Chapter 8: "Next time, we'll be ready."
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” -Seneca
When the mentor and apprentice reach the seaside town, Alix takes a deep breath, “Smell that? That’s the sea.”
Rea inhales, then smiles. “I love the smell of the ocean. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the Skandian blood in me.”
Alix nods, “It’s possible. They do tend to spend all of their days on a boat.”
“Speaking of which, which boat are we taking to Arrida?”
“That one,” Alix says pointing. “King of the Sea.” Alix dismounts, and leads Willow over to the inn. “We’ll have to leave our horses,” she explains and pays the stable boy to keep the two horses for the duration of the mission. Rea dismounts Kicker and leaves him as well.
“Let’s get going. Best not to let the grass grow under our feet when there are things to be done,” Alix says and they board the ship.
“It’s nice to be on land again,” Rea sighs, as they step onto Arridian land. Alix nods in agreement, glancing around the harbor. “What now?”
“We wait for Selethen.”
“How will you recognize him? Have you seen him before?”
“Once, ages ago.”
Rea nods, looking around at the foreign city.
“Over there,” Alix says, nudging Rea. A tall figure is walking purposefully towards them. “That’s got to be Selethen.” He walks over, and greets both with the traditional Arridian greeting, and Alix copies the movement. “Selethen, how are you?”
“Very well, thank you. It’s been a long time since our paths have crossed.”
“It has,” Alix agrees. “This is Rea,
my apprentice.” Rea smiles slightly and nods a greeting, and Selethen does
“You are the delegate that was mentioned in the letter?” Selethen asks.
Alix nods, “That’s me.”
“Wonderful.” he says. “Now, please follow me and we can discuss the details.”
Alix and Rea walk off, following Selethen.
Alix sits at a table, studying the ceiling. “I hate the customs here. They make us wait a forever for a definite answer,” she mutters. Rea smiles slightly at her mentor’s impatience, then it fades when a group of rough-looking sailors come into the inn. “Alas, if we want this to work out, patience is required,” Alix comments, sitting up.
Alix glances over at the sailors, “They won’t cause problems. At least not for us,” she reassures her apprentice.
Rea nods, “Alright.”
Alix stands up. “Let’s go. I can’t stand this waiting around anymore.”
Alix shrugs, “No idea, but definitely somewhere.”
They stand up, and leave the inn. They wander around the foreign city, admiring all the sights. “Maybe we-” Alix sees movement above them on the roof of a building, “Look out!” she exclaims, and pulls Rea out of the way as large chunks of rubble fall to the ground.
“Thank you,” Rea mumbles, slightly shaken.
“No problem,” Alix says, studying the roof. “I hope nothing else falls on poor pedestrians.”
Rea nods her agreement, “What do we do now?”
“Nothing,” Alix replies, looking down the street. “There’s Selethen now.” He approaches, nodding a greeting.
“We have decided that a treaty would greatly benefit our country,” he says, “The signing will take place as soon as the official from your country arrives.”
Alix nods. “That will probably happen within a week or two. Is there anything we can assist you with while you are here?”
“Stay out of trouble. I know what you rangers are like,” he says smiling.
Alix grins, “True enough.”
Selethen goes on his way, and Alix and Rea walk back to the inn.
Alix nudges Rea, “You want any coffee? I know how fond of it you are.”
“Are you joking? Of course!”
Rea sits down at a table in a corner and waits for Alix.
Alix plops down in a chair next to Rea, “Here ya go kiddo.”
“Thank you. It’s a shame you don’t like it.”
“Trust me, I’ll manage.” Alix smiles.
A week or so later, Rea and Alix are leisurely walking along the harbor, admiring the sea. As they walk down the dock, they hear the loud sound of running feet behind them. As the pair turns to face the oncoming person, he dives into them, knocking them into the ocean. Alix and Rea swim to the surface, only to see the attacker clamber out of the water and run away.
“Get him!” Alix calls to Rea as she swims back to land. Within moments they are running after him, but he vanishes into the crowds on the streets. “Drat. We lost him,” Alix growls, irritated.
“What do we do?” Rea asks, realizing the two of them are soaked, dripping ocean water everywhere.
“We wait. Next time, we’ll be ready for them. Apparently all the misfortunes we’ve been having aren’t coincidences.”
“We’ll be ready for them next time.” Rea agrees, “But for now, let’s go back to the inn.”
The next morning Alix leaps out of bed, “Rea! Get up! They were here!” She says, swiftly pulling on her boots, but leaving her cloak.
“Who?” Rea asks, sitting up.
“Just C’mon!” Alix says urgently. Alix dashes down the stairs and out the door, with Rea behind her.
“Where are we going?” Rea asks as they run, totally confused.
“After them,” Alix says, coming to an abrupt stop at the beginning of an alleyway, Rea almost running into her.
“So close,” Alix mumbles, slowly walking forward, her saxe in hand. Rea unslings her bow, but Alix shakes her head, “Not here. Not enough room,” Alix glances down an adjoining alley, but sees nothing.
Rea nods, taking her saxe out, “Alright.”
“I woke up when the door to our room opened, and the intruder walked in,” Alix mumbles quietly to Rea, “When I moved to grab my Saxe, he fled and I went after him.”
“Did he do anything?”
“No. Didn’t have-” Alix flinches backwards as a dart flies in front of her face, she swivels around to face the direction it came from. Rea cries out as a dart buries itself into her shoulder. She drops her saxe, feeling nausious. Alix catches Rea as she falls forward, and gently sets her on the ground, hearing footsteps receding. “I have to go after them.” Alix mutters to the unconscious girl, and sets off running.
In a few minutes, Rea regains consciousness, “Alix?” She shakily stands up.
“Don’t worry dearie, you’ll see her soon enough,” someone says, stepping out of the shadows.
“Who are you?” Rea asks, holding her saxe knife defensively.
“A friend,” he says, easily taking the knife out of her hand, “Look dearie, you’re still weak. Let’s bring you to somewhere safe, shall we?” Rea follows, still quite suspicious.
“Trust me, you will see your mentor very soon,” he repeats, putting his hand on her shoulder and leading her through the maze of alleyways.
“Where did she go?”
“You’ll see,” He says, leading her inside a small building.
Alix skids around a corner, and sees the figure standing in the middle of the alleyway, a knife in his hand, “You numbskull,” she growls, unsheathing her knives. “Never attack a ranger.”
She pulls her arm back, sending her throwing knife spinning into his torso. His limp body thuds quietly to the ground, and Alix goes to retrieve her knife. She wrinkles her nose in disgust when she sees how hideous his face is. Maybe once he had been decent looking, but missing an eye and an ear ruined any chance of that. She wipes her knife on his tunic, freezing when she hears the quiet sound of feet behind her. She swivels around, a knife in either hand. A decent sized group of opposers face her, all with weapons.
“Come quietly, and you won’t be harmed.”
“You should be more worried about your own skin,” Alix growls.
They respond by chucking a club at her. She raises an eyebrow, ducking under it.
“Fools,” she mutters quietly, disarming then knocking unconscious the first one to face her. Alix spins around to skewer an attacker who had attempted to catch her by surprise. She faces another so called ‘fool’, her knives locked together to use the double-knife defense. She deflects two sword swings with it, then as she deflects a third, she pulls her throwing knife free and impales him. One of her attackers releases a string of curses as she slashes out at another of his comrades. As Alix is fighting, she feels a sharp sting in her back from what could only be a dart. Alix stumbles backwards dazedly as her vision blurs. Struggling to stay conscious, she falls heavily to the ground.
“Rea, I’m sorry,” she groans, as everything goes dark.