NIGHT AND MIST

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    THEY  RODE FOR ABOUT A FEW MORE HOURS BEFORE RAIZO SAW THE FIRST LIGHT OF DAWN. RAIZO WAS SURE HE WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET DOWN THAT HORSE WHEN HE WANTED TO, IT WAS LIKE HIS CROTCH HAD MELTED INTO THE CURVES OF HIS SADDLE------ METAPHORICALLY.

      RIDING THROUGH THE SEEMINGLY ENDLESS FOREST IN THE DARK WAS AN ORDEAL HE QUICKLY WANTED TO GET OVER WITH, AND ZEPHYR DIDN’T SPEAK A WORD WITH HIM AGAIN AS THEY RODE, NOR DID HE TO HIM.

      THEY DIDN’T SLOW DOWN UNTIL RAIZO HEARD A RIVER RUSHING CLOSE BY, THE FOREST HAD THINNED SOMEWHAT BY THEN. WHEN THE RIVER FIRST CAME INTO VIEW, IT WAS UNLIKE HE HAD EVER SEEN, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN IT’S BANKS WAS GREATER THAN THAT OF THAMES, AND IT’S WATER CLEARER AND BLUER THAN THOSE OF THE HAWAIIAN COASTS. THE SOUND OF IT RUSHING BY WAS LIKE A THOUSAND HORSES GALLOPING TOGETHER, WHITE FOAM FORMING WHENEVER IT IT WENT OVER ROCKS. ZEPHYR SPOKE TO HIM  THEN, FOR ONLY THE SECOND TIME DURING THEIR RIDE.

    “DON’T GET FOOLED BY IT’S HUE RAIZO, THIS RIVER HAS BEEN THE DEATH OF MANY AN ARMY THAT TRIED TO BREACH THE WALLS OF THE CITY LYING ACROSS IT. THIS IS THE RIVER OF NOX. ANYWAYS, WASH UP, WE WON’T BE STAYING LONG.”

   “YEAH FINE, HOW FAR FROM HERE IS IT? I MEAN THE CITY?”, RAIZO ASKED WHILE HE WASHED HIMSELF IN THE COLD WATER OF THE RIVER ALONG WITH ZEPHYR.

    “A FEW MORE HOURS AND YOU’LL BE THERE. AND ONCE YOU’RE THERE, YOU WON’T NEED TO GIVE ANY EXPLANATION TO THE STATIONED GUARDS, JUST SHOW THEM THIS”, ZEPHYR TOOK OUT A SEALED SCROLL FROM THE BAG FASTENED ON HIS HORSE’S SADDLE AND HANDED IT OVER TO RAIZO.

“WHAT’S THIS? AND YOU AREN’T COMING WITH ME?”, RAIZO ASKED, TAKING THE SCROLL FROM HIM.

“CONSIDER THAT THE REASON WHY THOSE GUARDS WON’T KILL YOU WHEN YOU TRY TO ENTER THE CITY. AND DON’T BREAK THE SEAL. TAKE THIS TOO, IT HAS SOME GOLD AND SILVER DRACHMA IN IT, YOU’LL NEED IT TO BUY SUPPLIES WHEN YOU GET INTO THE CITY”, ZEPHYR SAID THROWING HIM A VELVET POUCH THAT JINGLED WHEN IT LANDED ON RAIZO’S PALM.

 “AND YES I WON’T” HE CONTINUED, “THIS IS WHERE WE PART WAYS. THERE IS A BRIDGE DOWNSTREAM, UNGUARDED MOST PROBABLY, CROSS THAT AND THEN IT’S JUST THE REST OF THE FOREST. WHEN YOU GET INTO THE CITY, FOLLOW THE MAIN WAY AND CONTINUE NORTH, ASK FOR THE LAKE TETHYS,  YOU NEED TO FIND RAPHAELA MIST.”

“RAPHAELA MIST.”RAIZO REPEATED THE NAME, “WHAT THEN?”

“JUST FIND HER, AND YOU’LL KNOW THE REST.SHE PROBABLY LIVES BEHIND THAT LAKE,” ZEPHYR SAID, MOUNTING HIS HORSE AND PUTTING ON HIS HAT.

“SO......IT’S ADIOS THEN? YOU GONNA COME  MEET ME THERE OR WHAT?”, RAIZO ASKED.

ZEPHYR LOOKED UP STRAIGHT AHEAD THEN, AS IF SEARCHING FOR SOMEONE OVER THE HORIZON, A ‘FAR-AWAY’ LOOK CROSSING HIS FACE,

 “I KNOW NOT  WHEN WE WILL MEET AGAIN RAIZO, BUT I’M GLAD THAT OUR PATHS CROSSED”, HE SAID LOOKING BACK AT HIM.

RAIZO COULDN’T HELP BUT NOTICE THE OMINOUS UNDERTONE TO HIS WORDS, “THANKS FOR GETTING ME OUT OF THAT...THAT CAMP BACK THERE, OWE YOU ONE”, HE SAID, HALF-SMILING.

“GOOD THING YOU TOOK THAT SWORD,” ZEPHYR SAID SMILING BACK, HE TIPPED HIS HAT TOWARDS HIM, AND THEN URGED HIS HORSE FORWARD UP THE RIVER, TOWARDS THE EAST.

RAIZO DID AS HE WAS TOLD, HE MOUNTED UP AND FOLLOWED THE RIVER DOWNSTREAM , WHERE SOON HE CAME ACROSS A WOODEN BRIDGE. IT WAS UNGAURDED, AS ZEPHYR HAD SAID. HE CROSSED THE BRIDGE CAUTIOUSLY AND THEN CONTINUED ALONG THE SMALL TRAIL THAT LED HIM DEEPER INTO THE FOREST, OR OUT OF IT.

     RAIZO TRAVELLED FOR A FEW MORE HOURS, UNTIL THE CITY FINALLY CAME INTO VIEW. THE PATH THAT HE FOLLOWED LED HIM TO THE EDGE OF A LOW CLIFF THAT OVERLOOKED THE CITY, AND THE FIRST TIME THAT HE LAID HIS EYES UPON IT, HE ALMOST LOST HIS BREATH AND FELL OFF HIS HORSE. THIS NEW WORLD THAT HE WAS IN SEEMED TO GIVE HIM A HEART ATTACK AT EVERY CORNER.

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