The Adventures of Dagus & Tarlynn - Vol. 1: The Captain

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Chapter Two

Waking up sometime before dawn, Dagus feels Tarlynn snuggled on his chest. She looks so peaceful, he thinks to himself. Gently easing her off his chest and onto his arm, Dagus holds his breath as she lets out a soft sound. Laying there, still as a rock, Dagus waits patiently and finally Tarlynn settles down once more. He delicately pulls his arm out from under her and slips out of the blankets. Tucking her in, he turns and busies himself with the fire. Hearing movement behind him, he looks back to see Tarlynn rolling over in her sleep, a content smile on her face. Looking pleased, he finishes with the fire and places an empty skillet and a pot of water over the flames. He retrieves a bag held high in the trees, and gets out items for breakfast. Bacon, oats and some dried apples. Adding the bacon to the skillet, he pokes it with a fork and gets tea ready with the boiling water from the pot. To the leftover water he adds the oats and dried apples. Out of a small packet he adds a fragrant brown powder. He stirs this all and puts it back on the fire.

“Mmm, smells good.” comes a groggy voice from behind, “What are you making?”

“You know that meal you eat, to break the fast of sleep? I think it’s like… morning food… wakeup meal... or something. I’m making... morning meal.” he replies, the serious tone belied by a barely contained grin.

“Oh, I hope you’ve made enough of that for me.” Tarlynn answers, rolling her eyes. Running a hand through unruly hair, she grimaces and adds, “Ugh, now you must think I’m a hag, drool dried down my cheek and hair a mess.”

“Not even in the least.” Dagus replies smoothly, smiling warmly, “You’re even more beautiful this morning.”

Tarlynn blushes and mumbles unintelligibly. Dagus hears a few snippets, something about a stupid girl and a charmer with legs. Despite the grumbling, Dagus thought Tarlynn looks pleased with the compliment.

With breakfast ready, Dagus plates the meal and hands Tarlynn a bowl. Grinning after taking a bite she says, “This is delicious!” Savouring another mouthful she adds, “What is this spice you use? I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased. I find its flavour compliments apples very well. It has a bite and enhances the sweetness. It is called Cassia, and it’s from the lands across the Eastern sea. It is common over there, but for some reason it has never been traded in the west. I can commonly find it from foreign sailors in the eastern port towns.”

“Mmm!” She exclaims, shovelling the food into her mouth. “This is amazing, the bacon too. It’s perfect.” She adds, mouth full of food. “Oh by the gods I am lady-like.” She says with a throaty laugh.

“Fine Ladies are nothing special,” Dagus replies, “they haven’t a thing on you.”

Blushing faintly, she smiles and gives a wry shake of her head, “Smooth talker.”

With a complacent look, Dagus adds her empty bowl to his and takes them to clean. She busies herself with the fire, smothering the coals with earth. Everything is packed up and Samual comes to a familiar whistle. Grunting with the effort, Dagus lifts his saddle onto Samuel and attaches his saddlebags. After checking the flank cinch, he hoists himself up onto Samuel’s back, looks at Tarlynn and shrugs, “Only one seat.”

Tarlynn huffs indignantly and starts walking towards town. “Fine!” she yells, “I don’t need a ride. In any case, I walked out here, I can walk back. My feet have done me well up to now.”

Chuckling, Dagus follows her at a slow walk. He whistles a cheery tune and she turns back and glares at him. “What?” he replies innocently, “I need to make sure you get back safe. These woods are dangerous. Besides,” pointing to the left, “town is that way.”

“I knew that.” She replies, smoothly turning on her heel to head in the right direction. To bely suspicion, she produces 3 daggers from up her sleeves and starts juggling them, whistling nonchalantly the whole time. With a quick glance back she sees Dagus quickly try to hide an impressed face with something a little more akin to a grimace. She barks a laugh and this time it’s Dagus’ turn to blush.

First’s Eye! He thinks to himself, This woman has me losing my wits. Pulling up beside her, “Come on,” he says aloud, holding a hand out to her. Hoisting her up with a grunt she settles in front him, her tight breeches suited for riding. Dagus could feel the warmth of her as she leans into him. Don’t get lost in her. He thinks to himself. You know the pain of loss, do you want to get attached to someone again?

Thunder rolling in the north brings him out of his dark reverie. Looking in the direction of the sound he could see dark clouds on the horizon. Clicking his tongue he urges Samuel into a canter. “Better hurry,” he says to Tarlynn, “that storm is moving in fast.”

The storm moved faster than them, quickly covering them in gloom and a downpour. “Let’s take cover in the forest!” she yells at him over the sound of continuous thunder. He nods and turns Samuel into the forest, edging the field to the west.

Slowing Samual to a walk, Dagus picks a careful path. “The rain isn’t so heavy, under the foliage.” he comments.

Deeper into the forest they go, seeking protection from the rain. The gloom is oppressive under the canopy, what little light reached the forest fades drastically by the time it hit the forest floor. Thunder shakes the upper branches, occasionally assaulting them with extra droplets of rain.

Pausing, Dagus dismounts and hands a startled Tarlynn the reins. Walking up to a tree he inspects the bark, circles around it looking. With a small satisfied nod, he goes back to a patient Samuel and smoothly mounts up behind Tarlynn.

“I feel like you’ve carried passengers before, you rogue.” she says playfully.

“I might’ve, don’t you worry.” Clicking his tongue Dagus urges Samuel to walk, turning him assuredly.

“You know where you’re going?”

“Pretty sure.” he replies cheerfully.

Emanating from somewhere deep in the forest a guttural call is heard. Dagus pulls hard on the reigns, Tarlynn whispers, “What is it?”

“Shh!” he says frantically, concern painting his face. Tarlynn swallows hard and closes her mouth.

Patiently, they silently sit, waiting. After a few moments, the pair hearing no more calls, the normal sounds of the forest begin again. Only then was Dagus aware at how silent it had been. With the forest coming back to life, Dagus visibly relaxes. “Probably nothing.” he says, softly.

“What did you think it was?” Tarlynn quietly returns.

“Something I haven’t heard in a long time. Have you heard of gorls?”

“The creatures of the underworld? The ones that climb out from the ground and drag bad little girls from their beds when they steal a sweet?”

“The very ones. Except in reality they don’t care about little girls and their deft fingers. But they do come out of the ground, and they do drag people away. I’ve seen one tear a man limb from limb. They’re fast, aggressive and extremely dangerous. Thankfully, also lazy and most of them are stupid.”

With their moods soured they ride in silence for a time. Every now and again Dagus would stop, peer at a tree and remount. Sometimes he corrects their course and sometimes he keeps riding the same direction. At one stop, Tarlynn asks him what he is doing, simply replying “Navigating.” At the next stop, he pulls her down with him.

“See? On the bark?” he says, pointing, “The moss only grows on the north side. I use it to navigate when I can’t see the sun or the stars.”

“Amazing.” she replies, awe in her voice..

“Stop!” comes from Dagus in a hushed, urgent, tone.

“Wha…” Tarlynn starts to say, cut short by another call coming from in the forest. This time louder, closer. It sounds almost human.

“By the five!” Dagus exclaims, pulling on Tarlynn’s arm he quickly pushes her into the saddle and mounts behind her. “Hold tight!” he says urgently, kicking Samuel into motion. The horse lurches into a run and jumps over a log. The calls continue behind them, keeping pace. Bursting into a clearing, Dagus saws on the reins. “The Fourths Tits!” he curses, the slouched form of a Mata visible, clutching her staff.

Extending upwards to full height, the Mata raises her staff high, and slams its haft into the ground. A brilliant flare of light accompanied by a thunderclap, louder than those above, flashes from the end. A dazed Dagus holds a hand against the glare. At the same time, Samuel rears to lash a kick at a gorl closing in. The weight of Tarlynn pushes Dagus out of the saddle and he falls from the horses back. He hits the ground hard on his back and grunts out a breath. Tarlynn manages to hold onto the saddle and is carried away. Gorls rush in on Dagus and gauntleted hands grab at his pants and shirt. Turning his head he sees Tarlynn being pulled out of the saddle. Twisting, he kicks one of his assailants in the face, breaking teeth and knocking its helmet off.

“No!” he screams as Tarlynn comes into view again, “Tarlynn!” he calls. Her lifeless body being handled by a pair of gorls, their lanky arms and knuckle-dragging shuffle well suited for the task of dragging a body. Struggling to draw his sword he abandons it and pulls a dagger instead, slashing a gorl to his immediate right. The thing recoils, howling as it clutches its arm where a red ribbon appears. Dagus grunts as a gauntleted foot steps on his wrist, the pressure causing him to drop the dagger. The owner of the foot stares at him in the eyes, scowling behind a painted mask of a horizontal red stripe across the eye. Six yellow lines cross the red, the mark of a captain. Coming within inches of Dagus’ face, the captain stares with his too-human eyes.

“Keep humans alive.” he says, in a guttural tongue, like rocks grating in a leather sack. “Master’s order.” Kicking the dagger away, He makes a motion and the gorls holding Dagus roughly pick him up, wrench his arms around and lash his hands tightly.

“Master? What master!?” Dagus yells, struggling against his bonds, “Where are you taking us?!”

With a quick glance back, the captain gestures with his hand. A goon behind Dagus lifts his arm, and quickly brings a weighted leather sack down, knocking him out. The strength of his captors evident as they easily drag his limp body between them.

With a groan, Dagus wakes. “Ugh, my head.” He mumbles. He struggles futilely before he realizes his hands are tied behind a tree.

He quickly scans his surroundings. Directly ahead he sees gorl matron, the Mata, ringed by her officers in a small clearing. The soldiers near him were lazing about, grunting to one another and making hand gestures, some even appeared to be gambling. Off to his left, Tarlynn is similarly lashed to a tree. Dagus lets out a sigh of relief as he sees her chest rising and falling. Returning his attention to the Mata, he sees her inspecting his sword. Drawing it, she holds its green blade high. It seems to gather in what little light there is, glowing faintly in the murk. She hands it to the officer behind her, his six stripes familiar. She turns her attention to something smaller, a dagger perhaps, with a blood-red blade. After lifting it high and peering at it closely, she hands it to the captain. Into a chest at her feet, she discards their other weapons, an impressive array of knives and daggers. Fike, I don’t recognize any of those blades. Who is this woman? Dagus thinks to himself. Hearing a sound, he turns just in time to see a descending club.

Tarlynn awakes with a start, her hands being untied roughly. She looks around frantically. Gorls everywhere, but she sees Dagus slumped over, tied to a tree. She rubs her wrists once they are free. She’s rewarded with hands grabbing them again tying them in front of her to a long lead.

“Come.” the gorl says, tugging on her rope. Stumbling along, she looks back and sees Dagus being untied. He’s thrown roughly into the dirt and tied similarly to her. A single guard grabs his bonds, and drags him over the forest floor.

“Wake up!” she hisses at Dagus, and he mumbles softly, deep in stupor.

Dagus is tossed in front of the Mata, where she makes a complicated hand gesture to a two stripe officer. A bucket of water is retrieved, and Dagus is unceremoniously soaked. waking up with a sputtered cough, “I’m not wet enough as is, you fikin’ sand lickers!” he growls at them. The Mata casually backhands him. Dagus spits and grins at her with red teeth.

“Green blade,” she starts, “Where find?” the words are barely intelligible, spoken through a mouth better suited to grunts and howls.

“I’ll not tell you, so go fikin' shove the fifths.” Dagus replies angrily, earning him another backhand. “I’ll take your hand for that.” he spits.

Barking a laugh, the Mata turns her attention to Tarlynn. “You!” she points, “Blade of red. Where?”

“You gave it to your patsy!” she retorts, taking direction from Dagus. The Mata’s casual strike sends Tarlynn flying. Getting roughly back to her knees, she grins at Dagus with bloody teeth, her once glossy hair tangled with leaves and twigs.

“No matter,” the Mata dismisses, “Time will tell, long trip to Master.” she flicks her hand in dismissal, and the gorls holding their leads tug them roughly.

Deeper into the forest they head, their leads being pulled along by a gorl. They learned quickly to keep some slack on the rope, otherwise a tug might send them sprawling. The gorls leading them were more likely to drag them than stop and let them regain their feet. Night comes, and they are lashed to trees. Their guards are lazy, trusting the bonds. They doze off in the distance, or play stocks, a game named after the sticks and rocks that are used as pieces. Exhaustion overtakes the pair and they doze with chins on chest.

Dagus is greeted in the morning by another bucket of ice-cold water to the face. The gorl with 6 stripes holding the offending bucket chuffs a laugh. The hilt of Dagus’ sword visible over its shoulder. “You die first.” Dagus says, earning a kick to the ribs, though with the gorl’s hand-like foot, it was more like a 6 tonne punch. The captain strolls over to where Tarlynn is still slumped. Raising its leg for a kick, Dagus screams, “STOP!” Tarlynn moans, and the captain lowers his foot, flashing a sullen look to Dagus. With a motion of his hand, the captain orders some soldiers to come in and untie the humans, retying their hands to the rope lead.

A different gorl approaches, shoving bowls filled with what looked like oats into their hands. Reaching into a sack it drops a few pieces of pale dried meat on top.

“Don’t eat the meat!” Dagus hisses at Tarlynn, a piece halfway to her mouth. “They don’t always take prisoners.” he explains. With a shudder she drops the meat on the ground.

The days blend together, being towed along like animals. At some point in the day bowls of the same food were given to them, and they eat while on their feet. Evenings come, and they halt for camp. The captain comes to check on his charges, and has them tied to trees again. Without much complaint, exhaustion pulls them both into sleep.

A boot to the ribs is the morning greeting for both of them. Grunting groggily, Dagus looks up. Tarlynn grins at him from the next tree, the barely hidden pain evident in her face. Scrapes and bruises mar her face and Dagus assumes he doesn’t look any better. After being untied from the tree, another bowl of the same plain oats is shoved in their hands. Dagus makes a face, moving closer to Tarlynn “Ugh, this is the worst torture, plain oatmeal again.”

Tarlynn laughs, cutting short with a groan holding her bruised ribs. A grunt from a guard brings her back to reality and he tugs on her leash, nearly causing her to spill breakfast. Dagus catches her arm and manages to save the bowl of food.

Sometime in the afternoon, the sky clears suddenly. Sunlight streams down, making golden paths in the mist. Clouds of steam rise where the light strikes rain-soaked trunks. The effect was magical, and both humans gaze about them in wonder. “This is what I love.” Dagus says quietly, breathing deeply, “This is why I love to be in the trees.”

Tarlynn turns her gaze to Dagus and nods. “Rain in the cities just means muddy streets and sour moods. This somehow makes me feel like everything will be alright.” A tug on her leash sends Tarlynn sprawling, “Fike!” The gorl with her lead just looks back and barks a laugh, dragging her along. Dagus rushes over and helps her up, then they both run a few steps to regain some slack.

Just after they halt for the night, Dagus whispers fiercely to Tarlynn, “Tonight.” She looks at him quizzically and he shakes his head, glancing significantly to the guard beside him. “Trust me.” he mouths silently.

Trust him, she thinks wryly, I just met him, what am I thinking?! I should know better. Those legs though... Shaking her head, she looks at Dagus. “What choice do I have? These louts aren’t much fun.” she adds sarcastically.

One guard turns around from his game of stocks and growls at the prisoners. Shying away, Tarlynn cows behind Dagus. Huffing at her, he turns back to his game, looking suspiciously at his partner. Gesturing emphatically he grunts some noises at the other, who returns a look of innocence. The second makes motions with his hands that seems to sooth the first.

Sitting in silence, after the inevitable binding to a tree, they settle down for the night. A time after darkness is complete, a faint scraping noise wakes Tarlynn. She looks around in the darkness for the source, “Dagus.” she whispers, “Dagus?!”

“I’m right here.” he says in her ear. She jumps with a gasp and turns, feeling his rough hands on hers. Using a sharp rock, he cuts through her bonds. Taking her freed hand, “Come, lets go.” he pulls her along, tiptoeing around snoring mounds on the ground.

“Where are we going?” Tarlynn whispers fiercely when it becomes clear they’re heading deeper into camp.

“We have to kill the Mata.” replies Dagus, “Besides, I have a score to settle.”

“Are you crazy?! Let’s get out of here while we can!”

Letting go of Tarlynn’s hand, Dagus turns to her, “Go, if you want. I always fulfill my promises.”

Sighing indignantly, Tarlynn grabs Dagus’ hand, “I’m with you.” she says. An errant moon beam strikes Dagus, and Tarlynn sees him clearly for the first time that night. “Your hair, it’s unbraided.”

Smiling at her, he nods, grinning, “Keep quiet! I know how much you women-folk like to natter.”

“Excuse me?!” she starts, but is cut off by Dagus’ finger on her mouth, silencing her retort.

Stalking quietly, they come to the hollow where the Mata and her retinue made camp. Rough lean-tos cover a few snoring bodies, while others made do with hide blankets and not much else. A patched tent tops a small rise.

Pausing behind the shelter of a fallen log, Dagus surveys the area. A lone guard is seen high above, looking rather alert. The light of the full moon streaming through a small clearing in the canopy provides adequate light.

Pulling Tarlynn down into a crouch, Dagus whispers in her ear, “I’m going to need your help. I have a plan, but I can’t do it alone. Can I count on you?”

“You’ve dragged me this far, what choice do I have?” she whispers back. “Of course you can count on me.” she adds after he gives her a reproachful look.

“Good.” he says, nodding. He quietly explains the plan to her. Her eyes widen in shock and she shakes her head. Dagus takes her hands in his, and stares her in the eyes. “You can do this. Together we can do this.”

Pulling her along, he motions for her to remain in a crouch. They circle around the outside of the clearing, staying in the gloom of the trees. The dampness helps silence their footsteps. Stopping, Dagus motions Tarlynn to stay put. She hides behind a tree and Dagus disappears into the forest. After a short time he comes back. “Perfect,” he whispers, “come with me.” Heading in the direction he came from, they stop in a small clearing. “Wait here.” he mouths silently, handing her a rope.

Tarlynn watches Dagus leave, and she waits. Wiping a nervous sweat from her palms, she waits. Hearing crashing sounds, she holds the rope ready. She gasps as the source of noise comes into view.

Dagus stumbles into the clearing and looks behind him. Standing tall on the edge of the clearing, the six-striped Gorl was head and a half taller than him. Picking up a rock, he hurls it at the beast. It just growls at him. “I think I need a new strategy.” he quips. The captain lunges, narrowly missing Dagus as he jumps to the side. Springing to his feet, Dagus throws another rock, another growl. The Captain flexes his muscles and draws the sword strapped to his back. Backpeddling, Dagus keeps a wary distance on the captain. Taunting it, Dagus leads it to where Tarlynn lies in wait.

The Captain slashes at Dagus, and he jumps back, tripping on a root. The Captain closes the distance and brings the sword down. Dagus holds out his arms in a futile attempt to stop the emerald blade splitting him in two. A golden flash, and the sword stops dead inches from Dagus. The force recoils into the Captain, stunning him and he stumbles back a few steps. Dagus regains his wits quickly, springing from his back and kicking the Captain in the chest.

Stumbling backwards, the Captain hits a tree hard. “NOW!” Dagus screams, and Tarlynn runs across the clearing, rope in tow. The cord catches the massive gorl in the throat, pinning it to the tree. Dagus rolls under a rampant slash and comes up behind the tree, grabbing the rope alongside Tarlynn and pulling with all his might. Together, with boots locked in roots, they had just enough strength. The captain was struggling, gurgling and bashing his massive fists on the trunk. Slowly, his motions became less and less until finally, he was still.

Relaxing their grip, Dagus and Tarlynn sit on the soggy ground. Breathing hard, Dagus says, “Up until that flash, I thought this was my last fight. I underestimated our dear friend over there. What was that? The flash?”

“I don’t know.” Tarlynn replies after catching her breath. “I feel like I saw a glimmer there, an instant before it happened.”

“Whatever it was, I’m glad it did.”

Climbing around the other side of the tree, Dagus inspects the captain. “Bigger,” he says, “bigger than most. Smarter too, I think. I’ve fought these beasts before, and they’re usually just idiot brutes. Strong and fast, but still just brutes.” Checking any pockets or pouches, Dagus pulls out a few gold and silver trinkets and adds them to his own pouch. He unbuckles their weapons and stands, handing the dagger and belt to Tarlynn, “I think this might be yours?”

“Oh yay!” she says with a smile and a girlish clap. “This was the only thing left to me. My surly aunt decided to hide my mother’s chest in her attic. This was in it, along with a note. Simply, ‘Follow the Call.’ in my mother’s elegant writing.” Drawing the blade, she inspects it in the moonlight. The bloodred blade seems to be faintly luminous in the gloom.

“Beautiful,” comes an awed response. “Mine was handed to me by the man who was like a father to me. It’s an Ancient Blade.” The capital accented. Drawing it, he shows her the emerald green blade. “Cool to the touch and it rings like steel. I’ve never had to sharpen it, and it slices through armour and flesh with equal ease. It’s called Gaiana’Wat, Earthen Wrath. Though that translation is oversimplified. Yours will have a name too. There aren’t very many of these around.” He belts it to his waist, somehow it looks like an extension of himself.

Going back to the Captain, Dagus pulls the cord buried deep in its throat. A raw bleeding gouge was left in its wake, “Ew,” he says disgustedly, “I’ll have to wash this before it goes in my hair again.”

Tarlynn exclaims, “That explains why your hair is loose!”

“Right on the nose, smart girl.” was his smooth reply, lightly touching her nose.

“I’m no girl.” she says, turning to try and hide a faint blush.

“Sorry, lass. I keep this cord braided in my hair, just in case you’re getting fiked and you need a rock up your sleeve... Or stick... What is it they do with that game exactly?”

She just laughs and shakes her head. “They seem to love it though.”

Coiling the rope and carrying it with him, he leads her towards the clearing. “We’re not done yet. That,” Pointing at the silent shape, “was the promise. Now we have duty. I don’t know what these Gorls are up to, but they seem to have a purpose. This is a small party, maybe an advanced scout or something.” Stopping at the very edge of the clearing, where the Captain stood guard earlier, they could see 3 sleeping mounds around the tent. “The rest of it is easy. Just take your blade, and slit their throats ear to ear.”

Silently they each stalk to a snoring mound on either side of the tent. Tarlynn hears a faint gurgling from Dagus’ location, and she knows the first is down. She looks down at the beast, it has the same markings as the captain, except with four stripes. You can do this, she thinks to herself. She hears a second death rattle, softly in the distance. “Time to die” she whispers and draws her knife across the beast’s throat. Halfway through the cut, its eyes open. The thing opens its mouth and lets out a gurgled scream, blood pouring into its esophagus. With surprising strength, the beast flings Tarlynn like a ragdoll. She hits a fallen log hard, grunting as the air leaves her.

She sees Dagus rush over to where he heard the sound, the gorl clutching a ruined throat, all its strength bleeding into the ground. He looks around, peering into the murk.

“Here!” Tarlynn wheezes. Lying in the darkness, she futilely tries to find her breath. Just then, another growl is heard, and Dagus turns quickly, running out of view. “Fike!” she curses, as her breath comes back.

Dagus stands peering into the dark where he heard Tarlynn a moment before. Nothing, he thinks, where did she go? Hearing a sound behind him he turns and sees the Mata sweeping from her tent. She growls at Dagus, and readies her staff, a light gathering at the end. Springing into action, Dagus launches himself at her. He strikes at her viciously, her staff blurring as she easily deflects each blow. Instead of woodchips, sparks flew. Slowly she starts to push him back. Struggling with the offensive, Dagus begins to tire. She’s fast. He thinks, I need to finish this soon, this noise is likely to wake the camp.

Panting up the hill, Tarlynn clears the crest. Sounds of combat are up ahead, with frequent flashes brightening the night. Gasping as the pair come into view, she draws her dagger. What good will this do? she thinks wryly. Putting it away, she watches the fight. Dagus is pressing the attack and pushing her back. He tires visibly, and the tides of battle turn. The Mata is absorbed in attempting to shower Dagus with blows. Dagus is barely able to deflect them. She lands a hit, and Dagus is thrown back. “NO!” Tarlynn screams, and with a flurry of her arms the Mata is peppered with knives. Dagus recovers quickly, and closes the gap.

The familiar feel of blade striking home, slicing cloth and leather, skin, muscle and bone. Without looking back, Dagus knows it’s finished. The Mata’s face permanently locked in a look of fatal surprise. Her hand, separated from wrist, tumbles through the gloom. A crimson line blossoms, and in the next instant her entrails burst from the savage strike.

“Thank you.” he says, turning to Tarlynn. “I owe you my life, now.” Leaning down he wipes his blade and sheaths it.

“Oh it’s nothing,” she returns abashedly, absently scuffing her toe on the ground and lowering her gaze. Looking up, deep in his eyes, “Without you, I’d still be tied up.”

“I’m sure I could oblige if you’d rather.” He says, the moonlight twinkling in his eyes.

Rubbing her wrists, she replies, “No no! I think this was enough bondage for now.”

A rustling behind them brings their heads around. A shuffling shape appears on the ridge where they fought the Captain. He brings his hands to his face and blows. A piercing tone emits from between his palms. He looks at Dagus and grunts, pointing. The anger and hatred clear on his face. “Escape futile.” he grunts, his already guttural voice rougher than before. “You are mine!” Getting on all fours he starts barreling down the hill.

“Time to go!” Dagus yells, dragging Tarlynn behind him. The sounds of a waking camp spurring their feet.

Grunts and howls follow them and they run like they’ve never run before. With the Captain almost on their heels, Dagus lets out a familiar whistle. Samuel appears running alongside them. Dagus heaves Tarlynn and pushes her into the saddle. Jumping up behind her, he feels the captain grab his foot and nearly pull him from his seat. Gripping the saddle with his hands, Dagus twists and kicks blindly, landing a blow. Howling, the Captain loosens his grip and Dagus pulls himself up and kicks Samual into a run. Tarlynn and Dagus’ hair stream in the wind as trees whip by. Suddenly, they burst into a small clearing. Pushing Samuel faster, they cover ground quickly. A great crash whips Dagus’ head around and he looks back, stopping Samuel. The Captain, alone, glares at Dagus from the edge of the canopy. Thundering his fists on a fallen trunk, he bellows in frustration and turns back into the forest, disappearing under the foliage.

Dagus’ relief is evident, “I feel that’s not the last I’ll see of that ugly bloke.” Clicking his tongue, he resumes a more relaxed pace.

“Why did that thing stop? Do you know where you are going?” Tarlynn asks.

“With the Mata dead there are no orders. She holds them together. Now they will just drift, probably head back to wherever they came from. No idea where I’m going. Away from here. Back on the road.” he replies with a soft chuckle.

Turning to face Dagus, in a soft voice, Tarlynn says, “I’m glad I met you, Dagus.” Kissing him softly on the cheek.

With crimson stains on his cheeks, Dagus smiles sadly and squeezes his arms around her.

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