The morning sun woke me up with its imposing rays, my body, tired of the long walk was lazily getting into an upright position. I yawned the tiredness away, my hand instantly went to my stomach as I heard it grumbling and churning inside me. I didn't have dinner last night, only a meager lunch before setting foot toward Ol'sima, which I reached last night. I stood up and stretched my body, feeling my satchel, making sure my gold pieces were still here. A sigh of relief escaped my lips when I felt the coins.
I walked aimlessly around the outskirts of the village, in search of some berries. After a futile search, I entered the village, to find myself in the marketplace. It was bustling with activity, merchants selling their wares and villagers hovering around stalls in order to get the best products from the morning. I couldn't ignore my stomach's complains, but I cannot afford to waste a single gold coin. I dropped my head, maybe if my mind settled on a particular subject, my body will soon forget it hungered for food. I swallowed saliva, in an attempt to deceive my stomach.
"Young man, would you like to buy some jewellery for your lady?" a silver ring with a sapphire encrusted on it was placed before me.
I turned to look at the woman who had offered it and found a young lady about my same age, holding the ring to me. Her hair was dark and her eyes of indigo colour, glint of hope in them as I saw her gaze fall upon my satchel.
"I am sorry," I replied, gently pushing her hand out of my path, "I have no money to pay for it..." I caught sight of a disappointed look on her face, "I wish you good luck." I gave her a departing glance and noticed she had a quiver full of arrows and a bow strapped on her. That was very odd, especially for a woman, to carry weapons with her.
She offered me a smile and turned her attention into alluring another potential customer into buying her jewellery.
"What have you there, pretty?" a gruff voice asked behind me. I spun around and saw two royal officers cornering the girl, one hand was resting on her shoulder to prevent her from escaping them. "Don't you know your place woman? You are suppose to be working in the household of your father or spouse." He ran a finger on her face, she slapped the hand away as if it was filth.
"I am trying to make my fortune," she replied curtly, "this is not against any law."
"Women are forbidden to carry weapons," the other man said, "we will have to confiscate your precious bow and arrows. I can see they are of the best quality..." His hand reached out for her back to take away her arrow.
"They belong to me," she seethed, "now step back." She gave the royal officer a shove.
The officers were taken aback. "Apparently you don't know a woman's position in this village," he raised his hand and brought it down, aiming to slap her across the face. "I will show you..." his sentence was caught in mid-air, as was his hand.
"That is no manner to treat a lady," I retorted, vexed at the behaviour of the doers of Justice, "you should be ashamed of yourself, how are you called a Royal Officer when you have to use your hand against a woman. The kingdom is doomed." I had caught his hand just in time, before connecting with her cheek.
"How dare you, what do you know about Justice? You are only a peasant boy," they laughed. "Nothing good can ever come out of the lot of you."
My hand clenched into a tight fist, ready to send a blow on the snickering officer's face, but a hand wrapped around my tight fist. It was the girl, who gave me a fierce and pleading look. I got her message and unclenched my hand, relaxing my muscles.
A whistle was heard from afar, calling all officers to gather in the town's council. "We will let you go for this one," one said, "we have far more important things to do than to put up with poor villagers. Take care of your sword, my boy, if you don't then somebody might stole that precious relic away." Malicious intentions were behind that ugly smile he gave us before walking away.
"I didn't need your help," she whispered, letting go of my hand.
"Likewise," I replied, trying to sound cool. We watched the two officers storm away, barking at the people to move out of their way. We saw a black cloaked figure walking past them in the opposite direction, my keen eyes saw the person insert its hand inside the officers uniform and retrieve a bag from it, the performance was an act of great agility.
The cloaked woman walked toward us and dumped the bag into the girl's hands. "Call it karma," she said in a velvet and mysterious voice.
The girl peeked inside the bag, to her surprise she found several pieces of gold coins. "Thank you!" she bowed twice, "this is more than enough to get me inside the "Rider's mark"!"
"What?" I asked surprised, "you are here to become a rider? Me too! My names's Lyred."
"Wonderful," the girl said, "Lilyth."
"Corrina," the cloaked woman said.