Title: Life on the Run II
Summary: Mornhavon is dead, and Estora broke the marriage between herself and the king. Karigan finds herself running from provincial soldiers when she escapes the castle. Why did she run? And why are the soldiers after her? Where will she go and will the king ever find a wife and produce and heir? Read and find out.
A/N: This was originally started by Thylacine67, who unfortunately is too busy to finish it, so I'm continuing. She'll hopefully be able to work on the sequel. This part starts at Chapter 14, so it won't make any sense whatsoever if you haven't read the original (fanfiction dot net/s/7199468/1/Life_on_the_Run). This first chapter's really short. In a week or two keyboard at home will be fixed, and I won't have to work on this on the school computers.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, and if I did, certain characters would long ago have had a strange and sudden urge to jump off a very tall cliff.
Thanks for reading!
Karigan awoke to find her vision filled by a pair of large blue eyes staring down at her. The eyes were somehow threatening yet benign, guarded yet open, enticing, bestial. Intoxicating. They drew her in somehow, promising nothing yet everything. These were the eyes of a powerful being, one who could save or destroy her at whim. They were the eyes of a tiger, perhaps one pretending to be tame. Karigan felt that she could lose herself in them forever.
Alarmed, she sat up and leaned against something deliciously soft, only to see the eyes lose their otherworldly quality. Their edges became less pronounced and they blended into a lifelike scene right out of a fairy tale. An Eletian prince and his court danced in a moonlit bower. The eyes belonged to a man sitting to the left of the prince himself, foot tapping to the beat of some unheard music. His cloak was of a deep, royal red, embroidered with silver. A mane of sandy blonde hair fell into his eyes and Karigan could almost see him raise his hand to push it back.
Almost, because it was at that point that Karigan realized she was staring up into a painting. She struggled to sit up on her own, only to flop back down into a large pile of pillows. She wiggled her fingers and toes and wondered what she'd broken this time.
Awaking always disoriented Karigan. Since she'd been stabbed with the poisoned blade of a Mirwell knife, her life had blended into a haze of a boring pattern of sleep and pain, a pattern interrupted only by the regular arrival of an Eletian with another bittersweet-smelling poultice. This time, however, something was different. Well, the lifelike painting was new, but so was the odd, uncomfortable tingling in her legs.
Karigan looked down to see a head on her legs. Attached to the head was a neck, followed by a body, and (she assumed) legs. It was a body she knew well, for she'd spent quite a long time studying its profile from afar.
"Zachary," she whispered hoarsely, the first time she'd spoken since leaving Sacor City.
The head groaned. "I'm coming, Grandmother, honestly. Just a few more min.."
She hissed at him. "Zachary. Zachary!"
"Hnn?" The head raised itself and stared at her blearily, blinking sleep from its eyes. "Karigan? KARIGAN! You're awake!" He lunged for her and bestowed a bear hug so tight she thought her eyes would pop out of her head and her intestines out of her stomach."
"Ay wonf ee fuw lunghh iff oo don ge off me."
Zachary rose to his elbows and looked down bemusedly. "What was that?"
"Get off, you great lump. And help me stand up."
Zachary rose and performed a bow. "As my lady wishes."
Karigan almost giggled before stopping herself due to the still fading pain in her ribs. "It's a good thing we have the captain around to stop you from making a fool of yourself in front of the entire country."
The King put a hand to his heart in mock pain. "You mock me." He leaned close and made his voice low and threatening. "It is not good to offend a king."
Karigan felt her breath catch for a moment at the change that came over him before she leaned forward and kissed him passionately on the lips.
Karigan leaned backwards against Zachary's chest and inhaled deeply. The scents of the Eletian forest filled her with a sense of peace and security. Or maybe that was the smell of her king, a soothing mix of soap, sweat, and horse leather. Either way, she felt content with life. The last few days since she had been pronounced fit to leave the Eletian equivalent of the Mender's Wing had been a happy blur of peaceful walks in the forest and on the shores of lakes, along sparkling creeks and through moonlit meadows, of riding bareback through woods where no humans had been before, and of eating food that no humans had ever tasted.
She must have dozed off, for when she awoke it was late afternoon and the sun sent long shadows racing among the trees. Next to her, Zachary shifted and muttered. He tightened his arms around her, pulling her closer. Karigan let out a squeak of pain and wriggled until she was adjusted comfortably. She had just gotten the king's arm perfectly positioned beneath her head when a pair of delicate shoes appeared in front of her eyes. Somial the Eletian stood in front of her, hand outstretched to help her to her feet.
"Rise, Karigan, daughter of Kariny, and come with me," he said in his sleepy lion's voice. "We have much to discuss."
Karigan returned to find Zachary sitting up and eating a plate of bread, cheese, and wine. He looked up when she approached, unconcerned, and scooted over so she could occupy a part of the tree trunk.
There was an awkward moment of silence before they both spoke at once.
"You go first."
Karigan glared at him until he relented.
"Fine. I've been thinking, and it seems like it's time we were getting back to Sacor City."
Karigan felt as if cold hands had reached in and grabbed her heart. "Go…back?" Go back, back to where these pleasant weeks would be naught but a dream? Back to where Zachary and she could never be, back to where he was a king and she remained a merchant? Back to the hard, uncaring life of being a Green Rider? Back, to face her father and her friends and have to tell them she would never see them again?
"Yes. I mean, it's been wonderful being here, but don't you think it's time we went back to the business of protecting the realm and all that?"
Karigan winced. "But…we could be happy here. You could let your heir take over. We could stay here, just the two of us, as ordinary people."
"We should not overstay our welcome," Zachary protested.
"Overstay our welcome? They just asked us to stay! Think of it, Zachary! We could stay here forever, just you and me and the Eletians, and they leave us alone most of the time. And-"
"Karigan. Do you hear yourself? You sound like my brother, ready to jump at the chance of eternal life, or whatever it is Shawdell promised him. What about Condor? Your father? What about the kingdom?"
Karigan wrenched herself away from him. Condor. How could she leave her horse? How could she just leave him, alone, waiting for a rider who would never return? But how could she return, knowing the fate that awaited her? Knowing that eventually, she would have to leave all she loved, again, permanently this time.
"Zachary, I…" She sighed. "I need time to think." She got up and paced around the clearing, not seeing any of the beautiful scenery through a blurry wall of tears. It was selfish of her to let Zachary go where she would not, to let him face the danger alone. But if she left…No, it was better not to think of that. If she did, she would never leave.
"Karigan?" He appeared behind her, arms outstretched.
"Don't!" She sprinted blindly into the darkening woods, leaving the king staring after her in bewilderment.
Lord Timas Mirwell, ruler of Mirwell Province, slammed a fist down on his desk, causing the man across from him to flinch.
"Do you know what your failure has cost me, captain?" Timas hissed. "I will not stand by and allow that filthy woman to be Queen! Find her, I say, and bring her to me, alive, or I will hang you by your innards from the top of my observatory."
"Yes, my lord," the captain stuttered, perhaps remembering the punishments that late Lord Mirwell had been so fond of giving. "But-"
"No excuses! I expect to see you back here within the month, with the greenie woman!" Timas was practically spitting now. "Do not fail me again."
"But, my lord, she-"
"Did you not hear me? Get out!"
The poor captain barely managed a shallow bow in his terror. As the doors clanged shut behind him, Timas leaned back in his throne and smirked. The greenie would be his in time, and then she would pay. He picked up an Intrigue piece from the board beside him and rolled it thoughtfully between his forefinger and thumb.
Yes, there would be a reckoning to come.