SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 68 / a knight in arms
Posted March 7th, 2018 by Garrett
in the chaos of my mind that i'm just too lazy to organize
sorry it's been like a month OOPS didn't mean for that to happen. the thing is when i start reading certain books i want to write a lot. but i haven't been reading many books, especially not many fantasy books that will inspire me to write my long ass fantasy book, ergo not much writing has been getting done. that being said i just started reading lord of shadows again, because i never finished it and i want to be prepared when queen of air and darkness releases in december. and apparently cassandra clare's writing inspires me to write, because i wrote about half of this chapter in a thirty minute time period about ten minutes ago, so yay! maybe i'll write a couple more chapters before next month. or maybe not. anyway this is the longest a/n ever because i'm just rambling at this point so sorry let's get on with the story lmao.
updated word count: 174,655
gestimated chapters remaining: 25?
| 68 |
A Knight in Arms
“How do you know him, again?” Lianna asked, leaning forward in the royal throne.
Ciara, a few feet away at her side, said once more, “We knew each other a couple of months ago. He helped me when I needed it.”
“And your name?” Lianna narrowed her eyes at the man.
He opened his mouth, but Ciara interrupted.
“Devdan,” she said.
“And yours is Ciara,” he said back.
Lianna turned to Ciara. “You trust him?”
Ciara nodded, her heart still racing and her mind buzzing as she tried to think of Devdan’s story—how he ended up here so long after everything the Savages attacked Sudbury. And why he had Ezekiel’s little girl clinging to his arm, halfway peeking around him.
“Who is she?” Lianna raised an eyebrow.
“I was her father’s best friend,” Devdan put a hand on Mila’s head. “We’re staying together.”
“I wouldn’t try to separate you two.”
“I just have one question.” Lianna sat back in the throne and crossed her arms. “Why are you here? Why request my time to meet face-to-face?”
“I want to contribute my services.”
Devdan dropped to one knee and planted his rusty sword in front of him. “I swear to pledge my life to serve and protect my Lady Ciara.”
Lianna raised her eyebrows. “Fighting is on the horizon. Would you be willing to risk your life for hers? Even if it meant leaving this little one behind?”
“I swear my life to protect her,” he said.
“Who?” Ciara asked.
“Sorry?” He said.
Ciara stepped off the raised dais so they were on the same level. Her stomach was obviously swollen beneath the thin layers of her dress. She imagined she looked entirely different from the dirty slave girl he’d saved in Sudbury.
“You swear your life to protect who?”
Devdan locked eyes with her. “You. And Mila.”
“And if you die protecting one of us then you have failed protecting the other.”
Bold determination shone in his dark eyes. “I will do everything in my power to protect you both.”
Ciara tightened her lips to suppress a smile. “Then, once again, I name you Sir Devdan, sworn to protect both myself and little Mila until the last of your blood has spilled.”
He looked down and grinned.
Devdan stood, towering above her by several feet. Once a knight serving King Leon Hadar. Now a knight serving a servant, a slave, and a Lady.
“Let’s go and talk. We have a lot to catch up on.” Ciara held out her arm and wrapped it through his, leading him away. Mila followed on his left side, soaking in the enormity of the castle with wide, curious eyes.
The garden was encased in ice and snow. Nevertheless, that’s where Ciara took him. Amazed with every step that she walked beside Devdan, the man she’d passed randomly so long ago in the Berean castle. The man who had helped her sort through her thoughts and defy Phillip in Sudbury. He had never been anything but good to her. But he was a man. And he had served Leon Hadar.
So somewhere deep within him, Ciara knew there was darkness. Just as there was in her.
She led them to the gazebo, but it seemed it already had an occupant.
Eileen waved and smiled, her hair wet from the snow and an open book on her lap.
Devdan reached for his sword and reached out to pull Mila behind him, but the little girl had already moved. She was halfway up the path, stepping into the gazebo, speaking to Eileen.
“She’s the Blue-Eyed Witch,” Devdan said.
“Her name is Eileen Hadar,” Ciara corrected him, following Mila into the gazebo.
Eileen had just finished saying, “Mila? That’s pretty.”
“We haven’t met,” Devdan said, bowing his head in a practiced manner. “Your grace.”
“Cut the shit,” she said. “You just about drew your sword when you saw me. I’m not a queen to you.”
“My apologies,” Devdan straightened up. “So what should I call you, then?”
“My name is Eileen.”
“Then I shall call you Eileen.”
“That is a popular custom.”
Eileen asked, “And who are you?”
“Oh,” Eileen’s smile twitched. “I didn’t take you for a knight.”
Ciara looked at Devdan’s filthy shirt and pants, his leather boots almost worn down past the sole. He didn’t even have a sheath—his joke of a sword protruded beneath his belt.
“Devdan’s just finished a long journey,” Ciara explained.
“I remember when Finn brought you back here,” Eileen said. “You looked similar. But bloodier.”
“Bloodier?” Devdan stammered.
Eileen stood, buttoning her coat. “It seems you two have a lot of catching up to. How about, after a long bath,” she eyeballed Devdan, “we go into town and get something to eat.”
“Into town?” Devdan asked. “Have you seen this place?”
“We?” Ciara asked.
Eileen smiled, “There are still plenty of fine establishments and yes, we are going because I’m going to keep an eye on little Mila.” She patted the girl’s head. “Now go bathe, please.”
Devdan stared at himself in the mirror. He was red and soft. While scrubbing all of the dirt and grime off his body, he’d uncovered several unknown cuts and bruises. Some he knew would leave scars. That was fine. Enough already that no one would notice the difference if he added a couple more.
The water had coiled his hair into loose curls, different from the scrunched up little ones he used to have. And the soap suds snaking through his beard itched, so that he was constantly reminded of having that extra hair on his face.
The razor was already in his hand before he could have any second-guesses.
Five minutes later, his cheeks and jaw were clean-shaven.
Later, he might snip the curls drifting over his forehead and spiraling around his ears.
Eileen’s stomach turned over and over as she led the group through Acantha’s streets. Her mare rocked her side to side in a gentle sway as she rode, almost lulling her into a trance. One she only avoided by the nervousness eating up her insides. She had lied to Devdan. She didn’t know if there were any fine establishments to eat at. It had been weeks since she’d been outside of the castle grounds.
But now that she was out, she was glad. Without realizing it, she’d felt like a prisoner inside the Wind Keep. Now she felt like she had soon after they’d arrived. Riding through the streets, speaking to the peasants lining the streets. There were less of them now. Many of the main streets were ghostly, completely empty except for a couple rowdy taverns and brothels.
Eileen bundled her hands in her coat pockets, squeezing them shut against the nipping chill. Slushy, brown snow lined the wide cobble streets, and frozen puddles reflected the dull gray sky.
“Where’s the place we’re going?” Devdan asked. Eileen turned her head. She couldn’t see Mila, the little girl, from behind Devdan. Though she could see her arms wrapped around his abdomen. And Devdan looked finer than had head before, in nice leather armor and a new, steel sword sheathed at his back.
Eileen heard an increased frequency of the clopping of hooves, and then Ciara’s mare was cantering beside her.
“Do you know where you’re going?” She asked, keeping her voice low.
“Yes,” Eileen said. She wasn’t sure how convincing her lie was.
“Try again,” Ciara jabbed, as if she could see through Eileen’s words.
“Of course not,” Eileen said. “This city is so…”
“Yes,” Eileen agreed. “Empty.”
“And to think I once lived here,” Ciara said.
Eileen cocked her head. “Have you revisited your house? Maybe your family hasn’t left yet—”
“No,” Ciara said. Cold. Hard. “No. I’m never going back.”
Eileen left it, deciding it was best not to pry anymore. She wouldn’t feel completely comfortable sharing everything about Rosalyn’s death. The foolish journey it spurred. An old Witch’s fool’s dream for her life, to be Queen of Mohana and Queen of the Witches. To rule them all.
Now who sat atop the throne, ruling all Witchfolk?
Eileen’s old friend.
They spotted an inn and decided to stop there, tying up their horses.
“It’ll be a miracle if they’re not stolen,” Devdan said as they walked in.
It was hot and stuffy inside, a giant fire roaring in the hearth on the far wall. Tables were set throughout the first floor, a narrow staircase ascending to an upper level. A tall woman stood behind the bar, wiping it down.
Eileen strolled up to her, every movement the woman made reminding her of Guy.
Days spent talking to Guy as he cleaned glasses and plates and wiped down the counter.
“We’d like a table,” Eileen said.
The woman looked up, her age showing more clearly on her face. “Take your pick.”
The entire inn was empty, except for maybe a rat or two.
Eileen found a big circle booth and sat down.
Devdan hesitated before climbing in, laying his sword across the seat behind him.
The innkeeper asked them for their orders, and each person went around saying what they’d like to eat or drink. Devdan spoke for Mila, saying that she wanted the rabbit stew and asked if they had cider.
“We sure do,” she said.
“Get us both a cup of that,” he said.
“That’ll do. It’ll be right out.” She walked back into the kitchens.
The group was silent for a moment, and then Devdan asked, “So how did you end up a guest of Acantha’s royal family?”
Ciara spoke up, telling her and Brana’s story from the very beginning. Eileen sat forward on the edge of her seat.
She’d left her family years before to work as a servant for King Leon Hadar. Then, she left on vacation to see her family in Acantha. She grazed the details, but Eileen had heard about the first attack on Acantha. The bloodbath that left a jagged scar in the once magnificent city.
Ciara briefly mentioned a Savage named Phillip, being sold into slavery, and then escaping and living in the wilderness for weeks. Until she met Devdan and the other people who had lived in a little town a few miles from the canyons called Sudbury. Eileen listened to the way she described Sudbury’s little wooden houses and warm fires and steaming cider, and it made her chest ache for a cozy place to call home.
Ciara’s eyes darkened as her story grew with shadows, as she spoke of the Savages who had attacked Sudbury and killed so many of hers and Devdan’s friends there. Leaving Phillip in the jail. Almost freezing to death with Brana as they walked aimlessly over endless hills of snow. Until King Ejiri and Finn found them. Ciara had just killed a Savage, and she was covered in steaming scarlet, when the two men saw her.
What a sight, Eileen thought.
“What about you?” Ciara asked.
Devdan cleared his throat. “After Sudbury, I traveled south with Mila. Ezekiel entrusted her with me.” He tightened his arm around the little girl and she smiled, though sadness filled her eyes at the mention of her father. “I went to my home city, Tarrinport. There I ran into Lucus and Michael. However, they are still interested in fighting the Savages and my only goal is to keep Mila safe.”
“So you came to Acantha?” Eileen asked.
“What better place to keep someone safe than behind the Wind Keep’s thick stone walls?”
Ciara was forcing back a frown, keeping her expression neutral. “Devdan, I’m sorry but you came to the wrong place. Acantha is not what it used to be. The king and his family aren’t even here. A couple weeks ago, the queen was murdered. In her bedroom. By her own handmaiden—”
“I know,” Devdan said. “But you two are still alive.”
“If you want to leave,” Ciara started, but Devdan beheaded her words.
“No,” he said. “I have sworn an oath to you. So I will do everything in my power to keep you and Mila both safe.”
Ciara chewed on the inside of her lip but nodded.
Eileen twisted a lock of her dark hair, curling it around her finger. The tavern was eerily silent, only the groaning gusts of wind still audible.
The innkeeper gave them their food and cider, trails of steam curling and twisting in the air.
Only the sound of chewing and swallowing filled the gap in their conversation for a good few minutes, until everyone had eaten their fill and absently swirled the broth that remained in their bowls, or sipped from their mugs simply for the pleasure of something hot down their throat.
“So you fought against the Savages?” Eileen asked him.
“Yes,” he said, cracking a slice of bread in two and soaking one end in his yellow broth.
“What was it like? Their camps? The canyons?”
She knew she sounded curious, but she truly just wanted to know because she needed to know what Castor was enduring. What he and the other boys, and Brana, woke up to and were forced to face every day. To fight every day. How did four people expect to beat such an unstoppable wave of fear and destruction?
Devdan swallowed and hesitated, crafting the rights words in his head.
Finally, he said, “Imagine the worst possible things you can.”
Rosalyn’s head flying off her body in a spray of blood wide enough to paint a canvas red.
“Okay,” Eileen said, chills erupting on her arms.
“It’s like that, but worse. Because every single one of them is like that. It’s like that times one hundred thousand.”
Eileen looked down at her lap, at her twiddling thumbs, thinking that it would have been better to not know what Castor was facing while she sat eating a hot meal. Why wasn’t she the one out there fighting? Castor had barely a couple months of swordplay practice. Eileen had been training her entire life. With water and with more mundane weapons.
Her stomach twisted into knots when she imagined his body somewhere, broken and lifeless, at the bottom of the canyon. Beside Finn’s and Jack’s and Brana’s. What if they never returned? What if Eileen lived out the rest of her days in Acantha, until she sagged and wrinkled and had white hair, wondering if they were ever going to return.
Something small and warm grazed her hand. Eileen flinched and followed the hand to an arm and then to the person.
“Castor is going to be okay,” Ciara said, her voice as calm as gently rolling waves. “Finn will be okay. Jack will be okay. They are all going to be okay.”
Eileen tightened her grip on the other girl’s hand until they were a continuum of warmth and support. “Brana is going to be okay, too.”
Somewhere high above, the gods were laughing.
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