Casey escapes from the Silver Circle with his life, but the cult’s sadistic members relentlessly chase him throughout the countryside.
Casey had been alternating between running and walking for about an hour. He had long since left the main road and was following a stream that headed in the general direction of Aveinha. Or at least what he thought was the general direction. He was kicking himself for trying to make small talk with Ilden and not paying attention to where he was going. That asshole didn’t even bother to wait for him like he said he would.
The billowy shirt that Rhiun gave him was drenched in sweat and clung to his body like a wet sack. He stopped every now and then to catch his breath, making sure he was somewhere that no one could see him. The sun hung lower in the sky, casting long shadows of trees across the ground. Late afternoon. He couldn’t believe that he had been here for almost a full day. It was going to be night soon, and he was stuck out in the middle of nowhere. To top it all off, he couldn’t go to sleep. What would happen to him if he fell asleep? Who knew? It’s not like Rhiun, or anyone else here has been a wealth of information.
Unable to walk any further, Casey collapsed onto the ground. His body felt like he got hit by a truck. Everything was sore. His back and right arm from the heavy satchel he had been lugging around since Viarin. His legs from all the running and walking he had done today. His feet from the boots’ shitty arch support and the crop of blisters from shoving his bare feet into them. Apparently, socks were also a luxury here.
Casey picked himself up off his hand and knees and leaned against a large tree. “What the hell is this thing, anyway?” He undid the clasp of the satchel and opened the flap. Inside was an old book, much like the one Rhiun had been reading at the tavern. The book was bound in smooth tan leather, and the title was embossed in gold on the cover. At least he was pretty sure it was the title. It was in a language he had never seen before. The spine creaked as he opened the book and flipped through the thick handwritten pages. While he couldn’t understand the words, the pictures were intriguing. They looked like something you’d see in old medieval tapestries. A bunch of knights are about to do battle with some mythical creature. Next, a panel shows the knights defeating the creature and locking it inside a castle. Then, some pictures of people sleeping -.
Casey’s concentration snapped when he heard hoofbeats. He wondered how far he was from a road. He had run in a direction perpendicular to the road for quite a while before he found the stream. But he guessed it was possible that the road bent toward the stream or the stream toward the road.
“My lord!” someone shouted, as if in response to Casey’s train of thought. “Here he is!” There was a man on a horse on top of a low rise, above the stream. He wore the same chain mail and red tabard as the man Casey had bumped into at the tavern. A circle was stitched on the front in silver thread.
Casey threw the satchel on his back and ran. Ahead was a forest. He thought that if he could reach it before the soldiers caught up to him, maybe the trees would be too close together for them to ride fast through it. Behind him, Casey heard the deafening sound of hoofbeats, the heavy breathing of horses being ridden hard, and the clanking of heavily armed and armored soldiers. Casey was almost at the tree line. His body cried out in the language of excruciating pain as he pushed himself to run faster. Just a few more steps and he would be -.
Casey felt something heavy hit him between the shoulder blades, sending a blossom of pain across his back. Casey fell to the ground and landed on a rock, knocking the wind out of him. He struggled to catch his breath and to get up, but it was no use. He felt the cold, sharp metal of a sword press against the back of his neck.
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