Things are starting to calm down in life, Daniel. You're still with me.
A Journey Is One Step at a Time
Neither of our sons liked hearing this and began to protest.
“No!” Christian said sharper and firmer than I had ever heard him. The volume didn't affect Toby, but he reacted to the jump Thomas had. “There is no discussion. You don't go.”
Max waited a few seconds for things to settle and then said. “Okay.” He looked at all of us. “We'll go to Royal Valley and head out to Creid.”
Chitto shook his head. “That will take weeks.”
I put my hand on Chitto's arm. “No, it won't.”
Seth nodded. “The longest trip will be from Royal Valley to Creid. I don't know how long into the northwest territory.”
“On horseback, three days. With the wagon of breakables, four,” I grinned. “You'll see.”
We were told there had been another attack on two smaller farming villages in A'Dore, but the attackers found them both deserted. The people in those villages had either fled or were hidden. The attackers got nothing. Those that attacked were so angry, they did burned a few farms. The harvest was over, so they would be repaired. Two farms that had livestock lost some animals. One had a lot of chickens and lost every single one. At least, no one was raped or killed. We would gather the needed provisions from Royal Valley. It was also decided we would bring as much food and goods to Creid as we could manage. Rice and grains would stretch things out. Potatoes! Easy to cook and good. Any imports to Creid now were escorted by Creid's guards, but didn't make up what was needed by the whole population so any help would be appreciated. Game was available for those that could hunt, but it was nearing hibernation time and game might not be as available. It certainly wouldn't in a few more weeks and the snows came. There were flurries I was sure now. I was glad Seth and I lived in Royal Valley. It almost never snowed in Blethos or A'Dore.
We got ready to leave A'Dore. We packed what we needed. Seth and I said good bye to family and to Dennis and Toby. Chitto said his good bye to Nila and his sons. We did this in the corridor before we descended into the dungeon area. Christian followed us to cover the mirror after we left. I uncovered the mirror and touched the four crystals. It was dark in this storage room we were in and dark in the attic in Royal Valley, so you didn't see much until you looked a while. Hugging Christian, I then herded Chitto as I led him through the mirror. I led him away so the others could come through. Chitto looked startled as he knew nothing was beyond the mirror since that was against the wall in A'Dore. Had we stepped through to a hidden room? I opened the door in to the manor.
“Where are we?” Chitto asked.
“We're in Seth's and my home in Royal Valley.” I answered simply.
“In Blethos!?” Chitto asked incredulously.
Seth had come in and chuckled. “That's right.”
“And save your breath.” I said holding my hand up to stop the usual questions. “We don't know how it works and the only two known are here and in A'Dore.”
“It was given to us by one of the shaman like Demetrius.” Seth said putting an arm around Chitto's shoulder. “We just know it works.”
Chitto turned to me and slugged me lightly on the arm. “Then why didn't you come to my wedding?”
I defended myself. “We never knew when you were home! I work, too, you know?”
Chitto let it go. “So, we're in Blethos...in your home in Royal Valley.”
“That's right,” Seth laughed lightly. “Come on, we'll introduce you to Mom.”
Natives weren't unknown in A'Dore or Blethos, but they kept mostly to themselves. They weren't unwelcome to live anywhere they wished. They just didn't. Only if there was a marriage, like Chitto's great-great whatever Aunt did marrying my grandfather. We were welcome in their villages and towns, again marriage was usually the reason. Our customs were simply different. The reaction from many of the house staff was merely noticing the oddity. Chitto was walking with Seth and me in a loose friendship, so the question never came up.
Chitto could offer no other explanation for how we got here. We'd gone below the palace, stepped through to a room that was on the top floor and went down further into a brightly lit world warmed by sunshine. And it was nice, but not the palace of A'Dore. It must have been his beliefs and heritage. He accepted the unbelievable a lot easier than someone any of our people did.
Grace came from the kitchen. “My sons have returned.” She hugged Seth and me.
“Temporarily,” Seth said sadly. “We're leaving soon to find the one behind the attacks.”
“It's almost winter out there!” Grace moaned. “It will be cold out there.”
“It will a lot colder where we're heading to the northwest.” I said. “And damp.”
“Toby and Dennis?” Mom asked.
“They're safe in A'Dore.” Seth said.
I brought Chitto forward. “This is my cousin Chitto. He is helping us.”
Grace nodded shaking Chitto's hand. “It's nice to meet you, Chitto.” She still wasn't letting her concern go. “It will be cold.”
Max and Val came down. “She's right.” Max said. “It will be cold.” He grinned. “Unfortunately, keeping things secure is not a fair weather thing.”
Val nodded, “We're been in freezing weather before. We have a way to take care for that.”
“It may be uncomfortable at times, but you'll be fine.” Max said. “We'll get somethings from Creid.” He glanced around the house. “The weather here is too mild.”
Grace was not convinced this was what we should do. “Can't you wait at least until spring?”
I shook my head. “We need to go soon.”
Seth nodded, “We have to.”
I nodded. “If we don't they will gather again.” I sighed. “Perhaps in greater numbers.”
The only good thing about this trip was seeing Yannick again. Delta, Beth and Allister, too, of course. I went back to A'Dore and got the plans for those new absorbers to make a faster carriage. We put them on a carriage to take supplies to Creid. That took an extra day or two to put the absorbers on the wagon we took. We told the boys again good bye and headed out one Monday morning. The four Creid wore their amour with the helmets. I assumed that was also for warmth not just for defense. Max said it not cold in Royal Valley, and it wasn't that cold. As we headed north, we when up with land elevation. Then it started to get colder. We crossed Creid's border at the foot of a mountain range. The somewhat cloudy sky began to snow a little. Flurries mostly, but it wasn't accumulating yet.
We camped at night and used the tents at night. The new improved wagon did well at the pace we tried to keep. The stones we warmed up by the fire did wonders at keeping the tent, bedrolls and the inhabitants warm. Clay based rocks were the best. Seth and I had our own source of heat. Do I need to say it? We had each other. Who the others cuddled with was their business. Body heat was great heat source. Of course, Grace fretted not only over Seth and me, but all that were going. Did we pack enough warm clothes? Did we have enough clean socks? That included Chitto. She made sure we took enough to eat and Seth had his coffee. It would have been Hell without that.
I thought it important that we kept our supplies separate. We didn't want to take what we were trying to get to Creid to relieve their hunger.
“This isn't bad.” Seth said as we began to ascend the mountain's pass. It had a single road that went up slowly. Much better than the steep inclines if we didn't go this way. It had been a long time since I'd taken it last, but I have to admit it. It didn't change much even after a near decade.
We talked loosely to each other as we rode. We eased the pace to allow the horses some rest. It was on a shaded portion of the path, I saw something in the corner of my eye. A something seemed to swoop from the canopy of trees. I was hit just below my head in my left side and shoulder. It was a rock. Not a boulder, but also not one you could just toss. Suspended on a rope were several of these rocks that swung down. I was the only one to be hit by one. I was knocked off my horse from the blow. The wagon bringing the food was also hit by a couple of those rocks. The men from Creid were instantly in motion. Swords drawn and arrows ready. What I knew, but not that well, was Seth! His horse reared in surprise, but Seth wasn't thrown. He got an arrow ready in seconds and fired arrows into the trees around us as we heard somethings hurry away in leaves and branches. Seth moved quickly and let go of the reins, but stayed where he was a somehow took careful aim.
Unlike my first only official trip to Creid...this time I wore my sword. Using my arms to push up, I had a sore ache almost put me on the ground again. Fortunately, I was right handed, so I could get my sword out. The problem was the attack was from above. There was nobody to fight on the ground. I had a bow and arrows, but I couldn't really use my left arm. Suddenly Seth was beside me and firing at the adversaries in the trees. I saw Reese and Val take off on foot into the bushes and trees. No horse could have traversed the terrain easily. Chitto and Seth were firing still rapidly.
These men were scattering and finally were gone. Seth turned quickly. “Are you hurt badly?” He reached for me, but I jerked in pain.
I gritted my teeth and said. “It will heal.” It hurt to move the arm, but nothing felt broken. “I believe it's a bad bruise.” I smiled at Seth. “You were amazing! Where did you learn to shoot an arrow like that?”
“You saw me before.” Seth shook his head. “I hunted with you and there was the battle a few weeks ago...”
“Shooting an arrow on horseback isn't easy.” I waved at his horse that was adjusting to things as they settled down. “You never lost focus.”
Seth shrugged. “I learned.”
Max ran over to us. “Everyone okay?”
Seth put his arm around me. “Erik was hit by that rock/trap thingy.”
I nodded. “It will heal. It doesn't feel broken.”
Chitto came to me. “Take your shirt off.” He ordered.
As I was unbuttoning my shirt, I asked. “You know what to look for?”
Chitto smirked. “I've seen a broken bone or two.” He moved the arm and there was pain. No, swelling yet or discoloration as he tested my elbow and fingers to see if there was damage to the nerves. “It doesn't look like it is broken. I think it more impact trauma.”
“Historian and medicine man?” I asked him.
Chitto chuckled back. “I am many things.” He looked at Max. “How much farther?”
“Half a day.” Max answered.
Chitto nodded. “Good.” He smiled at me. “I'm binding your arm for now. There's a doctor in Creid?”
“Better,” Max stated smiling. “We have Maggie.”
I chuckled at Chitto. “It seems I sort of took their one doctor. Ryan was that doctor.”
Max shrugged. “Did Ryan look as if he is a soldier or warrior?” He shook his head. “No, we in the field, deal with broken bones, severed limbs...stabbings and other cuts. We do fine.”
“Maggie is a woman that was a mid-wife.” Val said having heard our conversation. “She stepped in when Ryan left to get his education. She's seen everything.” He said dismissively.
Seth nodded. “Well, pregnancy is not necessarily an injury, but she's good?”
I chuckled patting Seth on the arm. “It doesn't matter. She's what we've got.” I shrugged. “There's no reason a woman can't do as good a job as a man.”
Chitto bound my arm quickly. Seth helped me back on my horse and we continued to the castle. I will say, having Delta beside Yannick on the throne made a difference in Creid. The castle still lacked the attractiveness on the outside. It still looked like a pile of rocks. Inside was as different as day is from night! The bare floors were now covered partially with bright colored patterned rugs on the gray floor. There was still the abundance of swords and shields on the walls, but now had paintings, too. There were now tables in the wide corridors with sculptures or glass and ceramic on display. Even the Throne Room was different. There were the swords crossed on the walls. Someone had put tapestries up. We could see various campaigns on them. One of them held an imagine that looked so much like King Mordor, Yannick's father, I felt King Mordor was here.
Yannick rose from his throne. “Welcome to Creid.” His smile faded a little seeing my bound arm to my chest. “You were assaulted?”
Max stepped forward nodding and bowed to Yannick. “We were, Your Majesty.” He glanced at me. “Erik was the sole injured party.”
Yannick frowned as he came down from the platform toward me. “Thank God he lives.” He looked at Max again. “Where was it this time?”
Max told him the name and Yannick nodded looking at me. “I am so sorry, Erik. They change the location of these attacks, it's hard to keep track of them.” He was about to hug me. “Is there somewhere I can touch that won't hurt you?”
I gave him a right-sided hug. “It will heal.” I waved at Seth. “His broken foot healed in a month!” I shook my head. “This is nothing.”
Yannick turned. “Send someone for Maggie and bring her here.”
Okay, when we're told about someone we automatically form an image of them. I pictured this Maggie as and older woman. Elderly even. She was mature, yes. In her late thirties or early forties. She was a pretty woman. I hate the same description of people, but she had a few pounds she didn't need, but not fat. Dark black hair with the streak of gray from the left side of her temple, about an inch wide that continued down past her shoulders. What she had for what she did was so valuable. She smiled. It was compassion and you knew it was sincere. She cared. She was a mother, sort of, caring for a child. In no time, she had me unbound, assuring me, and Seth, my arm wasn't broken. With my Little Warriors, I should heal quickly, she said. Then she gave me something to drink. It was medicine to help me sleep. Unlike Ryan's pain killer, hers tasted good. It worked!
If I thought I hurt before? I really hurt the day after. Trying to move made me moan. I was instantly touched by someone I knew well.
“Are you in pain?” Seth asked and then frowned, shaking his head. “That was a stupid question. I can see you are hurting.”
I nodded. “I am sore.” I said kissing him. “And that wasn't a stupid question. It was natural. You care about me.” I chuckled. I looked where we were. Again, the rooms weren't big. They kept what heat there was in the room. I will say it again, having Delta as Queen helped. The room was not just functional for sleeping. Black and brown furs on the floor to keep feet warm. There was another fur over me on the bed. I was sure it was bear. It was blackish-brown, shaggy and thick. “Fortunately, I know where to go.”
I pulled clothes on quickly and took his hand as I led him through the corridor. “Come on.”
Once we had traversed the steps down Seth stared in awe of the many tubs of steaming water. Yannick and I shared one after my victory of the Challenge I had made. This time, there were a few men in them. No one we knew.
I waved at an empty tub. “After you.”
Seth smiled. “No, after you.”
It was like before, almost too hot as we lowered into the water. “I had thought they didn't bathe, but you can smell the sulfur in the water.”
Seth was losing that overly concerned look he had. “You have been here before.” He shrugged.
I nodded. “That has been a while ago.”
Soon, that comfortable feeling entered our muscles. My muscles in particular.
“We only been gone a few days.” I muttered. “Being injured so early does not bode well.”
Seth moved toward me. “Being dead is worse.” He pressed his lips to my head. “You were injured, but not killed.” He chuckled. “You said it. It will heal. I love you, Erik.”