Fifteen Years Ago
Fingal’s resistance cell had identified four rescued children from the palace who needed escorting to Cantlyn. Them, plus Riona, made five. Other resistance members took charge of other children, promising them safe passages to their communities. Unclaimed children who were too young to speak were briskly rounded up by the Imperials: Fingal wondered, briefly, if they’d be taken to Zeplyne’s in the capital or rehomed to Imperial soldier families. He tried not to dwell on it, for worrying about one child was enough.
They’d broken camp in the late morning, groggy but determined. Mostly it was Fingal who was determined. Brendan was still making merry when Fingal woke. He didn’t get much sleep either. Riona had slept against Fingal all night. Once, her cloak almost slipped off. The poor thing seemed susceptible to cold so it didn’t take much convincing for her to keep it on at all times.
Nora, Donnoch, and Brendan trudged along the road with Fingal and Riona and the children towards Cantlyn. Normally he’d be ecstatic to have his friends on an adventure. But between Nora’s obsessive mothering of the children, Donnoch dotting on Riona’s every move, and Brendan casting bluster on this or that future project, Fingal was starting to look forward to some peace and quiet.
“Fingal,” Riona said, tugging at his trouser leg. “How much further?”