Luke was still somewhat drowsy from his long sleep and needed to move around a little; so we loaded our horses and went for a ride around town. We hoped we could find a suitable inn that we could drop our things off before going on a longer ride. Eventually we found a small inn that had enough room for the four of us. We rented two rooms for the night, Erin and I slept in one room, and Luke and Michael in the other.
After that Luke and I went riding along the countryside; it didn’t take long for Luke to wake up, the countryside was absolutely beautiful. The mist still clung to the ground; the little town was in a clearing in a pine forest. The strange thing about these pines is that not only are they incredibly tall, but their first branches don’t start to poke out from the trunk until at least twelve feet up into the air. The mist lent an eerie feeling to the forest. As our horses raced through a field it caused the mist to swirl, forming meaningless patterns. We went from the field to a near-by road, continuing at a gallop.
After about a minute on the road we heard shouting, and slowed down. It was coming from up ahead on the road. We dismounted and tethered our horses to a pine branch that sagged over the road and then slowly crept toward the noise.
“Haha! Look what we found Tanis! It’s a girl! A right pretty one at that!” called a deep male voice.
Neither Luke nor I liked the sound of that. We slipped into the forest and moved again toward the source of the sound. It turned out that the source was three highwaymen had attacked a girl about my age as she rode past. They had beaten her up pretty badly, and had taken most of her stuff. She was in boy’s clothing, so I surmised that she had been disguised as a boy…until one highwayman had pulled off her hat.
Now they were fighting over her, leaving her tied up and beaten in a corner. All she did though, was look at them with disgust, not a single tear in her eye; just hatred and disgust…and a trace of fear. Then one of the highwaymen gave up and left the fight, going over to get a drink. When the other two resumed their fight, he got up and headed for the poor girl. Her eyes widened and she tried to scream, but she was gagged.
One of the bandits had ‘given up’ fighting over me, but as soon as the others resumed the fight he got up and came over to me. Oh no! I can’t let him have me!
“Well well girl, it’s you and me isn’t it?”
He started to reach for me, my eyes widened even farther than they had been and pushed myself as far from him as possible. Just before he touched me he gagged and looked at his chest. A second before it had been a normal breastplate, now there was a blood-covered arrow head protruding from it. Had his comrades discovered what he was doing? I wondered, I was both relieved and saddened at that thought. It meant I wasn’t going to be raped quite yet…but it was still going to happen. Then I heard the argument still going on, wait? If they hadn’t seen him…then what just happened? I pushed the dying highwayman over with my feet to get a better view of who could have shot him. I saw a boy and a girl, both my age, they were both creeping toward me, the boy had a longbow trained on the fighting highwaymen. Why didn’t he just shoot them and be over with it?
I released the arrow just before the man touched her. I would have done it sooner but I needed to be sure I had the right pressure to pierce the man’s armor without going straight through and into the girl. Almost as soon as the arrow left my bow I had another one drawn and notched. I aimed it at the closest of the arguing men and then motioned for Emily to go free the girl. I moved along behind her, a little more slowly, keeping my bow trained on the remaining highwaymen.
When Emily got to the girl she took out the girl’s gag then unsheathed her saber and cut the cords that tied the girl. I got there just as Emily sawed off the cord tying the girl’s feet together. “Thanks,” she whispered to us. “My horse and stuff are over there,” she said pointing behind her slightly into the forest. I nodded and we disappeared into the forest to get her stuff.
Once we had it I took the highwaymen’s horses and let them loose in the direction opposite from the one in which we were headed. Then we returned to our horses and galloped back toward the town. Eventually we had to slow down to rest the horses.
“What’s your name?” I asked the girl.
“Arianna, what’s yours?” she replied.
“I’m Luke and that’s Emily,” I told her as I pointed to Emily.
“Thanks again for what you did back there…if you hadn’t come…well…I’m not sure I would have been able to take it,” Arianna said, pain entering her voice.
“Very happy we could help!” I said brightly, hoping maybe it would help her mood.
She gave me a small smile and looked like she was about to say something but I cut in, “Where do you live? We could escort you there if you want…” I trailed off as her face fell, “what’s wrong?” I asked.
“I-I don’t have a place to live.” She said, looking away from me.
Oh, that was what was bugging her…”If you want you can come with us…it’ll be a lot of traveling and hardship, but we could really use you.” I offered.
“You really want me with you?” she asked.
I nodded and Arianna grinned so widely that I was surprised her ears didn’t fall off. I looked at her and took her in for the first time. She had straight, jet black hair; deep, brown eyes that were almost black; she looked to be about five feet five inches. Her skin was darker than ours, a color close to beige.
She had strapped two long knives to her belt before mounting her horse to leave; they must be worth a fortune. The hilts were made of polished obsidian, and had veins of silver spiraling around it. The blades had a polished silver sheen to them and looked incredibly sharp. The sheaths were made of very high quality black leather, also veined with silver.
When she noticed I was looking at her she blushed and smiled self-consciously. “Am I really that much to look at?” she asked.
“Haha, yeah you actually are, but I was looking because I didn’t really get a chance to earlier,” I said with a friendly smile, “beautiful knives by the way,” I added.
“They were my fathers before…before he died.”
“I’m so sorry…I didn’t know.” I stammered.
“It’s ok…it’s not as if you were the one that killed them,” she said in an attempt to laugh it off.
I didn’t want to push it so I searched my mind for something to change the topic of conversation, “Luke’s parents were killed when he was five,” Emily put in. I winced, now was not the time. We barely even knew her!
“Oh, you have it worse then I do…at least I knew my parents,” Arianna said, her voice showing her embarrassment.
I sighed, “In some ways, in other ways no. I never really knew my parents, so I don’t feel the loss. Mathias was always there, he is like my father. And Emily has been the…ah…feminine influence…I can’t say she was like my mother…too many times it was her that was the one that got us into trouble,” I said with a laugh.
“Hey, not fair! It was you who came up with the idea of nailing a dead fish under a tavern table!” Emily retorted indignantly.
:”Yes, but it was your idea to poke a hole at the bottom of that fishing boat!” I said with a chuckle.
“Oh fine, you win,” Emily said with a pouty face. All three of us laughed as we arrived at the inn.
“Who’s the new one?” asked Erin as we came into the taproom of the small inn we were staying at.
“Her name is Arianna,” I said, “she’ll be coming with us from now on.”
“Hi Arianna,” Erin exclaimed brightly, she was always happy to meet someone new.
Those two started talking up a storm, well, at least Erin started talking, Arianna mainly just listened. I smiled at Emily and we left them to become friends. Emily and I went back outside to make sure that our horses were properly taken care of.
After the long run they had had to make, they wer utterly exhausted. They needed food, water, and a good brushing. I brought out two brushes from the saddlebags and gave one to Emily.
“Alright , let’s clean these poor horses cleaned off and fed,” I said, motioning toward the stables. Emily smiled and followed.
When we had finished with the horses we went back to the taproom. When we got there, Erin and Arianna were still chatting away happily; so we joined them at there table. I motioned for the innkeeper, “Four mugs of cider please,” I told him when he got there.
He nodded, “I’ll be right back,” he said in a heavily accented voice.
“I don’t have any money to pay,” Arianna said, blushing and looking away.
“Don’t worry, you’re part of our group now,” I said as I turned to her, “we will provide for you.”
Arianna turned her head away as her cheeks reddened, “No one has helped me in a long time…and now you not only saved my life and gave me a place to live…you,” she swallowed a lump in her throat and continued, “you are now providing for me; not that I don’t appreciate it, because I really, really do,” at this point she lifted her eyes up to look at me, “but why?”
“This is going to sound crazy and you probably won’t believe it; but we are on a mission to save the world. By we I mean Emily, Erin, me, and Michael.” I told her, “Where is Michael anyways?” I asked Erin.
“He went out to talk with the locals here, to make arrangements for food and such I think,” she said.
“Well we’ll introduce you to him when he get’s back I suppose,” I said as I turned back to Arianna, “anyways, we need more people in our group, we are supposed to travel the continent to gather a group of people who will eventually save the world. I am hoping that you will join us as a part of the group; it won’t be easy, but we do need you.” I finished. Arianna just stared at me with a wide-open mouth. “Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing, I have the ability to heal almost any wound.” I said with a tentative smile.
“Now I know you are joking, but I suppose if you don’t wish to tell me what eth real reason you are being so kind I guess I don’t really need to know…” Arianna said, her voice sounding hurt and her face falling.
I whipped our one of my arrows and used the point to cut open the skin of my arm. As a crimson flow of blood began to run down my arm Arianna’s face twisted in shock and surprise. “I’m not done yet,” I told her with a smirk on my face. I closed my eyes and went dived into my own body to heal the cut. When I came back Arianna’s dark brown eyes were opened so wide that I was afraid that they might pop out of her face, I didn’t want that to happen, it would take a lot of energy to fix that! “Happy?” I asked. When Arianna nodded I added, “You can ask Erin and Emily, I can heal much worse injuries than that.”
Michael chose that moment to come into the Inn and sit by us, “Hello,” He greeted us, “who is this?” he asked, indicating Arianna; who blushed and looked embarrassed.
“Her name is Arianna, and she has joined us,” I told him when it became obvious that Arianna was too shy to speak for herself.
“I’m Michael if Luke hasn’t already told you,” Michael told her by way of greeting. He then turned to me. “The governor has heard of us and wants to see us…I think we arrived in this town at the wrong time…” he said seriously.
“Why does he want us?” I asked, “We haven’t done anything wrong have we?”
“No, not that I know of, but as to why he would want to see us; I have no idea,” Michael replied, “but I would recommend we go soon if not now.”
“Alright, I suppose we had better go,” I said, getting up and leaving four coppers on the table. The rest got up and followed me, “you lead the way,” I told Michael as we left the building.