Sigthyme’s heart was racing as he ran through the thick brush. His small footsteps kicked up water from the recent rain. It was no longer storming above him, but his clothes were still damp with rainwater and blood. He was scared and running for his life.
He no longer heard the footsteps or shouts from his pursuer’s, but he didn’t slow down. Sigthyme just kept running and running. He just burst through a thick shrub as he came to the edge of a small cliff. Seeing the drop off, Sigthyme tried to stop, but the ground underneath him was wet mud. He slid forward and tumbled over the edge, sliding through the mud and into a small ravine filled with thick brambles.
Hitting the ground sent a sharp pain throughout his back as the air was knocked out of his lungs. This caused Sigthyme to temporarily stop running. He just laid on the ground for a few minutes as he caught his breath. His whole body was sore from running and he felt a burning on his face.
The words of Brother Haxis echoed in his mind.
“They will track you and hunt you down.”
Sigthyme was now wanted by the people who had kept him imprisoned. The person who had taught him magic and music was dead or rather Brother Haxis was dying when Sigthyme left him lying in the middle of the clearing.
“Hopefully they let me die.”
Brother Haxis was so sure that the people would find him and do something to him. Sigthyme wasn’t sure what powers these people had over life and death, but he was sure that Brother Haxis’ fear was warranted. These people that Brother Haxis had feared were now pursuing him as well.
Sigthyme eventually sat up and then got to his feet. He listened for any signs of pursuers, but he didn’t hear anything other than the sounds of the forest. He knew that he needed to keep on going, but didn’t know exactly where he was or where he needed to go. He hoped that he would find a way out of the woods and find a place to rest for the night.
Sigthyme looked down at the necklace around his neck and the symbol of a woman’s face.
“The Changebringer,” Sigthyme said to himself. “I don’t know who you are, but I hope you can help me. I really need it.”
Sigthyme looked out toward the heavy brush and let out a sigh, before he continued to move forward.
Sigthyme’s eyes opened as he awoke from the dream. These flashes of memories haunted his dream. He reached for the chain around his neck and pulled out the symbol of the Changebringer, now in a duller and weathered state. Then he looked around the room at Tak, Grace, and Juniper.
Sigthyme wasn’t someone who necessarily believed in fate or destiny, but he had a sneaking suspicion that he was where he needed to be. Maybe the Changebringer had something to do with it or maybe not. Either way he was happy to be here and glad that they continued to stay together after arriving in Xylon.
Obviously he did not know what he future held for the group and how the travel to Frost Haven would go. He hoped that the King would see the group as heroes for rescuing Prince Riffen, but he worried that would not be enough. Sigthyme did not want to get out of one jail just to end up in another.
Sithyme sat up from his bedroll and the others also began to stir.
“Good morning,” Sigthyme said. “How did everyone sleep?”
“Good sleep,” Tak said with a large yawn.
Juniper and Grace both rose from the large bed which sat in the middle of the room.
“Slept fine,” Grace said as she got out of bed. “Better than a jail cell.”
“You can tell that they spent a lot of money on furnishing this place,” Juniper said. “This place kind of reminds me of back home.”
“Spend a lot of time in embassies?” Sigthyme asked.
“Not exactly, but my parents spent a lot of time meeting with government officials and merchants. That sort of thing,” Juniper said.
“And yet they had a kid like you,” Sigthyme laughed.
“Julian was more of a diplomat like my parents. I’m the ranger in the woods,” Juniper said as she placed her hand on her bag and a small, red dragon head popped out.
“Good morning, Pickle,” Juniper said with a smile as she ran her hand over Piakol’s red dragon scales.
The group of adventurers talked amongst themselves for a little bit before there was a knock on the door.
“Good morning everyone,” Riffen said from the other side of the door.
“Come on in,” Juniper said.
The door opened and Riffen stood in the doorway, leaning on his metal cane. Next to him was the black-haired blink dog, Shadow, who barked a friendly greeting to the group.
“Hello everyone. I hope you all slept well,” Riffen said. “I currently have a meeting and I’d hope that you would all accompany me there.”
“Of course!” Grace said. “Anything to get out of this place. Uh… no offense.”
“None taken,” Riffen said. “I know this place can be quite claustrophobic.”
“Where do you need to go?” Sigthyme asked.
“I’m going to the army camp outside the Northern Wall,” Riffen said. “From what Pria told me this morning, it seems like we are going to try to get the army moving as soon as possible. I’m going to go talk to Captain Springbloom and see if there’s anything Pria and I can do to make that happen.”
“Pria’s ok with you leaving this place with us?” Juniper asked.
“Pria is currently meeting with King Forgebringer and his advisors. Strengthening trust among nations. That sort of thing,” Riffen said. “Pria won’t mind if we head to the camp.”
“And what about our weapons?” Grace asked.
“I really don’t think you’ll need your weapons if you are just going to walk with me throughout the city to the camp, but I’m sure I can get the guards here to hand them back to you,” Riffen said.
“Then what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
The rest of the group nodded and collected their stuff for the trip to the Soulon Army Camp. It took some convincing from Prince Riffen, but eventually the group got their weapons back and were fully ready to accompany Riffen.
The group of adventurers traveled through Xylon alongside Riffen and two personal guards. The streets seemed to be emptier than a few days ago. The few people on the street kept a wide gate from the group and talked in whispered tones. Juniper noticed that other than a few citizens, the streets were mostly filled with town guards, Robinhearts, and Pact of Thorns Members.
“Is everything alright? The city seems kind of empty and intense,” Juniper asked Riffen.
“Tensions are a bit high right now between Mardrec and Soulon. Having a large army presence right outside of the city is making some people nervous,” Riffen said with a heavy sigh. “Everything surrounding my kidnap and Krumb escaping also has people worried.”
“Any news about Krumb?” Sigthyme asked.
“Not that I’ve heard,” Riffen replied. “But Pria believes that Krumb would be foolish to try and come after me again. There’s a whole army that would happily cut them down with their blade.”
“Protect Riffen!” Tak said as he raised his warhammer to the sky.
“Yeah we got you too,” Grace said.
“Well I’m very appreciative to have all of you around. Especially after the past few days and all these meetings. I need some time with you guys on the road,” Riffen said.
“Are you going to have time with the army being around?” Juniper asked.
“That will make it a bit more difficult, but I will find a way,” Riffen said.
The group continued traveling throughout the city of Xylon toward the Northern wall. They noticed that the area where The Pilgrim’s Rest once stood, was now mostly a pile of loose, lumber and black ash. The clean up was mostly done, but they did not know how soon Eva would be able to rebuild, if she could at all.
“You think people are mad at us about The Pilgrim’s Rest?” Grace asked Juniper.
“It’s not your fault. You didn’t burn it down,” Juniper replied.
“Yeah but we weren’t able to stop that Dwarf before they did,” Grace said.
“What’s important is that you and Sigthyme escaped and got everyone out in time. I’m sure Eva is grateful for her life even if her livelihood was burned to the ground,” Juniper said.
“Riffen, is there something you can do for her?” Grace asked Riffen.
“Uh…for who?” Riffen asked.
“Eva. She’s the owner of The Pilgrim’s Rest. I’m sure she could use some help to rebuild. If you are a Prince, you could just give her some gold.”
“Grace,” Juniper nudged her.
“It’s alright, Juniper,” Riffen said. “You are right, Grace. I’m sure we can reach out and offer some monetary assistance. I will check in with Pria and make sure she reaches out to Eva.”
“You’re a good, Prince, Riffen,” Grace said, giving him a quick hug.
“Yeah,” Riffen said as the smile vanished from his face.
The group then moved past what was left of The Pilgrim’s Rest and passed through the city’s gate. A large number of guards were checking the carts and examining any merchandise in or out of the city.
“Come on. Is this necessary? It’s just a bunch of apples,” The group heard a Dwarven man say as guards waved the group through the gate.
“Security is tight,” Sigthyme said.
“Just more precautions while Krumb is loose,” Riffen said and they kept on walking.
Outside the city wall, they could see the large group of tents that belonged to the Soulon Army. The whole thing was like a small town just outside the city, not too far from the road. The atmosphere was not tense, but a bit jovial as people wearing armor with Soulon’s crest walked through the tent town, talking, laughing, and sharing stories. As the group walked through the make-shift town, many soldiers looked over and nodded in their direction.
“Do people recognize you here?” Sigthyme asked Riffen. “You seem to be getting a lot of attention.”
“Many may not know what I look like exactly, but they’ve definitely heard of me. Especially in a regiment helmed by Captain Springbloom,” Riffen said, as he began to blush.
“Prince Riffen!” There was a shout from near the center of the tent town.
“Speaking of which,” Riffen said as Captain Springbloom began walking quickly toward them.
“Good morning, Captain Springbloom,” Riffen said.
“Good morning to you as well,” Captain Springbloom gave Riffen a small bow. “And to the rest of you.”
“How are you doing?” How’s the army doing?” Riffen asked.
“Everyone is good. Well fed. Well rested. Really just waiting for your command,” Captain Springbloom replied.
“Well Pria is meeting with King Forgebringer and his advisors this morning. If all goes well, we could be heading North in the next day or so,” Riffen explained.
“So much paperwork and so many meetings just to move soldiers from one city to another. No wonder anything gets done,” Captain Springbloom said, folding her arms. “Good thing you are a fighter like us.”
“Diplomacy is just as important as combat,’ Riffen said.
Captain Springbloom gave Riffen a hard slap across his back.
“Don’t get soft on me, Prince Riffen,” She said. “You are starting to sound like your cousin. Spend some time out of that cushy place and be among the soldiers. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about diplomacy.”
“Well I’m more than willing to spend some time here,” Riffen said. “They are all here because of me and I want to show them my appreciation.”
“Oh you are far too hard on yourself. These men and women are more than willing to be here for you, Prince Riffen. We fight for you and defend you. You are the future of Soulon and therefore, their futures,” Captain Springbloom said. “Plus many are happy to be away from the Black and Gray gate. Better view here even if it is just the outside of the Dwarven city.”
“Will the whole army be moving with us to Frost Haven?” Riffen asked.
“Of course. My regiments stay together. And we are pledged to your protection,” Captain Springbloom. “With us, you are the safest you could ever be.”
As Captain Springbloom said those words, there was a loud explosion behind the group. They swiftly turned to face the sound as a cold wind swept through the tent city. Near the gate there were screams and shouts as white mist rose quickly into the air, obscuring the entrance to the city.
“Take cover!” Captain Springbloom yelled out as she put herself in between the sound of the explosion and Prince Riffen.
Header Photo Credit to Klaus Pillon on Art Station