The Love of the Forgotten

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Chapter 22

Cade looked at Mrs. Wynn and Enid in the entry hall as he put on his cloak. “You have everything worked out for Enid’s journey, Mrs. Wynn?” asked Cade before adjusting his sword.

“Yes, your majesty. She shall go to my cousin’s home first. From there, travel to Adaria can be arranged once we receive word from Lord Aimon.”

“You are ready to go, Enid?” asked Cade.

“You are sure Lady Maela will get out of the city safely? I don’t think I can leave unless I know she will be far away from here.”

“I swear to you as your king that she will be gone from the city gates within a couple of hours. She will go easier if she knows you are out of the place and safe,” replied Cade.

Enid nodded. “Then I shall do as you ask.”

“And you sent what I requested to the stables?” asked Cade.

“Yes, your majesty. Everything you asked for was packed and sent this afternoon. I added a few other things she will want for comfort, but it all fit.”

“I trust your judgment.” He turned to Mrs. Wynn. “You could travel with Enid if you wish. I know it will not be easy being in the city or palace for a while.”

“I will stay here and serve until you return, your majesty. No one will enter this palace except those who belong just as you stated,” said Mrs. Wynn.

Thad walked in from the right hallway, dressed in his cloak, his sword by his side. “We need to go, your majesty.”

“Stay safe, Mrs. Wynn. Keep watch over all who live and work here. Nothing is worth any of your lives, so if the palace must fall to the Highest One, let it,” said Cade.

“It will not fall. It will stand, ready for its Callagan king and his queen,” said Mrs. Wynn.

Cade nodded. “I will send word soon and return when I can. I must see to my future wife’s safety and be amongst my people as they fight for their lives.”

“May the goddess’s light go with you, your majesty,” said Mrs. Wynn.

“She shines upon us all,” said Cade before he and Thad walked away towards the side door of the palace.

“Your man is ready? He can get us in?” asked Cade.

“He is ready, and all the royal guards are in place as well as your horse. You are sure you don’t wish for two?”

“I don’t know if Mae will be in a condition to ride,” said Cade. “I will also feel better if she is with me. Once we are well away from the city, I have more than enough money with me to buy her a horse.”

“And you believe you can find my manor in Calder? You studied the map?” asked Thad.

I can find it. I have a map packed on my horse. We will make it there.”

Thad handed Cade a sealed message as they got to the side door. “Give that to my housekeeper when you get to my home in Calder. You do not look like a king or even a lord in the clothes you are wearing, which is the point. My housekeeper will want some assurances from me that you are welcome. That message will contain all she needs to know.”

“You are sure the place is safe, and no one will talk?”

“It is not a large house, and there are few servants there. They are all trustworthy, good folk. The temple close by is no threat to you. The priest in residence has long mistrusted the Holy Council. He will not give you away.”

“We will wait there to give Mae time to recover and for you to join us,” said Cade.

“I will be there as soon as I can. First, I will travel with your royal guards to my larger estate in Glynston. I think that will draw the Highest One’s attention. Once there, I will sneak away in the night and travel on to my house in Calder. Very few know about it or have ever been there. My father like to use it as a retreat and did not entertain guests.”

They walked out of the palace into the shadows towards the back right of the temple.

“You said your guard does not have a key to Lady Maela’s cell. We better hope one of the guards on duty does,” said Cade.

“I understand that one of them will. Once we have her, we will try to sneak out quietly, but we must be prepared to fight. If we run into trouble, we need to try to get back outside to the left of the temple where your guards will be waiting.”

Cade nodded as he looked at the temple in the light of the torches that hung on the wall. The night was cloudy, and there was no moonlight. He thought that was a good sign as it could make escape easier if they could just get outside.

“There is nothing else to be said,” said Cade, “except to ask the goddess to watch over us.”

“Sometimes, I wonder if she is really there at all with all the suffering I have seen,” said Thad. “But if there is a goddess, I believe she would want Mae safe from the evil man ruining her temple.”

“I’m ready,” said Cade.

He and Thad hurried across the space, watching for any temple guards nearby. They reached the outside of the temple, careful to keep out of any lights from the torches. Once they got to the door on the rear side, Thad knocked twice. It opened, and Thad grabbed Cade, dragging him inside.

“Is everything quiet?” asked Thad to the guard.

“It seems so, my lord, but I am not able to go to the front of the temple. It is not within my usual rounds,” said the guard.

“You have done as I asked, and that is all you can do. Are you sure you do not wish to escape tonight? They might know you helped us.”

“No one saw me come this way. I cannot leave my mother alone in the city with her health,” said the guard.

“Here is what I promised you. I hope you are able to avoid detection,” said Thad.

“I do not require payment, my lord. If I am caught, I will rest easy knowing I am doing what is right. The things I have seen the Highest One do and what I have heard him say, let me know he is wrong.”

“You deserve your money. Use it to help your mother. Maybe you can get her out of the city, and you can both be free of this place,” said Thad.

“She will not leave the home she shared with my father, and I will serve the temple as I know Aurulia still watches over it. I want to see it cleansed one day,” said the guard. “You should go now as only two guards are on duty, and I need to make my rounds.”

“Thank you for your help,” said Cade.

The guard bowed. “Rule well, your majesty.” He turned and left them, walking down a dark hallway.

“Let’s go,” said Thad as they moved to a nearby door. Thad opened it, and they walked through to the hallway ahead. At the end was another door that was locked. Thad pulled out something that looked like a thin knife. He fiddled with the lock for a few moments before it popped open.

“Why have you never taught me anything like that?” asked Cade.

“Because you do not need to know being a king,” said Thad. “I don’t ever want you in another situation where you need to do something like this. I exist, so you don’t have to break into lock doors.”

Behind the door, they found a dark and narrow staircase going down. They moved down it close together, going as fast as they could without falling. Once they got to the bottom, they reached the stone door. Thad took out his sword, causing Cade to do the same.

He hit the stone door with the hilt of the sword. “I can take care of these two men. You should stay back for a moment.”

“I will not,” said Cade. “I am at least as proficient of a sword fighter as you.”

“Killing a man is different than sparing,” said Thad as he knocked again.

Cade smirked. “I am well aware of it and know what it means to take a man’s life. If I did not, you would have died by my hand that night you mistook Mae for a threat to me, or maybe that time you kissed her so that I would see.”

“You think I would be so easy to kill?”

“I know how angry I was,” said Cade.

Thad grinned before there was a voice through the door.

“Who is there?”

“I have a message from the Highest One from Carston. He wants to see the prisoner,” said Thad in a low voice.

“This time of night?” asked the voice.

“I don’t set the schedule of the Highest One, but I know he likes to keep it. Perhaps, I will walk back up and tell him you didn’t care about his time.”

There was silence before the scraping of the door opening. The two guards stood in the doorway, one holding his sword as Cade and Thad hid on each side of the opening. The man in front looked on Thad’s side, and Thad grabbed him, making him drop his sword. The other looked at Cade, grabbing for his sword. Cade hit his hand with his blade, and the man grabbed his arm. Cade grabbed him and held him close.

“Do you two want to die tonight, or would you like to live on?” asked Thad.

“I don’t see how we live no matter what at this point,” said the man he held. “Either you kill us here, or we will be killed for letting you in.”

“There is no mercy in the temple?” asked Cade.

“Mercy in the temple?” laughed the guard. “The biggest joke amongst those who work here is how empty of the goddess this place is.”

“Then you prefer to die now?” asked Thad as he raised his sword. “Or would you like a chance to escape or plead your case? All I need is the key to the cells. Give us that and watch us walk away, and I will leave you be.”

The man looked at the other who Cade was holding. “Give them the keys, Jac.”

Jac pulled something off his belt. He held it out slowly, and Cade took it.

“Go release Mae,” said Thad. “I will wait here with these two.”

Cade adjusted the keys in his hand as he hurried down the cells until he came to hers. He tried each of the three keys in his hand until the right one opened the door. He swung it open and rushed into the cell, looking around until he spotted Mae lying on her back in the corner.

He went to her side and kneeled, putting his hand gently on her arm. He felt something warm and wet on his hand and realized she had a fresh wound on her arm. He leaned down closer to her and saw that her hair had fallen in her face. He brushed it away to find her eyes shut and another fresh cut over her eye.

“Mae,” he said quietly as he lightly shook her. “Mae, please wake up.”

He moved his hand from her arm to her stomach, feeling the slight rise and fall of it with her breath. “Mae,” he said louder as he shook her again.

Her eyes popped open, and she gasped as she sat up quickly.

“Mae, it’s me. It’s ok. We need to go,” said Cade as he took her arm.

“Go?” she asked with confusion. “What do you mean?”

“You and I are going to leave the city, now,” said Cade. “I cannot leave you here and let them slowly kill you.”

“But your place is in the palace, leading your people,” said Mae.

“My place is by your side and out in the kingdom, helping my people as they stand against the temple. We must withdraw and show our displeasure with the Highest One and High Council.”

“My family?”

“Your uncle has written that he was able to get them out of the house. He is taking them to your father’s favorite retreat. He said you would know where that was.”

She nodded. “And Enid?”

“Already on her way out as we speak. I promised her I would see you safely away, so you have to come with me.”

“Is it possible?”

“It is, but we have to go now. Can you stand?”

“I think so,” she replied.

Cade stood up and bent down. He carefully placed his hands on her waist as she stood up. She turned and leaned into him as he put his arm around her.

“Thank you for coming back for me. I was afraid I would be here forever,” she said.

“I could never leave you,” he said as he kissed her head while adjusting his cloak she still wore. “Let’s go.”

He walked out of the cell with his arm around her. She grinned when she saw Thad. “It is good to see you again, my lord.”

He took her hand and squeezed it. “We have to go before they have a chance to figure out you’re gone.”

Cade took Mae past the guards as Thad kept his sword up. He waited until they were through the stone door before he ran through and closed it. Thad moved in front of them and started walking up the stairs. Cade kept his arm around Mae as they climbed. She made slight noises that told him she was in pain. He was about to pick her up to walk to the top when they heard the door open ahead, followed by voices.

“Turn around,” said Thad. “Move back down. We will have to find another way out.”

They moved down the stairs, Mae stumbling down them as Cade kept her upright. At the bottom, they turned away from the stone door and ran down a short hall as the sound of people running down the stairs rang out. At the end of the hall was a door that Thad opened. They walked through it, and he shut it behind them.

It was a large room, empty with a fireplace cut into one wall. They ran through the space, Mae limping as they went. Cade looked down at her as they came to the door on the other side.

“Do you know where we are going, Thad?” asked Cade as Thad opened the door.

“I think there is another set of stairs somewhere on this side. We can go up them and find a door to the outside.”

“I don’t know how much farther we can go,” said Cade as Mae leaned against him.

“I can do it,” said Mae. “I must.”

As they closed the door, they saw a group of temple guards enter the vast room. Mae let go of Cade for a moment and held out her hand. A light came from her palm and surrounded the door.

“That should hold them for a time,” said Mae as she turned. She took a deep breath and moved forward down the dark hall in front of them, holding out her hand and summoning a small flame. She moved in front of them, giving them enough light to see.

They checked several doors finding only empty rooms or places with old furniture and books stuffed in them. It wasn’t until they came to a door near the end that they found a staircase. It spiraled upwards, and they climbed it, passing several floors, hoping to find the main floor. When they got to the top, Mae bent over, gasping for air, her flame disappearing. Thad moved ahead and opened the door as Cade rubbed Mae’s back.

“Not too much farther, Mae. You just have to make it a bit more.”

“I am fine,” she said as she tried to catch her breath. “I just need a moment.”

“We don’t have long,” said Thad. “The way ahead looks clear, but who knows for how long.”

“I’m ready,” said Mae standing up straight, her hang going to her side. She swiped at her arm with her other hand, wiping away the blood that was dripping down it.

That led them down the hall in front of them. It was lined with windows, and the torches outside lit the area.

“I think there is a door to the right side of the palace. It’s a ways from where your guards are and your horse, but we can run around to get to them,” said Thad.

They finally came to the door, and Thad opened it. He looked outside and nodded before Mae and Cade followed him. It was quiet and dark out on the right side of the temple. They rounded the temple to the front right when the area flooded with light. In front of them were dozens of temple guards. A few passed fire between torches, holding them up high. In the center was the Highest One with a smile.

“Your majesty, if you wished to visit the temple and Lady Maela again, you should have come to me,” he said with a laugh. “As it is, I am afraid you have broken temple law.”

“You have long broken any law with the goddess,” said Mae fiercely. “You lack everything she stands for, empathy, mercy, and love.”

“What do you know about it, silly girl that you are. You think just because the goddess gave you power for some reason, that it makes you an expert on what she wants? Our goddess wants order as that is what is needed to see the kingdom prosper.”

“You don’t care about the kingdom,” said Cade. “You only want power for yourself and the temple. You trample over my people, deciding on your own who is worthy of life. The temple has long needed cleansing, and I will be happy to be the king to do it.”

“You don’t know what you are saying, your majesty,” said the Highest One. He turned to Carston. “I want Lady Maela alive if possible. You should try to spare the king, but I don’t care what happens to Lord Aimon. His family should never have been risen up as they have. His line can end with him.”

Thad pulled out his sword. “It will take more than you have here to kill me, Highest One.”

“We shall see,” said the Highest One as he turned and moved between the guards. Carlston and the others converged with the swords out.

“Mae, you should run,” said Cade as he pulled out his sword.

She wiped a bit of blood off her face. “I will not leave either of you. I can help you both.” She moved between them and placed a hand on each of their arms. Cade felt a flood of warmth cover him as Thad took a deep breath. “You will have some protection.”

She held up her hands and moved forward. Sweeping her hands down, she then lifted them up. The dry dirt before them rose into the air. She threw her hands out, and it covered the guards as they moved towards them. She moved back between Cade and Thad as the dust cloud settled over them. She held up her hand, giving off a strange light that helped Cade see the confusion before him.

A guard came close, swinging wildly. Cade blocked his sword and then plunged forward on instinct. His sword sunk into the guard’s chest. It took Cade a moment to process it as he pulled out his sword covered in blood. He had killed someone. He looked down at the guard lying on the ground before shaking his head and meeting another.

He glanced at Lord Aimon to see he had his sword in one hand and a large knife in another. He moved around, taking out one guard before stabbing another in the neck with his knife. Cade tried to keep in front of Mae as the dust cloud started to disappear. She peeked around him, throwing out some of her power to knock soldiers over or cause them to rise and slam to the ground.

After taking out a guard, Cade heard Mae make an angry noise. She pushed him aside and started walking forward. “Where are you going?” asked Cade as he threw a guard off of him.

“I see him back there. He will not get away,” said Mae. She pushed out her hands, throwing two guards aside, giving her a path.

Cade looked over to see Thad surrounded by guards. He wanted to help his friend, but he could not leave Mae on her own. He decided to take out a guard or two as he moved towards Mae when he heard a new sound. A temple guard close to him jerked forward with a sword in his chest. Cade realized his royal guard had made it over, probably attracted by the sounds. The royal guards made quick work of the temple guards surrounding Thad, and Cade hurried forward, looking for Mae.

He found her not too far ahead with her hand out. She looked angry, her hair flowing around her as if standing in a stiff wind.

“You are evil and must be purged from this kingdom,” she yelled, and some bright light flew out of her palm.

He followed it to see the Highest One standing as if he was caught in mid-run. His robes blew around him, and something around his neck started to lift up. It flew into the air, and Mae closed her first. A vial on the Highest One’s necklace shattered, and a dark liquid flew from it, landing on the ground. A stench like that of a dead animal filled the air, causing Cade to turn for a moment.

“The goddess does not like what you have done to her temple or her people,” said Mae as she moved forward. The light from her palm intensified. “She is a goddess of mercy, but for you, she has none.”

The Highest One’s eyes were filled with fear as he cried out, his hand going to his chest. “Please. I have only ever done her bidding.”

“Liar,” said Mae as she lifted off the ground a few inches. “You can speak nothing but lies and evil words. You are tainted by your lusts and desires.”

The Highest One fell to his knees as Mae floated closer to him. Cade followed her, unable to look away. It was as if she were glowing in the darkness, casting her own light. Her eyes were wide, and her expression calm. Cade looked back at the Highest one who had his head bowed, grunting as though in deep pain. It looked like he would perish at any moment before Cade turned as Mae cried out.

Her hands went down, and one lifted towards her upper back. Cade followed her movements to see a knife sticking out of the back of her left shoulder and Carston standing behind her, looking bloodied and tired. Cade ran towards her, but before he could make it, Thad appeared behind Carston. He put grabbed Carston’s hair and pulled it back before slitting his throat.

Mae fell to her knees, and Cade kneeled beside her. Thad threw away Carston’s body and grabbed the knife in Mae’s back. He waited one second before pulling it out. She cried out and fell into Cade.

“What do we do?” asked Cade frantically.

“We have to stop the bleeding,” said Thad as he yanked her cloak off her shoulders and pulled down the dirty dress he wore. He took off his own cloak and folded some of it, pressing it on Mae’s wound.

She grabbed Cade’s hand and looked up at him. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. I don’t know why, but I had to try to stop him.”

Cade looked over to where the Highest One was to see he was gone. “It doesn’t matter, Mae. It will be ok.”

She shook her head. “You will have to go without me. More guards will come in a moment.”

“I cannot leave you. We will take you to the palace and call a healer,” said Cade frantically. “We will find another way forward.”

“The Highest One will not let you live if you stay here,” she said as tears rolled down her face. “Not after this.”

“She is right,” said Thad quietly. He lifted his waded-up cloak and shook his head before mouthing the words. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” said Cade desperately. “You will be fine, Mae. You can heal others, can’t you? Heal yourself.”

“I cannot,” she said as she closed her eyes. “I wanted to be your queen, Cade. I know I said I didn’t when I came here, but it didn’t take me long to change my mind though I wouldn’t admit it.”

“You will be my queen. You are the only one who can. I love you, Mae. I have loved you as long as I have known you. I think you were made for me, though I don’t know why. You are too good, but I cannot do anything without you.”

“You will have to,” she said weakly. “If you ever meet my mother, tell her I tried. Tell her I love her. Remind her to tell my brother about me.”

“You will see them soon,” said Cade. “We are going to Adaria. I want to see it with you. Your promised you wouldn’t leave me, Mae. You cannot break your promise.”

She opened her eyes and looked at him before closing them again. Her hand started to slip from his.

“No,” he said, looking around for some kind of help. “This cannot be it.”

“Cade, I’m so sorry,” said Thad as he took his hand off her wound. “I should have watched her closer. I’m sorry. I’m-” Thad broke down, and Cade started to shake. He had never seen his friend cry.

Cade looked down at Mae to see her completely still. He put his hand on her side and felt her take shallow quick breaths. This could not be the end; it just couldn’t.

“Let me help,” said a woman’s voice close by.

Cade looked up to see Afreda staring at him. “I took that evil elixir and gained a bit of Lady Maela’s ability. I can heal using her power. I think I can help her.”

Cade nodded as Thad sat down on the ground and moved away a bit so she could get close. Afreda put her hand on the wound, the blood pouring through her fingers. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. They were all silent for a moment. The only noise was the sound of the royal guard coming closer. Cade did not lookup. He kept his eyes on Mae. Afreda slowly took her hands off of Mae’s wound. There was a red gash, but it had stopped bleeding.

Mae took a deep breath as her eyes blinked open. “Cade?” she whispered.

“Yes, I am here, Mae.” He grabbed her hand, and he felt her squeeze it.

“I am so tired,” she said quietly.

“You can rest. I will get you to safety,” He said as Afreda stood up.

“You need to leave now. The Highest One is calling all his guards.”

“Why did you help us?” asked Cade.

“I did not want to do as the Highest One bid. Your father was a good king, and the Highest One killed him. He then blamed Lady Maela and threatened me with my life and that of my sister if I did not listen to him and go along with it. I know she could not do something so vile. There is no time to say more. You should get her far away from here. The Highest One will not let her be if she is close.”

Cade stood up before bending over and picking up Mae. She sighed slightly and leaned into him. “Thank you,” he said. “You should run as well. If you make it and need anything from me, you shall have it. You have given me back my life.”

“Keep alive and keep Lady Maela safe. You two are the only hope for our kingdom and the temple, I think,” said Afreda. “Now go.”

Thad moved close to him. “Your horse is this way. The closest city gate will be guarded. You will need to leave through the west gate, going away from the golden row to Cobbleton.”

Cade nodded before following Thad towards his horse. His royal guard moved behind them, watching. They found two of his guards holding his horse. Cade passed Mae to Thad before mounting. Thad handed her up, and Cade positioned her in front of him, putting his arm around her.”

“You will leave as well?” asked Cade as he looked at Thad.

“Your guards and I will go to the stables now to mount our horses. I will ride to Glynston. As soon as I can, I will head to Calder. I hope to find you there.”

“You will,” said Cade. “Safe journey, my lord.”

“Keep her safe, your majesty, yourself as well,” said Thad.

Cade nodded before urging his horse forward. He moved through the city, passing through the golden row to the more simple area of Cobbleton. From there, he turned left and went to the west gate. The two guards there didn’t even question him. They opened the gate and closed it behind him. Cade let his horse run as fast as he dared as he held on to Mae. As they flew over the fields of Bevins, he did not look back. His only thought was how relieved he was to feel Mae’s warmth against him.

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