4- The Forest, Part 1

Salla’s eyes flicked open. The first light of dawn was just beginning to creep through the trees. She gently eased away from Markus, not wanting to wake him. Her bones ached from the previous days ride. She stretched out fully as she stood up. Sedunga noticed her and nodded. Salla carefully made her way over to him.

“Hi Sed” she said.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Not really no, especially after the spiders”.

Sed nodded. “That was rough”. He turned and looked out into the trees. “I expect there will be worse to come before this is finished”.

“Don’t say that. You heard what...Ronan said. We can leave when we get to a city. We can lay low there and hide”.

“You don’t honestly believe he’s going to let Markus leave do you? After that man...Miro took an interest in him. Markus is going to have to go with Ronan”.

“No. No he said he could leave. Markus has to stay with us. We have to go back to the village. They need us”.

“I know they do. We’ll talk to Markus about it the next time we get him alone”.

“Yeah that sounds like a good idea. I don’t trust...Ronan”.

“Neither do I. We have to get away from him once we reach whatever city he is leading us to”.

“We have to get Markus away from him”.

Sed nodded then gestured behind her. Ronan had got to his feet. He shook Markus awake, and then looked over at the two of them.

“We need to get moving. We have a lot of ground to cover. It’s a three day ride from here to Kadres”.

“Is that the city you’re bringing us to?” Salla asked.

“Yes. It is a port city, all of its income is centred on seafaring trade and fishing boats. A friend of mine lives there... at least he used to. I can’t be sure of anything anymore. But if he is there, he can help us”.

“In what way?” Sed asked.

“The less you all know the better”.

“You can’t just keep us in the dark” Salla said, her voice rising.

“I can, and I will. Now pack up your things. We ride in ten minutes”.

“What about breakfast?” Markus asked as he stood.

“It can wait”. He turned away and went to tend to his horse. Salla rolled her eyes at Sed, and then walked over to Markus.

“How are you feeling today?”

“I am fine, Salla. Let’s get ready to ride. It’s going to be a long day”.

“Are you still thinking about the girl?”

“She was there, Salla. I did not hallucinate”.

“I believe you Markus. But Ronan clearly does not”, she glanced quickly around, and then whispered, “I don’t think we should trust him”.

“I don’t know who we can trust, except for each other”.  

Salla nodded. She saddled up Caerta and patted the mare’s head. “I can trust you, can’t I girl?” She placed one foot in the stirrup and heaved herself onto the mare’s back. Swinging around, Salla saw that the others had also mounted their horses. Ronan quickly scanned the area, and then led the way. They moved slowly at the start, picking their way through the trees in single file. Markus rode behind Ronan, with Salla behind him, and Sedunga behind her. 

The End

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