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Chapter 2-10

Page history last edited by Anonymoose 9 years, 1 month ago

Verdant green fields, fallow hills and lush meadows, that was the blissful scenery the three of us were treated to. From cruel desert sands and barren salt plains to crude uninhabited savanna which suddenly gave way to life. A mixture of tall pine and leafy trees stretched out in the three directions before us. It made the previous days seem like a cruel lie. The air was heavy with dew and the smell of spring. It was so heavy with life that the crushing feeling on my shoulders had all but vanished. The curse which hounded us, tortured us, was long gone.

 

Now that doom incarnate was no longer watching over my shoulder, my mind was free to wander once more. All the effort I put into salvaging my sanity and keeping my stiff dead legs moving forward could be spared, and my first thoughts were just how improbable this whole world is. Those were dangerous thoughts before, much like wondering why the feral beast is gnawing on your leg. “How did this happen?” the man who is soon to die will think. The answer to that question can come later, after you save your life and maybe your leg if you're lucky. Thinking is the last thing to do in that situation; it is much better to do, just as I kept walking instead of wasting all my efforts thinking why all that had to happen to me.

 

Ignoring my two companions and the slew of other fantastical creatures I've met, this world itself betrays my every expectation. The shortness of the days, length of night, the climate and the vegetation all seemed off to me. Even if it was spring we had to be somewhere north of sixty. If this world was as big and not larger or smaller than Earth, my guess at our current latitude meant that desert—and what it had been—had no reason to exist.

 

I saw visions of what that place looked like; it belonged a good thirty degrees latitude south, so why would it exist in a place like this? No matter how long I thought about it nothing made sense. Nothing added up. A few thousand years, even ten thousand years passing didn't seem like enough. Were there powers at work here in this world beyond my understanding? Was Susan's talk of gods not just ceremonial but literal? Some sort of destruction god tricked the people of that kingdom, descended upon it and then promptly destroyed it completely within a decade? Was that scar in the landscape, the barren sands and the curse all his doing? If all the other gods are long gone, including him, why is that one god's power alone still active? Perhaps answers to those mysteries are still buried beneath the sand, but I wasn't ready to go back, not ever.

 

I was still flanked on either side by the two girls. Every so often they would argue with one another, but so long as I was between them, they didn't seem so keen to start throwing punches. Maybe the irritation went away along with the looming feeling of doom? Maybe the competition over who was going to be the one to save my life from the curse was over? Since no one was bragging, and they were still at each others throats, neither had confidence victory was theirs. The current truce may lie in the common goal we faced, the promise of a warm bed and roof over our head.

 

We had run completely out of food and water, but with life now surrounding us Rose was free to run rampant. She was a vicious hunter, not patient, diligent or professional, and the small animals she brought back were mangled instead of caught. Anything would do right now though. Rose almost didn't set out, but our rumbling stomachs, hers being the loudest, eventually moved her to leave the camp. She was apprehensive about leaving her rival alone with me, but even I knew full well it wasn't within Susan's character to do anything. Wasn't it?

 

A few nuts, berries, tubers and grasses were accessible to Susan and me, so we did our part. The portions to feed the three of us were quite minuscule; we were still going to be marching hungry. If I complained I was afraid these two would shovel theirs onto my plate. They have their pride as do I, so such a thing would be unthinkable for me. Besides, if anything were to happen, it's them who would need their strength, not me.

 

Susan was diligently working without a word until I began boiling a pot of water over the makeshift campfire Rose had started before leaving. Susan was sitting on her knees on the opposite side of the fire and had been for some time. I didn't notice she had been watching and studying me until I happened to look up and make eye contact.

 

     The moment I did she asked immediately, “Why go through such lengths to boil water so thoroughly? The ingredients are not yet prepared for our meal.”

 

I wasn't prepared for the question, and I sat back up away from the pot. My eyes wandered left and right while my brain jostled back to its senses.

 

     “Why would I boil water? So I don't get cholera?” I answered dubiously.

 

I thought that would have been a suitable enough answer, but the anubis's ears twitched, and her brow furrowed. My sarcastic answer didn't seem to improve her mood or sate her curiosity.

 

     “Pharaoh, even I will not excuse you for poor manners...”

 

Now was the time to backpedal. She was holding back a trembling voice as well as her temper.

 

     “A disease. Okay? A bacterium that likes stagnant water. I'd rather not get sick.”

 

     “Bacterium?' She asked inquisitively.

 

Susan's tail was now wagging back and forth behind her, slapping the dirt behind and to the left and right of her. Her ears perked up, and her frown vanished into a wide eyed expression.

 

     “Tiny little organisms, they multiply quickly and make the body sick. These make you... well...”

 

     “Make you what? Pray tell.”

 

She was getting a little excited and leaned forward. I had to look away because her eye contact was getting a little intense.

 

     “Well... They wait in water, reproduce inside the digestive system, and then make the body sick so it expels water back out and through. Then there's more water with them to keep the cycle going and make it worse.”

 

I was a little embarrassed talking about such a thing, with a girl that is... Well I suppose I had to admit despite her demeanor and appearance, she was still a girl after all. Even if she tried to act so mature all the time only to have a near temper tantrum at the drop of a hat. I stole a glance back at her to see her reddish brown eyes were sparkling.

 

     “How is it that you know this is true? That water appears clear to me. Are you saying they are so small they cannot be seen? What would lead you to believe they exist at all?”

 

     “Well, if you get something magnify your vision enough... you can see them.”

 

Susan sat back up, rested her weight on all fours and started to crawl around the fire toward me. I wasn't all there, so I didn't react right away when she started moving closer toward me with sparkling eyes. When I did, I scooted back a bit and ran into a tree trunk pretty quickly. I didn't have anywhere to go when the anubis had one paw between my legs, and her eyes were level with my own looking directly at me. I was getting flushed and turning red, I could feel it.

 

     “Is that knowledge you know from your world?” She said with gushing curiosity.

 

     “W-well, yes.” I blustered.

 

Wait a moment. What did she just?... When did I ever mention to her?...

 

Before Susan could press even closer, her head suddenly jolted back. She let our a yelp and series of whines. A pair of claws pinched around one of her ears and yanked her backwards. Standing behind her, with a bunch of small animals, rabbits, squirrels and birds, held under her arm like a bundle of logs, was Rose. Her face betrayed that she was quite pissed.

 

     “Oh? Oh ho ho? What's this?” Rose said; her forced laughter dripping with venom. “I leave for a few minutes, and you go into heat?”

 

Susan didn't back down; she was defiant and did not sound apologetic, “Release me at once you troglodyte! We were about to have an important conversation.”

 

     “Sure you were.” Rose said drawing out her voice in mocking suspicion. “I didn't expect proud Hannah to do something like-”

 

     “My name is not Hannah!”

 

Their fight was about to continue when both their stomachs gurgled loudly in unison. In perfect sync they rested a hand on their stomach and lost their will to fight. Retreating from their battle, they went their separate ways: washing, chopping, skinning and butchering. Rose dropped it all into the pot I had prepared. My pot of what was once fresh boiled and safe water. I didn't even have the strength to protest. I suppose a stew is good enough. It wouldn't do much for my parched throat though... Even Susan didn't pick a fight on my behalf; she just merely dropped a slew of plants into it for seasoning.

 

With our first fresh meal in days, we all greedily plunged into it, ravenously sating our hunger. It was a different kind of silence, besides all the slurping and crunching. The second to my dismay, and apparently to Susan as well, because Rose didn't seem to have bothered to debone the game. She merely pulverized and crushed the bones with her jaws and razor sharp teeth. Rather than getting myself swept up in the array of uncouth table manners and culinary blunders, I decided I needed to ask some important questions. Such as 'where the hell are we going anyways?'

 

     So I asked Rose directly, “You said we were going to Vilmheim, I guess we're technically there, but what is this place? You were excited about it...”

 

Rose perked up from her bowl, a rabbit bone sticking out from her mouth; she looked at me and crunched down on the bone with a sickening snap. Hardly chewing, she swallowed her mouthful.

 

     With a chipper voice she replied, “Yeah! I've been here before. About a year ago. It was being invaded at the time, I signed up for some mercenary work. It was a really good fight!”

 

Just a year ago this place was a war zone? Maybe it still is. Could I really be so relived and excited to be out of the desert and back into a place like this? I really needed to start readjusting my expectations about everything Rose said.

 

     “You most certainly are not taking us into a war zone.” Susan said, voicing her concerns. “We will not be gallivanting into danger just for your amusement.”

 

     “Huh?” Rose hissed intimidatingly. “I said I was here a year ago. If there was still fighting, I wouldn't have left.” Looking back at me with a polar opposite switch in sweetness she chirped to me, “Of course then I would have never met you, husband, so I'm glad it ended quickly.”

 

     “And will you cease referring to the Pharaoh as your 'husband'? I never permitted that kind of arrangement, and I never shall! I thought I may tolerate your babbling, but I've had quite about enough of it.”

 

Rose's tail popped, and a couple of embers flew off. The hair on Susan's tail began to stand on end, and they both started to bare fangs at each other.

 

     “You can't tell me what to do, and we were married long before you showed up, so back off mutt!”

 

     “Mutt!? You credulous little-” She took a deep breath and returned to her calm and stoic face. “Yes, that is correct. I will tell you what to do. I am the guardian of Pharaoh Laven, and as the watcher over his family I will have the final say about such things! I won't have some lowborn thug such as yourself sully the bloodline.”

 

Just one quick meal later, and the two of them had the energy to once again bite at the others throat. I could see sparks flicker in the air when their gazes met one another.

 

     “Can you two knock it off?” I said. “I want to make it to this place today. We're close enough for that. Aren't we Rose?”

 

Rose snapped back from her glaring contest with Susan and went deep into thought.

 

     “Well, I guess...”

 

     “Okay, good enough.” I said abruptly, cutting her off. “Then let's get moving.”

 

Maybe if there were bystanders and witnesses other than myself, these two would keep the peace. Until I managed to drill it into their heads that fighting was not allowed, there needed to be something else to prevent the two of them from killing each other. It was still early afternoon with maybe another five hours left until we would have to spend another night in the wilderness. Another night with these two fighting over me while I try to sleep. I'm not sure they'd last another night like that without bloodshed. Maybe I was overreacting and paranoid, but I'd rather not risk it.

 

As the day went on, and our journey through the woods, down animal paths and toward what I hoped was civilization, I began to regret bringing up Vilmheim at all. The look of resignation and looseness of Susan told me she felt the same way. Ever since Rose mentioned Vilmheim, she would not stop talking about the fights and battles she took part in there. I suppose saying that would sound strange; such stories should be interesting, but Rose had a disjointed and hard to follow style of story telling. She was so eager to tell her stories to me that she did so walking backwards to fully convey each expression and moment of excitement with wide swings of her arms. She. Just. Wouldn't. Stop. Perhaps my irritation was due to how jealous I was of her having so much energy where I did not.

 

She nearly smacked me across the face once or twice while waving her arms around. She didn't notice at all, such was her usual level of excitement while talking about old exploits. If you ignore the excruciating details of every bone she broke, sword swing she swung and person she made soil themselves on the field of battle, they might sound heroic. She spoke so quickly each story blended together into another; I couldn't make heads or tails of any. The face of pure joy and excitement on her face though... I dared not stop her, I'm not sure her heart could take it, and my own conscience wouldn't be able to bear looking at her after.

 

While she continued to regale us with her war stories, the three of us continued plodding our way through the countryside. This was the first time I had the luxury of enjoying the scenery this world had to offer. These two girls may have their own agenda, but I was confident they didn't have anything malicious planned. I had been exposed to the kind of cruelty the inhabitants of this would could dish out, and these two were thankfully removed from it. They had their own jealously and greed, but it was a small price to pay for the security. With that security—and clarity that came with it—I enjoyed the untouched scenery from every hilltop: the fish spawning in the streams, the wild deer grazing and leaping through the bushes, birds tweeting in the trees and rodents scurrying and scampering about. I'm sure under some rock there was a centipede or something, but I wasn't going to be bothered with such things for now.

 

For the first time since arriving here, I felt like this was a real adventure. The journey through the desert probably counted, technically, but that was more of a death march than a hike through the woods. I would rather prefer to forget about it completely. My mind instead wandered back to the wildlife; the trees and animals from deer to spider crawling on its web, they all seemed very familiar. This world didn't seem to have its own unique wildlife. The geography was unfamiliar, so were the presence of the monsters, magic and works of gods, but everything else seemed exactly the same as Earth. It was another mystery, maybe one that would help solve all the other ones. Maybe this world wasn't so far removed from my own after all?

 

It took an hour to scale one particularly difficult animal path up a sharp path on a small mountain. I could have sworn it was more a goat path, but Rose, who had taken the lead, seemed determined to tackle it, and Susan didn't protest. When the three of us finally came over the peak, we saw the promised land stretched out before us. With a river running through it and farmers fields stretching out in all directions around it was a city. Thatched and wooden gable roofs, stone and brick buildings and a thick imposing stone wall encompassing the entirety. At it's center, elevated on a small hill, was a large castle keep protected by its own stone wall. Beyond the outer wall was what appeared to be some sort of 'new town', a sprawling expanse of wooden buildings which trickled and thinned out until it eventually became the surrounding farmlands and fields of wheat.

 

Plumes of smoke from hundreds of chimneys billowed into the sky; the sky still dominated by the bright yellow sun making its was across the sky toward the horizon. We still had a few hours of daylight; a straight line would take us to the walls of this city within that time. It was a welcome change from having to make camp on the dirt beneath the stars once again; even though there was no longer any sand to get into everything. There would be a bed, maybe another hot bath... Okay, now is not the time to think about that, not after the last time that still seems fresh in my mind...

 

I think my excitement was being mirrored by the others. Neither of them seemed ready to slow down and wait until tomorrow to get there. Rose excitedly declared it was Vilmheim and doubled her pace. Susan and I were hard pressed to keep up with her, but Rose seemed to have knack for picking the path of least resistance through the forest which grew thick as we came down from the barren and rocky mountain top. There wasn't any time for words; I heaved heavy breaths and sweated up a storm to keep pace with her. An oasis of civilization was waiting, something I had so dearly missed.

 

There was almost a feeling of nostalgia as we emerged from the wilderness and into the field of wheat. It was just like the first time when Rose and I emerged from the woods near Brun. Rose was nowhere near as rigid as she was then. Before she repressed her feelings knowing full well the consequences they might bring. Now she was doing no such thing. Had she forgotten? Susan seemed oblivious; she had been holed up in a tomb for who knows how many thousands of years. Everything was new, but she didn't seem too impressed. Maybe those cities of old were something else completely?

 

Susan was calm as always, as calm as she is when Rose or I don't push her buttons. She may draw attention, seeing as how rare a monster she is, but her behavior was hardly the kind the Church seemed so panicked about. Rose's overt excitement had me worried though.

 

     “Rose, are you sure it's okay to go in so brazenly like this?” I asked.

 

     “Hmm?” Rose hummed puzzlingly. “Of course! This isn't Brun. Vilmheim is a pagan country. They don't hunt monsters or anything like that.”

 

     “She speaks the truth.” Susan nodded in agreement. “There is no law or edict which outright prohibits the residency or transit of monsters.”

 

Rose actually having some knowledge to impart was surprising but not unreasonable. But how would Susan know anything? That was the real surprising part. Just how did she...

 

     “There are demon realms inside Vilmheim. A real odd setup, but it seems to have worked so far.” Rose continued. “Maybe that's why it gets invaded every so often by crusades?”

 

Now things make sense. That is why this place is a flash point. If monsters are tolerated, even a little, the Church of the Almighty would probably see this place as a punching bag. Brun seemed heavily under the Church's influence. Perhaps the same was true for the other nations around here? Demon Realms though, Donald had said they were areas completely under the control of monsters. Realms ruled purely by lust. I would assume civilization would crumble under such extreme conditions.

 

     I had to ask, “Wait. We're just waltzing right into a demon realm?”

 

Rose looked at me sideways as though I had something odd, “No. If this were a demon realm there'd be orgies everywhere or something like that. I haven't seen one yet, so I guess Vilmheim still just had them on the border.”

 

     “Wha?” I bumbled.

 

     “Special zones given special rights, but without rights to move freely.” Susan chimed in. “I see. So these zones would be buffer zones protecting the believers of the old gods...”

 

     “Hold on.” I interrupted. “What are you two talking about?”

 

     “Better to see for ya'self, Laven!” Rose cheerfully shouted.

 

Taking me by the hand, she pulled and broke off into a run. Susan with quick reflexes grabbed onto my other hand, maybe trying to stop her, but ended up only followed behind and being pulled as well. She was shouting her protests to Rose who kept running. There was probably no difference between her not hearing or ignoring her. No one was going to stop this girl, that was what the smile on her face told me. Emerging from the wheat fields and onto the road, we very suddenly surprised the other travelers on the road; we were three oddballs, all hand in hand. Rose looked frantically left and right to get her bearing and continued her run toward the city.

 

The people of this city didn't look at all different from the people of Brun, it seemed we hadn't crossed a boundary in ethnicity or language, but their reaction to the three of us was a world of difference apart. The people of Brun looked at us like we were predators in the distance, not an immediate threat but to be watched cautiously and with fear. People here looked at the three of us like a novel scene. To see the ever jubilant and energetic Rose drag the tired and weary Susan and me behind her was apparently worth a laugh and a smile.

 

Susan was the odd one out; she certainly dressed differently and looked different from anything the people were used to. It made sense though; she was an anubis and, if she was to be believed, possibly the last one. A monster type which had not been seen in thousands of years was bound to be a spectacle. I wasn't sure if she was blushing from all the attention on her or because she was being dragged along so comically.

 

The further we traveled down the road, the thicker and more dense the crowds became. Farmland with busy farmers, shepherds and cattle hands was replaced with hamlets and townsfolk out and about in quaint local market places. An odd troupe such as ours marching through was greeted with friendly waves and hellos, the same shared between everyone else on this winding road to the city center. Stall owners shouted at us to advertise their wares, and children followed the spectacle the best they could. Among the masses of ordinary people, I spotted what made this place unique other than the friendly disposition of the locals. Monsters.

 

They lived and worked so naturally among the other people; it was surprising. I spotted all kinds, a girl who looked part cow, with bovine-like legs, horns from her head and fuzzy cow like ears drooping from her head. She had a young infant, that looked like a small calf-like version of herself, breast feeding on her more than ample bosom. Sitting next to her was a young man; shoulder to shoulder they sat next to each other with blissful looks on their faces. Another girl, with a pair of large floppy and slimy antenna sticking out from her head, had oily moist skin, and rather than legs, she had a slimy slug's tail which I almost mistook for a dress. With hands joined, maybe stuck, together, she was walking...crawling with a young man. They stole lazy glances at one another and shared smiles. The man had to take short gradual steps while the girl pulled herself slowly. It was painfully slow, but they both looked happy regardless.

 

There didn't seem to be any shortage of them. They stood out, but the more I looked, the more they seemed to be in the minority. The majority, more than eighty percent, were regular human couples from young lovers to old married couples. Most of the people were busy working, shopping or going somewhere. All of them out and about like this, it certainly was spring after all. This place seemed as nice a place as any, but Rose still didn't stop, not even for a moment.

 

     “Isn't this place good enough? Seems friendly enough. Why not just find an inn here and...”

 

     “No. Not here. It's safest beyond the wall.” She turned around and showed me a bright smile. “Don't worry, I can get us in.”

 

I didn't know what she was thinking, but even Susan seemed to have a dubious and furrowed expression on her face after hearing Rose dodge of the question.

 

We walked through the new town and between its straight streets and wooden buildings. The large stone wall which separated it from the older city towered above. It was an ancient structure. It stood ten meters tall and must have been three meters thick. The old town inside must be almost two square kilometers, so just building that wall with whatever ancient tools and knowledge were available was a feat in and of itself. Now that we were close, the damage to the wall was obvious. It lent more proof toward there being a battle here recently, and some other older looking marks meant there have been many battles here over this wall's long history. The dirt road finally brought us to the gate house; it towered high above the wall. A thick imposing portcullis hung overhead, and a large wooden door blocked the rest of the massive archway. A smaller wooden door had been opened, big enough to let carts through one at a time, each one being waved through by a team of guards standing ready.

 

A bigger city means more security. A city of this size would have its own army for a garrison who would also play the part of the police. But ten, no, fifteen heavily armed guards seemed a little extreme. The people seemed to move freely outside, but perhaps who got into the inner city was strictly regulated? I was going to find out soon when Rose barreled her way forward. She even had the audacity to push forward and cut in line, much to the frustration of the other cart drivers and travelers waiting patiently in line.

 

The guards noticed her approach quickly; once we got close enough that they realized two of us were monsters they raised their guards and their dreary faces from the daily grind of immigration control was wiped away.

 

     “Hold it right there!” One of them shouted, decorated with extra plumage and most likely the senior officer.

 

These guards were a world of difference from the militia standing outside Brun. They wore thick barbutes and chain mail tunics that stretched down to their ankles and waved around heavy and thick halberds. Their eyes darted out from behind the slits; these were not eyes which were afraid; they were ready to fight.

 

Instead of stopping, Rose only slowed down as she rifled through her bags. She produced her guild papers and held them up at eye level as she marched forward until finally coming to a complete stop only just before the officer. Behind him were fourteen other soldiers with halberds lowered and ready to thrust and chop at a single command. Rose was getting carried away again...

 

     “Guild Business.” Rose said. That's all she said.

 

The officer bent down and looked at the seal and the contents written upon it closely. From behind the slits in his helmet I saw his eyes widen underneath.

 

     “The Thorn Knight?” he said with his mouth now agape.

 

The other soldiers behind him stepped back in unison. They raised their halberds into the air and stood down. There was a clamor behind us, voices birthing and throwing fresh rumors around. Rose just gave another one of her wide toothy smiles.

 

     “That's right. I'm going into the city now.”

 

     “W-wait a minute.” The officer said, mustering his courage. “The other...”

 

     “My husband.” She said so bluntly.

 

Now she did it. The talking behind us exploded. Rose, what the hell were you doing?

 

     “Come on now, Laven. Let's go.”

 

     “Hold. It. Right. There.” Susan said, each word deliberate and with power. “Was this your plan?”

 

Rose turned around and shrugged, unable to wipe that smile off her face.

 

     “I see.” Susan said calmly. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I am disappointed... To think you regard my capabilities this much lower than your own.”

 

She let go of my hand and stepped forward beside Rose and faced the guard. Everyone noticed her presence now, Rose had started the show, but now everyone couldn't help but watch the spectacle and marvel at the novelty of the anubis, a monster no one gathered here has seen or heard of before today. That didn't stop the guards from slowly lowering their halberds to ready themselves again.

 

     She took a deep breath, “Under the Edict of King Freylon IV, the monster control law of 1201, I am required to identify and show proper documents. However...” She stressed that word a little hard. “Under the edict of Queen Gresick III, the religious freedoms law of 784, high ranking religious figures possess diplomatic immunity and freedom of movement within Vilmheim that will not be limited under any reason other than an act of war or at the request of that sect's leadership. That is an extension of the greater Central Empires international law of diplomatic immunity for heads of state all countries must respect. Therefore, as the High Priestess of Anubis I possess such a right to move freely within your boarders. Wherever I please.”

 

Wait... What? How did she... What did she just?

 

     The officer was more taken aback than I was, “Wait just a second. Priestess of what?”

 

I see. The officer's confusion was just like my own. At least I wasn't the only one.

 

Susan slammed her staff into the ground, and it illuminated with a brilliant flash of white light. Her entire body radiated with that warm light that was hard to look at. Everyone present shielded their eyes.

 

     “If you seek proof of divine power, and by extension my rank, then allow me to demonstrate further if that is required. However, know that my patience is now limited. If you wish for me to take this matter to your superiors and voice my great displeasure at your rudeness, then that will come to pass soon as well.” Susan said, each word echoing with ethereal power. It was commanding. Divine.

 

     “Alright! Alright.” The officer pleaded, “That's good enough, please madam, that's more than enough. All we need now is to know who the man is-”

 

Rose and Susan spoke at the same time at the same volume, “My King/My Husband.”

 

They turned on each other, mad the other was trying to butt in.

 

     “He is with me.” Susan barked.

 

     “No! He's with me.” Rose hissed.

 

     "I'm privy to powers beyond your understanding, Lizard."

 

     "Just a fancy light show. If you want to heat things up, I'll show you what real flame can do."

 

While the two of them were exchanging threats and dangerous gazes, complete with sparks and clenched fists, I slipped between them and approached the officer by myself.

 

     “Just let us through, and I'll get them both under control.”

 

I didn't mean for it to come off as a threat, but the guards were obviously quite frightened now. They weren't armed, ready or probably trained for this. All the other people in line behind us had already scrambled to pull back to a safe distance, and a crowd had started growing since some time ago. The officer nodded and yelled at the other to stand down and that they did, in quite a hurry too. They parted to let us through.

 

     “Rose. Susan.” I said sternly.

 

The two of them twitched and looked away from each other and back to me. Their faces were full of concern and dread. I turned around slowly trying to put on a calm and professional smile.

 

     “We can go now.” I said, calmly... I think.

 

Both their faces were complicated. Maybe I wasn't doing a good job at hiding my own emotions, whatever they were. I wasn't sure myself where I lay between relief, anger, confusion and panic. The three of us walked under the portcullis and into the inner city while the spectators remained silent. I wasn't sure what consequences this little scene the two of them showed off was going to cause, but the rumor mill was going to churn out some pretty interesting things by tomorrow. I'd get an explanation from both of them, later.

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