It was a time for new beginnings. A time to start afresh. The assassin walked towards the forest. Their mission, their quest, their ultimatum was about to begin. An ultimate test to start a new life.
She looked at Aerys, who was lugging their satchels behind him. He had offered to take her satchel a while ago, and she had been happy to oblige. Now, she could visibly see he was tired.
“I think I'll carry it” she said and took her bag from him, slinging it onto her back.
“Let’s stop for a while.” Aerys said, sitting down on a rock and wiping his brow.
They had been walking for a good two hours now. Even though they were almost there, fear followed them. It lay in the trail of footprints they left. What if someone saw them? What if the Satanists found out about Aerys and the assassin?
“Well, no one saw us dd they?” The assassin asked apprehensively.
“Well, I hope.” Aerys said.
After a few minutes, they stood up. They couldn't waste time with idle chatter and rests. They had to be on the move as much as they could.
She set her left foot onto the leaves lying on the forest floor. Then her right. She was a few steps into it. There was no turning back now.
“Go on, it’s not going to eat you,” Aerys said chuckling.
Suddenly, there was a roar and out of nowhere a panther sprung out, pouncing on Aerys. The panther was bluish black, with markings right above the head. Aerys tumbled to the ground with the panther on him. The panther opened its mouth, in an attempt to take a bite of Aerys. But, Aerys was as strong as he looked. He held the panther at bay, shouting at the assassin to do something.
The assassin screamed and took out her knife, in one throw striking the pant right above the head.
“Phew that was close.” Aerys said.
“Watch what you say” The assassin who went by rogue said.
“I owe you one.” Aerys said, sitting down to catch his breath. Five minutes into the forest and an animal had already attacked. Rogue side as she wondered what else awaited them.
“We should probably hide the body in case somebody comes here and finds out.” Rogue said.
They wordlessly set about digging a hole to bury the panther. It was a shame. It was a beautiful creature. It had gone too easy, one strike of my dagger had been enough. Rogue and Aerys soon put the majestic creature to rest, covering the hole and the stamping it down.
They stood up, admiring their own handiwork.
“Not too bad.” Rogue said.
“Yeah, you can't even make out something is there.” Aerys said with satisfaction.
They moved ahead, deeper and deeper into the jungle. It was almost dark when they stopped again. They stopped near a pool, but only to fill their containers with water.
The pool was surrounded by trees, and a variety of footprints could be seen. Tigers, jackals, birds, elephants had all been here. In facts Rogue could hear the distant trumpeting of an elephant herd.
They walked a while more, and soon settled under a tree.
“Should we light a fire?” Aerys asked.
“Yeah. It will keep animals away.” Rogue said.
“We should also sleep in turns. The forest isn't safe.” Aerys said.
“Yeah.” The assassin said.
They ate in silence. They had taken to doing everything in silence. Walking, eating, everything as the gloom of the imminent threat loomed over. Rogue and Aerys were scared, and the darkness of the night didn't help. Animal howls would occasionally break the silence. One roar or howl would waken others, like a ripple in water. They kept spreading.
She took the first watch. “I'll wake you up in a while” she said.
He obliged, falling to sleep soon after. Rogue wrapped a blanket around her and listened closely, trying hard not to fall asleep. She couldn't afford to fall asleep. The slightest mistake and they would be dead meat.
She reluctantly shook Aerys awake in a while. She wanted to take his watch too. He did look tired, but she had to wake him up, because she would sleep and then some animal would run astray to where they were sleeping.
That morning, she woke up, and realization hit her. Thankfully they were alive. They had survived a night in the forest. She yawned and woke up to find Aerys gone.
Rogue scrambled up in fear. Where was her? What had happened to him? Was he okay?
“Aerys, Aerys” She screamed, fear clouding her eyes.
“Aer..oh there you are.” She said spotting Aerys walking towards her, something in his hand.
“Where have you been?” She shouted punching his arm. “What if something had happened to you?”
“Calm down. I was nearby. I was catching breakfast” He said holding up a rabbit by the ears.
Rogue collapsed on him, murmuring” You had me so worried.”
“I can take of myself.” Aerys said amused. “Glad to know you care so much.”
“Of course I do.” Rogue said. It dawned on her how much she cared for Aerys. He was her life. He was the only one left for her now. There was no one else.
Aerys skinned the rabbit and put it on on a spit as I hit rocks together to make a fire.
After a while, through bites of rabbit meat Rogue said” I bet you've never eaten rabbit before.”
“And you have?”
“Well, no but I'm just saying.”
Aerys took up the remaining meat and wrapped it in leaves. He then proceeded to put it into his bag.
“For later” He said to Rogue who nodded.
And with that, they set out. They weren't even a quarter into the forest. They had a long way to go.
That day, they didn't seem to see any other animals, though they came across a pond again.
“This looks strangely familiar doesn't it?” Aerys muttered, out of breath.
“I think we're going in circles.” Rogue said uncertainly.
“Which direction do we have to go again?”
Aerys walked up to a tree and pulled down a branch.
Placing the stick upright in a clearing, he said” Watch”
Rogue wondered what he was doing, but decided not to comment.
He marked the initial point where the shadow of the stick could be seen with a rock.
He then sat down and waited. In a while, the shadow shifted and Aerys marked that spot too with a stone.
He then pointed towards one of the trees. “That's North. Let’s go.”
Rogue waited, unsure, but she trusted him too much.
“As you say” And she turned and walked in the direction he was pointing at. After a while, they didn't seem to be going in circles.
“See, I was right” Aerys exclaimed gleefully.
“We'll see about that.”
And with that we walked in silence, still enjoying each other’s company.
After a while, we decided to rest for some time.
“I wonder how you cope with it.” Aerys said suddenly.
“With what?” Rogue asked.
“Sometimes I ask myself that too.
“Do you think we'll be able to start a new life across the forest?” Aerys asked. “I really don't know Aerys. Let’s hope.”
Aerys suddenly stood up, signalling for rogue to be quiet.
She strained her ears, wondering what was wrong. What she heard made her gasp. Rogue heard the distant sound of a conch being blown. The king.
She scrambled, grabbing her bag.
“We need to go hide fast.” She said. “The king is out hunting.”
“Where can we go?” Aerys said.
Rogue looked around. Suddenly she ran to a tree. “Let’s hide up here. He won't see us high up there.”
Rogue and Aerys quickly climbed up the tree, hiding under its thick branches, praying with utmost fervor that they wouldn't be found.
Suddenly, Aerys noticed the king and his men riding towards where they were hiding.
“Shush” He said to Rogue, silently clamping his hand over her mouth.
They sat in silence for a while, the voices drawing closer and closer. They waited with abated breath, praying the king wasn't looking for them.
“I'm sure they went this way.” Aerys heard the king say.
Rogue clung onto Aerys in despair. They were surely dead now. They had made it so far and all in vain. She wondered what she had done to deserve such a life.