They came out of the cave into bright morning sunlight, the mist almost completely lifted except for in shaded areas where there were rocky overhanging cliffs.
Glancing about, Yoreno saw no sign of the warriors from the encampment. In fact, there were no other signs that there was an encampment back here at all, except for the naturally worn trail in the dry grass.
“Good,” he said. “I don’t see any enemies.”
“We’re home free,” Mai said.
“Not quite,” Dell said.
“We need to get away from here,” Sorika added as she walked to the front of the group where Dell was. “They may have trackers.”
“I agree,” Dorrin said. “I can help us obscure our trail.”
Yoreno nodded. “Good.”
Once they were free, they could continue their original quest. Yoreno moved forward. “On me.”
He stalked out into the pass, then made his way toward the north.
“Where are we going?” Lev asked. “Do you even know, Yor?”
“I have the map,” Yoreno said. “They left it with my sachel.”
“Not really,” Dell said. “We were only in captivity for a day. They were probably intending to divide or sell our things soon.”
“In any event,” Yoreno said as they crossed the path and started up a rocky incline leading to what he thought were a series of lakes and roads, “we have our things. Now let’s get away.”
He started climbing. It was difficult and steep, so he used his hands to pull himself up.
As he neared the top, footsteps from the rise approached. With his eyes widening and his heart lurching into his mouth, he stopped. “Shh! Someone’s coming!”
“Shit!” Lev said, unfastening his bow from his back. “I’ll put an arrow in him.”
Yoreno pulled his sword out of its scabbard a good handbreadth, ready to reveal his naked blade entirely.
The figures became visible over the rise and Lev loosed his arrow. But the shaft didn’t land. The man flicked his wrist and deflected the arrow with the flat of his curved blade.
This was not good, Yoreno thought. This fighter—this warrior knew how to fight—as they did.
The warrior said nothing, his sword held low at his side.
“Be careful,” Yoreno muttered to the group as he held eye contact with the man. He wore high quality shin guards, a leather cloak that covered his shoulders, front and back that was open at the sides—and covering his face, was a dirty-white linen wrapped over his head and face.
But he was different than the men inside the encampment. His look and the color of his garments were not the same.
“Who are you?” Yoreno demand as the Emblazoned Party fanned out over the rocks, ready to fight this single man as one group. “Reveal yourself!”
The man pulled back his face cloth and Yoreno gasped.
“Dantera?” he asked.
“What in the name of all the gods and goddesses,” Lev muttered. “It’s Lady Brennovo!”
“Si,” she said with a grin. “It is me. It is good to see you, Yoreno.”
“There is no time to talk,” she interrupted. “The fires at the front of the encampment are due to my efforts, but they will soon learn that there is no enemy assailing them. They will come into these hills and scour the area for their escaped prisoners, yes?”
Yoreno nodded. “We believe so, but with Sorika and Dorrin, we think we’ll be able to lose their trackers.”
Dantera’s green eyes flicked up toward the hills and rocks as beast riders thundered up the hills toward them.
“As I said,” she went on, “there is no time to talk.”
Bio: Some believed me to be a wandering samurai, or a vagrant, or possibly a ninja—though perhaps in my infinite mystery, I am none of these things. Whichever the case, I wander home as Odysseus did after the great Trojan War in some realm unbeknownst to our world. And—by direct theft of a quote from a certain dwarf named Varric Tethras—"I occasionally write books."