Steel and Spell

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Chapter 32

When dawn came around, I had only slept for approximately an hour. My swollen eyes were red and I was in a bad mood. I looked at Leo as we all started to pick up our stuff to head downstairs. He looked as always, not even an ounce of sleepiness radiating from him. I envied him.

We dressed in our armors, grabbed everything and headed downstairs. As we went down the stairs we could hear voices and as the bar came to view we saw that there were still some drunk men and women form the day before. A man, in particular, called my attention.

As we all started to head for the door, this man turned around to watch us, his face full of rage when he recognized me.

“You bitch! Give me my horse!”

I felt all the guys tense and looking dangerously at the guy. I pushed past them and stood in front of the rancid man.

He was the same guy who I had beaten his ass last time, asking for a horse I had traded, so it was kinda impossible to give it back to him. A small smirk went to my lips when I saw his nose was swollen like a potato, still very much broken.

“What horse are you talking about? I don’t even know you dude.” I feigned innocence, causing him to fume in anger.

“You are going to pay for this.”

Well, who knew men could be so dumb. If experience had taught him something, he would have known not to mess with women, if worse with one who was in such a bad mood like me.

He launched at me ready to hit me square in the face and I dodge in time his fist, my back to the bar.

All the guy’s stance quickly changed as to charge, but I stopped them with my hand.

“Leave him to me.”

He charged once again, and I knew exactly where I would hit him. I took a step to the side and with both hands grabbed his hair and hit his face straight against the table. Twice. He didn’t even have time to plead for mercy.

The guy fell to the floor unconscious, liters of blood gushing from his nose.

We all stood in silence as we watched the guy on the floor. His friends who were on a near table, who hadn’t say anything in the whole exchange (they were probably smarter than broken nose man), watched me and his friend bleeding out on the floor with no intention of helping him.

I looked at the owner of the bar, who was standing behind the bar table not looking very impressed.

“I’m sorry for the mess, again.” I pointed to the man’s friend on the table. “They should be able to help, right?” I asked looking at them dangerously in the eye, which they just nodded quickly.

This time Leo talked to the owner, his mannerisms and politeness worthy of a Prince.

“We are grateful for the hospitality you have given us, the Kingdom appreciates the help.”

I didn’t wait any longer and I stormed out of the place into the cold winter morning, my adrenaline still running high. I went up to Freddy and saddle him up, my thoughts still lingering on the fight.

“I should have beaten him up more.”

The guys didn’t take long to appear and start to prepare their horses as well.

I felt a presence beside me, and I turned me head around slightly to see Tybalt looking amused.

“That back there was awesome. You were great,” he said with an enthusiasm that I didn’t share. I sighed and nodded.

“Thanks.”

He passed his thumb over my frown and gave me a small smile.

“Stop worrying and giving your thoughts to unnecessary shit. There are bigger things to worry about, and still, thinking all the time about it and punishing yourself for what you should or shouldn’t have done doesn’t help.” He said in a low voice as to not be heard by the rest.

He was right. I haven’t had a break from my punishing thoughts for a long time, even before everything went to hell. I had always been good to overthink everything, even the slightest stuff, and that was consuming me.

“Yeah, I think you are right. It’s an old habit of mine, but I’ll try to get rid of it.” Tybalt patted my shoulder and proceeded to go to his horse.

We started the crusade again, and thank God nobody asked me about the bar fight.

There was soft snow lying around everywhere, and Freddy looked quite content even though it was cold enough to throw a bucket of water into the air and for it to freeze instantly mid-air. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.

While riding, I solely focused on caressing his neck during the ride, not really in the mood of thinking about anything.

As we reach the edge of the forest at midday, all the flashbacks came back. It took a big mental strength to ignore those thoughts. It had never been so difficult to keep my mind blank. I looked at the tall trees praying to every God out there to keep Cassius safe and sound until we found him.

“We are coming Cass, stay strong,” I muttered to myself as Freddy kept walking, introducing himself and me into the woods.

The forest was huge, so we didn’t know where to start. We just kept going all day until the sun started to disappear and we decided to set camp and make a plan.

We tied the horses to nearby trees and I took the chance to give Freddy his treat: two delicious apples. As he chewed the apples I stared at him, happy that at least one of us was enjoying the trip. I decided to do the same for the other horses later when the guys weren’t looking.

We made a fire and sat around in silence. It was already night time and each one of us dispose of themselves to eat their share of the provisions we brought. At some point, they were going to finish and we would have to go hunting. I wasn’t looking forward to that, even though I knew how to hunt and not to be cocky, but I was very good at it. But I never got used to killing innocent animals, even if it was for my survival.

“I think we are on the right path to the middle of the forest, that’s where more or less the cabin of Prince Cassius is located,” I said looking at the fire, concentrated on the dancing flames that

“It’s going to take too many days to get to the middle, at least two weeks. We should surround it, that’s where the mages could be.” Althalos spoke everyone nodding.

“Maybe we should first try to find proof of the supposed mages living here. That would help more than just going around the forest for something that doesn’t exist.” Gerardus said eyeing me with distrust.

I didn’t say anything, too mentally tired to come up with a smart comeback.

“Althalos idea is good and Gerardus is right. We should surround the area instead of going right in it, and as we do that, we should try to find some trail that can give us a clue of what’s going on.” Leo said while everybody agreed as they nodded their heads.

They all started to talk between themselves changing the topic to the last time they went out together and got their ass drunk. I sat there silently, not listening to their anecdotes, my mind elsewhere. Tybalt’s advice was in the back of my mind, telling me to stop thinking for once and join the group’s conversation, but nothing seemed to get me out of the trance.

Except when Leo spoke.

“Quinn, you’ll guard tonight.”

Quinn groaned as a complaint but didn’t do or say anything after. After all, they were orders.

“I can do it.” I chimed up looking at him.

“Well, if she does it, I won’t complain,” Quinn said rubbing his hands at the prospect of good night sleep.

“Did I ask you to do it?” Leo asked harshly, his eyes staring at me hard.

I clenched my jaw and looked away. “No.”

“Then don’t defy my orders.” He ordered in his usual steel voice that could make even the toughest man to quiver. But not me.

“Just when I thought he was not an asshole.”

They kept on laughing about who-knows-what as I sneaked out of there and went further away to where the horses were tied and took the chance of giving them apples. After that, I sat next to a tree, enjoying the darkness, the silence, and peace.

The calmness clicked something in my brain, and I started singing softly, instantly feeling myself relax. Singing had always been my hobby and at that moment I needed it more than anything. Except maybe a hug from Cassius, but that was quite impossible at the moment.

The lyrics of Dust in the Wind started to sprout out of my lips without a second thought. My fingers ached to play the guitar, and my mind drifted to all those nights where I stubbornly played the guitar all night until I learned the whole song perfectly. A little OCD, I know.

I heard approaching steps and shut up and when the silhouette was close enough for me to see who it was, he just stood there watching.

“What do you want Liberty?” Gerardus asked with his arms crossed. I couldn’t quite see his face, but I bet he was scowling or just looking angry altogether.

“Hmm, many things. You’ll have to be a little more specific darling.” I said not very interested in having a conversation with him.

“You know what I mean. Is it fame? Wealth?” he insisted once again in with the stupid idea of me being a little bitch who wanted to trick everyone.

I chuckled. “Yeah sure, I’m risking your lives and mine in this stupid forest for money.” The sarcasm dripped in every word. I had had enough of this guy and his accusations.

I stood up and got close to him to look him in the eye as I stopped the bullshit.

“Honestly, I’m quite tired of your shit. I’m here because I have a debt with Prince Cassius, nothing more, nothing less. If you think I’m vain enough to do this for money, you’re wrong. And besides,” I inched my face even closer until our noses were almost touching. “what I do is none of your fucking business.”

I walked past him back to the bonfire, not caring to know his reply. When I got there I went straight to where my stuff so I could prepare my bed for the night.

Gerardus arrived seconds later, not saying anything, but the curious eyes of the guys were on both of us. I felt Leo’s stare on my back, for what it seemed forever, giving me the weird feeling of static in my skin, but decided to ignore him.

I went to sleep, not actually sleeping at all that night, and the next morning we did the same routine as the previous one. We picked our stuff, saddled the horses, and continued the journey.

I stayed behind the group not feeling very social at the moment. The conversation with Gerardus made my insecurities come back, and I wasn’t all that sure that the Knights liked my presence.

Tybalt stayed behind a little and we rode side by side.

“So, I saw you and Gerardus coming out of the dark last night. If it wasn’t for the fact that he loathes you, I would have thought you both were doing naughty stuff in the dark.”

My face cracked into a smile as I laughed at the stupidness.

“Uhm, no. That will NEVER happen.” I said in between laughs.

“Well, thanks to the heavens because I don’t think I could look you in the eyes,” he said as he shuddered.

I laughed again and shook my head.

“You are such a clown.”

“A what?”

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