As the trees of the forest surrounding Megasvalta came into view the lump that had been slowly forming in my throat began to choke me. Eyal and I had left the Striga village in Rod Skov two days before and ever since my apprehension had grown bit by bit, a feeling that now weighed me down and slowed my steps to a reluctant crawl. We had agreed that it was finally time to return to the safe house
To start making plans but the closer we got the more uneasy I felt.
“Are you okay princess?” Eyal asked as he turned to look at me. He had been able to sense my feelings ever since I was a little girl so even when I thought I doing a good job hiding them he always saw right through me.
“I know that we’ll be alright in the safe house but I can’t help being afraid,” I replied as I he gently wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
“There are only bad memories from our time at the safe house before so it’s only normal to be afraid of going back. You’re right though; we’ll be alright,” he told me with a soft reassuring squeeze. I nodded my head in agreement even though I didn’t really feel it and we continued into the dense trees.
The air inside the forest smelled like wet earth from rain that must have fallen sometime last night, a comforting familiar smell that would probably always make me feel safe. It was going to be strange to be so close to a city after living in the wilderness for almost fifteen years with the Striga.
“We’re almost there,” Eyal announced as we crossed over an old bridge that went over a small stream.
“Looks like no one’s been out here in a long time,” I commented as I took in the sight around me, the large tree reaching their branches towards the sky.
“I doubt that Damijan has the aptitude to enjoy nature,” Eyal called from a head of me, casual disdain dripping from every word. “Maybe he would be a kinder soul if he did.”
“Should we build him a nice isolated prison out here after we dethrone him?” I asked, a smirk forming on my face as he caught my gaze.
“It will be too late for that once we dethrone him. If he hasn’t become a more merciful person after being king for fifteen years then he’s never going to change,” he replied.
My heart began to pound in my chest as the safe house rose into view; the outside unchanged even after all this time. We approached the house from the back, circling it like two frightened animals in a stand-off.
“You think anyone might be waiting for us?” I whispered as we eyed the building.
“That’s why we’re standing out of the path of the windows,” Eyal murmured back. “Through the front, I’ll go first.” He lowered his grip on his staff that he carried into a fighting position and headed for the front door. I followed along behind him with my small sword ready as he silently removed the key to the house from his waist pouch. He turned his gaze to me and mouthed a 3,2,1 countdown before quickly jamming the key into the lock and rushing the door with his staff ready to break the skull of anyone who might be waiting on the other side.
The first floor was quiet and dark and there were no sounds coming from the second but that didn’t stop Eyal from bounding up the stairs to check. My eyes looked around as I listened to him crashing into each room, obvious signs that someone had ransacked the place sometime before. All of the cabinets in the kitchen were open; the furniture had been turned over, the small wooden table broken, and all the linen pulled out of the small closet.
“Upstairs is safe. Looks like they eventually found this place after we left,” Eyal said as he came back down the stairs.
“How do we make sure they don’t come back again?” I asked.
“The same way we guarded the palace, with runes. I’ll surround the house with invisibility runes. We’ll know if anyone comes too close but they won’t be able to see us unless I lift the spell,” he explained as he walked over to the door again. I decided to follow him outside to watch because I was always interested in seeing his powers in action but also because the trashed interior of the house was making me feel anything but safe.
I took a deep breath of the fresh air in an attempt to clear the lingering fear from my head as Eyal circled the house marking the best places to draw the runes.
“Why did you learn all of these different runes anyway? You don’t need half of them for necromancy,” I asked as he appeared around the side.
“Had to. The king has always employed a necromancer but rarely do I actually use those powers. We’re mostly used because we’re imposing and live for a quite long time,” he explained as he marked the last place on the ground. “It’s okay though, necromancy is messy and this is much more practical.”
I watched as he slowly drew each rune with a stick in the place that he had marked around the house, each one glowing brightly before disappearing into the dirt. Once he was done he regarded the front door for a few moments before walking over to it and removing a small dagger from his belt. Quickly slicing across the bottom of a few fingers he placed his now bloody hand on the wood and drew a binding rune which glowed then quickly faded like all the others.
“Now everything is complete. I am connected to the runes and I will be able to feel everything that comes near them,” he said when the rune had completely disappeared.
“Did you do that to the palace too?” I asked trying to see if I could find any remnants of the blood that might be left over.
“Yes, but I marked the gates so I knew everything that came in and left the palace grounds,” he replied. “That’s probably the only reason I reached you in time that night, I felt them come through the gates before they made it to the palace.”
A few moments of silence passed between us as all of our words about that night had long run dry, one could only mourn for so long.
“I guess we should go back in and try to clean up some,” I finally suggested. Eyal nodded and we went back inside to start on the lengthy task.