The Forbidden Village

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Chapter 25

Once we were inside the stables with the doors shut behind us and no one else was around, I took a step towards Avin to confront him about his leg. Just as I opened my mouth to say something, Avin started to wobble on his feet. I quickly walked up to him just as he began to fall backwards.

As I got behind him to catch him, a thought popped into my head. How was I supposed to catch him without getting crushed? I didn’t have too much time to think about it, though because he started to fall back. I held him up as best as I could and gently tried to lower him to the ground. Which actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, Avin felt very light in my arms. Has he been eating?

Avin groaned as I lowered him to the ground. He was about as tensed up as a compressed spring until I got him onto the ground. Then he just laid there and kept his eyes closed.

“Now, what’s the damage this time?” I asked as I walked around to the left side of Avin, and knelt down.

Avin chuckled, and half smiled at me. My heart stuttered in my chest, and I could barely contain my blush. I’ve never heard him actually laugh before, it was so hot.

“More than I had originally thought,” Avin replied sounding slightly embarrassed.

What the heck? Damn, this guy is giving me whiplash. First, it’s all just the blank face, then there is a little bit of emotion, but that’s usually about as far as it goes. This much emotion coming from him was just plain old freaking me out. I sighed and smiled tiredly at Avin.

“Alright, well let’s see what the damage is this time, shall we?” I commented as I quickly and carefully undid Avin’s shirt. The wounds weren’t as severe as the last time I had to patch him up. But as I worked something in the back of my mind kept nagging at me. Something about these wounds just didn’t seem right.

Finally, I leaned down towards one of the open wounds and sniffed. I wanted to figure out what was bothering me before I drove myself insane with curiosity. As soon as I got the slightest whiff of the wound, I knew what was wrong. Poison.

It wasn’t a deadly kind of poison, and it wasn’t all that strong either. It would be incapacitating for anyone with a low metabolism, which I highly doubt that Avin had. So the poison would probably just make him feel nauseous, tired and he might even throw up.

There wasn’t really many cures for incapacitation poisons, and this one, in particular, didn’t have one. I lifted my head up and sneezed to try to get rid of the poison smell from inside my nose.

“Well you do have a minor poison in your bloodstream, but it won’t really hurt you,” I commented to Avin as I continued to patch up his wounds. “You will most likely feel tired and nauseous, and you might even throw up. Sadly there isn’t a cure for this kind of poison, so you’re going to have to ride it out.”

I spoke slowly and deliberately, looking over occasionally to make sure that Avin understood what I was telling him. I wasn’t too sure how much the poison was already affecting him. Avin wasn’t necessarily blank-faced, but he was pretty darn close.

“Okay…but how long will it last?” Avin asked, his voice was almost completely void of emotion except for a bit of worry that managed to slip through.

I paused my work and looked up at him, thoughtfully. I wasn’t really all too sure about how long it would take for the poison to leave his system. If he wound up throwing up it might only last 24 hours, but if he didn’t throw up it would probably take around three days for the poison to completely leave his body. So I told him what I generally thought, and he wasn’t happy with how long it might take.

I finished up healing and then got up. I cracked my back, my neck and my fingers which had stiffened up while I was working. Avin had gotten up and stretched too, and was now saddling up his horse. I heard a high-pitched whinny and turned around to see Mirage staring at me.

“Hey girl, I missed you,” I told her as I walked up to her stall. Mirage whinnied happily and nudged against me when I got close enough. I laughed and scratched her chin and neck. Well as best as I could with one bandaged arm.

“I don’t think that she has a saddle,” Avin commented as he walked his horse out of its stall. Well, that made things a bit more difficult.

“Do you have a saddle, Mirage?” I asked her not expecting a response. Mirage turned around and walked to the back of her stall, but all I could see was a pile of hay. Mirage began brushing away the hay with her muzzle. Until she had uncovered a tan English saddle and a brown English bridle with reins.

Then Mirage walked over to me, leaned down and unlocked the stall. Whoa, she was very smart too. She nudged the door open and then stepped aside to let me in. I cautiously stepped into her stall, very aware that I was invading her space. I walked to the back of the stall where the saddle and bridle lay on the ground still half buried under the hay and dug the saddle out the rest of the way.

As I looked at the seat, I noticed that the saddle had padding already attached to the bottom, so I didn’t need to put a pad underneath the saddle. There was also a little saddle bag attached to the back of the saddle. Oh, that was so cool. I heaved the saddle upon to Mirage’s back and strapped it into place. I grabbed her bridle next. I buckled it into place, being mindful of her horn, and was surprised to see that there wasn’t a bit for the bridle. I just really hope that she behaved because I really didn’t want to get bucked off.

I led Mirage out of her stall and to where Avin and his horse were waiting. When I glanced over to Avin, there were so many different emotions fluttering across his face so fast that I didn’t have a chance to decipher what any of them really were. When Avin noticed that I was staring at him, he put on his blank face.

But there was something different about it this time. His façade seemed to be cracking. I could still see the slight worry in his eyes even though everything else on his face had shut down.

“Well, shall we be off?” I asked as I mounted Mirage with more ease than I thought that I had. It felt like something that I was used to doing, even though I know for a fact that I have never ridden a horse before.

Avin nodded without saying anything and walked over to the stable doors. He pulled the left door open and allowed Mirage and me to exit first, before he came out with his horse and shutting the stable doors behind him. Avin mounted his horse, and we started walking towards the gates that I had entered three days ago. It felt like a lot longer than three days to me.

Once we were out of the gates that protected the palace and its inhabitants, we set off for the camp. Avin set the pace and led the way to the healer camp, which he said was a three days ride away. This was not going to be an easy trip, especially since Avin was sick with the poison flowing through his veins.

We galloped through meadows and down trails, and through some old forest brush. We spent all day riding in silence. Nothing really happened for most of the day as we traveled. Except that the creature in my arm kept stirring and moving about. It took me a little while but eventually he calmed down enough that I could focus on my riding.

Avin slowed down next to a grove of trees and looked around cautiously. What was he doing? Was there something around here that we should be worried about?

“We can stop here for the night,” Avin commented as he dismounted off of his horse. Was it already that late?

I dismounted off of Mirage but paused for a moment and listened. I wanted to do my own check of the surroundings. It’s not that I didn’t trust Avin’s judgment, it was just that I was concerned that the poison might be starting to affect his senses. But he was right.

This was as good of a place as any to settle down for the night in. I could hear the trickle of water from a stream that wasn’t too far away. I could also hear the presence of other animals around us. Their presence helped me to relax my nerves. If they were undisturbed than we should be safe for the time being.

I reached up towards the saddle and into the saddlebag. I wanted to get something to eat, and to get an apple for Mirage. I held the apple out to her, and she gently took it from my hands, before being to munch away at it.

I walked over to where Avin was sitting in front of a tree. His skin was starting to look a little grey, and his eyes looked drained. Yeah, the poison was definitely starting to kick in now. He wasn’t going to be very reliable within the next couple hours.

“Hey, how are you hanging in there?” I asked Avin as I seated myself in front of him.

“Tired,” Avin replied quietly as he leaned back against the tree and closed his eyes.

“Have you eaten yet?” I asked as I took a bite out of my own sandwich. Avin shook his head slowly and opened his eyes into slits when he heard me get up.

I walked over to Avin’s horse and searched the saddle bag for something for him to eat. I grabbed what looked like a sandwich, and patted the horse on his neck on the way back to Avin.

Avin looked like he was leaning pretty heavily against the tree, his eyes were shut, and his skin color was still gray and was starting to turn white.

“Avin, wake up,” I called to him as I sat down in front of him, but there was no reaction from him. “Come on you’ve got to eat something to keep your strength up.”

Avin opened his eyes into slits and then tried to push himself into a better sitting position. I let him do it, but I watched carefully to make sure that he didn’t fall back. I handed him the mysterious sandwich and then dug into my own.

We ate in silence while the sun set and our horses grazed on some of the grass. As Avin ate the color started to come back to his skin, and he looked less sick. After we had finished eating, we settled in for the night. Avin slept against his horse and me against Mirage.

I was surprised by how tired I was, and I quickly fell into a fitful sleep. I awoke to Mirage gently tugging on my hair and the sun shining down through the trees. I chuckled and gently pushed Mirage’s head away from my face as I sat up.

I stretched out my back, my neck and my arms which were all cramped from lying on the ground all night. I looked to Avin, who was still lying on the ground next to me fast asleep.

I glanced to the horses and then back to Avin. He could use some more sleep, besides the horses needed to get some water before we continued on with our journey.

I left Avin with the packs and took Mirage and Avin’s horse towards the stream. Avin’s horse needed a bit more coaxing to get him to come with me. I didn’t even know what his name was. I looked to him to find some sort of indication of a name, but there wasn’t any to be found.

“What’s your name?” I asked Avin’s horse as we entered the clearing where the stream was. He looked down at me with warm brown eyes. He whinnied and nudged me lightly with his head.

“Elijah,” his voice echoed around in my head and then it was gone.

“Hmm, Elijah, that’s a very regal name,” I murmured to him, smiling as I scratched his neck.

Elijah reared up and whinnied loudly and proudly into the sky. I laughed and took a step back so that I wouldn’t get trampled. Then he trotted over to the stream with his head up high.

“Show off,” Mirage’s voice echoed in my head with humor and a hint of something else that I couldn’t quite identify. I watched as Mirage walked up to the stream with an unnatural amount of grace.

“Now who’s showing off?” I muttered under my breath, smiling at Mirage’s back. Mirage turned to look at me, snorted and then turned back around to get some water.

As Elijah and Mirage were getting a drink from the stream, I walked back to the campsite to check on Avin. I found him still sleeping on the ground in the exact same spot that I had left him in. He looked so peaceful sleeping on the ground. But the gray color had started to come back.

I looked to the East and saw the sun start to rise above the horizon. We needed to get moving soon. I looked back down at Avin. It wasn’t really like him to sleep longer than me.

I knelt down next to Avin and gently shook his shoulder while calling to him to wake up. He groaned, and his eyes fluttered open halfway. He managed to sit up on his own, and I got him something to eat from the saddle bags. I munched on some form of fruit and drank from my small waterskin.

Avin drank from his waterskin too and stood up to look around. I noted that it took him a little longer than normal to get up. He looked a little better after eating, but his skin was still pale.

“Where are the horses?” Avin asked confused as he looked down to me on the ground. I got up from the ground before responding.

“They’re getting a drink at the stream over there,” I told Avin as I gestured in the direction of where I had just come from. Avin nodded slowly. He seemed to be a bit out of it.

I grabbed the saddlebags and threw them over one shoulder. I gestured for Avin to follow me. I led him to the stream where the horses were now grazing on grass. I was hoping that Avin was just groggy because I had just woke him up and not because the poison was catching up with him.

We saddled up and headed out again with Avin leading the way towards the healer camp.

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