The Last Lantern

Chapter 24 - Goodbyes

 

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009

 

“But I just found you,” Molly said. Again. She was trying not to whine. But it was hard. She'd thought both her parents dead her whole life. Now suddenly one turns up in her life - alive! - and he wants to rush right out of it again!

“I know,” her father replied He was stroking the back of her hand with his thumb, ever so soothingly. Even so he was meeting her eyes.

He had beautiful eyes, she thought, although there were hard lines around them. All the rebels seemed hard. She supposed they had to be hard living in caves and being chased through the northern wastes. She didn't want to think of how many of them ended up dead. How he could end up dead.

“But we have to keep you safe,” was what her father was saying. “Vaal has agreed to take you to a place where no one can hurt you. I’ll come to you there. Soon. I promise.”

She was afraid. Not of anyone hurting her, rather she was afraid now that she’d found her father she’d never see him again. Something, anything, might get in the way! But she knew that argument wouldn’t work with him. He was determined, she could see that. Gentle, but insistent. A lot like grandfather. Once he’d decided, that was it. You defied him or you gave in.

“What about grandfather? Is he safe?” Molly asked, worrying her lip. She suddenly remembered everyone in Kings Cross. If she were in danger did that mean they were too? And thinking about it, she missed them all terribly. Poor Nigel would be so envious she was on an adventure.

“Yes, my fa.. Lord Rosslyn is quite safe. I’ve had people in Kings Cross watching over the both of you ever since I left. He’s fine. And unlikely to be molested. He’s far too prominent for even King Octavian to dare to bother him.”

Molly frowned. Grandfather prominent? He never did anything. He hadn't left Kings Cross for YEARS.

Bryce put a hand on each of Molly’s arms and held her still, bending down to gaze at her on her own level. “I promise you, we’ll see one another soon. I know you have little reason to trust me, but Molly, I love you and want to spend time with you. It’s just...”

“War is coming,” Molly finished for him, bleakly, looking away.

“Yes, I’m afraid it is. It puts us, particularly Prince Stefan, in a difficult position. If your Southron King attacks the North... “

“You won’t know which side to support?” Molly asked.

Bryce frowned. “Well, we cannot support an invasion. The question is do we join forces with Octavian or just sit it out. If we elect to just sit it out, we lose a lot of support for our rebellion. And a lot more smallfolk will die.”

“Why does the Southron King, my King, want to attack your Northern King anyway?”

He smiled a lopsided smile at her. “My Northern King? Out of the mouth of babes..”

He paused for a bit and his eyes were looking a long way off now. Molly did her best not to squirm, to wait, to be patient.

“Once, a very long time ago, the North and the South were one Kingdom. King Charles wants things that way again, with him in charge of course.”

“But the Northern King...” Molly prompted.

“Yes, the Northern King, King Octavian, will not submit again to rule by the Southrons.”

“Would Prince Stefan if he were King of the North?” Molly asked.

“No. No, I don't think so. Unless he had no choice in the matter, he'd want to remain independent too.”

Molly nodded. “Then you have no choice but to fight with King Octavian. Not really.”

Bryce frowned at his daughter. “So simple.”

Molly hesitated a moment then said, “I want to go with you. Please... Father.”

Bryce reached out and touched her chin with a finger. “I would love for you to go with me. But we ride into battle. Go with Brother Vaal and Phillip. It will help me if I know that you are safe.”

Molly, reluctantly, nodded. “All right. But if you don't show up in a week, I’m going to run away to find you.” She said it fiercely, daring him to contradict her or order her to stay there.

Instead, he laughed, then sobered abruptly. “You are so like your mother.”

--------------

Molly watched morosely as the rebels began emptying the cave. Everything... Every pot and blanket and bit of potato was packed up and carried out to be taken wherever it was they were going.

There were a few wounded men, and they too were carried out after being made as comfortable as possible on sledges.

Molly packed her own few things, eying Phillip who was standing near her, his one bag slung over his shoulder. “Why aren’t you going home?” She finally asked, frowning furiously at him. This was her adventure, not his.

“I’m to go with you and Vaal,” Phillip replied.

“I don’t want you to go with us. Go home. Go home and ... and inherit Rosslyn. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”

Phillip’s eyebrow flew up. “I won’t inherit anything. I’m the youngest son.”

“Almost as bad as being a girl, is it?” Molly retorted.

“Because you're angry your father is not taking you with him, is no reason to take it out on me,” Phillip pointed out.

Molly whirled around furious. “You don't belong here! I didn't ask you to come. Go home!” she shouted, making her hands into fists as if she would hit Phillip. Shouting was better than crying.

“Here, what’s this?” The voice was Vaal’s. He frowned down at Molly. He opened his mouth to say something more but instead pulled her into a hug. “Phillip goes with us. He’s earned the right. And, Lady Molly, you should thank him for his willingness to help us.”

Molly made a face.

Phillip eyed her a moment then turned on a heel and walked away.

“Miss Throckmorton would be appalled,” Vaal said mildly.

Molly turned several shades of red. “I.. I was horrible, wasn’t I?”

“Yes, you were,” Vaal agreed. “Have you so many friends you can treat the ones who risk their necks for you that badly?”

Molly hung her head. “I... Why won’t he take me with him,” she whispered.

“Your father loves you, Molly. You’re all he has left of your mother. He is afraid for you. He wants you safe. Is that so horrible?” Vaal asked.

“I want him safe too,” Molly replied. “But that won’t happen will it?”

Vaal shook his head and stroked Molly’s hair. “No. Not just yet.”

Molly as she rode off on Tansy, with Phillip and Brother Vaal, looked back behind her. Her father stood there. He raised a hand and then blew her a kiss.

She didn’t cry. She wouldn’t let herself.

 

 

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