Runaway Wife Romance Part 4

runaway wife romance

If you missed them, here are Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of this short story romance.

Countryside and Docks: Devrim

I still didn’t know what to think. My romance had ended before it began, and my wife disappeared without a trace. Although I had harbored worries that her family had taken her from me, their attitudes convinced me they shared my ignorance of her disappearance. 
“What if bandits took her into the wilderness?” Jennifer’s mother wailed into my shoulder. “We may never find her broken body!”
I patted her back awkwardly. A week after the wedding, we still stayed at the estate as our base of operations. I would hate to continue renting, but Franklin Fronth was a Lord and had seemingly unlimited resources. Which made his refusal to pay the dowry all the more infuriating. Of the family, only he might have had the motivation to take her away, but it seemed a trivial reason to do so. In fact, I’m sure he suspects me of foul play, so that I could have the dowry and then marry the mistress I’m sure he’s heard about. 
The sun shone down on us. The darkness inside the building was just too oppressing. 
“Devrim!” someone yelled out from across the yard, so I looked up. I saw Rene Fronth, Jennifer’s brother. He dressed with a feathered cap and colorful short cape, which made my own clothing seem drab in comparison. He beckoned me over, so I disengaged from his mother and ran over.
“Any word?” I asked when I reached him.
“No, no news. But I was talking to a friend and he mentioned that he had some goods imported from Felaronia coming in today and it got me thinking. What if, for whatever possible reason, she took a ship to Felaronia? I asked what day that ship would have gone to Octgard and he told me it was the day after the wedding. It’s not a real lead, but I think it is worth investigating, as we don’t have anything else to go on.”
I almost laughed out loud. Why in the world would shy Jennifer run off to Felaronia? It made no sense. Rene was looking in all the wrong places. I was about to reject his offer, but thought that it might instill resentment. In truth, I had nothing better to do and didn’t want his mother clinging to me. “Should we go down to the docks?” I asked, humoring him. 
Rene gave a nervous smile, unsure whether I approved or not. Let him guess.
We made our way over to the docks, a trip that took some time while winding our way through crowded, stinking streets. That’s why I hated Capital Mith. The ever present sun shining in my window of the carriage burned my skin in spite of the flimsy curtain I used to block it. My eye began to twitch and my mouth felt dry.
I didn’t feel like talking much during the ride. My thoughts wandered to Jennifer. Would I ever see her again? Was someone holding her captive? Was she waiting for me to come rescue her? What if she had been defiled? Then what would I do? So many scenarios floated through my mind, but none of them allowed the possibility that she was out of my reach forever.
I put on my hat when we stepped out of the carriage and onto the docks. Boats of all sizes filled the coast. I didn’t come from a coastal city, so I admit I didn’t know the difference between any of them, but Rene seemed to know where to go, so I followed him. The waves made a constant swooshing sound so annoying that I had to keep from shouting out in frustration.
He chose a large ship, random in my mind, and walked up the planks onto the ship. I followed him up but nearly toppled over when the ship shifted. Even on the deck, I felt a little dizzy. In the corner of my eye, I saw some people sniggering, but when I faced them, they looked away innocently. 
Rene found the captain, a wrinkled man who looked tired of life, and then started talking. I stayed back, observing. “Captain James, I have a few questions for you.”
“If you’re mad at me for taking away your wife, girlfriend, or sister, that’s not my problem. These women are adults and can make their own decisions. Several come back on their own accord.”
Never mind my first analysis. This man was just tired of answering the same question over and over again, always on the defensive. “Come, Rene, this is a waste of time.” I placed my hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off and continued talking to the captain.
“We just want to know if someone was on your most recent trip to Felaronia.”
“I don’t take names. Just coins. Easier for everyone that way.”
Rene looked flustered so I spoke up. “Jennifer Fronth. She’s tall, blond.” I wracked my mind for other descriptions of her, but failed to come up with anything. 
“She might have come with her friend, Mia, who’s shorter, darker hair, plump,” Rene added.
Captain James stood in a thoughtful pose, unfocused eyes looking back in time. “Yes, I think I might remember the pair. Didn’t talk too much with the other guests. Just kept to themselves.”
Because she was shy? But no, this couldn’t be them. Jennifer would never leave me to go to Felaronia, would she? 
“It must be them! Jenny’s safe!” Rene told me excitedly. He turned to the captain. “You did get there without any casualties, right?”
The captain rolled his eyes. “Of course, young lordling. So if you don’t mind, I have some work to get done.”
“I’m staying here,” I announced. 
“What?” both men asked me.
“Take me to Felaronia. I must find her and bring her back. I’ll wait here until the ship sets sail.”
“Are you sure?” Rene asked. “If she went to Felaronia, it was of her own will, and she won’t want to come back.”
“No, that can’t be it. Why would she flee from me if she doesn’t even know me? She wouldn’t reject a romance that hasn’t even started. Something else must be going on.” I wiped sweat from my forehead. The sun was turning my face red. 
The captain grinned. “Well, I would advise against this, but I can’t wait to see your face when you get back on my ship.”
I sneered. Who was he to judge me? I took out my purse and grabbed a few coins. “Just get me to Felaronia.”
Rene looked at me. “Are you sure about this?”
“Yes!” I snapped, because I knew I would get my romance back. He shook his head and started walking away.
The next day I set sail.

Runaway Wife Romance Part 3

runaway wife romance
If you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this short story romance.

Felaronia: Jennifer

“We’re here!” I yelled behind Mia’s back. She actually jumped a few inches into the air, threatening to tumble off the starboard side of our elegant ship. The sails whipped back and forth so that, combined with the waves, muted all sound. I was proud of myself for managing that to overcome that and still scare Mia.
“Jenny!” she whined. “I can see we’re here.”
“Well, let’s go!”
Felaronia’s port town of Octgard greeted us with colorful banners flapping to the screaming wind. The wetlands made it hard to create a permanent settlement along this part of the coast, so most of Felaronia was inland along the River Nesco. But Octgard held out strong and looked beautiful to me right now. Wooden buildings with a variety of designs, colors, and textures were visible from the docks where we had landed. One in particular caught my eye, a tower that gently curved from wide to narrow as it went up, reminding me a little of a woman’s form. Surrounding buildings didn’t compete with it, but accented its beauty like it had all been planned out beforehand. Nothing like the haphazard stone walls back home.
We got off the ship, filing onto the wooden roads of the docks. I felt a little uneasy, as the ground didn’t wobble as much as I had gotten used to in the last few days. It seemed there were two groups, divided almost by gender. The first were the merchants, mostly men who came on business and knew what they wanted, wasting no time as they went toward the city. The second group consisted of women like us, the immigrants, fleeing the effects of misogyny, false romance, and general injustice. We didn’t know where to go and still marveled at the sight of the mythical city. Sure, there were female merchants and male immigrants, but they were minorities. 
As the most noble among our group, I felt it my responsibility to lead them to the shore. So I told them to follow me and mimicked the merchants even as I followed them. Mia caught up to me, looking worried. At first, few wanted to venture out, but the submission that had been beaten into them for so long won out and they lined up behind me. We marched to shore, leaving the vessel of our deliverance behind as we faced our new lives. 
A trio of older women greeted us at the end of the docks. One wore her black hair in a bun, another let her long curly hair loose, and another had her gray hair cut short. All three wore robes, black, purple, and white. They folded their arms with amused looks on their faces. 
The one with the short hair spoke first. “Welcome to Felaronia. My name is Saphira. This is a place where you find what was lacking in your homelands: value and respect. But to obtain that, you must be willing to work hard for the good of everyone. This is not for the weak, lazy, or spoiled.” Did she cast her eyes on me? “We don’t enslave the men like they enslaved us. They are, however, subservient to us out of necessity. There are those whose ambitions would overthrow our society. If you find any, report them to us and they will be escorted to a country more to their liking.”
The one in purple spoke next. “I am Ynette. We realize that many of you are coming from situations of abuse and at the risk of your own lives. Because of this, you will all be assigned a mentor to help you gradually understand our culture, our laws, and our jobs. Any questions you have, you can ask her.
“If you want to pursue a career, but don’t have the skill, we can set you on the path of education. Also, do not despair because of lack of money. You will live first in the commons houses until your mentor transitions you to a full citizen. Like Saphira said, there is little tolerance for women who will not work.” Again, the look at me. Did they think I was just some foolish damsel? “Some of you might have even had easier lives in your homeland. But hard work will allow you to feel like part of our community. Come along and we’ll give you a tour of your new home.”
Mia clapped. “Isn’t this exciting?”
My mood had dropped a bit, but I still mustered up enthusiasm. I would prove these women wrong. Wiping the hair from my face, blown there by the wind, I nodded. 
This had to be better than a forced romance or marriage, after all.

Runaway Wife Romance Part 2

runaway wife romance


Read part 1 here

“Jennifer, you ready for me?” I asked as I pushed open the doors to the honeymoon chamber. Let the romance begin.
I had waited for this moment ever since the betrothal became official. She was a beautiful girl, with long blonde hair, a round face, big eyes, and a great figure. While other men might see her height as off-putting, not me. Our eyes could meet straight on, although for some reason she decided high heels at our wedding, elevating her above me. She might have intimidated me if not for her shyness. Avoiding our kiss in public? Fear of talking to me? How cute. I couldn’t wait to explore her mind and her body, having her open up to me and me only. We would create a true romance.
“Jennifer?” I asked again, stepping into the room. A servant had lit the fireplace and the air smelled of flowers, incense, and a little ash. The flames, even from the other side of the room, washed over me with waves of warmth. The bed was across from the fire with a canopy of transparent red drapery and silky white sheets. A side room had a bath filled with bubbling water. The view from the window pointed away from the ugly capital and toward the forested mountains, where the sun crested the peaks. Even the rugs on the floor made me want to fling off my boots and let them tickle my toes.
I imagined my bride hiding in a corner, thinking herself not pretty enough, but the look on her face changing when she saw me marveling at her. I was truly lucky to have her as mine. Well, lucky and willing to take advantage of the major debt the Fronths owed my deceased father.
Now, where was she? I walked over to the bed but didn’t see anyone on it. She wasn’t on the other side, either. Under? I took a peek, feeling silly. No, not there. No one in the bathroom, either. I went to the window, but she wasn’t on the balcony. I didn’t know where else she could be.
“Is she still getting ready?” I asked myself. How long could that take? She left the dinner an hour ago.
Starting to get worried, I left the room and started looking through others, throwing open doors and shouting her name. I even found a few people in compromising positions, affected by the wine. But I didn’t care. I was the one who was supposed to be in a compromising position right now.
Should I worry? Should I be angry? I didn’t know what to think. Going back to the banquet hall, I found her father, Franklin Fronth Sr. Sitting down at the empty table with him, I asked, “Where is your daughter?”
“She’s not with you?” the older man asked. “She must be with her maid.”
“Well, help me find her!” I said, raising my voice. When people started looking at us, I lowered it again. What would they think of me if they knew I lost my wife on our first day of marriage? “Can you get some people to look for her? I don’t know where else to look. But keep it discreet.”
Try as I might, the news ended up leaking as search party after the search party was formed. If Jennifer was in the estate, she hid as well as a ghost. And unless she was violently abducted, of which there was no evidence, it became clear she had abandoned me completely.
I slept alone on the silky bed meant for two.

Runaway Wife Romance

runaway wife romance

Romance Book in Sage Eyes

Runaway wife romance

Not too long ago, I had the idea for a romance within the Sage Eyes universe. It will be a short story, but I feel like it could be fun to write, to keep up the creativity. I will be publishing it incrementally through this blog and Wattpad, and maybe give it away as an eBook once it’s completed, so come back and check for updates.

It is Jenny’s wedding day, but she doesn’t know the man she will marry. So on her wedding day, when she realizes she doesn’t want to live that kind of life, she decides to run away to Felaronia, a nation where the women are in control. 

Devrim, her newlywed husband, finds out about this and chooses to take back his wife himself. But his plan might not be as simple as he assumes. 

You can also check out other short stories here.

Runaway Wife Part 1

“Jennifer Fronth, Do you take Devrim Longstin as your husband and promise to remain faithful to him as long as you both live?”
I looked down at my husband-to-be, his unruly auburn hair just asking for me to lick my thumb and press it down. If I actually knew this man, I might have done just that, but this was the first time I had seen him up close. Even here, in the judgment hall, the lighting didn’t do anyone justice. How did I look to him?
My eyes flicked over to father, standing behind the judge with a grave smile on his face. How could he stand there, selling me short by giving me away to this young baron? As lord of House Filmore, he could have bargained me away to just about any bachelor in the realm. So why did he settle for this no-name? 
Mother at least wore some emotion on her face. Her red eyes spoke of tears of knowing this would be the last time we saw each other for possibly years. She knew what I would go through, although she married up, unlike me. 
My brothers Franklin and Rene didn’t even pay attention to my predicament, making eyes with girls in the audience. Older than me, they were still immature fools. But father wouldn’t compromise their status with low marriages. No, that punishment he reserved for his only daughter. 
In fact, they were eligible candidates for Princess Tiffany Blade, not that she seemed in any hurry to marry. But whoever she did marry would become heir to the kingdom. One of my brothers could become king, while I was being demoted to baroness. 
“Ahem,” Judge Corvin said, his eyes boring into me. I sighed. I would satisfy my father. If I tried to run now, he probably had a cohort of servants ready to drag me back and force me to say yes.
Feeling a pit in my stomach, I said, “I do.”  
Devrim gave a wry smile. What did that even mean? What thoughts, if any, swirled around in the head of this man I was tied to for the rest of my life? 
“You may now kiss the bride,” the judge said, scribbling something in that book of his. This was not how I pictured my wedding. 
Devrim took a step closer and angled his head upward, coming in for contact, his eyes closing. I turned my head away at the last moment so his wet lips got my cheek. His eyes flew open and he backed away, cheeks turning red. Father shook his head and sighed. He did that a lot around me. 
People in the audience looked around at each other, no one wanting to acknowledge what they saw. One by one, people started clapping, but it sounded more like the pitter patter of rain than the boom of thunder.
I molded my face into a passionless smile and waved to the crowd. My handmaid Mia, sitting on the front row, caught my eye and gave me a knowing look. At least she would be going with me to my new home. 
When together, people thought us the odd pair. A friendship of contrasts. Mia kept her dark hair short, cut just below the ears, while I had flowing golden locks. She a little plump, me a little skinny. She was short, I was tall. Taller than my groom, actually, and accented by the fact that I wore high heels. It’s not my fault no one told me he was half dwarf.
The wedding took place in the capital, neutral ground between our two territories, if you will. My father had rented an estate just outside of the city limits for the wedding party and then for Devrim and me to stay a few days before the move. We rode in a carriage to the estate, me staring out the window at the city passing me by. 
The celebration passed by without incident. My father provided a modest feast to acknowledge the first marriage of his children. Devrim chatted with him more than me. Maybe my refusal to hold his hand gave him the impression I didn’t want to talk. 
I dreaded having it end, since I would end up alone with him, giving my body to a man I had barely met. I got more nervous as time passed and at one point started drinking liberally of the wine provided.
Mia had to place a hand on my shoulder to get me to stop. Without words, I placed the glass down on the table. 
“We should get you changed before your big night, Jenny,” she said with forced enthusiasm, eying my white gown. 
I just slumped down.
“Come on,” Mia said, tugging me up. With a sigh, I stumbled up. All my training as a lady, how to walk in heels, how to hold myself with poise, how to breathe wearing a corset, it had all abandoned me with the wine. 
She took me to a room lined with velvet and sat me in front of a mirror after easing me out of my dress. Mother had given it to me years ago. I had loved it then, taking it out of my closet and admiring it, dreaming of the day I would be able to wear it. Well, that day had come and now I just wanted to scrub it off of me like dirt in a bath. 
I didn’t even notice the tears until Mia wiped my face. “Oh, it’s not that bad. You’ll be fine. And if worse comes to worse, you could always run off to Felaronia.” She chuckled.
My eyes snapped open. Maybe if I weren’t drunk I wouldn’t have taken the idea seriously. I shouldn’t have, just like Mia didn’t. But in that moment, fleeing to a land controlled by women seemed like my only hope. Still, I wasn’t so far gone that I gave Mia reason to suspect my inner machinations. Yet.
“You’ve been listening to the rumors,” I said. “What have you heard about him? You know, the juicy details.”
“Oh, you don’t want to know all the bad stuff. I’m sure he’s a great guy.”
“Tell me!” My hands flailed at her face.
Mia stepped back, unscathed but afraid. “The only bad thing I’ve heard is that he has a mistress. And if you think about it, that might not be so bad. If you’re not in the mood, he can always–”
“Let him keep his mistress,” I crowed. Now was time to reveal my master plan, the one I had been cooking up for all of two minutes in my head. “We’re going to Felaronia!”
“What?” Mia shrieked. “Are you crazy?”
“I have all my belongings packed. I have enough money to get me there. You were going to move with me, so we’re just changing the destination.”
“But the wedding, and your family, and…” Mia sputtered off. “You should have done this before getting married, you know.”
“Well, you should have suggested it before. Besides, does it count if it’s not consummated?”
Mia made a face. “I…I’m not even sure I want to know.”
I took her hand and forced her to look me in the eye. “Enough with the men controlling us. We’re going to make our own destiny.”
We both ended up giggling, holding back screams. Mia moved her eyes from one side to another. “Let’s do it!” she whispered mischievously. 
And so we grabbed our bags, hauled ourselves outside, and hailed a carriage to the docks of Capital Mith, just as the sun was beginning to set on this chapter of my life.
Tomorrow would begin a new one. 

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill

Jill entered the tall apartment building. It had been around for decades, without much updating to it. She had to go up three floors to get to her place. Her high heels hit the concrete floor as she entered, echoes announcing her presence. The groceries in her hands felt heavy enough to burst through the sacks. Perhaps it had been a mistake to visit the salon before buying food, because she always had to look her best when getting her manicure, but the combination of high heels and heavy groceries made her wonder if she would get blisters on her feet. After all, the nearest bus stop was three blocks from her place, and with the car in the shop, it was the only means of transportation she had left. She didn’t think it should have been all that unusual to bring groceries with her on the bus, but that day everyone must have agreed to make her look like a fool.

On the way home she had stopped three times after getting off the bus to set down the bags and examine her hands. One of the nails broke during the trip home, and there were creases where the plastic had bit into her hands. One time, a dog had come over, sniffing her food, and she had to clumsily chase it away without tripping. Her husband always told her to wear shoes with wider heels, but she thought they looked ugly. If only he had stayed home today like he had said he would. Then he could have gone shopping, or taken care of the baby.

Jack was a great husband and she knew she should not complain, but he sometimes acted strange around the neighbors, as if he did not trust them. One time he told her he thought the woman above them had drilled a hole through their ceiling and was spying on them. Most of the time, his theories were so funny, she had to stop herself from laughing. She still was not sure if he was serious or if he was joking. She suspected that the time he had sustained a concussion in football as a teen still affected him. But all of this had not stopped him from being a good husband and father.

Maybe it was because she was thinking of him that she began feeling it. When she on the last set of stairs before getting to her place that she realized something was wrong. It was too silent. There was a tenseness in the air. She chastened herself for getting so worked up over nothing. She was imagining things. Yet she couldn’t help but feel something had happened. Her steps became slower, more languid the closer she got, as if wading through water. Her heartbeat was the only thing that sped up. Even these warning signs, though, could not prepare her for what she saw when she arrived on her floor and saw her apartment ahead of her. With a gasp, she let go of the groceries, food spilling everywhere.

Jill looked at the crime scene, all emotions numbed. The blood that stained the floor cruelly held her gaze. How could that have been her favorite color? She idly twisted her curly hair, thinking that it was nothing like the color of blood, even though she had been called red headed all her life. The man who had died, her neighbor, was middle aged, only a little bit older than her husband who had first asked her out when she was still in high school and he in college. She wondered if her life would come to such an abrupt stop when she reached this man’s age. What would people think of her? She was nothing more than a housewife, although her mother would have told her that it was nothing to be ashamed of. Who would remember her if she died right now? Her son was too young still; her husband would obviously remember her, at least until he remarried. She did not have many friends, since she had moved here up in the northeast to be with Jack. Her father always complained about that in the family reunions she could attend, saying that she was turning into a liberal Yankee.
Through the far apartment window, she saw the falling orange leaves. The police were telling her to leave now, that there was nothing to see, but their words were like butterflies, slow but elusive. How silly they were. There was plenty to see. She shivered.

“Ma’am, please allow us to conduct our investigation. If you want, we can assist you with your groceries.” She looked down at the bags, one yellow at the bottom from the broken eggs, and then back at the man in the uniform. He must have taken that as a nod, because he looked over at a reporter and told him to help her. Vaguely, she saw him resist, but he soon gave in and started collecting her bags as well as the food that had fallen out. Annoyed, he nodded for her to lead him to her apartment, but she wanted to continue looking through the open door, past the yellow tape. In the back of her mind, she knew it was morbid, but that part was not in control at the moment.

This man, James something, had been her neighbor for about a year. He was single and apparently never had been married. Her husband always commented that a man his age should have settled down a long time ago, that he must be hiding something and that she should stay away from him. She had not been so suspicious of James, and sometimes had pleasant conversations about nothing with the man. Not that they had ever been close friends, although today she had trusted him with…

Jill swore and ran into the man’s apartment, breaking the yellow tape and ignoring the yells of the police. “My baby! My baby!” Where was he? If he were…she would never forgive herself. Panting, she rushed to the crib that she had left with James when she went out. She looked in, but there was nothing inside. Where was he? The police grabbed her arms and pulled her out, forcefully. She struggled. She did not care about not disturbing the crime scene. They only got her out with a big struggle, leaving her crying. She slumped against the wall and put her face in her hands. Someone came over and tried to comfort her, but she ignored him. The tears flowed between her fingers.

Later, she was in her apartment. The reporter had brought in the groceries and then had taken the opportunity to interview her. Each question had provoked more tears. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? The police then told her they would do everything they could to locate her baby, since they had found no other body except that of her neighbor. These had been the longest hours of her life. Now they were all gone and she was picking at a bowl of macaroni and cheese mixed with tears. She heard the door open. Getting up, she tried to prepare to tell Jack the bad news. He had not answered his cell phone all day. She didn’t think she would be able to without becoming a total mess. She had cried for hours after getting home, and the tears had recently dried up, but rainstorms threatened to fill up the empty riverbeds of her face again.

When he came into full view, Jill gasped. “Jason!” Her son was alive! She ran over to Jack and took her son from his hands. “How, where was, when, I was so, what?” The cog that linked her mouth and mind stopped functioning. She could not believe it. Even though her son was frowning, his face looked as if it were glowing, the most beautiful sight in the world. She imagined that he was happier now that he was with his mother. She stared into those blue eyes, her hours of grief healed in the instant they blinked. She stood there with her son for several minutes, crying, ignoring everything around her, including her husband.

“Honey,” Jack eventually began, his tone not reflecting her delight. “Why did James have our baby?”

Jill still couldn’t speak, though, and his words sounded like another language. She looked her baby in the eyes. “Honey. I came home early and heard Jason crying, but it did not come from our apartment. When I realized that James had him…like I always said, I never trusted him, and I thought he had…or you and he…”

“Poor James!” Jill exclaimed, snapping back to reality at the mention of her deceased neighbor. “You do know what happened, right?”

“Why would I know what happened?” Jack said defensively. Then his cheeks colored. “Oh, that. Yeah, it’s a real tragedy. Good thing I got Jason out of there before it happened.”

“Wow, I hadn’t even thought of that. Here I was, sitting at home, worried sick, and you protected our son the whole time. You really are a great husband and father, Jack.” Jill looked at him earnestly.

Jack scratched the back of his head, forcing a smile. His sandy blond hair was reflected in their son, who burped at that moment. Jill turned to her husband. “Jack, why are there dark spots on your pants?”

Jack looked down at his pants and looked like he had woken up from a strange dream. “I…went to check on the car in the shop, honey. Behind the counter, they were showing highlights of the game last night on the TV, so I leaned in to get a better look. I guess it was pretty dirty, or greasy, because after, my pants were like this. Worse, even.”

“How is the car, dear? You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through today without that thing, and all to come home to this.” Tears started trickling down her face, and she tried to wipe them, but with Jason in her arms, she had a bit of trouble, having to shift the baby. Jack came over and hugged her, wiping the tears away as if it would erase all the pain. Jill looked at him and pouted. “Promise me this will never happen again, dear.”

“What do you mean? I can’t stop people from dying.” Jack avoided looking into her eyes.

“Just promise. Please.”

“Fine. You won’t have to suffer through this any more.”

Later that night, Jack got up and went to get a snack. Jill watched him go, pretending to be asleep, but in reality she was wide-awake. The day’s events had taken a lot out of her, yet she could not fall into darkness’s forgetful embrace. She was relieved her son was fine. She felt bad that James had died. But there was something that weighed down on her mind more than anything else, and she had no idea what to do about it, or if she should tell anyone about it. Sometimes she wished she didn’t know Jack so well.

This day had brought so many surprises, and Jill did not know how to handle them all. Sure that Jack was occupied for the time, she quietly picked up the phone receiver. She needed to get this off her mind, and perhaps it would be best this way. What was someone to do in this kind of situation? Maybe she should wait until he was at work the next day. But she would not be able to sleep with this on her mind.

Her fingers trembled as she pushed each button. Who knew three numbers would be so hard to punch in? When a voice came through, it felt glaringly loud. She looked up and glanced around, hoping Jack hadn’t heard her. It didn’t look like he had, so she began whispering into the receiver.

“Hello. My name is Jill and I have some information on a murder committed today…”

“Miss, there is another number you can call to help the police in solving a crime. We deal in emergencies.”

“But this is an emergency. You see, I am in the same house as-”

Jill dropped the phone as she felt his hand on her shoulder. It bounced on the floor a few times before stopping, and then the only sound in the room was the static noise coming from the receiver, almost making out understandable words.

“Jill,” Jack whispered. “That was not a good idea. Not good at all.”

He spun her around and in the dim light, with a faint green glow from the phone buttons, she looked into the face of her husband. Except he was not her husband anymore.

This was the face of a murderer.

First Contact part 2

First Contact

If you haven’t read First Contact part 1, click here

“No Dalin!,” Kaleb yelled. This was not their mission.

Too late. The gun tore a hole right through the light blue abdomen, searing everything the energy touched. The creature collapsed, dead. The others looked horrified. Some jumped back into the sea, others rushed forward to actually attack the humans this time. Kaleb found himself running towards them, not sure what he hoped to accomplish.

Foelhe was the next to act, Dalin too shocked at what he had done. He shot another of the blue men from afar. It fell back and its twisted bones could be heard from where Kaleb was standing. With the help of his helmet, of course, but that noise haunted him. Foelhe was going to take out another when Kaleb pushed him to the side. They both fell down.

The others with Dalin took aim, hesitantly. The hesitation cost them. Somehow, a large wave reached them, pulling them down to the depths. They let go of their guns and tried scrambling out, but out of the wave came more of the blue things, grabbing them and preventing escape. As long as they had their armor on, they would be all right, but if the creatures found a way to break in, they would drown.
Kaleb watched helplessly as three of them disappeared. Dalin was running, not trained against this type of fear. Foelhe punched Kaleb off of him.

“What are you doing? We have to kill them, or they’ll take us down with them.”

Kaleb didn’t have an answer, but still couldn’t allow his companion to slaughter the natives. Their job was to explore, make contact, and set up a friendly base. Killing them all would put an end to that idea, permanently. They might have ended it already.

His visor was full of mud and pebbles, so he tried wiping it clean, but didn’t get much off. He did see Foelhe’s figure get up, though, and take aim again. “Stop it, Foelhe! We were to make contact, not come as conquerers.”

“Maybe these savages need conquerers,” Foelhe said. Kaleb imagined him sneering. “We were never going to lower ourselves to their level. We were going to civilize them. Make them in our image. They have nothing they can offer us.”

“What about control of the waves? Maybe they could teach us,” Kaleb tried to reason.

Foelhe snorted. “They weren’t controlling the waves, they saw it rising and swam in it. Now stop annoying me, I have to show them their place.”

Kaleb stood up, placing himself between Foelhe and the natives. His back camera showed that the natives stopped chasing Dalin and were looking at him curiously. Maybe he could convince these they came in peace.

“Kaleb, you are making a mistake. I didn’t come here to try to learn a language, or make peace offerings to these primitives. I came because it was the only way to get these suits and guns outside of a virtual sim. I want to hunt, and these violent monsters make the perfect practice.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You’re being recorded, you know.”

“And I’m fully justified in everything I do. I doubt the men up top will care enough to listen, anyway.” Foelhe waved his gun in Kaleb’s direction. Kaleb spread out his arms in protest.

“I am the senior companion,” Foelhe said. “You have to obey my orders. So get out of my way.”

Kaleb felt his suit struggle to obey, but he quickly overrode it. Foelhe’s influence wasn’t as complete as he thought.

“Fine. There are natives that want to kill me. You won’t let me defeat them myself. So I must use force.” With that, he shot Kaleb.

It was a low setting, a warning shot, just stunning him. Fear entered into his mind. Foelhe was more dangerous than any animal on this planet. He had the mind of a killer, but had never had the chance to use it until now.

Foelhe was between Kaleb and the natives. Kaleb tried to focus his attention on himself. “You don’t want to do this, we can still make peace.”

Looking at him, Foelhe laughed. “You’re not going to change me, Kaleb. If you don’t want to be a murderer, sticking to some vague principle of rightness, do that. But I am not limited by your moral system.”

By then, some of the blue natives had crept up behind Foelhe. They looked ready to attack. Kaleb began to talk to Foelhe again, ready to say anything to distract him, but Foelhe ignored him, turned around, and started blasting the creatures.

The back camera.

The screams would haunt Kaleb’s mind for many sleepless nights, if he ever walked away from this. Taking out his own gun, he resolved to stop this. His finger reached the trigger, but the vague principles of rightness made him hesitate. The hesitation cost him, as Foelhe immediately turned around and shot him. This time at full power.

Kaleb breathed, straining. Finally he was able to feel the sand as it crept into his armor, now compromised. His bosses would not be happy with that. But it did have a unique texture. Foelhe’s voice was no longer coming through the speakers, but his movements showed his glee. Vision going double, Kaleb shifted his gun in the sand.

Only one shot. No suit-aided aiming. It was all him.

Kaleb stayed silent as Foelhe’s screams mixed with the weeping natives. Dalin and the others were nowhere to be seen. Hopefully he had made some sort of difference. It was cold, even though it wasn’t supposed to be cold on the beach except at night. The sun was shining. It looked different through the atmosphere. Not so lonely.

Both Foelhe and Kaleb died around the same time. Only thirteen point eight five seconds separating them. Dalin and his subordinates remained down there, but Helman decided to let them fend for themselves for a bit longer. His interest in Foelhe and Kaleb occupied his mind right now.

He went to the pod. Gas steamed out as it opened. Waving his hand to clear it away, he looked in, seeing a familiar shape. Kaleb’s body looked like a baby’s, cuddled up in a fetal position, with only skintight underwear on. He looked cold. Wires were coming out of every part of him.

A meter away, another pod opened. Helman put himself between the two. Foelhe’s body looked much the same as Kaleb’s from this perspective, just that his skin was a bit lighter.

Slowly, the two of them awoke, fingers twitching, eyes moving before they finally opened. Kaleb let out a breath of relief. Foelhe clutched the edge of the pod, eyes open wide.

“Well, good news for both of you. You’re not dead.” He let them take that in, since he was sure they didn’t want to see him in an afterlife. “You never went down to the surface. That was a lie. You’re still here, in Zeta. We got you all dressed up in your environmental suits, and had you sit down in what you thought was the ribbon, then drugged you and brought you back here.”

“That sounds like a lot of work,” Kaleb said, words blurred by a trembling mouth.

“The suits walked here on their own and deposited you,” Helmen said with his tight smile. “This whole thing was a test. We needed to know how well you would handle it.”

“So did we pass?” Foelhe asked, anger lacing his voice like an iceberg.

“I think we all know the answer of who passed and who didn’t,” Helman said simply. Foelhe glared at him, but he didn’t even see it as he was looking at Kaleb.

“Us men up top do listen.”

“So what happens now?” Kaleb asked.

“You get to go down with others who have passed, if you want. You see, none of our technology works down there, except for the most primitive devices that don’t rely on electricity. No one knows why that is, and we need someone to find out.

Someone who will establish relationships and find the information we need,” he said, finally looking at Foelhe. “Not someone who will think he’s better than the sentients down there,”

Kaleb smiled. “Someone to make first contact.”



John Remalto knocked on the door. Knock knock. They had told him this would be a story that only he could do, that they only trusted him with, no one else. He had no idea what was so special, but then, as an award winning journalist, it was his job to find out.

After two minutes, the door opened slightly. A chain kept it from opening more. “May I ask who you are?”

“I’m John Remalto, we have an appointment.” John wondered if he had the right address. He looked down at the touchpad in his hand. Before he could double-check, though, the door closed. Why is everyone so rude? John thought, about to turn around.

“Sorry about that, I had to make sure you weren’t some crazy out to get me,” came the voice again as the door opened, this time all the way. Great, this guy’s paranoid. But he was a professional, and didn’t say anything, just smiled. “Come in.”

The apartment had papers strewn all about, so that John had to look closely to see if there was a carpet, or if that was the papers’ function. It was not like most people used much paper these days. John had his touchpad out, ready to take notes, record his conversation, and set to block any calls from his wife. This had better be worth his time. He noticed the window to his right was open. John had lived in this city when he was a child, so he glanced out from where he stood and tried to recognize anything from his youth. The buildings were familiar, but there was a mental ward below that he did not recognize. He tried to remember what had been there before. A dove flew past the window.

“Have a seat,” came the voice again, this time with a body. John surveyed his newest story. Glasses, graying hair, white suit coat (even in his own house?), bad posture, and piercing blue eyes. He was holding a little necklace in his hands, fiddling with it. John sat down on the couch facing the window, surprised it wasn’t covered in papers as well. The middle aged man sat down in front of him on a stool, backlit by the gray sunlight streaming in. The paper crumpled as he walked over it.

“So you are the famed Dr. Mark Nitlin, renowned scientist and theorist. ” John stated. The man nodded. “Nice place you have here.” Dr Nitlin looked around, embarrassed, as if suddenly aware of the state of his apartment. John waved a hand. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to judge, I just want your story. They tell me you’ve discovered something that could change our lives forever.”

Dr. Nitlin straightened up when John started mentioning the discovery, and his whole appearance changed. No longer was he the timid and awkward man from before, but one full of pride and self importance. Much better that way for John, because now it would be all the easier to coax any information from him. “‘I have only shared it with other trusted scientists, but now that I am ready to publish my findings, I also want an article published, so the public at large could understand its significance, without having to know all the scientific details.”

“Makes sense to me.”

“Alas,” (Who says that nowadays? John asked himself) “I believe some rumors have already leaked out, though, and my discovery has already made me enemies, which is why I was hesitant to open the door for you.”

“Enemies, huh? Must be pretty important. And if it is, I assure you, we will be best friends.” Controversies always sold more. It looks like he had come to the right place.

“My discovery is not so important by itself, I will admit, no more than any other number of discoveries that have come before it. I am not even sure there are any practical uses for it.” What? If there was no practical use, then what use was there? John became worried. “What exactly does your discovery entail, Doctor?”

Instead of answering directly, the scientist stood up and went to the window, looking out on the artificial environment below. Where there had once been trees, now public projector screens played endless advertisements. “In the past decades, especially in the early 2000’s, there have been several major scientific discoveries. With each one, humanity was able to let go of false traditions and turn an eye to the future, towards independence. My breakthrough has scientific importance, but more importantly, it had social and culture relevance.”

What is he getting at? thought John. If there was no real story here, then he had wasted his time. He knew he should have used the teleconference option, instead of coming to meet the guy in person. The man beckoned him to the window, and reluctantly John got up, leaving the soft sofa. Paper crumpled beneath his feet. At the window, Dr. Nitlin rubbed his necklace, which had the number six on the end, and pointed to the mental ward John had noticed earlier.

“Do you know what that building was before?” Nitlin asked him.

Thinking hard, he came up with an answer, to the surprise of them both. “It was a church.” He remembered his mother taking him there once, although he had been bored the whole time. Dr Nitlin scowled.

“Once, it was used to psychologically treat people’s depression, with little success. Now it medically treats it, with much greater success. With our new knowledge and tools, we are evolving as a society. Just like with the Greek Gods, the notions of the past are systematically being replaced as science gives us new understanding of the human condition, our place in the universe, and where we came from. In fact, that is precisely what I discovered.”

Now we are getting somewhere, thought John, wanting to get away from the subject of religion. Any mention of that made him queasy. His purpose in life was to make a lot of money, and he was doing well with that, so trying to make him feel bad for anything else he had done did not sit well with him. Although, sometimes he wondered where this world and humanity came from. If the doctor would get on and actually tell him, his visit might serve two purposes, one he had not even foreseen.

“What I have done is to complete what so many other scientists, conscious of it or not, have tried to achieve. I represent the culmination of their efforts. The evidence is undeniable; my colleagues agree with me. This is why I have enemies, because there are always people who oppose humanity’s progress. Soon, the voice of reason will make the blind fools give up, and this part of humanity’s history will come to an end.”

I doubt any discovery you made could be so important as to mark an era in history. This guy’s full of himself. “All right, Dr. Nitlin, you’ve got my attention. What is so important about your discovery? Give me a title for the article that is worthy of your achievement.”

“Science has always warred against ignorance and superstition. Well, now, I have dealt the deathblow. Science has come out triumphant. What I have proven means there is no longer a need for the struggling churches. John Remalto, you want a title? Well, here it is.” John looked at the scientist; he seemed almost in his own world now, the eyes not focusing on anything. His fist clenched the necklace. Chills went down John’s spine as the doctor spoke.

“I killed God.”

Heroics part 2


If you haven’t read Heroics part 1 already, go here first.

Within fifteen minutes, he arrived at the gates. With the help of some of his guards, after dispatching Jadek’s, he pushed open the doors in a dramatic gesture. Light from the cloudy sky filled the hall. His footsteps echoed all around him.

Going in deeper, dispatching more guards, Brom entered the hall to confront Jadek. He wanted Arabella, and no one would stop him. Clenching his sword until it hurt, as well as his teeth, he scanned the dark room. At the back facing him was his nemesis.

“You have broken the treaty, Brom,” came the voice from the shadows. Brom’s vision adjusted to the darkness. Jadek looked like he wanted to jump out of his throne and strangle him. Brom almost wanted him to try.

“The treaty was meaningless once you kidnapped my wife,” Brom said with deadly calm.

Jadek looked incredulous. “That is what this is about? You pillage my city for a girl?”

“You brought this upon yourself. Now where is she? Locked away?”

“I’m right here,” Arabella said, coming out of the shadows to the right of Jadek. Lush golden hair, delicate face, cherry lips, swaying hips. Brom lost his breath. “You should have left us.”

“Let her go free!” Bloodlust threatened to take over Brom.

“I want to be with him, Prince Brom!” Arabella yelled, becoming even more beautiful. “I never wanted to be with you!”

Brom couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She was to be his wife. She couldn’t hate him. He had done so much for her. No, this was a mistake. She had been manipulated. This wasn’t her talking. He knew it. She would never say something like that in her right mind. Jadek had some leverage on her.

“What have you done to her?” Brom cried out. “Face me now!”

“You’re insane!” Jadek yelled. “Guards, stop him.”

Thus began the battle, Brom’s guards versus Jadek’s. Brom helped, giving the advantage to his side. The fight lasted several minutes, and Jadek escaped with Arabella, but Brom couldn’t get through. His own side suffered several losses before he disabled the last of them.

As soon as possible, he took off after Jadek and Arabella. He wasn’t sure where they had gone, but could guess. The castle wasn’t unfamiliar to him. Because Arabella wore heels, she slowed them down, and Brom found them trying to escape in the back entrance.

“Jadek, it’s over.”

“Why are you doing this, Prince Brom? What did I ever do to you?”

“You took my wife.”

“She’s not your wife yet, and she came to me. We love each other; she didn’t want to get married to someone she couldn’t love. Will you not allow us happiness?”

Brom sheathed his sword, breathing hard. He walked up to Jadek, each step a battle. Glancing at Arabella with regret, he held out his hand. Jadek took it, hesitantly.

Grabbing onto his hand, Brom took out his sword with the other and impaled Jadek, pulling him closer. Arabella screamed and ran to Brom, hitting him with her fists. Brom ignored her. Jadek’s eyes grew lifeless and he coughed blood.

Brom pulled out the sword and let Jadek drop to the ground. Tired of hitting him, Arabella dropped to the ground as well, putting her body over his and crying. Brom left them, sighing.

A month later, they were married. Brom was crowned prince of Thromwell as well, ruling in absence of his father. Arabella promised she would hate him forever, and did not let him in her rooms ever, not even on their wedding night. He didn’t have the will to argue.

A few days later Brom was on the throne in a pose of deep and sad contemplation. Trumpets started blaring, shaking him from his mental fantasy. The doors opened and in strode a regal figure. someone with a purpose. It reminded Brom of himself so recently, coming in on Jadek.

“Father,” he said simply.

“Brom Filmor,” his father, Reginald, said. Although he said it pleasantly enough, undercurrents of anger were manifest. “I have come for an accounting of the stewardship I left you.”

“Leave us,” Brom ordered everyone in his court.

“Let Hadrian stay,” Reginald said. “I do not wish to be completely alone with you.”

Hadrian stayed, but did not look pleased.


Brom sighed. “Hadrian, if you please.”

“Remember your promise, my prince,” Hadrian began.

“Yes, yes,” Brom said, waving his hand and turning around. He clasped his hands behind his back. “Hadrian counseled me against all of this, and I didn’t listen.”

Reginald stayed silent, but put his chin in his hand. Hadrian cleared his voice and began the report. “There was an…altercation. It ended up in a battle between Thromwell and Filmor. In the end, we lost two hundred and twenty three soldiers. Thromwell lost many more, mostly civilians of fighting age. Also, Jadek, king of Thromwell, was killed. Without heirs, and in the confusion, Brom declared himself king of Thromwell.”

“Prince,” said Reginald, signaling Hadrian to continue.

“Prince Brom took Lady Arabella Faus as wife, and they were married three days ago. I have nothing more to report.”

“Very succinct,” Reginald said. “Thank you for the report, Hadrian.”

“Thank you, majesty,” Hadrian said, bowing. “If I may be so bold, how fared the war with the Mithics?”

“Let me put it this way. After the heroics of my son, now with so few soldiers to call upon for reinforcements, you need not call me majesty much longer.”

“You lost?” Brom shouted, then remembered himself. “Father?”

“We had to resort to the defensive. The Mithics will be coming to invade soon. I had hoped to recruit from Filmor and Thromwell to put together one last defense of our kingdoms, but with the needless losses you caused, I don’t know if it will be enough. Plus, we cannot count on the morale of Thromwell’s troops, now. They might prefer Mithic rule to our own.”

“I’m sorry, father!”

Reginald took a step forward, his anger finally showing. “Is that all you can say? Sorry? You destroyed the kingdom while I was gone! All you had to do was nothing! Was that so hard?”

“I didn’t want Jadek to steal Arabella away!”

“Oh? And how did that work out? How’s the marriage?” Brom didn’t answer for a few minutes. “Hmm?”

“You obviously know, so don’t taunt me!”

They stared at each other. Reginald finally spoke up. “Hopefully the Mithics will allow our family to continue ruling under them. Even though it’s unlikely you’ll be producing heirs anytime soon. I hope you enjoyed being the hero, son. You conquered a kingdom, now we will be conquered. We need great leadership in this time of change. Which means no more heroics.”

Heroics part 1


“My liege, Prince Filmor, we hate to bear bad news, but we have just received word that the Lady Arabella has been abducted in route to the city.”

Brom straightened up on his seat, situated by his father’s throne, empty as usual. This was the first tiding in days that had interested him. In fact, he had been caught up in a daydream about his future wife. He had only met her once, but that had been enough to leave him smitten. Declared one of the beauties of the land, Arabella’s smile, so timid but so knowing at the same time, enchanted him. His thoughts had wandered to the wedding night when the unfortunate news came.

“Arabella!” he said, rising from his seat and whisking his cape in back of him. “Something must be done. Who kidnapped her? Where were they heading?”

“To the west,” one of the quivering messengers said, kneeling at his feet. The man was scrawny, unlike Brom’s own physique.

What lay to the west? “Jadek,” he said, that one name taking on power.

“It would seem the logical conclusion,” one of his advisors, Hadrian, said. “What course of action would you suggest in the absence of your father? Diplomacy? Espionage?”

“Heroics,” Brom said, ignoring the messengers kneeling uncomfortably on the hard floor. “There will be no tolerance for such an audacious act. Prepare the military.”

“My prince, I would advise against such drastic terms. We have a trade agreement with the Thromwells, and marching an army into their territory would be an egregious break of trust.” Hadrian, with his balding head, furrowed his brows, making him look more ancient than his forty years.

Brom remembered the messengers, waiting to be addressed, and waved them away. Most of them left, but one stayed near, half bowing, looking hesitant. Brom waved him away more energetically; annoyed he had to waste so much energy on the man. The messenger smiled and left, running after his coworkers. Hadrian and Brom were alone now.

“Any treaty Jadek Thromwell had with us is null in light of this kidnapping.”

“But Brom, you have no idea it was Jadek in the first place.”

“I saw how he was looking at her in the feast. Father Morander would be ashamed to have someone so full of lust attending the event in his memory.”

“Perhaps, but I know your father was ashamed to have his son drooling after the same girl.”

“I was not drooling. Anyway, I saw how much he wanted to have her for his own, and how jealous he was of me when my father announced our betrothal.”

Hadrian sighed. “You are the regent while your father is gone, and you have every right to be concerned about the welfare of your future wife, but remember that I recommended against it. Only you will answer to your father when this is over.”

“And receive all the praise,” Brom said. “Really, this won’t even be an issue. Don’t fret, I will cast you in the best light possible.”

“As you will, my prince. I desire the best for your journey. I will notify the general of your decision. But please, do not make enemies lightly.”

“There is nothing to fear,” Brom said, fearing he would be the same when he was older. “The princess will return safely and we will soon be wed.”

“Assemble the men,” Brom ordered from his horse. The flag bearer raised the horn and blew. Brom felt the vibrations pulsing as they reverberated through the valley. His men offered up a cheer as the march began. He smiled down on them as a loving father would. He yelled out as loud as he could, hoping his thousand men could hear him. “Your future queen, Arabella, has been kidnapped. We must rescue her. We believe she is held captive in Melfor with the Thromwells. Once we arrive, leave no house, no store, no alley unsearched.” Thinking about Hadrian, he said, “Avoid violence, but use it as necessary. And do whatever is required to save the princess’s life.”

The city of Melfor stretched before them, vast as the clouds in the sky. In the distance stood Thromwell castle, where Brom was sure he would find Arabella. In case Jadek, the elder son who recently inherited the throne after his father died of the yellow fever, saw Brom coming and sent Arabella away into the city, he would have his men enter in and search every house. Luckily, most of Jadek’s men were with Brom’s father, fighting in the alliance against the usurpation of the Kingdom of Grim by the Mithics.

They made it to the gates of the town before getting any response. One of Jadek’s guards came out to meet them, dressed in violet finery, but looking annoyed. “What is the meaning of this, Prince Brom? Just because your father didn’t bring as many troops with him to war as we did doesn’t give you the right to trample into our fair city.”

“You know why we’re here. And do not insult my father, who is actually fighting, unlike Jadek.”

“As well as you,” the guard replied, sneering.

“Someone needs to run the kingdom!” Brom said, losing patience.


“What is your name?”

“I am called Firion, son of-”

“Firion, if you can’t give me Arabella right now, I am going to take over this city and burn down every house until I find her.”

“Arabella? Who is she?” There was a look of such confusion on the man’s face that for a moment Brom thought he might not know. Only for a moment, though.

“Put up your guard, because I am going to rescue her!” Brom charged Firion with his sword raised. Firion barely had time to take out his sword and block the strike which left him trembling.

“You’re mad!”

“That’s right!”

One of the men escorting Firion backed away and pulled out a horn. It took him a few tries, but it sounded throughout the city, while Firion and Brom fought. Brom’s army marched forward, ready to take on the opposing host.

Brom had to admit, the guard was a good swordsman, but that was no surprise, given his position. Still, Brom was bigger and used his brute force to his advantage. His troops marched past him.

Swords clashed, ringing nearly as loud as the horn. Thrust, side slash, feint, parry, thrust again. Brom pressed down, hoping to break Firion’s stance. When that didn’t work, he slid down and slid his foot in an arc, trying to trip him, but only managing to unbalance him.

So he jumped on him.

Firion fell down, Brom on top. Not about to take any chances, Brom plunged the sword into Firion’s chest, pushing through the armor. Firion just gurgled in surprise, eyes already going blank.

Taking his sword out, blood dripping, he stood up and shook it before wiping it on Firion’s clothes. Red specks covered the ground.

Inside the city, people were running out of their houses, screaming. This only encouraged Brom’s army to chase after, pillaging and plundering. Brom hadn’t meant for this to happen, but getting control of them now would be nearly impossible, and he had to get to Castle Thromwell. Taking a unit of disciplined soldiers, he left orders with the general to round up the army and he took off.

A few peasants tried to stand up to him, yelling, calling him names, but he just cut them down. The castle stood like a white beacon, and everything else in sight was just a distraction. Arabella was waiting for him.

Read Heroics part 2 here.