Chapter 6

Early the next morning Lo’ranan awoke. Sar was still asleep at the table as he slipped out of his room, grabbed a crust of bread and some cheese for breakfast, took his ax from its place by the door, and left.

Outside he gathered the horses and hitched them to the cart. He drew some water and, after he had sated his thirst, poured the rest into his water skin. Once this was done, he climbed aboard the cart and set off westward for the forest commons he had been cutting trees from for the past several months.

It was not long before he arrived at the same location he had parked his cart the day before. He dismounted and grabbed his ax.

“Don’t you worry,” he told Quinlan. “This will be the fastest day yet.”

He strode into the woods in search of the area he had found yesterday, with more trees of the kind he needed. The smell of smoke quickly grew stronger as he approached it.

Trago must have got that fire going after all, he thought to himself.

He had just finished this thought as he walked around a large tree in his path when he stepped into a clearing and spotted Trago himself, lying on the ground, motionless. He had a gaping wound in the side of his abdomen. Blood covered the ground.

“Trago? Trago!” Lo’ranan yelled as he dropped his ax and rushed to the unconscious man’s side.

Trago was breathing, but it was very shallow. Lo’ranan examined the wound and found that it had stopped bleeding, but was all the same somewhat fresh. He quickly glanced about the clearing, looking for signs of what might have done this. Finding nothing, he felt Trago’s head – it was mildly feverish, and the man groaned slightly at the touch.

Lo’ranan cursed under his breath. He left his ax where it lay and hoisted Trago over his shoulders, causing the man to groan more loudly. Bearing his new burden as gently as possible, Lo’ranan weaved his way through the trees as quickly as he could.

A few moments later he stepped out of the forest in front of his cart, causing the two horses behind Quinlan to rear and whinny with surprise and fright.

“Easy!” said Lo’ranan, attempting to calm them as best he could. The horses’ sight of Trago and his injury made this a difficult task, but, once they quieted, Lo’ranan loaded Trago into the cart. He climbed in himself and took the reigns, setting out for the quickest road to Xiphos. There was a skilled doctor in town – he had been a battlefield surgeon during the war, and he was Trago’s best chance of survival.

After several minutes of uneven terrain jostling the cart and causing Trago to groan even more, Lo’ranan’s cart made it to the main road. He increased the horses’ speed.

When he approached the Skeine, Lo’ranan saw Medwin on the porch, laughing with one of the guests as he swept it clean. Noticing Lo’ranan coming down the road, and seeing that his cargo was not wood today, but Trago, he held up a finger and set his broom aside. He jumped off of the porch and ran next to the cart.

“Lo’ranan!” he called out, impressing Lo’ranan twice by both being able to keep up with him at his current speed, and being able to talk while doing so. “Hey, is that Trago? What happened? How can I help?”

“You can’t, Medwin!” Lo’ranan barked, urging his horses to go even faster still. “There’s nothing you can do!”

Medwin tried to keep up but now the horses outpaced him.

“But I-” he began.

“No!” Lo’ranan called back angrily over his shoulder. “Go away! When I need your help, I’ll ask for it!”

Behind the advancing cart, Medwin slowed his run to a walk, then stood still, watching it carry on swiftly down the road.

Finally, he turned to walk back to the Skeine, and almost ran into a man in bedraggled traveling clothes walking down the same road.

“Whoa! My apologies, sir,” he said.

The man ignored Medwin, whose face was partially covered by his hood, ignored Medwin and made to continue down the road.

“Sir, if you don’t mind me saying, by the look of it you’ve been traveling for some time,” Medwin continued. “Why not come refresh yourself at my family’s inn before you make your way to Xiphos?”

The man turned and regarded Medwin with two emerald-hued eyes, tightening his jaw around the pipe he held in his mouth.

“I have business in the town, boy,” he said with a puff of his pipe. “Another time, perhaps.”

Medwin shrugged as the man turned his attention toward the road again and continued briskly down the path.

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