Amouraq III: The Secret of the Dagger, Chapter 14

“Not so tight!” Emily requested as a soldier used a spell to dress her in a steel vest. “I’ve got a bit of a sour stomach.”

“Yes, ma’am!” The soldier loosened it a bit, and after she did so, Stephen expected Emily’s muscles to relax more, but she appeared just as tense. “How’s that, your highness?”

Emily croaked out, “Fine! Thank you!”

As she stiffly walked over to Stephen, who already had his armored vest on, he questioned her, “Are you alright?”

“No, I’m not!” she blurted out. “I’m nauseous, my arms and legs are numb, my heart is beating a mile a minute… I just keep thinking about everything that could go wrong, and it’s scaring me to death!”

“Then stop thinking about it,” Stephen advised. “Whenever I prepared myself for a dangerous mission, I kept my cool by just putting my fears to the side and focusing on everything I needed to do.”

Emily thought about this piece of wisdom, and then she regarded him, “You’re right! I need to do that! When Xavier held you captive in his hideout, I didn’t really have time to feel afraid. All I could think about was what I needed to do to rescue you. If I’m gonna save my kingdom, then I need to think about how to prepare and not about all of the negative outcomes! Just the possibilities seem so real, and they’re daunting enough to overwhelm you!” She pulled at the collar of her shirt as if she were letting out some hot steam.

Stephen inquired, “Do you remember what I told you before I got captured in the Hidden Forest when you started to get nervous?”

“No matter what the chances are against you, you have to keep believing that you’ll succeed!” Emily recalled. “Even when you’re inches away from death, you can’t stop believing!” Emily let out a big exhale, and then she hugged him tightly. “You’re my rock! What would I do without you?”

“Go to Hawaii by yourself?” Stephen joked. Emily giggled, and it thrilled him to see her smile. Not only did it signify that her panic was starting to ebb, just knowing that he caused a bit of happiness in her elated him! He savored the warmth that he absorbed that her compressed body generated onto him, and he momentarily wondered if he would ever get to enjoy a touch like this from her again. He quickly veered his thought train away from that notion by commenting, “Man, a cocktail on the beach sounds real good after this!”

Emily concurred, “Mmm-hmm! We should book a couple’s massage too!”

Stephen agreed, “Yeah! Then after that, let’s never leave the honeymoon suite!”

“Sounds good to me!” Emily purred. She looked into his eyes longingly, and Stephen sorely wished that they were in their hotel room right then! He stroked her hair, and he mused how only she had the power to sway his thoughts from such an arduous task! Tears began to form in her eyes, and she stated sweetly, “I love you so much!”

“I love you too!” Stephen gave her a kiss, but then he had to pull himself away from her. If he lingered too long, he could tell he would let his emotions get the better of him. He held onto her hand though because, in this dark moment, he needed that sort of comfort!

Emily ruminated for an instance, and then she concluded, “We’ve been waiting for Xavier’s forces for a while now. We should make sure our fighters haven’t let their anxieties fill in the time!”

Stephen complimented her, “See, this is why you’re queen! You have great ideas!” Emily smiled, and she gave him a quick peck on the cheek before they ventured into the next tent.

After passing through a canvass-covered walkway, they came into a tent that contained nothing but Slentersel in it. Stephen approached him and jovially greeted, “How’s it going?” Slentersel jumped away in revulsion, which confused Stephen until he remembered, “Oh, right, we’re wearing steel.”

“You know, you don’t have to do this,” Emily pointed out.

“Yes I do!” Slentersel differed. “I’ve revealed as much relevant information about my species as possible, but there’s always a chance that I left out a detail that I didn’t realize could help. I wouldn’t feel right if I let you find out for yourselves! Besides, I could use my powers to help heal your soldiers. I can’t bring them back to life without help from more of my bretheren, but I’ll do everything I can to fix it!”

Emily asked him, “Do you understand the risks you’re taking by stepping onto the battlefield?”

Slentersel answered, “I recognize that I may never see my planet ever again. I may not live to see my family one more time, but at least I can find comfort in knowing that they’ll get to cherish the memory that, when given the choice, I did the right thing!”

“You’re a good man, Slentersel!” Stephen remarked to him. “Or a being or however you define yourself, you’re good!”

“Thank you! If we should see each other again, please remove the steel so that I may shake your hand!” Slentersel gave them a bow, and they bowed back before moving on to the next tent.

Stephen and Emily came to a large area full of various military members from all over the world, but before they could check on them, Allison swooped in and embraced them both! “In case I don’t get to see you guys again, I just wanted to say you’re like a brother and sister to me! You’ve taught me so much, and it’s been an honor serving you! There’s no one I’d rather follow into battle!” Emily’s face contorted in a way that conveyed a surprising disbelief, and Allison took notice of it. “Why are you surprised? You’re an amazing leader!”

Emily explained, “I’ve always felt like I’m doing a mediocre job! I mean, I didn’t have a lot of time to learn the job, and half the time, I feel like I’m just guessing at it! When I was a school teacher, I could measure my performance by seeing my students’ progress, and now my people are at war with each other, so…”

“This war was inevitable!” Allison asserted. “I’m glad you’re leading us through it because you truly care about us! You can tell how much you care because your face lights up when you talk about our country! You just walked in here glowing! Your passion makes you a great queen!”

“I keep telling her that!” Stephen chimed in. “I’ve met a lot of world leaders in the past, and I’ve never met anyone who…” He trailed off as Alastair and Finnian came up to them with somber expressions. “What’s up?”

Finnian reported, “We were just talking to some of the soldiers, and, well, morale seems a little low.”

Emily and Stephen urgently walked over to the soldiers, and Emily queried, “What’s going on?”

“We feel like animals going out to slaughter!” one soldier complained.

“Yeah!” another soldier added. “This is our first time dealing with magic or aliens, and it just seems so impossible for us to get a victory here!”

Many of the soldiers shared his sentiment and began yelling their opinions loudly. It annoyed Stephen enough to see trained fighters adopt such a callous attitude towards their mission, but when they didn’t respect Emily, the queen and supreme commander of the military, enough to let her speak, he had to say something! His voice boomed as he bellowed, “What’s wrong with you all? Most of you are experienced soldiers who didn’t know what your enemy was capable of, but you fought and won anyways! Is this the attitude you carried when you were on the battlefield? Of course not! You’d all be dead if you thought you were doomed to failure! I have no magical skills, but I still defeated a number of powerful creatures, so you can too! Quit focusing so much on your burden! Yes, it’s heavy, but so is your job! You have to keep your spirits up so you’re the ones we turn to protect everything we hold dear! Your family, your friends, your country, your city, your home, your grocery store, your library, your trash can, your mailbox, every little thingis at stake! If you want your life to ever go back to normal, think about the actions you take today! The future of humanity depends on you! We know we can count on you to do the right thing, that’s why you got sent to us! You’re the finest group the world has to offer and nothing- not Xavier, not his aliens, no one will stand in our way! So let’s go out there and fight with every last breath that you have!”

The entire room got jacked up from his speech, and they loudly hooted and hollered in a fervor after he finished. AS they reveled in this voracity, Emily whispered to Stephen, “You’re gonna make a great king!”

Stephen had almost forgotten about that concept. Nothing would stop him from marrying Emily, but it felt strange to consider the fact that his social standing would get elevated! It humbled him to know that Emily trusted him to help take care of her kingdom, and he sheepishly responded, “Well, technically, I’d be a kingly consort!”

Emily seemed to politely disagree, and she started to tell him, “Well, actually, you…”

All of a sudden, Marcus burst into the room, and he announced, “Xavier is here!” Everyone grew quiet for the exact same reason- the battle had begun!

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