We moved with a sense of purpose, running to and fro from shop to shop in the afternoon sunlight. The sun was beginning its journey down the sky by the time we were prepared to head back to the Tavern. We were about to head back when the headmaster shuffled quickly towards us, holding a different staff than before, this one made of a worn wood and a crystal of some sort sitting at the top,
“Child! Alys! Wait a moment!”
I moved towards the headmaster, meeting him halfway.
He thrust the staff towards me, wheezing slightly.
“Take this child. This staff has been passed down with every headmaster, I am certain it shall benefit you as well. Learn your spells well, so our world falls no deeper into the darkness.”
“Yes headmaster, I shall not let you down.”
“Now go my child; let me not keep you any longer. Safe travels, to both of you!” He pushed me towards Verulus.
I nodded and quickly grabbed onto Verulus, almost immediately whisked away back to Sungrasp. It was already dark due the shadow of the mountains so close to the town. We hurried on towards the Tavern, Verulus having pushed me towards the kitchen entrance rather than the actual tavern entrance. Meryl was the one to answer, looking shocked to see us so soon.
“Verulus? What’s going on, why are you back so soon?”
“Sister, I am afraid I do not have the time to discuss this with you. Alys will do her best to explain in my stead. Please grant her shelter?”
“Wha- yes, yes, dear do come in. I don’t know what is going on, but it is clear it is of importance. Do not let me keep you any longer, Verulus. She’s safe with me.”
He nodded and quickly left without a goodbye. Meryl lead me inside the kitchen, carefully making her way towards the stairs that lead downward.
“This way, dear. Sorry I’m not any faster, I feel I might pop any moment. Come on.” She spoke tenderly, as a mother should towards her child.
I followed her down, worried by her words. She unlocked the door at the end of the steps, opening what appeared to be a living room. She made her way to the couch that sat in front of a fire.
“So, tell me what is going on?” She smiled.
The smile didn’t last as I explained what was going on. Worry and fear crossed her face.
“A truly dangerous time to be having a child in… Should war come…”
“I will do everything in my power to help stop this from happening. I swear you and your family will be safe.”
She looked at me thoughtfully, sighing. “I’m afraid even you can’t stop a war, Alys. War is war; it will happen regardless the circumstances over time. Civil unrest, assassination, kidnapping, these are only a few of the reasons that causes war to happen. Alame befell a similar fate, by losing the princess.”
“Lord Erwignan said the princess was alive.”
“I don’t doubt the Lord’s words, but not all those are lost are dead. You don’t know the story do you?” She patted the spot beside her, encouraging me to sit with her.
I sat beside her, letting her take my hands within her own, playing with them.
“You may have not been born at the time it happened. How old are you?”
She nodded. “The princess is about five years older than you; I was about seven years old when it happened. I remember my father telling my mother how uneasy the people of Alame were rumored to be. Some say a seer had foreseen an uprising that would happen should the heir be a female, as males are traditionally heirs to the kingdom. A princess would mean the kingdom would have to marry her off to another kingdom, such as Alamer, uniting the two under one name. My guess is that the people of Alame had long forgotten that our kingdoms were siblings, uniting together would have practically been the easiest solution.
The queen eventually had the princess, who was immediately betrothed to our Prince, from what I’ve heard. The people were upset, and they tried to overthrow the royal family, but they could not be found. No one knows where they went, though my father and mother believed at the very least the Queen and Princess were living here in Alamer, protected by the king.”
“I see… So the princess, possibly, is living in Alamer?”
“It’s possible…” She let go of my hands and placed them over her stomach. “I hope that is the case. It would help you significantly.”
I went silent, thinking hard enough to almost miss Meryl flinching.
“Meryl? What’s wrong?”
“Alys, go get some of the women in the kitchen, tell them I need help. The older ones will immedietly give you instructions, I beg of you, follow them! Now go!”
I quickly got up and ran up the stairs, tripping at the top. Before I could even speak, two of the elder workers headed down the stairs. A third helped me up and I quickly realized what was going on.
Meryl was in labor.
I was told to fetch things as fast as I could, guided along by the women of the kitchen. Some continued to work on their usual duties, caring for the people in the tavern, the others helping Meryl. I assumed they had previously been instructed long before my arrival.
Meryl’s husband begged me to go back to his wife in his stead; he couldn’t abandon his duties to tend to her. I ran back down and went to her side.
I couldn’t tell how long it was before her child, a daughter, was born. I knew I’d always remember the child, she cried loudly.
The women began panicking, their words covered one other, but I quickly understood what was wrong. Meryl was dying.
I wasn’t going to let it happen.
I quickly grabbed one of my books of spells, hurriedly flipping the pages to the first page that contained a healing spell. I held the staff gifted to be firmly in my hands, reading the words to the spell.
“Yer, Yyrdu, Wytur, Voor un naadlat, bul uk ver jao! Luun mi jao kryg! Gunuus deu pursaan, guu hollu luwu!”
I felt magic course through me as I pointed the crystal tip of my staff towards Meryl, enveloping her in a glowing power. I knew the spell was working, I could just tell. I began to feel drained, like my very life source was slowly being extinguished.
I fell to the ground, feeling cold darkness take to me.