Ardrion woke to the sound of something moving around in his camp. He listened intently trying to figure out what exactly it was. It muttered something and Ardrion shot up, fists clenched, ready to strike. A man was kneeling next to Kaelyth. Her hand was clenched around his wrist as he attempted to make her drink something.
“Who are you?” Ardrion demanded, measuring the distance between him and his weapon.
“Your friend needs help” he said matter-of-factly. He did not even look up to meet Ardrion.
“Who are you?” Ardrion asked more deliberately.
The man stood up slowly with his hands raised. He was middle-aged, but very worn. His clothes suggested he had been in the forest for some time. “Easy.” he said slowly as Ardrion reached for a knife. “My name is Jenrik. There is a village not far from here; I can take you.”
“Why would you help us?” he asked cautiously.
“What is your name?”
After a pause, he replied, “Ardrion. Answer my question.” He studied Jenrik, who stood unmoving.
“Ardrion.” he glanced back at Kaelyth. “We should hurry; it is a few miles from here.”
Ardrion weighed his options. She may not survive a second escape; though it was still questionable whether she would survive the first. We are in need of friends a lot more than enemies. “Which way?” he said after a breath.
Jenrik waved him deeper into the wood. Ardrion gathered his things and packed the makeshift camp as quickly as he could. He did not want to leave any traces for Roszmirrh to find; at least, not easily. As he hoisted Kaelyth to the horse, he noticed she was shivering and feverish, but awake, though he was unsure of how coherent she was. “Just a short ride,” he reassured either her or himself, he wasn't sure of that either. He untied the bridle and broke into a brisk walk beside his horse in the direction Jenrik had indicated. He felt that he might had waited too long already.
Jenrik walked along the other side of the horse. “May I ask what brings you to Atanyi'ri?”
Ardrion chuckled keeping his eyes on the ground ahead. “We're fugitives.” He let the statement sink into Jenrik. “I stole something from the King.”
“What was that?” Jenrik gave no indication of his judgment.
“Kaelyth.” he tilted his head in her direction. “We escaped the Kolrav'an.”
“In Ellrez?” Jenrik was taken aback.
“They pursued us, but we lost them in the wood.”
“Is that why she is in the shape she is?”
“She was in a dungeon, in bad shape, and I couldn't leave her there.”
“She has that effect on others, it seems.” Jenrik replied and remained silent the rest of the trip.
After a few hours, Ardrion had lost his brisk pace, but pressed on in spite of his feet. They were numb, but only to the point where all he could feel was the painful pressure of the ground. He was tired of the dim light and heavy, saturated air that made everything stick. What if Jenrik is just waiting for the right time to strike? He gripped his sword. But, in the short distance ahead that he could see, there stood a small building under the shelter of the wide tree that seemed to grow out of its roof. Jenrik's pace suddenly picked up and walked ahead. He waved to Ardrion signaling for him to stay put. He then disappeared from view as Ardrion shifted his weight from one painful sole to the other.
Jenrik reappeared a few moments later, taking the reins from Ardrion and leading the horse toward the edge of a small clearing. They followed the tree line until Jenrik motioned toward another building. “The healer is ready for Kaelyth. I will take your horse to the river.” he said.
Ardrion, confused but compliant, slid Kaelyth off the horse and carried her inside. A handful of people were rushing back and forth to different tables. “Excuse me,” he stuttered. Without a word, one of the men looked up and took a quick wide step toward them. He pulled Kaelyth out of Ardrion's arms and placed her on a blanketed table. They began to unravel the bundle of blankets that had sheltered her for the last few days. Her sunken eyes created deep shadows that contrasted the pale look of her skin.
“What happened?” one of the men burst.
“I don't know for sure,” Ardrion said quickly. He was tense from watching them work. “I found her like this, I don't know how long she had been hurt. We left yesterday morning; Jenrik found us in the wood.”
They began peeling back layers of cloth containing more and more blood. Ardrion had to look away; he did not want to know how badly she was injured. There was a sudden pause in the middle of the bustle, “Sir, what is your name?” one of the men asked.
“Ardrion, we require Jenrik, can you find him?”
“Uh, yeah. Yes.” he stuttered and ran out the doorway. He took off in the direction Jenrik had gone a few moments ago. As he approached the other side of the clearing, Jenrik appeared between the trees. “They're asking for you,” he called and the two jogged back to the healer. Jenrik disappeared inside.