?”

Silas nodded. “I’m from the Watch.” Her eyes got really wide and her face lit up, and she opened the door all the way.

“Please, come in,” she said. Silas hesitated for a few seconds, then walked in.

The house was small and sparse, with only a few decorations; the Giskens had probably taken anything of value during the battle, when they raided the homes of anyone they thought could possibly have anything worth stealing. There was a simple, wooden table with five chairs; enough for every member of their family, plus Olrick, while a simple rug covered the wood floorboards underneath it. A wardrobe sat off on the side of the room, one that was likely filled with dishes, if the Giskens hadn’t destroyed them all. Yes, everything was simple and a little trashed, but it could have been far worse, considering who their son was.

“Please, sit down,” Delia said as she shut the door behind him. “Would you like a drink?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” he said as he pulled out a chair for himself and sat down. Damn, this was tough; he’d told plenty of mothers that their sons were dead, dying or missing, but how was he supposed to tell one that their son was about to be executed because of a half-assed plan he’d come up with?

“How is Olrick?” she asked, anxious. “Is he doing well? Is he safe?”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about,” Silas said, rubbing the back of his neck. “There was an incident this morning with Princess Marion. Your son was arrested saving her life.”

The hopeful look that was once on her face fell into one of shock. She stared at him for a few seconds, trying to decide whether or not he was telling the truth, then burst into tears.

Every part of Silas wanted to go to the other side of the table and comfort her, just as he did with so many other mothers he’d been the bearer of bad news to, but he just… couldn’t. It was his fault that this was happening, that Olrick was going to die. He couldn’t tell her that everything was going to be alright when he knew that it wouldn’t be.

“They’re going to kill him, aren’t they?” she whispered.

Silas swallowed down the lump that was starting to form in his throat. For a few seconds, he debated whether or not he should lie or not, but decided that that wasn’t best in the end; she’d be even more heartbroken if he lead her on to believe that he would live, only to watch him be executed. “That, or they’ll send him to Kurzh.”

That sentiment wasn’t one that Delia wanted to hear. She began to cry even harder.

“What the hell is going on?” Olrick’s father lumbered down the stairs to investigate why his wife was crying. His eyes narrowed when he saw Silas sitting at his kitchen table.

“What are you doing here?” he growled.

Delia looked over at her husband. “Olrick’s been arrested; the Giskens are going to kill him!”

Markos snorted. “Why the hell should I care what happens to a good for nothing Watchman? That coward had it coming.”

Silas found himself standing up, enraged. How could this man talk about his son like that? “That coward just sacrificed himself to save Princess Marion; try to show some respect.” He looked over at Delia. Her eyes were red from crying.

“Your son’s a hero, ma’am,” Silas said. “He’s saved so many lives in the past few weeks, including my own and Princess Marion’s.”

“That boy is no son of mine,” Markos muttered to himself.

Something in Silas snapped. He was sick and tired of hearing him talk about Olrick like that.

He glared at Markos. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done to that kid with this whole disowning business? It took years for him to remember that he was worth something, again, and he still questions that.”

Markos’ eyes narrowed. “If you’re just going to criticize me, you can leave,” he said. By then, a few of Olrick’s siblings were sitting on the stair, listening in on the conversation about their older brother.

“It’s hard to not criticize someone who’s put their son through so much shit for trying to serve their country,” Silas said. “He’s a good enough person to still call you father, even after what you did to him. You did something right while you were raising him.” For a few seconds, the two simply stared at each other, waiting for the other to flinch.

“I think it’s about time that you left,” Markos growled. Without another word, Silas stormed out of the house. At least the people who cared about Olrick had learned what happened to him before they saw him executed.

Marion’s condition scared Elise; she was sick, really sick. Her skin was as white as a sheet, with dark circles under her eyes, and was really clammy and cold. She’d caught a chill in the castle dungeons, something that wouldn’t have worried her too much, if it hadn’t been for the deep gash in her side. It was badly infected, to the point that Elise worried she would die from it. It swelled her side up and when she’d taken out the crudely placed stitches, greenish-yellow puss began to leak out of the wound. It seemed that Olrick’s sacrifice to save her could have been in vain.

“Am I going to be alright?” Marion’s voice had become weak in her time with the Giskens, weak and more innocent sounding, like a little child’s. When Elise looked into her eyes, she saw something that she’d never thought she’d see from her queen: fear.

“I think so,” Elise said. “Your wound, here, is infected, though; I’ll see if I can get some herbs or some honey to fix that.”

Marion nodded and looked to the side at the hearth, where embers were slowly dying. She was different, even more so that Elise had expected her to be. Though she knew that she was likely in shock from whatever happened to her while she was in Gisken hands, it scared her to think that, perhaps, the Giskens had taken away the confidence she needed in order to rule the country.

“This isn’t at all how I imagined this day,” she said quietly. For a few seconds, Elise was confused, until she realized the significance of that day. If it hadn’t been for the Gisken attack on Semata, Marion would be coronated that day. “I thought that today would be the best day of my life; instead, I got my friend killed just because I was too weak to defend myself.”

“Marion, what happened today isn’t your fault,” Elise said. “Olrick knew that he might not come back, today, but he did what he did, anyway; wherever he is, I’m sure that he’d do it all over again if given the choice.”

“You’re just saying that to make me feel better,” she said quietly.

“I’m not,” Elise promised. “I was there while Silas and Olrick were planning this. Both of them knew how low their chances of success were, but they went ahead and did it, anyway. You can’t blame yourself because they did what they enlisted to do in the first place.”

Before any of them could say anything else, the abbot quietly entered the room. He was holding two bowls of soup and two spoons in his hands. “Are you two hungry?”

Elise stood up from her seat and took one of the bowls from his hands. “Yes; thank you, abbot.” They walked back over to where Marion was laying on her bed.

“I’m not hungry,” she said quietly. The abbot nodded turned to leave, but Elise gently took him by the forearm, prompting him to stay.

“Marion, you need to eat something,” Elise said softly. “You need your strength to get better.” The abbot gave her a confused look, but didn’t respond; he probably assumed that she’d tell him about that in private later.

“I’m not hungry,” Marion insisted. “I had a big meal before I was supposed to be executed.”

Just as Marion said that, her stomach began to growl loudly. She began to curl up, her arms wrapped around her stomach, moaning in pain.

“I don’t feel very good,” she said quietly.

“That’s because you’re starving,” Elise said. “You don’t look like you’ve had a decent meal in a few weeks. Now, when was the last time you had a full meal?”

Marion wrapped her blanket closer around herself and looked back at the fireplace. “The night the battle started.”

Elise found herself biting her bottom lip. That would mean that she hadn’t had a good meal in nearly a month. How could the Giskens starve anyone like that, let alone a princess?

She sat down in front of Marion and held the bowl of soup out in front of her. “You’re starving to death, Marion. If you don’t eat something soon, the damage this has done might not be reversible.” She looked up at Elise, her eyes filled with pain and sadness.

Elise put her hand on Marion’s shoulder. “We want you to get better, and the only way for you to do that is to eat.”

Marion stared at the bowl of soup for a few seconds, trying to decide whether or not she was going to take it, then reached out and began to eat the soup. Elise tried to hold in a sigh of relief; she was really worried that Marion would continue on her starving campaign.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. She began to sit up, wincing in pain.

Elise looked up to the abbot. “Would you happen to have any honey? Marion has a bit of an infection.”

The abbot nodded. “I do think that we have a jar or two; I’ll go get them, real quick. “

“Thank you.” The abbot walked out to get a jar of honey for her.

“How will honey help?” Marion asked.

“There’s something in honey that helps get rid of infection,” Elise said. She ate a spoonful of soup. “I’m not actually sure about why it does, but it works like a charm every time I need it to.”

The door to the room opened and Silas walked in. He had his hands shoved into his pockets and a grim look on his face, one that portrayed that he was deep in thought.

“Where have you been?” Elise asked as he plopped down on the couch. “We were worried that you’d gone and done something stupid.”

“No, it wasn’t stupid,” Silas said as he scratched at his beard. “I paid a visit to Olrick’s mom, told her about what happened to her son. “

Elise bit her bottom lip. “How did that go?”

“Not well,” Silas admitted. “It gave me some time to think about what happened.”

“What do you mean?” Elise asked. She didn’t like the sound of that.

She didn’t realize that Silas would prove her right in her worry.

“I’m going to bust Olrick out before they kill him.”

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