The sun was about to set and Milos knew that he needed to put up his tent soon. He was still a couple miles away from the Arbors but he wasn’t taking any chances to be eaten by the grim. There were more painful ways to die. Like from heartbreak.
I don’t love Milos. Her words and voice haunted him since the second the words left her mouth and would continue until he met his end. He had hoped that eventually she would come to love him, but when Aliana spoke she sounded so sure of herself that he knew that he would never be able to change the way she felt for him. Why he thought she could love him was beyond him. He was and would never good enough. Yet he would still try. This was his chance to prove to her that he did deserve her.
One thing he was good at was scheming and spying. Hardly the job of a Crown prince, but he needed to leave the palace and make himself useful. His men were waiting for him in Catalands and from there he would travel to Block Isle and into Evan.
Moriah had created enough trouble for them and he needed to do everything in his power to stop her.
He pulled his mare to a stop and then jumped off. This would be the perfect spot. The trees were some distance away and the thicket was just high enough to hide him from any random passer-by. He grabbed a canteen with water and put it at his head. He could hear the Hone close by but strangely he heard nothing else.
He had a prickling sensation that he was being watched, but by whom he was not sure.
The horse nickered beside him and he patted her back once before pulling his hood down and moving to the clearing for a better view. He caught a glimpse of something skirting along the tree line. Another shadow moved followed by a scuttling sound created my chitinous limbs rubbing against the ground.
Grim. They had found him and were waiting. The only thing holding them back was the sun and in five minutes it would set.
Despite the titian sky, a sudden chill started to permeate the air and brushed against his cheek. They couldn’t see him because of his cloak, but they knew that he was there. The elemental magic in his blood called to them. He turned to his left and saw one of them standing and waiting. He shifted his position and the being moved forward but suddenly drew back as the tip of its cloak left the shade and dark wisps of smoke went up into the air as the sun burned away at its evil.
He loaded his crossbow with arrows already tipped in sidna oil. He lit it and sent it hurdling towards the grim. A loud shriek filled the woods as it erupted into flames and then was gone.
“Bastard.” He said satisfied with himself but the feeling was fleeting as he noted the others flocking to the treeline.
He looked towards the horizon, he had two minutes at most. There were times to stand and fight and a time to run. He would have to go with the latter rather than the former this time. He fired the rest of the loaded arrows in rapid succession into the woods as he retreated towards his horse.
He was rewarded with several shrieks of pain but it was hardly enough. There were many more waiting to capture him.
Catalands was three miles away, if he made it there, he could get help. If not, he was a very dead man.
“Come on girl. Let’s go.” He said as he spurred his horse forward. The midnight mare didn’t hesitate to move as she sensed the danger around her.
The final rays of the sun disappeared over the horizon as he shot past the tree line. A wave of cold air overcame him as a hoard of grim emerged from outside the trees. The horse was fast as it galloped through the thin brush but the grim too were fast as they were beginning to catch up. He looked to his left and noted one of them was racing alongside him. He veered right just as the creature lunged at him.
He drew his sword and slashed at the beast cutting across the torso. It fell backward rolling on the ground as sidna oil soaked within its system. “Come on girl.” He said urging the mare forward as more grim emerged from within the trees and were catching up to him. He couldn’t fight them all and he needed help. Help that would never come as he was all alone.
He could see the walls of Catalands in the distance still two miles away. He was driving the horse hard and he didn’t know how much longer he could keep up this pace before the horse went lame.
He looked behind him several times but there was nothing chasing him anymore. “Where the…” the horse pulled to a sudden stop which had him flying off her side.
His back hurt from the landing and he was lucky that he hadn’t broken his neck or that the sword hadn’t cut him. He was a bit disoriented from the fall and had to blink several times to ensure that he was seeing everything correctly. The horse hadn’t bolted but was neighing and kicking behind him.
He struggled to sit up and looked forward. The grim weren’t chasing him. They were herding him in. He heard chitinous titters and scrapping coming towards him from all directions as a deep cold soaked through his bones and left him completely immobilized.
One of the grim stepped forward and stooped to look in his face. He had gone many years not seeing what lay behind the hood of the grim and he wished that it had remained that way.
“Green Sapphire, we have been expecting you.” It said in between hisses and chitters.
“Can’t say that I am too glad to see you too.” It was pointless but he wouldn’t go down without a fight as he fought the lethargy that had engulfed him and stabbed at the abdomen of the creature.
The creature screamed as the sword was stuck in its thigh. It pulled out the blade and stalked towards him with a murderous glare. “The queen wants you alive, but you killed my brothers you will die now Green Sapphire.”
Milos closed his eyes as he watched the razor-sharp claws come towards his neck. He felt the brush of chitin against his skin but felt no pain as the creature came to a sudden stop before bursting into flames.
He watched with uncertainty as grim after grim suddenly erupted into embers not having enough time to let out their unusual screams. Half of them were dead within seconds and the rest fled with all the confusion. A minute ago, he was surrounded by grim but now he was completely alone.
Still shaky from his fall he stood slowly and looked around him.
“Whoever it is that helped me, thank you.” He shouted as no one stepped into the clearing. “You can come out now. I am not armed as you can see. I want to thank you.” He said raising his arms.
There was a sudden shift coming from within the trees. One second no one was standing there and the next a man standing at least six feet tall and draped in green stepped forward. He rolled up a whip that still had smouldering embers long its length and tucked it into his side.
“I know that you are not armed Your Highness.” He said as he came forward. “But I accept your gratitude.” He pulled off his hood.
Milos sucked in a deep breath as he recognised the face under the cloak. “You,” he said.
“Yes me.” He laughed. “The last time we met you stole a potential mate from me.”
“She was never meant to be yours as you probably knew.” He said folding his arms.
“It didn’t hurt to try.” He shrugged.
“You, you’re a river wraith. The Hone is miles away. What are you doing here? I mean, I am happy that you are here, but I am confused.”
The wraith laughed. “I knew that you would need my help, so I came and waited.”
“Foresight does have its advantages. Thank you.”
“You can thank me by destroying Moriah.” It said turning serious again. “I also came to give you a message. There will be more grim waiting for you as soon as you leave the Catalands and you won’t get to Block Isle alive as the queen has agents within your rank. The best route to Evan is by going to Chrisoncor. There you will find all the help you need for the rest of your plan to succeed.”
“You’ve saved me twice then.” said Milos. “Are you sure there will be no way I can repay your kindness now?”
“I am sure, but if you will consider my advice a kindness, well that will be debatable when it all ends.” He moved towards the horse who had settled down and was watching us with uncanny intelligence.
“You have food in this bag?” It asked. Milos nodded. “We will have it now.” It said pulling out a pack.
“Is this the safest place to make camp now?” asked Milos as they were exposed to open air and no protection around.
“The grim will not return since I am with you. You should eat now and rest young prince.” It said sitting on the stone and spread the provisions in front of him. Milos joined him in the meal.
He wasn’t sure why the river wraith had saved his life or thought him worthy to warn him, but he was grateful. He sat for many minutes trying to push the exhaustion of the day behind him but sleep eventually won. When he woke at dawn, he was alone.
He wouldn’t wait any longer. The walls of Catalands loomed in the distance but he turned his horse away and headed for Chrisoncor.