Paranoia plagued me after our encounter. Every shady tree or low-lying scrub became suspicious sources of danger, yet we saw no trace of our attackers for the rest of the day. My anxiety eased slightly as evening approached having put some distance behind us. Graciul was ever watchful.
I began to reign in the horses and mentally preparing for setting up camp. Graciul lightly touched my arm.
“Keep going.” He pointed ahead. “Just a little further.”
With a moment’s consideration of his serious expression, I coaxed some speed from the horses and journeyed on for a while longer. The stars began to appear overhead, and the sounds of night-life grew. I pulled my cloak tighter against the evening chill. It was a contrast to the stormy evening of the night before.
Graciul eventually leaned across and indicated a small group of trees off to the right.
“There. Into the trees. We need to hide the wagon.”
As instructed, I led the wagon into the trees. I dismount and began to unstrap the horses when Graciul again spoke.
“Don’t. Leave them on the wagon. We may need them.” He look at me with a serious expression but his eyes saw through me, his awareness elsewhere and everywhere. I felt my anxiety rise again and furtively looked about. Everything seemed quiet, but the shadows now felt foreboding.
Setting up camp became a simple affair consisting of clearing space in the wagon for one to sleep. Graciul climbed into the trees watching over the camp while I attempted to find some rest, which took a long time. Little rustles in the bushes and trees made it difficult to rest at first, but tiredness eventually won and I drifted into slumber.
It felt I had only just fallen asleep when I was being lightly tapped. Graciul was crouched over me.
“We need to go.”
I was alert in seconds and rushed to the front of the wagon. There sat Tobus, hands bound behind his back, in the middle of the driver’s bench. Graciul took his place at the right side, as I clambered into the bench to take up the reigns. I glanced at Tobus to see a battered face. He smiled at me and nodded his head.
“Let’s go.” Graciul sounded urgent.
I lashed the reigns and lead the wagon back to the main road. Just as we broke the tree-line, there was a crashing of leaves and a growl of frustration. I glanced over my shoulder to see two men emerge further down the road from us, one looked like the large man from before.
“TOBUS! YOU GET BACK HERE!”
Tobus whimpered next to me and turned to look at him. He sat there rigid, wide-eyed, and afraid. Graciul turned and fired at the two men. There was a sharp exclamation of surprise from behind but I had no idea if the shot found its mark or not. I flicked the reigns harder, coaxing more speed from the horses as we got on to the main road. There was an angry cry from behind and Tobus twitched drawing in a sharp deep breath.
I turned to see the handle of a blade sticking out from Tobus’s shoulder. Blood was beginning to soak into his robes. Graciul fired another arrow then turned to catch Tobus as the injured boy fell to his side.
“Get us out of here.”
And that I did.
We rode at speed through the moonlit darkness and shortly cleared the trees. Before us was a long open plain and the road reflected the moonlight like a line of chalk, guiding our way. Graciul held Tobus and attempted to stop the bleeding pressing tightly around the blade still lodged in the boy’s shoulder.
Time passed without awareness and we sped on. Soon the sun was rising and I could make out the outskirts of the Haven in the distance. A day-and-a-half’s journey normally, we had cut that short in out desperate escape. I suddenly felt tired and slowed the horses to a trot.
“How is he?”
Graciul looked down at Tobus. “He’s alive.”
“What happened back there?”
Graciul then recounted the events of the night while I had slept. He had been keeping watch when he had noticed movement in the shadows. Tobus had emerged and began creeping toward the wagon. Graciul fired an arrow at this feet forcing Tobus to stop.
“Don’t come any closer.”
Tobus dropped to his knees with his arms stretched out. “I’ve come here to warn you. They are looking for you. They’ll be here soon.” He kept his voice low.
Graciul dropped from his vantage point and kept his bow trained on Tobus.
“Lay on the ground. Face down.” Tobus did so, and Graciul stepped closer. “Cross your hands over your back.” Tobus did so, and Graciul took rope he had used to climb the trees and bound his arms together. He then stood Tobus up and faced him. “Why should I believe you?”
Tobus looked at him and nodded. “You shouldn’t, but that is Master Walker in there, and I owe him. He helped me and my family more than once. If I can help him in return, I will, and we don’t have much time. They’ll be here soon.”
Graciul made the decision to get Tobus onto the wagon before turning to wake me.
I looked at Tobus as he lay bleeding and felt very unworthy. He had put his own life on the line to save mine from whatever fate had awaited me. My services to him and his family seemed paltry in comparison, but I could yet repay the young boy. The Haven was less than half-a-day’s ride now. If I could save his life, I would feel the dept repaid. He had earned that. I lashed the reigns and the horses picked up their pace. They would rest well once we arrived.
My mind was plagued with thoughts, memories, and fears. Two days filled with troubling events and discoveries. There was a lot to be discussed. I felt that I would not be resting well for some time to come.