Sam knew something was amiss. Though I tried my hardest, I could not keep it from her for long. I had to tell her that I must leave her and our son. I didn’t know how. It’s not as though I wanted to leave. Our kingdom was at peace. It would not last if I denied Natla her wish. She was a demon at best and she held a sword to my family’s throat.
The politics didn’t bother me. Sam had proven an effective Queen, much to the surprise of many. She hardly needed me, not for that. But I could not protect anyone if I was absent. Yet I could not protect anyone if I stayed. A rather impotent king, I was.
Late into the night, I made preparations. My sword and daggers, my bow. I'll need supplies, enough for several weeks and coin to replenish. Without knowing just how far from my kingdom I'll travel, I decide it's best to take simple gold coins, and while my armor would bear my crest, it didn't look like the sort of gaudy trash a king would wear.
The sword wasn't my royal sword. That belonged here, with Sam and with the kingdom where it belonged. I preferred the weight of Endurance. Roth's sword. The only family heirloom that mattered to me.
With the supplies readied and a horse prepared, I pored over some maps. Our Kingdom, Nishia, lay on the forks of two great rivers. They met, and swept into the sea to the south. To the north and the north east were craggy mountains. West stretched across plains towards craggy hills, and past that lay the Empire of the Sun, once ruled by King Mathias. At it's heart lay the aptly named Solaris. I've never seen it myself, and there isn't a man or woman alive in this kingdom that knows what it looks like, but travelers and merchants have described a vast city, with miles of streets and a labyrinth of buildings, all spiraling around a hill that culminates with a tower made of blood-red stone and shimmering glass.
Beyond that, my maps become useless filled with more myth and legend than fact. What little I've found of this Himiko told me that she was rumored to control storms, and that Sam's family line can be traced to her kingdom, five thousand years ago.
It was such a huge number that I dismissed the idea as preposterous. In our records, few go back even a thousand years, let alone five times that number.
A mocking voice distracted me from my map, and I looked up into Sam's eyes. Sam’s very angry eyes.
"Just what do you think you are doing?" She slapped her hands down on the table, scattering my maps and making me back peddle to a safe distance.
"Sam, I can explain." I hold up my hands, ducking as she threw a scroll at me. "Sam, listen to me!" I duck again and move in close, grabbing my wife by her wrists and holding her hands over her head. She wrapped a leg around my waist and twisted us. We landed on top of the table, which creaked. Sam was pinned, but her legs were like a vice around me, holding me in place on top of her.
"Explain then," she said, and rocked her hips against mine.
My voice sounded as strained as I felt. Even after four years she could make my blood run hot with a simple action or smoldering look. "Must you torture me?"
"You can't leave me, Lara." The mood abruptly shifted. I let go of her wrists, and stroked my fingers along her face. She had a forlorn expression and it broke my heart.
"I have to. Natla was not satisfied with Mathias. I have another task and I will be gone for many months." I put a finger over her lips. "No, you cannot come with me. You've the kingdom to rule over, and our son to protect in my absence. Reyes can help you with this. But as long as Natla holds a sword over us, I have to ... I have to do this. For everyone."
“Lara…” Sam’s voice was cracking, but I had to stand my ground. This was too important. Her life was at stake, our son’s life was at stake.
“Lara, I’m pregnant again.”
Her words sank in pretty quickly, and I think of that damned magical tree Natla planted that somehow helped produce our son. The Queen refused to let me destroy it, fearing that doing so would harm Conrad. I felt a little dizzy. “Are you sure we shouldn’t burn that tree?”