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       Slumber, p.5

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 

  “Rogan!” Haydyn gasped out and fel towards me. My heart flared in panic and I rushed to catch her. As my arms encircled her before she hit the ground, her eyes roled back in her head and she grew limp, lifeless in my arms.

  “Haydyn.” I shook her, a nauseating fear growing in my chest. “Haydyn.” I shook her harder but her eyes wouldn’t open. She was so pale. So deathly pale. I choked on a sob. “Haydyn!” I gasped. “Wake up!” I shook harder, a sob breaking out from the pit of my stomach. “MATAI!” I screamed now. “MATAI!” Chapter Five

  The room was silent. Like death had crept into the palace and snuffed out al the candles, al the cheer, al life. I looked around at my companions and swalowed past the constriction in my throat.

  “I’ve caled you al here for a reason,” I whispered and cleared my throat to be heard.

  After Haydyn had colapsed in my arms, Matai had burst into the room in the company of Wolfe who had stopped outside the suite to enquire after the shouting match going on between Haydyn and I. Unable to rouse Haydyn, I silently made my way through the Palace, terrified of spreading my panic. I quietly ushered Valena and Raj to the suite. When Raj told us gravely he and Valena needed more time to discover Haydyn’s unwaking ilness, deep suspicion and fear began to coalesce in my chest, so I sent a messenger out for Vojvoda Jarvis and Grofka Ava. I met them in the grand entranceway and brought them to my suite, where Wolfe and Matai waited.

  They paled at the news of Haydyn’s colapse. Outraged to learn it wasn’t the first time. I bore the brunt of the glares.

  Finaly, Valena caled us through to Haydyn’s suite. A passing maid’s eyes widened at the site of our ilustrious group going in and I shooed her away with a warning that if she spoke of this to anyone she would be swiftly booted out of the palace. She gulped and nodded, hurrying away. I ignored the reproving look Wolfe threw my way.

  Inside we were greeted by a very grave Raj. And then he confirmed our worst fears. Haydyn had falen il to the Somna. The rarest of ilnesses in Phaedra, the Somna, more coloquialy known as the Sleeping Disease, was a mystery to us. No one knew where, why or what caused it. There had been fewer and fewer records of the Somna over the last centuries, but every now and again… it took hold of someone without warning. It caused a growing lethargy that soon caused the victim to fal into a coma-like state. If the victim was lucky enough to have a Dravilec close by, the healer could hold off death by healing the sleeping person from starvation and dehydration. If not, death was inevitable… unless one could find the rare leaves of the Somna Plant, the only cure to the Sleeping Disease. A plant that was said to be extinct now.

  I gazed around the Chambers of the Rada at Jarvis, Ava, Matai, Wolfe, Valena and Raj. Only we knew Haydyn was dying. That’s why Phaedra was faling apart.

  Unbeknownst to her, her magic was waning with her ilness.

  I thought of my harsh words to Haydyn, the words that had been my last. I flinched and then gritted my teeth. They wouldn’t be my last. Haydyn was not dying. Not while I had breath in my body.

  “Someone, command me to seek the Somna plant,” I urged, almost violently.

  Wolfe’s eyes widened as everyone shifted, as if waking out of a coma themselves. “Of course,” he whispered, and they al seemed to admonish themselves for not having thought of it before. “Rogan-”

  “Not you,” I interrupted. I wouldn’t be ordered to seek anything from another Stovia again. If I hadn’t known any better I would have thought I’d hurt Wolfe’s feelings by the wounded look I received. I ignored him and turned to Jarvis. “Vojvoda.” He nodded militantly. “Rogan, I want you to seek the Somna Plant.”

  Waves crashed over me and I shuddered at the current of energy that dragged on and on. I’d never been hit with my magic like this before, my nerves buzzing and twanging, my muscles twitching. But as I saw the Somna Plant buried in the northern most point of Phaedra, I knew why. I had never had to seek anything so far from me before. “It exists,” I exhaled in relief, my heart in my throat, tears pricking my eyes. I felt them al exhale with me.

  “Where?” Matai croaked.

  I smirked unhappily at the thought of my journey ahead. “The Pool of Phaedra.”

  Ava gasped. “In the Mountains of Alvernia?”

  I shrugged. “Is there any other?”

  “You’re going to retrieve it, aren’t you?” Jarvis gave me a worried look.

  Scornfuly, I curled my lip back. How dare he question my honour?! “Of course, I am,” I snapped, my brain whirring with what needed to be done. “We’l send word ahead to Vojvoda Andrei Rada that I and some of the Royal Guard are coming to visit his province. Let him and everyone else think Haydyn’s sending me to feel out a possible betrothal between her and the Markiz. Everyone knows Haydyn defers to my opinion, so no one wil question it. In reality, I wil spend only a day or so at Arrana and head into the mountains to retrieve the plant.” I looked around at them al sternly, not taking a moment for a breath. “Back here, Haydyn has decided she would like some peace from palace life. She’s going to stay in her cottage in Land’s End. Only Matai, Raj…” I took a moment to think who would be most trustworthy.

  “She’l need a chaperone for appearances sake so we’l send Seamstress Rowan with you. She can be trusted.” I stared them al down. “No one must know the truth but us and Rowan.”

  They al gazed at me like they’d never seen me before. Jarvis gave me what could pass for a warm look as he nodded. “It’s an excelent plan, Rogan.”

  “How long wil it take you to retrieve the plant?” Valena asked quietly, her fingers worrying the handkerchief in her hand. She hadn’t stopped crying since she’d helped Raj uncover Haydyn’s ilness.

  Unwilingly I looked to Wolfe. He was the only one who knew the provinces wel. He cocked his head to the side thinking about it. “Without interruption? With the Royal Guard-”

  “Not al of them.” I shook my head.

  “My Lady, crime rate is rising. There is no way I’m taking the Handmaiden of Phaedra across our land without an army.”

  “Stop caling me the Handmaiden of Phaedra.”

  He shrugged. “Just being respectful.”

  “I’d believe that if you didn’t add this mocking tone to the title every time you say it,” I huffed, and realised we were being childish. “Fine. Twenty men.”

  “A hundred.”

  A hundred men! Talk about conspicuous. I gave him a look that told him I thought it was ridiculous.

  Wolfe snarled, “Fine, fifty.”

  I opened my mouth to argue and Jarvis held up a hand. “You wil take fifty men with you, Rogan. That’s an order from the Rada.” I grimaced but deferred to his wishes with a brittle nod. “Alright, so how long wil it take us?” Wolfe shook his head. “Difficult to say. Depending on weather and any other unforeseen circumstances I would say anything between three to six weeks. What wil I tel my men?” He queried Jarvis.

  “I assume you can trust Lieutenant Chaeron with the truth. Otherwise, just what Rogan outlaid. This is merely a diplomatic trip on behalf of the Princezna. If trouble brews and you must tel your men then you must, but otherwise keep it between you, Rogan and Chaeron. May I suggest you leave Second Lieutenant Worth back at the Palace, just in case you and Rogan don’t make it back in time before trouble arrives here?” Jarvis shuddered at the thought of crime in Sabithia, as did we al as we shared anxious looks.

  “Of course.” Wolfe stood, projecting strength and capability. They al looked to him as if he would take care of everything. I hated him for that. “I’l see to my men.”

  “I’l see to Haydyn’s quiet removal from the Palace,” Ava said, standing unsteadily to her feet. “Lord Matai, wil you find Seamstress Rowan, explain everything. She wil need to pack a few things. Raj, Valena, Lord Jarvis, we need to get the Princezna out of the Palace.” She turned to me and, taking me by surprise, she drew me into a soft hug. I stiffened at the touch. No one but Haydyn and Valena ever hugged me. “Good luck, Rogan. I know you can do this. We s
hal see you in a few weeks’

  time.”

  I nodded, puling back, trying not to choke on my tears. “I better gather my things together.” I strode to Valena and drew her into a tight hug, and she bent down to soak her tears on my shoulder. “You take care of her. And yourself.”

  “Be careful, Rogan.” Valena puled back, brushing at her tears. “Please.”

  I promised I would and marched from the room, only now feeling what Haydyn must feel every day.

  The weight of an entire world on my shoulders.

  And now, like her, I would have given anything to ask someone else to help me carry my burden.

  Chapter Six

  Haydyn lay before me on her bed, peaceful and pale, her eyelids not even twitching to assure me she was dreaming somewhere inside herself. My throat felt so tight, so sore, and I gripped the bed post lest I reach forward to shake her as I wanted to; to shake her awake and scold her for terrifying the living daylights out of me. Her chest rose gently, slowly, and I let go of the breath I was holding.

  “You’re going to be alright,” I whispered, bending down to brush a kiss across her forehead. I knew every feature, every freckle of her as wel as I knew myself. I choked back a frightened sob and puled away from her. “I promise.”

  ***

  I strode out into the courtyard where the Guard were busying themselves with their horses and the cart that would travel with us with supplies. I tugged on my leather riding gloves, my cloak bilowing at my back as wind rushed in from the east. My heart thudded rapidly in my chest, my whole face tight with tension. I wiled my expression to relax into a soft smile when I realised Jarek was watching me carefuly as I approached him and Midnight.

  “Thank you, Jarek,” I acknowledged, taking Midnight’s reins and stroking my mare’s glossy blue-black coat. Midnight nickered and bounced her head towards me in helo.

  “So.” Jarek eyed me scepticaly. “A diplomatic trip on behalf of the Princezna?”

  Not meeting his eyes, I nodded as I continued to stroke Midnight. “Yes. Haydyn’s interested in improving relations with the Alvernians.”

  “It’s such a hastily put together outing.” Jarek shook his head. “My boys nearly broke their backs getting the horses ready under Wolfe’s command. Usualy a trip such as this would take a week of preparation at least.”

  I shuddered, hating to lie to an old friend. Instead I opted to trust him with a little of the truth. I looked into his eyes and he froze instantly at the seriousness of my gaze. “Alvernia is worsening,” I told him quietly, glancing around to make sure no one else was listening. “I’m going with Captain Stovia to discern the situation for myself and see what can be done. Speak of this to no one, Jarek, but Haydyn may consider a betrothal to Vojvoda Andrei’s son.” Jarek’s eyes widened. “Are things realy that bad?”

  I nodded.

  He sighed wearily, shaking his head at the news. “I swear, I’l tel no one, Rogan. It would cause unnecessary panic.” Smiling at his understanding, I took his hand. “Thank you, Jarek. Haydyn wil be staying at her cottage in Land’s End while I’m gone. The news has troubled her and I think it would do her good to get away from palace life.”

  Jarek squeezed my hand. “And what of you, Rogan? You’re to bear the burden of traveling and worrying and making the decisions? It hardly seems fair.” I felt warmed by his concern and gave him a soft look. “I make no decisions. I merely offer an opinion. Which we al know I do often, and wel, on many subjects,” I teased.

  “I wil miss you while you’re gone.” He raised my hand and kissed it softly, his eyes twinkling as they captured mine. Such a charmer, I shivered. I knew deep down that as soon as I was gone Jarek would be flirting with the next prettiest maid that came along. But there was comfort and ease in being with Jarek, in being in Silvera, and to leave him was to leave the city and al the security I had known since I was blown adrift from my family so many years ago. I felt a sudden panic at having to leave and abruptly puled my hand from his.

  “I won’t be long, Jarek,” I replied and let him help me into the saddle. “Take care of everyone.” He nodded, patting the rump of my horse, and stood back as Wolfe cantered into the courtyard from the stables.

  Wolfe eyed me gravely. “Ready?”

  “As I’l ever be.”

  I was surprised and annoyed as Wolfe sent Lieutenant Chaeron before us so that Wolfe could ride beside me, the Guard at our backs. Before I could offer suggestion of an alternative traveling formation that involved him being gone from my side, Wolfe cleared his throat, “Vovjoda Jarvis has instructed me that we wil have to stop in Peza for the night to visit with Grof Kril Rada, and in Caera to visit with Vojvodkyna Winter Rada.” Visiting nobility on social cals on a journey to save Haydyn’s life?! Were they insane?! Remembering rumours of an affair between Wolfe and Vojvodkyna Winter a few seasons ago I wondered if Jarvis had actualy been the one to come up with those instructions at al. I threw Wolfe a disbelieving look. “That’s ridiculous.” Wolfe shook his head. “No, it’s not. We can’t expect to travel through the land with fifty of the Royal Guard and not have word reach the Rada that the Handmaiden of Phaedra is on a diplomatic trip to Alvernia. The Rada would be insulted if we didn’t stop in to visit with them. Just be thankful we’re only traveling through Raphizya and Daeronia.”

  “Thankful,” I scoffed. “Thankful! It’s your fault for making me bring fifty bloody men with me. We could have gotten through the provinces undetected otherwise.”

  “Oh realy?” He asked, his eyebrow arched mockingly. I glowered at him. “So if you took off through Phaedra with a couple of men you would retrieve the plant faster, is that right?”

  I sniffed. “Exactly.”

  “And how would we explain your disappearance at the palace?”

  I smirked. “I’m at the cottage with Haydyn.”

  Wolfe grunted at my quick response. “Fine. What about the fact that even if you were disguised as a lumberjack people would know you were raised a lady. You’re a target, Rogan; everything about you is, and I doubt even a few men would be able to help you out of the trouble you would get in if I weren’t here supervising you.” I was stunned by his utter arrogance. My expression must have said as much because he chuckled at having irked me, so much so I was speechless.

  “Perhaps I better swap places with Lieutenant Chaeron?”

  I wanted to kick him off his horse. “I think that would be wise,” I muttered through gritted teeth.

  Very quickly I had the soothing presence of the older Lieutenant Chaeron, who was happy to oblige me with pleasant, easy conversation. We passed slowly through the city as folks dodged out of the way of the massive entourage, not to mention some of the streets narrowed greatly here and there, slowing us even more. I was surprised when Wolfe began leading us toward the Flower District, the wealthy neighbourhood where Matai and Wolfe lived, where al nobility and wealthy business owners had beautiful townhouses. This route lengthened our journey out of the City. I was even more surprised when we drew to a halt outside one the townhouses.

  “What’s going on?” I queried Lieutenant Chaeron.

  He nodded to Wolfe as the Captain dismounted from his horse. “Captain Stovia wanted to personaly inform his mother of his departure. She worries.” He smiled at me as if I would be moved by the familial image he created. Instead I had gone cold inside at the thought of Wolfe and his mother. Of the man missing from their lives. I shuddered and looked away from the house, fighting to keep my composure as images of Syracen flashed through my mind, always folowed by my parents’ horrified faces as they died, of my little brother lifeless at my feet.

  “Miss Rogan, are you alright?” Lieutenant Chaeron asked softly.

  I nodded, throwing him a brittle smile. I liked Chaeron. A few years ago I had asked him to stop caling me my Lady like everyone else. He swapped it for Miss Rogan, and it felt a little easier to swalow.

  I was about to speak, to reassure him, when the door to Wolfe’s home reopened and
he appeared with a short woman at his side. He turned and kissed her hand and she smiled sadly, worriedly at him. Then she turned and waved at the Guard.

  “Safe trip, good men!” She caled softly.

  “Thank you, my Lady!” Some of the men caled back. She smiled prettily, stil very attractive for her age, not even a hint of a grey hair in her chestnut tresses. Her eyes traveled over our entourage and then finaly found me. Vikomtesa Stovia froze, her lips faling open, looking aghast. She turned to Wolfe and whispered something and he too stiffened, shaking his head and muttering to her. She nodded, seeming to gulp, and then looked back at me. I could have sworn the woman looked scared.

  Seeming to shake herself, her blue eyes switched from me to Chaeron. “Lieutenant Chaeron, take care of my Wolfe won’t you?” Lieutenant Chaeron grinned as Wolfe roled his eyes at his mother before patting her hand and bouncing down the stone steps to mount his horse with an ease and agility that made me envious. “Of course, my Lady!” Chaeron caled back.

  I looked away sharply, shaken by the Vikomtesa Stovia. Even more so by her reaction to me… as if I was the one to be feared, not them.

  ***

  As soon as we were out of the city, Wolfe pushed us on at a fast pace. When we could we skirted around vilages, when we couldn’t we slowed so as not to cause suspicion. I hated those moments, having to wave to the vilagers like I was royalty, when in truth I was a farm girl just like many of the Sabithians. Once we were out of the vilage and onto the main trade roads, Wolfe picked the pace back up and we folowed suit. My body began to ache three hours in, my bottom numb in the saddle. I tried not to show my discomfort. We wouldn’t be stopping today as we had gotten a late start. We would be riding on until night fal.

  Lieutenant Chaeron seemed to sense my ever growing discomfort and began to talk to me about his family. We shared stories of farm life, how similar the people in Vasterya seemed to those in Sabithia. But not once did I actualy ever mention my family, and Chaeron didn’t pry. Everyone knew my sad tale. Everyone knew I didn’t talk about my sad tale. Instead, the Lieutenant made me laugh as he spoke of his younger sister and her comical attempts to catch the man of her dreams in their vilage in the north west of Sabithia near the stone quarries.

 
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