It was a long few nights as they traveled toward the City of Rishana. Aslin led the way, keeping his usual cheerful tone. Harlinna, though, was rather mouthy--that was expected.
They had to move mostly by night to keep from being noticed. Rishana was filling with more soldiers and battles were raging. It was confusing, causing the woman and her daughter to be reasonably fearful.
Time and time again, Aslin would try to calm them by saying “All is well, you needn’t worry.” However, they knew that simply because he said it didn’t mean it was true.
After a week of sneaking and hiding and traveling, they reached the city. The streets were filled with guards and there was a strict curfew. It was obvious that the city was preparing for another war. Exactly what Rishana needed.
They found an inn and Aslin cleaned up. Smelling like a traveler was not appealing--especially to meet with some rather important people.
After combing his hair and beard, he curled the ends of his mustache and left. He charged Arvin with watching the ladies.
Soon, he was on his way to the castle. Getting inside might be a whole other mission of its own.
He passed a particularly large man, one who’s made a name for himself in the past few years. “Sir Brick,” Aslin greeted.
The large man’s eyes shifted to him, seeming to be busy and in deep, troubling thoughts. Aslin, though, showed no sign of noticing. He simply gave him a polite smile and nod of the head.
“Might I trouble you for a moment?”
Brick nodded slowly, fully facing him. “Can I help you?”
“Aye. Actually, I am Lord Aslin,” he began. The name seemed to spark familiarity within Brick. “My estates have been ravaged. The whole city was torn down. By impostors.”
“I knew it,” Brick hissed quietly. Aslin lifted a brow at his quiet response.
“Yes...” Aslin hummed. “It seems someone wants us to believe King Holloway is behind this. But...he is missing, isn’t he?” He poked softly at the lion, hoping to get some answers unraveled without revealing too much of his own knowledge.
“How much do you know?” Brick asked sternly.
Aslin took a moment to assess the man. Trusting his instincts and his reading of Brick, he decided he was deemed as trustworthy. “Might we...speak somewhere more privately?”
Brick glanced toward the castle where he had just left. Then, with a short nod, he led him away.
They arrived at a small tavern, Cotton Pub. He took him upstairs to a private lounge where very few men were allowed.
They sat with drinks, silence setting in heavily over them. Aslin watched Brick before finally explaining what he had learned from Kiaran’s visit. He hadn’t gotten much from her, wordwise. However, the language she spoke from within, he could read quite well.
“King Holloway is in danger, trapped within the walls of the Mage Queen,” Aslin said. Brick watched him in disbelief and worry. “He’ll not be coming back for a while.”
Brick stared into his drink, taking in a very deep, uneasy breath. “We...have another issue,” he admitted lowly.
“Oh, we do?” he sipped his ale. “Do tell, Sir.”
The door creaked open, allowing a bit of light across the floor. Serah lied on her side on the bare bed, her arms folded across her chest. Her hair was dirty, her wrists bearing red, raw marks from her cuffs.
She buried her face into her arms, hiding it from her visitors.
Her belly had swelled, growing larger as proof of pregnancy. Though she was pregnant, she was provided very little, and comfort was out of the question. She was given enough food to keep alive, and her pregnancy kept her out of the dungeons.
Brick stepped inside, Aslin getting a better look at her. He frowned deeply, whispering under his breath, “You poor girl.”
He moved past Brick, cautiously approaching her. She tensed, withdrawing sluggishly. Filling with sympathy, he touched her elbow gingerly. Gasping, she tried to yank away.
“Miss...why are you here?” he whispered. Hesitation kept her from facing him fully. And when she did, he noticed she was blind. He looked over his shoulder to Brick, saying, “What is going on?”
“I am pregnant with the heir,” she said quietly.
Brick and Aslin both looked to her in shock. The quiet utterance of truth came from her without fear. She had yet to admit it to Walter, though they knew the truth.
Brick ran a hand over his face as anxiety gripped him. Aslin stood again, straightening out his coat. “Well,” he said, facing Brick fully. “This is about enough of that, isn’t it?”
“I’d say so,” Brick agreed.
To Serah, again, Aslin spoke gently, saying, “I fear that you’ll have to wait a bit longer, Dear.”
She gazed toward him, a look of disbelief washing over her. She nodded once in a fearful manner.
"Please, do trust that you are in safe hands," he gently smoothed a hand over her shoulder. "Have you considered a name yet?"
"...Huh?" She gazed at him in shock, soaking in the warmth of his voice.
"If it's a boy?"
"Oh," she breathed. Clearly, she was taken aback. The thought hadn't occurred to her.
"Think on it, Miss," he said softly. She nodded and he walked to Brick's side. Once they left the room and the door was securely closed, he whispered, "Walter's lost all sense."
The expression Brick wore was grim. He nodded, taking in a deep breath.
But what was to be done about it?