The Love of the Forgotten

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Chapter 15

She woke up to find the light coming into the room very dim. As she stretched, she felt Cade’s arm tighten around her, and she leaned back into him as he kissed her shoulder. It was strange waking up in his arms, but it did not feel wrong. She felt loved and safe in a way she never had before.

The night had been wonderful. It should not be called perfect as it was at times awkward and a little painful, but to her, it could not have been more right. Cade was gentle, and she could tell he was holding back not to scare or hurt her. So much of what happened was just a blur of kisses, touches, strange moves, and even laughter, but it didn’t make it any less special. To be joined with him completely brought her love for him to a new level. Now, as she lay in his arms, she wasn’t sure how she could ever part from him again.

“Good morning,” she said as he continued to drop kisses on her shoulder and neck.

“You are alright, aren’t you?”

She laughed a little. “Yes, just as you asked many times last night. I am very well.” She turned slightly to look at him. “You do not feel any regret, do you?”

“Regret?” he asked with a bit of amusement in his voice. “That is the last thing I feel at this moment.”

His hand moved up her body before he tried to turn her over. She gave in and rolled over to face him, kissing him as his arms wrapped around her. “You will have to leave soon,” she said between kisses. “Enid will be here at any moment.”

“I cannot think how I can leave you now,” he said as he kissed down her neck. “There is nothing I want to do besides lay here with you for a good part of the day.”

“As lovely as that sounds, it cannot be. You and your father have to meet with the council of lords today, and I must start on my elixir. It takes almost three days to brew and another three to sit.”

He sighed as his kisses stopped just at the top of her chest. “I still do not like you brewing that potion. Anything that requires blood doesn’t sound safe.”

“It doesn’t seem to have any evil intent to it. I will use caution as always.” She leaned in and kissed him as her hands moved down his chest.

“If you are trying to get me to leave, this is not the way to do it, Mae.” He groaned as she stopped and looked up at him.

“Perhaps it is just a taste of what is to come later. Now that we have gone this far, I would like to leave you wanting more.”

“I will always want more of you. You never need to worry about that.”

“Good. Now, dress and get to your room. I will see you at breakfast.”

She rolled over and spotted her nightgown close to the bed on the floor. After bending over and picking it up, she slipped it on as Cade pulled on his pants. She walked over to pick up her robe just as the door opened, and Enid walked in carrying a tray of tea. She looked at Mae in bewilderment before she glanced to her side to see Cade putting on his shirt. Enid looked back and forth between them a few times before putting her head down and walking forward to put the tea tray on the table.

Mae finished putting on her robe as she walked towards Cade. He grabbed his boots and went towards the door as Mae opened in. He leaned in and kissed her. “I will see you soon.”

She nodded with a grin before closing the door behind him. “Good morning, Enid.” Mae walked to the sofa and sat down in front of the tea.

Enid silent fixed her a cup, putting in a good bit of the herbs. She handed it to Mae, who took a sip.

“Perhaps you might take two cups today, my lady,” said Enid with a slight grin.

“It may be for the best,” replied Mae as she continued to drink her tea.

Mae spent her morning setting up her kettle and adding the ingredients sent to her by the Highest One to the water she poured in it. It took her nearly all morning to get everything right. The measurements needed to be precise, and there were certain ways she had to use her power at different times. She closed her eyes once, placing her hand over the kettle, and calmed herself, sending a wave of energy into the water. She moved her fingers through the warm water a bit later, adding something she could only describe as fire.

Once she believed all was right, she sat down on her sofa, exhausted. She knew she would have to get up to go down to lunch soon, but she could not help but close her eyes for a moment. She had not gotten much sleep the night before, and the power used for the elixir took more of her than she thought. The room was warm, and the sofa was comfortable. She quickly fell asleep, listening to the fire crackle before her.

She stood in one of the orchards of Adaria. It was spring, and the apple trees were blooming. She heard nearby workers doing some needed pruning as others checked the trunks for disease. She walked past them, greeting them as she went, moving deeper into the orchard. Taking a deep breath, she smiled as she heard her brother laugh somewhere up ahead.

Hurirng forward, she called out his name and saw him run behind a nearby tree. She laughed and went to the tree, looking behind it to scoop him up, but he was not there. She heard his giggle again deeper into the orchard. Confused, she turned towards the sound and moved into the trees. His little voice called out her name, and she started to run as he seemed to keep moving deeper and deeper into the trees.

The more she ran, the darker and denser the orchard became. Jon’s voice went from light and happy to scared. She was desperate to get to him. Finally, his voice came closer, and she hoped she would find him. Just as she was sure he was behind the next tree, a hand grabbed her and pulled her back, stopping her progress. She looked to see the Highest One standing beside her.

He said nothing as he raised his hand. Fire shot from his fingertips, engulfing the trees in front of her in flames. She struggled against the Highest One’s grip as she screamed her brother’s name. The Highest One would not let her go. He kept a firm grip on her, his fingernails digging into her skin.

He pulled her closer as a knife appeared in his free hand. “It didn’t have to come to this, my lady. You could have just given me what I needed.”

The knife slashed down on her arm, and she screamed as she bolted awake. A hand grabbed her arm, and she struggled against it.

“Mae,” said Cade frantically. “It’s alright; it’s me.”

She looked over at him, breathing heavily before collapsing back on the sofa. Cade grabbed her and brought her into his arms. “What happened?” he asked softly.

“I think I just had a bad dream,” she said against him. “It felt so real.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

She shook her head. “It was nothing, I am sure. I wrote my mother yesterday and had my brother on my mind.”

“When you didn’t come down for lunch, I was worried,” said Cade.

“I’m sorry I fell asleep.” Mae sat up and rubbed her eyes. “I didn’t sleep much last night, and this potion was harder than I thought. It took a bit more out of me than I expected.”

He put his hand on her cheek. “Maybe you shouldn’t go forward with this elixir. You just started, and already, it is affecting you.”

She took his hand with a grin. “I think my exhaustion has more to do with last night than using my power for this potion. I would say I should get more sleep, but I am not sure I would find that agreeable.”

He leaned forward. “If you are trying to distract me and change the subject, you are doing a good job.”

“Maybe I am a little, but I promise you I can do this elixir. I will not push myself too far.”

He kissed her as he ran his hand through her hair. “Should we have lunch brought here? You might want a nap after.”

She pushed him away playfully. “We cannot leave your father to eat alone, and I want to hear from both of you how the meeting went. Then I am going to go to the courtyard and practice a few things with my magic. I have this idea to conceal something or even myself.”

“And then you will rest,” said Cade as he stood up. He held out his hand to her, and she took it, letting him help her to stand. “Will this elixir you are brewing be fine where it is?”

Mae put out her hand and concentrated for a moment, making the fire burn lower. “It will now. I will check on it before I go out to the courtyard.”

She spent her day just as she planned, and the next several like it. Every night ended with Cade in her room, and she did not dismiss them. They stayed up much too late most nights, but what sleep she got was restful as she lay in Cade’s arms. Enid never said a word to her about it, though she made sure to come into Mae’s room each morning later than she had in the past.

She thought her elixir was doing well. After it brewed for three days, she took it off the fire to sit. On the evening before she went to see the Highest One, she changed into her nightgown and robe, dismissing Enid. Once she was alone, she took a small knife and pricked her finger. Squeezing it, she dropped a bit of her blood into the elixir. As it hit the surface of the liquid, Mae could feel a change in the air around her. She looked over it, hearing a small whispering sound from the potion. It almost felt like it called to her.

She picked up her nearby ladle and stirred the potion, watching her blood mix into the thick liquid, turning the yellow potion slightly orange. When she was done stirring, she laid her ladle down and continued to stare into the elixir. A strange smell she could not place came from it, making her feel drowsy and calm.

“Mae,” said a voice near her, making her shake her head.

She felt Cade’s hand’s on her upper arms, and she turned to look at him. He peered closely at her before helping her to stand and moving her to the couch. She looked back at the elixir as he picked up her hand.

“I thought you said you were only going to use a little bit of blood?” asked Cade with concern.

Mae looked at him in confusion before looking at her hand he held. Her finger was slit from the tip almost all the way down, and her blood flowed from it, covering her palm. She pulled her hand away and stood up, finding a handkerchief on her vanity and placing it over her palm.

“There is some cloth for bandages in this drawer if you will help me,” said Mae.

Cade stood up and pulled open the draw as Mae went to her water bowl. She poured some water using her good hand and placed her finger in the bowl, watching the water become pink with her blood.

“Why did you cut yourself so severely?” asked Cade as he picked up her finger and put the cloth back on it, using pressure.

“I didn’t think I did,” said Mae as she winced at the pain. “I remember just pricking my finger a bit.”

“I knew this elixir was a bad idea,” said Cade as he held her hand. “You looked like you were in a trance when I came in.”

“I’m sure it is fine. The knife must have slipped when I was adding my blood. It’s not so bad. It’s not very deep.”

He took the cloth away and carefully wrapped her finger. “You meet with the Highest One tomorrow, don’t you?”

She nodded. “Please do not ask me not to go. You know it isn’t possible.”

“I won’t, but don’t let him make you do anything you are uncomfortable with. I know you want to keep your family safe, but you cannot do anything to cause harm to yourself either. I doubt your mother or uncle would want it to come to this.”

“Hopefully soon, we will hear from Thad or even my uncle. Once we either know more about who is working with the Highest One or that my family is safe, I can have more power over my meetings.”

Cade finished wrapping her finger. “You need to rest. You look exhausted.”

“You will not stay with me tonight?” asked Mae.

“Of course, I will stay with you. I’m not sure I could sleep without you at this point. Come to bed.”

She walked with him to her bed and sat down as he took off his shoes and loosened his shirt. She lay down as he did and quickly moved into his arms. “I will not tell you what to do, and I hate to burden you with my worries, but I am scared, Mae. You have become more and more exhausted this week doing whatever this elixir is. If you are tasked with an even harder one, I’m afraid of what it might do.”

“Maybe it will be like when I use my magic to travel. That was exhausting at first, but now I can move all around the palace and beyond without much exhaustion. Perhaps, after doing a few potions like this one, my strength will build.”

“But it has caused nightmares as well. I can tell when you are having one. You moan and move around in your sleep. You have even woken up crying twice.”

“You can go to your room if I am disturbing you too often in your sleep,” said Mae. “I will not be angry.”

“That is not what I am saying. I’m not complaining, Mae,” he pulled her against him and held her tightly. “I cannot lose you.”

“You won’t,” she said as she looked up at him. “I will not leave you. I promise.”

He kissed her gently before she laid her head against his chest. Her eyes grew heavy rapidly, and she started to doze off. The last thing she heard was him whisper, “I love you.”

She walked up to the temple with Cade by her side, holding the potion in two bottles. Before going to the door, she looked at Cade. “There is no reason to wait for me.”

“I will anyway,” said Cade. “I have nowhere to be, so you can make no excuses of why I cannot. I will be right here when you are ready to walk back.”

“Very well. I will see you in an hour or so.” She went to the door, and the guard opened it for her. She walked straight to the Highest One’s study, where he waited with the door opened

“And you brought me what I asked for yet again, Lady Maela. Do you think you were successful?”

“I know I was,” said Mae. “I haven’t tried it, but everything within me tells me this is done correctly.”

“I believe you,” said the Highest One with a grin. He followed her into his study, closing the door behind him.

She set the two bottles on the table in front of the sofa, looking at the kettle hanging over the fireplace. There was a strange smell coming from it that made the air seem thick. Mae’s head started to hurt from the sickeningly sweet scent.

“Are you brewing something, Highest One?” asked Mae.

“I am,” he said as he walked over to the kettle. He picked up one of the bottles Mae’s brought and opened it. Without saying a word, he poured some of it into whatever was in the kettle.

“What are you doing?” asked Mae as she sat down in a nearby chair.

“I have found something in my readings, and this potion you made for me has a necessary ingredient or two.”

“But it is just a calming elixir,” said Mae.

“It is, but it can also be used for this.”

“What is it?” asked Mae, feeling dread start to invade her body. She did not like what he was making in that kettle.

“You don’t need to worry about it, my lady. I doubt I will need to use it. I hope I will not. Now, I have made something else this week that I am even more excited about. It is almost ready, but it needs one more thing.”

He walked to this desk and picked up a large bowl there, bringing it to the table in front of Mae. He set it down, and Mae thought she might pass out. In the bowl was a dark liquid, almost black. Though it was in a simple bowl, it bubbled as if it were over a roaring fire. The smell coming from it was almost putrid, as if coming from an old wound or even a dead body.

She leaned back from it. “I don’t know what that is, but I do not like it,” said Mae.

“It is what we have been waiting for. I found it early this week and almost called you forth. I thought I could get this far without you, and I did. It all looks right.”

“That looks right?” asked Mae incredulously. “It is awful, tainted.”

“No, it is glorious. This will start to fix all the problems in the kingdom. This is how you share your power, my lady. All I need is some of your blood. Not too much to start with, but enough to mix with this bowl so I can share it with myself and a few others.”

Mae shook her head. “This is not right. I don’t think I can do this.”

“I can do it for you,” said the Highest One. He pulled a long knife out of his pocket. “I will have to cut your hand, maybe both, but I can mend them well. It will take me a moment to acquire the power, but if you wait, I might be able to heal you.”

Mae stood up and backed towards the door. “I don’t think this is a good idea, Highest One. The power within me is revolting against this. I think the goddess is telling me to stop it.”

“That is just fear of pain and the unknown, Lady Maela. You are brave enough to overcome it. Now come give me your blood, and I will help make you as powerful as you wish. You came to the city to save your family and people, didn’t you? I can lift you so high that you can lead Adaria as you wish. You can dictate what resources come from it. I can see that no one starves in your land. We will release the medicine from the temples.”

“Release them?” asked Mae with revulsion. “You have been holding back the supplies from the people.”

“Of course I have. Do you remember our conversation from last time? We must keep everyone in their place, but if you just give me your blood now and when I need it, we will lift Adaria up together. Your people can prosper like no others. I can even send you home for a while if you like.”

Mae stared at him. She wanted her people safe and well, but not like this. Whatever he had made was not natural. It was not of the goddess. It felt like darkness itself. “I cannot do it, Highest One. I will not.”

He moved towards her. “You don’t have a choice, my lady. Now come here and let us get this over with.”

Her head was so cloudy with the smells in the room. She was about to vomit as dizzy as she felt. He grabbed her arm before she could get to the door. He pulled her close and forced her hand open. She felt the tip of the knife hit her palm just as her power sparked within her. She let it move through her, flowing from her arms. He released her hands and took a step back, looking at her uncertainly. She put her hand on his chest, feeling the magic within her take over.

Her power seemed to move on its own through her arm and into her hands. She could feel the Highest One’s heart beating under her palm. She stared at him, and she felt his heartbeat slow. The uncertainty on the Highest One’s face turned to fear as he dropped his knife. Mae felt his heart beat slower and slower as he struggled to stay upright. It would be so easy to stop it completely. Just a bit more, and he would fall and be no more.

She gasped and pushed the idea from her head. She took her hand off his chest, and he took a deep breath as he stepped back. Mae put both her hands up, and a force flew out of her and knocked the Highest One back. She turned and fled from his study and out the temple door.

She did not stop even when Cade said her name. She ran to the front of the palace, where she stopped to the side of the door, bending over to vomit. As she retched, she thought of what she had almost done. She was so close to taking the Highest One’s life. As much as it might have been deserved, it was the antithesis of who she was. The power inside of her given by the goddess was to give life, not take it.

It felt like everything inside of her came up, leaving her sobbing and shaking. She felt a gentle hand on her back as she cried while bent over. She looked back to see Cade staring at her. Slowly, she stood up, and Cade helped her into the palace.

“Mae, what is it?” he asked as they came into the entry hall.

“I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do as he asked. I know what he can do to all of us, but I could not do it. Then I almost did something awful.”

“Cade, is something wrong?” asked the king as he walked into the entry hall. “A servant said Lady Maela was ill outside the palace.”

“I’m not sure what is wrong,” said Cade as he held onto Mae.

“Bring her into the study. She can rest there,” said the king.

Cade walked with Mae to the king’s study. Once there, he sat down with her on the sofa as the king poured her a glass of water. She drank some of it to try to get the taste out of her mouth.

“My dear, what has happened?” asked the king as he sat in a chair close to Mae.

She took another sip of her water. “The Highest One made some elixir, some awful, vile thing. I don’t know what is in it, but it made me sick to look at it and smell it. He said all he needed was my blood to finish it. He wants to share my power with others. I know I should have let him cut me, but I could not do it.”

“He tried to harm you?” asked the king.

“He said he would just cut my hands to start to get enough blood to finish what was in the bowl. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but whatever it was is evil. It is not of the goddess. It cannot be. I’m sorry, but I cannot do as he asks.”

“You do not need to be sorry,” said Cade as he kissed her head.

“He is right, Mae. He has no right to harm you in any way or force you to do anything.”

“But my family,” said Mae. “And you and Cade. I have put you all in danger. I used my power in an awful way. I didn’t want to hurt him, but all I could think of was the horrible things he has caused in the kingdom. I thought of him wanting to harm my family and you.” She swallowed and looked away. “I almost killed him. It would have been so easy to stop his heart. In the end, I couldn’t do it. I had to get out of that room, and I pushed him away. I don’t think I hurt him permanently.”

Mae saw Cade look at his father, and she wondered if they would lock her up in some room. Surely they were afraid of her.

“I don’t want you to worry about it,” said the king. He reached over and poured some wine into a cup. “Drink this and see if you can rest, my dear.”

“But I must go back,” said Mae as she took the cup. “Perhaps I could apologize and ask him to give me more time. I could let him have a bit of my blood. I could tell him I never wished to kill him. It is not a complete lie. I do not want to use my power to hurt anyone.”

“I know, Mae. We all know it. It is the Highest One who has evil intentions, not you. You cannot be with that man again, definitely not alone,” said Cade. “Father, you cannot let her.”

The king looked at her for a moment. “Cade is right. You cannot be in the presence of that man alone. Drink your wine.” He stood up and went to his desk, sitting down and pulling out a piece of paper. “Mae, I don’t want you to worry about this. I will take care of it.”

“How?” asked Mae.

He looked at her with a small smile. “This is my kingdom. I am the king. I do have those on my side. The Highest One is going too far, and it is time he is stopped.”

Mae drank her wine as she watched the king write while Cade kept his arm around her. She started feeling tired from being sick, the effects of the wine, and the warmth of Cade and the fire. She leaned further into Cade as he took her cup of wine from her.

“Rest for a bit, Mae. Nothing will happen within the next hour or so. Trust my father and me.”

She nodded as her eyes closed. It felt wrong to do nothing when she might have ruined everything, but she could not resist the pull of sleep.

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