“The eyes are the quickest to deceive a man.
This is why I am glad to be blind.
There are no deceptions.”
Arajuan to Tarnink
Anika lay in her tent and stared at the ceiling. She was restless and found it difficult to get to sleep. She sat there with thoughts of home and Atron Reu. He always had made her laugh, and she missed him. The boy often got himself into trouble with the other elves. He had a habit of escaping the village, which caused her to drag him back. If he were to do that now, without her, Arajuan might find him. She despised having to deal with Arajuan’s cruel way of taunting her mind.
Anika felt uneasy about Atron, that he was unhappy without her. She hoped she was wrong as she already worried enough. Whatever the child did she wanted him to stay safe. The Aldarian Army hunted half-dragons now even more than dragons were. Thinking of dragons
being hunted, her own safety was at stake. She was certain it would not be long before Gori attempted to have her killed.
Arajuan had said Gori had seen them. He knew what she looked like and that she was a dragon. She had to stop him before he captured her. How to stop him though was the problem. Anika did not have the charisma needed to build an army. Her bow had killed nothing larger than an elafi, and her training in magic did not include healing. She doubted she could ever pull it off. There was no way she was the leader Queen Esmir said she was.
Anika heard a rustling sound outside; she shot up in terror. What was that? Was it Arajuan and his men again or something worse? Was she going to die? She heard a voice yell by Tarnink’s tent. It was the harmonic voice of a man.
“Get up you lazy elves.” He shouted, “Come on now we have to get moving before the soldiers find us.”
Anika came out of her tent armed with her bow and there was the man who sat by Stockholm’s gate. His eyes glowed silver and his cheeks appeared to be elven. Even his ears seemed pointed. His dirty brown cloak hood was down, and she saw that his hair was short and silver with age. His breath smelled of sweet ale as he spoke.
“Hurry now!” He grabbed at her, “We must get going.”
Anika ripped away from the crazed man. She pointed her bow prepared to shoot. The man unfazed, laughed like a maniac.
“A bow,” He mocked, “that weapon is excellent in close combat. Tarnink, when do you plan on showing the girl how to use a sword?”
The man waved his hand and her tent vanished. Tarnink came from his tent to see what the racket was. He shot an exasperated look at Anika and signaled for her to put away her weapon. The two men grasped hands and Tarnink answered him.
“I would do that if I had enough time to.” Tarnink replied. “We have only journeyed for a short while now.”
The drunk gatekeeper smirked back at Tarnink and his tent vanished. Tarnink’s pack was upon his back and all the supplies packed. Anika eyed the strange man.
“I never would have thought you had so much magic,” She muttered, “You looked like the town drunk.”
“Do you always believe your eyes first? Sometimes appearances are deceiving. That is something you will have to learn soon enough princess,” he said, “I did what you asked of me, Tarnink. Arajuan’s army is not headed to Vik i Myradal. They are headed toward the dwarven town of Eldurfell. Apparently, they have a training camp there for new victims, I mean soldiers.”
Tarnink laughed, “So why must we leave here? We are headed to Vik i Myradal which is nowhere near the Aldranari Mountains or Eldurfell.”
“Arajuan is not who you should worry about. He let you both live, you told me this yourself, Tarnink. Either way I overheard a death knight say Gori is sending a high-ranking general after Anika. Rumor has it, they sent Arajuan to kill her. When he had failed to follow orders, Gori became angry at his favorite little pet and decided he would castigate him. Until then Gori sent him back to the training camp along with his men. This news seemed to please Gori’s soldiers, but it brought me no pleasure hearing it. General Raset and his men are scouring this area for you as we speak.” He responded, “I will lead you on an alternate route to Vik i Myradal, all you have to do is keep up with me.”
Tarnink nodded with a shocked but firm look. The man turned and led them.
“Wait.” Anika said, “I still don’t know your name?”
“Jarrett, my name is Jarrett. No more waiting let’s go,” He snipped.
Jarrett dashed ahead of them. He led them through the meadow and they followed. It startled Anika how fast the half-elf ran. He was as fast as any elf she knew in the village. He stayed along the edge of the woods as he ran in the darkness.
Anika’s mind raced along with her feet. Gori had not sent Arajuan after Mika Tsuki at all. Arajuan was sent to kill her, he had told her he knew who she was. This means Gori did not know what she looked like. If this was so then why was he sent after her? How did Gori find out about her? Arajuan was supposed to slay her. Why did he let her live? He had lied to her. Would he have killed another dragon and claimed it was she?
Anika found her thoughts troublesome. Even if he had deceived her, why should he? She had done nothing worth having him spare her life. Why did Arajuan disobey a direct order from Gori? Was Gori not his master and his king? Maybe it was true what Tarnink had said, the death of Elewyn is why Arajuan let her live. Maybe he hated Gori and wanted revenge. If so then the words he whispered in her ear had a different meaning. She could still hear his dark voice echo in her head.
Something else about Arajuan aggravated Anika. He smelled like the man who hatched her egg. The scent he carried was the scent that always protected her. Did he know he had hatched her egg? Had he done such a thing on purpose to spite Gori? A part of her hoped not, she did not wish to connect to him in any way. He was a monster that is what the elves had told her. Yet part of her wanted that to be the reason he had spared her, to spite Gori. The queen was right, Arajuan was not the enemy, Gori was.
Anika did not feel certain, but that did not matter anymore. She had to run quick, if what this man said was true, her life was in danger. She closed in the gap between herself and Tarnink.
“Tarnink,” She whispered, “can we trust him?”
“Can we trust Jarrett? I would trust this man with my life. He was the friend I had in Stockholm whom I mentioned. He was the town’s last defense. It seems he could not stop the destruction.” Tarnink replied.
Anika gasped at this. Jarrett did not seem battle scarred. Did he fight back against the armies using magic? He was not powerful enough to save the city. This worried Anika because Jarrett was the only one who had mastery of magic amongst them and he lost. Still, he was strong enough to face Arajuan and live. She glanced at the man with thought. They would just have to train harder.
They had ran a few hours before Anika saw the sun rise. Jarrett halted in front of them and tapped the ground. A large hole opened before them and they entered a tunnel that was not far from the city walls of Vik i Myradal. As they entered, darkness surrounded them and entrance closed. Jarrett waved his hand and a small light floated ahead. Anika wondered why they entered Vik i Myradal from underground instead of at the main gate. She followed without question.
At the end of the tunnel there was a door. Jarrett knocked three times, then two, then one last time.
“Who is it?” A man moused.
The man slid open a slide door in the top of the main door. All they could see was his deep brown eyes.
“It is I, Jarrett,” Jarrett replied.
Jarrett held a small coin with a square hole in the center for the man to see.
“Jarrett of Stockholm? Arajuan recently attacked that town. Good to see that you escaped my friend. Who are these people with you? Cannot be too careful these days you know.” The man replied.
“News travels quickly I see. This is the Lady Anika and her escort Tarnink. They are elves from Lenagard.” He responded
“The Tarnink of Lenagard? We have met before I believe, the earth elves have been much help with the resistance. Come in,” He said.
Once inside Anika could see that she had entered a dim narrow hall. She noticed that her new host wore a cotton shirt with a leather vest. His pants seemed made from a poor quality of leather as well. The group followed him further up the hall and found themselves in a basement. He led them up the stairs and into the kitchen. They then followed him into the living room.
“I shall show you your sleeping quarters,” He whispered.
The man led them all up the stairs and into a larger hallway. He pointed to a door on the right and looked at Anika.
“Here is your room, Lady Anika. You will find everything you need in there.”
Anika entered the room. She looked around and there before her was a large bed. The bedspread was a dark burgundy. The dresser looked like mahogany. In front of the dresser mirror was a washbasin. She washed her face and hands and undid her hair letting it fall to her sides. She then noticed a pair of red and black silk pajamas. Did this man know they were coming? She did not care because she was too exhausted to think. She changed into the nightclothes and brushed her hair with the comb that lay on the dresser. Then she crawled into bed. For the first time since the start of her journey, she slept well and felt safe.
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