The Love of the Forgotten

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Chapter 17

“Where are we going?” asked Mae as she kept a hold of Cade.

“The front parlor, my lady,” said Edgar. “That is where the king was brought when he was found.”

“Where was he found?” asked Cade, his voice sounding strange and strained.

“In the hall close to his study,” said Edgar. “One of the female servants was going that way to clean and found him lying on the floor. She ran to get Mrs. Wynn. He was brought here. He thinks it is his heart.”

Mae squeezed Cade’s arm as they hurried along. Close to the parlor, she saw Enid standing there in her nightgown and robe. She looked at Mae as she walked past to go into the parlor where Mrs. Wynn and an older attendant stood.

“Your highness, my lady,” said Mrs. Wynn. “We have called the healer. The king wants to see you both.”

Mae let go of Cade as they both walked over to the sofa. Cade knelt by his father and took his hand as Mae crouched by his side. She slowly put her hands on the king’s chest and closed her eyes. She could feel that his heartbeat was slow and weak. She looked at the king’s face to see it ashen, and he blinked his eyes rapidly.

“Father,” said Cade quietly.

The king’s eyes opened wider, and he stared at Cade. “I am so sorry, son,” he said. “I wanted to give you more time. There is so much that needs to be done.”

“It is alright, father. You will be fine,” said Cade as he held his father’s hand.

The king shook his head as Mae kept her hand on his chest. She tried to will her power to help him, to save him. Her power sparked, but it would not respond. She felt the king’s cold hand take hers.

“Mae, you cannot help me. I am beyond help,” he said. “It is too much for you.”

“No,” she said with tears in her eyes. “I can do it. I can save you.”

“My dear girl, there is nothing to save me from. The goddess is coming for me, and she will see me safe. I will be with my darling Delia again. It is just hard to leave you and Cade.” He closed his eyes and took a shallow breath.

“Father,” said Cade desperately. “Do not go. Hang on. The healer will be here soon.”

“There is nothing he can do. I know it is true. I regret leaving you this burden so young, but I know you will be a good king. Do not mourn for me long. You have too much to do. There is danger everywhere. I have left a list of those you can trust in my desk, your desk.”

“I cannot accept this,” said Cade.

“You must,” said the king. “Mae, you promised me you would help him. You said you would stay by his side. You cannot break that promise.”

“I will not, your majesty. I will keep him safe. I swear it to you. No one will come before him.”

“And you will marry him. You will be his queen,” he said quietly.

“Yes,” she said as she cried.

“Then I can rest easy.” He took Mae’s hand and kissed it. “I love you. I love you both. Help each other.”

“Father, please,” said Cade. “You cannot leave.”

The king closed his eyes, and Mae felt him let go of her hand. She rested hers on his chest as he took one last shallow breath and went still. Bowing her head, she cried as she heard Mrs. Wynn gasp.

“Father,” said Cade as he lightly shook the king. “Father.”

Mae reached over and put her hand on Cade’s arm. “He is gone,” she choked out. “The king is dead.” Cade looked at her with wide eyes as though he could not believe it. “I’m sorry, Cade.”

Cade looked at the king and put the king’s hand on his chest. He slowly rose and turned to those gathered. Mae moved closer to the king and kissed his forehead. “Go with the goddess into the light. May you find rest and peace.”

“Your highness,” said Mrs. Wynn shakily. “I mean, your majesty, what should we do.”

“Call some priests from the temple in the city to come see to the king’s body,” said Cade.

“From the city, your highness? Surely you mean the Highest One in the palace temple?” said the older male servant.

“No, I do not want that man here. Contact the city temple and tell them to come prepare the king’s body for his return to the light.” Mae slowly rose and stood at his side. “I will go see the Highest One tomorrow.”

Mrs. Wynn walked out with Edgar as the older man moved behind the sofa. “Would you like a moment alone with your father?” Mae asked quietly.

Cade took her hand. “I would rather you wait here with me.” He looked at the older man. “Your service is ended, Thomas. You have served well. Would you collect some clothes and my father’s robe to go to the temple?”

“Yes, your majesty. I would like to go with my king when they take him. I will dress him for the preparation.”

“Thank you, Thomas. You may stay at the palace as long as you need. There is no rush for you to leave.”

Thomas bowed and walked out of the room as Cade turned and looked down over his father. He was quiet for a few moments as he held Mae’s hand.

“Do you think this was natural?” asked Cade finally. “He was not ill or in bad health.”

Mae kneeled next to the king, looking at him. “I don’t know. Sometimes things happen with no warning.”

“Can you feel anything unnatural? Can you tell if he was poisoned or attacked in any way?”

Mae shook her head. “I do not have that ability. Perhaps someone from the temple such as Afreda could look him over.”

“I want no one from the palace temple touching him. I cannot trust any of them.”

“They will find out soon, probably before you even visit there tomorrow. I can go with you.” Mae stood up slowly.

“I do not want you to leave the palace grounds any time soon,” he grabbed her hand as soon as she stood and leaned against her. “Please don’t argue with me about it. I need to know you are here and safe.”

“I will stay here then. Are you sure you don’t want one moment alone with him?”

He shook his head as he heard voices outside the room. “The healer is here, and I should meet with him. If you want to go to bed, I understand.”

“I will go change soon, but I will not leave you alone for long,” said Mae.

She walked out with Cade to speak with the healer. Mae watched Cade closely, seeing he had barely shed a tear. He spoke matter of factly to the healer. Soon some priests came in, and while Cade talked to them, Mrs. Wynn and Enid came up to Mae.

“You should take a moment to dress, my lady,” said Mrs. Wynn. “It will take a bit before the king’s body is moved, and I imagine we will have many people coming to the palace soon. You will want to be properly dressed.”

Mae looked down at the long night robe she wore that belonged to Cade. She could imagine what it looked like, and it would be the truth. She had been in Cade’s bed that night and more than a few before it. “I will want to dress quickly, Enid.”

“Yes, my lady. I can have you ready quickly.”

Mae looked at Mrs. Wynn. “If the pr… the king needs me, tell him I will be down promptly.”

She looked at Cade as Mrs. Wynn nodded. He was the king now. All the burdens of the kingdom were his alone. She could help him, but she was not his wife or his queen. For now, it seemed he stood alone. She knew it was not so. She was ready to be by his side however he needed her. Hopefully, Thad would hurry home once he heard the news. There were others too that Cade’s father had spoken of. Cade would need all the support he could manage to face those in the palace temple and their allies.

“Let’s go, Enid. I need to come back quickly.” She hurried up the stairs with Enid. When she got to her room, she took off Cade’s robe and placed it on a nearby chair. Enid brought over a new shift and simple dress, helping Mae change. Afterward, she brushed Mae’s hair and braided it before pulling it up.

“My lady, is there anything else I can do?” asked Enid as Mae put on some simple slippers.

“I think that is all, Enid. I don’t know what my schedule will be like, but I will need something to wear to the king’s journey to the light. I imagine one of my new dark green dresses will do. I don’t expect to keep regular hours for a while. I also don’t know where or when I will sleep. I am afraid it will throw your schedule off.”

“It is no matter,” said Enid. “It is awful. The king was a good man and poor Prince Cadel. He has lost both his parents so young.”

“King Cadel, Enid. He is now the king. It is not fair, and it will not be easy, but he will get through it. I will make sure he does.”

“I suppose you will not be leaving the palace, then?”

“I don’t see how I can. The king will not be able to leave, and I could not go without him.” She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to compose herself. The king was dead. He was a good, dear man she had come to love, and now, he was gone. He had been so steady, making her feel safe and secure as though they could make it through the trouble ahead. He was gone, and much of Mae’s hope had gone with him.

Enid had her in her arms before she knew it as Mae broke down. “How can it happen again, Enid? I know he was not my father, but I was beginning to love him like one.”

“You were as good as a daughter to him. He treated you as such. I am so sorry, my lady. It is a huge loss for us all.”

“I cannot do this,” said Mae taking deep breaths. “I must be strong for Cade. He is facing so much. I have to help him.”

“Do not push away your grief, my lady. It is real, and you need to express it.”

“And in here, alone, I will. Now, I must go. Thank you, Enid.”

The rest of the early morning passed in a blur. Mae stood with Cade as the temple priest carried out the king and placed him in a covered cart. Mae watched Cade closely, but still, he did not cry. The sun rose, and Mae answered what questions she could from servants, trying to keep any burdens off Cade that she could. He sat and wrote out a message that servants would copy to be sent out all over the city. She walked with him to the entry hall as he prepared to go to the palace temple.

“You are not going alone, are you?”

“I am meeting two of my father’s oldest friends, Lord Hampton and Lord Ellin, at the temple entrance. I am also taking six guards,” said Cade.

“I wish I could go with you,” said Mae.

Cade stopped and took both her hands. “Knowing you are here safe helps me more than you know.”

She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “Please be careful, and try to work something out. Your father deserves to have his journey to the light in the palace temple. It doesn’t matter who the Highest One is.”

“We will see what happens. I will see you later today. Try to rest if you can.” He looked around before bending close to Mae and kissing her quickly.

“I love you,” she said. “I will do anything to help you.”

He touched her cheek before walking out the door to meet with the guards that were gathered. She watched him go before the door was closed. He was gone for some time, and Mae ran out of things she could do. Eventually, she went out to the courtyard and released some of her power, moving some rocks around and sending leaves spiraling that she took off some of the trees. She set up shields and threw rocks as hard as she could at them, watching them bounce off.

Tears clouded her vision at times, and she let a few go. She stayed out there as the sun started to set around her, becoming worried about Cade. When the door opened, and Mrs. Wynn walked out, she dried her eyes and hurried to meet her.

“The late king’s journey will begin mid-afternoon tomorrow in the palace. The body has already been moved there. King Cadel sent word that I let you know.”

“Is he at the temple still?” asked Mae.

“From what I understand, he is. Thomas just returned and said the king is within the worship space. He has been for some time.”

“Is he alone?” asked Mae.

“I imagine so,” said Mrs. Wynn. “The poor boy.”

“He is alone in the palace temple with his father’s body?” asked Mae as she started moving towards the palace.

“Lady Maela, the king said you are to stay here,” said Mrs. Wynn. “He was adamant you stay in the palace.”

“I don’t care what he said. I will not let him be alone, not at a time like this.” Mae walked through the palace and to the entry hall as Mrs. Wynn called after her. She would not stop. She would go straight to the temple, to Cade.

“Lady Maela, please. It was very clear that the king said you are not to leave.”

“Will you or anyone else stop me?” asked Mae as she stood by the door.

When Mrs. Wynn said nothing, Mae opened the door and stepped out. She passed the guards, looking at them both. The door opened behind her, and she glanced back at it to find Mrs. Wynn hurrying out.

“Lady Maela,” she called loudly.

“You will not stop me,” said Mae.

“I will not, but it is cold and getting colder with the sun going down. You should wear a cloak.” Mae turned around to see the woman almost running towards her, holding a black cloak. “This one was close by and should fit you fine.”

Mae took it. “I do not get cold, Mrs. Wynn, but I appreciate the thought.” Mae slipped it on and fastened the clasp. “Now, if you will excuse me, I will fetch the king. Will you see that some supper is ready for him and me? Have it sent up to his room.”

“Yes, my lady,” said Mrs. Wynn as Mae walked on to the temple.

She almost went to the side door out of habit but turned as she neared it to go to the front. She found several palace guards and two temple guards in front of the door.

“I would like to enter,” said Mae as she moved forward.

One of the palace guards moved towards her. “We were told to let no one inside, my lady. The king has asked to be left alone.”

“He has been in there for hours, alone. You will let me pass. I am to be his wife and should be at his side.”

“I am sorry, my lady, but the king himself told me to let no one inside. That is his command, and I will not break it,” said the guard.

“What will you do if I attempt to enter? Will you harm me?” asked Mae with irritation. “Because I am very ready to do whatever it takes to get into that building and to King Cadel.”

The guard looked at the others when Mae heard someone walk up to join them.

“Let her in,” said the Highest One.

“I have a command from my king,” said the guard.

“And I have command over this temple. Move from the door and let Lady Maela enter.”

“I do not require your help,” said Mae quietly to the Highest. One.

“Yes, you do. You need it now and going forward. Us being at odds will not work out well for you, my lady. I would like you to work with me willingly.”

“I am done meeting with you and trying to do what you bid. I do not trust you, Highest One. You can leave now as I do not need your help at this moment or ever. I hope to never speak with you if I can help it.”

“That will not be possible if you still wish to be queen,” said the Highest One quietly.

“The only one who can make me a queen is our king, and I have his promise. I will do whatever I can to support him and this kingdom. You are an evil that needs to be purged from Gelardia. I think you are the cause of much suffering, and while I do not wish to believe it, I think you could have something to do with the king’s death.”

“You are being foolish, my lady, very foolish. You should rethink your words. I can ruin you and all you hold dear.”

“You will do nothing to me or those I love because you think you need me,” said Mae furiously. She felt her power unsettled within her. “All this time, I have been playing your game, doing as you wish, when I should have seen that I hold the winning piece.” She raised her hands and threw out a harsh wind, causing the guards to stagger aside, away from the door.

Without another word, she walked forward, keeping the wind to her sides. She let it go once she got to the door and opened it. With one more look at the Highest One, she closed it, locking it behind her. The room before her was very dim. Only one torch and a few candles were lit at the very front of the space. She slowly walked towards it, seeing the late king lying in a long wooden casket, his peaceful face just visible.

“I said no one should bother me,” came Cade’s voice from somewhere upfront.

Mae kept walking forward. “I have never been very good at listening to you. Even if you are my king now, I cannot give up the habit.”

He stood up from where he knelt, not far from his father’s body. Turning slowly, he kept his eyes downcast. “You should not be here, Mae. I commanded that you be kept safe in the palace.”

“I just told you that I am not very good at taking commands.” She stopped when she was in front of him. “I could not leave you here, alone.” She put her hand on his arm, but he turned abruptly, throwing it off.

“What good does it do for you to be here?” he asked. “All it does is give the Highest One a chance to speak to you, to harm you.”

“I spoke to the Highest One already and let him know I will not play his game anymore. Perhaps, it was foolish, but what can he do to me. If he hurts my family or anyone else, I will certainly never help him with anything. Besides, I would face much more fearful things than that man to be with you when you need me.”

“How can you help me? No one can help me. How can I be king when none of my commands are listened to? I asked that my father’s body not be bought here, yet when I came earlier, it was already here with the Highest One and his followers looking over it,” said Cade furiously.

“They can’t hurt him, Cade. He is beyond pain or danger now. He is safe with the goddess, with your mother.”

Cade was quiet as he looked at his father’s body. “I never thought what it would be like to be king. I trained for it. I listened to my father and did the work he asked, but it seemed such a far-off thing that I never could grasp what it would look like or feel like.”

“You should have had many more years to figure it out,” said Mae. “It is not right he is gone now.”

“They are both gone, my mother and father, and I am all alone,” said Cade quietly. “I am the last Callagan. It is all on me.”

Mae carefully took his hand. She held it loosely as she stood by his side. “You are not alone, Cade. There are plenty in the palace, city, and beyond who support you.” She squeezed his hand. “I promised you that I would never leave you. I could not now if I tried, even if you commanded it. I would stay here stubbornly, serving you in some way, loving you.”

“It so hard,” he said. “There is so much wrong with the kingdom. I don’t even know where to start.”

“We will figure it out together. We will get through this horrid time, and then we will move forward, living our lives as a tribute to the good man your father was. So much of him is in you, Cade. You will be a good king just like him.”

“He was so lonely for so long. He spent so many years in guilt and sadness, we both did.” Cade turned to her. “You changed him these last few months. He told me not too long ago that it was like his heart came alive again with you in the palace.

“I tried for years to make sure I never ended up like him, broken, sad, almost lifeless, but all I did was become even worse off than him. He had experienced love and was still open to it. I was some sad walled-off thing, thinking if no one or anything ever touched my heart, it would be safe. I even kept him at a distance. I wasted so much time.”

She could see a few tears escape Cade’s eyes. “He did not doubt your love, and he loved you more than anything. Everyone could see how proud he was of you. Do not think he did not know, Cade. He did.”

Cade suddenly pulled Mae into his arms and held her tight, his head going to her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Mae. I’m sorry for all those times I pushed you away too. I thought I could go through this life by myself, but I can’t. Even if I thought it would be safer for you to let you go, I could not do it.”

“I wouldn’t let you,” said Mae as she rubbed his back. “I love you too much to leave you now.” She let him cry for a moment before she leaned back and took his face in her hands. “I will help you through this. You can tell me anything. You can tell me when you are angry, sad, or feel alone. I will listen. I cannot fix it all, but I can be right here and help you walk through it.”

He nodded slightly. “And you will not leave me.”

“Never,” she said before she kissed his forehead. “You need to come to the palace and rest. The next few days will be awful and hard.”

“It’s hard to leave him,” said Cade.

“I know, but you must remember he is not here. He has moved on and is safe. One of the last things I spoke with him about was you. I swore to him I would help you and keep you safe. I also said I would let you take care of me. I will keep that promise to him. Let us go back to the palace. We can eat and rest together so we can face tomorrow. Then we will do it all again and again, moving forward until we find our way.”

He squeezed her tight before letting her go. Walking to his father’s casket, he looked down at the king. “You were a good king and an even better father. You left me a way to follow, and I will do it. You can rest easy with mother because I will do all you asked of me. I will listen to our people and my advisors, and I will love my queen and support her. We will make it through, father.”

They walked back to the palace together, and Mae was glad the Highest One was nowhere to be seen. They went to Cade’s room together and ate a quiet supper in front of his fireplace before settling into his sofa. At some point, Mae leaned against Cade, her eyes growing heavy. She must have fallen asleep because Cade was laying her in his bed the next thing she knew. He joined her and pulled her to him, holding her tightly.

She whispered, “I love you.”

She was able to hear him answer her back as she drifted off. “I love you, Mae. I cannot do without you.”

The next day was long and difficult. Dressed in a dark green dress, Mae walked behind Cade to the temple. The bells had rung out throughout the morning, and the people left flowers and offerings in front of the gates of the wall. The temple was full when they got there. All the lords and ladies of the city and Bevins gathered to mourn their king.

Cade reached back and took Mae’s hand before walking to the front. He had her sit beside him, and she did as he bid whether it was against tradition or not. The Highest One said many things, but Mae did not listen. Other priests offered prayers, but she watched Cade the entire time. He looked towards the front as he held Mae’s hand tightly.

The service drug on as each priest on the council in attendance said some sort of prayer or blessing. When it was finally over, and the Highest One said the final prayer, the king’s guard came to cover the casket and take it down the aisle. Mae followed it with Cade. They went outside and to the back of the temple, where there was an open door and many steep stairs going down.

They followed the casket down the stairs, deep into the earth, until they came to an open stone door. They stopped there as the casket continued on to be laid to rest amongst the other kings and queens somewhere inside. They waited until the royal guards came back, and the head one bowed before Cade before the others did the same.

“The old king is at rest. Your guards serve you, your majesty, King Cadel of the Callagans.”

Cade nodded, and the guards rose. They followed him and Mae back to the palace. They spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in his room. When night came, he took her to his bed, where they spent time slowly loving one another, both appearing to feel the need for assurance from the other.

She awoke late the next morning to find the room flooded in light. Sitting up in the bed, Cade walked towards her dressed very simply, wearing a dark cloak. He sat down next to her.

“I have a meeting at a tavern in town. My allies thought it would be good to hide our coming and goings from the Highest One and others. I will not be gone long, and I would like you to stay in the palace until I get back. Of course, I will not command you because I know how much good that does.”

She smiled a little. “I will not go anywhere as long as you don’t take too long.”

“I will not take long at all. You and I have much to discuss this afternoon. I know you might not be ready, but we need to speak of when we plan to wed. I would still like to take you to Adaria, but it may not be possible for a while.”

“I will do what is necessary for our kingdom and you. I did wish to wait a bit, but everything has changed. I know it, and I am ready to move forward when necessary. I don’t think I will regret marrying you whenever I do it.”

Cade leaned forward and kissed her. “We will have plenty of time to discuss it later today. You know my heart will not change as it belongs firmly to you.”

“Go to your meeting so you can come back quickly.”

He kissed her one more time before standing up. As he got to his bedroom door, he turned and looked at her. “I love you, Mae. Please don’t forget it.”

She looked at him for a moment, thinking he probably needed the reassurance of knowing she loved him. “I love you as well, my king. I will see you soon.”

He stared at her a bit more before walking from the room. Mae lounged for a while in his bed before finding his robe nearby and throwing it on. She made her way down to her room, finding Enid ready with her tea, a small breakfast, and a dress. Once ready for the day, Mae stepped out of her room, thinking she might spend her time in the back courtyard, waiting for Cade.

As she got towards the stairs, she heard loud voices in the entryway. She hurried down the stairs to see the Highest One standing there with many temple guards and one of the women who helped train Mae, Afreda looking anxious. Mrs. Wynn and a few palace guards stood before them.

“You should come back when the king is here,” said Mrs. Wynn. “You cannot come in this palace and take someone, especially her, while he is gone.”

“I believe he is in danger from Lady Maela, and she must be removed immediately. The king will understand when I explain it to him.”

“What is the meaning of this?” asked Mae as she came to the bottom of the stairs.

“My lady,” said Mrs. Wynn as she turned. “You should go back upstairs to your room and wait for the king to return. I am sure he can handle this misunderstanding.”

Before Mae could react, three temple guards pushed Mrs. Wynn aside and grabbed Mae. One took her hands and put them behind her back, holding them tightly there.

“There is no misunderstanding,” said the Highest One. “Lady Maela is charged with murder and treason. She must be taken to the temple to await judgment and punishment if needed.”

“Murder and treason?” asked Mae incredulously as she struggled. “What in the kingdom are you talking about?”

“When the king’s body was brought to the palace temple, I had Afreda examine it. She could detect magic left in the body, and she said she had felt something like it in only one other person, you”

“Why would I kill the king? I would never harm him. I loved him like a father,” said Mae, feeling shocked.

“Pretty words, my lady, but most likely false. You can try to prove otherwise eventually, but for now, you will come with us.”

“She will not,” said Mrs. Wynn as she and the royal guards move towards Mae. “This is ridiculous.”

“I’m afraid it is not,” said the Highest One. He walked up to Mae and pulled out a vial of some liquid. Looking at a guard next to her, he said, “Open her mouth.”

While one guard held her hands, the other pulled her hair until her head tilted up. He moved his hand to her chin and forced her lips to part as the Highest One quickly threw the contents of the vial into her mouth. The guard closed her mouth, forcing her to swallow.

“What was that?” asked Mae, coughing on the substance that tasted like rotten fruit.

“It was some of the elixir you helped me make. It should take effect quickly, keeping you calm and quiet. We can’t have you fighting back with your power.”

Mae suddenly became very dizzy. Her vision grew fuzzy, and her tongue felt swollen. The Highest One peered into her face, looking oddly distorted to Mae. He whispered, “I have been playing this game much longer than you, you silly girl. Now you will see what happens when you refuse to do your part.”

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