Golden blades of light stretched across the open sky colors radiating throughout it like a fresh painting, as the sun set behind the large peeks of mountain. The soft chirp of birds in the trees up above traveled through the forest, mixing in with the soft rustle of leaves blowing to the breeze. The air was cold as the wind from the north began to bring in the winter for the next few months.
After his talk with Mikel and Vanessa Richard hadn’t returned to the mountain, he needed time to think over what he would do, maybe he could do what Mikel had suggested. Leaving the Gem in front of burning flames seems to be the only choice he has.
Leaning back, he rested his head against the tree behind him, what was he going to do if it doesn’t work? King Damien is overpowered and determined to get his hands on every one of these powerful Jewels.
‘I wonder if he has spies in the other Kingdoms?’ Richard thought removing the Gem to take another look at it, something about it seemed to draw him in, he didn’t know why he felt that way, and he couldn’t figure it out. ‘If he does have people working for him in the other Kingdoms, how many Gems has he got his hands on? How much time do they have before he attacks another Kingdoms?’
Richard could hear the slight crackling of dry leaves from behind him as someone headed in his direction. Putting the Gem back in its pouch Richard stood pressing his body against the tree, slowly peering around it, his eyes landed on a small figure, mildly confused Richard watched as they clumsily walked through the forest not watching where they were stepping.
Reaching for the hilt of his sword Richard looked around for anyone else between the forest's dark shadows. Standing there motionless, his azure eyes darted from one tree to the other, once all was clear he looked back to the figure. Trying to get a better look at their face Richard let out a low sigh, partly from relief, and the fact his peace sadly was over.
“Grace what are you doing out here?” He called walking out from behind the tree towards her.
“I was bored!” The girl shouted back, running up to him her long brown hair flailing behind her. “So I came to look for you.” A wide grin spread across her face.
Richard did everything he could to stop the frown come onto his face as he looked down at her. He could see the very pleased look on her face at her success at sneaking out. Though he did wonder how she managed to sneak past Ryan, that man had eyes in the back of his head. The many times he had tried when he was younger and always got a good earful and more.
“What were you doing?” Grace asked, her expression changing to curiosity at Richard's appearance.
Taking her hand in his Richard began to lead Grace back to the mountain, “Well I was meeting up with some old friends.”
“Oh! When can I meet them?” Grace asked as she looked around, she quickly picked up an orange dappled leaf from the ground, she twisted it in her hand as she seemed to skip alongside Richard.
Holding back his laugh at the girl’s curiosity Richard shook his head. “Soon, I’m sure.” Looking down at Grace again Richard watched as her face changed into a look of worry.
“Umm, do you know why King Damien was looking for me?” Grace didn’t remove her gaze from the leaf she was holding as she awaited the answer.
Thinking it be best to keep parts of the truth from her until she was old enough to understand Richard shook his head. “He could have many reasons…” Richard hold on Grace’s hand tightened as he stopped walking kneeling in front of her. “I know it may be hard for you to understand but you have to listen to me and do just as I say.”
Grace nodded her head vigorously as a look of horror came onto her face, her brown eyes never leaving Richard’s, he could see she didn’t understand what he meant.
Sighing, Richard looked Grace in the eyes with concern, he only hoped what he was about to say would sink in, and the girl would take it to heart. “I don’t know much, but the King is not a nice man, and he wants you for something that could hurt you and maybe more. So whatever you do, you must stay in the mountain, unless I say otherwise. Grace if he gets hold of you there is a chance he will kill you.” As Richard said those words he finally understood why his parents did what they did, they were only doing what they saw was best for him, and it was exactly what he was doing for Grace. Putting her needs ahead of his own. “Do you understand?”
Eyes large with fear Grace slowly nodded her head again as she uttered a very small okay.
“I know it’s hard for you to understand at such a young age, but maybe when you’re a little older you’ll realize this is for your own safety.” Richard smiled at her, hoping that she would get to an age that she would understand.
‘Man I’m starting to sound like Ryan.’ Richard thought to himself as he stood up, a very disturbed look coming onto his face.
The two walked back to the mountain in silence as Richard was lost in his thoughts. Was this what it was like for Ryan all those years ago? Caring for him, making sure he stayed out of trouble. Would he be able to do the same for Grace as Ryan had for him?
Richard looked down at the girl walking next to him, pondering over the problem of how to keep Grace safe from the king. 'At least she's a girl, and probably less rebellious than I was.' He was amazed Ryan had managed to keep him alive this long.
Richard held the door open for Grace as she walked inside the mountain through the stable doors, Richard followed in after her, heading towards the kitchen. Once removing his mask, gloves, and cloak Richard made his way over to one of the many stone shelves in the kitchen, grabbing a loaf of bread along with a knife he placed it on the table before Grace. He watched as the girl pulled up a seat looking up at him then the bread.
“Tell me Grace, how did you manage to escape Ryan?” Richard asked with a hint of curiosity, as he handed her a slice of bread.
Taking the now buttered food she looked down the hall behind her then towards Richard, her brown eyes holding a look that worried Richard. “You have to promise you won't tell.”
“Oookay?” Richard sat down in front of her, not sure if he wanted to know how she did it.
“I climbed out your window!” Grace squealed, a very pleased look coming onto her face, as she took a bite of her bread.
Sitting there motionless, Richard stared at her. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Clearly, they have a very skilled escape artist, it is to be expected being she has had to stay out of the King's way.
Clearing his throat Richard shook his head. “How you managed to get down blows my mind, but after our little talk today you do realize you can’t do that again?”
“Yeah, I know,” Grace mumbled, chomping down another slice of bread.
Everything was quiet as the two quietly ate, Richard’s mind wondering about Ryan and where he could have gotten to, he very rarely left the mountain so he should show up at some point. His thoughts then moved to the girl sitting in front of him, if she was anything like he was at her age, they had a problem, he just hoped his warnings would work and keep her out of danger. The room was peaceful as the two ate their food until Grace began speaking again.
“Can you teach me?” She eagerly asked leaning forward onto the table, a very excited glint in her eyes.
Confused Richard looked up at her, “Teach you what? How to stay well behaved?” He asked arching an eyebrow in amusement.
Pulling a face of exasperation Grace shook her head. “No, I want to do what you did.”
“Grace, I don’t understand. You’re going a have to use more words.” Richard explained, not too sure what she was getting at. What did he do that would get her so excited?
Running her hands over her face very dramatically Grace wiggled on her seat as she enthusiastically exclaimed, “I want to fight like you! Can you teach me?”
Almost choking on his food Richard stared at her, not sure how to handle such a question. “Uh, Grace, I’m afraid you may be a little too young. Maybe when you’re older I can teach you some things.”
Tears welled up in Grace’s eyes as she choked out. “But I am big, seven is a big number.”
Standing, Richard walked over to her seat, sitting down on the bench beside her, “Yes, you are a very big girl, but as much as I would like to show you how to fight and all that, I fear you may get hurt. Just wait a few more years and I promise I will teach you, okay?”
Wiping the tears from her eyes Grace nods, clearly not happy, but willing to listen. “Okay.”
Smiling, Richard dries her cheeks with his thumbs, “It will all be worth it in the end I promise?”
Sniffing, Grace nodded getting up from the table. “I’m going to go to bed now.”
Upset he couldn’t cheer her up Richard said his goodnight and watched her walk down the hall to her room.
“Well, you handled that better than I thought.” Came Ryan’s voice from the doorway leading to the stables.
Richard nearly felt his heart leap out of his throat when he heard Ryan’s voice. “Jeez, give me a heart attack will you!” He grumbled turning to face a very amused old man.
Moving towards the table Ryan sat down next to Richard. “She’s grown rather attached to you.” He mused leaning against the table.
Richard’s gaze shifted over to Ryan, “Well she needs to trust someone. The King is out to get her, and I’m sure he will stop at nothing to make sure the royal line is wiped out, she needs to be protected.” Richard leaned his elbows down on his knees, worried about what would happen if the King did find them.
Ryan hummed nodding, “Yes, and I couldn’t have found a better man to take the job.”
Rather taken aback by the compliment Richard looked up at Ryan who smiled at him, one he hadn’t seen in many years after his family’s death.
“Your parents will be very proud.” Ryan placed a hand on Richard’s shoulder as he continued to talk, “Even if you’re a little rash at times, you do what you think is best, because you know it’s the right thing to do. It’s the reason Grace is here with us today.” Pausing Ryan removed a scroll from beneath his cloak, handing it to Richard. “That’s why I think you’re ready to have this.”
Taking the scroll from Ryan’s hand Richard flipped it over to look at the red wax seal, he could feel his heart stop in his chest as emotions he had kept to himself for years began to overwhelm him. “It’s…my Father’s seal.”
“Your Father told me to give this to you when I thought you were ready, and now that you’re looking after Grace I feel you should know the truth.” Ryan’s voice became softer than normal as he looked down the long hall. “You’re not a child anymore Richard, I understand you want to fix what has been broken and seek some kind of retribution for your parents' death, but Grace is your main concern, and you know that her being here and alive changes things.”
“I know,” Richard rolled the scroll through his hands as he wondered what was written inside, “Her taking the throne from Damien is what needs to be done, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Patting Richard’s back Ryan stood. “Good man.” Folding his arms behind his back Ryan bid him goodnight, heading to his room.
Once entering his own room Richard walked over to the torch lit by his desk after discarding his cloak, mask, and gloves onto his bed. Removing his pouch from his pants he flipped it open allowing the Gem to roll onto the desk, it's color darker than early that day. “What power are you holding?” Richard wondered as he removed the torch from its stand. Sitting, he moved the torch over the Gem just far enough away that the flames are hovering over the Gem’s surface.
Richard sat there for a good hour hoping what Mikel had suggested would work, but from the looks of it, it doesn’t react to the fire. Placing the torch back in its stand Richard leaned his arms over the table resting his chin over his folded arms.
“What is your power?” Richard asked once again, watching the Gem for a moment. “And how do I unlock it?” Sighing Richard sat up at a loss, how was he going to do this? Having given up for the day Richard picked up the Gem about to put it away when everything went an inky black.