The Love of the Forgotten

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 19

After spending two nights in the cells under the temple, Mae became aware of just how comfortable her life had been. She had never slept on anything but a soft bed or plush sofa. She never had to go hungry for any reason, and anytime she was thirsty, she could have whatever she liked to drink. Although there were times she had felt loneliness in her life, she had never been completely alone.

Mae’s cell was dark and cold. They had put some straw in one corner where she lay to have some barrier from the stone floor. The only light came from a torch that burned on the other side of the iron bars down the hall. If she sat in the very corner, she was in complete darkness. The only visitors she had for two days were guards who brought her a meager meal and some water each day.

She did nothing but cry and drift off as she sat against the wall the first day. By the second day, she was more awake but still felt weak. When the guards came in with her meal, it included a glass of wine. She looked down at it, not trusting what was inside.

“I cannot leave until you eat all your food and drink that wine,” said the guard angrily. “I will not wait all night. I will force you if I have to.”

Mae picked up the wine, figuring there wasn’t much worse they could do to her than what they already had. She drank the wine and finished the stale bread and cheese on her plate. The guard took it and left her again in darkness. Immediately her eyes grew heavy as her head spin. She went to her straw and lay on it. Staying still, she thought of her family. She would probably never see her mother or brother again. She suspected she would never leave the temple.

She tried to have hope. She wanted to believe her innocence would be proven or Cade would find a way to free her, but she also knew the reality was she would at least be in the temple cells for some time, maybe the rest of her life, however long it was. She knew the Highest One would call for her soon. He would want a way to use her power. She did not want to help him, but if it was the only way to keep her family and Cade safe, she wasn’t sure how she could deny him.

On the third day, two guards came to her cell. They opened it and walked in.

“You are to come with us,” said one guard as he tied her hands. “We were told to say if you cause any problems, then you should know the king is being watched at all times. The Highest Ones has friends everywhere.”

Mae didn’t think she had the strength to do much of anything, and she had no idea where she was in the temple. She was sure she would be caught easily if she tried to run. She also would not do anything to jeopardize Cade. “I have no plans to do anything other than what I am told. Can you tell me where you are taking me?”

“The Highest One wishes to see you,” said the guard. He positioned himself behind her and pushed her forward as the other guard led the way.

They walked down the long line of cells. They were all empty and dark. When they came to the end, the guard in front unlocked the door and led her up to another door that opened to a set of steep stairs. Mae started to climb, keeping her head down, watching her feet step up each stair. By the time they finally reached the top, she was winded with sweat beading on her forehead despite the chill in the air.

They took her down a long hallway and turned to a space she was familiar with. They stopped in front of the Highest One’s study door and knocked. The Highest One opened the door with a smile.

“Lady Maela, I am very glad to see you this afternoon. Come inside.” The guard pushed her forward, and Mae walked into the room. “You can unbind her hands. She will not be a threat, not to me.”

“You are so sure?” asked Mae as the guard untied the ropes.

“I am not alone here, as you can see,” said the Highest One. Mae looked behind him to see two members of the High Council sitting in chairs by the fireplace. “If something happens to me, they know what they must do. A guard will be out the door, and you will be killed quickly. Your king will be disposed of, and word will be sent to see to the end of your family.”

One guard stood next to the fireplace as the other bowed and walked out the door, closing it behind him.

“Lady Maela, come join us by the fireplace. I have a task or two for you,” said the Highest One. “If you cooperate today and continue to do so, maybe eventually we can talk about more comfortable accommodations for you.”

“What is it you want?” asked Mae, not wanting to chat or play games. “Just tell me what you need me to do.”

The Highest One laughed. “I like this complying attitude, Lady Maela.”

“I didn’t say I would do what you ask. I only asked what you want me to do.”

“First, I want you to come sit here on the sofa,” said the Highest One.

Mae walked forward, seeing a large bowl on the table by the sofa. As she got near it, she knew it was the same substance from the last time she was there. The smell wafting from it made her stomach church as the sound of harsh whispers filled her ears.

“You want my blood, don’t you?” she asked as she sat down on the edge of the sofa as far from the bowl as she could.

“That is one thing I need from you, but I can take that from you whenever I want. What could you do to stop me?” He sat down close to her. “I need you to use your power here. I want you to do exactly as I tell you.”

“Why?” she asked as she rubbed her head.

“This elixir is not what I thought it was. It can give someone power from the goddess from another, but it is only an echo of what it absorbs. That day in my study, it picked up those spells you used on me. When I added the bit of your blood I had, it gave me the power to use an echo of those spells once.”

“Where did you get my blood?” asked Mae.

“From that night of your ball. When you were cut with that bracelet I gave you. I kept that napkin I put on your wound. It had enough of your blood to give me the bit of power I needed. When you tried to kill me that day, the elixir absorbed that. When I added your blood, I could feel your power in my hands. I heard a whisper telling me what it could do. Quite impressive that you can tell a heart to stop beating.”

“It was you,” said Mae as she stood up. “You killed the king.”

“We killed the king, my lady. It was your power that ultimately killed him. I was only the means.”

“I would never have hurt him. His death is due to you,” said Mae. “I should have killed you that day. I knew you were evil. I could have saved him and so many others.”

“You would have only harmed the kingdom in the end,” said the Highest One. “One king’s death is nothing compared to all the people in the land. Many others will benefit if my plans come to fruition. The old king and even the current one have done too much to upset the system in place. Their rule would lead to revolt. The council and I will make sure everyone stays in their place, ensuring the kingdom goes on.”

“Your way leads to starvation, disease, and early death for many. You speak of helping the kingdom, but all you care about is what power you have in the kingdom,” said Mae.

“A difference of opinion,” said the Highest one. “We do not have time for arguing. I brought you here to do some task, and now you will do it.”

She stood still, staring at him. “And if I don’t?”

“You know what you have to lose. I would not like it to come to that, my lady.”

She sighed. “What is your first task?”

“A simple one. I want you to summon something to you. I know you can do it easily.”

Mae took a deep breath and held out her hand. A book flew to her, just passing by the Highest One’s head. She caught it and held it out to him. The Highest One took it with a small bow.

“Now, control the fire. Put it almost out and then rise it up, pressing the boundaries of the fireplace.”

Mae hesitated. “What do you plan to do with this ability?”

“That is not your concern,” said the Highest One.

“It is. You have already used my power in a way that is beyond evil. I will not let it be used so again.”

“Must I remind you what could happen?”

“My family is far away. It will take you several days to send word that way. My uncle is with my mother, and our people will do everything to protect their lord.” She smiled a little. “You can try to harm the king, but I don’t think it will be as easy as you think.”

“You are bluffing,” said the Highest One.

“I am not,” said Mae. “I think you might be the one who is overstating your reach. The king is well guarded by those who are loyal to him. If you try to use any power on him, you will be disappointed. I am continually learning new things, Highest One. Things I wished I had known only a few days ago.”

The Highest One’s smile vanished. “Then we will have to result to simpler ways to convince you. Perhaps, they are a bit barbaric, but I find they are very effective.” He nodded to the guard in the room, and the man moved forward towards Mae.

Mae was thrown back into her cell, barely conscious. Her head ached terribly, and she could feel a warm trickle of blood fall down her face from somewhere close to her eyebrow. She crawled over to her straw and curled up as she held her aching side. She would not give them what they wanted. She could not think how the Highest One would use the ability to control fire.

Wiping at the blood on her face, she saw the fresh cut on her arm. They took some of her blood to use in the elixir. She hated that she had given them anything, but surely summoning something couldn’t be too harmful. She could not worry about it as all she wished was the relief of sleep.

Her days after were much the same. She was brought to the Highest One and others from the council. They asked her to do things, and when she refused, she was beaten and threatened. She was ashamed that sometimes she gave in to their demands. She tried not to give them too much, but there were times she used her power for simple things such as summoning small breezes or healing a cut one of the council members opened on his arm.

Every day they took blood from her. Even if they didn’t summon her, a guard would come in and open a wound on her arm, collecting her blood in a bowl. She lost track of her days, and any hope she once had was all but gone. The pain was too much. She felt weak and ached everywhere. She was filthy, and even her sleep did not help as she could not find real rest. She knew they were still giving her something to subdue her, and her mind never felt clear.

For the first time in her life, she felt cold. Her dress did not help her, and the threadbare blanket in her room was not useful. She burrowed in her straw, but still, she shivered as she lay in her cell. She wished she could die. If she could summon the strength, she thought she might do herself in. She knew it was a defeatist thought and not what was taught about the goddess’s will, but surely the goddess could understand her pain. Perhaps Aurulia had forsaken her. Maybe Mae’s life or death meant nothing to her.

Mae lay half-asleep in her cell, not knowing if it were night or day as she had not been summoned for at least a day or two. She heard the door at the end of the room open, and she retreated further into her cell into the corner, knowing it was probably more pain coming for her.

“Mae,” said a familiar whisper that made Mae lean forward.

She thought perhaps she had hallucinated the voice, or she was dreaming. She had many dreams where she talked with her family and friends. Often she lay in Cade’s arms, feeling warm and loved. Every time she woke up alone, cold, and in pain.

“Mae,” said the whisper again, urgent and worried.

“I am here,” she finally said, deciding to see if their voice was real.

She saw a figure stand by her cell and peer into it. Scooting a little closer, she said, “Is it really you, Thad?”

“It is. I have been trying to find a way to come see you for some time.”

“You shouldn’t be here,” she said as she leaned back. “You should be by your king’s side. He needs you to help keep him safe. I am a lost cause.”

“You are not,” said Thad. “Come closer so I can see you, please.”

“There is no need. You should leave and never come back,” said Mae. “I am beginning to think I should never have existed. I definitely should not have come to the city. Cade was right to want to stay away from me. Just as he foresaw, I have brought nothing but ruin to him.”

“That is not true, Mae. You know it is not. Cade is lost without you. He can only go forward with the hope of saving you. You cannot give up like this.”

“Convince him to forget me, my lord,” said Mae. “Find him another to love and support him. The only way I can serve him or the kingdom is to perish. I cannot resist the Highest One forever. You should end me now.”

“Mae, come to where I can see you,” said Thad desperately. “Please, Mae, come closer.”

She closed her eyes before adjusting her blanket around her shoulders. She did not have the strength to stand up, so she crawled forward towards the dim light where Thad stood. She rested against the bars as Thad kneeled next to her.

He reached through the bars and gently touched her cheek, turning her head. “Good goddess, what have they done to you.”

She closed her eyes, feeling his fingers on his face. It had been so long since she had felt a friendly touch. “I have not been complying with their demands. If it comes to the point that I believe they will actually hurt Cade or my family, I don’t know what I will do.”

“I will do all I can to keep Cade safe. Your family is not without protection. As soon as we hear from your uncle that your family is safe, we will find a way to get you out of here.”

She leaned back, and his hand fell off her face. “You should leave me here. I may not have killed him, but it is my fault Cade’s father is dead.”

“What do you mean?” asked Thad.

“The Highest One used my power to kill the king. He has found an elixir that duplicates what power I use in its presence and gives the power to another. All it takes is some of my blood.”

“What I suppose explains all these cuts on your arm,” said Thad as he took her hand through the bars. “Mae, the king’s death is not your fault. If a blacksmith makes a knife to cut meat, but someone else uses it to slit the throat of another, is the blacksmith at fault?”

“But I almost killed the Highest One one day in his study. It is that power he harnessed. If I had controlled myself, he never could have done it.”

“The Highest One is evil, and I am sure he pushed you too far. He is the only one to blame for the king’s death, him and his tainted council. You are good, Mae. This kingdom needs you Your family and our king need you. If nothing else, do not give up for them.”

Mae leaned against the bars, staring at Thad with tears in her eyes. “It is too hard. I am not strong enough to withstand this much longer. I cannot give them what they want, and they are getting desperate. If it was just my life on the line, I could do it. What if he finds a way to hurt Cade, or he kills my family?”

“I will not let them touch our king, Mae. I promise you. You have to find a way to endure this. I will not let it last much longer. You need to remember who you are and how important you are to all of us.”

Mae looked down as tears fell from her eyes. Thad put his hand under her chin and lifted her head. “Tell me you know who you are, Mae. You are the daughter of the High Lord of Adaria. You are powerful and strong, and you are the next queen of our kingdom. Our king declares he will have no other, so you will have to find a way to survive. I am sworn to the Callagans, and I will not let them fail.”

“You will keep Cade safe?” she asked. “You will keep your promise?”

“I swear it on my family name and my life, my lady.”

“Then I will try to hold on a little longer.”

Thad took her hand and kissed it. “I have to go, but I will come back soon. Cade is trying every day to see you. He wanted me to bring him here tonight, but I could not let him take the risk.”

“Thank you, Thad,” she said as he released her hand.

“Keep hope, Mae. You will make it out of this.”

She was not sure she would, but she nodded anyway. As he walked away, she moved back to her straw and curled up, trying to find warmth. She whispered to herself who she was, trying to hold onto any small spark of hope she could find.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.