The Knight and His Squire 2
Copyright© 2015 by Spherical Spoon
Rohea caught up with the cavalry and caravans after two days. It appeared that they had set up camp along the road, and had been there for some time. Fearing the worst, Rohea lightly tapped Feisty with his foot, and the duo rode swiftly to the camp site.
"Halt!" A voice called out to Rohea as he approached.
A smile appeared across Rohea 's face. He raised his left fist and said, "Stand down, I am Sir Rohea."
"Halt!" the voice called again, "Halt or we will attack!"
Rohea's smile disappeared, and he pulled Feisty's reins. He remained in the saddle as a lone soldier rode up to him on a horse. Rohea saw that more soldiers had gathered at the entrance to the camp, armed and ready.
"What is the meaning of this?" Rohea questioned.
The soldier, coming close enough to identify Rohea, replied hastily, "Sir Rohea! It really is you! I am terribly sorry. We have orders to stop anyone from approaching the camp." The soldier turned back and waved at the other soldiers. They saw his signal and lowered their weapons.
Rohea rode with the soldier to the camp, and called, "Where is Lieutenant Yeabo? I must speak with him."
The soldiers looked at one another, but kept quiet.
"Well, go and get him!" Rohea said.
Finally, one of the soldiers spoke up, "Sir Rohea, I am Raonin. Lieutenant Yeabo has been ... asleep ... for some time now."
"What has happened here?" Rohea asked.
"It first started four days ago, Sir," Raonin said, "Our scouts failed to return, and subsequently we found that they had fallen asleep while on patrol. We tried to awaken them but they wouldn't wake up. The next night, the same thing happened. After that, the scouts refused to leave the camp. Lieutenant Yeabo and Sergeant Tiogr went out the next morning to find the enemy, but they too fell asleep. The rest of us decided to wait here for the rest of the soldiers that you were leading."
Rohea nodded grimly and said, "I see."
Raonin asked, "What are our orders, Sir Rohea?" The other soldiers also nodded at the question.
Rohea stood straight and said loudly so that everyone could hear, "You are to remain here until the other soldiers arrive. Raonin here will be in command until Lieutenant Baiffer arrives to assume command. At that point, the troops will march as one unit towards Yaklo. I will meet up with all of you before you reach Yaklo."
Raonin asked, "Will you not be staying with us, Sir Rohea?"
Rohea replied, "I will find the mages responsible for these spells and put an end to them. To accomplish that end, are there two volunteers that will follow me in my quest?"
The soldiers looked at one another for a few moments, and a lone voice called out, "I will."
Rohea turned to look and saw a young man raise his hands and walk towards Rohea. Rohea nodded and said, "Good, who is as brave as this young man?"
A gruff voice answered, "I am, it beats waiting around for the foot soldiers and crawling towards Yaklo."
Rohea said, "Excellent. What are your names?"
The young man replied, "I am Heakyn, and I am of seventeen summers."
The man with the gruff voice snickered. He glanced at the young man and turned to Rohea, and said, "I am Travre, and I have lived through many more summers than Heakyn."
Rohea looked at the two men, and noted the stark differences between the two. Heakyn had a look of youthful optimism about him, while Travre seemed resigned. Heakyn was tall and lanky, and Travre was shorter and stout. Travre had numerous scars on his arms and a long scar across his face; Heakyn's face was unblemished.
"Tell me, Travre," Rohea asked, "Why did you join the cavalry?"
Travre replied, "I was young like Heakyn once, and wanted to protect Wollior from the barbarians."
"What about now?"
Travre chuckled to himself, then said, "I have seen so many friends die. I await the day that I join them."
Rohea nodded to himself, turned and said, "What about you, Heakyn?"
Heakyn stood tall and said, "I serve Wollior!"
Travre gave a small laugh and muttered softly, "We'll see about that in a few years, if you're still alive then."
Rohea put his arms on Heakyn's and Travre's shoulders.
"Come now, this quest may yet make both of you heroes."
Heakyn beamed at Rohea's words, while Travre grimaced.
"Heroes die," Travre said.
"In that case," Rohea said, chuckling, "You will join your friends."
The trio mounted their horses and soon set off from the camp. As they were riding, Rohea told Heakyn and Travre about the pair of mages he had battled, and that more may be lurking around the camp.
"How would we fight these mages, Sir Rohea?" Heakyn asked.
"With sword and shield," Rohea replied, "Mages are cowards. They don't have combat experience, so if you get close to them, they will run or get slain."
"What if they discover us from afar and cast spells at us?"
"When that happens, we must split up and charge them. As long as one of us gets to melee range, we will win the battle," Rohea answered.
Travre looked pensive and asked, "How many mages have you fought?"
Rohea thought for a brief moment and replied, "I don't count my battles, but never has a mage won a fight against me."
Heakyn said jubilantly, "In that case, we will be victorious for sure!"
Travre snickered. "Didn't you hear how his companion was captured in the last battle? Sir Rohea may be victorious, but we may end up dead."
Heakyn's face darkened.
Rohea said, "I will do what I can to draw the mages' attention, so that the both of you can approach them without fear. Come, we must search this area."
Rohea pulled on Feisty's reins and slid off her back. He strapped his shield securely to his arm and left his sword sheathed at his side. Heakyn and Travre similarly dismounted and prepared their weapons.
"Be wary," Rohea said, "There are tracks leading into the forest here. The mages could be lurking inside."
Heakyn started to put on his armor, and Travre slapped his hand and said gruffly, "Are you intending to let the whole forest know where we are?"
Rohea continued, "Travre is right. Our armor would make too much noise. We will not need it against the mages."
The trio entered the forest, keeping a fair distance from one another. Heakyn looked unsure as to what to do, so he glanced repeatedly at the other two as they made their way deeper into the woods.
Rohea made a hand gesture and motioned for the other two to stop. Travre immediately obeyed the command, and Heakyn walked for a few more steps. He tripped over a rope that was around ankle height. The rope pulled taut and seemed to come alive. It wrapped itself around Heakyn's legs and started to climb upwards.
Heakyn screamed, "Help! It's a snake!"
Travre started to head towards Heakyn to aid him, but Rohea stopped him. Instead, Rohea gestured for Travre to move in front of Heakyn. Travre nodded in understanding and headed quietly in that direction.
By this point, Heakyn was wrapped tightly by the rope. He had fallen prone on the ground and was wriggling about, but to no avail. He was hysterical and shouted loudly.
Rohea snuck closer to him, but remained in the shadows. Before long, Rohea heard the leaves rustling as someone approached.
"My, my, what have we caught today?" a man's voice called out.
Rohea strained his eyes, but could not make out where the man was standing.
Heakyn struggled more frantically and demanded, "Let me go!"
"Only if you tell your friend to reveal himself," the voice said, "We know that you soldiers never travel alone."
Rohea glanced towards Travre's direction, but was unable to see any movement. Rohea stood up from his hidden position and said, "Very well, here I am. Release my friend."
The voice laughed. "Only a fool would reveal himself like that! Now, both of you, go to slee..."
The voice was cut off, as Travre discreetly made his way behind the man, and stuck his sword through. Travre pulled his sword out and the man collapsed face-first to the ground. The rope around Heakyn promptly loosened itself and fell to the ground in one heap.
Rohea walked over to Heakyn and helped him up.
"Good job, Heakyn," Rohea said. "You successfully drew his attention and lured him over here. You too, Travre."
Travre nodded and wiped his sword on the man's clothes. Rohea and Heakyn walked over. Rohea knelt down to inspect the man, and Heakyn looked worried.
"Isn't it disrespectful to defile his corpse further?" he asked.
"We aren't defiling his corpse," Rohea answered. "I am checking to see if he is still alive."
Rohea turned the body over, and saw that the man was still barely alive. Blood was dripping out of his mouth, and he did not appear to have the strength to even lift his arms. From the pool of blood around the body, Rohea could tell that it was only a matter of time for the man.
"Tell me," Rohea questioned the man. "Can you speak?"
The man stared straight ahead, as if he did not hear the question.
Rohea shook his head and said, "He is almost with the gods. Let us quicken his journey."
Rohea drew his sword, and with a swift motion, he slit the man's throat. Some blood gushed out and the man's head flopped down lifelessly. Rohea wiped his sword and stood up.
"Y-you killed him!" Heakyn said.
"It was merciful thing Sir Rohea did," Travre said. "That man would have bled out in agony for an hour at least."
Rohea nodded sadly. "A quick death, instead."
"Do you think he was alone?" Travre asked.
"I do not know. The previous group I encountered was a pair. If there are more mages nearby, they would know of our presence, now."
Heakyn looked shaken as he stood up, and Rohea put his hand on Heakyn's shoulder.
"Was this the first death you've seen?" Rohea asked gently.
Heakyn nodded. "I always thought battle was noble and grand."
"It never is," Rohea replied, "War is grisly and ugly."
"Do you get used to it?" Heakyn asked.
"No," Rohea stated quickly, "If ever you do, you have lost the light. As much as it pains me to kill, our nation's peace requires it."
"Come," Rohea said, "Let us see if more mages lurk in this forest."
The three spread out in a line again, and continued walking through the forest. A short distance later, they spotted a small campsite. There was a person lying down next to a tent.
Rohea recognized the body outline, and said quietly to himself, "Pyar!"
Heakyn looked like he was about to charge the campsite, and Rohea signaled for him to wait. Travre circled around the campsite and shook his head at Rohea. Travre then approached Pyar's body and touched her. He looked up at Rohea and beckoned him over.
Rohea stood up and walked to the campsite. Heakyn watched for a few moments and followed suit.
"Where are the mages?" Heakyn asked.
"From the looks of it, there was one other mage here earlier, but he is gone now," Travre replied.
Rohea knelt by Pyar and touched her head. She was warm to the touch, but still unresponsive.
"Is this your mage friend?" Travre asked.
Rohea nodded, and said, "Yes, it looks like her sleeping spell did not become undone by the death of the mage."
"Shall we look for the other mage that escaped?" Heakyn asked.
"She has a head start on us, but we outnumber her. Heakyn, stay here and watch over Pyar. Travre and I will track the other mage."
Heakyn nodded. Travre and Rohea ran in the direction of the tracks.
Travre and Rohea did not travel far before they heard the loud rustling of leaves in front of them. Although the female mage had had a head start on them, they had considerably better stamina. The female mage was almost on all fours, trying to scramble forward as quickly as possible.
Travre looked at Rohea with a raised eyebrow. Rohea signalled for him to wait, as Rohea circled around the mage. When Rohea was in position, Travre gave a loud shout and ran towards the mage. Upon seeing Travre's approach, she got a second wind and pulled herself up, and ran as quickly as she could. She kept glancing back to check if Travre was gaining ground, and ran straight into Rohea. Rohea grabbed her by her arms, and placed his sword at her neck.
"Doesn't this seem familiar, mage?" Rohea asked with scorn.
The mage struggled and turned her head back. Recognition flew across her face as she saw Rohea.
"It's you! But how did you... ?"
Rohea edged the sword a little closer and said, "I'll be asking the questions, here. What is your purpose, here?"
The mage gave a smile and said, "I will not say. By the order of the Mage Guild, you may not question me further."
Travre walked in front of the mage and spat in her face.
"Let's see the Mage Guild save you as I put my sword through you then," he said.
Rohea sighed and said, "I abhor killing a defenseless enemy, but if you do not cooperate, I may have little choice."
"And she's not defenseless either," Travre added. "She could easily cast a spell at us."
"Let's head back to Heakyn," ordered Rohea. "We will question her further there."
Rohea and Travre led the mage back to the campsite, and she was quiet the entire walk back, refusing to answer any of the questions Travre asked. She almost completely ignored them, except when she felt the occasional prod of the sword on her back. Still, she walked with as much grace as she could muster given the circumstances.
Heakyn stood up when he heard the rustling of the shrubs, and drew his sword. He visibly relaxed when he saw Travre, and re-tightened his grip when he saw the mage following behind Travre. Rohea appeared last and gestured for the mage to head towards Pyar.
"Now, mage," Rohea began, "you will answer my questions."
"I will answer no questions," the mage replied. "I am protected by the Mage Guild."
"So you belong to the Mage Guild of Wollior?" Rohea asked.
"Wollior? Pffft," the mage spat. "We mages belong to no nation. The Mage Guild spans across the lands."
"If you do not belong to the Wollior Mage Guild, then I see no reason why I should not kill you," Rohea commented casually.
"And risk war with all mages? I think not," the mage replied haughtily.
Travre spoke up, "You realize that if we kill you now, none would be the wiser."
The mage paled, but recovered slightly and said to Rohea, "I know of you, Sir Rohea. You are too honorable to do such a deed."
"How do you know of me?" Rohea asked.
"Well, where to begin?" the mage started, "You're the one they banished from Wollior for being a dark practitioner. As if you could be one!"
"If you are not from Wollior, then how do you know of that?" Rohea questioned.
The mage gave a small gasp, and shut up.
"Well?" Rohea continued.
"I will answer no questions," the mage repeated.
Travre drew his sword and asked, "Shall I kill her?"
The mage threw her eyes at Travre and glared at him, as if daring him to perform the act.
"No," Rohea said, "Since she hides behind the Mage Guild, we will bring her to Wolle and question her in front of the Mage Guild."
"They will never allow that," the mage commented.
"They will," Rohea stated. "If they don't, King Wespil will consider it an act of treason."
"He wouldn't," the mage said with less bravado. "Not against the power of the mages."
"Hah!" Rohea said. "You mages have no power, only self-perceived views of grandeur. Look at where it got you."
Rohea walked close to the mage, who looked intimidated. She attempted to step backwards away from Rohea but was blocked by the imposing figure of Travre. Rohea put his right hand on her left shoulder, and pulled at her sleeve. The mage gasped as the sleeve tore. She wrapped her right arm across her chest, and used her right hand to cover her now bare left arm.
"W-wh-what are you doing?" she asked.
Rohea remained silent. He proceeded to twist the sleeve into a line, and placed it in between her jaws. He pulled both ends around her head and tied it tightly together.
"Since you refuse to answer any questions," Rohea said. "you will not be allowed to speak."
The mage brought her hands up to try to undo the knot, but Rohea quickly grabbed both of them and twisted it behind her back. He gestured to Heakyn to retrieve a rope lying inside the tent, and promptly tied her hands together.
"The last time I encountered her," Rohea started. "She managed to teleport away. We must ensure that she doesn't do that again."
Rohea took one end of the rope that was tying the mage's hands, and beckoned Heakyn over. Heakyn looked bewildered and approached Rohea. Rohea took Heakyn's left arm, and tied a loop around his wrist with the rope.
"There, now she is secured to you. If she casts any spell, or manages to teleport somewhere, kill her," Rohea ordered.
Heakyn nodded. The mage glanced at the two of them and noted the seriousness in their eyes.
"What now, Sir Rohea?" Travre asked. "Are we headed to Wolle?"
Rohea pulled Travre out of earshot of the mage, and spoke quietly to him, "You and Heakyn are to travel to Wolle with the mage. When you are there, request an audience with the king and tell him of what has happened. He will then decide the fate of this mage."
"Will he force the Mage Guild to question her as you said?" Travre asked.
"I do not know for certain," Rohea replied, "but King Wespil is wise and will know what to do."
"What about you? Aren't you coming to Wolle with us?"
"No, I will travel to Riloo. There is someone there who may be able to undo this sleeping spell on Pyar and the other soldiers."
"Very well, sir. I will not let you down," Travre said.
"Good," Rohea said, "and watch out for Heakyn. He is still young and could be easily outwitted by the mage. Under no circumstances are you to remove her gag."
"What if she needs to eat or drink?" Travre questioned.
"She can do without food for a few days. If she is thirsty, she can drink through the cloth."
Rohea strapped his shield behind his back, and returned his sword to its sheath. He bent down and picked Pyar up with his arms. To his surprise, she was slightly heavier than he had assumed. Rohea, Travre, and Heakyn headed back to their horses, while Heakyn tugged the gagged mage along with the rope.
As they approached the treeline, Rohea heard Feisty neighing loudly. He gently placed Pyar on the ground, and drew his sword and shield.
"Be alert," he warned Travre and Heakyn.
The duo also drew their swords, although they were unsure of what to expect. Sensing an opportunity, the female mage pushed her body onto Travre and knocked him off balance, and tried to make a run for it. Heakyn, who was attached to her via the rope, was pulled along for the ride.
Heakyn managed to get a foothold and pulled on the rope with his other hand. The mage, being hindered by the taut rope, stumbled and fell to the ground. Heakyn placed the point of his sword on her back.
"Let's not do anything stupid," he warned the mage.
She turned around and glared at him, unable to reply.
Rohea peered through the trees at the horses. He turned back to the others and said, "All is clear, come."
Travre approached the horses and asked Rohea, "What was your horse neighing about?"
Rohea replied, "Feisty has a sense about things. We must hurry and leave this place."
Rohea gingerly picked Pyar up and placed her on Feisty's back. He whispered softly to Feisty, patted her on the back, and climbed up. Travre aided Heakyn and the mage up the horse, with the mage sitting in front of Heakyn. Then, Travre mounted his horse.
"Our missions are clear. Safe travels!" Rohea said to Travre and Heakyn.
"Safe travels to you, Sir Rohea," they replied in unison.
Rohea watched as Travre and Heakyn rode off towards Wolle. He gently nudged Feisty with his foot and they took off in the direction of Riloo.
"Come, Feisty, we must make haste," Rohea said as he held onto Pyar with one hand, and the reins with another.
Rohea traveled quickly and met up with the contingent of foot soldiers and archers. He relayed his orders to Lieutenant Baiffer to assume command of the cavalry and caravans, and for them all to head to Yaklo. Satisfied that the army would be fine without his presence for the near future, Rohea continued on his travel towards Riloo.
Other than stopping occasionally for food and drink, and allowing Feisty to get some well-deserved rest, Rohea pushed on towards Riloo. One night, while Rohea was dozing off in the saddle as Feisty continued galloping, he heard Maes' voice again, "Sir Rohea, help!"
Rohea sat straight up quickly, and nearly fell off Feisty. Feisty neighed, and Rohea rubbed her mane gently. Maes sounded like she was in danger! Rohea thought. He tried to concentrate and communicate with Maes again, but he did not hear anything more.
As much as he worried about Maes' safety, he was unable to ride any faster, and it was another day before he arrived in Riloo.
Rohea had removed his armor prior to entering Riloo, and hence did not attract much attention from the guards are he passed through the town gates. Although Pyar was asleep, Rohea propped her up to look as if she had merely fallen asleep riding the horse. It was mid-day when he entered the town, and the main cobblestone streets of Riloo were quiet, as the residents stayed indoors to stay out of the hot sun.
Riloo quickly rode to Parym the Healer's home. He dismounted from Feisty and knocked loudly on the door. He waited for a few moments, but heard no activity from within. Rohea knocked again, and called for Parym. Without waiting for a response, Rohea circled around the house to see if he could find Parym through the windows.
As he peered through the main room's window, Rohea realized that something had happened. The many bottles of herbs that used to be on the shelves were scattered about the floor and broken, and the small work table had been knocked over. Rohea rushed back to the door and turned the knob. The door was unlocked and opened without a hitch. Rohea quickly entered.
"Parym?" Rohea called out, "Are you here? I am Sir Rohea. Maes, are you here?"
Hearing nothing, Rohea made his way to the small room where Parym slept. The bedroom was immaculate, in stark contrast to the main room. That might be due to the fact that the room was empty other than a small straw mat that laid along the wall.
Rohea looked around the room to see if any clues could be found, or if there were hidden alcoves. He turned up nothing. He walked back to the main room and searched around. Rohea noticed that the broken herb bottles were either empty, or contained herbs that were easily found along the countryside. While Rohea did not know what the herbs were used for, he recognized them from his travels around Wollior. The bottles that were lying unbroken on the ground, on the other hand, contained herbs that Rohea had never seen.
Interesting, Rohea thought. It almost appears as if the mess was staged. If I were to make a guess, I would guess that Parym did it. But why?
Rohea shook his head and exited the house. Uncertain of what to do for his next step, Rohea headed to the local tavern to rest for the night. Rushing to Riloo had exhausted both Feisty and himself, and both needed some well-deserved rest.
As Rohea entered the tavern, he carried Pyar in his arms. The tavern was mostly empty, being that it was only a few hours past noon.
The innkeeper looked up as Rohea entered, and said, "Ah, welcome!" He winked at Rohea and said, "A room for you two?"
Rohea nodded, and looked around the tavern. A familiar face caught his eye.
"Sir Puccar?" he said softly.
Puccar seemed surprised to hear his name being called, and looked up. Catching Rohea's eye, Puccar stood up and approached him. Puccar's squire followed quietly behind.
"My, my, Sir Rohea," Puccar said. "What will your admirers in court think?"
Rohea glanced down at Pyar in his arms. "Oh, she is suffering from a spell."
"You bewitched her with your charm?" Puccar chided.
"No," Rohea said seriously. "We were attacked by mages."
Puccar's face darkened and his tone became serious.
"What happened?" he asked. "Why come to Riloo?"
"Let us discuss this someplace private," Rohea said.
"Come," he said as he waved towards the stairs, "let us talk in my room."
"So, Sir Rohea," Puccar started as they entered his room. "Tell me more."