My feet carried me for hours. I saw everything with such clarity. The moon beamed down the forest, creating a perfect silhouette of the surrounding trees. I could taste the forest. I could taste the dew on the leaves, the dirt of the ground. I could hear the soft snoring of the big oaks as the wind pushed gently upon their branches. I could feel the moon rays on my skin. They were soothing, almost divine in a way The events happening just behind didn't seem evident. The battle crys, the screaming; didn't exist in this world.
Here is where the utmost beauty of nature resigns. It was sheltered from the ugly world all around.
I don't know how long I ran. It went from light to dark, light to dark in what felt like in a matter of minutes.
“Ma'am where you from?”My head snapped to the side, bringing me back to reality. My sore stinging eyes fixed to the man standing before me. He was soldier of Empess. He was an older man. His chestnut hair was highlighted with gray streaks. His skin was wrinkled, and there was a sadness in his eyes.
“The town of withton”. I lied.
“You're a long way from home aren't you?”
“Yes. I came to visit my grand father.”
“If you're going to Hales, it was taken the other night. No survivors. Anyone who worships Aldalos, is getting grabbed as well. Its now official orders. Don't agree but I'm not going to deny it in front of my superiors. Careful out there. Things are getting bad”.
“I will sir”.
“You look tired young one. If your head north, Shudders town is close. My son owns an Inn called Old tankard. Tell him John sent you. Get some sleep and some warm food in your belly.”
So I turned north towards Shudders. It was better than wandering.
Childrens laughter filled the streets of Shudders. My father told me he was once sweet on a girl here. Her father didn't like the fact that he was a warrior, so he made him leave. He said he never looked back. I believe her name was Annabelle. He use to say everything happened for a reason.
So why did the Empess come at night? Why did they kill my family? How did I escape without a scratch, While others died?
I found the Inn with ease. It was full of sounds of drunk man laughing and carrying on. It smelt like sweat and Ale. The only women here were harlots, trying to make a profit. I walked up to the bar. The barman had his back turned.
“Hey John sent me”. I said. He turned around. He was young. He stood about 6 feet. His Grey shirt clung to him, while his black pants hung just below his hips. His hair was like his fathers, a chestnut color. The difference being that it was long, and it waved. His eyes were tired, but kind.
“He did? If you ever see him again in his travels can you tell him to stop trying to set me up with women?”. He half smiled.
“So what can I do for you?”.
“I have no gold, but I need a room and some food. And a bathe. And honesty, after the last few days I've had, I could really use a tankard of Ale. I'd repay you of course. I could keep your bar for you a couple days.”
“Don't worry about it. Business is booming from the war. I don't mind.”
“Thank you sir”.
“Sit over there, and I'll have some food and ale for you in a second.”
I dragged my feet over to the secluded table in the left corner. I plopped myself down. My legs ached. The Inn was packed. It looked like everyone was having a great time. It was only a matter of minutes before the barman returned to me. He was carrying 2 tankards and 2 plates. They had chicken and green beans on them. My mouth watered to the smell as he sat down beside me.
“Here you are”.
I dug in.
“Are you a warrior?” he asked gesturing to my sheathed steel sword.
“No. I fight only when I need to”. He had this look of awe in his eyes.
“I wanted to be a warrior, give my life purpose. I do love this Inn, but I'd love to join the war. But my father is against it entirely.”
“Your father is right. Too much innocent blood has been spilled”.
I downed the ale in one large gulp. It hit me instantly.
“Do you want another one?” he asked. I nodded. He got up and gave me another.
“Whats your view on the war?” he asked.
“What is yours?” I asked cautiously.
“I want to be where my Father is. I went with him to Anastasia once. We were attacked by road robbers. We tore them into pieces. I've never felt such so alive”.
“I don't side with either. It's unnecessary violence.”
“Your a follower of Aldalos”. He said standing abruptly.
“No, keep your voice down. Stop. Please.” I pleaded.
“Get out of my bar, I will not have some horrid cultist stay in my presence any longer! Get out!”.
Everyone was staring at me. Not wanting anymore unwanted attention, I stood up and left.