Danger in the ShadowsMature

 

Sayumi took Kayo's reins as soon as Will came out of the stables. Will smiled and chided, “Don't worry, I promise I didn't hurt him.” Sayumi replied with a sarcastic nod, then tightened Kayo's saddle and mounted her horse.

Rakelle tried to help get the draft horse into the harness for the wagon, but she had no idea how to do it. Thus, she just ended up getting tangled in the reigns. Will snicked a bit to himself, and gingerly untangled Rakelle. Sayumi glanced at Rakelle, and quickly covered her mouth to hold back her laughter after seeing Rakelle's face turn a bright shade of crimson.

Once the horses were ready and they got directions to the south gate from the stable owner, Will drove the wagon in the direction of the south gate as fast as the big draft could run. As the approached the gate Will cautioned, “Remember your fake names, we will need them to get out of here, and also to get inns in the bigger settlements.”

Sayumi frowned, “Wait, how many of these big settlements are we planning to go through?”

Will shrugged. “We have three turnoffs to choose from with different settlements and towns. So we should wait until then; we won't reach there for about a day.” Sayumi groaned as Will knocked on the gate.

One of the guards on the other side yelled at them from over the gate, “Who are you, and do you have a pass?”

Will called back, “My name is Yuki, and we have passes.” The guards argued for a few moments, then opened a slot. Will put three folded pieces of paper through, and the guards inspected them for a moment. Then there was a massive creak as the gate opened. It opened just enough to fit the wagon through, and Sayumi followed the wagon. They started closing the gate once the wagon was through, and it spooked Kayo who dashed through the opening just before it closed. Sayumi glared back at the guards, then muttered to herself for a few moments.

After a few hours of walking down the road, Sayumi asked Will, “So how many more days until we reach Repremendant?”

Will shrugged. “That depends which road we take. Of the three we can choose from, the shortest one has two large settlements on it including Marmelupe. The second has Westbrook and is quite a bit longer (about five days longer). The third, has only a couple small towns, but we are very likely to get robbed if we take that route. However, it is only slightly longer than the shortest one, maybe by a day. So which to you want to take?”

Sayumi blinked a few times before the information really registered in her brain. Basically, it meant either go to the settlement that Eliah's family governed, risk being captured by taking the long route, or risk being robbed while not being discovered. To Sayumi, the choice seemed simple. “Let's take the third one. Its better that we aren't discovered, since I wouldn't be surprised if Eliah has a reward for our capture out by now.”

Sure enough, back at the castle in Feresat, not only was Eliah on the hunt for them, but he had taken over as the new king of Feresat. Eliah slammed his fist into the desk in the former king's study. “How could you let them escape?! I told you to kill them in Beauford, was that so hard? For heaven's sake, you would think my most trusted knights could complete even so simple a task!”

Eliah's first knight, a tall muscular Reprandese man, replied, “Sir, I had not anticipated that they were traveling with an elven man. We were overpowered by him, sir.”

Eliah snorted with disgust. “A dozen of the world's best assassins, defeated by one elven youngster. If they reach Repremendant I swear Takumi, your head will be the first to be mounted to my wall. Or have you not forgotten how the witch-folk decimated your family?”

Takumi's expression hardened, and he replied, “No sir. I will make sure they don't reach Repremendant alive.”

Eliah smiled. “That's my boy. Now go gather your men and don't come back until your task is complete.” As Takumi left, Eliah twirled a pendant between his fingers that Sayumi had been wearing the day he met her. He took the chain, and lifted it over a candle flame and watched the metal surrounding the stone inside it turn black from the smoke. He then inspected the stone and murmured, “Takumi won't succeed. You and me will meet again, Sayumi.” He pried the stone out of the pendant, and realized it was just a piece of rock that they used to pave the roads in Repremendant. He smiled and flicked it out the window. Then he shouted for one of the servants (more like slaves now), and announced, “You remember what Sayumi and Rakelle look like right? Well, I want you to find the most talented artist out of you servants, then sketch both of them and bring it to me. They are going to have a bounty on their heads now.”

That evening, Will set up camp for them in the forest so they would be off the road and less likely to be discovered. As they cooked their dinner and set up their beds, Rakelle counted the money they had left. Once she was done, she asked Sayumi, “Did you pool our money together?”

Sayumi frowned. “Yes. Why do you ask?”

Rakelle's face went a bit more pale. “Well that means we only have one hundred silver feres left.” Sayumi mirrored her expression. One hundred silver feres could only buy a one night stay at a decent inn for three people, not including meals. Sayumi asked worriedly, “Are you sure? How much did we bring?”

Rakelle replied, “We had about three times this, but we had to buy more provisions before we left the farming village- you were still asleep- and the stable wasn't cheap last night either.”

Sayumi held her head in her hands. When she had dashed from the castle with Rakelle on her heels, she hadn't been concerned at all about them running out of money. Will blurted, “Don't worry. Save the money for Repremendant, I will be able to get provisions for us and the horses. We may not have a very comfortable stay in the wagon, but it will do.” Sayumi and Rakelle looked up at him, and saw he was carrying a basket with many types of fruit and berries. Sayumi then remembered another thing about elves: they knew animals and plants far better than humans, and could tell easily whether berries and fruits were edible.

Sayumi sighed and after all three of them finished eating their supper and some of the fruits, Sayumi lifted the covers on her bed and slipped under them. She felt almost immediately the exhaustion that had been evading her slip into her mind and body. She closed her eyes and let it consume her as she drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, Sayumi woke to find Will was already getting the draft horse back into the harness, and Rakelle was packing up their gear. Sayumi asked, “Did I miss something, or are we suddenly in a hurry?”

Will replied without looking up from the horse, “I have a feeling we should move as quickly as possible. We may face some danger today.” Sayumi got up slowly, and as she packed her bed she wondered what he could have meant.

In no more than half an hour they were back on the road. Sayumi was still very tired, so she hardly noticed when Will stopped the wagon and stared horrified at a message board next to the road (message boards were usually used for posting rewards for wanted criminals). When she did notice, she looking in the same direction. The sight that greeted her was three very familiar pictures, one of each of them. They each had a bounty of two hundred thousand silver feres alive, and one hundred fifty thousand dead. The seal on the bottom was that of the King of Feresat, but the name next to it was King Eliah.

Sayumi's blood turned icy, and fear crawled its way back into her brain. She croaked, “Will, what are we going to do now?”

Will looked nervous as he read the description under the pictures, and replied, “We need to cut our hair and change our appearances. And one of you will have to dress as a man.”

Sayumi and Rakelle exchanged glances, and Sayumi knew Rakelle would never agree to dress as a man. Sayumi replied, “I'll dress as a man, but how short must my hair be?”

Will shrugged. “Let's pull over up there and make the adjustments.” Sayumi trotted Kayo behind the wagon, wondering what Will had in mind for her. Once they had pulled over, Will pulled out a dagger, and gathered Sayumi's hair. With one swipe, her hair was now about the same length as her chin. Sayumi almost wanted to cry as Will kept cutting and cutting until her hair was about six inches long. Sayumi ran her hand through her hair, and was already regretting her decision. She muttered sorrowfully, “Did it really have to be this short?”

Will replied, “Well, yes it does. Most men these days don't like having long hair, so they always keep it short. Don't worry, mine will be at least the same length as yours when I'm done.” Sayumi wasn't comforted at all by that fact. She watched as Will also cut Rakelle's beautiful long blond hair, but he only cut it to her shoulders. Rakelle also ran her hands through her hair, but she didn't seem nearly as disappointed as Sayumi; she was actually quite pleased to have shorter hair. Once he had cut Rakelle's hair, Will held the dagger towards Sayumi and asked, “Can you cut my hair?”

Sayumi looked shocked, but she nodded and took the dagger anyway. She took Will's soft white hair in her hand, and she gently cut it off to just below his ears. Then very carefully, she cut the hair around his ears and then slowly moved all over his head. When she was done, his hair was about the same length as hers, and he looked very different. Rakelle's cheeks turned pink as she looked at him, and he smiled. He ran his hand over his head and announced, “Alright, that part is done. Now you need to borrow my spare clothes then, Sayumi.” With that, he crawled under the wagon, and came out with a box. He opened it, and pulled out a baggy shirt and some trousers. Sayumi forced Will to turn around while she changed, and when she was done, she looked like a completely different person. Will looked her up and down and exclaimed, “You look so different! No one will even guess you are female now!”

Sayumi sighed and Will laughed a few times. Then he patted her on the back and added, “Don't worry, this won't be permanent.” Sayumi smoothed her trousers and bit her lip. Then she shrugged, “Well, standing around here won't get us to Repremendant any faster. Let's get going.”

Just after lunch they passed through the crossroads and headed down the road with no large settlements. As Sayumi rode Kayo ahead of the wagon, she found herself scanning the forest surrounding the road. She couldn't help but expect a group of people to leap out at any moment and beat them. Suddenly, Will called to her, “Sayumi!” Sayumi turned around, and Will tossed her his sword. She caught it and looked back at him quizzically. He explained, “You're probably going to need it soon.”

After about an hour, Sayumi felt more terrified than she had in her whole life. Will's cautionary words hung in her mind, and the memory of Eliah's attempted murder melted what courage she had left. She just wanted to kick Kayo into a gallop and abandon all her worries on that forsaken road. But the one thing that kept her from that was Rakelle, and the promise she had made to the king before he died. Take Rakelle with you, and please protect her. She shook the fears from her mind, and held the hilt of the sword more tightly as they continued down the road.

The End

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