Chapter 21: The Ride

You can read the first twenty chapters here.

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Like Seraphina had said, we left the little, nameless village just as the sun was rising over the horizon. I was sitting on a horse with Michelle and holding on tight. It was the first time on a horse for me. We quickly made haste, riding out on the main road. After passing the meadow I had trained on we made a sharp cut into the surrounding forests. Our horses settled into a rhythm, a soft trot. Drake, who had been briefed by Seraphina earlier, rode at the front and Tyler covered our rear. Seraphina travelled next to us. I studied her from my uncomfortable position behind Michelle. Her expression was focused and she was observing everything. She was making mental notes of everything we passed. Roots and Weeds were classified as poisonous or useless, trees were seen as empty or dangerous and animals were either ignored or avoided.

I concentrated on not falling off the horse, but Michelle was an excellent rider. She held total control over the animal, whispering soft commands in its ears. The horse, a dark-haired mare, swiftly followed suit. Sitting behind her gave me the time to think about the rest of our mission. My shoulder still hurt and Seraphina had instructed me to practice moving my aching limbs as often as possible. But travelling at this speed made it more difficult than she had anticipated. So my mind wandered.

Was Laurenar still alive? Or had he been tortured and killed? Where had they brought him? And what would they do to him? Maybe they had brainwashed and turned him?
I wiped away the depressing thoughts by closing my eyes and listening to my surroundings. The only sounds I heard were the hooves of our horses hitting the ground.

I looked over to Seraphina again, who was smiling knowingly. She left our side and rode forward to Drake. The former captain was busy navigating us through the trees. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about; it ended with Drake nodded vigorously.

The forest was not particularly dense, so all of our horses could pass through gaps with ease. But the trees were tall and their crowns full of healthy, green leaves, shielding us from the burning sun. It had been March on Earth when I had left, but here it seemed to be summer, maybe early June or whatever equivalent they used on Illusio. At sea, I hadn’t noticed the temperatures thanks to the cool sea breeze, but now I felt glad for the shade the forest provided.

Seraphina fell back to the rear and exchanged some words with Tyler. The gaps in the trees widened now and we were about to leave the forest. My sense of time was terrible, but I felt we had probably ridden for about an hour. It was getting brighter and my eyes needed a moment to adjust to the additional light. Drake, seeing the last trees of the forest, accelerated, with Seraphina and Michelle following close behind. I held on tight as our mare started to gallop.

We found ourselves on a tiny dirt road. The road probably circled the whole forest, allowing villagers to avoid the dangers and darkness lurking within. The five of us rode north, with the forest on our right and a beautiful field of red and yellow tulips going on for as far as we could see on our left. Their sweet, light scent filled the air as the red-haired sorceress rode up close to Michelle and I.

“They’re following us. But they’re more than the two I expected.”

She spoke very quietly and with supreme confidence in her words. She had spent the whole time in the forests trying to find out how many enemies we had on our trail. Seraphina continued.

“At least one of them continued on the road, when we turned into the forest. Two of them, maybe three, followed us through the forest. They haven’t planned anything yet and have stayed back far enough not to come into view.”

“How can you be sure?” I looked at her surprised at how she had gathered all this information.

She smiled at me. “I have my ways and means.”

With those words she galloped forward to Drake, presumably to discuss the next steps of our route. I had known that she was a powerful sorceress, but I thought her expertise was in fire magic, just as the Queen had power over water. Then again, I understood nearly nothing about the magic in this world. Even playing the online version of this world I had focused on being a fierce warrior rather than an intelligent wizard. Somehow I wished I hadn’t.

We continued on the road and I still couldn’t see a trace of our followers. The sun was shining down on us and I felt hot in the leather armor designed to protect me. It was a pleasant enough journey. Had we not been on a rescue mission I would have enjoyed discovering Illusio’s countryside. The field of tulips seemed endless. We continued by the flowers.

“What do you think will happen next?”

I whispered into Michelle’s ear, carefully studying the movements of Seraphina and Drake at the front.

She shrugged. “We’ll keep on riding until our followers have nowhere to go.”

I nodded, but in the front, Seraphina and Drake abruptly came to a halt. The field of tulips was coming to an end and the road made a sharp left. And unlike what we had anticipated, the road ahead wasn’t empty. Five figures, glad in grey clothing were standing in the middle of the road. They had seen us, but hadn’t made any motion of coming closer. Seraphina turned her horse around and rode back towards Tyler, only to stop as well. Behind us, still a few hundred meters away, three riders emerged from the forest.

The sorceress rode back to our side. “Well, we better hope those figures up ahead are just normal bandits.”

We continued on, speeding up the rhythm of our trot. We got closer, still hoping these bandits would let us pass without too much of a fight. But our hopes were not fulfilled. The moment we got in range, the five figures, three men and two men, got in position. Two of them were kneeling on the ground, with the other tree taking cover behind a makeshift barricade. Seraphina and Drake were now riding directly in front of Michelle and Me, with Tyler sitting next to us. The riders at our back had broken into a gallop, catching up quickly.

All of the figures had crossbows pointed directly at us.

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“An Elusive Hero” continues! Thank you very much for reading so far. As always, I’m very happy to hear feedback, so let me know by mail, comment or on twitter.

Please like, share and subscribe!

Have a great weekend.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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