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When the gates opened and the sun sent its first rays over the
surrounding fields, Laiva left the city and hurried to fetch what she
had left last evening. There was no time to lose since old Niry
already made his last preparations to leave for the capital; he had
agreed to take her with him for free, partly to have somebody to talk
with, partly to help him pack and unpack his market hut. Laiva
collected her possessions.
There was no sign of him.
This time he showed up and gave her an innocent look; Laiva
bent down and scratched him behind the ears.
‘Come on, it’s time to go.’
Some minutes later they met up with Niry at the gate and
climbed on his cart. He wanted to say something about her being very
well armed and her dog looking more like a wolf, but then changed his
mind; some extra weapons would do no harm, and since the horses didn’t
seem to mind the dog, it was probably all right.
‘Ever driven a cart or coach?’
‘Well, there’s always a first time, eh?’
They travelled during the day and rested at inns at night. While Niry
usually took a room for the night, Laiva slept in the stable, but she
didn’t mind; after all she was travelling for free and Niry was quite
old anyway. Days followed nights and nights followed days, meadows
followed hills, fields followed meadows and hills followed fields;
after the first two days Laiva had grown bored with the landscape and
that had been half an eternity ago. Even the occasional village they
passed couldn’t hide how uniform it really was, especially since she
started to miss the woods; she had always taken them for granted and
now they were no longer around.
So a week passed until Laiva woke up in the middle of the night. She
was certain that she had heard some strange sound. Mynor didn’t move,
but he was awake and looked highly alert; so he had heard it, too.
There it was again, but this time is was coming from the roof of the
stable, as if someone were walking on it. Laiva groped for her
weapons. A moment later there was the sound of straw being pushed away
and a hole appeared in the roof. In one smooth movement Laiva rolled
to her right, pulled an arrow out of her quiver, brought the bow up
and shot it directly through) through the hole. There was a cut off
cry, something heavy slid down the roof and bumped into the ground.
And then there was silence again.
Time passed. It was like an eternity, but Laiva didn’t dare to move
and Mynor didn’t move either. They listened, but there was only
silence; not the silence of the night but a complete absence of
sounds, like the absence of wind in the eye of the storm. It was long
before dawn so there was no need to hurry, plenty of time for Laiva to
get mad or make a deadly mistake. She had won the first round, but it
had been far too close. Half a second later and this bolt would have
hit her; now it was sticking in the wooden floor, exactly where her
head had been. Her heart was beating wildly. Somebody had tried to
kill her, her and nobody else, and this somebody had been a
professional. She had to do something, but what? Only a wonder could
get her out of this alive. However, what if she could make one happen?
All she needed was some magic. Now was the time to put theory into
practice; theory was simple enough, however Laiva had never tried it
herself, only watched others doing it. Brokenly she recited the first
syllables, but then they came more and more fluently until they merged
into a song; the air around her lost its transparency and gained a
milky white colour, only next to her at first, but spreading fast. Not
bad for the first time, although it wasn’t really meant to block her
sight as well.
Everything was going wrong; first he had been hit by that arrow, and
now thick fog appeared out of thin air. It had sounded so simple: a
little girl, only guarded by her dog and travelling with some old man;
nothing difficult and the pay had been good. Now his left arm was
bleeding and he couldn’t see his hand before his eyes.
The door opened with a big squeak, followed by the sound of crashing
wood; a bolt had been fired into the door and since here in the plain,
unlike at home, houses weren’t built to be rock solid fortresses, but
to protect only from the weather, it had broken through the planks the
opposite wall of the stable was made of. So she had been right, it
wasn’t over yet. Slowly and without making a noise she climbed off the
beam above the door; Mynor came out of the fog and joined he. Slowly
they inched their way out of the door and to the back of the stable,
carefully avoiding any sounds and keeping close to the wall; whatever
had been on the roof must have fallen down here. Laiva didn’t know
what she was actually looking for and even if she knew, chances were
good she’d never find it, but Mynor’s nose spotted it anyway. Despite
the low temperature the blood was still warm. Keeping his nose close
to the ground Mynor started to follow the trail; for him the smell of
the fresh blood was easier to follow than a way sign. A few steps
ahead was a broken arrow. It was Laiva’s and obviously the reason for
all the blood. Now she had proof that she’d hit. Minutes went by and
they were still walking through thick fog. Laiva could see just far
enough not to lose Mynor, directly in front of her. Sight blocked and
hearing muted she would have been completely lost without him.
Another few minutes later Mynor stopped and raised his head; he must
have spotted something. For half an eternity she peered at the gray
wall in front of her, but she couldn’t see anything. Laiva crouched
down and started to crouch forward until she could finally see it. In
front of her, not more than four metres away, was a dark silhouette
lying on the ground, facing the direction the stable had to be in. She
slowly took her bow out and selected an arrow; there was no sound when
she tensed the tendon and silently the arrow darted through the fog
until it, with a metallic crack, hit the target. The scheme rolled,
bringing up a crossbow, and fired. In the same moment Mynor jumped
forward, taking the bolt that would otherwise have hit Laiva. Before
it got another chance to attack, Laiva rolled to the side, pulling a
throwing star off her belt and flinging at the figure with all her
strength. The figure clutched at his throat, then slowly sank to the
A few more words and the fog vanished as fast as it had come. Laiva
listened to the sounds of the night; it was over. She stood up and ran
to Mynor, who was lying on the ground; bleeding and breathing heavily.
She pulled the cloak off the dead assassin, wrapped it around Mynor,
then carried him back into the stable. The bolt was stuck deep in his
flank. With a hitch Laiva pulled it out; Mynor jowled. Now blood was
running in streams through his fur, tinting it from gray to red. Laiva
ripped a strip off the cloak and pressed it on the wound as hard as
she could; if she couldn’t stop it, Mynor was going to bleed to death.