I slowed down to a walk on my way to the river, my legs utterly destroyed with the "run for my life" I had to perform moments ago.
I looked behind me to see Tybalt making his way up to me.
"I'll come with you. You're just too good in trying to get yourself killed."
I chuckled and kept walking.
"I really think I have a problem with that. It's kind of worrying."
We stepped out of the tree line and the river was there, not a sign of someone or something being there.
I went to the edge of the river to pick up the water canteen I had dropped, looking everywhere in alert for something suspicious.
Tybalt grabbed his sword and watched around us like a hawk.
"Did you see the snake disappear? Like literally make itself invisible and then appear again." I asked as I tried to look for any suspicious trace at the other side of the river
"No. That's impossible." He said looking strangely at me.
"It was the weirdest and scariest thing I had ever seen in my life. I swear-" I abruptly stopped speaking when I saw a note pinned to the tree behind Tybalt.
I didn't wait for a second to run over there and snatch the note from the tree. I opened it and started to read, my eyes widening in disbelief.
I want to apologize for my rudeness towards you, I was kinda angry but now I'm a better man. You are, after all, an exception from the crap that is humankind.
The snake was just something to scare you off and show who is in charge. For you to come to the forest with the Black Knights has honestly disappointed me, but as I said before, I'm a changed man, so I won't do anything to hurt you. But, that doesn't mean that I won't do it in the future if you keep this attitude.
I hope your pals read this letter too and know that my army will destroy the kingdom of Adendawyn and take all of the 9 kingdoms of the Eternal Unity. A new era will grow from their spilled blood and I will make sure, you Liberty, are witness of the greatness that will come.
And of course, I didn't forget the dear Cassius Montforde. He is fine, but I don't think that's going to be for too long.
If you know what's good for you, you will drop the Black Knights immediately and stop this bullshit you are pulling. You are not going to find him, and you never will. I'm not going to ask twice. If you change your mind and want to be on the winning side, hmu. On the contrary, your "friends" will suffer the consequences.
Hoping that you take in great consideration this letter and get out of the forest, I'll be patiently waiting for doomsday.
"I think I'm going to throw up," I said way louder than I intended and looked anywhere else than the letter. My mind was a whirlwind of emotions, mainly confusion, anger, anxiety, and fear. Mostly fear. "He had been fucking watching us all this time."
"What the fuck did I just read?" Tybalt said beside me tensed and looking more furious than I had ever seen him.
I forced myself to look at the letter once again and this time I saw what had struck me weird at first. He used words like "kinda", "hmu" and "doomsday", which I was pretty sure they didn't use them here. And there was only one answer to that.
"The bastard is from my world," I said tensely, not believing at all what was going on.
"Does it mean that there are mages in my world too? That actual magic exists over there?" I was having the worst mental breakdown in history but was suddenly interrupted.
We heard shuffling through the trees and it didn't take long for the other knights to arrive.
Leo looked pissed off and about to give the speech of his life, but stopped moving altogether when he saw mine and Tybalt's expression on our faces.
His gaze went from my face to the letter in my hand, and before I could say anything he went up to me and snatched it out of my hands. As he read the letter his expression started to change to a murderous one. If he was pissed off before, this was another new level of angry. I kept biting my nails with anxiousness, the mental breakdown coming back with full force.
I felt like a puppet in a horror show, with no control or say in what was going on. First I had traveled into another dimension with no idea of what the hell was happening, and then there's a sadistic motherfucker that wants to go on a killing rampage on the people that I care about, and if that wasn't enough, he feels entitled to control my ass? Bitch, give me a break.
Leo's gaze fell instantly on me after he finished reading the letter, watching me for a long time before he could say anything.
"We need to go back to Lux Novum." he said looking at the rest, avoiding my eyes.
"Are you fucking serious?" I exclaimed, not believing a single word that came out of his mouth. "How can you fall for his tricks so easily?"
Leo's jaw ticked at how tense he was and his infuriated glare had me thinking twice before talking like that to him again.
"In case you didn't read well, he is declaring war on us. We need to go to the Kingdom and warn them just in case the fucker actually carries on his plan of killing everyone," he said the last part with sarcasm that wasn't hard to miss.
"What about your brother, huh? Are you going to leave him at his mercy?" I said as contained as possible, not wanting to show vulnerability, less when it was about Cassius.
"We don't have a choice," he said ending the conversation, not leaving space for any argument.
I looked at the Knights, their faces grave and in deep thought, probably taking the weight of the situation for the first time since I joined them.
I looked at the floor, trying with all my might to suppress my emotions that were about to surface in an explosion
The worst part is that I understood the weight in Leo's shoulders and his decision was the correct one. He was putting the lives of thousands before the life of his own brother. But that didn't mean it hurt less.
We went back to the horses in the utmost silence, everyone thinking to themselves what had happened in the last hour. It was a lot to process.
I went into the forest thinking we were going to get out of there with Cassius alive and healthy, and it all turned out for the worst. I fumed at the idea of listening to the psychopath of Ascanius when we all knew he could be torturing and killing Cassius.
We started riding back, and it didn't take long for night to fall on us, so we built a camp and a bonfire, and the silence was still the one reigning over us, not a single sound coming from any of us.
Tybalt approached me, sitting next to me as everyone was busy eating their night-meal.
"How are you?" he asked quietly, pretending to just look at the fire.
"I'm fine, I guess. My legs hurt like a bitch though." Both of us chuckled quietly to not attract attention. "What about you?"
"Good, worried about you." I instantly smiled at his kindness, my heart melting at his preoccupation. I stayed silent for a while before I responded truly honest.
"I'm still shocked by the letter. I just... I don't know what to make of it. Like, why me? How am I possibly related to whatever his problem is? Everything is just so weird and sketchy." I looked into his warm brown eyes as he focused on what I had said.
"Believe me, I was just as shocked as you are. And if you don't know why he has a grudge or whatever it is on you, I have less of an idea. Just know that all of us are going to protect you."
I looked at him incredulously. "Really? Even Gerardus?"
"Maybe he won't do it with much enthusiasm, but he has to. You are a part of the team, and we protect each other."
His words got to me on a much deeper level than I would have expected, and I just managed to give him a small smile in appreciation.
My gaze soon caught Leo's stare. He was watching us with an unreadable expression that made the air suddenly fill awkward.
That being Tybalt's sign to leave, he quickly got up, said his proper goodnight, and went to sleep.
I looked at Leo once again, his unwavering gaze was still watching me, and for some odd reason, I felt naked to his eyes, as if he could stare at my intentions, my thoughts, and my soul. A shiver ran down my spine and I broke the eye contact, not liking at all the feeling of vulnerability.
That night just like the other nights, I barely got sleep. I thought over and over on Tybalt's words, and the guilt was eating for what I was about to do.
The Black Knights had to return to give the notice of an upcoming war, however, I had other plans. They didn't need me, I saw that clearly when they defeated the snake. I, on the other hand, was immune to magic, so I had something to work with. I had made my final decision; look for Cassius. So in the middle of the night, I grabbed my stuff and sneaked out as quiet as possible without anyone noticing. Or at least that's what I hoped for.
I started to walk once again towards the river, the only place where I had something to start with. My eyes were attentively looking everywhere, the darkness and the cold making my skin erupt with goosebumps.
It was almost sunrise when I arrived at the river, my eyes looking everywhere for something suspicious. Maybe there was another note or some kind of hint...
Suddenly everything went quiet, and everything stopped moving altogether. The morning breeze had disappeared and the river's current was in place as if the water had suddenly become frozen.
I took my sword quickly knowing exactly what I was about to face. My breathing became ragged and my heart started to pump blood at 1000 miles per hour at the prospect of facing one of the monsters that hunted me in my dreams.
My gaze went to the other side of the river, and there they were. A mage was standing beside two vextalons with long sharp teeth and claws that made me shudder at the memory of them grabbing my ankles. The mage had a taunting smirk, his eyes challenging me. I glared at him, offering my own menacing stance to counter his challenge.
The mage nodded quickly, and the vextalons moved fastly towards me. They passed over the river and as I was ready to attack them, I was confused to see they change their course, avoiding me and entering the forest.
I stood there frozen, as I snapped my head towards the mage who still had the same sadistic smile on his face.
And it clicked in my head.
The vextalons went after the Black Knights.
"Shit! What have I done..."
It took me less than a second to run back to the forest, sprinting towards my partners in an attempt to save their lives that I had just risked. I'm sure I was running even faster than the day before, the despair making me move my legs with determination and my mind in such a panicked and frenzy state that I could only focus on reaching them. It didn't matter how far away they were, I had to get to them, no matter the cost.
Once again, I had fucked up on a colossal level.