Well guys, the second chapter of that fantasy story.
The next day found the three travelers on the road traveling south to Gawic. Malcolm was leading as usual, and Ian took up rear guard, carefully watching their surroundings, yet remaining the most inconspicuous. Davian kept his post in the middle where he could complain to Malcolm, but where Malcolm could not reply without turning around and stopping.
Davian was about to launch into another series of complaints when a strong hand covered his mouth. He struggled for a bit, mumbling unintelligible words, until he realized it was Ian. Davian nodded several times to let Ian know he was not going to talk. Ian then let him go and headed forwards to walk with Malcolm.
Malcolm said a few words to Ian and the cloaked archer nodded. Ian then dropped back behind Davian. While Malcolm slowed to let Davian catch up.
“We have ourselves our three uncouth feres from yestere’en dogging us. Nay boy! Do not look back. Canst thou see that bend ahead? Good, once we round it, we shalt settle ourselves down an’ wait for our shadows to catch up.”
A few minutes later, the three rough and unkempt men rounded the corner and were met by three very determined and unhappy looking travelers.
“Qráa Stroa (pronounced: cree-aa stro-aa).” Markul spat. In an instant, the limbs of their three assailants were frozen in place. The three men noticed however, with not a little consternation, that Ian’s bow still remained drawn, and the point of the arrow constantly moved to point from one to another.
“Why be thou dogging our steps so?” Markul asked. The man he accosted spat instead of answering. Markul stepped back and said quietly. “Davian?”
The rude prisoner now noticed with great panic the bare sword that Davian held as he casually advanced. Davian took a couple of practice swings then swung his sword full speed at the neck of the man who had been so rude to Markul. However, he stopped just when the blade touched the man’s skin.
“Yea! Yea! I wilt tell thee all I ken,” he squawked. “Just, just remove thy blade from mine neck.”
Davian stepped back while Markul stepped forward. “Well?”
“Two days heretofore, a man clothed in the garb of that man over there,” he indicated Ian with a nod. “Came and told me an’ mine friends that were we to follow thy footsteps and find for him whither thou were going to stay in Gawic, he would pay us thirty gold.”
“Hmm…” Markul said, while the three thugs looked at each other in worry. “Dost thou believe that they have told us enough?”
Davian grinned while Ian remained motionless. “Alright then,” Markul said, turning to continue along the road while Ian and Davian followed him.
“Hey!” one of the prisoners shouted. “Thou cannot leave us trussed up here in such fashion!”
“Too true!” Markul shouted back, waving his hand and saying a single word. “Qráe (pronounced: cree-ay).” A giant branch that had been bent back from the path the whole time swung forward hitting all three men on the foreheads and their limp bodies slumped to the ground.
“I shalt not envy their headaches whence they wake from their slumber,” Davian said, grinning from cold ear to cold ear.
“Aye,” Markul said. “That branch wilt give them more to think about than their thirty-odd gold. Methinks that those who hired them would not have payed them anyway.”
“Who dost thou think they referred to whence they mentioned that their hirers bore a resemblance to Ian?” Davian asked, carefully stepping inside Markul’s miniature trail.
Markul was silent for a long time. In fact, he was silent for so long that Davian thought Markul had not heard his question. But just as he was about to repeat himself, Markul spoke.
“Thou knowest that Ian and myself hail from the order of the Wardens. What thou knowest not is that we be fugitives from that order. The Wardens have been corrupted by a corrupt leader, an’ we left. We now be thought of as traitors, an’ are being hunted by our own kind. They take not kindly to those who leave their order an’ share their secrets abroad.”
Davian walked on in silence for a few minutes after this revelation. He had long suspected that Markul and Ian were running from something or somebody, but had never figured out who they were running from. Davian was just about to speak again when Ian abruptly left the track and entered some underbrush. Davian was going to alert Markul but the latter just held up his hand. He began turning around and Davian did so as well.
Before them stood the man who had so boldly stared at them the night before. He held a drawn sword loosely in his hand, and had it casually pointing in their general direction. Davian hurriedly drew his own sword, but Markul restrained him from charging forward.
“Why doth thou seek to so dog our steps? Be it not easier to walk alongside us as friends than to slink an’ skulk as thou hath been doing for the entirety of this morn?”
“Where be your third companion?” The swordsman said roughly tossing his head slightly, his black hair just brushing the top of his shoulders.
“Over yonder,” Markul said, casually nodding to where Ian now stood atop a hill behind the stranger. Naturally, the man turned to see at what Markul was nodding, and in an instant, an arrow came speeding, striking the stranger’s loosely held sword in the pommel, knocking it out of his hand.
“Prea Véstra! (pronounced: prey-aa vis-traa)” Markul said, as the swordsman made a wild dive for his weapon. The blade flew from the ground into Markul’s open left hand before the man could reach it.
“Now, what be thy interest in following us so?” Markul said, with a smile that never reached his eyes.
The stranger smiled a reckless smile. “What wouldest thou do if I durst tell thee naught?”
“I shalt break thy sword into two pieces,” Markul said raising the sword as if to break it over his knee.
“A sword be but an object, an’ they be not hard to come by,” the stranger replied, his voice even, but Markul had not missed the man’s flicker of doubt when Markul had mentioned his sword.
“Aye,” Markul said. “But this blade means much to thee. Be the cost of secrecy so high that it demands an elven blade be broken?”
Markul’s eyes were keen, and the look of surprise which the stranger hid so well did not pass him.
“If though knowest it is an elven blade, then thou wouldest know that such a blade be unbreakable by any physical means.”
“I did not plan to break thy sword by physical strength.”
“Thou hast me,” the stranger said. “I wilt tell thee all. I be an exile in this kingdom. My name is William. Yestere’en, I saw you, an’ said to myself that ye looks like the kind who could use a stout hand with a blade. But I wanted first to find for myself the quality of ye. Apparently thy quality is high to recognize such an elven blade as this.”
“Aye, I know much, an’ I hath seen much,” Markul said, tossing the sword back to the stranger. “But I care not to burden thee with our woes.”
“There be no woe greater than exile from thy own country.” William said, sheathing his sword, while giving Ian a dark look as the archer brushed past.
“Aye, but there is great danger to be had when seen in our company. Even now, our foes are watching. I can feel them, their piercing stares. But they are mere shadows, a wisp of something which turns into nothing whence one attempts to grasp it. We be hunted by Wardens.”
Even William’s carefree air was blown away by this. “Wardens?” he asked. “What hath thou done to cross the Wardens? For they anger not easily, but their wrath be nigh impossible to withstand.”
“We left them,” Markul replied shortly.
“Then thou and thy companions were Wardens?” William pressed, even more intrigued.
“Nay, Davian be but a Warden in training.”
“Oh, well then, all the more cause for me and thou and thy friends to join paths. We both be outcasts from our people, an’ I see no reason why we canst not work together, to flee from those who pursue us.”
“I knew this was the decision ye would come to,” Markul said, patting William on the shoulder, as he turned to continue down the road. “Come, we have much to do.”