Bronwen

Notes:  This was an attempt to write the “abduction scene” again, because the action in the first version of the scene didn’t feel very good to me. This scene was based on the idea that instead of there being a huge brawl in which Bronwen rescued Lucas and Hephaestion, she waits until a strategic moment to betray Dagguereous. Ultimately though, this version of the scene came out awkward in it’s own way, though I enjoyed writing the dialogue, particularly because there are things about these characters that I know now that I didn’t when I wrote the first version of the scene.

The woman shoved Hephaestion down into the dirt beside Lucas and walked over to the tall man with black hair who had spoken before, his hands clasped behind his backs. The other soldiers stood at attention, many of them peering angrily at Lucas, holding their myriad weapons close to their sides and chests, a kind of blood thirst in their eyes.

“Prince Ballaneheim,” said the tall man, stepping forward from the circle, a light breeze whipping his long coat back behind him and revealing a saber at his side, still sheathed, “I am Captain Relm of the Seventeenth Division of the Imperial Army of Dulhan. As you have no doubt surmised, you are being taken into custody for trespassing within the borders of eastern Hrothgar, which is under the command of Imperial Dulhan.”

“Except that is isn’t,” replied Lucas defiantly.

Captain Relm chuckled, “Surely the prince of Alexandria knows what manner of trouble his country is getting itself into? Dulhan has claimed right over the vast plains of Hrothgar which once belonged to our country, and as we are in the process of reclaiming these lands, have forbidden all transport to and from the country by Alexandrian citizens.”

“The Chancellor,” said Lucas, “Has informed me that Dulhan is declaring war on the free state of Hrothgar, and that it has done so against Alexandria’s wishes, in an attempt to start a continental war.”

Relm raised his eyebrows, “Well I suppose I can’t be expected to know everything that goes on in the upper courts of either of our countries, little prince. I’m a Captain, not a king.”

“Except that you aren’t a captain,” retorted Hephaestion calmly from his place beside Lucas, his hands still tied behind his back.

“Excuse me?” responded Relm.

“These men aren’t dressed the part very well,” said Hephaestion in a cocky tone, “They’re wearing Dulhan uniforms but they’re holding axes, maces, knives and broadswords. Not a one of them has a standard-issue Dulhan military cutlass except for the woman who tied us up.” The woman twitched slightly from her place behind Relm, but remained silent.

Relm grinned, “You are observant, aren’t you? I notice you’re the only member of Prince Ballanheim’s retinue who appears to be so young as the prince himself, how old are you, young man?”

“Twenty-three,” replied Hephaestion coyly, his eyes flashing with defiance and a slight grin playing on his lips.

“Ah,” Relm began to stroll easily toward Hephaestion, “Fresh from your schooling, then, are you? Well, I think I’ll teach you an important lesson,” and as he came close he kicked forward and struck Hephaestion in the chest, knocking him backwards with a gasp, Relm’s hands still folded behind his back, a wicked grin on his face. Lucas leaped over Hephaestion, shielding him, while Hephaestion coughed into the dirt.

“The lesson is,” continued Relm, “That no amount of classroom military education can compare to actual experience, and in this experience you will have learned to keep your mouth shut when you are not being spoken to a superior officer, particularly one who is within his power to kill you.”

“Back off!” shouted Lucas angrily.

Relm chuckled, and he bent down to where Lucas lay, hands tied behind his back, over Hephaestion’s side, and as Relm squatted he grabbed Lucas by his hair with a fist and pulled it back, pain yanking it’s way through Lucas’ scalp, and he began to speak in a harsh whisper, “If you think I’m afraid to rough you up just because you’re a prince, you’re wrong. My orders are to bring you in alive, but what condition your in wasn’t specified. And I should kill your friend here just to teach you a lesson.”

“Enough.”

Lucas saw a glint of light and realized it was coming from the point of a sword, then suddenly the grip on his hair was released and he fell onto his back, to see the woman who had tied up himself and Hephaestion standing behind the squatting Captain Relm, her cutlass drawn and pressed against the side of his neck. All around the circle of soldiers the men stood with their weapons ready, not moving, unsure of what to do.

“Stand,” she barked, “Slowly.”

Relm stood, an expression of cold anger on his face. “What exactly are you trying to do, woman?” he said.

“Your part in this is finished,” she said to Relm, “Take your men and go home, leave the prince and his companion with me.”

Relm was silent, but Lucas could see his eyes flicker to one of his men, who stepped forward, brandishing an axe.

“No movement from any of you,” shouted the woman, “You’ve followed Relm here and accomplished what you sought out to do: there’s gold in your pockets and blood on your hands. He wouldn’t have allowed any of you to take part in a prince’s ransom anyway, so leave now while you have the chance.”

“Dagg?” asked one of the men in a dumbfounded tone, “What do we do?”

“Kill her, obviously!” responded Relm with annoyance. The woman kicked Relm in the back of his knee and he crumpled to the ground. She yanked him back up by his collar and held her sword across his neck. Relm gasped for air.

“Do what she says,” he shouted fearfully, “I’ll handle the rest of this myself.”

“You bitch!” shouted another soldier, “Relm’s our leader, we’re not leaving him behind.”

“Then make a move for him,” responded the woman confidently, “And his head will not have hit the ground before I’ve run you through. This is over. You brigands go back to your damn hideaways, and hope that I never see any of you again, or I’ll take vengeance on those Alexandrian soldiers you slew.”

“Dagguereous!” shouted the first of the soldiers indignantly.

“Shut up!” barked Relm, “There’s nothing I can do at this point, just do as she says. Get lost, I’ll be back eventually!”

“We’ll see about that,” responded the women coolly.

There was a long, tense moment where no one moved. Hephaestion coughed again from the kick he’d received, and Lucas watched the circle of soldiers as one by one, the men withdrew, some breaking into a run into the trees behind them, others heading back up the path, in the opposite direction of the caravan. Soon there were only a few men, and then they too turned and fled. The first soldier who had spoken glared at the woman, and then, the last to do so, he turned and ran into the trees.

There was the sound of rustling leaves as the men dressed as soldiers disappeared, and eventually, Lucas, Hepheaestion, Relm, and the woman, were alone.

“Well, what happens now?” Relm asked, gulping against the sword that still pressed against his throat.

In a swift movement the woman turned and knocked Relm flat on his back, having pulled his sword from it’s sheath at his side in doing so, and he lay on the ground, clutching at his knee. She held a sword in each hand and glared down at him, “Now you’re going to stand up, and you’re going to turn and run as fast as you can out of my sight, and pray that I remain merciful for as long as I see you, and don’t decide to kill you now.”

“And why not kill me?” he said, “You’ve done an excellent job of disbanding my men and taking the prince hostage for yourself. Why leave me alive?”

Bronwen stepped forward and aimed the sword in her right down at him, “Maybe I won’t, then.”

Their eyes locked. Relm scowled, and pushed himself up from the ground, hobbling a little on the leg where she had kicked him. “This will not be the last time we see one another, woman,” he said.

“I should hope it is,” said the woman, “For your sake.”

“Tell me,” said Relm, “What is the name of the woman who seeks to bring down the vengeance of Dagguereous Relm, the most dangerous criminal in the border lands?”

The woman smirked, “Bronwen,” she said, “My name is Bronwen. Remember it.”

“You’re a proud little fool, girl,” said Relm, “I will have your head.”

“Come and find it,” she spat back, “Now run.”

There was silence.

Bronwen swiped her sword quickly at Relm’s face, and cut the side of his cheek. “I said run, you bastard!” she spat.

Relm glared, then glanced over at Lucas, and then without a word, he turned and limped into the trees the way the others had.

Silence as they waited to hear his footsteps disappearing.

Bronwen sheathed her own cutlass and swiftly removed the ropes binding Lucas and Hephaestion’s hands with Relm’s saber.

“Who are you?” said Lucas, “What are you going to do with us now?”

“You need to get out of here,” she said, “Those thugs are going to be hiding out in the woods waiting for you, or me, or both of us.

Hephaestion stood up, rubbing a hand across his chest. “Where is my spear?” he asked her.

“I don’t know,” Bronwen said, “I gave it to another one of the men when I took it from you. Here, take this,” and she handed him the saber in her hand.

Hephaestion took it cautiously, “You’re really going to give me a weapon?”

“I’m not here to steal the two of you from him,” she said, “I’m here to rescue you.”

“Who sent you here to save us?” asked Lucas.

“No one,” she said, “I came on my own when I found out about Relm’s plot. He was being paid by someone dress up his gang of thugs in Dulhan uniforms and abduct you.”

“Sounds like someone was trying to frame Dulhan kidnapping Lucas,” said Hephaestion.

“Yes, it does,” said Bronwen, “And I need more information as to who, and why. I’m going to return to town and try to find something, you two need to head back to the palace as quickly as possible. We’re only a few minutes from the border, take two of the horses and go now, and they shouldn’t have time to catch up to you. Once your across the border there will be more Alexandrian soldiers who can see you back to the castle.”

“We can’t,” said Lucas.

Both Hephaestion and Bronwen looked at him, confused.

“The Chancellor must have done this,” said Lucas, “You said that Relm was being paid by someone, do you know who?”

“No,” said Bronwen, “Even he didn’t know who it was, but he was doing it for the money.”

“It must have been the Chancellor,” said Lucas, looking at Hephaestion.

“I don’t know, Luke…” responded Hepheastion.

“Why would the Chancellor pay to have you kidnapped?” asked Bronwen.

“Because it would be a pretext to go to war with Dulhan,” said Lucas, “And that’s what he wants, but he can’t convince the council without a good reason.”

Bronwen placed a hand to her chin in thought. “Lucas,” said Hephaestion, “I understand that the Chancellor’s an awful guy, but I don’t think…”

“No,” said Bronwen, cutting him off, “It sounds about right.”

“How would you know?” asked Hephaestion defiantly, “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Bronwen,” she said, “And like I said, I’m just someone who’s trying to help.”

“What do you know about the Chancellor?” asked Lucas.

“Only what I’ve heard from others,” said Bronwen, “But we don’t have time for that now. You need to be somewhere safe. Continue up this road the way you came and you’ll be back in Alexandrian territory, but if you’re convinced going back to the castle is a bad idea, we need to get you somewhere safe.”

“This is ridiculous!” said Hephaestion, “Lucas, this isn’t the time to go pointing your finger at the Chancellor! I know the guy’s an ass, but-“

“Think about it,” said Bronwen, “This caravan was headed, where, to the North?”

“Ivinda,” said Lucas.

“In order to reach Ivinda,” said Bronwen, “The caravan didn’t HAVE to pass through Hrothgar, which Dulhan has claimed as it’s own territory. He was set up to be here, and at this time, on this day, because Relm knew he was coming. If not the Chancellor, someone in Alexandria planned this. Relm may not have been a real Dulhan soldier, but he was right, Alexandrians aren’t permitted to cross the border right now.”

“Dammit,” said Hephaestion in a whisper, almost to himself. “Well, where do we go then?”

“If going back to Alexandria isn’t an option,” said Bronwen, “and traveling deeper into Hrothgar isn’t an option, you’ll need to go somewhere else entirely.”

“There is nowhere else,” said Hephaestion.

“The Dead City lies a few miles north,” said Bronwen.

“The Dead City?” asked Lucas, “That’s a real place?”

“Yeah,” said Hephaestion, “It’s an abandoned old city, no one goes there. Even criminals avoid it.”

“It’s a safe way to cross through this area of the country,” said Bronwen, “And when you get to the other side, I have a contact who can meet you. I’ll just have to reach him in time.”

“And why are we putting our lives in your hands?” asked Hephaestion, “You just watched as those men slaughtered the soldiers in this caravan!”

“Not all of them are dead,” said Bronwen, “And I intend to try and get them help while I can. But we have to hurry, I need to get you to the Dead City and come back.”

“Even if you are on my side,” said Lucas, “You’re in danger too.”

“I’ll be alright,” said Bronwen, “Now listen: once you’ve crossed the city to the other side, you’ll be in central Hrothgar. You need to find a man named Dexter Marcus, he will help you. He lives in a small town in the mountains called Fielten, can you remember that?”

“Fielten, Marcus,” repeated Hephaestion.

Bronwen reached into the pocket of her long Dulhan uniform jacket and produced a pendant on a chain, then handed it to Lucas, “If you show this to Dexter Marcus, he’ll know I sent you, and he’ll help. It’s a long way, but it’s the only place I can think to send you now. Go north,” Bronwen pointed to the forest behind where Lucas and Hephaestion stood, “If any of the thugs stayed behind hoping to snare you, they went completely the opposite direction, and it will take them a while to get around the river to the opposite side. They won’t catch you in time if you hurry. I have to help get these soldiers to a place where their wounds can be treated.”

Hephaestion clenched his fist, “I still don’t trust you.”

“I know,” said Bronwen, “But just listen to me: Dexter Marcus. Fielten. He’ll help you, he’ll give you shelter. It’s a long way, but you can make it.”

Hephaestion leaned down and clasped Lucas’ hand, helping him up.

“I don’t know who you are,” said Hephaestion to Bronwen, “Or what you’re really doing here… but thank you for saving us. They would have killed me, and taken Lucas.”

“I know,” said Bronwen, “And you’re welcome. Now get moving. There’s no time for you take any provisions from the caravan, just go while you have a chance.”

“Come on,” said Hephaestion to Lucas.

Lucas suddenly felt his knees shaking.

Hephaestion came in close and put one arm around Lucas, and whispered into his ear, “It’s alright, I’ll protect you.”

Lucas took a deep, ragged breath, and nodded.

He took one last glance at Bronwen, who was already turning and walking toward the carriages of the caravan, and followed Hephaestion into the brush, and toward the Dead City.

The woman shoved Hephaestion down into the dirt beside Lucas and walked over to the tall man with black hair who had spoken before, his hands clasped behind his backs. The other soldiers stood at attention, many of them peering angrily at Lucas, holding their myriad weapons close to their sides and chests, a kind of blood thirst in their eyes.

“Prince Ballaneheim,” said the tall man, stepping forward from the circle, a light breeze whipping his long coat back behind him and revealing a saber at his side, still sheathed, “I am Captain Relm of the Seventeenth Division of the Imperial Army of Dulhan. As you have no doubt surmised, you are being taken into custody for trespassing within the borders of eastern Hrothgar, which is under the command of Imperial Dulhan.”

“Except that is isn’t,” replied Lucas defiantly.

Captain Relm chuckled, “Surely the prince of Alexandria knows what manner of trouble his country is getting itself into? Dulhan has claimed right over the vast plains of Hrothgar which once belonged to our country, and as we are in the process of reclaiming these lands, have forbidden all transport to and from the country by Alexandrian citizens.”

“The Chancellor,” said Lucas, “Has informed me that Dulhan is declaring war on the free state of Hrothgar, and that it has done so against Alexandria’s wishes, in an attempt to start a continental war.”

Relm raised his eyebrows, “Well I suppose I can’t be expected to know everything that goes on in the upper courts of either of our countries, little prince. I’m a Captain, not a king.”

“Except that you aren’t a captain,” retorted Hephaestion calmly from his place beside Lucas, his hands still tied behind his back.

“Excuse me?” responded Relm.

“These men aren’t dressed the part very well,” said Hephaestion in a cocky tone, “They’re wearing Dulhan uniforms but they’re holding axes, maces, knives and broadswords. Not a one of them has a standard-issue Dulhan military cutlass except for the woman who tied us up.” The woman twitched slightly from her place behind Relm, but remained silent.

Relm grinned, “You are observant, aren’t you? I notice you’re the only member of Prince Ballanheim’s retinue who appears to be so young as the prince himself, how old are you, young man?”

“Twenty-three,” replied Hephaestion coyly, his eyes flashing with defiance and a slight grin playing on his lips.

“Ah,” Relm began to stroll easily toward Hephaestion, “Fresh from your schooling, then, are you? Well, I think I’ll teach you an important lesson,” and as he came close he kicked forward and struck Hephaestion in the chest, knocking him backwards with a gasp, Relm’s hands still folded behind his back, a wicked grin on his face. Lucas leaped over Hephaestion, shielding him, while Hephaestion coughed into the dirt.

“The lesson is,” continued Relm, “That no amount of classroom military education can compare to actual experience, and in this experience you will have learned to keep your mouth shut when you are not being spoken to a superior officer, particularly one who is within his power to kill you.”

“Back off!” shouted Lucas angrily.

Relm chuckled, and he bent down to where Lucas lay, hands tied behind his back, over Hephaestion’s side, and as Relm squatted he grabbed Lucas by his hair with a fist and pulled it back, pain yanking it’s way through Lucas’ scalp, and he began to speak in a harsh whisper, “If you think I’m afraid to rough you up just because you’re a prince, you’re wrong. My orders are to bring you in alive, but what condition your in wasn’t specified. And I should kill your friend here just to teach you a lesson.”

“Enough.”

Lucas saw a glint of light and realized it was coming from the point of a sword, then suddenly the grip on his hair was released and he fell onto his back, to see the woman who had tied up himself and Hephaestion standing behind the squatting Captain Relm, her cutlass drawn and pressed against the side of his neck. All around the circle of soldiers the men stood with their weapons ready, not moving, unsure of what to do.

“Stand,” she barked, “Slowly.”

Relm stood, an expression of cold anger on his face. “What exactly are you trying to do, woman?” he said.

“Your part in this is finished,” she said to Relm, “Take your men and go home, leave the prince and his companion with me.”

Relm was silent, but Lucas could see his eyes flicker to one of his men, who stepped forward, brandishing an axe.

“No movement from any of you,” shouted the woman, “You’ve followed Relm here and accomplished what you sought out to do: there’s gold in your pockets and blood on your hands. He wouldn’t have allowed any of you to take part in a prince’s ransom anyway, so leave now while you have the chance.”

“Dagg?” asked one of the men in a dumbfounded tone, “What do we do?”

“Kill her, obviously!” responded Relm with annoyance. The woman kicked Relm in the back of his knee and he crumpled to the ground. She yanked him back up by his collar and held her sword across his neck. Relm gasped for air.

“Do what she says,” he shouted fearfully, “I’ll handle the rest of this myself.”

“You bitch!” shouted another soldier, “Relm’s our leader, we’re not leaving him behind.”

“Then make a move for him,” responded the woman confidently, “And his head will not have hit the ground before I’ve run you through. This is over. You brigands go back to your damn hideaways, and hope that I never see any of you again, or I’ll take vengeance on those Alexandrian soldiers you slew.”

“Dagguereous!” shouted the first of the soldiers indignantly.

“Shut up!” barked Relm, “There’s nothing I can do at this point, just do as she says. Get lost, I’ll be back eventually!”

“We’ll see about that,” responded the women coolly.

There was a long, tense moment where no one moved. Hephaestion coughed again from the kick he’d received, and Lucas watched the circle of soldiers as one by one, the men withdrew, some breaking into a run into the trees behind them, others heading back up the path, in the opposite direction of the caravan. Soon there were only a few men, and then they too turned and fled. The first soldier who had spoken glared at the woman, and then, the last to do so, he turned and ran into the trees.

There was the sound of rustling leaves as the men dressed as soldiers disappeared, and eventually, Lucas, Hepheaestion, Relm, and the woman, were alone.

“Well, what happens now?” Relm asked, gulping against the sword that still pressed against his throat.

In a swift movement the woman turned and knocked Relm flat on his back, having pulled his sword from it’s sheath at his side in doing so, and he lay on the ground, clutching at his knee. She held a sword in each hand and glared down at him, “Now you’re going to stand up, and you’re going to turn and run as fast as you can out of my sight, and pray that I remain merciful for as long as I see you, and don’t decide to kill you now.”

“And why not kill me?” he said, “You’ve done an excellent job of disbanding my men and taking the prince hostage for yourself. Why leave me alive?”

Bronwen stepped forward and aimed the sword in her right down at him, “Maybe I won’t, then.”

Their eyes locked. Relm scowled, and pushed himself up from the ground, hobbling a little on the leg where she had kicked him. “This will not be the last time we see one another, woman,” he said.

“I should hope it is,” said the woman, “For your sake.”

“Tell me,” said Relm, “What is the name of the woman who seeks to bring down the vengeance of Dagguereous Relm, the most dangerous criminal in the border lands?”

The woman smirked, “Bronwen,” she said, “My name is Bronwen. Remember it.”

“You’re a proud little fool, girl,” said Relm, “I will have your head.”

“Come and find it,” she spat back, “Now run.”

There was silence.

Bronwen swiped her sword quickly at Relm’s face, and cut the side of his cheek. “I said run, you bastard!” she spat.

Relm glared, then glanced over at Lucas, and then without a word, he turned and limped into the trees the way the others had.

Silence as they waited to hear his footsteps disappearing.

Bronwen sheathed her own cutlass and swiftly removed the ropes binding Lucas and Hephaestion’s hands with Relm’s saber.

“Who are you?” said Lucas, “What are you going to do with us now?”

“You need to get out of here,” she said, “Those thugs are going to be hiding out in the woods waiting for you, or me, or both of us.

Hephaestion stood up, rubbing a hand across his chest. “Where is my spear?” he asked her.

“I don’t know,” Bronwen said, “I gave it to another one of the men when I took it from you. Here, take this,” and she handed him the saber in her hand.

Hephaestion took it cautiously, “You’re really going to give me a weapon?”

“I’m not here to steal the two of you from him,” she said, “I’m here to rescue you.”

“Who sent you here to save us?” asked Lucas.

“No one,” she said, “I came on my own when I found out about Relm’s plot. He was being paid by someone dress up his gang of thugs in Dulhan uniforms and abduct you.”

“Sounds like someone was trying to frame Dulhan kidnapping Lucas,” said Hephaestion.

“Yes, it does,” said Bronwen, “And I need more information as to who, and why. I’m going to return to town and try to find something, you two need to head back to the palace as quickly as possible. We’re only a few minutes from the border, take two of the horses and go now, and they shouldn’t have time to catch up to you. Once your across the border there will be more Alexandrian soldiers who can see you back to the castle.”

“We can’t,” said Lucas.

Both Hephaestion and Bronwen looked at him, confused.

“The Chancellor must have done this,” said Lucas, “You said that Relm was being paid by someone, do you know who?”

“No,” said Bronwen, “Even he didn’t know who it was, but he was doing it for the money.”

“It must have been the Chancellor,” said Lucas, looking at Hephaestion.

“I don’t know, Luke…” responded Hepheastion.

“Why would the Chancellor pay to have you kidnapped?” asked Bronwen.

“Because it would be a pretext to go to war with Dulhan,” said Lucas, “And that’s what he wants, but he can’t convince the council without a good reason.”

Bronwen placed a hand to her chin in thought. “Lucas,” said Hephaestion, “I understand that the Chancellor’s an awful guy, but I don’t think…”

“No,” said Bronwen, cutting him off, “It sounds about right.”

“How would you know?” asked Hephaestion defiantly, “Who the hell are you?”

“My name is Bronwen,” she said, “And like I said, I’m just someone who’s trying to help.”

“What do you know about the Chancellor?” asked Lucas.

“Only what I’ve heard from others,” said Bronwen, “But we don’t have time for that now. You need to be somewhere safe. Continue up this road the way you came and you’ll be back in Alexandrian territory, but if you’re convinced going back to the castle is a bad idea, we need to get you somewhere safe.”

“This is ridiculous!” said Hephaestion, “Lucas, this isn’t the time to go pointing your finger at the Chancellor! I know the guy’s an ass, but-“

“Think about it,” said Bronwen, “This caravan was headed, where, to the North?”

“Ivinda,” said Lucas.

“In order to reach Ivinda,” said Bronwen, “The caravan didn’t HAVE to pass through Hrothgar, which Dulhan has claimed as it’s own territory. He was set up to be here, and at this time, on this day, because Relm knew he was coming. If not the Chancellor, someone in Alexandria planned this. Relm may not have been a real Dulhan soldier, but he was right, Alexandrians aren’t permitted to cross the border right now.”

“Dammit,” said Hephaestion in a whisper, almost to himself. “Well, where do we go then?”

“If going back to Alexandria isn’t an option,” said Bronwen, “and traveling deeper into Hrothgar isn’t an option, you’ll need to go somewhere else entirely.”

“There is nowhere else,” said Hephaestion.

“The Dead City lies a few miles north,” said Bronwen.

“The Dead City?” asked Lucas, “That’s a real place?”

“Yeah,” said Hephaestion, “It’s an abandoned old city, no one goes there. Even criminals avoid it.”

“It’s a safe way to cross through this area of the country,” said Bronwen, “And when you get to the other side, I have a contact who can meet you. I’ll just have to reach him in time.”

“And why are we putting our lives in your hands?” asked Hephaestion, “You just watched as those men slaughtered the soldiers in this caravan!”

“Not all of them are dead,” said Bronwen, “And I intend to try and get them help while I can. But we have to hurry, I need to get you to the Dead City and come back.”

“Even if you are on my side,” said Lucas, “You’re in danger too.”

“I’ll be alright,” said Bronwen, “Now listen: once you’ve crossed the city to the other side, you’ll be in central Hrothgar. You need to find a man named Dexter Marcus, he will help you. He lives in a small town in the mountains called Fielten, can you remember that?”

“Fielten, Marcus,” repeated Hephaestion.

Bronwen reached into the pocket of her long Dulhan uniform jacket and produced a pendant on a chain, then handed it to Lucas, “If you show this to Dexter Marcus, he’ll know I sent you, and he’ll help. It’s a long way, but it’s the only place I can think to send you now. Go north,” Bronwen pointed to the forest behind where Lucas and Hephaestion stood, “If any of the thugs stayed behind hoping to snare you, they went completely the opposite direction, and it will take them a while to get around the river to the opposite side. They won’t catch you in time if you hurry. I have to help get these soldiers to a place where their wounds can be treated.”

Hephaestion clenched his fist, “I still don’t trust you.”

“I know,” said Bronwen, “But just listen to me: Dexter Marcus. Fielten. He’ll help you, he’ll give you shelter. It’s a long way, but you can make it.”

Hephaestion leaned down and clasped Lucas’ hand, helping him up.

“I don’t know who you are,” said Hephaestion to Bronwen, “Or what you’re really doing here… but thank you for saving us. They would have killed me, and taken Lucas.”

“I know,” said Bronwen, “And you’re welcome. Now get moving. There’s no time for you take any provisions from the caravan, just go while you have a chance.”

“Come on,” said Hephaestion to Lucas.

Lucas suddenly felt his knees shaking.

Hephaestion came in close and put one arm around Lucas, and whispered into his ear, “It’s alright, I’ll protect you.”

Lucas took a deep, ragged breath, and nodded.

He took one last glance at Bronwen, who was already turning and walking toward the carriages of the caravan, and followed Hephaestion into the brush, and toward the Dead City.

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