Marek awoke and found his men eating breakfast. He and his men ate heartily and made their last goodbyes to the council members. They filled their water jugs and made for the city walls. The city was already starting to come to life again. Some of the citizens had even moved back into their homes. They had to stop several times before reaching the city limits. Time and again they were being thanked by the people around them. People wanted to give them gifts and trinkets of appreciation. Mostly they turned them down, they needed to travel as lightly as possible. Finally they were out of the city and they started to make their way to Avaxia.
Before they got very far a rider in full warrior gear was quickly gaining on their party. It was not even lunch time before the rider caught up. Marek could not determine who the person was because of the armor that covered their face. The rider brought their horse in front of Marek and stopped his progression with a sword at his throat. Marek’s men immediately went for their weapons but he waved them back. The rider spoke gruffly.
“Did you think you could leave without saying goodbye to me?”
Marek stood dumbfounded, he replied, “I have said many goodbyes, who are you block our path?”
The warrior said nothing. They only drew back their sword and swung at Marek’s head. Marek ducked and rolled out of the way. He simultaneously drew his sword. He shouted at the men to stay back and assured them that he would handle this himself. Their swords clashed in a fury of swipes. Marek was narrowly missed several times and was impressed by the warrior’s skill. He applied a series of parries and expected the warrior to lose their grip when he flicked at the base of his opponent’s sword. They did not. Instead the warrior spun around and unarmed Marek with a jolt to the head. The warrior whipped their sword around and brought it to Marek’s neck as his head was pulled back. Marek’s men all pulled their weapons and pointed them directly at the warrior. Marek yelled.
“STOP! It is okay. They will not kill me.”
The men looked stunned. Marek continued.
“I am fine. There is no way that this person would allow their sword to pierce me. Isn’t that right Miranda?”
Miranda pulled her helmet off and drew back her sword.
“How long did it take you to realize it was me?”
“Your technique, I remember our younger days when we would fight with sticks in the woods. Only you could have dodged my attacks the way you did? There was one more giveaway though.”
“What was that?”
Marek stepped in close to her and whispered in her ear, “It was your scent, as sweet and intoxicating as ever.”
Miranda blushed. Marek turned and spoke to his men.
“We will need a moment alone. Let the horses rest and prepare some early lunch.”
Miranda and Marek walked for awhile and then in a patch of grass under a tree. Marek started.
“Why did you come out all this way, surely you got my note?”
Miranda pulled out the note and gave it to Marek. The seal had not been broken.
“I did not read your note. I had a dream last night. You and your men made it to Avaxia. Somehow you had been separated. In my dream I could see you entering a seemingly abandoned building. You and your men had spent several hours searching the city and you had found nothing. You entered a dark room and found a cabinet. You went to open the cabinet and found that it was also empty. When you turned around you found a spear in your belly and you were dead. You never saw or even heard your assailant.”
“But this is just a dream and part of our strategy in Avaxia is that we check everything together, even it it takes longer. I will not be separated in Avaxia.”
“It was more than a dream to me. I woke up crying, I could not stand the thought of you dying, not when there was something I could do to prevent it. I turned over control of the hospital to Lucinda and decided to join you. Given your pitiful display of swordsmanship back there, I would say you need me on this journey.”
Marek smiled wryly, “Indeed I need you, for that and many other reasons. The men will be happy to know that you are joining us. I know I am.”
They rejoined the men and delivered the good news. Marek was awash in smiles for the rest of the day. He made no effort to contain his happiness or his admiration for Miranda. They made a few more stops that day and took their time reaching Avaxia. When they made camp for the evening outside the city walls Marek informed the men that they would enter the city in the morning. He told Trax to draw up a plan for covering the city based on the knowledge that Xenon and Zamir had from their previous journey. Marek and Miranda had a very short dinner and did not stay by the fire with the men that evening. They quickly departed into a tent together and were not seen until the morning. No one dared to bother them or wake them before they appeared on their own fruition.
Image Credit: Marie M