There was a wagon found nearby and behind the invading forces. Assuming they could find the gold and get to it, how else were they taking it away? There were about nine hundred bodies alive and dead among the enemy. The survivors that were still lucid were gathered up and taken to an abandoned farm and barn nearby. The guards posted to watch them were almost all Creid and less soft hearted than others would be. It was unclear how many attacked because of those that had run off. About four hundred of them were dead. The rest were dying. It was opted to start a pyre a good distance away from town to get rid of the bodies. It was cleaner than burying them and nothing to seep in our ground water. People and things die all the time, but just buried? No wrapping or coffins? We didn't want to take the chance. We only had one somewhat serious injury as a man got pierced in the lower chest and punctured a lung. We had those little warriors, remember? Ryan patched him up saying he would be fine. I doubted any of the enemy had those warriors. Our contact with those outside the borders was limited. We only saw them when they came to town and had something to trade. The criminal element just did what they wanted. Trading was not in their vocabulary.
Max was right. Neither of us wanted to lie down dirty so we took a bath as quickly as we could. I began to feel it as we waited for the water to heat. It was something just on the edge of our bodies that was slowly overtaking our muscles. We didn't do anything but bathe and by the end of the bath we barely made it to the bed. I felt sorry for the soldier who just had a bedroll.
Max failed to mention what happens when we woke up. I was awakened by a moan. Not mine...yet, but Seth's. I tried to turn but got a severe soar aches in response. Now it was my turn to moan.
“I need to pee, but I can't seem to move.” Seth explained without me asking about any problem he was having.
We had pushed ourselves so much during the fight, our muscles were reacting to the overexertion. It took tremendous effort to roll over to him. “You could just go right here.” I grinned.
Seth chuckled. “It would solve that problem and create a few more.” He groaned as he did successfully roll. “Give me a push?”
I did and struggled myself to get up. I did some stretches to loosen my own muscles. I had never fought in a real battle other than one on one. This was new for me. I had killed many of this group, but what alternative did I have? I looked at the clock and glanced out the window. It was early evening now. We'd only slept about four hours.
We found enough strength to dress again.
We went downstairs to find Reese and Max at the table drinking coffee. The other two had not made it down yet.
Max glanced up and chuckled at us. “Ah, I see we're feeling the aftermath drag.”
“I don't know what it's called,” Seth went and got his coffee. “I just hurt.”
Reese growled, “I hate to say it, but you'll get used to it.”
“I don't want to get used to it,” Seth said.
Reese nodded, “That's why I said I hate to say it.” He frowned. “It happens too often.”
Grace walked in the kitchen and smiled at Seth and me. She hugged both of us. “Thank God you two are alright.” She nodded. “I knew you were when you got us out of the storage unit...”
Seth patted her on the back during the hug. “We're fine, Mom.”
Grace nodded. “I'll make you something to eat for dinner.” She pushed us toward the table. “You haven't eaten in nearly a day.”
Keith, Darrin, Zeke and Gabe came in the kitchen.
“You're up!” Zeke said pleasantly coming to the table. “I checked on you two a few hours ago and I was told you were both asleep.”
Seth nodded. “We just woke up a little while ago.” He moved his left elbow and groaned stretching his arm over his head to loosen the muscle there. “Waking up didn't hurt, but moving...?”
Gabe smiled sitting by Zeke. “The way all of you fought, it is no wonder.”
“We were told to get everyone in Royal Valley to the shelters.” Zeke said. “We weren't allowed to fight.”
“You haven't finished training yet.” Darrin explained. “You would have to if we hadn't stopped them. They could have gotten into the village and you would have to fight then.”
“The people are okay?” I asked.
Keith nodded sitting also. “They're fine.” He shrugged. “They were scared, but weathered the attack well.”
Darrin smiled and thanked the woman that offered him coffee and something light to eat. He refused saying he'd wait for dinner. “Ryan has been dealing with injured among those men. The dead are being taken to be disposed of in a field nearby, but far enough away to avoid the smells and smoke.”
“Are any ready to be questioned?” Max asked.
“Ryan's working on that with your local village doctor.” Darrin nodded. “We should know in the morning.”
“We need to tell Christian,” Seth said to me quietly still weary as I was.
“Let's do it.” I replied simply standing up. “Max, can you spare a few minutes?”
Max got up with us. “No problem.” He turned back to the table. “Reese, please some for the rest of us.” He joked with the big man who waved him off.
We again went to the attic and stepped through to A'Dore. Dr. Warren was still in the lab. It was getting late and most of the others had gone home. Then I saw something I hadn't before. There were men working using the Seers, but weren't relying on the sun. As it was getting late, the room was darkening. Before each Seer were two candled lanterns. I saw reflectors used to reflect the light on the Seers consecrating the light on the sample here. The mirrored reflectors made the light even brighter with their concave shape.
“That's interesting.” I said behind Dr. Warren and once again he jumped slightly as he was startled.
“You surprised me again, Your Highness,” He put his hand on his over his heart. No doubt his heart was beating quicker for the moment. I didn't think it was too serious, but I didn't want to give the man a heart attack either.
“Sorry, Doc,” I waved at the Seer. “You found a way to give light to specimens even at night?”
“Yes,” Dr. Warren said nodding his head. “Believe it or not, we can see even better this way.”
“Who did that?” I asked pleased that things were still being developed and improved to see the small world.
Dr. Warren grinned and shrugged. “I did.” He hurried on to say, “Inspired by my grandson.” He chuckled. “He's seven now and he found one of the magnifiers I wasn't using at the moment and was playing with it.” He chuckled again. “He was in the yard and found if he held it just right, the light concentrated on a single spot. He was killing some ants he found,” Dr. Warren said shaking his head. “He was burning them with the light and setting leaves on fire...having a grand time which I warned him about.” He shrugged. “I figured it couldn't hurt to try it with candlelight. The light is less intense, but it worked.” Then he looked at me more carefully and his eyes narrowed. It was getting dark even in the dim light of the lab. He brought me under one of the wall lanterns. His eyes widened when he saw me clearly and he looked at Seth and Max but saw the bruises and there were minor cuts over us. That we had been in a fight was obvious.
“My word!” The elderly doctor gasped as he turned my face to see more. “Are you three alright?”
“We're fine,” I said. “We were attacked this morning. We need to talk to Christian.”
Dr. Warren frowned. “I'm afraid he's out of the castle.” Dr. Warren said. “He went to Carna to visit the mayor and local council there. He won't be back for a couple of more days.”
I nodded. “That's two days ride away.”
Seth leaned in toward me. “Carna? Aren't they north of here?”
“They are,” I replied. “A city almost the size of A'Dore's Capitol. They would be attacked before they got here.”
“Is Queen Ella or Prince Thomas available?” Seth asked.
“Or both?” I added.
Dr. Warren nodded. “I'll be right back.” He hurried out of the lab. For an elderly man, he moved pretty quickly. The Little Warriors helped maintain that, too.
It was a few minutes before the door open to let Ella and Thomas in.
“Uncle Erik!” Thomas said startled by our appearance. “Uncle Seth?”
Ella stopped holding her hands to her mouth in shock. “Dr. Warren said you were attacked!?” She hugged me and Seth.
“This morning,” Seth nodded. “We repelled them. They got nothing.”
“You fought them off?” Ella asked concerned.
I could guess her next question, “The boys are fine. They didn't see a thing.” It would have been my question to her.
“Thank God.” Ella sighed looking over at Max questioningly.
“Sorry,” I smiled at her and Max. “Max, this is Her Royal Majesty Queen Ella of A'Dore and my sister-in-law.” I waved to my sister. “Ella, this Captain Maxwell of Creid.”
Max bowed instantly. “Your Majesty.” He took the hand offered him and kissed the knuckle. “It is an honor to meet you even with what's going on.” He smiled more. “I see the story of Cinderella was all true. You are breathtakingly beautiful.”
Ella curtsied back. “Thank you.”
“It's not possible for them to attack you today,” Thomas shook his head in disbelief. “They attacked here in A'Dore last week!” He balked. “That's why Dad went to Carna, for fear they will be next.” He looked at us knowing we had been in a fight. “How many of them are there?”
“A lot more than we imagined.” Seth muttered.
Max frowned. “Did the troops from Creid get here? They should have. They were to help you.”
“They just arrived a week ago,” Ella said a little anxiously. “Christian took them and others from A'Dore to Carna.”
“Did Christian get the gauntlets built?” Seth asked. “They really saved us.”
Ella nodded. “I think so.”
Thomas shook his head. “No, I know he did.” He folded his arms nodding in certain confirmation. “So, it worked?”
I chuckled. “It worked beautifully.”
“It literally rained arrows on them,” Seth waved his hand in a falling arch and whistled the descent with a smile that was almost mean. It was satisfying to Seth.
“There are more than we expected,” Max said sadly. “There is no way these two groups communicated with each other that I know of. This group attacking A'Dore will be surprised, but they have to know we'd fight back.”
“We need to find them.” I stated simply. “We need to send men to that area and find out.”
“The sooner the better.” Seth agreed and looked at me. “So, when are we going?”
I know my face said it all. “We?”
Seth smirked. “I know you.” He smiled at me. “When you said we need to find them, you were including yourself.” He brought me closer shaking his finger in my face like a parent to a naughty child. “I'm not letting you do this without me, Erik. Not this time.”
I rolled my eyes shaking my head. “I didn't want to the last time, but our boys were so young and...”
Seth nodded quickly. “I understand that, but they aren't that young now.” He looked at Ella. “Could Dennis and Toby stay here a while?”
“And Kitty.” I added with a smile.
“You don't even need to ask,” Ella said quickly. “Of course, they can.”
“I should go, too.” Thomas said hopefully and almost anxious to go get involved.
Looking at my nephew, I shook my head. “As big a help as that would be having your help. You're next in line for the throne.” I smiled. “We can't risk it.”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “That's so unfair.” He muttered and folded his arms over his chest in a pout. He was just at the age of being a grown man but now he was six again in my eyes.
Seth chuckled. “Duty first.” He reminded Thomas.
I smiled. “Many times duty does have to take priority, like when your Dad had to stay behind so often in the past when your Mom and sisters visited.”
Thomas grunted. “I'd stay to keep him company.” He nodded. “I remember.” It was a grumbled his agreement and I saw that little boy again.
I chuckled at what I saw. “Sorry, but believe me...you're not missing any fun or excitementThomas gave a sad smile. “I know, but I've trained just like you and Dad did. I have the skills, but am never allowed to use them.” He grumbled.
“Be grateful for that, Your Highness.” Max said seriously. “Battle's not something that great.”
“Your father hasn't been in a conflict like this,” Ella said worried her son was wanting to get involved.
Thomas nodded. “Uncle Erik has. I'm the age he was when he did.” He protested. “Dad told me that he licked Uncle Seth's stepbrother. He did it again with Seth's stepfather.”
“I did it because I had to.” I explained.
Thomas waved outside the palace. “Don't I have to?”
Seth shook his head with a patient smile. “No, you don't.”
Putting my hands on Thomas' arm. “I know the desire to make a name for yourself and prove to yourself and others that you can protect A'Dore, but not this time.” I looked in his eyes closer. “Okay?”
Thomas muttered. “Okay.”
We stepped back into Royal Valley again. We went again to the kitchen where Beau and Val had joined everyone. Toby was again talking with Val and Dennis was sitting next to Beau again. With Toby, Val was a novel friend who shared his love of knowledge, and he had brawn. Dennis just saw Beau as a big friend. It did cross my mind that either of the men could take advantage of either son, but I saw nothing but friendliness. I knew there were men that did that. It seemed like nothing but hero-worship. I'd have to watch them loosely, but for now all was fine. The boys showed no sign of any abuse. I trusted these men.
“We need to form a team to go to the northeast.” Max said sitting at the table again.
“We should include men from all the kingdoms involved.” Seth agreed. “The two of us will be part of Blethos and A'Dore.”
Max thanked the woman that brought him some coffee. “We have Blethos, but we need to leave some of our Creid forces here in case they come back.”
Grace heard that and spun around. “Do you think they will?” She asked horrified.
Max shrugged. “Not any time soon. They need to regroup. We pretty well took care of this group.” He assured with a smile. “There were some others that ran off. There could be stragglers. They didn't get the gold, so they will try again.”
Toby could and did read lips. He was so good at it he could even do it from his side vision to stay in the loop of conversations. “I think the men that attacked here were disposable. What they now call Cannon Fodder. They weren't the genuine attackers.” He shrugged. “That's how I see it.” He looked at us more directly. “They're men that were sent in to weaken and draw fire.” He smiled. “It's in that book I gave you. People deliberately sent in to a conflict to draw fire. To prepare the way for the more valued soldiers. Sparing them from harm.” He waved at Val. “From what he told me, these men were rampaging and had not really planned it out. They were a mob.”
Max nodded. “That's a smart kid!” He shook his head in amazement and grinned. “He might be right.” He groaned and shrugged slightly. “What I do know is we stopped a lot of them. They will either attack more strategically and with more stealth.” He sighed. “That will take planning and preparation. I think we have a window here to do what we need to do.”
“Then we better get started.” Seth stated.
I pondered a little. “We'll get it together by the end of week. In the morning, I still want to question some of our uninvited guests.”
We took another bath that night to ease the muscles that were getting better, but still sore.
“In Creid, they have these tubs for the men,” I said enjoying the warmth. “Natural hot springs that come out of the ground. I got spoiled by that one bath.”
“How's that?” Seth asked chuckling.
“Right now,” I explained, “I feel this water cooling. Their tubs had a constant feed of hot water and never got cool.”
“We'll probably go to Creid before we go further north,” Seth said smiling. “Maybe you'll get another one.”
I grinned and came over to him. “But here, we have privacy. All of them use those tubs. I like it with just you and me.” I kissed him gently.
Seth smiled letting his lips travel across my face and onto my neck. “Me, too.” He chuckled. “It was only a decade ago when the very idea of a Creid friendship would have seemed impossible. Now, I can't imagine not having them around.” He smiled. “On this trek to the northwest, I think Val should stay here.”
“Why?” I asked.
“We don't need all four of them,” Seth reasoned. “Someone needs to stay here and keep things under control. I think he's the logical choice.”
I nodded. “You're right about that. I want Beau to go with us. No one can fight like he can.” I laughed. “He could beat Yannick and me with no problem. I'm glad he wasn't a King's Warrior when I gave the Challenge of Conviction. Things could be a lot different now.”
Seth nodded but frowned. “I get this feeling...” he began, “don't you feel there's something almost...magical about this whole thing?”
I sat up to look at him clearly. “You mean another Child of Lilith?”
“To have the influence this person, or group has, doesn't it feel that way?” Seth asked. “To have all these men willing to take the risk of their very life, it takes a bit of magic.”
I shook my head. “Most of the Children of Lilith don't care about powers and kingdoms...it can't be a Child of Lilith.”
“You're both right,” Demetrius' voice said and was suddenly in the bath with the two of us. We'd allowed it before, so why shouldn't he now?
“Hi, Demetrius!” I said happily. “We haven't seen you since the anniversary party.”
Demetrius chuckled as I hugged him. “You know I work with others. Dara's helping her, I'm helping him...its endless.”
Seth hugged him too, but both were naked in the tub so Seth didn't really put his heart into it. “Hi,” he began. “We're both right? How?”
“Because Erik's right and you're right, Seth.” Demetrius sighed. “Lilith was the first to access the magic around. Lilith and Adam were created the same. Equals.”
“So?” I asked. “You mean that Adam could access the magic?”
Demetrius shrugged. “No reason he couldn't. He just didn't. Or Eve.” He smiled. “No doubt you've heard of those others that can do some amazing things such as read minds or move objects with their minds.” He pointed to Seth. “You saw it personally, Erik, with Seth when his scars went away. That was not any of the Children of Lilith who did that.” He looked at me. “Remember? I said it could have been you, Erik.”
I shook my head. “I've never done anything like it before.”
Demetrius frowned shaking his head. “I'm not saying it was you. It could have been anyone including King Alexander.” He sat back against the tub's side. “There are stories about people who have done this. Magic is not just for the Children of Lilith. It just is.” He struggled again with the explanation. “We, the Children of Lilith weren't born with the knowledge of how to use the magic. We're taught to access and use it by our parents. That's why it gets stronger and better as we live.”
Seth's eyes narrowed. “This is your way of telling us that there is a Child of Eve is using magic and is heading these attacks.”
Demetrius began to reply and I interrupted him. “Save the whole do things for yourselves thing. Just answer the question.” I nearly growled.
“Yes.” Demetrius said simply.
“Can you teach us to access the magic?” Seth asked.
Demetrius nodded. “I could, but not in time. It would also take more life time than you have to learn. Our long life spans allow that. Lukus could do things I couldn't yet, remember? And Len Na...”
I nodded. “We remember.” I held my hand up.
“The Children of Eve that can access the magic use it differently.” He said. “They perfect one or two things. The Children of Lilith can learn it all.”
“You know who and where but won't tell us,” I said. “Again we have to make our own path.”
“Yep.” Demetrius said again simply.
“Can you at least tell me if we're on the right path?” Seth asked barely tolerant.