That night sleep was unwilling to overtake my mind, therefore I stayed awake, keeping watch and thinking over all that had happened. Stirring the fire quite often, I kept it a gentle murmuring light of combustion that flickered in the silence around me.
“This outta be interesting.” I whispered to myself. “What an adventure!”
My gaze found our two horses hobbled in the tiny meadow a few feet away, each sighed every so often in their sleep. The stars reflected above me and welcomed my gaze as I stared upward at them. “What should I do? Stay with Kyo?” I glanced at the sleeping boy across the fire. His back moved slowly as he slept, breathing soundlessly. “Or should I start out on my own?”
The memory of the tiny village and people’s stares of undeniable confusion, even horror, crept into my mind. Despite it all, a day of study wasn’t enough to know an entire countires culture. “I really have no choice.” I shuttered quietly. “I need a guide. But if he attacks me? What if he’s really just a soldier taking me to the king? But why let me go? Why not just keep me chained?”
My lips suddenly formed into a smile. Perhaps I could trust him. I ran my eyes over the chocolate black sky melting with bright stars, the trees ruffling themselves against on another like ladies preparing for a ball, and the horses breathing easily in the warm air. The fire hummed beside me and Kyo was silent as ever, sleeping dreamlessly.
“I guess I’m in foreign country I might was well not be alone.” I whispered. He surely wasn’t a soldier so I was safe from the king. But, I thought in my mind what I’d worried about all along. “he is a stranger.”
Unconsciously, my fingers curled around the knife handle in my belt to be sure it was still hidden there safely. “I’ll always be on guard.” The thought, both calming and awakening, ran through my mind as I lay down on my blanket. He wasn’t a soldier of the king but then again the soldiers could’ve been the least of my worries. I really didn’t know.
But after being thrown in jail, meeting a ‘warrior’, and entering a new country all in one day, I was ready to be on my guard. Always.
“Islyn. Islyn! Islyn!” A voice hissed. “Get up!”
“Five more minutes, Mom!” I moaned, rolling over.
“Islyn!” A rough boot’s toe dug at my side, prodding me annoyingly. “Get up!” The voice was a deep, almost urgent whisper.
Mom never sound like that. She screamed up the steps with the ferocity of a bellowing eagle. And she never kicked me. Not that I’d been kicked but the thing prodding me was obviously a shoe.
“What?” I rolled over and peered into a million rays of light that blurred my vision. The dark, messy hair and squinting brown eyes of someone came into view, high above me. It wasn’t Mom.
“What? Who . . . oh.” I sprang up in sudden awareness and lept to my feet. “Kyo!?”
“Hush!” He scooped my blanket into his arms and threw it at me. “Get on your horse.” He ordered. “ I hear a patrol.”
“What?” I whispered as he made it to his saddled horse in two strides and swept aboard.
“Patrol.” He murmured. “Soldiers. They probably heard of you and know I’m not one of them and are looking for us.”
Nice. I charged for the horse, my blanket and hair flapping my face and arms. Grabbing the horse’s saddle, I yanked upward but only succeeded in rocking the saddle before Kyo whacked his horse and took of opposite of the way we’d come.
“Great!” I yanked the saddle and pulled upward again still failing to hoist myself up onto the beast. “Oh wait.” I looked down at the foot thing dangling limply beneath me. “That!”
I stuck my left foot in, snatched the saddle, and swung up. “Ok pony! If your like birds when it comes to riding this will be easy, except for getting on.” I pulled at the bridle and swung the horse around then slapped the reins, which on birds meant ‘fly’. The horse didn’t budge. I tried again adding an effective “Go!”
“Run creature.” I whispered.
A murmur of men’s voices drifted into the clearing, alerting me of the soldier’s presence. It was only seconds later when their shapes, dark and shadowed, crept into view. Only one, thankfully, was on horse back. I could out run them. If I could get my horse to move.
“You there!” the guard hollered. “Who are you?!”
Uh? Would now be a good time turn invisible? I looked around frantically hoping maybe they were looking at someone else. They weren’t.
“State your name!” The guard demanded gruffly. In as quiet voice as I could muster I stated,
“What is you business?” The guard, whom I sensed was yelling quite loudly for his land, talked at relatively normal tones.
“I am a traveling merchant.”
“Why are you here all alone?” The guard’s questioned sounded threatening, almost as if he, himself, were a danger. Which of course, to a spy, he was.
“This was all the farther I could make it today, I had set down camp for the night.”
“You set down camp?” The guard’s eyes roamed the clearing. “I see that. But why are you saddled and leaving now?”
“I heard someone . . . .” Searching for an idea, I suddenly proclaimed. “fearing bandits I packed up until I realized it was only the guard.”
“Fearing bandits?” The man proclaimed. “There are no bandits.”
“Then why . . . “ I stopped the question rapidly remembering something I had learned. There were no bandits. Guards were ensured to keep up culture and outsiders away. People traveled fearlessly. Well, merchants did. They were the only people to travel much. Yet deep down I felt there still were bandits. They just hid. They weren’t ever obvious thieves. Except, of course, for me.
“Why yes, you’re right.” I let out a chuckle. “But being my first trip alone, that is, first without my father.” If Kyo came back it would add even more suspicion if I’d said I was alone. “Father warned me of merchants who will steal your supplies with so called ‘good deals’ and, of course, of strangers. I’m really rather jumpy.”
“Ha.” The soldier laughed. “You can’t fool us.” He stepped closer then, his fellow guards gathered in around my unmoving, but nervous horse. “I recognize that horse. And your voice which you keep raising. You ain’t a merchant! Your that spy!” He lifted up his bandanna and I choked when I recognized him as the guard who’d capture me.
He wasn’t the young solider who’d believe Kyo’s facade. No. He was the cruel one who’d chained me up like one would chain a disastrous murder. He chuckled. And I shuttered because all at once I was pretty sure we weren’t getting away again.