Chapter 15: Max

The trio rode through opens fields and wide forests which made up more than half of Altia's terrain, traveling at a steady, yet quick, pace. They stopped to rest only twice a day and made camp on sundowns. They covered many miles during daylight while resting the nighttime. And for two full days and two nights, they had traveled. Max had thought a lot about home. About his XBOX 360 and the games he could've been playing right now. I'm not prepared to live a life like this, he thought. He had wanted - needed - to return home. I mean yeah, he was surviving, and at times he had had a level of fun with Reks, but he was dying in the inside, hoping so very much that the Seer they were going to see could help him find a way back. Back to his regular and uninteresting life on Earth.

"We need to make camp." Reks said on the third day as the sun began its descend on the horizon. Val nodded in agreement from her horse and sped ahead, disappearing into some nearby trees. They had been traversing bandit territory so they had to be cautions about road they took and the locations of their camp sites.

Val returned several hours later , emerging from the nearby woods. "We can make camp there." She pointed towards the direction she had come from. "If we keep the fires low, should be hidden from bandits."

Reks nodded and followed her into the woods. They secured the horses tightly unto a tree and made camp. Max was actually glad they had. He was tired of riding the horse all day. If only there were cars in Altia. It would be awesome.

"I'll take care of the food tonight." Reks said. "You prepare the campfire."

Val nodded.

"I'm going with you." Max really wasn't ready to be alone with the woman who hated him so fiercely for no apparent reason. At least that Max knew. Reks had told him that she had her reasons. But whatever they were, they couldn't justify her hatefulness, Max was sure.

"Very well." Reks nodded. And the two headed deeper into the trees. After an hour or so, they found game. A rabbit, which Reks spotted first. Max was amaze at how quick Reks had spotted the small animal in such darkness. "I've been doing this for a long time, Max." Reks explained, after Max had asked. "I use more than my eyes to see when it comes to hunting. It's all about attuning yourself to the environment. It's a skill you attain in the wilderness."

"Pretty cool." Max said.

After catching another wondering rabbit, they headed back to camp. But when they arrived, they found Val wasn't alone. A man had her by the neck and held a knife to her throat.

Bandits.

Reks was quick to drop the carcass, draw his bow, pull an arrow from his quiver, nocked it, and pulled back the bowstring, aiming at the bandit. But he had done all of that with such speed and precision that it all felt like one swift movement. Max just froze behind Reks, unsure of what to do.

"Welcome back." The bandit said, and grinned. He was quite tall, and well built. His muscle showed that strength was his main quality.

"Release her." Reks told the man, his bow steady.

"Sure." Said the bandit. "As soon as you hand over all your silver coins peacefully. You know this is our territory, you know how it works...Mercenary. It's not my fault you decided to take this route. So lower your little bow and pay up your passage."

"I've got a better proposition." Reks said, not lowering his bow. "You releaser my friend and I'll let you live. How about it...Bandit."

The man laughed, an ugly laugh. Then he gave a signal and four other men emerged from the surrounding trees with weapons drawn. Two of them surrounded Reks and Max, while the other two stood behind their boss. "You misunderstand the situation." The bandit said, moving the knife closer to Val's throat and causing her to wince. He let out a laugh, then said: "It's five of us and two of you. What do you do? Mercenary scum."

Reks looked at Val and the two exchanged an approving nod. "Last warning." Reks said, looking back at the bandit. "Let. Her. Go."

The bandit tsked. "You could've avoided this, you know." He brought the knife closer to Val's throat and was about to cut her when an arrow flew in and pierced his skull. The rest of the bandits, even Max, didn't even see the arrow until it had killed the poor man. He died with a grin on his face.

The End

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