Khraga, part one

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Arthur groaned tiredly as they were led away. He didn't need to understand the words to grasp their meaning. Whatever was going to happen to them wasn't going to happen here, and he desperately wanted more than a few hours of rest before being tied to a horse again. The cold bit harder now.

Lack of food, he thought. Less energy available for warming my body. Less left for thinking clearly as well.

Arthur glanced at Chaijrild at his side. She had to feel the same way; miserable, cold, hungry and afraid. At least he had his curiosity to divert his thoughts, and he was curious. More so than afraid, or maybe he was just too tired to be afraid. Whatever the reason was for their capture he didn't seem to be the one they wanted. Gring was at the center of their interest. Something she had done, or her family had done. If Khraga had families the way humans did.

Arthur understood he'd grown dependent on her without getting to know her very well. A fallibility of his. Too many question asked about her place in his world, and far too few about his in her.

A very good way to never learn what really matters to another being, he muttered sourly in his own mind. I'm too damn used to the world circling around me.

They walked along the streets, back to the prison pen, but as he suspected horses were already waiting for them. There would be no rest. The distant screech of a bird reached him, if it was a bird. Well, it had wings, something he wished he had as well. Soaring high into the air, flying all the way back to the caravan. Now that would be a surprise for Harbend to chew on. Arthur smiled grimly. Wishful thinking. He didn't even know in which direction the caravan lay, and a look at Gring and Chaijrild made him feel a bit guilty. He wouldn't abandon them. Not now, even though he doubted his ability to be of any real help in the situation they were in. Arthur shrugged away his misgivings. Giving up on their options wouldn't help neither.

He arrived at the horse chosen for him. Sedate, just like the mare he'd ridden a few days earlier. It was smaller though, but so were all the horses their captors rode. A rugged rope was laid around his arms and he was soon tied. He sighed and resigned himself for what was ahead.

The maddening ride started again. At first the cold wind shocked him, but long before the camp disappeared from view Arthur was too numb to feel it any longer. His world turned into a bouncing horseback and an infinite whiteness all around him, and there was no time and no destination, only the white now that stretched out forever.

A day and a night passed with the only difference being that the white hell became black after the sun set. They must have changed horses, but Arthur couldn't remember when, or even how many times. It was morning again when he was untied, so weak that when they allowed him to dismount he fell to the ground. He was too tired to notice what happened to Gring or Chaijrild, too tired to recognize the Khraga standing in front of him.

Arthur could feel himself being lifted to the back of another Khraga, and then, by some wonder he couldn't understand, he was indoors. He knew that, because the wind was gone, as were the bleak rays of the morning sun. He was too weak to care about anything other than a single sensation. It was, he realized after an eternity, warm here.

He barely noticed being stripped; cloak, coat and boots still stiff with cold. There were voices around him. Hard voices speaking in a language he didn't understand, but Arthur didn't allow that to disturb him as his body grabbed for the blissful warmth in the air.

He was carried away, but he never knew where. The cradling motions of being carried combined with being warm again for the first time in ages relaxed him, and he fell asleep.

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