Here we go again.
Commander Rowrig had watched the door closing behind Isrin and was rummaging his desk for the papers he had been working on before, when he heard another commotion breaking out in the hallway. He halted his search and sighed. Before he could get out of his chair and see what it was about this time, however, the large double doors to his office were jerked open and a tall, dark haired woman stormed in, with two guards and Isrin in her wake.
‘Sorry, sir…’ one of the guards started, but the commander cut him off with sign of his hand; the woman walked up to his desk and propped her arms on it.
‘The second inn from here on the forest road has been attacked by bandits. Burned to the ground, no survivors.’ she said matter of factly, and with a hint of malice in her voice added:
‘None of the bandits either.’
Having done her report she took a deep breath and then cut right to the matter she had really come for.
‘So, what are you doing about my daughter?’
Realisation hit the commander and he fixed his gaze on Isrin, who in turn gave him an apologetic look.
‘May I introduce: Commander Rowrig, Aleana Azanee.’
The sun was already standing low in the sky when Laiva and Mynor reached the edge of the forest. Gently the water flowed past, the wavelets on its surface glittering like gems in the evening light. In spring, when the snow up in the mountains melted and let the waters smell, the bases of the outermost trees were regularly submerged, but now, in the middle of summer, the stems were about a metre from the water line.
Laiva, however, didn’t care about that, not now. There was only one thought on her mind right now; she let her backpack slide to the ground and dropped lengthwise onto the sandy ground and drawing in the water in eager gulps. Even at this time of year the waters of the White Nasir, coming directly from the mountains, were refreshingly cool, and before long it had completely satisfied her thirst.
That done, she sat back and took in the view that unfolded in front of her, then let her eyes wander over the river and towards the city in the distance with the plains beyond. And somewhere behind all of that, over the horizon, had to be the capital. But first things first, and after three days in the same clothes she first of all needed a bath.
Mynor must have had the same thought and was already diving into the river, so Laiva quickly stripped out of her clothes and did likewise. The water felt icy at first, but once she had submerged herself in it, it felt merely a bit cool. At any rate it was great to wash all the dirt and sweat off and with Mynor around she didn’t get much chance for standing around and shivering anyway.
In the end Laiva stayed at the river for about an hour. She cleaned and filled up her water bottle, washed her clothes, as good as she could without soap, and let them and herself dry in a warm summer breeze. Once the sun started to vanish for good, however, sending out the last of its rays, she knew she it was time to go. After all she wanted to reach the city on the same day still.
On the direct route the city would only have been two or three hours away, but Laiva knew better than to try and cross the river on her own. There weren’t any fords and while the current wasn’t strong at all near the shore, in the middle she would have never stood a chance; you only had to stand on the bridge and watch the waters to realise what power it had. She had even once seen a whole tree drifting by, roots, stem and everything, and it had been going frighteningly fast.
Of course crossing the bridge meant following the river quite a bit upstream and back to the road. On the upside, it was only a short way from the bridge to the south gate. It was nevertheless almost midnight when she finally got there.
Laiva lifted the heavy door knocker of the night door which had been set into the left of the large oaken double gates, and let it fall. It hit the door with a bang that sounded as if it wanted to break down the door, but shortly afterwards there was the sound of feet shuffling and a small hatch opened at head hight; about a head and a half above Laiva.
‘Anyone there?’ an annoyed voice creaked.
‘I’m down here…’
Part of an worn and scarred face appeared at the edge of the hatch and suspiciously eyed down at her and Mynor.
‘Gate’s closed.’ the voice said and banged the hatch shut. Laiva knocked again.
‘I said gate’s closed.’ the voice creaked again, now sounding even more annoyed than before.
‘But it’s night and…’
‘That’s why the gate’s closed.’
Once more the hatch banged shut. And once more Laiva let the knocker fall against the door. This was getting old fast.
‘What do you even have a night door for, if you won’t open it at night?’ she snapped at the gate keeper as soon as the hatch opened again. It was disrespectful talking to an elder like that, but she didn’t have to be respectful when she was being scoffed at like that, or did she?
‘To let people in, but not the likes of you.’
Laiva gave him a blank look. The likes of her?
‘Do you think I’m stupid? I don’t know who or what you are, but I know a bloody werewolf when I see it. Shove off.’
The hatch banged shut and left Laiva standing baffled. Mynor a werewolf? Ridiculous. She knocked again, but the familiar shuffling of feet didn’t come. She tried again, but to no avail. So much for the famed Raniran hospitality.
She took a few steps backward and slouched down, Mynor following her example, resting his head in her lap. How could anyone mistake Mynor for such a beast? She took his head in both of her hands and tilted it towards her. No werewolf could ever look like that; there was no malice in his eyes.
That still didn’t help her to get into the city, though. As if she was going to conquer it on her own; but obviously the guards preferred watching her from the top of the walls to using common sense; she could see their dark figures against the backdrop of the moonlit sky, eyeing through the battlement now and again.
In the mean time any number of attackers could scale the walls and enter the city unseen, of course. The rough hewn stones had to provide plenty of footholds and the walls weren’t really that tall. She had climbed larger trees than that…
‘What do you think?’ she said to Mynor. If the wolf’s look was any indication, he didn’t think any of it, but, of course, he didn’t even know what she was talking about.
‘Well, I’m definitely not going camp in front of the city gate.’