After the zombies had burned to ash, Azoloth and Trinsic set out once more. The miles faded behind them as their steeds pushed on. This was the second full day since Sir Gregory’s death, and Azoloth’s heart was heavy as he rode. Azoloth felt as if he should have been rejoicing for his reunion with Trinsic. Yet between the events of the last few days and the pressure of the sun upon him, his thoughts could only go to dark places. Who knew what dark places awaited them upon this journey?
Back at the Keep, Azoloth always enjoyed sneaking away to the library as often as possible. Thinking back to the countless hours reading stories of heroes, the stories never spoke of how boring adventuring often was. The escape and the zombies had been thrilling, but between those events were hour upon hour of mundane travel, fear, and exhaustion. He was escaping an evil despot and heading towards untold adventures, yet all he could do was count the miles before him.
Pondering what he would do upon reaching Nezbin, he wondered how hard it would be to find those who might join in his self-appointed quest. He did not realize it yet, but he was starting to think of himself more as an adventurer than a Knight. Such was the fancy of young people when their imaginations took hold of them.
Nezbin stood over 500 miles away from Candlecove Keep. A man on a horse could travel 20 miles per day before he exhausted his steed. That, of course, was why the farming villages dotted the road every 20 miles or so. Each of those villages built around a fine tavern or inn. Yet they would need to avoid the taverns and inns just to be safe.
Azoloth had not shared his full plans with Trinsic yet, though the latter had figured most of them out. Azoloth considered for a time attempting to rouse the locals to rise against the Queen, yet it would do no good. To the peasants it mattered not who they served under as long as they had food and shelter. There may come a time when the extra burdens imposed on them would lead to rebellion, but that would be months or years from now.
He had considered traveling through the wilderness, yet the wilderness held its own dangers. Goblins, orcs and worse dwelt within the wildlands. Rarely did they come to the well-patrolled roads or armed villages to hassle the common folk, yet in the depths of the wilderness they lurked, in the shadows ever waiting. He understood it, may yet come to that. He knew they had dispatched spells to warn the royal guard to keep an eye out for them. Death would come just as slowly at the hands of the Royal Guards as it would at the hands of the goblins, likely slower if they wanted to extract any information they believed the two might have. The chief advantage to the wildlands, if they were forced down that road, is the beasts in the wildlands would not be hunting for them.
The night of the third day fell around them silently. They had not seen another being since the zombie attack earlier. The cancerous sun was setting on the horizon as they neared one of the farming villages. The cool, refreshing moonlight bathed them.
“Finally, a place to get some food, ale, and rest, ” Trinsic announced. He was completely spent, Azoloth felt for him.
“You can stop if you want, but I am pushing on. I don’t want to risk stopping in any of the villages, “ Azoloth replied.
Trinsic gave an exasperated snort but did not respond, nor did he attempt to stop at the village tavern. They pushed on past the village for several more miles until Azoloth stopped and dismounted. Taking Stravos by the reins, he led him into the shadows of the wood. Concealed within its depths, Crimson lay down along the trail they made from the road to guard them. Azoloth and Trinsic began to go through their supplies. Both had basic equipment for travel and camping. Trinsic’s horse was geared up with provisions while Azoloth had restocked his at the Crossroads Inn.
“I thought they had taken you when I saw the guardsmen near the Crossroads Inn, “ Azoloth said to Trinsic as they settled down with a meager meal of dried rations and water.
“Nah, I arrived late myself. I was forced to take a long detour through the woods to evade them, though. They nearly discovered me when I was approaching the Crossroads Inn. Some damned Ancient Ones almost caught me too, “ Trinsic responded.
“They almost caught me too. Luckily I was able to calm my mind, and they overlooked me.”
“I wasn’t able to rescue Bruce. By the time I made it to the stable they had already killed him, “ Trinsic said referring to the war dog he had been training.
“I am sorry,” was all Azoloth said in return, what more could be said at the loss of someone’s constant companions. He wondered, though, how hard had Trinsic tried. Trinsic had made it out before him, and Azoloth had time to rescue Crimson. In fact, they had only just begun killing the dogs when he arrived. Yet he would not speak those uncomfortable truths to his friend. “I plan to only take a brief rest today, I mean to push on to the east out past Darkshire before the sun rises again.”
“What, you can’t!” Trinsic exclaimed. He was more alarmed and startled than he should at such news. “You can’t push yourself too hard or you will get caught.”
“They won’t expect us to push on so hard and fast. I would rather have them looking 20 or 30 miles to the west instead of where we actually are.”
“We should try to take shelter in one of the villages and wait this all out.” Said Trinsic.
“How well do you think that will go? We are fugitives from the crown. Our best option is to make for one of the border towns as quickly as we can. At least there if need be we can slip out of the Kingdom to one of the free cities and lie low while this blows over. We may need some place outside of the Kingdom to rest and gather strength before returning.” Azoloth said calmly.
“Returning? You honestly plan to come back if you should escape. If you can escape and save your neck, better to keep riding and never look back, “ Trinsic stated emphatically. “What is there to return to? A hangman’s noose? Or do you think you can restore the crown and free people who don’t even know they are not free?”
“What are our lives worth if we forsake our oaths?” Azoloth shot back. “We cannot allow this land to fall into darkness. After what happened today and how much we have lost, I can’t turn my back on the Kingdom or the people here. We swore our oaths to the land and people to protect them! If the Queen has truly aligned with Demons, we must put an end to it!”
They settled into an uncomfortable silence. Sindric seemed to have no retort to Azoloths words. It was true; the Crown had betrayed the people and the land, if it had indeed made a deal with the Demons.
Azoloth turned in early, trusting Crimson’s and Stravos’ keen senses to alert them to any dangers. Azoloth was out almost instantly. Meanwhile, Sindric sat there leaning against a tree… idly drawing symbols in the dirt with a stick.