Before marriage, Karhal had always slept lightly, but with the warm
comfort of Loella in his arms and a night of finding pleasure in her
embrace, Karhal slept deeply. His arms were snug around his wife,
nestling her close to him, one hand on her hip, the other under her
head and curled around her back. So it was with surprise that a blow
to his stomach, then a random kick to his thigh woke him. He jerked
awake, confused and immediately on alert, only to look in the dim
light of glows to see his wife squirming in her sleep.
"Loella..." He spoke softly, then as her brow furrowed and he heard a
whimper, lightly shook her. "Loella? What's wrong?" There was no Fall,
nothing that would have disturbed her that he was aware of, but the
distressed look on her sleeping face concerned him.
"Hide," Loella gasped. "Hide that babies, he's back." she mumbled not
waking. "Shh," she clung to Karhal.
**What?** Karhal looked down at his wife, confused. He patted her
cheek, raising his voice just enough to not wake the sleeping children
in the next room. "Loella, wake up. You're having a bad dream. Wake
Her eyes blinked open and she sat up still breathing hard as the dream
faded. She put her head in her hands still trying to shake the
feelings of panic. "Sorry," she breathed.
Karhal sat up alongside her, his arm slipping around her lower back to
lightly stroke her spine with a soothing touch. "No, it's okay. But
that must have been a really bad dream, love. I've never seen you move
around so much. What was it? Do you remember?"
"He was here," she whispered. A tear ran down her cheek and she put a
hand on her chest. "He was here again and he was going to hurt the
children." She shook her head. "We can't let him."
Even more confused from sleep, Karhal covered her hand with his own.
"Who? Loella, I'm not going to let anyone hurt our children. You know
that. I'd die first."
She didn't want to say the name like it would somehow make that man
appear. But she shuddered and whispered. "Crolarin."
Karhal went still and bit back a bitter curse. Crolarin, the insane
Harper that had taken so much, continued to haunt his family. He
wrapped his arms around Loella and kissed her temple as he drew her
close. "Don't worry about him, sweetheart. You and the babies, you're
safe." He pressed his cheek against her crown of hair, his jaw taut.
"He can't hurt you anyone, Loella."
She drew comfort from his embrace as she always did. But she shook her
head. "You don't know that." she said bitterly. "He's still out
Karhal took a slow breath and pulled her tighter. Even though they
were alone and there was no one to hear, he spoke quietly. "No, he's
not." He held her close and firmly, as though he was afraid she'd move
away at his next words. But he had to tell her, he had to ease her
worries."He's dead. I killed him."
She froze in his arms as stiff as a board for a moment and looked up
into his eyes. The room was dark with just a glint from the fire's
glow made his eyes visible. "You did?"
He slowly nodded. "Yes." Karhal's voice remained soft. "Eight months
ago I found him trying to climb Lady Benani's garden wall in the
middle of the night.I beat him and put him in a shed and fetched
Zathris to let him know. Zathris pronounced the sentence immediately.
I took care of it."
She closed her eyes and leaned her head forward laying it against his
chest. Slowly her body began to relax. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I couldn't," Karhal's voice was strained. "It wasn't strictly legal,
Loella. There was no trial, nothing official. Zathris could have done
it himself; I was ready for that. But because of what he cost us..."
Karhal's voice cracked,"... our son, Zathris left it to me. It was
vengeance, Loella. For you. For our son. I didn't want you to look at
Her face crumpled as tears enveloped her. She didn't let him see but
couldn't help the silent pumping of her diaphragm. "He almost killed
you, and Livvie," she finally gasped out. "I've been so afraid he'd
come back again."
His arms tightened around her and his eyes closed tight as he pulled
her into his laps, nestled between his thighs. "I'm so sorry, Loella.
I'm so sorry I didn't tell you. I should have. I didn't know you were
so worried. I thought we were doing better. That we'd healed."
"I thought we had too," she said. "But the dreams, I just couldn't get
rid of the dreams. I'm sorry."
He cupped her cheek and gently lifted her head. "You don't have to
apologize. I will never let anyone hurt you or our babies. Ever.
You're safe, Loella." His broad thumb stroked her cheek. "We're all
safe now. No more cause for bad dreams, sweet."
Her arms went around him for a moment and she hugged him hard. Then
she punched him in the shoulder. "Don't you ever withhold something
like that from me again!"
"Ow." His wife could throw a good punch and as he rubbed the spot
she'd struck, he muttered, "I guess I deserved that. But I may not be
able to tell you things. You know that some things I can't talk about. "
"I know that," her brows drew together. "But this concerned me and you
know it. He nearly killed you and Livvie! I don't want to know Lord
Zathris secrets just what applies to me."
Karhal exhaled and looked at his wife, saw the expression on her face,
and relented. Slowly, he nodded. "Alright. If it involves you I'll
tell you about it, unless telling you puts you at risk or I'm ordered
not to." He rubbed his shoulder again and then pressed his lips to her
neck gently. "But if you start having bad dreams, or worry, you have
to tell me. Don't bottle it up."
"Thank you," she said. She didn't entirely like his exceptions but
she'd take what she could get. "But don't treat me like a hot house
flower, Karhal. I'm stronger than that."
"I know. I just want to protect you, Loella. You know that. "
"I know that," she said and shook her head. "Just don't _over_protect
Karhal nodded. "I'll try." He drew her back to lay down beside him,
curling her close to his body. He shifted and tucked her close to his
side, her head on his chest as he rubbed her shoulder. "It'll be
"It'll be alright," she repeated and hugged him.
Last updated on the February 19th 2021