* * *
With his robes pulled in tight around him, for warmth and comfort, Varlaine shivered in one of the few houses that were still standing. Nico had brought him there, and placed him in the care of a fair young woman with blonde, curling hair. She’d provided him with a half-load of bread and a corner to sit in while she tended to a great many others who were in worse shape than he was; injured and even a few dying men lay on mats spread across the floor of what looked like a tavern, if he had to guess.
He wasn’t alone long, however. Soon after he’d started to feel uncomfortable with the lingering aura of pain and imminence and longed to be back on his own, the door burst in; the blonde lady nearly dropped the jug of water she carried to a man whose bare chest was wrapped in bandages to whip around and face the new arrival, but instead found a panting, red-faced Eryn. Watching the rider’s head jerk from side to side, then seeing the recognition on her face when she found the prince, the barmaid returned to her tasks.
“Prince, I heard someone came after you,” Eryn hissed, warily glancing around when she used his title. He really would rather she didn’t use his title, because it was something of a risk when they were out in the open—especially since he knew now that he was being hunted. “Nico said it was an Alra. What happened?”
Still shaken, ‘Laine’s head bowed. In his hand he held a chunk of the bread he’d been given, something he’d saved; he extended it out to Eryn, who took it and glanced over the food. “I… I don’t know. He said that he was here to bring me back to the castle.”
Eryn furrowed her brows, staring at the bread she’d been offered, before chomping into it wholly and swallowing. It was dry, he knew, and could see it parching her when she bit into the next bite ravenously. Still, she didn’t complain, not at what he gave her. “Did he say anything else?” She asked.
“He said that he was sent by my brother, out of concern.” Varlaine answered her question, but couldn’t answer the confusion that pursed the girl’s lips.
“Your brother? Which one, did he say?” She stopped chewing, speaking with a full mouth to press further.
“Airvlan. My eldest.”
Eryn had been trained fully on the members of the royal family in order to recognize and protect them. That was the reason she had recognized him when he had entered the stables on the night of his escape, after all, despite his twelve-seat distance from the throne. The name confused her; he could see her counting on her fingers, perhaps naming off the others in line in her head. “I’m sorry, my lord, but I can’t think of any Airvlan. I must have forgotten.”
Varlaine shook his head and offered a faint smile. “No, that isn’t it. Airvlan is no longer in the royal family. My father disowned him and exiled him out of Revengard some five years ago… before you would have been undergoing training.”
The rider lifted the rest of the bread to her mouth before pausing and offering it back to ‘Laine. The prince pushed her hand away and she took it, biting half of it off in one chomp. “Exiled… yeah, I think I remember something like that,” She murmured, eyes falling to the dirty, dim wooden floor off the bar. “He did something like plot to overthrow his dad, your dad, right? Only, he got caught. They took him up north, I think, left him in Lor’tsun.”
“You would know better than I would. I was very young, at the time; I know one of my older sisters and a couple of brothers were upset by my father’s decision, and never forgave him for it. That’s about it.” The prince’s hands settled on his stomach, book still in his lap and knees drawn up some. Eryn joined him, then, sitting at his side and pulling one of her own knees up, looping an arm around it.
“Do you think he went through with it, then? The overthrow, I mean,” She asked. He appreciated that she had lowered her voice enough that only people who were listening in could catch any of it, but a paranoia gripped the back of his head and told him to be measured in his replies, to play it safer.
“I don’t want to believe it… but it would make sense. Whatever he did, it was bad enough for my father to think it worth the only thing short of a death sentence.” What didn’t make sense, at least to him, were the screams and pleading he’d heard from a few of his siblings’ rooms on the night of his escape. The murkiness in his head made it all harder to comprehend, to sort out. Cautiously, he leaned over a little more, and some of his weight rest on Eryn’s side. The trainee stiffened for a moment, before leaning back into him and lifting her head. Gratefully, but without a word, he rest his own in the space near her neck that she left; soon after, her own head reclined on his.