Chapter 1 – 18 can be found under “An Elusive Hero“.
Making the decision to save Laurenar had cost me more strength than I had anticipated. I faded away into a dreamless, four-hour long sleep straight away.
When I opened my eyes, I immediately had to get used to the unexpected brightness in my little cot. Seraphina had finally opened the curtains shielding me from sunlight. I looked at her closely. She still looked tired, but her eyes showed a cool sense of determination. It was clear she had used the last few hours I slept to prepare a plan.
“Good afternoon. It’s time for you to start moving. Michelle is waiting for you outside. She will start to get you ready for our journey.”
I nodded slightly. “What have you come up with?”
“Tyler and Drake are out hunting and gathering herbs for the trip. You still need to drink a potion every few hours. But you’re free to walk under the sun now. I’m heading out to the nearest farm to buy horses for our trip.”
“Do you know where we’ll be going?”
She shook her head slowly, but added quickly: “We’ll be riding into the continent, away from this dreaded sea. First, we’ll head to the villages where support for the Queen has started to wane and move our way forward from there.”
Seraphina hesitated for a moment. “Also, we still believe you are the ultimate goal and that the enemy might return for you.”
This information took me by surprise and I wasn’t sure it was true. The first attack on the Lion’s Den was aimed at the Queen and not at me directly. It would have been much easier to plan the bomb right under my window instead of in the courtyard fountain. I could have been the initial target of this recent attack, but after all I was travelling with two of Queen Sophia’s most trusted advisors. The enemy must have been grateful to get hold of at least one of us. I decided to keep my thoughts to myself and nodded.
“I’ll head out to Michelle right away.”
Seraphina smiled kindly. “Don’t exaggerate. We can’t have you knocked out for another day.”
She turned around and left the room to finish her task. I sat up in my bed and looked around my sparse surroundings. On the table next to me I could find a loaf of bread and two glasses, one containing a green liquid and the other one filled with water. A card was placed neatly beneath the plate. “Eat and Drink.”
While having my breakfast (or lunch) my mind finally focused on my body. This was the first time I had been awake by myself without a discussion to distract me from my physical condition. My shoulder was still wrapped in bandages, trying to stabilize my movement. I lifted my arms a few time, but my range of motion had been heavily impacted. A grumbling from my stomach reminded me to finish the loaf of bread. I felt a lot lighter than before. Luckily, my body temperature was normal and I wasn’t suffering from a fever anymore. I took a deep breath and stepped out of the bed. The first steps were difficult, with me needing to hold on the wall, but with every step I grew more in confidence.
I moved out of the cabin into the sunlight to see Michelle shooting a bow at a target with unerring precision. She was a young woman, closer to twenty than thirty, and it was clear that she had been trained from a young age. I watched her fire three arrows at the center of her target before I spoke up:
“Seraphina told me you’d get me ready for the journey.”
Michelle turned around and blew a strand of hair away from her face. Her normally short, auburn hair had grown a bit during the course of the journey and she wasn’t used to having her eyesight being impaired by it. “Good afternoon. How are you feeling?”
The fresh air made me feel ever more confident than before. “As good as new.”
She chuckled. “We’ll see about that. We have two, no, one-and-a-half days to get you ready for travel. But we’ll be continuing to work during the journey. Did you drink the green liquid I gave you?”
“Yes. What was it?”
“The poison left your body. So Tyler used some of the ingredients to prepare some potions to enhance your endurance. You won’t tire as quickly. I assume you’ll be taking that potion for at least the first leg of our journey.”
I nodded. That explained why the short walk from my cabin to this training ground hadn’t fatigued me at all. Michelle looked at my body intently one more time: “We have two goals today and tomorrow. Improve your range of motion in your arm and to make you faster. Follow me!”
She then took off running towards a flat, green meadow. I tried catching up with her, but I never did. Every time I got close, it seemed she shifted into another gear and pulled away ahead. We spent quite a time running circles around the meadows, with her pushing me to catch up to her, to get faster. The endurance potion was working perfectly. I didn’t feel the ill effects of running until Drake, Tyler and Seraphina joined us. But then it hit me all at once and I almost collapsed, gasping for air frantically. My four companions started laughing.
“One of great drawbacks of endurance potions. You never know when they lose their effect. Many great warriors have fallen because they suddenly couldn’t hold their sword in battle anymore.” Drake explained.
“The another one is that they’re just very difficult and expensive to make.” Tyler said with a confident smile.
“Were you successful?” Michelle looked at her two former crewmates, who were now acting as a rescue party for Laurenar.
“Somewhat. We got some boar meat and stocked up on ingredients for the antidote. No luck with herbs for another batch of endurance potions however.”
Tyler nodded. “I found the nightshade for the endurance potion on the island.”
“The horses are waiting by the farmers. We’ll be able to get them when we’re ready. I also managed to get some carrots and turnips for the trip. I will need to recharge my energy now until tomorrow evening, when we’ll come up with the first steps of our plan. You should all get some rest as well.”
We followed Seraphina back to the village, where Seraphina disappeared very quickly. I had no idea where she had gone and the others gave no indication that they would tell me. Drake and Tyler were discussing their plans for the next day, when they planned to make sure our weapons were in mint condition. The former captain of the Crimson Crocodile had fought off the pirates with two one-handed swords, while his two surviving sailors were excellent archers. Seraphina had her magic.
I was surprised with how calm they were preparing for a journey poised to lead us into the unknown. Every one of my current companions faced their tasks confidently and ready to take on whatever came across. I felt safe, but insecure. What if Laurenar had already died? Would we then be riding into our own death ourselves? Where exactly were we going?
Michelle interrupted my thoughts, which were slowly heading down a spiral of negativity.
“Sleep. Tomorrow is another big day!”
Thank you very much for reading so far! I hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far. Chapter 20 will be released next Friday, but afterwards I’m taking a two week break from the story to do some editing. The perfect chance for everyone to catch up on the chapters you’ve missed!
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Have a great weekend.