The Love of the Forgotten

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Chapter 14

Walking towards the palace, Cade felt the feeling of dread deep within his stomach. Mae was very late to the stables. He waited as long as he could before he could take it no more. He hoped she was only delayed by an issue with her dress or something that came up in the palace and was not detained in the temple.

He hated her going to meet with the Highest One. The man was obviously behind what happened on Cade’s birthday. He wanted Cade and probably his father dead and Mae within his power. When that didn’t work, the Highest One seemed prepared to go on with the Callagans still ruling, but Cade didn’t know how long that would last. He also thought the Highest One might do anything to have Mae under his power, doing as he bid at all times.

Cade worried that the Highest One would eventually demand something from her that would push her too far. She was very strong and beyond powerful, but she was also mortal. Cade worried that in the Highest One’s pursuit for power, he would use Mae to the point she had nothing left.

He walked through the side door of the palace and hurried to the front stairs, hoping to meet Mae along the way. He would go up to her room and knock to see if she might be with Enid, preparing. As he got close to the entry hall, he met his father coming from the side hallway. He looked in a hurry.

“Is something wrong, father?” asked Cade as he kept up with his father’s long strides.

“I have been informed we have a visitor, and I think Mae is meeting with him right now.”

“Who is here?” asked Cade. He turned from his father to look ahead as he heard shouting close by. They both quickened their pace to where they were nearly jogging until they came into the entry hall, finding Mae standing with her fists by her side, looking very red in the face.

“Your majesty,” said a man with a half bow. “I have been wishing to speak with you, but this unmannered young woman is refusing to give way.”

“You should be careful, sir,” said the Cade’s father as she stood on one side of Mae. “I don’t know you, and this is Lady Maela Llewelyn, soon to be the wife of my son.”

“I know very well who she is, and I have heard what she did,” said the man irately. “Did you curse her into nothing or send her somewhere off with that unnatural girl?”

“Why would I tell you where Lady Olivia is?” asked Mae. “So you can mistreat her and throw her to more uncouth, dangerous men?”

“What can you know about it? She is my daughter, and I can do with her as I wish. She belongs at home with me. Now, where is she?” asked the man as he moved closer to Mae.

“Lord Vass, I assume?” said Cade as he moved closer to Mae. “My father and I are happy to discuss this issue with you, but you will not come closer to Lady Maela or threaten her anyway.”

“There is nothing to discuss unless it is a way to lock this man up. The things he has done are beyond what this kingdom or our goddess can possibly stand for,” said Mae.

“You don’t know what you are saying,” said the man. “What I did was for her own good. I went to my priest with her unnatural infliction, and he told me how to cure it. I did only as the temple bid.”

Mae took a step back before grabbing Cade’s arm. “Your temple told you to do what you did to Lady Olivia?”

“Why don’t we move into a nearby parlor and discuss this further,” said the king. “We can have some privacy.”

“I don’t care where we go. I will not leave until I am satisfied, and I do not wish for this woman to be present.”

Cade’s father looked to argue, but Mae touched his arm. “My king,” said Mae. “Can I have a moment with you before you speak with this man? If you see me first, I will be happy to leave you alone to deal with Lord Vass, yourself.”

“If you think it best, my lady,” said the king.

She nodded before looking at Cade. “I will be one moment, your highness, and then we can go for our ride, or you can meet with Lord Vass and your father.”

“I will go with you if you still feel like it,” said Cade.

“I do. I need to get out of this palace and city for a little while.”

Cade nodded. “Then I will wait for you here.”

She turned with his father and walked into a nearby parlor. The guards around moved closer to Cade as he looked at Lord Vass. The man paced the entry hall but said nothing to Cade. After less than ten minutes, Mae and his father walked out of the room. Mae walked up to Cade and took his hand. He looked at her and could tell she had been crying.

“Mae,” he whispered.

“Not here,” she said quietly. “Let’s go.”

He looked at his father, who was already turned towards Lord Vass before walking away with Mae. As they moved down the hall, he heard his father speak, his voice angry and steady.

“Lord Vass, we have nothing to discuss. I suggest you leave this palace and city immediately before I have my guards take you to the deepest cell we have and leave you there to rot.”

Whatever Lord Vass said in response was lost to them as they moved quickly down the hallway. As they got to the side door, Cade opened it and looked at Mae. She had a few tears on her cheeks and looked on the verge of sobbing.

“Wait, Mae,” said Cade as he took her hand and pulled her over close to the walls of the palace. He held both of her hands and kept her close. “Tell me what is upsetting you. What did that man do?”

She shook her head, looking at some nearby guards. “Not now, not here. I am fine, Cade. It’s just hard to believe all the evil that exists in the kingdom. I don’t know how people can be so cruel, especially to those they should love and protect.”

“Mae, we don’t have to go for a ride. We could walk for a while or find somewhere to talk.”

“I want to go for a ride. I need to get away from here and quickly. I just want to ride Drysi over the fields and then spend some quiet time by the steam with you,” said Mae.

“The horses should still be ready,” said Cade. “I checked your saddle myself, so all should be safe.” He held up his arm to her, and she took it. They walked towards the stables as Mae leaned on him.

Once they got to the stables, two workers stood with each of their horses. Five mounted guards were close by, keeping their horses still. Cade took Mae over to her horse and put his hands on her hips.

He looked down at her with worry, and she gave him a small grin. “I am fine, your highness. I am looking forward to our ride.”

She put her hands on the saddle and her foot in the stirrup. Cade lifted her up, and she settled, picking up the reins. He patted Drysi on the neck, watching Mae for a moment before going to his horse. He mounted quickly and turned his horse, riding alongside Mae towards the closest gate in the wall.

She said nothing as they made their way through the city. He tried to think of something comforting to say to her. He wished he had the right words to make her smile, but instead, he rode in silence next to her, watching her with concern. When they got to the edge of the city into the fields of Bevins, she pulled up for one moment and took a deep breath. With a glance at Cade, she leaned over Drysi and gave the slightest of movements with her reigns. Her horse took off before Cade could react. He watched her go for a moment before urging his horse forward to follow her.

He rode hard, becoming frightened at the speed at which she was traveling in front of him. Eventually, the longer strides of his stallion caught up with her mare, and he looked at her, lying flat against the neck of her horse. Her hair had started to come out of her braid. He could see tears were streaming out of her eyes.

“Mae!” he called to her. She looked over at him before slowing the speed of her horse as they came close to the edge of the small forest by the stream. They finally slowed to a walk, and Cade moved his horse over closer to her.

“Please, tell me what is wrong,” he said quietly. “Was it just what happened with Lord Vass, or did something happen in the temple as well?”

“Seeing Lord Vass and speaking of what he did was bad enough,” said Mae. “But the Highest One did unsettle me a bit.” She looked over at him. “It is nothing for you to worry over. I can handle it.”

“Please tell me what has happened,” said Cade. “All of it.”

She looked behind them at the guards in the distance. “Let us get to the stream and dismount. It has rained lately, and the water should be flowing well, making it harder to be overheard by the guards. Part of what I have to tell you is not my story to tell, and I would not like anyone to overhear us.”

Cade nodded, and they rode faster into the trees. When they got to the stream, Cade hopped down off his horse before going to Mae and catching her as she slid down. He smiled widely for a moment.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I was thinking that the first time I held you was that day you came to the city with Thad, riding this horse. I caught you as you slid down. I think I knew I was in trouble then.”

She grinned. “I felt rather stupid, falling into you, but I cannot say it was unpleasant.”

He laughed a little as a guard came forward holding a pack with their food.

“Stay on the edge of the forest and keep an eye out. Give Lady Maela and I some space,” said Cade to the guard.

The guard bowed and walked away as Cade took Mae’s hand. They walked to the edge of the stream and sat on the rocks, Mae spreading her skirt out around her. Cade poured some wine into two cups and handed one to her as she took out a loaf of bread and broke it. They sat in silence for a bit, eating bread, cheese, and fruit while drinking their wine.

When she was done, Mae put her cup down and picked up a stone. She threw it into the rushing water and leaned over, putting her arms around her knees. Cade put his cup down and dusted his hands, scooting over closer to her.

“I hope you remember Lady Leanna and Lady Olivia. I know you did not know them well, but you did spend some time with them,” said Mae.

“I do remember them. I like them, I think. Lady Leanna was a bit outspoken and abrupt at times, but she was humorous and quick to laugh. Lady Olivia struck me as very sweet.”

“Lady Leanna, Annie, using her humor and harsh words like an armor. She was not born as high as the other ladies brought here. She loves her parents and does not bemoan her lot in life, but I think she still felt somewhat inadequate at times. Her wit and humor helped her feel she was on a more even footing. She also had no interest in anything the palace or you had to offer. She came only for Livi.”

“But I sense that Lady Olivia did not wish to be my wife either,” said Cade.

“She did not. She came with the belief she could help Annie’s family and to get away from her father,” said Mae.

“I know you said he beat her, but you also said that is not the worst of it.”

“It was not,” said Mae. She closed her eyes for a moment before looking at Cade. “Before I tell you this, I want you not to judge Annie or Livi too harshly. I want you to remember that we rarely choose who we love or how we love them.”

He looked at her in confusion as she stared at him. He started to realize what she meant. “I am not as closed-minded as some, Mae. You know what books I enjoy reading, and I have read a wide variety of them. Some I have found in the deepest parts of the library.”

Mae raised an eyebrow at him before looking at the stream. “Well, her father is not so studied as you, it seems. He called the love between them unnatural. He thought he needed to cure his daughter.” Mae shook her head. “I can’t even start to tell you what he did, Cade. What he made sweet Livi do.”

He squeezed her hand before letting it go and putting his arm around her. She leaned against him. “He took her to a bedroom and locked her in with two rough young men,” whispered Mae. “He left her in there with them, telling them to do what they wished.”

Cade’s eyes grew wide, and he looked down at Mae. “Are you saying, he…”

She nodded. “Poor, Livi. You saw how gentle and sweet she is. Can you imagine her enduring it?

“Her father did this to her?” asked Cade, shocked.

“Yes. He wanted to get any ideas of Annie and what they shared out of her head. You see now why I had to help her. Why I had to get her and Annie to safety.”

“You should have come to me, Mae. I would have helped them. My father would never have sent Lady Olivia back to her father.”

“I know that now, but I didn’t know you well at the time. I could start to see who you were, but I didn’t know how you or your father would react. Annie was also adamant that I tell no one. She was scared of how they would be treated if anyone knew their secret. I suppose she had good reason. Did you hear Lord Vass? He said his priest at the temple told him to do that to Livi. How could a priest say such a thing? Do you think that is the general thought in the temple?”

“I don’t see how it could be as evil as it is. I gather you told my father what Lord Vass had done, and that is why he was so angry.”

Mae nodded. “I wanted him to know what kind of man Lord Vass was.” She buried her head into Cade, and he put both his arms around her. “Poor sweet Livi. Who could do such an evil thing to someone like her, especially her own father? How can there be so much evil, Cade?”

“I don’t know, Mae,” he said as he kissed the top of her head.

“And after what the Highest One said to me today about the common folk, especially the poor, how can anyone trust the temple or the council? He thinks them all expendable that they all mean nothing.”

Cade sat up slightly. “What did the Highest One say to you today?”

She leaned up away from him. “He spoke of keeping the poorest in our kingdom in their place, so they do not hope for more. He says the temple’s job is to keep them satisfied enough with the idea the goddess loves them as they are and put where they are meant to be so they do not revolt.” She whipped at her eyes. “He saws the best way I can serve the goddess and help the kingdom is by sharing my power with others. He wants to find a way I can give my magic to other priests in the temples, so they can have the goddess’s power and use it.”

Cade felt fear creep up on him. “How does he think you can share your power, Mae?”

“He said he didn’t know but thought it was possible. When I was reluctant to the idea, he practically threatened my family and you.”

“Is that all that happened today?” asked Cade.

“He gave me a new elixir to make, but I am not sure I wish to do it. Though, again, he reminded me I don’t have much of a choice.”

“What sort of elixir?”

“One that can calm other’s fears and anxieties. It can help with grief and sorrow. The idea of it doesn’t sound bad, but it takes a drop or two of blood from someone with the power.”

“You, you mean,” said Cade. “This potion means you will have to mix your blood into it.” She nodded. “Absolutely not. You must not do this. I don’t think this can lead to anything good. He has threatened you, told you he wanted to take power from you to give others, and now he is asking for your blood. Mae, you cannot meet with him anymore.”

She huffed. “How can I stop? He has guards surrounding my family. He has already tried to arrange to kill you. I cannot anger him further. I must do as he says.” She stood up and walked closer to the stream.

“We can find a way to protect your family. Once you tell my father what the Highest One is doing, he can send royal guards that can travel faster than words from the Highest One. They can fight to get your family to safety.”

“What of you, Cade? What about your father? Do you think I take your safety for granted? Even when you dismissed me, I stayed here in the palace because I couldn’t bear to leave you unprotected. I can do nothing to put you in harm’s way.”

Cade stood up and walked towards her. “I am not helpless, Mae. I have my own allies and guards. All I am worried about at the moment is what this man will do to you. What he is already doing to you.”

“It is just a few drops of blood, and who says sharing my power is a bad thing. If I could help others to heal with a touch, shouldn’t I do it?”

Cade reached out and grabbed Mae’s hand. “He will not stop with just a bit of your power no matter what he says. He will ask more and more of you, draining you until you are barely able to function.”

“I am strong, Cade. He will not break me easily,” said Mae. “Besides, I do not have to do this forever. Just until we hear back from Thad about what he finds out from Lord Bracken.”

“And when will that be? The last we heard, Lord Bracken was demanding to be taken to Calder and see his ship before he would speak. It could be weeks before we hear any news. By then, there Is no telling what the Highest One will do to you. What if he gets one whiff of Lord Bracken speaking to Thad? He could do something to keep you in the temple. He could move forward with whatever his plan is and do something to take you forever.”

“You don’t understand,” said Mae. “You are thinking too small. I am one person amongst so many. My life means nothing in the larger picture.”

He pulled her closer. “You stop saying things like that now. Your life is worth a great deal to the kingdom and especially to me.”

“I have to keep meeting with him and doing some of what he asks. There is too much at stake for me to hide away. I need you to trust me.”

“It’s not about trusting you. It is about protecting you. It’s too hard to think of losing you, Mae, of having to watch you suffer and be used. You must stop this now before it goes too far.” He let go of her and turned away. “I will speak to my father directly, and he will let the Highest One know there will be no more meetings between the two of you.”

“You will do no such thing. You do not get to decide what I want to do. I will speak to the king myself and let him know what is going on. I believe he will listen to me and understand why I must keep meeting with the Highest One.”

She moved past him towards her horse. “Where are you going, Mae?”

“I don’t think we have anything else to say at the moment. I do not wish to spend the rest of the day arguing with you. I will go back to the palace and meet with the king before spending the rest of the day writing my family and friends.” She untied her horse from a tree and put her foot on the stirrup, pulling herself up. “Have a good day, your highness.”

“Mae, wait,” said Cade as he threw the cups and wineskin in the bag. Her horse was already well ahead in the trees before he threw the bag on his horse and mounted it. By the time he caught up with her, she was close to the guards. They looked back at Cade before following Mae. He rode through them to come to her side.

“Please, do not run from me. I am not trying to argue with you,” he said.

“You will not listen to what I have to say or even try to understand. What can talking about it do? It is better if we let it be for a time.”

“I am listening to you, but you refuse to hear what I am saying. You are determined to save everyone else and sacrifice yourself. I cannot allow it. There has to be a way to protect you and keep everyone else safe.”

“I do not want to sacrifice myself,” said Mae with a huff. “I am only doing as I must until the right time.”

“What if that time never comes? What if you are in too deep and can’t get out of this? I will lose you.”

She shook her head. “You are letting your fear control you again.” She looked at him. “If you decide you cannot do this, let me know now. I will not change who I am or what I am willing to do for those I love. If you cannot take it, then you have to let me go.”

She snapped her reins, and her horse moved ahead. Let her go? How could she possibly think he could let her go? She just needed to compromise a little. He knew she was strong and brave, but she could not go through life, always putting herself in the middle of danger.

He caught up with her as they entered the city. She would not look at him or speak with him all the way to the stables. When they rode up, stable workers came out. One took Mae’s mare as she jumped off, landing hard on the ground. She took a minute to compose herself, patting her mare before walking off towards the palace as Cade pulled up and jumped off his stallion. He gave orders to the stable workers and walked to the palace.

He got to his father’s study door to find it closed, knowing Mae was inside. He thought to knock or enter but changed his mind. He let her say her piece to his father, deciding it was best not to anger her further. He leaned against the wall and waited. Eventually, the door opened, and Mae stepped out into the hallway.

She held her hand up to him. “Don’t, not now. Think about what you want first. I cannot imagine not being with you at this point, but it will only get harder the longer we wait.”

“I want you, Mae. I know we can figure this out,” said Cade.

“Your father wants to speak with you. He thought you might be out here.” She walked away from him as he watched her go.

He felt like he should follow her, and he almost did until he heard his father’s voice call his name. Sighing, he walked into his father’s study, closing the door behind him.

“Come sit with me for a moment, Cade,” said his father. “Have a drink.”

His father met Cade at the fireplace and handed him a cup of wine. Cade sat down in a chair, staring at the fire as his father sat next to him.

“Did she tell you what happened with the Highest One today?” asked Cade.

“She did. She also mentioned you quarreled about it with her.”

“I only want to keep her safe. You must see that she cannot meet with that man anymore. He is asking too much of her,” said Cade before taking a drink.

“He is asking a lot from her, and I don’t think he will get what he wants ultimately. Still, I think she is right in that she must keep meeting with him for a time.”

Cade looked quickly at his father. “You cannot be serious, father. He will ruin her, destroy her.”

“You think so little of her strength or intelligence? Mae can handle much, Cade, and she will have to do it for her kingdom and her family, even the one she will build with you. That is if you still want her.”

“Of course, I still want her,” said Cade incredulously. “I love her. I need her.”

“But being with her means you will have to accept who she is.” His father took a long drink and put his cup down before staring at Cade. “You know how proud I am of you. You are a good, intelligent man, and I think you will make an excellent king someday. But, Mae is something extraordinary. She holds an immense amount of power and talent that I don’t think any of us understand, even her. Besides that, she is much more that would take too long to explain, and I think you already know it.

“You will never be able to control her, Cade. She will always strive to protect others to the detriment, sometimes to the detriment of herself. I think she needs someone to check her and remind her that she is worth saving, but she won’t always listen. It will be frustrating and terrifying at times to be by her side because extraordinary people do extraordinary things. You need to decide if you can handle a life loving her because if you can’t, you should let her go now. You needn’t worry about her having a place to stay or support. I will see that she is given shelter away from the temple, and I will still watch over her and her family.”

Cade was quiet for a moment as he finished his wine. “I cannot give her up, father. It is too late for that. It might have been too late the first time I spoke with her. I know a life with her will not always be easy, but I believe it is the only life I want to live.

“She is extraordinary, and I am not sure loving her was a choice, but as long as she will have me, being with her is my choice. I can handle what it takes. I must.”

His father grinned. “If it makes you feel any better, she feels rather terrible about her argument with you. I think she understands what you are trying to say. She just needs a bit of time to think it over.”

“So I should just let her be?” asked Cade, wanting nothing more than to go to her and tell her he would do anything to be with her.

“I always say the hardest thing to do is wait. I am not naturally a patient man, and I don’t believe you are either. I have had to work on being careful and knowing when to act. It is a lesson you need to learn. Give Mae some time this afternoon and evening. I believe she is planning to take supper in her room.”

“You think I should wait until tomorrow?” asked Cade anxiously, not knowing how he would bear to spend the night without telling her how he felt.

“I think perhaps before you retire, you might check in with her. A restless night would not do either of you any good.”

It was very difficult getting through the rest of the afternoon and supper. Cade spent time trying to read but could not get settled. He wished Thad was in town to spar with, but he found a guard who would do. After a good hour of crossing swords with the man, he was exhausted, but his mind was still troubled. He ate a quiet supper with his father before spending time in the parlor. After Cade spent ten minutes pacing in front of the fireplace, his father laughed at him.

“I think it has been long enough. Go see if your lady will relieve your suffering. I am willing to bet she has been unhappy all day as well.”

Cade bid his father a hasty goodnight and rushed up the stairs. When he came to the top, he saw Enid coming out of Mae’s door. She stopped when she saw him.

“Your highness, Lady Maela is already dressed for bed. I am sure whatever you have to say to her can wait until morning.”

“I just want to wish her a good evening,” said Cade.

Enid stood a little straighter, and he had to admire the woman for standing her ground against him, a prince, for Mae. It made him like her even more. Before Enid could say anything, he heard Mae’s voice in her room.

“Let him in, Enid. I wish to speak with him.”

Enid looked at Cade up and down before moving out of the way. “Would you like me to stay, my lady? It is probably better if I did.”

“There is no reason, Enid. We do not need a chaperone. We are betrothed after all,” said Mae as she stood up from her sofa. She was wearing a white nightgown and robe with her dark hair loose down her shoulders. Cade moved a few steps closer, feeling drawn to her.

“If you are sure, my lady. I could come up and check on your later.”

“Go do whatever you need to get done and go to bed, Enid. There is no reason to come back here.”

Enid hesitated before she turned and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind her. Cade walked towards Mae, unsure of what to say.

“I have missed you this afternoon,” he finally muttered as he stood before her.

“I have missed you as well,” she said.

They were both quiet for a moment before Cade started to apologize, but she tried to say something at the same time. They stopped and looked at each other. “What is it you wanted to say, Mae?” he asked.

“I wanted to say that I am sorry I was so short with you out by the stream. It had been a trying day. I should have listened to you with more patience.”

“It is I who should be sorry,” said Cade. “I know who you are, Mae, and I don’t want you to change. It scares me when I think you are in danger, but I should do a better job of handling it.”

“I am not always good at knowing when I am in peril or thinking about it. You aren’t the first one in my life who has argued with me about pushing things too far. Perhaps, I should listen at some point.”

He took her hand and looked down at it. “I can’t promise you I won’t get angry or scared, but I will try to understand better. I will listen to your reasons and do all I can to support you.” He looked up at her. “I cannot be without you, Mae. I will not let my fears win and destroy one of the best things in my life.”

She reached up and touched his cheek. “No matter what I said this afternoon, I don’t think I could have ever let you go. This afternoon and evening have been awful. All I wanted to do was go to you, but your father thought it best if I took some time. I had been hoping you would come to me.”

He chuckled. “And he told me to give you space for the rest of the day. I have longed to come find you and tell you how sorry I am.”

She smiled as she moved closer to him. “I think he might have been a little strategic in his maneuvering with us today.”

“I supposed it worked because at this point I was so anxious to see you, I might have begged all night for you to let me in,” said Cade.

“And I would have been so bold as to knock on every door down your hall to find your room if you did not come to see me tonight,” said Mae.

“You don’t know where my room is?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I have never been there.”

“We will have to remedy that soon,” he said as he put his hand on her shoulder and pulled down her robe before kissing at the base of her neck. He did the same with her other shoulder as she leaned against him, dropping her robe on the ground.

Her arms went around his neck as he kissed her, his hands going to her waist, feeling her body under her nightgown. Though he had kissed her and touched her in some intimate ways, never had he been so near to her with so little between them. He quickly knew he was in danger of becoming lost in his desire as his hands moved up her sides. Hers moved down his back as she pressed up further against him.

He told himself he should pull away, but he didn’t think he could do it, and she did not act as though she wanted him to. Her lips went down his jaw to his neck, and he groaned in satisfaction. The next thing he knew, he was moving her towards the bed as he kissed her. She did not protest even when his hands started to raise her nightgown. It wasn’t until he was hovering over her on the bed that he pulled back slightly.

“Mae, I’m sorry. If this is too much….”

She smiled and pulled him back down to her. “It is not too much,” she whispered in his ear. “It is what I want.”

He looked at her closely to make sure there was no doubt on her face. Finding none, he let his desire and love for her run free. No matter what was to come, that night would always be one of his most treasured memories.

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