Eric eases his horse to a stop, having been running for quite a while, the horse asking for a break. He glances behind him as Adam and Kyle’s horses come to a stop beside his, all three horses breathing hard from the long run, their muscles vibrating with the need to go again. Eric pats the horses’ neck and slips off his back, leading him off the trail a ways to where he knew a stream lazily cuts through the forest. Adam and Kyle follow behind him, curious as to where he is going, their eyes smiling when they see the stream of fresh cold water.
“Rest my friend,” Eric tells the horse as he pats his neck one last time then steps back so that the horse can drink his fill in the stream. He kneels in the green grass and leans down, cupping his hand to catch some water for himself.
His friends do the same, each enjoying the cold trickle of life-giving water as it makes its way down their dry throats, clenching their thirst. Eric knew he had water in his pack but whenever he had the chance, he would drink first from the stream and then from his canteens. The men sit beside the stream, their horses now munching on the fresh grass as they continue to rest. The men don’t talk as each of their minds race with thoughts about the journey they still have ahead of them to get to the City of Dragons. They knew that they were cutting down their journey time by not stopping but they will soon need to in order to sleep since they would not be of any help exhausted.
“We have maybe four more hours until morning. I say we set up a camp here and attempt to get some rest before we continue,” Adam says as he looks at his tired comrades.
Eric looks at Kyle to see if he will put up a fight, wanting to keep going but he can see the thief’s eyelids drooping a bit. “I agree! We need to get some sleep.”
Kyle yawns and nods, “We did a lot of running and I think we will make good timing with cutting it to maybe two and a half days instead of three.” He unpacks his horse for the night, ready to crash.
Eric and Adam follow suit, unrolling their bedrolls so that they can rest for the night, the nighttime calling for them to give in it their dreams or nightmares. Eric stares up at the deep purple-blue sky as he listens to Kyle and Adam get comfortable then silence for a split second until someone begins to snore. Eric chuckles quietly to himself as he glances at the sleeping forms of Adam and Kyle before he returns his sad gaze up to the sky wondering if Sarah is staring up at the same stars or if she is asleep or hopefully she has escaped her captors. But he knew that Sarah would play it safe and only escape when she can, being smart in dangerous situations, smarter than he.
He turns onto his side facing away from the others, and covers his face with a hand, allowing the warm tears to slip down his cheek. He has been struggling all day to stop the tears from falling and could no longer hold them in, knowing that since the others are already asleep, he could cry in peace. He does his best to sob silently, keeping his hand over his mouth to muffle the sound. He prays to the gods to keep his beloved safe as he lets the last tear fall to the ground and allows himself to relax, falling asleep.
Kyle rolls over, watching as Eric’s body relaxes into sleep before he sits up, looking over at both of his new comrades. He knew that he should tell them the truth about why he is joining the team to go against Trent, but the way Eric looked when he talks about the Warlock, he is afraid to reveal himself just yet. He lays back down, thinking about when he should tell them. Maybe while traveling the next day would be a good time. He falls asleep listening to the crickets, his brain saying that he needs to tell them soon, and the gentle snores from Adam.
The night slowly edges into the morning with the sun gently slipping over the horizon and the rays gently touching the unmoving bedrolls. Adam sings loudly as he finds a spot in the stream to wash before making breakfast of bread and fish. He had bought the fish the day before and is dying to cook it especially now that he has friends to cook for and to impress with his cooking skills. He continues to sing as he washes his face and beard, noticing a few deer drinking on the other side.
The youngest deer has stopped drinking and lifts her little beady brown eyes to stare at Adam who only chuckles and continues to sing about fair maidens, dwarves, and magic. The fawn slowly sways a bit then looks behind her startled as she hears her family walking away. She looks back at Adam, swishing her tail as if thanking him for the song before she bounds off back into the forest after her family.
Adam dries his face and hands on his shirt and heads back towards camp, grabbing sticks to start a new fire with, no longer singing but humming quieter since he didn’t want to wake the other two just yet. He gets the fire going before he produces three fish and pans from a separate bag that sits beside his sleeping bag. He puts the pan down on top of a shelf he makes out of more wood and puts the fish in it, licking his lips at the thought of eating the fish. He snaps his fingers and goes back to his bag, pulling out day-old bread to put the fish on once they are cooked.
He hears someone stirring from one of the sleeping bags and turns to see Kyle sitting up, rubbing his eyes as he looks around.
“What is that smell?” Kyle asks as he looks for the source of the sizzling and the delicious smells.
“Fish! I am cooking you all a good meal for the hard journey ahead,” Adam says proudly as he pokes at the fish.
“Eat quick! I want to be on the road within the hour,” a voice comes to them from above.
They both look up to see Eric already awake and climbing back down from one of the nearby trees, having been on watch for a while. He drops to the ground and begins to pack up his items onto his horse, wanting to be ready to leave right after they eat.
Adam hears the urgency in Eric’s voice and leaves the food to pack his own things, Kyle sitting beside the fire to watch the food and to wake himself up. Once finished, Eric takes over watching the food so that Kyle can pack and get ready for another hard day of travel.
In no time at all, the horses are packed and ready to go, Eric having fed all three horses some oats and carrots when he had gotten up and had let them drink from the stream. The Elf, Dwarf, and Thief sit around the fire, eating the delicious fish on their bread, tossing bones into the fire as they eat. Eric eats as fast as he can, wanting to leave immediately but he knows that even if he finishes first, he would have to wait for the other two. But to his astonishment, Kyle and Adam finish eating quickly and are on their horses ready to ride with the rising sun. With the campfire nothing more than smoky ash, the three gallops back towards the path, heading towards the City of Dragons.
Sarah wakes up feeling almost as if she had been drinking the night before and have woken up with a hangover, rubbing her eyes a bit. Her mouth is dry, her heart is pounding a bit, and her head spinning. She glances around to see that Sapphire is nowhere to be seen, her bedroll empty and already growing cold. The fire is still lit as Laeros had woken occasionally, relighting it with his breath so the two girls did not get cold during the night. Laeros himself has seemed to have wandered off, leaving broken tree branches in his wake and giant feet prints in the ground. Sarah sits up slowly as the world tilts this way and that, groaning and placing her hand against her head, wondering what had happened the night before to cause such a reaction. She continues to look for Sapphire but the fairy is missing.
Sarah slowly stands up on wobbly legs and decides to pack the sleeping bags, definitely not feeling well enough to escape now. She places everything beside a tree and then looks around again just as Sapphire walks out of the forest with wet hair and carrying some fish.
“I will cook these, we will eat, and then we will go. We need to get to Trent by tonight. No more stops unless going to the bathroom,” she looks pointedly at Sarah. Without waiting for a response, Sapphire gets busy cooking, eyeing the packed bedrolls. She only nods her head in thanks.
Sarah brushes her hair the best that she can with her fingers as she waits for some breakfast, “Laeros isn’t here.”
“No, he is getting breakfast again but he will return soon so we can get back to flying.”
Sarah tried to start a conversation with Sapphire but the fairy seems to have shut down, not answering or paying attention. Sarah wonders if something has happened that has made Sapphire not trust her enough to talk again like they had conversed last night. Growing frustrated, Sarah goes quiet, only thanking Sapphire for the fish, picking at the fish at first but begins to eats quickly when she gets a glare so fierce from Sapphire that it makes her shiver.