Chapter Four

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Author's notes: You guys, this was such a pain in my butt to write. I have edited and re-drafted it time and time again asnd i am still not happy. Bored out of my mind, i'm just going to upload and be done with it.

Ugh.

Chapter Four

After what must have been only a few hours into their journey, Aurelia began to lag behind the soldiers. As a noble woman, she was unused to the physical exertion of walking such a distance and the pace of the legionaries set for them. Even the one crew member of the ship that was with them was fareing better than Aurelia.

Her sandals did not aid her plight either. She did not have the thick soles like the soldiers as women’s were for aesthetic purposes only. They slipped on the wet grass and each stone felt like a needle into the soft skin of her feet until they throbbed horribly with the wild beat of her heart.

She suffered in silence, lips pressed tightly together until they were pale with lack of blood, not wanting to put anymore strain on the men or become a burden to the group. But no matter how hard she tried, she was slowing them all down. Determination only went so far. The hunger and the punishing pace were taking its toll. Unable to take it any longer, she had to call out for a rest and the soldiers stopped grudgingly.

Aurelia sat in between two roots of the tree at her back, her legs stretched out before her to keep her feet elevated. They thanked her by increasing the throb to the point of agony.

From beneath her lashes, she watched the soldiers discuss the path ahead of them a little way from her spot. She couldn’t hear what they said to each other, but she didn’t miss the looks they flicked towards her every now and then. They looked disgruntled, even angry. She knew what thoughts were behind those looks. They resented her for slowing them down, for having to look after the interest of a woman they hardly knew or cared about. She may be the future wife of their commander, but she was still an unwelcome hindrance. A hinderance that could get them all killed.

Aurelia shivered, feeling totally alone. Would these men abandon her if it meant their own safety? Given a chance, would they cast her off to slow those who may be pursuing them?

The Prefect, Verenus, said something harshly to them, his eyes flashing in anger. The men stiffened at his words, looking down at the ground in difference, soundly chastised.

Verenus broke away from the group and came to her with a kind face. “Are you feeling well enough to carry on, my lady?”

She wanted to say no, she had no more energy to carry on, just ten more minutes of respite, but she didn’t dare. It would only aggravate the other soldiers more and maybe next time, the ire of their Prefect may not be enough to curb their mutinous mutterings.

Nodding tiredly, she took the hand he held out to her and helped her to her feet. Wrong move, her feet exploded in pain and nearly buckled her knees. She fought through it and nodded again. “I’m alright to carry on.”

He looked at her face intently, saw the pinched lines around her mouth and eyes but made no comment. Her resolve earned her his respect and he nodded. “Very well. We shall start again.”

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