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“Thank you, my friend.” Brett said.

The man was called Wallace. He was a big man and was very gentle. Children loved him because he was the best storyteller of all time. He lived alone after his wife passed away the year before. He still had the children to keep him company and enjoyed the smiles on their faces when he told them stories.

Wallace shook Brett’s hand and motioned for him to sit down. He went to get some water for Brett since he knew he would be thirsty after his long voyage and knocking on all those doors. Brett eagerly drank the water in an instant.

“What are you doing here?” Wallace asked him. “You risk getting killed by coming here.”

“I came to warn everyone about an attack we are doing to take back Arcadia. The king of Hresna has ‘donated’ his army to help us.” Brett said. “How are things here, anyway?”

Wallace looked out the window. “Things are tough. We have little or no food because the king takes it all for himself and his army. The guards bully us around and arrest people for no reason.”

“Don’t worry, my friend,” Brett said, “Marc-Andre, Mary-Kate and I will make things right.”

“Marc-Andre and Mary-Kate are alive?” Wallace said surprised. “What about Ashley?”

Wallace noticed the change in Brett’s expression and asked him what was the matter. “Ashley was kidnapped from the kingdom we are staying at a few nights ago and I am very worried about her.”

Wallace put a hand on Brett’s shoulder. “No need to worry, my boy. A party of guards brought her here this morning. I thought maybe they had found you all and...” he trailed off, not wanting to finish his sentence.

“Maybe that’s what they were talking about.” Brett said to himself.

“Who?” Wallace asked.

“On my way here, I heard two guards talking. They said something about a wedding on the next full moon. Maybe they were talking about Ashley!” Brett said. Hope of finding Ashley was starting to build up. “I have to find her.” He said.

“She was taken to the castle. She could be anywhere in there! You will probably be caught in the process.” Wallace said.

“I still have to try.” Brett said has he got up and got his things.

“You always were one to tempt fate.” Wallace smiled.

Brett got up and thanked Wallace. He gave his old friend and teacher a hug. “I will be back, and when I return, Arcadia will be free once again.”

“Good luck.” He said. Brett took one last look at Wallace and ran out the door.

There were guards at every few feet around the castle. He couldn’t see any immediate way into the castle. This was going to be harder than he thought.

Back in Hresna, Marc-Andre was pacing back and forth. Annick was sitting on her throne, watching him as he paced.

“Marc-Andre, you need to relax. You’re going to wear a hole through the floor.” She said.

He sat down, leaning against the wall and put his face in his hands. He rubbed his eyes and looked back up, staring into oblivion. His hair swayed in the wind.

“Marc-Andre?” Annick said as she sat down beside him.

“I can’t take it anymore.” He said softly. “It’s just too much. I...” He trailed off. He once again put his hands to his face.

Annick stroked his hair gently. She knew it was one of those moments to just sit there and be with him. Marc-Andre broke the silence after a while of sitting in silence.

“How’s Mary-Kate?” He asked. With everything going on, he didn’t look after her as much as he should have.

“She’s a strong woman.” Annick said. “She’s handling it better than I would if our roles were switched.”

“You have been a great help in this.” He said. “I can’t thank you enough.”

She kissed him and went back to stroking his hair. It was the first time Marc-Andre had relaxed in the past few days and she wanted it to last a little longer.

Mary-Kate stood on a balcony watching the sunrise. The wind was running through her hair, making it dance over her shoulders. It was warm wind, only adding to the beauty of the moment. The only thing missing for it to be absolutely perfect, was Brett by her side.

She spent every waking moment thinking and worrying about her love. She kept asking herself “Is he ok? How is he? What if he’s captured? Is he still alive?”

The most optimistic guess of the day of Brett’s return was the day after tomorrow. She didn’t know if she could sit still until that day. Even then, Brett might not be back until days later, or not at all. She tried pushing the thought out of her mind, but it remained none the less.

“Come back safe to me, Brett.” She yelled out to the valleys. “Come back to me.” She said softly.

Chapter 24
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