The Knight and His Squire
Chapter 5

Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon

Pyar paced about in her tower. She had been reading up on the history of dark magic, but had failed to learn much in terms of details. It seemed that the history scrolls contained only second-hand information of dark magic and its effects on the populace. The most common theme was death and dark feelings it brew in those who were in the vicinity.

The more she thought about her encounter with Rohea, the more puzzled she felt. Pyar instinctively grabbed the necklace that Cyler had given her, and recalled that she had felt the dark feeling when she first scryed the area. However, when she had found the semi-decayed corpse, the necklace had glowed, but she did not feel any of those feelings. Similarly, when she had observed Rohea and Maes, the necklace had glowed without the accompanied feeling. From her research in dark magic, the common theme was the dark emotions, and not a glowing of a ward.

Pyar removed the necklace and looked at the symbol at the end of it. She did not recognize the rune, but surely she should be able to detect what spell was cast on it? She closed her eyes, and used her inner sight to sense the workings of magic in the necklace. The first thing she sensed was a trace of Cyler lingering on the necklace. That made sense to her, since Cyler was likely the one who cast the ward on the necklace in the first place.

Pyar continued probing, and was surprised to find a separate trail leading away from the capital. She tried following it, but it extended beyond the range of her abilities. Pyar was curious where the second trail would lead to, but that would have to wait. She again focused her concentration on the necklace, trying to locate the source of the warding. However, try as she might, she was unable to find any other trace of magic on the necklace. Figuring that her skills were simply not good enough to detect the magic, she decided to ask Cyler for guidance. She left her tower and began the spiral downwards.

As Pyar approached Cyler's room at the top of his tower, she heard whispers coming from the room. Pyar did not want to eavesdrop on Cyler, and started to turn around to return to her tower. However, she caught a snippet of a sentence that caught her attention.

" ... goes as planned ... suspects nothing."

Pyar stood frozen for a moment, undecided between listening further or heading down. Her hesitation caused her to pick up more words, and she soon realized that she was listening to only one side of a conversation. She heard Cyler's voice, and only his voice. Pyar could not make out everything, but she heard references to the wrist bands that the mage council had provided the soldiers of Wolle to ward them against dark magic.

Finally deciding to head back before she got caught, Pyar scurried down the stairwell as quietly as she could. When she arrived at her own tower, she was breathless and shaking from her nervousness. What exactly was I listening to?

She fumbled around for the necklace, and placed it into a small jewelry case. She closed her eyes and cast a spell on the case – it would now be protected from scrying eyes, and so no one, even Cyler, should be able to detect where it was.

Pyar placed the jewelry case into an inner pocket of her robe, and gathered some belongings. She hurried down her tower again, towards the stables. She was soon riding in the direction of the second trail she had detected from the necklace.

Maes was in much better shape when Rohea and Gilmr returned to Riloo. Her chest wound had closed, although she still felt pain when she exerted herself. She had talked to Payrm as she recuperated, and had learned of the arrangement between Rohea and Gilmr.

"Sir Rohea, you're back!" Maes said when she saw Rohea enter the cottage.

"Maes, it's good to see you up and about."

"Yes, Payrm was of great help. He has taught me much about first aid in the days since I regained consciousness."

Payrm nodded and said, "She is voracious learner. I think she would learn all that I could teach her in a few months."

"Unfortunately, we don't have that much time," Rohea said. "We need to return to Wolle."

"Wolle?" Maes asked. "Won't we be captured?"

"We'll have to be cautious, I'll explain on the way. Gather your things."

Maes narrowed her eyes and glanced at Gilmr. "What about him?"

"We have come to an agreement about the bounty. Gilmr will not be fighting us any longer."

"Hmm? Ok," Maes said as she went to pick up her belongings.

"Maes still requires more rest before she is ready for battle," Payrm said. "She isn't quite ready to travel, either."

"We'll get a small carriage where she can rest. Time is of the essence, we must head immediately to Wolle," Rohea said.

"Wait," Gilmr interrupted. "I'm coming with you."

"Why?" Rohea asked.

"You saved my life. I owe you that much."

"And you spared mine," Rohea said. "We are even."

"Then I'm doing it for Wollior."

"Very well, Gilmr." Rohea smiled.

They procured a small carriage for a decent price – thanks to Maes again – and the trio began their journey back to Wolle. Maes was still weak, and the journey tired her. As a result, they were only able to journey for a few hours a day before making camp. Once again, Gilmr's hunting and trapping skills proved very useful and provided fresh meat everyday for the party.

One night, as Gilmr was keeping watch while Rohea and Maes slept, he heard some rustling in the distance. Crouching down, he crawled towards the carriage and shook Rohea. Rohea opened his eyes immediately and grabbed his sword, which was lying next to him. The duo then exited the carriage and stood on opposite sides, eyes watchful for movement.

Twang! The sound of a struck bow rang from a distance. Arrows whizzed past as Rohea and Gilmr laid flat on the ground. Rohea glanced up and saw four arrows lodged into the carriage's drapes. Staying still, he waited for the attackers to reveal themselves.

Rohea caught the glint of a sword reflecting the glow of the moon. He figured that the approaching one was the lowest in their hierarchy and had been chosen to be the scout. Unfortunately for the scout, he was about to be killed by Rohea.

Rohea kept his sword hidden under his body, and waited for the scout to approach further. Just as Rohea was about to spring up and attack him, horse hoofs were heard from the distance, and a voice shouted, "Halt your attack, and your lives may be spared."

Upon hearing the voice, the scout scrambled and ran back the direction he came. After a few steps, he stumbled and dropped to the ground, with an arrow sticking out of his back. The other bandits disappeared quickly into the night.

Rohea counted three horses, and braced himself for another fight, if the patrol knew of his status. The horses stopped close to the carriage, and the men looked around for the party.

"Are you folks alright?" the man asked.

Gilmr stood back up and replied, "Yes, thanks to you."

"The roads are dangerous these days. We will give chase to those bandits."

With that, the three men gave a light kick to their horses and continued on their way.

Rohea glanced at Gilmr and shrugged. "They didn't recognize us."

"Yes, we're lucky that it is cloudy tonight," Gilmr said. "This patrol did not have the wrist bands you mentioned," he added.

Rohea nodded. "I noticed that too. That's a good sign – the mages seem content with maintaining control of only the capital."

Rohea glanced into the carriage, and saw the Maes had slept through the entire ordeal. Shaking his head, he figured she must have been really exhausted to miss the commotion.

Pyar reached into her robe and removed the jewelry case. She closed her eyes and sensed her surroundings for a minute. Satisfied that her immediate area was not being scryed, she opened the jewelry case and retrieved the necklace. She traced the magic trails on the necklace, and confirmed that she was still headed in the right direction. She traced it further, and gasped. The second magic trail led to Rohea and his party!

Shocked by the discovery, Pyar quickly placed the necklace back in the jewelry box and closed it. She recast the protection spells, and sat down to ponder the ramifications of her discovery. The first magic trail from the necklace had led to Cyler, and Pyar had overhead bits of a one-sided conversation that Cyler had, but not enough to make sense of it. The second trail led to Rohea, who was the dark practitioner. Could Cyler and Rohea be working together on some nefarious plan? The bits of the conversation Pyar had overheard seemed to indicate that Cyler was plotting something. Perhaps he had been talking to Rohea through some magical means. However, Cyler had provided the necklace that revealed Rohea's dark identity. If they were working together, it would not have made sense for Cyler to expose Rohea. Also, Rohea had let Pyar go without a scratch, perhaps it was part of their masterplan?

Pyar shook her head. All the intricate plots were confusing her. She did not believe that Cyler would be a part of some dark plot. She decided that the best way to learn the truth would be to approach Rohea and observe his actions. She nudged her horse, and continued traveling south.

As Pyar continued on her travels, she would check her bearings with the necklace every night. It seemed that she was closer to the source as expected, but the distance felt like it was closing at a greater rate than her travels. That could mean only one thing – Rohea was heading in her direction! Pyar was certain her location had not been discovered by scrying, at least conventional scrying. It could merely be a coincidence that Rohea was heading in her direction.

After a week of traveling, Pyar felt that the end of the magic trail was within a day's travel. She decided to take a risk and scryed in the direction of the trail. She figured that she could end the scrying before her location was detected, and escape if necessary. She had purposely let her horse rest for some extra time, just in case she had to make a run for it.

Pyar closed her eyes, and let her magic sight wander towards the south. She sensed the wildlife scurrying around, and the light breeze that carried air, dust, and the flow of magic. She concentrated further, and extended her inner sight. There! She spotted a carriage and two horses just a few hours away. She did not sense any form of magic in the vicinity, but she was certain that the magic trail led inside the carriage. Narrowing her focus, she tried to peer within the carriage to identify its occupants. As she peered towards the carriage, one of the horses looked up at her – which was odd since she wasn't physically present – and neighed. It got the attention of the people in the carriage, and two men and a woman stepped out. Pyar could not make out their faces, but based on their posture and sizes, she would tell that one of the men was Rohea and the woman was his squire, Maes. The horse remained restless and Rohea walked up to her and tried to calm her down. He spoke some words to his companions – but Pyar could not hear them – and they gathered their weapons. Pyar noticed that Rohea put on his armor and strapped his weapons, very unlike what she had assumed a dark practitioner would do. He reached into a bag hanging from the horse that detected her, and retrieved a vial.

Deciding that she had learned enough for now, and glad that she had not been detected – other than by the horse – Pyar broadened her sight again to the area to see if there was anything amiss. To her surprise, she spotted some magical activity a distance away from Rohea's group. However, try as she might, she was unable to pinpoint their location through her scrying, as if something was blocking her. The more she attempted to do so, the greater the pit of fear in her stomach grew. Eventually, she stopped scrying and was left sitting and shaking in fear. When she snapped out of it, she realized that she had sensed dark magic!

Pyar was decidedly curious what the magical group was going to do once they encountered Rohea. Although she could not pinpoint their location, she could tell that they were headed directly for Rohea. Pyar felt that she should somehow learn of the plans of the dark practitioners, so that she could warn the council. However, there would be considerable personal risk in doing so. After some deliberation, Pyar decided to approach Rohea's carriage in person, and eavesdrop on the conversation. That way, she did not need to cast any spells, and would minimize her chances of being detected magically. Furthermore, the cloudy skies would block out most of the moon's glow, so she would be nearly invisible among the tall grass.

Mounting her horse, she continued on her travels south. She took care to stop her horse a distance away from the carriage, and covered the rest of the distance by foot, making sure that she avoided stepping on branches or anything that might reveal her approach.

Despite her caution, her skills in stealth were no match for the battle-hardened ears of Rohea and Gilmr. Payr did not notice Gilmr circling behind her, until he placed a knife to her throat.

"Don't move," Gilmr warned.

Pyar was frozen in fear. Surely this would be the end of her.

Gilmr prodded her forward, and brought her into the clearing where the carriage was.

"I found our little mouse," Gilmr announced.

Rohea asked, "What are you doing, sneaking around here?"

Payr stuttered, but could not come up with a good excuse.

Rohea approached her, and caught a good look at her face from the slight glow of the moonlight. "It's you, mage!" he snarled. "Have you come to spy on me again?"

"What shall we do with her?" Gilmr asked.

"Tie her up and gag her for now," Rohea said. "Maes will keep an eye on her. We need to be wary of the other party headed this way."

Payr was surprised that Rohea was aware of the approaching party, but rationalized that he would know about it if he had planned the meeting. As dire as her situation was, she figured that this provided her a good location to hear their plans, if only she could figure a way to report it afterwards.

Gilmr took some rope from the carriage, and securely bound her feet together, and tied her hands behind her back. Looking at her with disgust, he shoved a ball of cloth into her mouth and secured it with another piece of rope. He then unceremoniously carried her into the carriage, and dropped her on the floor inside. Maes was seated in the corner, leaning against the carriage drapes. Payr looked at Maes with pleading eyes, but Maes paid little attention to her other than to make sure that she was securely bound. Maes had a short sword placed on the ground within easy reach, but the winces she made when she moved showed that she was still unfit for battle.

Pyar shifted around and tested her bonds; they were tight. The gag was also firmly tied and she was unable to budge it with her tongue. She felt her breath tightening, as if it was getting more difficult to breathe through her nose. Pyar first thought it was from the growing pit of fear in her stomach. She glanced at Maes and noticed that Maes was exhibiting similar symptoms.

It has to be the dark mages approaching! Pyar thought. But why would they be casting a spell on Maes?

Maes was visibly trembling, and was curling into a fetal position. Her eyes burned at Pyar, as if she was blaming Pyar for her state. Pyar shook her head vigorously, trying to signal to Maes that it was not her doing. Maes mumbled at Pyar with short breaths, "You! He must have sent you to finish me. That double-crossing..." Maes collapsed unconscious before she finished her statement.

Pyar tried to calm herself, and started to think of a way to counter whatever spell had been cast on them. She recalled that her research in the history of dark magic said that they thrived in the dark feelings – fear, anger and so forth. However, it fell short of describing a good counterspell.

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