The Sentinel of Cassendar: Navalia

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Chapter 13

Galen rode next to Princess Lexine as they left the large group behind to head to the summer palace. The traveled ahead on the main road as the snow started to fall heavily. Galen could see the ground in the forest slowly start to gain white patches, as the snow started sticking to the dead leaves laying on the forest floor. Before his eyes, the scenery changed around him from a dull, gray and brown landscape to a pure white winter background.

“The snow is very pretty,” said Lexine as they journeyed on. “But I have never really enjoyed it beyond looking at it out the window. I believe I was made for warmer weather.”

“You and me both, sister,” said Leal looking back at Lexine from his horse. “Winter is not something I look forward to every year.”

“Another reason for you to dread our final location on our trip,” said the High Captain. “We are going to visit the winter kingdom after all.”

“Yes, and their princess with her cold heart is not exactly a welcoming thought even if it is fitting,” said Prince Leal with a small mirthless laugh.

“I want to get past this visit to mother before I start dreading Navalia,” said Lexine. “I do worry what we will find.”

“Whatever it is, we can face it,” said Leal. “She is our mother, and we should not abandon her. I should have come long ago.”

“A lot has happened since mother went away,” said Lexine. “You have had to deal with many things with father acting as he has. You should not be so hard on yourself. I know mother will forgive us for leaving her so long.”

“If she even realizes who we are,” said Leal sadly. “Father may be right, Lexine. You should prepare yourself.”

Lexine nodded and looked at Galen. He gave her a very small reassuring smile, not knowing what to say. He couldn’t imagine having to deal with visiting a parent, being afraid they would not know you. As horrible as it sounded, he thought maybe the death of a parent would be preferable to your mother or father losing their mind. He wondered how he would react if his own mother didn’t recognize him.

With all her faults, Galen loved his mother very much. She had always been kind and loving to him. When he was sick, she patiently nursed him. When he was discouraged or angry at himself, she would remind him how proud she was of him. Lately she had seemed displeased with him, but he knew much of it was from worry.

He had lost a parent, but it had been so long ago, and Galen had been so young, he never really felt the loss. He couldn’t remember his father. He thought he had impressions of his father from the time before he died, but Galen wondered if it was just memories Alaric or Roderick had shared with him. His mother rarely talked of their father, only saying he was a good man in the end, and loved all his children. Galen would sometimes ask her questions about his father, but she would find a way to quickly change the subject.

Galen decided he needed to get out of his own head and focus on what was going on around him. He had promised Roderick he would remain vigilant. The safety of the prince and princess were up to him and his High Captain. Galen was confident in her ability to guard them all if something happened, but he would be ready to help her when he was needed.

They rode on until they came to another road that turned off to the left. It was narrower, but seemed to be in good repair. Galen followed the High Captain and the prince as they steered their horses down the road. the princess still at his side.

“When was the last time you were here?” asked the High Captain looking at the prince.

“Probably the same time as you,” replied the prince. “It would have been the summer you had just turned sixteen. We had your party a week before we left Winsdell.”

“I do remember it,” said the High Captain as she turned to look at the prince.

“I hope you remember it as a happy time, because it was one of my favorite memories,” said the prince as he took down his hood for a moment to push back his hair.

“I remember being quite lonely,” said Lexine, speaking up. “You two seemed to always disappear that summer, and I was left to either sit in the hot parlor with mother, or play on the lawn by myself.”

“I would apologize, sister, but it would not be authentic. I would not change a thing about that summer, except maybe to spend more time with our mother.”

Lexine nodded. “I would have sat in the hot parlor with her every day if I had known what was coming.”

They rode on in silence for a while after Lexine’s statement. Galen could see the snow started to stick on the road, but the horses didn’t seem to have any issues. They all rode on at a decent trot, making good time. They stopped once to take a short break, but were soon on their way again. The sky around them grew darker, and Galen couldn’t tell if it was due to the clouds increasing as the snow fell heavily, or if the sun was going down.

He was getting to the point he was very miserable. His cloak was becoming drenched with the falling snow. Even the fur lining didn’t seem to help with the cold. His hands ached and were stiff despite the thick gloves he wore. His face burned, and his nose felt like it might fall off. Whatever awaited them in the palace, Galen could not wait to arrive so he could fall in front of a warm fire, and gain the feeling back in all areas of his body.

“How much longer do you think?” asked Galen, glancing at Lexine.

“It shouldn’t be too much further, but I don’t really know. Everything on this road looks alike, and we always took a carriage. This road can’t go on forever, it ends at the palace gates, so we will be there eventually.”

Galen didn’t know how much comfort to take from this answer, although he could tell Lexine meant it to give him some hope. Galen just kept his head down and let his horse follow the others. He knew he should be looking all around, but when he tried, all he saw were thick flakes of snow and a dense forest blanketed in white.

It had gotten to the point that it was getting very dark. The High Captain and Galen had both lit a couple of lanterns they had brought with them, giving them a small circle of light around them to see the way they were going. The fire flickering in each lantern, gave the impression of warmth without providing any of significance.

They had just taken a turn on the road when Galen felt his horse stop. He looked up to see the High Captain had pulled up her horse and was looking all around urgently.

“Dracia, what is it?” asked the prince in a whisper.

The High Captain help us a gloved finger to her lips and looked at the prince. Galen looked up and listened. It was deathly quiet. Not even the horses were making much noise, and Galen could almost hear the snowflakes hit the earth, joining the other millions that had fallen.

“Galen,” said the High Captain in an urgent whisper. “Be ready.”

Galen watched as the High Captain took off her gloves and slowly unsheathed her sword. Galen did the same, and noticed the prince followed the High Captain’s lead as well. Galen turned in the direction the High Captain was looking, and he heard her gasp.

“Leal, take Lexine and ride fast to the palace. Do not stop until you are both safe behind the gates.

“What?” said Leal with worry. “I will not leave you here by yourself.”

“You must go now. Can you not see them or hear them?” asked the High Captain turning her horse towards the forest.

Galen looked and waited while listening. He started hearing a soft crunching noise in the forest ahead of him. He looked very closely, and he could just make out a line of people walking towards them.

“Go now, Leal” said the High Captain in a commanding voice. “Novice, stay by my side, and follow me. You will do exactly as I say.”

She steered her horse off the road into the trees, and Galen urged his horse to join hers, side by side.

“Dracia, we can all run for it, do not do this,” said the prince angrily, following her

“No, we will not make it; they are too close, and they have horses too. Go!” said Dracia as she looked at Prince Leal.

She then turned to Galen and nodded her head at him. She lightly kicked her horse, causing him to rear up slightly and take off through the trees. Galen moved his own horse forward, riding fast and dodging trees to stay by her side.

They met the first line of soldiers in a small clearing in the forest. Galen could not make them out very well as they were all dressed in dark colors. He could make out the steel of the swords in their hands from the flickering light of the lanterns that were tied to the horses.

Galen watched as the High Captain swept out her hand, causing a line of fire to form in front of the soldiers. He felt his eyes widen as he saw the number of soldiers lined up in front of him. Behind the first line were several mounted men, and more soldiers lined up behind the horses.

As the line of fire moved forward, some of the soldiers moved back, while others raised their own hands to wave the fire away. Galen pushed out and a harsh gust of wind blew, throwing a few soldiers down into the snow. As the fire faded away, the High Captain rode forward to be in the middle of the soldiers. Galen could just barely make her out as she moved. She threw out her hand and sword and a ring of fire spun around her. Galen felt the heat of it flick by him as he rode ahead to stay by her side. His horse stepped sideways for a moment, but quickly corrected itself.

As the ring of fire moved, Galen was again in near darkness. A solider was upon him before he knew. He met the soldier’s blade with his own as he thrust up at Galen. Galen pushed the solider away and the man lunged at him again. Galen pushed forward, his sword hitting its mark, sinking into the man’s chest. Galen pulled it out as a spurt of blood erupted from the wound. He turned the other way and met another soldier’s sword with his own. He moved to strike again when the man was covered by a large blanket of snow. Galen looked over to see the High Captain had her hand out, and many body parts were sticking out of a large fresh snowbank.

She turned as Galen heard the thundering noise of many hooves hitting the soft snow covered ground. He saw twenty men on horses coming his way, their swords out in front of them as they charged. The High Captain quickly sheathed her sword and closed her eyes. She held both her hands up, and thrust them forward as she opened her eyes. A wave of snow that would reach the height of the third floor of the Fortress formed. It moved forward hitting the line of horses and men coming towards them.

Galen watched as horses reared up and or tried to turn, but they could not avoid the avalanche of snow that overtook them. He heard horses cry out in terror and men shout as they were engulfed. Galen moved his horse closer to the High Captain, as it seemed there were only a few men left on horseback and maybe fifty on foot behind them. He felt for sure they would be successful, with his High Captain’s skill and him doing all he could to back her up.

The few men on horseback who were left circled around and joined the men on foot. Galen looked over to see the High Captain had her hand up, when suddenly she lurched forward in her saddle. Galen watched as she moved her hand, hovering it just below her chest as she closed her eyes. He realized what she was doing. She must have been attacked by Princess Lilith, and she was separating the active magic within herself. She moved her hand quickly and took a deep breath. Galen could see her steady herself in her saddle, sitting straight once more. He turned to look at the men in front of him who seemed to be waiting or wondering what to do next.

The line of soldiers started slowly moving forward, and Galen held out his hand, ready to attack. He was about to send a line of fire when he heard the High Captain cry out next to him. He turned to her to see her throw off her hood and stare at Galen as though she had seen the most frightening thing in the kingdom. She suddenly closed her eyes and fell from her saddle, hitting the snow covered ground hard.

Galen looked at her, not knowing what to do. He stared at her, willing her to get up, but she lay still in the snow on her side. Galen felt panic run though him as his breathing increased. He looked ahead and saw the line of soldiers start to move forward faster. Galen knew he could do only one thing, and that was fight as well as he could.

He moved his horse ahead of where the High Captain lay. Her horse circled around her, lightly nudging her with his nose, but the High Captain still did not move. The soldiers were very close now, and Galen threw out his hand causing a pillar of fire to move forward. He pushed up using some wind to make the fire move amongst the soldiers taking them out where he could.

He couldn’t get them all, and suddenly they were upon them. He heard the High Captain’s horse whinny loudly as it reared up and kicked out, taking down a soldier that was close to his mistress. Galen readied his sword, keeping close to where his High Captain lay, trying to guard her while meeting the coming threat. He fought with one man, finally slashing him across the throat when he heard a horse behind him.

“Dracia,” the prince said fearfully.

Galen looked back and saw Prince Leal and Lexine both sitting on their horses, looking at Galen. The prince withdrew a sword he had on his hip and rode up quickly next to Galen, swinging his sword and taking out a solider close to him. Galen pushed out his hand, using some wind to throw a group of soldiers back that had rushed forward.

“What happened?” asked the prince as he slashed out at a man close by.

“I don’t know,” said Galen. “She just fell, and she hasn’t moved since.”

The prince looked behind him at the High Captain lying motionless on the ground, her horse continuing to circle her, seeming to look for any threats to the High Captain. Prince Leal looked at the group of soldiers and few horses in front of him.

“Galen, get behind me. Go to Lexine and stay by her,” said Prince Leal as he closed his eyes.

“But I can’t just leave you here, and I can’t leave her,” said Galen as he moved his sword to block a soldier who had come at him.

“Go now, Galen,” said Prince Leal as he opened his eyes. Galen finished off the man he was fighting with and looked at the prince. In the darkness, he could see Prince Leal’s bright green eyes. Galen felt compelled to do as he asked, so he turned his horse and rode over to Lexine as she reached out her hand to him.

“Galen, take my hand and do not let go,” said Lexine urgently.

“What? Why?” asked Galen.

“Just do it now,” said Lexine loudly.

Galen took her hand as she closed her eyes. He watched her as he felt her squeezed his hand. She opened her eyes, and Galen could see they were the same bright green as her brothers. Galen turned and looked towards the prince to be met with a blinding light. He closed his eyes against it and gripped Lexine’s hand tight. He felt the force hit him, but he stayed steady in saddle, holding on to Lexine. When the wave of energy passed Lexine let go of his hand. He looked at her to see her blink her eyes, and they seemed to settle back to their normal hazel.

Galen turned his horse and looked out over where the soldiers where. He could make out many bodies lying on the ground, some covered by snow, others laying in strange positions, clearly never to move again. Galen scanned the area for the prince and found him off his horse, kneeling by the High Captain. Galen jumped down off his own horse, and walked swiftly over to them, crouching down across from the prince, looking over his Captain.

“Dracia,” said the prince quietly as he gently rolled her over.

She made a soft noise and moved slightly, filling Galen with relief knowing that she was still alive.

“Can you tell what is wrong with her?” asked the prince looking over at Galen.

Galen quickly put his hands over her and concentrated. He could feel the normal injuries from a fall of that height, a few bruises. She would be sore. He didn’t think she had broken anything as the snow covered ground had soften the impact. He kept moving his hands, when he felt it, and it caused him to recoil and move his hands away. He looked up at the prince, messaging his hand.

“What is it?” asked the prince anxiously.

“There is something at work within her, something that feels evil. I think she was attacked by Princess Lilith during the battle. I saw her react, but I thought she had taken care of it. There must have been more than one or it was worse than she could manage,” said Galen.

The prince put his hand gently on her cheek, causing her to turn slightly towards him.

“Yes,” said Prince Leal as he held his hand on her cheek. “I can feel the Navalian magic at work.”

“We need to get her inside and warm,” said Galen. “Is the palace far?”

“I don’t think so,” said the prince as he stood up. “Pick her up, Galen.”

Galen got on his feet and bent down, putting his arms under the High Captain carefully. He picked her up, as the prince mounted his horse.

“Bring her here,” said the prince from atop his horse.

Galen waked over with the High Captain to the prince. The prince bent down with his arms out. Galen passed her over to the prince as gently as he could, but the movement caused the High Captain to grimace and cry out softly. The prince cradled her in front of him, holding on to her with one arm, while his other gripped his reins. He steered his horse back towards the road.

“You and Lexine follow quickly, Galen,” said the prince as he rode off at a fast pace, the High Captain’s horse following alongside.

Galen walked swiftly to his horse and pulled himself up in the saddle. He pulled his gloves out of his cloak pocket he had stuffed them in and put them on.

“Galen, is Dracia going to be alright?” asked the princess.

“I think so. She needs to get warmed up in a hurry. We need to get to the palace to help your brother with her,” said Galen.

Lexine nodded and they both rode off rapidly, following the way the prince had gone.

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