The New King


Heavy footsteps and gun shots can be heard overhead as the enemy soldiers trampled through the holy land in search of the dying King.

Riley stops dead, her nervous breathing echoing through the narrow, darkened passage. Niko does the same when she no longer follows him.

"Get over here," Niko hisses, keeping his teeth clenched and voice low.

Riley scampers down the tunnel. "Sorry, they were so close."

"Shh," he whispers. "Or they'll hear you."

Riley clamps her mouth shut and follows her brother. The next time she talks, her voice is nearly silent.

"What if they find us?"

Niko turns a hard gaze on her. "They won't."

"But Niko, what if -"

"Stop it," Niko snaps. "You can't follow me if you keep asking those questions."

"Sorry," Riley looks away.

When she doesn't continue speaking, Niko turns back the way they are headed. She hurries and falls into step at his side, her nervous breathing is the only sound. He doesn't hassle her; they've both suffered enough in the past month.

The tunnel narrows to a wooden door. Withdrawing a silver key from his pocket, he looks back at Riley.

"Do you want to wait here?"

Riley shifts from side to side, considering the idea, but knows that she is supposed to be there.

"This is wrong," she finally says.

Niko pulls away from the door and puts his hand on her shoulder. "I know, but we have no other option."

She looks at the ceiling made from mud. The hideout is underground, but not very deep; they didn't have the time.

"We shouldn't have left him."

Niko shakes his head. "It's what he wanted."

This answer isn't enough to satisfy Riley. They both swore their allegiance to King Arbord; they both swore to die for him. Yet now, like every other Alsionist, they left him to die, to be captured by the enemy.

A tear rolls down Riley's cheek, and Niko pulls away from her. "I'm sorry, sister. I know you loved him."

"You loved him too," Riley says.

"Now we will love another, as we always have," Niko says. Key in hand, he reaches for the door.

Riley stops him again. "Why must we do this?"

"This has always been our calling," Niko says, not looking back at her, key posed to enter the lock.

"There is so much death..."

Niko looks at his sister. "But also life."

The commotion above falls silent and Niko looks to the ceiling.

"They've found him." Riley whispers, her small hand covering her heart. "I can feel him. He's frightened."

"It's what he wanted," Niko says again.

"They'll be angry when they don't find her as well," Riley looks to the door.

"But they'll believe the kingdom lost, just the same," Niko returns to the lock, sliding the key in and pushing it open.

They are met with stale air, from a room sealed for too long. Riley covers her mouth and nose, but pushes further into the darkness. Niko closes and locks the door behind them. The door opens into a tight hallway, leading into a dimly lit room. They are greeted by an elderly woman, dressed in palace finery: the King's mother.

"Niko, Riley," she says, her voice desperate. "You've arrived; thank the Heavens you have arrived." Then a look of pain crosses her face. "My son?"

Riley only nods to confirm her question.

The elderly woman crosses herself. "May the lord bring him to peace quickly."

Riley places a calming hand on the King's mother. "Only peace awaits His Majesty."

She nods, then takes Riley and Niko by the hand, leading them to an attached room. "And the Queen awaits you." She gently shoves Riley towards the door. She glances back at Niko who still stands by the woman's side.

"You won't meet him?" Riley asks.

Niko smiles. "We may be breaking tradition and changing out rules, but this is one thing we cannot alter. He is yours until he grows."

Even as the sorrow of losing her previous King sinks in, her heart surges at the idea of raising another. She draws a sharp breath before pushing open the wooden door.

Candles light this part of the hideout, casting all the nurses faces in dark shadows, but Riley isn't looking at them, she's focused on the woman lying in the center of it all, breathing erratically, occasionally wailing her pain.

"Your Majesty," Riley says as she kneels at Queen Morgana's side. She grips her hand.

"Riley, thanks the heavens," the Queen mumbles, head rolling to the side to gaze at her with tired dark eyes.

"It will be well, Your Majesty," Riley promises. She locks eyes with the head nurse and nods. The women begin to hurry around, preparing for the delivery. Releasing the Queen's hand, Riley places her hands on Morgana's bulging stomach.

Closing her eyes, she begins to hum. The child begins moving inside, forcing itself out of it's dying womb. Morgana's hand wraps around Riley's wrist and Riley opens her eyes at the touch.

"Take care of him," she whispers, her voice barely audible.

Riley nods. "I will."

The Queen's hand falls limp as Riley feels a surge of power through your fingertips. Then she forces her eyes shut and presses down, pushing the power into the dying womb, and living child. A bead of sweat trickles down her cheek. She doesn't stop pushing until a shrill cry breaks through the thick air. Her eyes shoot open and she pulls away from the Queen's limp body. Carefully, she takes the crying babe from the nurse's arms. He falls silent when she touches him, staring up at her.

Leaning forward, Riley plants a warm kiss on his forehead, sending the dead monarchs power into their only son.

"Welcome to the world, saviour of the Alsionees, King Arboreck," she whispers into his hair. A small smile spreads on the infant's lips and Riley breathes a long sigh of relief. The Alsionees aren't extinct yet.

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