This is a setup chapter.
It had been three days since the unlikely travelers embarked on their journey west. Neither companion trusted each other, resulting in very little sleep for both. Each slept face-to-face, with their weapons at the ready and one eye open. Food was prepared and eaten individually. The only responsibility they shared was starting the fire at night.
This third day marked a milestone for both of our travelers. After years of “haunting” the woods surrounding the site of her attempted murder, Denisey would finally step beyond her realm. The edge of the woods marked the boundary of which Mr. Micha had educated Lilee.
Denisey recalled from her guards that the journey to her betrothed would take 1 week. After years of obsessing over her killer, her memory was fading and couldn”t remember how many days of travel she has completed upon her death. Her best guess was that they had only left the safety of her parents and kingdom 2 or 3 days ago. She figured based on the rate of travel, due to Lilee”s size and lack of royal horses, that they would have 3 more days to reach her goal.
On the fourth day, there was no conversation. Side-by-side they trodded, heads looking forward and scanning the horizon. Denisey”s gaze shifted vigorously as if she was searching for something. Lilee imagined that she was in class with Mr. Micha, recalling the geography lesson on the realms beyond the woods. She was trying to get her bearings so that at a moments notice she could loose her captor.
Suddenly Denisey raced forward, leaving Lilee behind. It only took her a moment to remember her companion, when she glanced back. Lilee was standing in the same place, lost in her thought. Denisey didn”t have time to contemplate why she didn”t escape, but raced back to her.
“I found a path leading south, follow me,” Denisey thundered.
Lilee snapped out of her trance immediately. She wasn”t even aware that she was left alone for a split second. After a quick scan and referring to the various maps in her mind, she thought she knew where she was. But based on her teachings, there should be no path here. Without objection she followed, grasping the hilt of her sword with her right hand.
The path was faint and was being overtaken by the local fauna. To the right were two wooden posts; their spacing suggested that a sign was once mounted . The right most post had angled notches indicating that it was recently used as target practice.
“We will walk for another hour. Then make camp along this path,” commanding Lilee.
Lilee barely acknowledged her. She continued to follow onto the path. As soon as she crossed the wooden posts, the tilt of her sword began to glow burgandy. As quickly as the glow began it disappeared, with neither companion noticing.
Two days had passed on the path and there was still no sign of civilization. The silence between the companions was driving them insane.
So on the second day at twilight, when they saw what appeared to be a one bedroom cottage on the horizon they both had immediately turned to each other. No words were needed, as both knew exactly what the other was thinking. Neither moved closer to the apparent building. In the silence it was understood that they would check what ever lay beyond the horizon in the morning.
It wasn”t until noon, did our travelers begin to venture toward the cottage. All morning they sat starring at it, hoping that some sign of life would appear. But the minutes turned to hours and still nothing. Rather than wait any longer they decided to pack-up and explore. Denisey knew that no matter what lay ahead they must press on if she was to know the truth.
The cottage looked frozen in time. There was no overgrowth as on the path and no signs of decay. It appeared to have been built recently and then abandoned. The wooden roof looked brand new as if the elements have yet to touch it. Denisey pushed open the window the only window and found no furniture inside. This was peculiar but both assumed that this was a work in progress. Further up the path was a sign that might point them to the nearest town.
The plain wooden sign in the form of an arrow had stated: “CASTLE”. The arrow followed pointed the direction of the trial they had been following for the last 2 days.
“Is that where we will find your parents?” questioned Lilee.
“That”s where our answers lay.”
For the next three hours they explored every cottage on the path. Each was exactly like the first appearing brand new. Some had furniture and were setup for a feast. Others were devoid of furniture.
On the horizon they saw the edge of town. The boundary wasn”t marked by any wall or fence, but by ten buildings neatly in a line. There was a gap that appeared wide enough for a cart and 2 horses splitting the buildings evenly.
Maybe there is a festival or gathering taking place, raced through Lilee”s head. She was still reflecting on all her teachings and had never heard of a kingdom lying beyond the forest. All the maps showed 2 kingdoms lying west of the forest, but none to the south. Was there something she was missing? She had been carefully taking notes
As they had seen in the cottages, the town was barren. Shops had inventory, but no keepers. Restaurants had plates and settings, but no customers or food. Lilee”s hope of a bustling town to distract Denisey was gone. She knew that she was on a direct course to what lay in that castle.
After exiting town, they traveled one more hour and they finally saw the castle on top of a hill. There was a white stone curtain wall, connecting four drum towers. On top of each drum tower was a different elemental dragon: earth, water, air and fire. At the center was a white and black tower keep.
“Draw your weapon, we don”t know what is in there,” ordered Denisey as she drew out 2 daggers.
Lilee unsheathed her sword and prepared her mind for a fight.
As they crossed the gatehouse, Lilee”s sword began to glow crimson and radiate heat like a fresh fire. She wasn”t able to hold on and had to drop the sword.
A rush of wind passed above Lilee at Denisey”s ear level.
“What was that?” asked Lilee.
“It is what I have feared. More time has passed than my mind has allowed me to realize.”
Another gust of wind flew by, but seemed to linger for a few moments around Denisey.
“There is death all around us. I will be back with some answers,” she touched her amythest with her left arm dropping her dagger to do so.
Lilee followed the dagger as it fell to the ground. By the time she looked up Denisey was gone. This was her chance to escape, but now she didn”t want to. She was curious to find out how her sword that just betrayed her was linked to her captor.
Denisey looked around and saw only the glowing sword on the floor where Lilee was just standing.
“Broderick is that you?” Denisey cried out.
For the rest of the night, the companions sat where there were. Waiting for something to happen. Eventually both of them succumbed to sleep from the exhaustive day.
Who is Broderick?
Why does the sword glow?
How long as Denisey been “dead”?