Chapter Sixteen

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The horses stopped moving just outside of the small village and Selene could not have been happier. She was sore and tired and did not know how much longer she could have stayed ahorse. Kareth hopped off of his mount and handed her the reins. Despite the endless travel, Kareth seemed as rested as when they set off. He rarely slept, but Selene could not guess why. When he did sleep, the few times that she had been awake, he tossed and turned and said a woman’s name over and again. It was a cry of desperation, of loss, and she knew that something in his past was haunting him.

“Wait here. I will see if it is clear,” he said before advancing towards the village and ultimately disappearing into the darkness.

Selene sat awkwardly upon the horse, hoping that it would not take Kareth long to find them a place to stay. They had been moving now for almost a moon’s turn and the amount her body had changed in that time was almost inconceivable. Though, she supposed that they would be reaching their destination shortly, if the gods were good. She found her mind wandering to the few good memories she had from the Inn of Stones, of Perak’s stew, and the time Lady Kendra, a northern lord’s lovely wife, visited and tipped every serving girl and stable master a whole gold coin—which was then confiscated by Grest so that he could renovate the inn. Had the lady not left before Selene could find her, she would have told her what happened to her generous offerings, but it was not meant to be.

Despite the less than ideal outcome, Selene could never forget how she felt holding a real gold coin. She had heard of them, but until that day she had never seen one. It was so small, she remembered. The entire day she held it, all she could think about was what she would do once she left the inn, and more importantly, what she would buy.  A horse would have been the first purchase, though nothing too fancy; maybe a troubled little gelding, just strong enough to get her three or four towns away. Once she was well away from town, an inn would have been nice, one that she didn’t work in. She would have taken a hot bath first, letting the steam envelope her. Then, maybe she would have gotten her hair cut, or had a meal not swimming in broth. They were fantasies, she knew, but it made her feel better nonetheless.

Kareth was only gone for a short while, but when he returned there was obvious concern written on his face. “I am afraid the inn is no good. There are at least three sets of fighting men, all led by knights, all wearing colors of houses that would like to see us dead sooner than later.”

The disappointment was obvious on her face, but Kareth continued before she could say anything. “But do not worry, all is not lost. There is a stable at the far end of the town. I have negotiated for us to spend the night.” He forced a smile. “It is not much, but at least we will be dry and perhaps get a bite to eat.”

Selene nodded solemnly and followed as Kareth led them around the outside of the small village to the opposite end of the town where they approached the stable from the backside. Once along the broad side that faced out of town, Kareth knocked twice and, after a moment, a small pint of a man wearing a mixture of wool and leather and topped by a spindled hat stepped out of a small opening that looked like little more than a large crack in the wood. He looked around cautiously before moving to the travelers and taking the reins of their horses.

“In the hole you go,” he said as he took the horses around front.

Kareth gestured for her to follow, and they squeezed through the small opening that led into an even smaller room cut out from the rest of the barn. They waited in the relative darkness for a long while until the small man pushed his way through and took off his worn leather hat.

“Good day to the both of you, my name is Edgar.” He nodded his head a few times, but did not wait for an answer. “I don’t want to know your names or your business. I will bring you sup as soon as I get my hands on it, and just before first light I will give you a couple of eggs and some bread. You will stay quiet, and you will be gone before first light. Now, there any problems with any of that?”

Both Selene and Kareth glanced at each other and shook their heads. “No problems, Edgar, and I thank you again.” It was Kareth that displayed the courtesies.

Edgar waved them off as he turned to the opening. “I don’t need your thanks. I’ll cover up the hole. You will know it is me because I will tap the wood three times just like this.” He did a distinct tap three times and nodded at both of them. “If you hear someone trying to get in and you don’t hear that tap, best prepare yourselves for some aggression, unless you fancy some squawking lord’s dark dungeon.” With that he nodded one last time and squeezed out of the small hole.

A moment later the opening was covered by what appeared to be a bush, and the room became increasingly dark. Selene instantly felt uncomfortable in the small, dark room.

“Well, it is no king’s solar, but I venture that we are safer here than in the inn.” Kareth was at least attempting to comfort her.

She took a deep breath in and then exhaled slowly. “What is the darkness like for a Shadowdancer?”

“It is hard to explain, really.” He paused for a second. “I suppose I would relate it to a warm embrace, or like going home. You see, a decent portion of my adolescence was spent in complete darkness. It is part of the experience, if you will, of attending the Sieltacor.”

She shot a confused look into the darkness. “Is the Sieltacor not the evil order that nearly killed two of the Uthari?”

“Yes, my dear, it was an evil order. It was very old, and it was created by a powerful and arrogant man. It was where those who wished to learn to Shadowdance become Children of the Shadows. It was there that men and women alike lost their souls.”

Hey everyone, thank you so much for stopping by and checking out the story. I will be posting a new chapter every Tuesday and Friday until the entire novel is on Wattpad. However, I would like to let everyone know that The Lost Prince is on Amazon. I am giving the book away for free on here, but if you loved the novel and feel like purchasing a copy, or gifting it to someone else, I cannot express how honored I would be. 

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