Zeniya’s brow was drenched with sweat; pulse beating in time with Silas’ rhythmic breathing. Their hands squeezed together, and his body tensed as another contraction hit.
“Push, Zen!” His father encouraged, eyes gleaming. “Just one more and you’ll be done.”
Zen flopped back into lover’s arms. “I can’t,” he cried breathlessly.
Silas wrapped his arms around his shoulders and squeezed gently. “You can’t stop now love. You’ve done beautifully so far. Just one more push and it will all be over.” Silas kissed his temple.
Zen drew in a deep breath, screwed up his face, and with his magic, pushed with a final cry. The room that once resounded with pain filled whimpers now echoed with cries of a healthy baby.
“It’s a boy!”
Tears sprang from Zen’s eyes as Silas repeatedly kissed the sides of his face.
“We have a son,” Zen whispered reverently as he gently cradled the small bundle placed in his arms.
“We have a son.” Silas reaffirmed as he held his family close.
The moment was broken when Severin burst through the door out of breath and trembling. The room went silent except for the baby’s whimpers.
Mryith looked to her elder son and reluctantly asked, “What’s wrong, Sev?”
His shoulders dropped, he stared at the floor and shook his head.
“Severin?” Silas growled.
Severin immediately looked to him and said, his voice trembling, “They’re coming.”
Silas jolted awake as he heard his son’s cries. “It was just a dream.” He reprimanded himself.
That was several days ago when the small family of three had fled in the middle of the night soon after the announcement. They were now a long ways from Minor Arcana nearly to their goal of freedom. He relaxed his shoulders as he checked on his sleeping lover.
"Can you shut up the kid?"
Her. Silas tensed and glared in Kai’s general direction. “He has a name you know,” he stated as he crawled out of bed and walked over to the makeshift crib.
"And I should care why?" She sneered and rolled her eyes.
"It’s Tobias, and you’re helping to save his life." He rationalized. At the sight of his father, Tobias’ cries seemed to get louder.
"No offense, but I see people like you all the time. My job is to get you safely across the border. There was never any mention of me having to care about your feelings." She stood up from her sitting position on the floor. "And you really need to shut him up. Hunters can hear him for miles around, and we’re trying to be incognito.” She glared at the offender, her shoulders tense and hands on her hips.
Silas paced back and forth as he rocked the crying child. “I’m doing the best I can. Zen’s better with him than I am.” His shoulders slumped.
"It’s bad enough that hubby over there is sick. It’d be better if we got rid of the dead weight," she muttered to herself and shook her head.
Silas turned and narrowed his eyes at her. “What did you say?”
"Look either shut the kid up or I’ll do it for you!"
"Lay a hand on either of them and you won’t live long enough to regret it," Zen’s tired voice rose above the child’s screaming. "Bring Toby here." He grimaced as he sat up slowly.
"Love, you need to rest." Silas scolded as he rushed over to the bed.
"Just hand him to me. She’s right, and he’s hungry," he rasped as he unbuttoned his shirt.
"Oh." Silas blushed as he handed his son over. The sight of Zeniya breastfeeding had that effect on him.
"Finally someone listens to reason!" She clapped her hands as the kid quieted. "Anyway, I’m going down to the bar to listen for news. Don’t leave the room unless you get the signal." She dropped to her knees, opened the right crawl space door, and left.
Silas sat down on the edge of their bed and studied his family. Tobias was no bigger than the length of his arm, yet he caused them so many problems. If it wasn’t for him, he could still be living at home instead of risking his life for their freedom. He began to frown, and he crossed his arms. Maybe they should get rid of the dead weight.
"Don’t listen to her. Don’t let her invade you thoughts and poison your mind against us. We are responsible for our actions. No one else, so don’t blame your innocent son. He had no part in this,” Zen said without taking his eyes off the child.
Silas dropped his head and leaned against the headboard. “When did you get to be so wise?” He smiled down at Zen. “Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago you were whining about not having the right colored sock?” He snorted.
"Wisdom has nothing to do with personal preferences." He pouted as he burped Tobias.
"Whatever you say, love." He smiled indulgently then frowned and took his son. "I still don’t understand why she has to treat us like that. This may be her job, but we’re still people too. From the way she talks, it sounds as if she wants us dead!"
"Don’t you even dare go there," Zen spoke calmly. "She’s risking her life to save ours. That is a major sacrifice for a stranger to make, even if they are family."
"I still can’t believe you’re related to it.” Silas grimaced.
"Be nice. Just because she lacks feminine features and has a boy’s name, doesn’t make her an it. You’re just jealous because she’s manlier than you are,” Zen giggled.
Suddenly, they heard a noise from the other side of the left wall. They immediately went silent. Silas held Tobias closer to his breast while Zeniya’s hands went to the chain around his neck. The scuffling went silent then knock–knock––knock–knock–knock. They sighed in relief. The only ones who knew that knock where the conductors and their passengers. The hidden door opened, and to their shock Kai was not the one to enter.
"Falia? Where’s Kai?" Silas asked.
"There’s no time to explain. Grab your things. We need to go now." She grabbed random items and began stuffing them into a bag.
"We just got here a few hours ago! Kai said that we can rest for three days before we have to leave. Zen is still recovering!"
"Plans have changed. We just got word that hunters will be here in less than hours’ time. We can’t risk you still being here," she explained, still packing their supplies.
"What happened to Kai?" Zen insisted upon knowing.
"I told to move. If you don’t, I’ll kill you myself to protect this station." She stopped moving to pull out a knife and advanced toward the bed.
"Don’t even think about it." Zen narrowed his eyes. "We won’t move until you give us answers."
Falia sighed and put her knife away. “Kaiesian has been captured. She’s being held prisoner for impersonating a man.”
"Wouldn’t they just kill her on the spot?" Silas questioned.
"She’s been revealed as a conductor. That’s why the hunters are on their way. They believe that she’s trying to transport people across the border."
Zen narrowed his eyes and Silas paled.
"She hasn’t spoken a word, so you’re safe for now, but we must hurry!" The room became a flurry of movement as its occupants rushed to pack their things.
"Hand me the child." Falia held out her arms.
Silas stared at her for a moment. “Why?”
"It would look odd for a man to walk out of here with a babe in his arms and no wife by his side. We weren’t open when you got here. Right now, the bar is full."
Silas looked at the babe in his arms and kissed his brow before handing him over. He stared after the two, a frown on his face, as they made their way through the passage. “Something doesn’t feel right.”
"Everything will turn out fine. Trust me."
"Did you see something?" Silas’s eyes brightened.
"Just a feeling. Now go on. They’re waiting for us." Zen pushed Silas forward through the passage.
When Silas moved into the other room, the sight before him stopped him cold. All of the conductors of Unna Med Tavern, Kaiesian included, were bound in chains and held prisoner by hunters except for one.
“Falia, why would you do this?” His voice rasped, eyes narrowed.
"Reasons don’t matter. Now, where is that pretty nurturer of yours?"
"Right behind you," Zeniya said before all of the torches went out, and they were plunged in darkness.
The hunters tensed and held their charges closer.
“Idiots! Don’t worry about the prisoners. Find him!” Falia shouted.
The hunters let go of their captives and slowly felt their way to the door. Suddenly a bright light flashed and the ground trembled causing everyone to fall to the ground blinded. The hunters began to strike out blindly. The conductors writhed and twisted trying to undo their bonds. Falia stumbled to the ground, losing her grip on the abomination. Silas searched blindly for his son and lover while Tobias’ screams were added to the cacophony.
Zeniya scanned the room in that brief moment that the lights flashed and closed his eyes, allowing the imprint of the room to solidify in his mind. He knew what he had to do, but did he have the strength to do it? He said a prayer to Anubis, squared his shoulders, and grabbed his chain.
“In the name of Hike, I release thee.” The chain glowed white, as its charm lengthened and grew into a mage’s staff. Zeniya could feel the power pooling into his fingertips. He opened his eyes and moved.
Silas crawled toward his son’s cries. He had to make it to his son. He made his way slowly, pausing every few moments to make sure he was heading in the right direction. Finally, he made it to his destination. He cradled his child close to his chest and rocked him gently. He tried to block out all of the noise and focus on Zeniya, but he couldn’t. His heart was pounding. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t think. His mind was complete chaos, and he couldn’t find his center, his peace, his Zen.
“Zeniya!” He cried. “Zeniya! Please, I need you.”
"I’m here my love," Zen’s voice whispered in his mind. "Listen to me Sai. I’m sending you and Toby straight to my uncles’. You’ll be safe there."
"Where are you Zen? I–I can’t see you. Please, don’t leave me." Tears streamed down Silas’ face.
"I can’t," Zen’s voice cracked, "I can’t stay with you."
"Everything will turn out fine. Trust me."
The room was again bathed in a brilliant white light. Silas felt Zen’s presence leave him as his world faded to black.
He awoke to the sound of a bird pecking at his window. He tentatively opened his eyes and groaned as he rolled over. It was morning, and he was in an unfamiliar place. His heart began to pound and his breathing became labored as his eyes roamed the room in search of Tobias until they finally rested on a crib in the corner of the room. Silas shot out of bed ran to the crib. He sighed, his shoulders relaxing and breathing returning to normal when he saw that he was asleep, wrapped in a clean blanket. Against his better judgment, he picked up his sleeping child and walked out of the room. His eyes roamed the hallway until he spied the stairs. Soon both child and father were met with the sight of a man with long auburn hair watching TV.
“Zen?” He called out eyes brightening. As the man turned around and stood, the light died in his eyes.
"You’re finally awake. Would you like something to eat?" The man who looked so much like Zen smiled at him warmly.
"Where are we?"
"You’re in the capital of Freiheit, Amorous."
Silas gasped. They had made it. No longer were they stuck in Schicksal’s oppressive lands. That must mean…
“Are you Zen’s uncle?”
"Yep, my name is Gartand, but please call me Andy."
"How did we get here?"
"You don’t remember?"
He closed his eyes and saw flashes of light, and his lover glowing bright, looking like a god of war. “Zen,” he whispered brokenly. “How long have we been here?”
"Three days. Come, let me get you something to eat." He walked to the kitchen and began to rifle through the fridge.
Silas followed after him slowly taking in his surroundings. He walked past what looked to be the formal dining room and a den before he reached the entrance to the kitchen. Everything was so modern, like his Father’s home in Major Arcana. He wasn’t expecting that.
"Sit at the island."
He crossed over and sat down.
"Sorry, I’m not much of a cook. That duty relies solely with my husband, and he had to go out this morning." He sat a plate filled with fresh fruit, plain yogurt, and a glass of water before him.
Silas’ mouth began to water. Rarely had he even eaten fresh anything. Schicksal was so dry and arid that they had to rely on Freiheit for most of their produce. It was expensive, and despite his Father’s wealth, Silas had to earn the right to taste a fresh strawberry.
"I’ll hold him while you eat."
He’d forgotten the man was standing there. “Thank you.” He gently transferred his still sleeping son to the older man’s arms and began to eat.
The front door opened. “Andy?”
"In the kitchen," he replied.
A blond haired man entered the kitchen and encircled Andy into his arms.
"Any word?" Andy questioned.
"Yes. None of it good."
Silas turned. “Word? About what?” He paused. “From the tavern? What happened? Where’s Zen?”
"Sorry, I haven’t introduced myself I’m Art."
"I don’t care. Where is Zen?" He yelled and woke up Tobias.
"I’ll go take the little one upstairs." Andy made a quick exit.
Art sighed. “He’s gone.”
"No. There must be some mistake." He stood, voice hollow.
"Only one survived the blast and it wasn’t Zen. The tavern was completely destroyed. I’m sorry."
Tears filled Silas’ eyes. “He knew,” he whispered brokenly.
Art placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Silas turned into his arms and wept.
“Where are you Zen? I–I can’t see you. Please, don’t leave me.” Tears streamed down Silas’ face.
“I can’t,” Zen’s voice cracked, “I can’t stay with you.”
“Everything will turn out fine. Trust me.”
Silas awoke to the sounds of his son crying. He sighed and crawled out bed. It had been months since that night that he lost his love. He could scarcely forget those last few moments he spent with him. It plagued his every nightmare. He had been taking potions to help him sleep, but that stopped working a long time ago. He picked up his son and began to rock him, swaying to an unknown rhythm. Thoughts of Zeniya filled his head. Silent tears dripped down his face and onto the floor.
A falcon watched them from the window, moved by the man’s tears.
"Why did you leave me?" Silas cried. "You said everything would be all right and it’s not!"
He jumped and turned towards the window.
The falcon watched him patiently as he walked over.
Drawn to his presence, he began to open the window and let the bird fly in and land across the room on the floor.
In a bright flash of light, where there once stood a bird, stood a man. “For love,” he replied, “I left you for love.”
Silas stared across the room. “Zen?”
He nodded his head and opened his arms.