Of Ash & Blood
Our First Night
I looked over to Amabel, whose big blue eyes lit up with curiosity as she began to stand up. ”Stay here, Gallion, stay with the Lady. ” I shot up hand up and looked over to Sir Gallion, who nodded respectfully and took place standing in front of Amabel. She stood behind him, peering over his shoulder in the direction of Sir Rolant. I shot him a look as if to tell him to stay quiet.
I walked over in a quickened pace, drawing my sword as I spoke in a hushed tone as I followed him into the woods. ”What is it? ”
Sir Rolant remained silent as he lead me through the trees until he came to a abrupt halt. He held up his torch, shedding light on a pile of dead forest nymphs, six or maybe seven, lay tangled and mutilated. I looked around us, trying to see what else could be there.
”I did not kill them, my Lord. They were already here. ”
I ran a hand through my hair, starring down at the bloody scene and kneeled down to study the bodies . Gray skin covered in dark red liquid, ”This couldn of been a mercenary, they didn take the heads… ” I trailed off, picking up the arm of one and dropping it to the ground. I stood up and wiped my hands together. ”But who would kill them then? Heads of nymphs go for quite a large sum if taken to the market, anyone in their right mind wouldn leave this many just laying on the ground. ”
I sucked in a sharp breath, thinking to myself. Of course, he was right. Who would leave them here when they couldve sold them for a large sum? Their skin contained a resistance to magic, which was useful in making armor or swords. Nymphs also do not typically travel in this small of a group, what were they doing away from their group? The gashes on their skin were too clean to be another monsters attack, it had to of been made from a sword. The idea that this was the work of another human, and that we weren alone in the camps, didn rest easy with me. I thought to Amabel in the camp and gritted my teeth, this was the last thing I needed.
”Take their heads and bring them to camp, clearly whoever killed them didn care to get paid. Ill speak with Arion once we get back and see if he has heard of anything similar. ”
”Of course, my Lord! I will get on it straight away. ” Rolant smiled, grabbing a nymph from the pile.
I made my way back to camp after doing one more patrol around, ensuring there wasn anyone lurking in the trees or small surrounding caves. Amabel was sitting next to the fire by the time I arrived, and Gallion was stirring over the fire.
”Just in time, my Lord! Ive just about finished the stew, it will be ready in a moment. ”
I nodded my thanks and took a seat across from Amabel, who looked at me expectingly. I took a bowl of the stew and waited for Gallion to hand her hers. I didn feel the need to worry her, seeing as there was no current danger. The nymphs were dead, no one in the surrounding area, and while it was strange there was no cause for worry. Whatever it was is gone now. Amabel took the hint that I wasn going to say anything and stirred her stew in her lap.
I watched as she ate, taking small bites and picking at her bread. I set my bowl to the side to be washed by one of the other knights and went to go finish setting up the tents, and set blankets down inside for her to lay on. I decided to stay watch tonight, so she would have the tent to herself.
”I have your tent ready, I think its time to turn to bed. We have an early morning. ” I said from behind her. She shot back, looking at me with wide eyes. ”A tent? ” She asked.
”Yes. If we took the time to find an Inn, we would be going off course and it would take twice as long to get back to Aelis. This is the best use of time. I apologize for not having a bed, however, you will find that once we return home, everything will be prepared for you to rest comfortably. For now, we have the tent. ” I said sheepishly. Of course, Amabel has travelled before, but never in an overnight camp. Truthfully, there were no towns in the area to stay at. She stood and straightened out her dress with her hands before following me to her tent set up to the side of camp, away from everyone else. I opened the tent for her and waited as she slowly crawled inside.
”I will not be staying with you tonight, I would like to keep watch. Im sure not sharing will bring you some comfort as well. ”
I cursed myself silently, why must I speak before thinking? I was trying to show her I wasn a complete ass, and yet, I constantly make myself one. I shut up quickly, watching as she flinched from my words.
”Keep watch from what? ” Was all she asked. I watched as she carefully braided her hair behind her, getting ready to sleep.
”Are you watching for what Sir Rolant showed you earlier? ”
”I checked the area over, and there seems to be no danger currently. However, I cannot say that anything will not happen, I would feel better staying awake and watching over. ”
”Will you not be tired for tomorrows journey, then? ”
I snorted. Sleepless nights are all that I know. I can remember the last time Ive had a full nights sleep, typically only using the bedchambers to change or take a bath. ”I will be fine, no need to worry about me. You rest, and I will see you in the morning. ” I offered a gentle smile, which she slowly returned. I closed up the tent and gave one more look around the area of camp before taking my seat leaning on a tree for the night.
Morning light finally shown over the horizon and I jumped from my post, heading to fetch my stead, Varion. I lead him to camp and watched as Amabel crawled out from her tent, hair still perfectly pinned in its braid. She looked over my way, catching my stare. I felt the heat crawl to my cheeks and quickly jerked my head away.
I called over to Wyse, who was watching with a smirk. ”Lets hurry out, I want to make good time getting back home. Theres a hot bath waiting for me. ” I grumbled.
”A hot bath in deed, my Lord… ” Sir Wyse whistled. I glowered at him and he quickly shut up.
Once finished packing up, we were off without a hitch.
The rest of the journey went on without much excitement, and soon, we were approaching the walls of Aelis. The horns blew, announcing our arrival as they lowered the bridge into the city. I glanced over to the carriage at Amabel, who was peering outside the window at the city. Im sure much has changed since shes been here, the once crumbling walls were now fortified and stood higher. The once small city was now bustling with life, Inns and merchants lined the streets. We made our way up the hill to the castle. I pulled into the courtyard and stopped, dismounting my horse. I walked over to the carriage and opened the door, holding my hand out to assist Amabel out while waiving away the servantmaster, Thomas. He was a brittle old man, whos white beard reached past his chest and such scrawny body, I don believe would be able to hold a feather upright. But, he did good at keeping the castle and grounds in shape, I didn have the heart to let him go. He quickly stood to my side and watched as Amabel stepped from the carriage. Even with the dirt stains and sweat stuck to her from a long trip, she still glowed under the light of the sun. I cleared my throat and instructed the maidservants to start unloading her things from the carriage.
Thomas gave a small nod of his head towards Amabel in welcome, ”My ladyship, it is a pleasure to finally have a lady! I am Thomas, the servant master of Aelis. Please, let me know if there is anything not to your liking, I will have it fixed straight away…. ” Thomas trailed off as he walked with Amabel up the stairs to the entrance of the castle.
”Welcome home, my lady! ” Sir Wyse and Gallion spoke at the same time, catching Amabel off guard as she turned from the door. She gave a small smile in thanks and headed inside.
Yes, welcome home, my bride.
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