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~*~

They had rented a single large room with two beds. The Swollen foot was not a luxurious inn and could only barely pass for moderate. But none of the four companions complained when a rat skirted out the room upon opening the door. Nadia did not even notice the dust that puffed up from the bed when the knight rested her on it. The only thing she noticed was a slow creak as the wooden frame threatened to give way under her weight, and then she was back to unconsciousness.

Daniel and the knight stood staring at her, not uttering a single word. They had thought she was a goner. They had seen the golem smash down on her with arms thick as the entire bed she lay on. How had she remained, dusty and unconscious and yet unscathed, lying in the rubble that should've meant her death.

And then there was Matthew. He stood next to the small window of the room, hand resting on its wooden frame, eyes staring out into the distance.

He too had died, for how could one survive what he did. All were very aware of the swarms of trolls that washed over him as they made their escape. It didn't matter that he was feline. No one was supposed to survive that.

Daniel broke free of the shock. He exhaled deeply and closed the door. He turned as it clicked into place and faced his companions

"I... I saw her. she was standing right in front of me." Matthew said suddenly.

The knight helped Daniel who seemed to be having trouble sitting, onto the other bed.

"We'll discuss what happened tomorrow." The knight said. "We need to rest for now."

Matthew nodded absentmindedly. The thought of resting made him want to collapse where she stood.

"You and I will have to sleep on the floor."

Again, Matthew nodded, eyes not for an instant, leaving the window. Nothing but darkness and stars stretched out into the horizon.

"You are unlike most feline" Daniel let out.

"I wouldn't know." He replied.

The knight looked between the two, whispered something to himself, and headed for the door.

*

"What's your name?" The knight asked a little girl who'd ushered them into the inn. She was about fourteen years of age and had an edgy accent.

"Rose." She said. "My mother will be here soon. I told her about your wounded friends, and she went to the garden to get some herbs. She's really good with herbs."

"Thank you, Rose. Do many people come past here?"

"Not really. Only troll hunters and rarely travelers to and from Solestia. Most of which are messengers anyways, so I don't think those count. You are not messengers, are you? And the other one... is it a feline?"

"Hush!" A woman walked in and lightly smacked Rose on the back of her head. "She's a nosy one my young Rose, please forgive her."

"It's quite alright." said the knight, smiling at the little girl. "Young minds are often curious. It's what makes them beautiful after all."

The woman reciprocated the smile. Her eyes darted to the sword on the knight's hip but just as quickly she looked away.

"My name's Mellinda Ironfoot. It's nice to have visitors that respect knowledge over brawn."

"Charles Simon." The knight replied, shaking the woman's hand.

"My daughter informed me that some of you are injured so I went and got these." She gestured to her bag which she left dangling on her side. "May I see to them? It will not cost you extra."

"You are too kind. " The knight bowed gratefully to the woman.

*

Mellinda was indeed, good with herbs. After washing the injured boys' wounds there was no trace of oozing blood and their pained scowls had all but faded. She lay some leaves over their cuts and gashes saying that they'd stop the wounds from getting infected. She also made the feline drink a thin broth that she said was to give him the strength that he'd lost along with his blood and was to ensure that he did not die in his sleep. After that she offered Charles a concoction that he was supposed to rub on his swollen feet and other bruised places, she went on to check on the princess.

"She was travelling with real men, to have come out unharmed and without a single scar." Mellinda commented. If she expected an answer, she did not receive it.

She washed and rubbed the princess' legs before leaving the travelers to their grim reliving of whatever had befallen them.

Minutes after, Rose came knocking.

"Extra blankets." The girl said cheerily. Holding the furs out for Nadia to take. " As our only guests you can have as many as you want. Mother says its fine if you take another room too. No extra costs since they are not in use anyway. Only the one at the end of the corridor is occupied. I would not go near there if I were you. The man there said he was a ghost."

Daniel flinched at the comment, bur remained silent as the girl went on to tell the about which rooms were best and furthest away from the creepy ghost man.

"That's alright but we'll stay together." Charles responded kindly.

Rose stole a look in the feline's direction before darting out of the room.

*

Matthew woke up to the sound of singing birds and a familiar thunk that reminded him of an axe hitting against a tree. The floor, though hard, had been surprisingly more comfortable than he had imagined. Daniel lay on the bed next to him and the princess, already up, was folding her sheets on the bed opposite.

"Where's sir Charles?" Matthew asked.

"You are awake!" Nadia exclaimed. "He's helping the Ironfoots with wood for breakfast. I was about to go out there myself."

"Where is it?" He asked in a serious tone.

"I don't know." She replied, knowing what he was referring to. It had been on her mind ever since the golem incident. "It kind of just faded into my hand... I... I can still feel it."

She inspected her small hands curiously. There was nothing odd about them, the glowing gem had been hard and substantial only for a second before fading into her palm. Now, only the dirt stuck in her nails betrayed the fact that all was not as it should have been.

Matthew stood up and limped outside. He was glad she was well but could not find a way to voice it. The sudden embarrassment he felt when he recalled how close to her he'd stood in the vision was more than enough motivation to leave her folding as she was.

The sun was up, golden and glorious against the blue sky. Several rain clouds wondered about aimlessly casting shadows on the mountain sides. The bird's melodious cacophony was louder now that he was outside. The euphoric scene was made even more beautiful by the familiar dew drops that sparkled as they rolled off grass blades.

"Good morning there." Matthew was greeted by the woman who'd tended to them the night before, whom he assumed was the inn keeper. "I'm Mellinda. I don't believe we've been formally introduced."

The woman had to shift a basket she was carrying to her left hand in order to give Matthew a proper handshake. She was old. Somewhere in her late fifties by his estimations. Her brown hair fell around her barely wrinkled brown face in long entangled curls. Her warm green eyes that reminded him of his mother latched on to his and held his gaze. She smiled at him. It was a smile so genuine it would shame an anthurium's petal.

"Morning." Matthew replied. " Matthew."

"So I've been told." She seemed to consider something, " We don't see many of your kind here."

Matthew thought a while. Then decided to just nod.

"In fact. We don't see any of your kind. Only rumors and paintings. Only now do I realize how wrong they were."

"How wrong?" Matthew asked, curious.

"Well, you are much less scary in person for one. Handsome if I dare say. And not half as barbaric."

"But barbaric nonetheless." Matthew replied with a knowing smirk.

The woman smirked back playfully.

"All people are barbaric. Just some more than others. Not that I agree with the feline ways or what I've heard of them. No. But I've seen humans do worse with mine own eyes. When you've traveled as I have you see things. Terrible, terrible things and- oh, I'm blabbering again. Forgive me. I had gotten used to having my husband stop me when I drift in conversation. And here I go again."

"It's okay. My mother was just as talkative. If not more. Where's your husband?" Matthew asked, then regretted the question when the woman's expression gloomed at his words.

"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to pry." He added.

Mellinda smiled again, the gloom washed away just as quickly as it had appeared.

"I better go prepare the food. It seems the fire is already burning. I could use a hand in the kitchen..." With that she headed around the house.

Matthew decided to follow her. He had nothing better to do and lying in bed was out of the question, he was not about to let his thoughts wander freely in his mind.

And just as he was bent on trying to avoid the commotion in his mind, sir Charles rounded the corner at a jog, axe in hand.

"Matthew!" He swung a glance past Melinda, then turned back to Matthew, "Get to the princess, now!"

Matthew did not stop to think or question the order. He simply just turned and ran.

~*~

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A note from Maxwell Dark

///How's that for a long chapter? And what has the knight so concerned after they've finally found some refuge? I do hope you stay tuned and leave a vote!


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About the author

Maxwell Dark

  • South Africa
  • Mr

Bio: *Published Author: English Alive 50, a National Magazine. Phuluso-My story (A little token from when I was in high-school, good were those days.)

*Editor of The Lost Redeemer by @DavidMusk (Currently editing this. Check it out, it is Epic!)

Maxwell Dark is a pretty great fella. If he is not writing wholesome fantasy novels or poems, then he can be found reading wholesome fantasy novels and poems. Not that he does not have a life mind you. He does occasionally do the socializing and has a few he calls friends.
Now, back to the writing. Here are some of the stories that he'll be sharing on here. He would really appreciate you checking them out and perhaps chatting with him through comments or personal messages. He will make it well worth your time.

Some books to watch out for by Maxwell Dark.

*The Blades Of Fate Trilogy
- King of Solace (ongoing, also available on Wattpad)
-King of War (Coming soon)
-Demon King
*Dark Reviews (Only on Wattpad)
*Lillian and the Seeds Of Hope (A Blades of Fate prequel)
*Beauty In Darkness
*Mascara Tears (A Romance, Crime Thriller)
*A dreamer's Journey (A Short story Collection, featuring: Phuluso- my story)
*A Broken Man's Ballads (A poetry collection)

Do consider donating to my Patreon to keep my works free! Link can be found on my fiction.

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