The man awoke, coughing. As his eyes took in his surroundings, he sighed and slumped back down onto his makeshift bed fashioned from leaves and moss.
“So you’ve found me… I guess we just can’t get away from one another, miss.” The man was not making eye contact with Jothal, nor looking at any one thing in particular. It was as if he was contemplating an idea exclusive to himself. He fell into a fit of coughing again, fumbled around him for his skin of water, and sighed back into the leafy bed.
“It would seem so. You were right…” Jothal looked back towards the rocky crevice from which she had just exited. “There’s something not right about that darkness. It got to me… I almost didn’t make it out.” Jothal sat down next to the man’s bed. She could hear his heavy breathing from here. He sounded tired.
“Lucky for us it doesn’t appear that the darkness has reached this far yet…” He turned on his side, his voice growing weak and quiet. Jothal heard the man’s breathing slow down. He must have fallen asleep… Jothal reasoned. I don’t blame him. Whatever that was back there really tired me out as well. Tomorrow, I’ve got to get to the High Priest. Jothal’s eyes shut and she drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, Jothal awoke with the rising of the sun. She had a lot of ground to cover. What’s more, the man would not wake up for more than a few seconds. However, his weight was no more than the weapons that Jothal had carried on the way to Farthingsor, so she positioned the man inside of a hammock-like structure that she had fashioned from her blanket and pulled one of the ends behind her. The man slowed down her progress significantly, but she couldn’t leave him behind. If it wasn’t for his guidance through the crevice earlier, she might not have made it out of the dark. Either way, he would undoubtedly be a good witness to the darkness that was consuming Lithilen.
It was late that night when the gates of Mainstay finally came into view. Jothal’s arms were tired from her luggage, and she wanted nothing more than to be done with her journey. I guess the life of a travelling merchant is no life for me… she thought. I just want to be back home in front of my hearth already. What I wouldn’t give for a draught of mead.
“Hello!” Jothal called as she neared the gates. A guard poked his head out of one of the towers. “I am Jothal Sotlan. I live at Master Hebak’s Blacksmith Shop in the eastern district of Mainstay. I have a sick man here with me in dire need of help.” A guard rushed out of the left tower and approached the man.
“Open the gates!” He called back over his shoulder after seeing the outdoorsman, still passed out. “We’ll get your friend taken care of ma’am. Where did you say you live? We’ll send for you once he’s better.” Two guards ran out of the now open gate carrying a piece of leather stretched over a frame of iron bars. They picked up the man and moved him onto the stretcher. Picking up both ends of the stretcher, the guards hurried back through the gates and towards an unseen goal. Jothal thanked the guards and headed into the city.