Short Story
                                     A Most Devoted Son
                                                                     By S.J.Budd


     “I remember when your father used to smile at me like that,” I blushed as I stroked my young son’s cheek. Finn
grinned and wrapped his arms around my legs.

     He shook his head, “No Mummy, it’s always been just me and you.”

     I smiled sadly and stroked the golden sunshine of my son’s hair. He was too young to remember his father, yet
another fearless mercenary who had never returned from the great battle of World’s End. Finn had been spared
that much; the pain of losing a great father at such a young age. So I had kept him so close, so tight that he would
never feel he was missing the love of a parent. My husband Henley would never come back. I was wasting my time
waiting in Volkgard, in a cesspit city of sin and disease.

     I’d received no news just the slow burning certainty that he was dead. I had fought against tears and the broken
fissures in my heart and at the end I had survived. Nothing more than living. I held Finn’s hand as I had always done
and fought on, living from meal to meal, sunrise to sunset. But it never got any easier without Henley.

     “I’d be nothing without you.” I spoke softly. I may not have much to show but I have Finn – my blonde haired
warrior. He is everything to me. Like the breath that both sustains and destroys, it keeps you alive but with every
second brings you closer to death.

     We had been making our way, hand in hand through the busy market square when Finn was slammed to the
floor nearly taking me down with him. I pulled him up quickly and with red behind my eyes, I delivered a short
powerful blow to the side of the man’s cheek who had dared to not look where he was going.

     “That’s my son. How dare you!” I hissed and gave out more slaps to the young man’s head as he grinned and
help up his hands in surrender.

     “My, you’re a spirited young lass.” He beamed. I hit him again for good measure and turned away.

     “Hey, hey, here I’ve got something for you.” The young man called as he chased us through the crowd, “Please
take it, I’m very sorry.” He held out a fresh loaf of bread that was still warm from the oven.

     “We’re fine by ourselves,” I spat and carried on.

     That was the start of our friendship, he never stopped following me and eventually I gave him my name, and he
gave me his; Edward. I teased him that it was a pretty name and he was much embarrassed. He’d come over from
the West and was not accustomed to Volkgardian brutality. I’d begun to like his brown dirty eyes and shoulder
length hair. I liked better his devotion that reached into a part of my heart that had not felt warmth for years.

     I had agreed to meet him one night, after Finn was safely tucked up. We had met up many times but each time
he complained it wasn’t long enough, that he wanted nothing more than to stay up all night and watch the sun rise
over the Volkgardian Mountains with me. I chided him for such a ludicrous suggestion, I had to make sure I always
returned before my little angel woke up.

     “Don’t you think it’s time I was properly introduced to Finn?” Edward kissed my neck and I fell into him.

     “But’s it’s always been just me and him. He’s my little warrior and I am his she bear.”

     “And now it can be the three of us. I will be your king.” He held me close to him, tighter than he had ever done
before, “We cannot truly be together if I can’t be a part of your son’s life.”
He was right of course, I left shortly afterwards and made my way back to our small hut. Finn was still sleeping and I
spent the last night hour watching him by candle light. I listened contently to the rise and fall of his tiny chest and
the flickering of his eyelashes. Admittedly I liked Edward a lot, more than I had wanted to, even Henley would have
approved. He had made me promise to him that if he never returned I would not waste the rest of my life alone. It
was time that the two men in my life should meet. I invited him round for supper the next evening.

     That night Edward came to our door, scrubbed up and leaden like a pack horse with little gifts. Slowly Finn
shuffled forwards to look at him from behind my skirts. I kept my hand upon his shoulder to show Finn I would always
be there for him and I would always be his mother.

     “Hello there little fella,” Edward grinned and ruffled his hair. Finn smiled as if he knew something Edward did not
and did not back away as I feared he would. Instead he reached for the long bow Edward wore on one shoulder.
“Would you like me to show you how to shoot?”

     Finn was captivated by Edward and watched intently everything Edward did, studying his every move, reaching
in and reading his every thought. I felt a small gap between us, there were some things I could not teach my son,
the things that only went on between men. It should have been Henley to have taught him how to hunt, how to stalk
prey, biding your time for the perfect moment of weakness. Now the heavy responsibility had fallen to Edward, for I
knew nothing of killing. My duty was to love and protect against all costs.

     I did not approve of all the things Edward taught my son, but I felt it was no longer my place to say. He taught
Finn how to land a killing blow, how to kill a man with a quick slice through the heart. It was better than not knowing
should he need it. There would come a time eventually, where I would not be there for him. My ashes would be
blown away and crunched to dust and he would have to fight on alone.

     Under Edward’s careful tutelage, Finn grew stronger every day and I shuddered whenever I saw that same look
in Finn’s eyes that Henley had once harboured. The look of a true fighter, the look that had got him killed. I dreaded
that one day Finn would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a mercenary, but it was not my place to stop my
son from becoming a man. I was only there to guide him and protect him whilst he grew. One day he would have no
more need of me and find a woman of his own, one to bear him children and to warm him at night.

     “Do you love me Cora?” Edward said one night in bed.

     “Yes, I think I do,” surprising even myself.

     “Then you will marry me?” I looked into his hopeful eyes, I wanted to say yes, but there was already a man in my
life, “Only if Finn consents to it, after all he is the main man in my life.” I teased for I knew he hated that.

     Touchingly it had taken Edward a week to ask Finn for my hand in marriage. He looked thoughtful, “Yes,” Finn
said very quietly as if his mind was elsewhere. I could tell Edward wanted to gather him up and hug him but instead
he respected the boundaries Finn had laid and made do by ruffling his hair instead. He was well aware that he was
not just gaining a wife, but a son too.

     We danced all night that night, until we were giddy with excitement. Edward had wanted to stay the night but I
kissed him sweetly and said he must wait until we were wed.

     “This is Finn’s house,” I teased as I pushed him out the door.

     That night sleep came to me so easily, now there would be two of us fighting for Finn. Each day, from our now
combined love Finn grew stronger. He was only four years old but already I could see the man in him. However he
was all boy when he came to me that night and asked to sleep in my bed. It was with great sadness that I pulled him
in next to me under the blankets, soon I would be married and there would be no space for his little body when
Edward would become a permanent fixture. Though I was doing this for Finn as well as for me. I would never have
fallen for him unless Finn had too. Finn seemed unusually cold, as if he had been outside.

     “Have you been playing with Edward’s bow again?”

     “No mother, not his bow,” He whispered as he fell asleep.

     I woke up before Finn still heady with excitement, I had decided to make him a special breakfast of fried eggs
and cured sausage from our larder. Now it was time to include Edward too and I took my shawl and wrapped it
around me.

     “No, mother.” Finn pleaded and grabbed my skirts. I turned and smiled and kissed his cheek.

     “Darling, I’m just popping out to see Edward and ask if he too wants breakfast. I’ll be back.”

     Finn shook his head and pulled on my skirts, “He’s not hungry mummy.” There was a strange look in his face
like he had lost of tiny piece of his innocence that kept him whole.

     “Ok Darling, why don’t you go and have a quick wash whilst I fix the two of us eggs and sausages.” He smiled
and left me to it. It was going to take time for Finn to get used to Edward being around all the time. It was best to be
done slowly but the process needed to begin. So when I nipped outside to fetch fresh eggs from the chickens I ran
over to Edward’s little hut.

     Inside was quiet and the silence emanated from Edward. I found him in bed fully clothed, he must have passed
out drunk and died from the single stab wound to his heart. I grabbed the knife from his body and slowly eased it
back out from his clenched flesh and wrapped it in my shawl.

     “What are we going to do mummy?” Finn, my little blonde haired warrior asked when he saw where I had just
returned from. I wanted to scream and cry, I could not believe this could have happened again, to have been able
love again and have it taken from me. I quickly gathered our few meagre possessions. It had taken me years to
work my way out of the slums beyond the city walls and into this little hut right in the heart of Volkgard. But I had
done it once and I would do it again. They were only walls, all they did was keep the cold, rain and wind off of us.
The only thing I ever really had in life was my son. He is everything to me, and a mother’s love never falters, never
breaks, no matter how it is tested.

     “We’re going to go away for a while.” I grabbed his hand.

     “And Edward’s not coming is he?” Finn asked as I guided him through a dark narrow alley way that led to the city’
s walls.

     “No, it’s just you and me now.”

     “It’s always been you and me Mummy.”
About S.J. Budd

Before developing a
passion for writing S.J.
Budd attended Kent
University in Canterbury,
UK and gained a BSc
(Hons) in Biochemistry. As
well as reading and
writing her hobbies
include brewing alcohol.
Originally born in
Cornwall, south west
England, her childhood
was surrounded by myths
and legends and she has
always been fascinated by
anything out of the
ordinary. It was in this
strange and noble land
where she developed a
passion for writing.
She loves writing short
stories exploring dark
fictional worlds and its
mysterious inhabitants,
and is currently working
on her first novel. Her day
job involves working as
journalist for
www.findahood.com and
she also blogs on her site
http://www.sjbudd.co.uk
Her work has appeared in
Sanitarium Magazine,
Siren’s Call Publications,
Deadman’s Tome,
Innersins and Bewildering
Stories.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.