She glanced at the three men sitting around the campfire and pulled her blanket tighter across her shoulders, blocking the chill of the night air.
Her brother, Murdoch (or Doc, as she had called him since their childhood), stared into the flames with intense focus. The dancing shadows and the weight of their situation aged his young face. Seamus, a hulking figure with a shock of red hair, stewed quietly chewing on sunflower seeds. Haemon was next to her, shoulders slumped and staring at the ground. It had been stone silence since the decision was made.
Doc cleared his throat. “Alright then, we will leave for the castle at first light. We should make it to the kingdom walls by next nightfall.”
Seamus nodded and spit another seed toward the fire. Haemon didn’t move.
“Doc, I -” she began.
“Moira,” he said softly, “you are not going with us. I need you to stay here and defend the other women and children until we return.”
She felt the anger rise into her chest but tried to keep her voice steady. “This camp is enchanted. My protective services are not needed here.”
Seamus interjected gruffly. “You are not going, woman, because this battle is too dangerous. You will be a liability and a distraction.”
“A liability?!” she yelled, “I saved your sorry life just a week ago, Seamus! Have you already forgotten?”
Seamus huffed and turned his attention back to the fire.
She turned to the kind and doting man at her side. “Haemon, you believe that I can do it, don’t you?” From the corner of her eye, she saw Seamus roll his eyes.
Haemon slowly looked at her and gave her a small, sweet smile. “Dear Moira, I do not doubt your abilities. Your skills with the sword are unparalleled…” his voice trailed off and his eyes went back to the ground.
“Go on, tell her,” Seamus insisted.
Haemon winced. “Your… obsession… can make you reckless. I would worry about your safety.”
She recoiled, stung by his betrayal.
“Like I said, a distraction.” Seamus muttered.
“Enough.” Doc finally spoke. “Moira, you are staying here because you are the only family I have left. If anything happened to you I would never forgive myself.”
The group fell silent once more. She fought to keep control of her emotions. Crying or raging would not help her case.
“Doc,” she breathed, “my fate is not your burden to carry.”
Doc put his face in his hands, distressed.
She stood and faced her brother. “This war has taken everything from me. The king… his soul is filthy, stained with the blood of all his victims… our parents, our brother, my fiance. His head is mine and I will take it. There is nothing any of you can do to stop me. I either go with you or I go on my own.”
She waited for his response, the only sounds the crackle of the fire and Seamus spitting seeds. She stole a glance at Haemon but he was still studying the patch of dirt at his feet. She knew that Doc was trying to protect her and that Seamus would never consider her an equal. Haemon, however, was supposed to be supportive. He was supposed to be her friend. His actions hurt her more than those of the others.
Several minutes passed and Doc finally let out a heavy sigh. She reflexively held her breath. “We leave tomorrow at first light.” He flicked his eyes to Moira and added, “all of us.”
Sharing fiction always makes me nervous, but I just thought I would give you a peek at some of the characters from my WIP. They have been sharing my headspace lately.