Yaay! It's the last chapter!
Sorry for the long wait. School kinda got in the way for a while :/ But it's here!
INSTALLMENT #22: Freedom
I drew myself out of my sleep slowly, reluctantly letting go of my dreams. They had been very pleasant, and the prospect of losing them was daunting. But then I smiled as my eyes landed on the object of those dreams, standing over the campfire, cooking breakfast.
"Good morning," I yawned out, sitting up to stretch.
"Good morning, my sweet." Luce responded as he pulled something off the fire and smiled at me. It was a beautiful smile, open and bright and happy as his smiles had never been before. He piled my food on a plate a leaned over to set it down next to me, his unbound hair loose about his face. I reached up quickly and grabbed his shirt to stop him from straightening, pulling him close enough to me that I could kiss him.
God, it was good to be able to kiss him. Whenever I wanted, for however long I felt like, I could just kiss him.
He evidently agreed because he responded by leaned even closer to press his lips more firmly to mine. He leaned so far, in fact, that I realized he was balanced precariously on one foot. I felt my mouth curve up mischievously. He started to pull away, obviously tipped off by my grin, but my other hand reached up faster than he could move and tugged lightly on his shoulder, forcing him to sit rather abruptly next to me. The sudden movement broke our contact, and I smirked at the indignant look on his face.
"What? You're much easier to kiss this way," I said by way of explanation. I could tell he was trying to frown, to instill some sense of caution in me, but his eyes were still smiling at me.
"Now, Tera, you have to eat. Come on, we have to get moving soon." He said quietly, reaching for my plate.
I felt my grin turn slightly delirious-I was more than a little high on love and the adrenaline from running away-and I impulsively moved forward to sit on his lap. Luce, naturally, started and tried to object, but I pulled his face to mine, effectively silencing any argument. After a moment he wrapped his arms around me and held me close.
"Hmm...you know, I've been wondering how come you're such a good kisser," I commented as he broke off. He smirked at me and resettled his arms.
"It's because I'm kissing you," he murmured. I was so warmed by this that I leaned forward to capture his lips again, but a distant rumbling stopped me. I jumped to my feet instantly, and let Luce use me to lever himself to his feet as well.
"What is that?" I whispered.
"Horses. A lot of them." Luce said, his gaze distant as he listened. His eyes abruptly snapped back to me. "They probably discovered our disappearance. We need to move, Tera." I nodded silently in agreement and started packing up the camp. Within moments, we were done. We swung astride our horses and took off. I wanted to laugh with sheer joy as we rode, but I kept it back. Now was neither the time nor the place.
Because right now, we were riding for our lives.
INSTALLMENT #23: Family
I don't know how long we lived that way. Running from guards, bounty hunters, men sent to retrieve the 'Kidnapped Princess' and apprehend us. We lived where we could and how we could, and it was hard.
But those were some of the best times of my life.
And I don't regret a thing.
I looked up from my place with a book by a crackling fire, my bad leg extended out on a footstool. Terania Durinskyle was standing in the doorway with something balanced on her hip out of view, and I smiled softly.
"Yes Love?" I asked, and she came around the corner before dumping the something she had been balancing on her hip into my lap. I caught the squealing child as she tumbled into my arms, and a smile graced my face.
"How is my little princess?" I asked, and the two year old grinned at me before popping her thumb into her mouth and snuggling against my chest. I stroked her chocolate curls as her big blue eyes began to close, smiling softly.
"Where are the boys, darling?" I asked, and Tera pushed a loose curl back behind her ear as she sat down in the rocking chair across from me. She seemed tired, but not as tired as she had been in the past.
"Outside. They should be in soon. Dinner's almost ready." She said, and I picked up my weathered black cane with its silver moon handle and stood up, cradling little Cecily against me. I leaned over and kissed my wife warmly, stroking that stray curl back again.
"I'll fetch them." I said, and toted my youngest daughter to the door as I opened it. Our little cottage faced a wide meadow with a creek running through it, surrounded by forest. Four boys were roughing about in the tall grass, and I whistled sharply to get their attention. It startled little Cecily out of sleep, but she would have been woken soon enough by the wild group of boys that rushed to the door. I let them pass one at a time-thirteen year old Lucien with sandy hair and blue eyes, ten year old twins Brad and Dalten with their mother's green eyes hidden by wild sandy curls, and eight year old Traen with his soft chocolate curls and deep emerald eyes. The rowdy bunch settled down a bit as we corralled them to the dinner table, and small talk of the boys' days in the village dominated conversation.
"Do you know what I heard today?" Lucien asked, and Tera and I turned to our eldest child. "I heard that the King of Rolm died. And now the whole country is panicking because they aren't sure who is supposed to take the throne."
I saw Tera's face turn pained, and I put a hand on my son's shoulder. "Where did you hear this, Lucien?" I asked, and he turned blue eyes the same shade as mine on me.
"From Master Toly. He knows lots of what goes on in other countries." He said, and I decided the information was probably accurate. Lucien's master was an accomplished and well-traveled apothecary with connections in other countries.
"Isn't there a prince?" Brad piped up, and I saw Tera glance at Lucien-he was technically the heir to the Nyrian throne, although he had no way of knowing that.
"Well...I think there used to be a princess, but she got kidnapped or something." Lucien said, and my face tightened.
"I think Kidnapped is a little over-dramatic..." Tera muttered, but then Cecily squealed as Traen started tickling her feet, and soon all thought of Rolm and royalty had been wiped from their minds. But Tera and I exchanged a knowing glance.
"I didn't know he was ill. I feel so ashamed."
Tera and I were sitting by the fireplace, me in my large comfortable chair and her curled into my chest in a way she hadn't for many years. "You haven't done anything wrong, Dearest." I promised, and she sighed, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
"He was my father, Luce. I'm allowed to grieve."
I fell silent, agreeing with her. We sat gazing at the flames for a good while before she sighed again. "And Lucien...he's the heir to the throne, Luce. He's a smart boy, he could do wonders for the kingdom if he had been born in the palace." She said, and I frowned.
"You sound wistful, my lady." I murmured gently, and she swatted my hand as I used an old title.
"I'm perfectly content here, you know that. I do wish for the country's sake that there was an eligible heir, but Lucien doesn't even know that I'm the missing Princess." She said, and I twisted one of her curls around my finger absently.
"Not to mention that everyone thinks I kidnapped you." I said nonchalantly, and she giggled and kissed my cheek.
"We knew the risks. But do you think we should tell him?" She asked, and I sighed thoughtfully.
"He's still very young. Perhaps when he gets a bit older we will tell him who he really is."
(For Now ;) )