Chapter 3

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Valsarai spread before them as they crested the last hill and looked down into Dindral valley below. The shallow valley had no major water source as it had not been cut by a river, making it an unusual city only accessible by land or transport glyph. Valsarai was a popular destination, famous for its underground springs of sweet mineral water, more taverns and eateries than a city of two hundred thousand should support, along with one of the most prestigious mage academies in all Eradas. Dindral Valley Mage Academy

As they descended into the valley, the road quickly filled up with other travelers. Brightly colored merchant wagons trundled along some smelling of spices or cured leather, others reeked of fish. Men on horseback assisted by trained dogs drove herds of brown cattle or sheep along the grassy edges of the road. The thunder of hooves and sharp whistles and calls soon grated on Quenoor's already frayed nerves.

He shifted the mage in his grip, having adjusted him so that he no longer lay across Kellir's withers, but sat slumped against Quenoor's chest. It was uncomfortable but avoided looking as though they were transporting a dead body. He kept catching himself staring down at the mage, noting the constellations of freckles across the bridge of his nose and over his cheeks. Red eyebrows arched over the closed eyes and looked too neat not to have been manicured. Lips the shade of newly ripe strawberries hung slightly open. Quenoor growled to himself and forced his gaze away, he needed to focus on where they were going. He had done what he'd set out to do. Keep the mage from being murdered. He had no obligation beyond that.

They'd ended up on the main road traveling north. Fairway, if Quenoor remembered correctly. It ran the length of Valsarai and would intersect with Pemberton Street that would take them to the academy. He could easily see the slate grey roof of the academy near the center of the city. The main building stood a good twenty stories and towered over the rest of the city.

"I see the academy."

"Is the mage still alive?"

Quenoor laid a hand along Tier'ghan's neck. "Yes. Though I think he's come down with a fever."

Kellir's ears laid back for a moment. "We must hurry."

"Please don-" Quenoor bit down on his tongue as Kellir jumped into a stiff trot. His legs had long since gone numb and his ass felt like he was sitting on hot coals. He grabbed hold of Tier'ghan and clamped his knees tight as the bouncing threatened to have them both sliding off. He could only imagine how exhausted Kellir was. The stiff unsteady gait spoke volumes.

Kellir slowed as the number of wagons and people increased. Quenoor gently directed Kellir toward the academy. As he rode he became aware of the looks they were getting. They must be a sight. A gremlin halfling holding an unconscious man, riding massive white stallion bareback and without even a halter. Maybe he hadn't thought this through well enough. It was too late now.

The number of robed people walking along the street increased signaling they were getting close. "Almost there."

Kellir didn't speak, just bobbed his head.

Once through the decorative gate, Kellir stumbled to a stop. He'd felt the tingle of a spell wall as they'd entered but nothing more. Quenoor glanced around, the large well-manicured lawn sported massive silver beeches under which more robed mages strolled. He clambered down and had to lean against Kellir's side as his legs throbbed. He didn't dare risk using magic. Not here. Not for something as mundane as aching legs.

"Hey! You!"

Quenoor looked in the direction of the yelling. Two paladins in full armor were trotting in their direction.

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