Chapter 9

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The Moonlight glistened over the treetops, lighting the path before them a dim blue. The spy who had not shared her name led the horse quietly along the trail. On the horse was every possession to the couple's name, with Lyn in the saddle cradling Ezra tightly. Callum followed close by the horse's side.

They did not dare make a sound, as the situation was now dire. Lyn could not speak if she wanted to. Reluctantly, she looked back at the gates of the castle one last time. Blinking, she had a moment of heartbreak. Her rank as head mistress had been taken and stripped. Callum lost his position working in the castle's fields. No more comfortable quarters, meals...no more salary. 

She'd never see Snow grow up. Ezra would never have the princess as a playmate. He'd never get to roam the Palace grounds...a tear trickled from her eye, down her cheek. She let it fall. She mouthed a final goodbye towards the castle, and pulled her hood tighter over her head. Life was going to be hard. They'd have to live off the land, hunt, scrounge and scavenge for food...

"Where is this hidden cottage the King has selected for us?" Callum questioned.

"Shhh..." The spy looked back, raising a finger to her lips. "It is hidden deep in the forest. No one will find you there," she whispered.

They walked down the moon lit path in silence. Nothing but the sound of hoofs clopping against the ground, and bags bouncing with each of the horse's strides. They walked in silence for several moments. Finally, Callum felt the need to speak up.

"I'm grateful to the King for his efforts to keep us safe, but is exile in the forest really necessary?"

The spy darted her eyes back to him. Her gaze was quite serious, but calm. 

"Your lives are in great danger..." She spoke plainly.

"How so?" Callum whispered. Lyn listened sleepily, as it was midnight.

The spy huffed. "There are enemy spies that have already infiltrated our Kingdom. It would only be a matter of time before they would attack your wife again."

Callum looked down to his feet as he walked, crunching leaves underfoot. He knew it was all but true.

"She gained a high rank among the servants...I'm sorry it was lost. She did not deserve that."

"Thank you," Lyn mumbled faintly. The spy, expressionless, did not reply. She pulled on the reigns, venturing deeper into the thick forest.

"Couldn't the King just have renounced his decision to have Lyn help him choose a suitable Queen? Why send us into exile?" Callum spoke, frustration hinting in his voice.

"I know that may seem logical to you...but it does not matter. You see, your wife now has a target on her back. She could be coerced into working for the enemy, placing her in even more grave danger. She is important to the King, and that is enough reason for someone to hold her hostage. And If she were not important to him...the King would not bother protecting a servant."

Callum closed his mouth. He wanted to reply, but could not utter another word.

"You are lucky." She finished as she pulled a dangling apple from an overhanging tree. She took a single bite and tossed the apple aside.

Callum stared at her apple confused as he walked by it.

"Eating apples off trees make a lot of noise," Callum whispered confusedly.

The spy looked back from the corner of her eye. "You make enough noise for all of us."

Callum shut his mouth again and fumed. Lyn was mostly asleep, so she heard little to nothing of their conversation. the spy smiled slightly, leading them into the night. No signs of danger were near; she knew because her trained senses were keen. She just wanted to tease Callum with the apple bit, and it worked. He shut up for the next hour.

After another hour, Callum expressed his thoughts again.

"So, I bet you believe this is below your station, protecting a servant."

The spy continued looking forward, a smirk on her lips. "I do."

"What?" Callum whispered, eyebrows furrowed. He adjusted Ezra in his arms. He had taken him as Lyn had finally fallen fast asleep.

"You asked, so, I let you know." She continued smirking. "I could not believe it when I received this assignment...help a servant? Ha...!" She rolled her eyes to the sky, waving a pompous hand.

"Oh, really..." Callum whispered. 

"I laugh, even." she egged on.

"Could you keep it down?"

"Alright, alright..." She rolled her eyes, as if she would ever neglect her sworn duty of keeping them safe. She thought Callum should really have more faith in her ability. "Not much farther."

-

Callum patted Lyn on her leg. She jolted up, tired eyes searching around her. She didn't sleep that well riding on horseback.

"We're here..."Callum spoke gently. 

Peering into the darkness, Lyn could make out a white, adobe-type house with bark shingles as roofing. It had a large water wheel churning a freshwater river nearby. Lyn swung her leg over the horse, paying careful attention to her skirt. With one hand on her back, Callum helped her down carefully.

"Grab your things. I will help you." The spy spoke matter-of-factly. 

"No one knows about this place?" Lyn asked, curious.

"Not a single soul, except the Majesty's elite. You are in good hands."

The spy untied the bags from the horses saddle, hauling them into the cottage. Callum did the same, following suit. Lyn held sleeping Ezra close as she made her way through the dark. Upon entering the cottage, the spy lit a lantern on the table, illuminating the room. They dropped their bags to the floor. Callum and Lyn took in its fixtures and decorum. It wasn't too shabby. There was a kitchen area, running water which Callum was sure to test. There was furniture as well. There was a lounge, a rocking chair, and upstairs there was a full feather-stuffed mattress on an iron bed frame. The only thing was it was incredibly dusty, as it had not been lived in for years.

"I hope you find it accommodating." The spy said sincerely. It was one of the nicer things spoken from her mouth, as she usually came off quite abrasive.

Lyn breathed, walking forward and soaking in the home. It was warm and musty-smelling, but nothing that she couldn't handle. The cottage was actually nicer than their servants' living quarters in the castle. 

"I think we will get along fine, here." She turned to the spy, a tight smile on her still unsure face.

"I must go, now." The spy turned to walk out the door. 

"Wait..." Callum spoke. The spy only turned, arching an eyebrow.

"Thank you," He spoke gratefully.

Still arching an eyebrow, she half-smiled in the door jam.

"Anything for My King. And now, anything for you." And she shut the door. A few moments later, they heard the sound of hooves beating away from the cottage. Lyn and Callum stared at each other for several moments. 

"Well..." Lyn blinked profusely, cradling Ezra in her arms who began to fuss. "I better find a place to lay him down for the night. I'm amazed he has only just now woken up."

Callum nodded. Heavy-footed, he walked over to the couch, plopping himself down and sighing. He rubbed his eyes, and soon fell asleep. 

Lyn, emerging from upstairs, stopped at the sight of Callum passed out on the couch. Lyn sighed as she watched him sleep. Taking the lantern upstairs to the bedroom, she lay by Ezra for the night. She lay there, watching the flickering flame of the lantern. She did not shut her eyes until daybreak.


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