They crossed the Amnis River on the afternoon of the sixth day of travel and camped on the other side in the fading daylight. They had made good time, reaching the river half a day earlier than planned.
After setting up camp for the night and settling in around the campfire, Navihm addressed the group.
“We are a few hours ride from the Second,” he said pointing to the spot on the map where they were camped and then to where the Second was marked. “I have kin there, they can introduce us to their prophet. I think it is in our best interest to get as much information as possible. We will need to pass close to the city regardless.”
“I agree,” said the professor, “we will leave at first light.”
Morning came without incident. While the rest of the group packed up the camp, Navihm backtracked through the trees a good way to the river to refill the canteens. While he crouched on the bank of the Amnis, he felt his wards trigger, someone was closing in on the camp. He left the canteens where they were and went to investigate.
By the time he arrived, the camp was already surrounded by at least ten men, maybe more in the trees. The leader of the group was questioning Hue in Genti with a long, curved sword held near his throat.
Rose was tieing the last of her saddle packs to her horse when the men stepped out of the trees. They all had bronzed skin and dark hair to their shoulders. She recognised them as People of the Tribes by their braids. They must be from the Second. One man stepped out of the trees in front of her and took the horse’s reins from her hands. She cried out in shock from his sudden appearance and backed away, towards the rest of the group. One Genti man stepped forward and drew a sword from the scabbard hanging on his back. Rose spied another pomel sticking out over his other shoulder. He leveled his sword at Hue, who happened to be the closest, and barked something she didn't understand. Hue held his hands up to show he was unarmed and looked back at the professor as if asking him what he should do. The Genti man said something else in his language.
“I'm sorry,” said Hue, edging one foot back into a fighting stance. “I don't speak Genti.”
“Of course you don't,” the other man said, rolling his dark eyes skyward. Rose was surprised at the well modulated way he spoke the common tongue. It seemed at odds with the way he barked at them in Genti and the sarcastic turn of phrase he used when speaking in the common tongue.
“Because why should you bother learning the tongue of the country you are in?” the stranger mocked.
He eyed Hue’s slight shifting of weight and correctly guessed the implication of it. “Now, now. None of that. Why don't you just hop on over and join your little friends in the center there while we decide what to do with you.”
The Genti man stiffened when a blade appeared under his own chin. It was Navihm. He had snuck around and approached unnoticed.
“Is that any way to treat guests of your country, Hart?” The man, Hart, gave no visible reaction other than a slight raising of the eyebrows at his name.
Hart turned his head to look at the man on the other end of the blade. “Ah, Navihm, it has been a long time since I saw you around these parts.”
Navihm half smiled. “I’ve been busy.”
“I thought I made it clear last time you were here that you are not welcome.” Navihm’s only response was to flick the tip of his dagger downward, his eyes looking meaningfully at the sword still clutched in Hart’s hand. Hart dropped it obligingly and Navihm kicked it away. One of the other Gentis took half a step forward. Both of the men’s eyes flicked towards him but it was the slight shaking of Hart’s head that made him retreat.
Tension was thick in both groups, Genti and Ianterran, as the two men faced off. There was a pregnant pause before an unexpected sound broke the strained silence.
I'm not at all sorry about the cliff hanger =) Part two will be up in an hour or so. There will be three parts to this chapter, all of them will be up today.