Life After Life

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Chapter 4 - Hayther

I left her room my head heavy with the events that played out tonight. I started to head towards the guard’s quarters, but my muscles felt tight and I doubted I would be getting any sleep tonight. Instead I veered down a flight of stairs and towards the blacksmith’s forge in the south corridor. Outside the sky was black, with no moon shining the torches and the embers from the fire pit casted long shadows.

Dayson, the king’s blacksmith, was sitting outside a flask in his hand. Relaxing after a long day’s work no doubt. He nodded at me as I passed by and shrugged out of my guard uniform. Leaving only me under shirt and black pants and boots. I pulled an apron off a hook and slipped it over my head tying it around my waist. I pulled my sword out of the holster and tugged my gloves on. I sat down at the sharpening wheel and started to pump the wheel. I carefully laid my sword against it letting the stone work against my blade. I thought back to where it all went wrong tonight and it was when I felt someone pinch me.

“Come here” A rough hand grabbed mine and pulled me out into the hallway.

“What are you doing? If I’m caught abandoning my post, I’ll be punished for damn sure.”

Veryan looked tense and worried.

“They’re all trying to court her.”

My face must have look confused for a second and then I understood, the Prince’s. Veryan continues.

“I heard the king of Rimerona saying ‘Do whatever it takes to make her yours or at least to where she could marry no other.’”

I see a tremble in body and I know there must be more but she’s not saying. Out of the corner of my eye I see a patrolling General coming out of the ballroom. Seeing no other option, I press my hands on the side of Veryan and push her into the wall. I pressed my face close to her neck but was careful not to actually touch her. The general passed and gave out a low whistle and continued on.

I pulled my head away from Veryan’s neck, but I didn’t move my arms.

“I also heard her parents talking. They’re already talking courtship with the king from Rimerona if she likes him.”

I had always known that one day I’d lose her to a marriage, but I had hoped that maybe I could find a way before then to make something work. I was raging on the inside as I punched the wall next to Veryan.

“Goddess, Hayther! I know you’re upset but” the only words that barely make it past my lips are “But I love her, I can’t lose her.” Veryan whispers “Well you better do something soon!” I heard a loud giggle behind me and a familiar throat being cleared. I whipped around bewildered at the sight of Ever, her faces went blank and she started to say

“Oh my, well this is awkward. I had no idea that you were courting someone.”

She laughed quietly again until Veryan stepped out from behind me, then her face went white as Veryan’s dress and she looked like all the happiness just drained from her face. She turned and ran from us. I called after her, but she didn’t turn around instead she slipped back into the ballroom. I followed after her, angry at myself, at this whole situation.

I pulled myself out of my self-loathing for a moment to test my blade, it sinks into a log sitting near me. It didn’t go all the way through and I had to pry it out. It wasn’t good enough, I sat back down and kept sharpening. I mulled over what King Ashur said and I felt my stomach sour. I remembered watching my replacement Jordan step into the crowd.

He takes my shifts when I am unavailable sometimes. The king led me to side of the ballroom.

“Hayther, you know you are like a son to me,” he paused, a crease furrowing his brow. “I know how you feel about my daughter, and although I would have no objections, this is bigger than either of you understand. My wife has made it very clear that Everose is to marry a prince, and no one else. I’m sorry my boy,” he sighed, “Maybe finding you a new post would make it easier?”

My body had gone stiff, my mouth and mind were no longer in sync. I could feel my brain forming sentences, but my mouth stayed closed. The king looked at me right in my eyes and I could see sadness, I found my mouth and began to move it.

“I swore an oath to protect her with my life. If it is alright with you sir, I would like to keep that oath. But I won’t get in the way of a Prince. I swear.” The king nodded understanding in his deep eyes.

I remembered Jordan telling me “He’s a prince not an assassin, goddess Hayther you need to give her space.” Everyone telling me what to do instead of me making my own decisions.

I pump the wheel harder.

I saw them sitting on a bench, his mouth was on hers and at first, I thought that her hands were caressing his chest. But then I saw she was struggling against him, he pinned her arms down with one of his and I didn’t think. He didn’t see me coming and suddenly he stopped and whispered something to her just as my fist connected with his cheek. He fell backwards off the bench with a loud cry.

I felt a hand come down on my shoulder bringing me back to the present, I looked up at Dayson.

“You’ve ruined another sword Hayther.” I look down and see that my sword was chipped on the sides now and scratched. I took a test swing at the log and half of my sword sticks in the log while the hilt lays broken in my hand. I sighed and picked myself up.

“We need to find you a new hobby for when you’re upset.” I only gave him a half smile.

“Or maybe you should make better swords.” I called over my shoulder as I hung my apron back up and grabbed my jacket. Dayson stood there shaking his head and picked up what was left of my sword.

I finally found my way to my quarters and collapsed on the bed. I kicked off my boots and rolled over onto my side. I didn’t have anything to drink and yet my stomach felt like I consumed ten tankards of beer. I wished my dad was here, or my mom. Maybe then I could have some normalcy in my life, but instead all I felt was alone.

I remembered their faces vaguely, I was 5 years old when they died. My father was a great doctor, he had made miracles happen during the war, the only reason he wasn’t drafted was because when my father was a little boy he had an accident with a horse and he had lost his left eye. But that didn’t stop him from helping in any way he could, and with my mother beside him every step of the way, they were unstoppable.

We were traveling to Delgurany from Carastil, trying to escape the horrible tyrant. We were in the woods, my mother and I inside our covered wagon, my father steering, when we heard a loud commotion outside and my father yell. I remember how scared my mother’s face was. Her eyes were brown and dark like mine. She told me to hide underneath a pile of blankets & to not come out no matter what. I was terrified, I wanted to follow her as she left the back of the wagon.

I couldn’t move terror pinned me down to spot, I couldn’t even follow her directions to hide. So, when the bandits pulled me out of the wagon and threw me down in the mud I knew it was my fault. I couldn’t even register faces, all I saw was my father lying face down in the mud, his head turned away from me. But even then, I knew he was dead I could see his blood mixing with the mud around him as it poured out of his body. My mother was on her knees next to him a bandit had his sword next to her throat.

“What should we do with these traitors?” a gruff voice barked out. “Let’s keep the woman and we can sell the boy as a slave.” With those words, my mother’s eyes met mine as she stood up quickly and reared her head back shouting “RUN!” The bandit grabbed his now bleeding nose and screamed “You bitch!” As he slit her throat right in front of me. I failed my mother twice now, she had given her life for mine and I couldn’t make my legs move. Instead there I stood stuck in the mud now thick with my parent’s blood. I saw the shadows of the bandits drawing near, when suddenly one of the bandits landed with a thud an arrow sticking out of chest. I glanced back and that was the first time I ever met King Ashur.

Later on, he brought me back to the castle and had me cleaned up. He brought me to dinner with his family.

“You must be starving, go ahead and eat.”

I just sat there at the table not feeling hungry, until I saw movement across the table. There she was Princess Everose, she had just turned 3. Her blonde hair sat wild around her shoulders and her green eyes were big and bright. She smiled at me and waved.

“Do you want to be friends? Veryan is my best friend but you can be one too.” She pushed a plate of mashed potatoes towards me. “Those are my favorite, try them!” I eventually fell asleep dreaming of the day I met her.

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