But Peace Must End - The Anmah Series Book 2

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Chapter 22

Three days later, weary to his very bones, Ga'briyel spotted the red tiled roofs of Torkeln from a rise about five leagues north of the city. Since the incident in Sarat, the Anmah had avoided all contact with the few villages he had seen, preferring to sleep in the forest rather than be subjected to another night of fighting. He sighed in relief when he saw the city and pressed Klyar on as fast as the horse could carry him. When he finally reached the north gate, he grinned, and his eyes flared, for Sophyra was standing outside the walls waiting for him. He pulled Klyar to a halt, jumped down to the ground, and covered the distance between himself and his wife in three large steps. He gathered her to his chest and held her tightly.

"My heart," he whispered brokenly. "I missed you so very much."

Sophyra clung to his shirt underneath his cloak as if she were afraid he would disappear if she didn't hold onto him as closely as she could. Ga'briyel chuckled, pushed her back slightly, and kissed her. She would have fallen at his feet if he hadn't wrapped his arm around her waist and held her upright. Her fists in his shirt grew tighter, and when the kiss was broken, Ga'briyel sighed deeply and held his wife to his chest.

"Where is Adama, my heart?" Ga'briyel asked quietly.

"With your mother, my love," Sophyra answered him. "I have much to tell you about him."

"I already know. He has come to me in my dreams many times since his birth." Ga'briyel stepped back and draped his arm around Sophyra's shoulders. He looked at the guardsmen at the gate who were watching the exchange with interest. "Take my horse to the stables," he said firmly, walking past the guardsmen. "Make sure he is well taken care of."

"Yes, Captain Mistri," one of them said with a smile. "Welcome home, sir."

Ga'briyel just smiled back and entered the city. The familiar sounds and scents and crush of people surrounded him and he let them do so as they walked toward the palace. His hand drifted up and down Sophyra's arm as they got closer to their home. He needed to do more than just kiss her, but that would have to wait. First, he needed a bath, and then he would present himself to his king and Siskaska. Only when they were satisfied would he be able to lose himself in his wife.

Sophyra snuggled close to him, content to be held by him once more, but Ga'briyel could feel the heat flowing off her in waves, and while Mari's heat was most unwelcome, Sophyra's was intensly distracting. He had to force himself not to find an alleyway and do things with her that were not done in public. It seemed that hours passed before he saw the white marble of the palace, and that time was mostly spent with him trying to control himself. When they got to the main doors of the palace, however, the two guardsmen there snapped to attention, saluted, and when he returned the salute, they relaxed with grins on their faces.

"Welcome home, Captain," one said. "Are you here to stay this time, sir?"

"Unfortunately not," Ga'briyel said with a frown as he passed them. "I have to head south soon." He squeezed Sophyra's shoulder and smiled. "But this time I will have my family with me."

The guardsmen nodded and watched as the two Anmah disappeared down the hallway.

"We are going with you, Ga'briyel?" Sophyra asked when they were alone. "Adama told me this in a dream, but I barely dared to hope it was true."

"Yes, my heart, Yisu has told me you may come with me when I leave in three days. But first, I must bathe and speak to King Tomas and Ma'ikel." He bent down and kissed the top of Sophyra's head. "I wish I did not have to, my wife, but I do. I would much rather spend the time with you and my son." He chuckled. "More time with you, my wife, than him."

"That would be nice, Ga'briyel," she answered, "but we will be together for moons when we leave Torkeln. And I don't want you to anger King Tomas." She shifted in his grasp. "He has been very kind to me since you've been gone. He always asks how Adama and I are doing, and he seems sincerely concerned about us."

"King Tomas is a good man, Sophyra. I am sure he was sincere about his concern." They had reached Jarda's quarters, and Ga'briyel held the door for his wife who walked into the office.

"Mama! Ga'briyel is home!" Sophyra called out, and instantly running footsteps were heard behind the door to the family's home. The door burst open, and Elise ran to her son and wrapped her arms around him.

"Hello, Mama," Ga'briyel said softly. "I missed you."

Elise stepped back and ran her hands over Ga'briyel's face as tears trickled from her eyes. "I missed you as well, my son. You are well, yes?"

"Yes, Mama. I am well. Very tired, but well. I would like to rest, but I must bathe and present myself to the king. It has been a very long few days." He reached out his hand and wiped the tears from his mother's face. "No more crying. I will be here for three days, and then Sophyra, Adama, and I must travel south."

"They are going with you? Sophyra told me this, but I was not sure whether to believe her or not." Elise smiled up at her son. "But we will talk later. I will get the water for your bath." She disappeared into the kitchen while Sophyra and Ga'briyel made their way to the bathing room. When Ga'briyel held the door, Sophyra walked in, and he smiled.

"I had hoped you wanted to stay, my heart."

"Of course, Ga'briyel. I would prefer to be with you constantly from now on, but I know that is not possible." She stopped talking as Elise walked in and added hot water to the tub. When Elise left, Ga'briyel stripped his clothes off and settled into the water. Before he could reach for the linen and soap, however, Sophyra grabbed it first. "Please, my love, let me. It has been so long since I have been able to touch you."

"I am all yours, Sophyra," Ga'briyel said with a grin, but then he groaned as his wife began to clean the sweat and grime from his body. The heat from his wife intensified, and he could not stop himself from grabbing her and pulling her, fully clothed, into the tub with him before kissing her soundly.

"Ga'briyel!"

"I am sorry, my heart. I could not help it." He laughed when she struggled to get out of the water, and he gave her a light shove. She managed to extricate herself from the tub and his arms, and she glared at him as she stood dripping water onto the floor of the bathing room.

"That was not nice, husband," she said firmly, but when he continued to laugh, her frown slowly transformed into a smile, and she knelt down next to the tub and continued washing him. Every so often, she leaned forward and kissed him. His laugh quickly turned into a deep groan, and when Sophyra kissed him again, he grabbed her head and pulled her close. He broke the kiss after what seemed like ages and frowned.

"I must go, Sophyra," he said, and when a wave of heat hit him hard, he snarled. "I will try to be back soon, my heart. Then we will spend hours and hours together, I promise."

"Perhaps all three days, my love?" Sophyra asked with a grin.

He wanted to return the grin, but he was frustrated. "Perhaps." He stood up and reached for a towel, which he wrapped around his hips.

"I will get you some clean clothes, Ga'briyel," she said as she stood, but he grabbed her wrist and pulled her to himself.

"I wish I did not have to leave, Sophyra. I want to stay here with you, but I have to go."

"I know, husband. We will be together soon." Sophyra kissed his chest and pulled out of his arms before leaving the room. When she was gone, Ga'briyel grabbed the linen cloth and his boots, and wiped the dust from the leather. Sophyra returned with some of Jarda's clothing, and Ga'briyel dressed quickly. With a last, regretful glance at his wife, he left the room and the home.

He tried to keep his emotions off his face, but he must not have done a very good job of it because every guardsman he passed snapped to attention and saluted. None of them moved until he was far down the hallway, and then they relaxed and released their salutes with a sigh of relief. Ga'briyel could feel everything they did, and it only made him angrier. By the time he reached the throne room, his rage was almost overwhelming, but he forced himself to push that anger down into himself, for he had no wish to spew out his frustrations on his king. He had no desire to spend the next few days in the stocks.

He pushed the door to the throne room open, ignoring the two guardsmen who were standing stiffly with perfect salutes. When he walked in, the throne was empty, but King Tomas and his father were at the same table he had seen when Jarda had brought him to the king the very first time. Both men's heads snapped up when the door opened, and Jarda smiled brightly.

"Ga'briyel! Welcome home!" he cried out, glancing at the king. When Tomas nodded, he walked quickly to his son and embraced him tightly. "I missed you, my boy," he whispered harshly. "I am so happy you are home."

"And I missed you as well, Baba." Ga'briyel pulled away from his father, took two steps toward the table and dropped to his knee.

"Rise, Captain Mistri," Tomas said. When Ga'briyel did so, the king gestured toward a third chair at the table. "Sit and tell me what has happened to you these past moons."

"Yes, sire." Ga'briyel and Jarda sat, and the Anmah told them both about the sons of Sayatan he had slain, the village where he had killed almost a third of the population, and almost everything else that had happened to him. He kept the incident with Carlas and his family to himself, however. He saw no reason to tell either of them about the books or the magic he had used. He felt it was better to keep that information known to only his son and himself. Two hours later, after letting Tomas' anger wash over him at the mention of Sayatan's sons and the village of Sarat, Ga'briyel was finished with his account of his experiences since being at home last. Tomas had mentioned sending soldiers to Sarat to teach the villagers a lesson, but Ga'briyel somehow managed to keep him from doing so. He told his king that most, if not all, of the evildoers in the village were dead, and the people who remained should not be punished for the deeds of the others.

Tomas cocked his head and stared at his captain. "Go home, Captain Mistri. Be with your wife and son."

"I regret that I cannot, Your Majesty. I must speak with Ma'ikel."

"No, Captain, you must go home. That is an order from your king. You can speak with Ma'ikel tomorrow. You are here for three days, you said?"

"Yes, sire."

"Then tomorrow is soon enough. I will tell your Siskaska myself that I sent you home." When Ga'briyel frowned, the king placed his hand on the young man's shoulder. "He will understand, Captain. Go home."

Ga'briyel nodded slowly. "Thank you, sire. I would like that."

"Jarda, you stay. We still have much to discuss."

"Of course, Your Majesty," Jarda replied, and he turned his head to watch his son trudge toward the doors of the throne room. He had not seen the weariness in Ga'briyel before that he saw now, and he worried about his son. Was Yisu asking too much of the young Anmah? Jarda had not thought so before, but now he was not sure, and he was frowning deeply when he turned back to his king.

"He will be all right, General," Tomas said softly.

"Will he, sire? I am not certain of that anymore. He is only twenty-two, sire. How much more is he expected to take?"

"I do not know, Jarda, but Yisu never gives us more than we can handle. He will protect your son."

With a heavy sigh, Jarda dropped his head into his hands. "I hope you are right, Your Majesty."

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