It was the greatest feeling in the world - of certainty, looking into his eyes and knowing, love solidified in my heart. For the brief time, as we remained alone in each other’s presence, feeling open, unrestrained, I had forgotten where we were, and the circumstances that laid before us.
As dawn’s first light began to brighten the inn, and the commonroom started to rustle with the activity of the earliest travelers, I was forced to face the reality of the day ahead. How I could only dream that we return home, where our safety and our circumstance was assured. But our duty was not yet complete, and we could not turn back as our friends sat in danger. A determination replaced any fear that remained, an acceptance of whatever destiny that was before us at the garrison.
“I should wake Nellie,” I glanced to the people gathering around us, glowing with the rosy light of morning. “We need to get moving, I suppose.”
Jon nodded as I withdrew my hand from his and slipped quietly from the stool. I made my way up the stairs, angling for our room when I nearly collided with a flurry of Nellie, almost sprinting in my direction. “Oh, I thought you had left without me!” she gasped, looking as if she had rolled out of bed in a great hurry.
“How could we?” I couldn't help a chuckle at her rough appearance and alarmed eyes. Looking her over once more, I swallowed my giggles and asked in all seriousness, “Are you ready?”
Mounted up on our newly-purchased-horses, it did not take us long to come in view of the garrison, a spectacle of firm strength and power. It was something of a frightening sight, with sturdy, impenetrable walls and towers seeing all below. Guards were stationed at the gate, and soldiers paced back and forth atop the walls, bearing weaponry which glimmered silver in the sunlight. Our mission appeared impossible.
“We’re going to get eaten alive in there,” murmured Nellie, the first to speak in the extended silence.
Jon seemed not to hear her, focusing intensely at the problem at hand. He beckoned us off the road and into the forestry, dismounting and tying our horses so we could walk more quietly through the underbrush. I supposed we were searching for a way inside, Jon constantly cautioning us to remain as silent as possible as we made our way around the wide perimeter of the garrison. I felt as if a million eyes were watching us, but I continued to tell myself it was nothing.
We paused after our stroll around the place, making our way back to our tied horses. Finding no obvious weaknesses, I wondered desperately what we were going to do, time starting to slip away rapidly as I watched the sun in the sky.
“How on earth are we ever going to get in there,” Nellie muttered after long, contemplative thought.
I swallowed nervously, looking at Jon, expecting answers but finding none. “Even if we get in, how are we going to get out?”
We swung around, our horses anxiously prancing around their makeshift posts as a gathering of soldiers stepped forward from the shadows of the surrounding woods, imprisoning us in a circle. My heart was racing and was thoughts were swirling. My eyes searched for an out but failed to find one. Jon reached for the sword at his hip, but it would be no use. We were severely outnumbered.
“Don’t even try,” muttered one, displaying a weapon of his own. One, who appeared to be the leader of the group, stepped forward, summoning forward the man at his side. I could not contain a gasp upon seeing the man’s face, revealed by the beams of sunlight. It was the Sheriff from the village. Marty.
The supposed leader, standing beside Marty, raised an eyebrow at my reaction, before turning to him. “Is this them?”
The old village sheriff squinted at each of us, looking us over with his beady little eyes, even though I was sure he was already certain of our identity. Suddenly, I was furious. We should have killed him when we had the chance. “Yes,” he grinned greedily, vengeance in his eyes. He pointed a stubby finger at Jon, saying, “That’s Jon Tillman, leader of their gang. And these are the exact pair of girls that was with him when they attacked.”
“You sure?” the leader asked, eyeing us himself. “Miss. Mays wouldn’t be very pleased if you hauled in the wrong people.”
“I’m positive!” Marty cried. “And what would be group of this sort be doin’ here? Exactly what Miss. Mays thinks their doin’!”
“All right, then,” nodded the other man, beckoning for his men to gather us up. “Come on, let’s haul ‘em in.”
I glanced at Jon and Nellie, as various guards took hold of us. A sinking disappointment settled in my gut, and you could see it in their eyes as well. The soldiers prodded us into line, roughly guiding us in the direction of the imposing garrison.
“Shoulda stayed home and cleaned house, little girl,” the man pushing me along muttered laughingly, a few others joining in the jest. “You’ll be hangin’ with the rest of your friends soon enough.”
They prodded us through the gates, guards eyeing us in a similar manner as we passed by them. I looked back as the gate closed behind us with a loud clatter, shutting us off from the rest of the world.