Chapter 24: Moves

You can find the first 23 chapters under “An Elusive Hero“.

I stared at the stick for a few seconds. If only I could my hands on it. It was still a few meters away from me. The guards were sitting drowsily around the remnants of our campfire. They were not paying much attention to my friends, who were all sound asleep or I. But the ground was covered with twigs and leaves. Every movement of mine pierced through the silence of the night. A false move would alert them right away, robbing me from my element of surprise. Either I had to be extra careful, or my plan needed to be thought through more thoroughly.

While I could take out one or two guards with the large branch capturing my imagination so vividly, what would happen next? Michelle and Drake were still injured and would be unable to flee. And without it, they didn’t seem to be of much use to our captors. Nothing would prevent them to be disposed of in a fit of rage. Tyler would be able to fight with me, but he looked fatigued and out of breathes. His will had been sapped by all our recent setbacks. My eyes moved to the stick again and I sighed, barely audible.

I had to look at this situation more like a game of chess. Moves would be countered and figures needed to be secured. I had loved the game as a teenager, spending countless hours replaying the games of the great players like Kasparov, Fisher or Spasski. So I tried to calculate the reaction of our enemies after acquiring the club and knocking two of the guards out. Even if I would manage such a feat, three of the captors would still be able to overwhelm me while I tried to get Tyler to follow me. I could, however, ignore Tyler and get away from them on my own. But I wouldn’t get far alone. If I’d manage to flee, I couldn’t guarantee what would happen to Drake, Michelle and Tyler.

I looked up, hoping to see another shooting star, but large, fluffy clouds covered the stars. No help would come from above. I also had to keep the mission in mind. We wanted to find Laurenar. And we still didn’t have a clue where the knight was held captive.
Again, my thoughts wandered to Seraphina for a brief moment. But she was nowhere to be seen or heard. Had she gone on to get help? Or had other henchmen of our enemy captured her? After all, I assumed we were riding in territory not necessarily loyal to the Queen anymore.

The safe move was to stay put and be brought before “The Chosen One”. Laurenar must have been in his custody. But how would we get him out if we were captured on our own? Should we get to their lair, I didn’t believe we would get the chance to get in touch with each other. Even worse, since Laurenar was probably the most dangerous combatant of my acquaintances, he would lose his purpose as bait as soon as we’d arrive.

I looked around once more. One of the guards was slipped in and out of consciousness, visibly exhausted by the travels of the last few days. The other one was awake, but was sitting with his back to Tyler. My eyes locked in on Tyler, only to notice that he was only pretending to sleep and instead keeping a close watch on the two captors.

A plan started to form in my head. I couldn’t do anything with the club, because if I left, the others would be endangered. But if Tyler would get away, someone could get in touch with Seraphina. I managed to catch his attention by sighing again. The alert guard glanced at me with a look of disdain, but Tyler stared at me curiously. My eyes shifted to the branch and with a slight nod I signaled for him to make an effort to get to it.

His eyes widened and brief smirk appeared on his face. But how could I tell him what to do? Did I have to trust his instincts? Or was there a possibility of giving him a clue without tipping our enemies off?

“Hey.” I spoke quietly, hoping that the second guard wouldn’t snap out of his sleep-like state. Again, only the man sitting with the back to Tyler reacted.

“What?”

“It’s freezing. It seems like that fire needs a branch or two.”

I emphasized the words fire and branch more than I should have, but the oblivious guard did not pick up on it. Tyler nodded, while sneaking towards the stick.

“I find it very cozy the way it is.” The guard scanned me from top to bottom.

While I was talking, Tyler was getting closer and closer to his goal. His ability to move quietly was definitely better than mine. But he still needed a few centimeters to grasp the weapon.

I launched into a coughing fit, even though it woke the other guard up. The one I had been talking to attempted to get up to check on me. But he didn’t get very far. My coughing had drowned out the movements of Tyler, who had grabbed the stick and gotten to his feet. His hands were still bound, but he was still able hold the stick. He connected with a powerful blow to the back of the head of our captor. And then he ran.

The sleepy guard jerked to attention by the sounds of the commotion. But by the time he had loaded his crossbow, Tyler had vanished into the woods. I rested my head against the tree and closed my eyes, feigning to be sound asleep.

The guard frantically woke up his companions. They grabbed their weapons at once and looked around nervously. They were insecure about what to do next. But after notcing that I was still there, they didn’t place much importance on Tyler. The leader sent the guard to look for Tyler, while he and the two ladies of the group remained at the camp.

After about an hour, when the birds had woken up and filled the air with the sounds of their songs, he returned without having found Tyler.

The leader of the group remarked dryly. “He isn’t important. But it can’t happen again. Let’s get a move on.”

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Thank you very much for reading. Chapter 25 will be released next Friday.

Have a great weekend and please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

 

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Chapter 23: Captured

The first 22 chapters of “An Elusive Hero” can be found here.

Our horses were being used by the opponents who had been responsible for the barricade, while our three followers remained on their own horses. Tyler, Drake, Michelle and I were forced to walk. The injuries to Drake and Michelle were severe. In an act of mercy, the riders had bandaged their wounds, seemingly intent on keeping them alive until we reached our destination. A whole host of questions entered my mind. Where were we headed? And would we find Laurenar there? Most importantly, what did they want of me?

The landscape we trudged through had changed remarkably. The field of tulips and its beautiful flowers seemed to belong to another world entirely. The path we were on was lined by barren fields, with only two or three lonely trees showing signs of life. It was below one of these trees we made camp for the night. The branches and twigs were used for a fire, where our captors huddled around. Nothing seemed to happen during the quiet hours of darkness. The silence was only broken by occasional groans and sighs by Drake and Michelle, who both seemed to be in a world of pain.

We were fed with stale bread and water and were seated as far as possible from each other. It was clear that they did not want us to talk. But then again, none of us seemed to possess enough strength to begin communication. I stared blankly into the fire, hoping to bend it to my will as Seraphina had done.

The sorceress stayed on my mind. She had gotten away. But what was she going to do? A part of me hoped she was watching from somewhere nearby, plotting to rescue us from our captivity. But I knew quite well that she would not stand a chance against the five foes still around us.

Their voices were full of relief and glee. I overheard them talking about possible rewards ranging from purses filled with gold to more mundane pleasures such as a massive dinner in their honor. But the chase and fight had also cost them a lot of energy, so three of them drifted off into sleep easily. The man and woman still awake just sat there, taking turns sipping from a flask presumably filled with a whisky-like substance.

My eyes moved up to observe the stars. They were shining beacons of light so far away. As a kid, I had wished to travel to them, to explore space and planets and the great unknown. Now I had been transported to a world totally different from the place I was born in. The stars I admired with a childlike curiosity had no resemblance to the ones visible from Earth. I couldn’t find a single constellation that looked familiar.

But suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I could see an object travelling through space, leaving a burning trail behind it. A shooting star. A smile appeared on my face and quietly voiced a wish in my head. Hopefully shooting stars worked the same way on Illusio as they did on Earth.

A groan brought my thoughts back to my immediate surroundings. Michelle was wincing in pain, a few meters away from me. It pained me not to be able to do anything for her. But she had willingly joined our mission, to ensure that her friends had no died in vain. Now we we were failing miserably and all their sacrifice had been for naught.

Tyler, who sat a distance to my right, had closed his eyes. But he was moving his fingers tirelessly. To me it seemed as if he was playing on an invisible piano. I wondered what was going on in his head before my eyes focused on Michelle again.

She had helped me so much during my recovery and the ride. I felt a surge of sadness and despair rush through my body. A single tear rolled down my cheek. She coughed weakly.

Time passed slowly during the night. I didn’t sleep a single second. I was looking forward to seeing the sun rise in the morning, but during the early morning hours, grey clouds appeared from nowhere. So when the sun had taken its place on the firmament, it was hidden by a great wall of clouds.

We ate a small breakfast again consisting of water and bread before resuming our journey through these dark parts of Illusio. I kept looking for a village or city, but the next miles were just a barren landscape. It was a sharp contrast to the places I had encountered so far.

Our captors still did not talk to us and also didn’t talk much to each other. When they did, they were careful to speak in a low voice, preventing Tyler or me from eavesdropping. Drake and Michelle were to weak to understand anything anyway.

We walked through the whole day and towards the end of the evening, another forest appeared to be approaching. Our enemies talked about setting up camp at the edge of the woods. I wondered if the Chosen One had hidden in these forests or if he had taken up residence in one of the larger towns in Illusio.

Again, Drake was seated to my left, Michelle straight ahead of me and Tyler to my right. Their faces were drawn out and exhausted. Our journey together was coming to an end.
But this was not how it should end. They had given up a lot to help me and to save the kingdom they believed in. I felt my desperation rise in me again. During this whole trip, I had been following someone, first Sophia, then Laurenar and Seraphina, now our captors. It was then and there I decided that I need to take matters in my own hands. After all, I was supposedly the hero they had called. My mind was racing. I looked around, surveying the ground for anything I would be able to use as a weapon.

And I got lucky. A short distance away from me, hidden by the stumped of a fallen tree was a stick large enough to knock one or two guards out. Now all I needed to do was get my hands on it.

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Thank you very much for reading this chapter. Have a great weekend and please like, share and subscribe!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Chapter 22: Lost

You can find all previous chapters under “An Elusive Hero”.

After a quick glance backwards, I saw Seraphina make the movement to conjure a shield in front of us. I had gotten used to see the air shimmering in front of me during dangerous situations. Seraphina however didn’t look exhausted the least bit. She seemed reenergized by the determination to get to Laurenar. The five of us stared at our counterparts silently, before one of the bandits spoke up.

“Hand over your weapons and come with us!”

The woman spoke with conviction and seemed convinced that her words would be enough to keep us from fighting back. Drake just shook his head and Seraphina answered:

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Why don’t you just let us pass?”

I felt Michelle tighten her grip on the reins. The air was shimmering before us and I felt strangely safe. My rapier was hanging by my side. I wondered if this would be the first time I actually used it in an actual fight. The bandits seemed to get nervous as they saw the riders who were following us, get closer and closer. They didn’t want to share their prize.

Seraphina looked over to Drake and gave the captain a curt nod. Then she turned to Michelle and smiled. Michelle did not respond in any way. The woman, who had demanded us to follow them, repeated her demand:

“Drop your defenses and follow us.”

Her crossbow was firmly aimed at Seraphina’s head. But the sorceress just looked at her, her hands folded neatly in her lap. I noticed she had let go of the reins and could get knocked off any second now. But she was also murmuring something, barely audible and invisible to anybody more than five feet away. Standing right to her horse, I could feel the ground heating up. I wondered what was going to happen next and it was Drake, who answered the woman next:

“Like we’ve said before. Let us pass and nothing bad will happen.”

The answer didn’t surprise the woman, who kept her crossbow aimed at Seraphina but took a second to check how far our followers had come. That second was all Seraphina needed. In an instant, a line of fire ignited the ground and proceeded to travel towards the barricades with extreme velocity.

One of the figures shouted and they frantically tried to get their crossbow shots off. Three of them managed. The first bolt hit the shield and fell to the ground listlessly, the second one managed to damage it and the third one punctured the shield, but missed Tyler by a meter.

The line of fire had now reached their wooden barricades, which caught fire immediately. Our enemies were struggling with the new events, but two of them had managed to pull out their swords. They stormed towards Tyler and Drake, who jumped of their horses elegantly. Especially Drake, armed with his impressive two swords, parried the first blows almost effortlessly. I didn’t know what to follow as I heard Seraphina panting next to me. She was still commanding the line of fire, which had shot past the barricades and now circled back to the remaining figures, who were reloading their crossbows.

Michelle tried to position our horse behind Seraphina’s shield, but the next round of bolts managed to dissolve the shield, leaving us vulnerable to attacks. With a swift movement, she took her bow of her back and fired an arrow towards the woman who had spoken. Without watching if her shot had connected she looked over to Tyler and Drake, who were locked in a battle with the two swordsmen. Their attackers moved in-sync and were trained in fighting as a team, making it difficult for my friends to defend themselves. Drake tried to attack them, bringing his left sword down in a swerving motion, only to be parried time and time again.

The smell of burnt wood now filled the air. The sounds of battle masked the approaching steps. The next round of bolts was fired and this time the attackers finally hit. Michelle was knocked back by the hit and I fell off our horse with her. I cushioned my fall with my hands and immediately screamed in pain as my shoulder injury wasn’t ready for the impact the fall caused. But I ignored it. I scrambled to Michelle immediately to see that the bolt had hit the heavily armored part of her clothing. But her fall had knocked her out. I pulled out my rapier and surveyed the situation, which did not look great.

Seraphina was still commanding her fire, but it has already lost a considerate amount of speed compared to the initial attack. The flames had defeated two of the foes. But on the other side, Tyler was standing behind Drake after being disarmed. Fighting against the two swordsmen, the former captain was overmatched, even though he managed to land a few blows. I turned to see our followers closing in on us.

A loud cry forced me to focus on the fighting again. Attacking from both sides, the two swordsmen danced around Tyler and Drake. Just as one of them wanted to attack, Tyler broke out of his defensive position to land a devastating punch knocking his opponent out cleanly. Seeing his companion fall however enraged the fighter still standing. With furious attacks he evaded Drakes blows, striking the captain in the side before finally puncturing his armor. Drake dropped his swords and fell to his knees.

Before I could react, I looked to my left so see Seraphina’s horse take off in a wild gallop. The sorceress was slumped over the animal, clutching its reins tightly. But it was clear she had exhausted herself and was in no position to do anymore. The horse jumped over the burning barricade and the startled woman. It didn’t look back.

With Drake and Michelle injured and Tyler disarmed, the only person left standing was I.
My rapier was sitting in my hand uselessly. I stared at it and stared at the two opponents still standing before me. Just as I decided to go out with a bang, a voice from the back stopped my movements:

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Our followers, three of them all clad in the grey armor we had seen at the Lion’s den and on the Island, had finally caught up to us.

“You’ll need to come with us.”

I stared at the person, a young man with dark hair and clean-shaven face. Bushy eyebrows framed his green eyes and an arrogant smirk appeared as he saw my surrender. Seraphina was gone, my friends hurt, Laurenar taken and I was completely lost.

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Thank you very much for reading so far! Have a great a weekend and please like, share and subscribe :)

Sincerely yours,
Albert

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

The Editing Process and “Wonderbook”

Like I said last week, my story is on hiatus until October 25. So if you haven’t read it yet, head over to “An Elusive Hero” and start catching up.

I’m in the process of editing and revising parts of it, making it more concise and the language more precise. Hopefully, I’ll be able to release an updated and improved version of the first 20 chapters for everyone who wants to catch up.

“An Elusive Hero” now spans 20 chapters, almost 60 pages and 20’778 words, which is the most I’ve ever written (on my own) for one whole, consecutive story. They have all been written in the last five months and I hope to make even more progress during the upcoming NaNoWriMo.

I’m revising the story on my own for now, but obviously am always happy for suggestions and feedback from others on how to improve it. My biggest help in the editing process has been a book by Jeff Vandermeer titled Wonderbook, an illustrated guide to creative imaginative fiction. It’s beautifully put together and written, and full of tips also specific to the genre I’m currently writing on.

2013-10-11 18.04.19

 

 

I’ve learned a ton about writing process and story structure. Hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate my improvements in the next chapters. I can only recommend the book to anyone interested in writing.

Besides editing my story, I’m working on a few exciting other projects. One of them is not ready to be talked about. But we’re very close to launch and we’ve started working on the content, so I’m really happy about we’re developing. Stay tuned!

Well, that’s all from me for today, more of an update post. Please catch up on “An Elusive Hero” and be ready for the story’s return on October 25!

Like, Share and Subscribe for eternal gratitude. Have a fantastic weekend!

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Chapter 20: The Plan

The story so far can be found on the page titled “An Elusive Hero“.

The sun was slowly descending as I was putting the finishing touches on my second day of training with Michelle. Again, the endurance potion had helped me push my efforts further. I ignored the cries of my aching body to stop, instead trying to accelerate even in what seemed to my millionth sprint that day. Michelle looked at me and seemed content with my days work.

Her training had consisted of two parts. The whole morning she had shown me various difficult stretches for my arm to perform, hoping to extend the range of motion in my shoulder. This had been far more painful than I anticipated. But it worked. At noon, I was able to lift my arm higher than a 45-degree angle again. Still not enough to block an incoming attack, but it was a noticeable improvement.

She decided that further work would only lead to more soreness in my arm and focused on getting my quickness up to speed after. The drills we did reminded me of my gym class on planet Earth. I had loved the class, but hated running without purpose. This was entirely different. We ran for hours and I followed every one of her steps diligently until I was completely exhausted. The sweat was running down my forehead as I collapsed into the meadow we had flattened over the course of the day. Michelle sat down next to me and looked at me with a pleased smile on her face:

“You’re making good progress. How do you feel?”

My thoughts wandered to Laurenar and the fact we had no idea what exactly we were to do tomorrow.

“Worried.”

I stared straight ahead at the village we had set up camp in. It was a little fishing village, close to the shore. We could see the beach in the background, with the waves slowly flowing against the sand, hour after hour, day after day. I had spent all my time in Illusio close to the sea. The next step of my journey would take me into the heart of the continent. With the sun setting, activity was low, with most inhabitants sitting inside after a hard day’s labor. Only one or two persons remained outside. I decided to ask Michelle a question I had been wondering about:

“Why are you coming with us? I mean, you don’t really have to help me. You could report back to Queen Sophia and be reassigned.”

Michelle stared at me in surprise. It took a moment for her to gather her thoughts, before she slowly shook her head.

“I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world.” She then looked directly into my eyes and I noticed how sadness crept into her expression. “We were supposed to protect and help you succeed in your mission. A lot of my friends died on the way here. And I think, I think we just want to make sure it wasn’t for nothing.”

Michelle sobbed quietly. I knew she was right. They had been ordered to help me. They had seen their friends die for my cause. And here I was, clueless as before, not sure where to start the search for one of my companions, who was taken while protecting me.

I felt the weight of the world slowly coming down on me. The pace of my breathing quickened and I thought I was going to have a full-blown panic attack, when I saw Seraphina walking towards us. Something seemed different than the days before.

She was standing straight and every step she took was measured and controlled. Her flowing red mane was bound together at the back, while her white robes looked pristine. Seraphina was oozing confidence. I glanced over to Michelle, who wiped away her tears and got to her feet. She was as startled as I was.

“Good Evening.” Seraphina eyed me suspiciously. Michelle was still teary and I was exhausted. Tired from training all day long. And drained from finally realizing what was at stake. “Follow me.”

She walked down to the little hut where I had been recovering, not speaking a word or acknowledging the activities of the day. We just walked down to find Tyler and Drake waiting for us, sitting at a table full of fruits and vegetables. Seraphina motioned us to sit down and eat. I collapsed into the chair, fully expecting to relax, while the sorceress took command again effortlessly. I could see what she had meant with recharging her energy.

“Good, now that you’re all here, we will discuss our preparations and the plan for the next stage of the journey. First of all, the logistics. We have four horses and enough food for a week. If we ration it and hunt every second day, it should even last longer.”

Tyler smiled at the mention of hunting. Seraphina continued. “We have herbs for basic medicine and about two weeks’ worth of endurance potion. Every one of you is equipped with your weapon of choice. Correct?”

Everyone around me nodded. “Good.  Now, this is what we are going to do.”

Now she was looking directly at me. “We will ride tomorrow at dawn. We will take a route leading through the surrounding forests, away from the sea. The enemy has been watching us since we arrived here. I’ve counted two spies tracking our every move. There can only be two reasons why they haven’t attacked during our stay. They are either distracted or not strong enough. We will ride through the forests, making it look like we’re heading for the villages where discontent is growing. They should keep on following us. When the time is right, we’ll turn the tables. With the element of surprise and as long as we are not caught out in the open, we should be able to overcome the spies. After that, they should be more than capable of leading us to Laurenar.”

Drake and Tyler were smiling. I could see they approved the plan wholeheartedly. Michelle nodded, while I thought it through. Without any tangible clues of Laurenar’s whereabouts, it did seem like a plan that could work. But she was wrong in one point. Maybe they hadn’t attacked yet because they knew we were coming.

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Thank you very much for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far. “An Elusive Hero”, the story (not the blog!) is taking a two-week break now, so I can edit the chapters I’ve written so far and put them together a bit smoother. So this is the perfect time to catch up if you’ve skipped certain chapters! The story will continue on October 25.

Please also like, share and subscribe!

Have a great weekend.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

Chapter 19: Preparations

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!”

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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!

To support my writing, please like, share and subscribe!

Have a great weekend.

Sincerely yours,
Albert