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The Storyteller Chapter 4
He woke up to a sharp pain in his head. He felt arms around him, gently holding him up, and saw again Vivian’s face. Seeing him stir, she smiled and called for Emmett. He was lying on the grass to the side of the road, not far from where he had been before. Vivian kissed his forehead, and he managed a smile as Emmett come over to examine him.
He had no wounds as far as he could tell, but he was exhausted. Gathering the strength to speak, he managed to groan “Wha’ ‘appened?”
“I’m not sure,” said Vivian. “That thing had me, and then it just dropped dead, and I saw falling on the ground and I thought you had died too. But Emmett said not to worry too much, that you’d be alright. I don’t know what it was that happened. But Emmett killed the other one when he saw you on the ground so it couldn’t hurt us.”
“And you’re alright?” Ronin asked, having regained his ability to speak. “They didn’t hurt you did they?”
“I’m fine,” she said, running her fingers over the spot on her neck where the vicious attacker had broken the skin with the dagger. “A few cuts, but nothing serious.”
Ronin was about to voice his concerns at the nasty looking line, but Emmett, having remained silent until this point, interrupted him. “We are not safe, not yet. Those were just scouts,” he said. “More of them will be coming soon. We are not safe. There is not time to save everyone. We must escape on our own. I had hoped you would come without bringing Vivian with you, but I guess a man must protect the ones he loves.”
“Master, we must at least warn them! Are we to leave them to be slaughtered in their sleep?”
“No, but we have no time to stay and help them,” he answered as he climbed onto his horse’s saddle and handed the reins of the other horse he had prepared to Ronin, who climbed on and helped Vivian on behind him. “Ay! Hear!” he shouted suddenly, waking everyone in town. “Wake and defend your homes and your families! There are attackers marching to the village! Men, stand and fight! Women, take your children and hide!” And by the time anyone had come out of their homes, the three of them were out of the village.
Ronin was reluctant to leave the village in danger, but he had never disobeyed his teacher, and did not intend to start. Emmett had left several questions left unanswered however, and Ronin wanted to know the answers. After they had ridden several miles in silence, Ronin spoke up.
“Master, I don’t understand what has been happening. Who were the people who attacked us? And who is coming now? Did they send the attackers? How do you know that they are coming? And what happened when I fell?”
“Slow down!” laughed the old man. “Your questions will all be answered soon enough. But there is not much I can tell you here, as there may be spies near the road. We are travelling around the force marching on the village, but they may have scouts on the other roads.”
“Is there nothing you can tell me now?”
“Let it suffice to know that your attackers came for me, not you, and yes, they were sent to go before the others. Does that satisfy you for now?”
“Good. Now let us keep our heads down and our voices low until we know we have escaped capture.”
They rode on for several hours, making sure to avoid the main road to their village, heading south towards Varnost. They stopped briefly for a light lunch, eating in a clearing out of sight from the road. They continued on, and as the sun was getting low in the sky, they passed a turn in the road and saw the walls of Varnost not far away. Reaching the city, they passed through the gates without incident.
Ronin had been to the city several times, once with Vivian. He recognized the sounds and smells of the city though, as it was very strange to one who had lived in a small village for his whole life. The whole city reeked of sweat and garbage, just as, he was told, every other city did. The crowded streets overwhelmed him, and the constant noise took a long time to adjust to. Despite this, he stared in wonder at all of the things he saw around him. There were markets that sold all kinds of produce and shops selling clothing, cooking utensils, hunting weapons, and anything else one could need.
Although Ronin had no sense of direction in this world of strange and wonderful things, Emmett seemed to know where they were going, and they followed him through the city for the better part of an hour, until they reached an inn. It was run down, and seemed not to have anything of interest nearby, but it occurred to Ronin that Emmett had chosen it for that reason. They walked into the tavern, and as Ronin and Vivian huddled shyly near the door, Emmett went to talk to the bartender in a hushed voice. He soon came back and led them upstairs to their room.
Opening the door, they found that the room was crowded with two beds and a desk with a small chair in front of it. The beds were against the walls to either side of them walking in, and the desk was in the corner between the left and back walls. There was a small window on the back wall next to the desk. There was nothing else in the room, and little floor space.
“Well, it’s not much, but it’ll have to do. We mustn’t be too conspicuous while we stay here. I’ll take this bed,” Emmett said, gesturing to the bed on the right, “and you two can share that one, as it looks a little bigger.”
“Share a bed?” asked Vivian, seeming surprised. “We’re not married! We cannot share a bed!”
“I understand your feeling, and it is honorable sentiment indeed,” answered Emmett, “but these are not ordinary times, and we must all go out of our zones of comfort. Ronin is an honorable man, and I do not see reason not to let the two of you share a bed.”
“I suppose you are right. We have courted long enough for me to know that you would not do anything to me, Ronin.”
“Of course not, love,” replied Ronin. “Now let us all unpack our belongings and then find something to eat, shall we?”
“Yes, it is getting late and we’ll not want to unpack in the dark,” concluded Emmett. At this, they all unpacked their saddlebags and went downstairs to the tavern for dinner. There was much drinking, but Ronin only drank one glass of wine, knowing that he had to have control of himself that night. Emmett however, drank several glasses of a stronger brew, and staggered back to the room after Ronin and Vivian had gone to sleep.