Chapter Five - When The Night falls
"It will get dark soon so we must stop and look for a place to sleep in for the night," Mako called to the people who had ridden with him - Amaya, the Astridian noble lady and a few guards.
"Your majesty," one of the guards approached him and curtseyed. "There is an inn nearby, we can stay there".
"Which direction?" asked Mako and the guard pointed west.
Everyone started riding west and Mako noticed lady Lyla lingering in her place.
Through all of the ride she was distant and did not talk much.
Mako stood with his horse beside her and glanced at her.
"I am not sure if you heard...".
"You are riding west," she replied without taking her eyes off the horizon. "I heard".
"Aren't you coming with us?" Mako frowned.
"Thank you, for everything you have done for me. but this is where we say goodbye".
"I do not understand. You said you wanted to get to Amato".
"And I will. But I can not stop riding. I need to get help to my people as soon as possible".
"Lady Lyla, it does not make any sense," He frowned again. "You need to rest".
"I will rest once I know my people are safe," She finally gazed at him.
She intended to keep riding but Mako guided his horse to block her path.
"Do not stand in my way,prince Mako," she raised her eyebrow as if she did not expect him to oppose her actions.
"No!" He determined and stared directly into her eyes. "Look, I know you are eager to help your people, but you will not be much of a use if you are exhausted. You need to rest and so does your poor horse. So come with me, with us".
She hesitated for a long moment while studying her tired horse.
"I suppose you are right," she finally said. "But we need to move fast".
"I assure you, lady Lyla, we will leave the tavern first thing in the morning"
"Thank you," she finally calmed down. "And please, stop calling me 'lady Lyla'. It is too official".
They started riding towards the inn along with the others.
Half an hour later, they arrived a small tavern in the middle of the road. When they walked through the front door, a bell rang above them.
The atmosphere there was calm. Pleasant and quiet music was played by three violin and cello players sitting on a small stage in the lobby.
Loving couples danced to the sounds of the lovely music. Others sat around the round wooden tables and ate while savoring the serene atmosphere. The rest - mostly men - sat by the bar where they were served liquor.
Murmurs were sounded from all sides and Mako managed to pick up parts of conversations that the inn guests had between them.
"You look stunning tonight, mrs. Miles," smiled a short spindly lady to her friend.
"The food here is magnificent," pointed out a man dressed with leather suit.
"They should have cooked the meat a little bit longer," responded a woman wearing fancy clothes and Mako assumed she was his wife.
Very few people had noticed Mako's and the others' entrance to the inn.
"Alicia, isn't this handsome man resembles prince Mako?" A young girl whispered to her friend and stared at Mako in astonishment.
Mako heard laughter and turned to see three drunk men sitting at the bar.
"At least we will get some drinks," whispered Amaya to Mako's ear when she noticed the fancy wine which was served at the bar.
Mako approached the bar and noticed a wall full of wine bottles and shelvs of drinks behind it.
"What can I get you?" The bartender smiled at him. "And drinks are not the only thing I offer".
She rolled a golden curl around her finger.
Lady Lyla approached the bar and gave a bored look to the bartender.
"We want to talk to the owner, please," she cleared her throat and laid her elbows on the wooden counter.
The bartender nodded and walked to the back of the bar.
"Wow, aren't you patient?" Mako chuckled.
"I just want to get it over with," she rolled her eyes.
She pulled her hair to the back and drew the attention of one of the drunk men. The man studied her a bit longer than a man should study a stranger.
Mako was not surprised, of course. Lady Lyla was astonishing. She did not even notice the staring.
When the man whispered something to his friend and stood up to approach Lyla, as Mako assumed, Mako intended to stop him but then a chubby, short man approached them with a sullen expression on his face.
"Yes?" Asked the man who was probably the owner of the inn.
Mako and Lyla turned to look at him.
"We would like to rent number of rooms for the night," Lyla spoke and the owner raised his eyebrows as if only now he had noticed her presence.
"Excuse me, sir, is she with you?" The owner turned to look at Mako.
Mako opened his mouth to speak but was distracted by the drunk men who studied Lyla with hungry looks.
"You can talk to me, I am right here, you know," she was upset and crossed her arms on her chest.
Mako focused his attention in Lyla and the owner.
"Yes, my wife and I have arrived here with some of our servants and we need five rooms for the night," he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him.
The drunk man seemed disappointed, but he finally turned away from Lyla.
"What are you doing?" She whispered to Mako.
"How long will it take for you to arrange it?" He ignored her question.
The owner called a few workers, spoke to them and turned back to Mako.
"Less than thirty minutes," he replied. "In the meantime, you may enjoy dinner with the rest of our guests".
He walked away and Mako removed his arm from Lyla.
"What was that?" She was confused.
The drunk guy glanced at Lyla's back and Mako approached her.
"The drunk guy behind you will not take his eyes off you," he whispered to her ear and her Jasmine scent reached his nose. "And besides," he said and held out his hand for her. "We need to blend in".
He gestured to the dance floor where the couples did not stop dancing.
"You mean... dancing?" She asked, almost chuckling.
With all the commotion in her kingdom, a simple act like dancing, now seemed ridiculous.
"It might help clear your mind off".
She gazed at his hand and hesitated until she finally grabbed it.
Mako ushered her to the dance floor and when they reached it, Lyla wrapped her arms around his neck.
Mako laid one of his hands on her shoulder and the other on her back. They swayed together to the sounds of music.
"So.... I have met your friend, Amaya, but I have not met your family yet," she stared directly into his eyes. "Where is your father?".
Mako lifted her hand and twirled her.
"He is in the town of Rata, trying to help the families there in any way he can".
"Oh," she realized. "Right, the venta epidemic. I heard about it".
He did not say anything, just twirled her again.
"How are your people holding up?".
"Well, we have known better days. The epidemic spreads fast and kills too many people".
She tightened her grip in his shoulder as if trying to comfort him by that.
"That is why you are making an alliance with Amato," she did not take her eyes off his. "They suffer from this epidemic as well".
"We wish to unite our resources in order to find a cure".
He let out a desperate chuckle. "Look at that. Amato and Arkadia are suffering from an epidemic while Scandia and Astrada are at war."
"Our world is a mess," she sighed and seemed to be deep in thoughts.
"Is everything alright?" He asked.
She took her arms off him and stopped dancing.
"I just need some fresh air," she turned to leave but he grabbed her wrist.
"Wait, I think I should come with you," he gestured to the drunk men. "Those men...".
"That is sweet, prince Mako, but I can protect myself," she reassured him. "And I would like to be alone for a while".
"Of course, just be careful," he released her hand.
"I always do".
Lyla had to get out and clear her mind. She was right, the world was a mess indeed.
ut in there, on the dance floor, she felt normal for a second.
When she was dancing with prince Mako she let herself loosen up, she allowed herself to forget about her own troubles when she heard Mako's.
But she should be in control, she should be focused on her goal, she could not just forget her people, especially now.
"Hello there," an handsome man came out of the inn.
He was young, perhaps her age, and he wore fancy clothes.
"I could not help but notice how beautiful you are," he grinned. "What are you and your husband doing on the roads? Where are you headed?".
He was standing still, even though his eyes were unfocused and she could tell he was drunk.
"I am not sure my husband would be pleased to know I am talking to another man," she took a step back.
The stranger took it as a challenge and took a step forward.
"I will not tell him if you don't. He does not have to know about it".
He lowered his head and she tried to throw him away with her water element but recalled that it is gone.
Ranus took it a few days ago in a mysterious way.
Instead, she pushed the man away with nothing but her hands, but she could not keep him away because he was too heavy.
He chuckled and seemed to be impressed.
"Come on, your husband gets to spend every night with you, why can't I have only this one night?".
She kicked his stomach and he groaned in pain and got upset.
"Haven't I been nice to you?" He raised his voice.
He intended to come closer but she pulled out her sword and held it in front of him.
"Do you even know how to use it?" He mocked her.
"Why don't you come closer and find out for yourself?" She teased him. "Leave, now!".
He rolled his eyes and did not make any movement.
"You are just a gentle girl, what can you do?" He chuckled again.
A moment later she pinned him to the wall of the inn and pressed the sword to his throat.
"Is this what I need to do to get you closer to me?" He smiled and the smell of alcohol and pungent wine wafted from his mouth.
"Has none ever told you to not judge the book by its cover?" She ignored what he said and took a few steps away from him.
In the next moment he threw the sword out of her hands.
After a moment of surprise, she composed herself and turned to him in a furious voice.
"Why all of you nobles do not know when to stop?".
"How did you know I was a noble?".
"Arrogant, overconfident, fancy clothes and assumes you can have anything you wish for?" She teased him. "Definitely a noble".
"I have never met such a bold woman before".
He seemed to be impressed for the second time now.
She turned to leave but he grabbed her wrist.
Someone pushed him away from her.
"Take your hands off her!" Prince Mako came out of nowhere.
The stranger finally stopped grinning, he just stared at him.
"Wait, you are..." a realization flooded his face. "Prince Mako".
His eyes filled with horror.
"Are you alright?" Mako studied Lyla and she nodded.
"I apologize, your majesty," the stranger exhaled. "Please forgive me".
Mako glared at him. "Just leave".
He took his leave and Mako turned back to Lyla.
"Thank you," she said. "It seems you keep saving me".