THE ATTAINER

1. A CONFLICTED HEART

The sky was gloomy. Overarching bellows of thunder preceded sparks of lightning as a cascade of rain descended from the clouds. As freezing as the day was, three figures hurried in the woods as though they were oblivious of the unfriendly weather. This was a matter of life and death, so seeking asylum was the bigger picture. Behind them were a large group of armoured men on galloping horses, chasing hungrily. Vicksen stared back in dread. It was no-brainer that outrunning this troop would be improbable. After rescuing the crown prince and his wife from the bloodbath in Solice, the trio had been on the run for three good days.

”Your highness, go ahead. Ill try to stall them. ”

Crown prince Lukas Taptallen halted, not certain of what to say. He looked at his pregnant wife who was hyperventilating. His arm had been around her back all these while they were escaping. This, coupled with her pregnancy were the reasons behind their low speed rate. So whether Vicksen succeeded or not, the odds were still against him.

Suddenly, the pregnant woman collapsed to the ground with the guide of the prince. His eyes lit up in terror.

”Mariana… Mariana… ” He trailed off.

The neighs and gallops of horses were becoming more audible. Vicksen unsheathed his sword waiting for the unfavourable outcome. His loyalty to Lukas was unquestionable, and he was more than ready to die with him. He clasped the hilt of his sword in an attempt to gather courage. The world is the dream, and death the interpreter. The sight of one hundred cavalrymen wasn a juicy one.

At that moment, a mage intervened. He had a long grey hair augmented by a waterfall fringe that partly shielded his countenance. They were long enough to touch his grey beard like the pale rider arriving from the underworld. There were silvery cylindrical shaped bracelets on his wrists, alongside a wand he firmly gripped.

With agility, he tilted his wand towards the approaching cavalry who were subsequently influenced by a massive force. This force left them thumping their dorsal regions against each other and the stationary trees. The quartet escaped before their pursuers would regain consciousness.

They sheltered in a cave, away from the downpour. Everyone was shivering from the cold, so the mage casted a spell to warm up the cave. Lukas delicately made his wife sit on a steep rock and sat close to her with her head leaning on his bosom.

”Idrissa, how is she? ” He asked, his head pounding with tension. The mage squatted to check her pulse.

”Your highness, shes weary from the long run. Shell be fine if she takes enough rest. ” The prince heaved a sigh of relief at this. Suddenly, a puzzled look crossed his face as he recalled what happened prior to the fall of Solice. His eyes fell rapidly on the old mage.

”I thought you were dead. How come you are still alive? ” The old mage was overwhelmed with guilt.

”The gods were merciful. I escaped by the skin of my teeth. ” Then he fell on his knees. ” The fall of Solice was as a result of my incompetence. I do not deserve to be in the land of the living. ” He added with a croaked voice that showed rue.

”This is not the time to begin to feel sorry. The principal thing is to get to a safe place where my wife can deliver safely. Besides, if you hadn save us, we would have been cold corpses lying on our blood by now. I should be the one kneeling to express gratitude. Idrissa you don have to keep kneeling there. ” The prince said and he signaled the mage to rise.

He opened his mouth as if he was about to say something before unhurriedly getting up to his feet. It was a sign that he wasn in the spirit to accept commendation. After some minutes of silence, the mage spoke.

”Your highness, I was able to track you because of your amulet. I put some of my essence in it. ” Lukas hoisted the amulet reclining on his chest and stroked it with his thumb. It was in the shape of a golden circle revolving around four carved spiral strings running about a fixed point.

”You tried your best to protect our kingdom, and now you
e protecting me. ”

”This is what I owe you as your subject. ” The mage replied face-down. He thought for a while before speaking

”We should head north of east. ”

”No we can ! ” Vicksen turned, his eyes widened in disagreement. He was at the entrance of the cave and had been tossing his head from side to side like a magpie, in the course of detection for possible neighing and gaiting horses. He hastened his feet toward the mage. Obviously, what Idrissa said didn sit well with him.

”Technically, Our enemies are chasing from the east. If we go north of east, it will only be a matter of time before we are captured. Instead, lets head to Southern Mirpurt. Considering that we were allies, Im sure theyll be willing to help us. ”

”The princess will not be able to go through such a lengthy and arduous journey. Will you take responsibility if her time comes in the middle of the journey? ” The mage protested.

The knights lips parted in defeat as he pondered on his awkward opinion. He realized he had been stupid. Surely, he wouldn dare do the job of a midwife, especially not to the princess. Whats more, he had not done it for the first time in his life.

”It settled. Well go north of east. ” Lukas concluded. He directed his eyes to the knight.

”We have no horses. Therefore, going to Southern Mirpurt in this state will be a jaunt of suicide. ” Facing the mage, he asked.

”Where exactly are we going? ”

”Vatmos. ” was the reply.

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