Sleep evaded both Zoar and Gilbred. The Miasma revealed the early glow of morning and sealed the reality that sleep wasn’t coming. Zoar lifted herself from the niche of debris and dead foliage; Gilbred had been sitting cross legged for some hours now at the entrance of the cove. Setting up the tent would’ve been a beacon for anyone trying to find them, and Zoar wasn’t interested in sharing the space.
“I’ve seen two scouts this morning,” Gilbred stated at the sound of her rustling.
Urgency restored a level of cognition; she had fled the scene of the High Priestess’ murder and aided a captive, scouts were already scanning the area.
“An hour ago, and about fifteen minutes ago.”
“They send them out in waves,” she explained, “it allows the area to be covered with much more care rather than sending out only one. There will be at least one more passing by within a half hour, we only have a brief window.”
She stood and shook the sleep off her body and checked her pack, making sure everything was secure. Gilbred stepped just outside the cover of the fallen vegetation to stretch.
“Was the second scout closer or further away than the first?”
“He was closer.”
“The next one will be on top of us, then they’ll reach the end of the patrol and double back further from us. Which way were they headed?” her pack was strapped to her small, yet sturdy frame and she stood next to Gilbred who took no notice.
A thought struck Zoar, east is the nearest town; if they think we’re hiding there they’ll tear the place apart.
“We have to beat them there,” Zoar urged stepping in past Gilbred and checking the barren hills.
“There’s no way we’re going east! They’ll be waiting for us, we need to head west while we have the opportunity,” Gilbred burst.
Zoar turned, a rigid expression coupled with her words, “If they kill all the villagers there because they think we’re hiding there, than it’s on your head.”
He didn’t know what he was dealing with, what the tribe was capable of. His jaw locked and he looked away for a moment.
“We have no weapons, nothing, and it’s unlikely whoever the villagers are will be able to offer much aid once we get there,” frustration seeping through his clenched teeth.
“I will not let them be murdered on my behalf.”
“From the savage! Why now, what gave you the lift to turn from savage to saint?”
The words stung. The truth was she didn’t know. Had it really been the fear of the familiars and their wickedness, or the prompting of the man.
“I told you, I didn’t think this up. It was that man, he saved us. Now all I’m trying to do is hold up my end of the bargain,” transparency flickered for a moment before the defensive facade returned. “So you can come with me, or leave and spit on the one who you owe your freedom.”
Prides boiled. Neither willing to show any kindness to the other.
“Fine, I will go with you. But, after we resolve whatever awaits us at the village, I am free of your debt,” Gilbred walked past Zoar again, starting to head east.
“Do you want it in blood?” she asked, hand hovering over her spear head.
Gilbred turned looking down his nose with disgust, “Only the unblemished can make blood oaths, your word is all I need.”
Zoar settled herself behind Gilbred, watching every slope and plateau as it came into view; listening even more carefully for what she couldn’t see outside of the Miasma. They both agreed there would be no conversation, but silence would be much safer, and preferred. She noticed he made a considerable more amount of noise than she did. Her teeth gritted every time he snapped a branch or rustled through bushes.
They watched the entire trip, behind and in front. Wary of someone gaining on them, or those they pursued doubling back before the village. Zoar had been hopeful that perhaps the tribe’s structure had crumbled just enough that retrieving her was a lesser concern.
Her hopes were dashed as they approached the small village. It was clear immediately that it wasn’t just scouts. The tribe had sent at least one entire branch of warriors in pursuit; and who knew if there would be more following. The village was intact, but the inhabitants were not. After checking a few houses, it was clear that they hadn’t expected them. An ambush from several different sides. Most of the dead were withered and shrunken at tables or in beds, quite possibly having been killed some time during the night. The tribe did pride themselves in being able to adapt quickly, to have the entire tribe ready to migrate within an hour. So the strike force being so quick was not surprising.
“We need to be careful, they may have left a scout behind to watch the area, in case we were in hiding,” Gilbred whispered, Zoar nodded.
They continued to check houses and buildings for any survivors. There were none. Gilbred stumbled on the tucked form of a small girl just outside her bed, eyes watering her pushed past Zoar and left the building.
She followed him out as he stood upright again, “I will pray daily for Sendiil’s judgement on these savages.”
Zoar felt slighted by the comment, despite feeling the same repulsion for what had played out here. She could feel him equate her to their actions, it was the way most all outsiders portrayed her people; not without reason though.
After they had exhausted their attempts to find hope, they stopped searching for survivors and instead gathered any supplies they could carry; the next establishment was a city several days travel from there.
The trip had been quiet, for them both. Since seeing the village slaughtered neither Zoar nor Gilbred were social. They kept to themselves and only communicated when necessary.
They had no trouble staying off the main roads and still keeping themselves en route. Knowing the land was practically a hereditary trait in Zoar’s tribe. Being a nomadic people, she had been taught the lay of the land, and how to read the signs when lost to recover her trek.
Gilbred didn’t soften towards her. When they did talk, it seemed to take everything in his being to not lash out at her or vomit. Neither of which, furthered Zoar’s security in her decision. There was no contact with the man of light, nor any dreams of him when she did sleep. She had to admit, her company had improved a bit from the High Priestess who tried to kill her, to Gilbred who probably wanted to.
“What is it you do, you wear unusual clothes,” Zoar asked, breaking the silence of several hours past.
A quiet scoff came form ahead, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Have I not proven my unpredictability when it comes to assumptions made?” Zoar was frustrated she had asked now.
“I was a Judge.”
“Do you know of the Remnant?” he asked glancing over at her.
“I was a person who enforced the Hand of Sendiil-“
“Was?” Zoar interrupted.
“It’s difficult to explain, I have been… stripped of my title,” there was hesitation in his voice as he explained.