I saw Valour race his horse to the princess's side but decided to ignore him for the most part. A guy like him would only last so long. Instead, my attention was drawn once more to Arien's ring. I wondered what exactly made someone worthy of it? What traits were they usually found with?

She caught me glancing at her again and hid her hand from my view, her lips a tight line of annoyance. Truth be told I didn't blame her.  I really needed to be more careful at how I showed my curiosity.

 I turned away and fixed my gaze towards the approaching woods, the pinetrees jutting into the sky as if trying to skewer the lazy clouds. I began to wonder if I should've said something to Odael before we left. I'd been here several times and very few of those times were without some form of danger or other.

"So Jevin," Arien said pointedly, drawing me from my thoughts, "You're a ranger? Where do you come from?"
"All over," I shrugged, "Hence the title."

"I'm trying to start a conversation here. You're not much help."

I smirked, "Well how about where you came from?"

"A band of traders," her tone suddenly sharpened, "We had camped out one night when Ukaor took my cousin captive. That's why I came on this expedition."

I wanted to roll my eyes, "What would Ukaor want with your cousin?"
"I don't know," she shrugged, "said he took something from him or something."

Wow. Either there were some mega rumors going around or I had missed out on a whole lot more than I thought. Had he really become such a monster?

We were drenched in the shadow of the forest now and I couldn't help but hear Valour's voice echo as loud as his tale was tall. He was going to get us killed. It didn't take much to attract--

Bandits. Of course.

"What do we have here?" their leader put his blade to Valour, assuming it was he who had been talking.

"What do you want?" Odael asked, mustering all the bravery she could in her voice.

The leader turned to her and smiled a practically toothless smile, "Oh not much, little miss." I stood up in the stirrups, ready to strike the man at any advancement he made towards her highness, when a muffled cry sounded behind me. Arien and I jerked our heads around to see that Alexican was no longer on her mount and Rerin was fighting to stay atop his. To add to that, Lace and his horse had completely disapeared.

Arien cried out beside me and before I could comprehend what exactly was going on, I felt a hand grab the back of my cloak and try to yank me off my ride. Luckily, my cloak had some give and I was able to stay on, but he still managed to climb up behind me. I ducked as he threw a punch that was aimed towards the back of my head and I elbowed him sharply in return, knocking him off.

 I glanced over to see Arien, with elf-like gracefullness, leap back on her horse after having escaped somehow and a buzzing arrow let me know Alexandria was still alive. Rerin seemed to fending them off fairly well, surprising me with the spells he was using, and the princess somehow had remained out of harm's way so far. I didn't know where Valour had gone to nor did I really care, but where was Lace?

As if in answer to my question, an outburst of some ancient word I didn't quite recognize came from the trees, halting the whole battle for five whole seconds before the heart-racing thumps of horse hoofs could be heard and Lace appeared, plowing over at least half of the bandits. I grinned, beyond grateful for his success. He was indeed great in combat--but we still had the other half to go.

The End

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