The Ring Giver: betrayed.

Advisers and supplicants fled the fury that followed the news. The tables in the feast hall crashed and splintered before the king’s rage at the oath-breaker. For one man’s betrayal, one man’s softness, a kingdom could be lost. None save the high priest dared enter the throne room, and he only with the order ready for the king’s seal. The orders were carried by swift horses throughout the land, declaring the man who had been the Sword of the King an outlaw, unwelcome at any hearth, beyond the laws of the land, to be killed along with those traveling with him, be they man, woman or child. Perhaps yet his plans could be saved.

The Woman: scorned.

Dalliances endanger peasant girls, even dalliances with kings. Especially dalliances with kings. Not that the peasant girls can refuse, but she wouldn’t have refused even if she could have. She loved his grey eyes and tender touch for a long while, until she saw him otherwise. Until the other woman came, the girl who had been a peasant dreamed of her own grey eyed boy upon a throne, ruling with wisdom and grace beyond his father’s. Now she just hoped to see the harbor and a ship with dark sails.

The Bride: exultant.

Years of machinations beyond the ken of heaven found fruition in her that night, she knew. Matrimony came with the inducement of her father’s kingdom to go with her betrothed’s own. The dark allegiances that brought her family, once minor nobility and now rulers of a growing power, to the verge of twining their line with an ancient empire remained an undisclosed dire dowry. An heir, a rightful heir, was all that was needed to seal the pact swore by her ancestors and renewed by her when she came of age. She dressed for her wedding and smiled.

The Oath-breaker: escaped.

No longer the Sword of the King, now an outlaw, alone in the Western March, hungering, fearing, and resolute. His trail was plain to follow, easy to find. Perhaps a company of armed men would follow it first. Perhaps there was a hope still. Perhaps the mercy that had turned his blade would redeem him with a quick death after a long fight. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps—so much changes in a man’s mind when he confronts the evil he serves. There in a serving girl’s chamber, the former peasant weeping and pleading, her son strong and resolute, unafraid to die even in his tender years, the weight bore down and clattered his family’s sword to the floor. Though an oath-breaker, he honored his oath to the future king with swift birds bearing message to the harbor and an obvious path beat through the wilderness.

The Child: alive.

Confused but certain, endangered yet unafraid, the salt air a new tang to his nose and lungs. Kept below decks between barrels of fruit, the waves rocked him for the first time, but not the last. Unfamiliar words of command and cursing came from sailors above. He heard the creak of dark sails unfurled as they gathered a wind from the heavens.

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