The Knight and His Squire 2
Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon
The journey was long and tedious, as the troops marched on towards Yaklo. The pace was quickened after the first day, when the soldiers no longer had to wear their heavy armors while marching. However, even at the new pace, it would be a month before they would arrive.
After a week of the journey, Rohea was beginning to get restless. While he was used to long travels across the country, the slow pace of the soldiers was getting to him, and walking alongside them for part of the day to get to know his troops only went so far. However, he did not want to seem callous and leave his soldiers behind while he rode on ahead. He grappled with the dilemma as he slept that night.
"Sir Rohea!" A familiar voice called out and roused Rohea from his sleep. Rohea looked around and rubbed his eyes. He could have sworn he heard Maes' voice calling for him, but she could not be anywhere near him.
Rohea stood up and stepped outside his tent, into the cool night. A light breeze blew around the campsite, as Rohea glanced around. There was little activity about, as expected, and he could make out the patrols walking around the borders of the camp.
"Any signs of intruders?" Rohea asked as he walked up to one of the patrolling men.
"None, Sir Rohea. It has been quiet tonight."
Rohea nodded, and the patrol continued on their way. Shaking his head, Rohea walked back to his tent and went back to sleep.
"Sir Rohea!" Rohea heard the voice again, and confirmed that it sounded like Maes. Roused from his sleep and unable to relax any longer, Rohea picked up his sword and stepped outside to begin his stretching exercises. As he went through the motions, he thought about how and why he would hear Maes in his dreams.
"Be careful, Sir Rohea!" Maes' voice called out clearly in his mind.
Rohea stopped his stretching and looked around warily. The danger felt tangible to Rohea for some reason, and he believed that it was more than just a dream or his imagination. Instead, Maes was somehow communicating with him. Rohea strode over to Baiffer's tent and pulled open the drapes. The lieutenant woke quickly and reached for his sword by his side.
"It's me," Rohea said.
Baiffer visibly relaxed, and sat up from his mat.
"Have our scouts returned for the night?" asked Rohea.
"Not yet, Sir," replied Baiffer. "But they are not due to be back till dawn."
Rohea nodded and said, "Send word to me when they arrive."
"Of course, Sir."
Rohea walked around the camp, not noticing anything out of the ordinary, but still feeling a sense of uneasiness.
Suddenly, he heard the loud cry, "Halt, intruder!"
Rohea turned and ran in the direction of the voice. As he approached, he saw the patrol of five men with raised swords surrounding a lone woman standing beside her horse. The woman was dressed plainly, and a hood covered her face.
"What are you doing here?" asked one of the soldiers.
The woman replied, "I am Pyar of the Mage Guild. I am here to speak with Sir Rohea."
Recognizing her voice, Rohea called out to the patrol, "Lower your weapons, men. I will speak with her. Good job spotting the intrusion. Continue on your patrol."
"Yes, Sir Rohea," the soldiers replied, sheathed their swords, and continued on their way.
The tension left Pyar's shoulders and she strode towards Rohea.
Rohea asked, "What are you doing here, Pyar?"
"I sensed dark magic in this direction. I have traveled here to investigate the matter."
"How did you know that I was here?" Rohea questioned.
"Everyone in Wolle knows that you are leading troops to Yaklo to aid the war. I wouldn't be surprised if the enemy also knows of it," Pyar replied.
"You mentioned dark magic?"
"Yes, I sensed it a few days after you left Wolle. I headed in the direction that I sensed it from. Earlier tonight, I felt it once more, much stronger this time, although it could be because I am nearer to the source," Pyar rambled.
Rohea's eyes narrowed as he said, "Are you accusing me of dark magic again?"
"No, no!" Pyar exclaimed quickly. "It came from beyond this camp."
"The scouts!" Rohea said. "Come, follow me."
Rohea and Pyar walked swiftly towards Baiffer's tent. Baiffer was still awake and met them halfway.
"Is this our intruder?" Baiffer asked.
"Yes, this is Pyar," introduced Rohea. "We have little time for introductions. Something may have happened to our scouts. Send another group of scouts to check on them."
"Yes, Sir! Right away," Baiffer replied. He headed in the direction of the scouts' tents.
Pyar looked at Rohea and asked, "Will you be rousing the other soldiers as well?"
"No, it is only a few hours to dawn. We will wait for news of our scouts before deciding our next move."
Pyar nodded and said, "In that case, I will continue heading towards in the direction of the dark magic."
Rohea put a hand on her shoulder.
"It would be better if you left in the morning with us. If the scouts bump into you in the night, they may very well attack you."
Pyar sighed and agreed, "Very well."
Pyar paced about in Rohea's tent.
"Why haven't we heard back from the scouts?"
"It has only been an hour. Rest easy," Rohea said.
"How can I relax while a dark practitioner is but a short distance away from us?"
Rohea replied, "There is a saying among soldiers: 'Enjoy what rest you get, for it may be your last.'"
"So you agree that our lives are in danger then?"
"As a knight and a soldier, my life is always in danger," Rohea replied evenly. "With that being said, yes we must be wary, but we must also wait for more information before jumping in. What if a trap lies ahead of us?"
Pyar's face grew pale as she said, "I hadn't thought of that."
Rohea chuckled and said, "That, young mage, is why I am leading the soldiers."
A voice called from outside the tent. "Sir Rohea!"
Rohea and Pyar quickly stepped out. Lieutenant Baiffer was waiting outside with a worried look on his face.
"Sir Rohea, come this way, please."
"What has happened?" Rohea asked.
"Our scouts, they're dead! Or they seem dead. They're breathing, but we can't rouse them."
The party of three arrived at the border of the camp. There were two bodies laid side by side, and a small group of soldiers were standing nearby muttering to themselves. Rohea made his way to the bodies and knelt down beside them.
Touching the face of one, Rohea said, "their bodies are still warm, and they appear to be breathing. Where are the scouts that found them?"
Two soldiers stepped forward.
"How did you find them?" Sir Rohea asked.
"They were as they are now, Sir Rohea," one of the soldiers replied, "We only noticed them because of their horses. They looked as though they had fallen from their horses, but we didn't see any signs of battle nearby. It was almost as if they had fallen asleep on their horses and slid off."
Looking at Pyar, Rohea asked, "Do you know of any magic that would do this?"
Pyar thought for a moment and replied, "There is a spell that induces sleep, but we would be able to awaken them normally."
Pyar closed her eyes and sensed the bodies with her inner eye.
"It appears to be magical, and yet it is not dark magic. There is something I can try."
Pyar open her eyes and knelt down beside Rohea, placing her hands on one of the bodies. She muttered some words, and a soft orange glow emanated from her palms and surrounded the body. After some time, the glow dissipated and Pyar leaned backwards, putting her arms behind her back to brace herself.
"Try rousing him again," Pyar said amid heavy breaths.
Rohea shook the soldier violently, but to no avail. He slapped the soldier's face and splashed some water, but the soldier remained passive.
"I am unaware of any spell that would have such a strong effect, but I am not a master of spells of this nature," Pyar said.
Rohea stood up and gestured to the other soldiers and said, "Bring these two to their tents."
Baiffer walked closed to Rohea and whispered in his ear, "Can we trust this mage? She could very well be the one who did this."
Rohea replied, "Aye, I do not trust mages, but this one has so far proven to be true. I do not believe she is the cause of this sorcery."
"What shall we do then?" Baiffer asked.
"We will continue our march towards Yaklo. Even mages would not dare to attack such a large group. We will increase the size of our scouting groups and patrols. The two scouts that have succumbed to magic will have to be carried by the soldiers."
"What of the cavalry and caravans ahead of us?"
Rohea replied, "I will head out towards them and order them to halt and await the rest of the troops. The army shall travel as one unit henceforth."
Baiffer nodded, then asked, "But will it be safe for you to travel alone?"
"I will be traveling with the Mage Pyar. It will be easier for two people to travel discreetly than for a large group. And I have had experience dealing with mages," Rohea replied, patting his sword.
"Very well, Sir. We will meet up with you in a few days then," Baiffer said.
Rohea sat atop Feisty, his trusted steed, as Pyar tightened the harnesses on her horse. Rohea was dressed plainly, with his armor hidden inside a pack carried by Feisty. His sword remained sheathed by his side, and his shield was hanging in easy reach on Feisty.
Pyar climbed onto her horse and nodded at Rohea. The pair rode swiftly out of the camp.
"Will we be keeping to the roads?" Pyar asked.
Rohea replied, "It is dangerous, but it is the quickest way. If we deviate off the roads, we would take an extra day or two at least."