, , , , , ,

            Raziel didn’t come back into the hut again, but I waited until Ezekiel had fallen asleep again. I wasn’t sure what to take with me, and only packed a small satchel with food, leaving some for Ezekiel when he awoke. It did feel wrong to be leaving him like this but he would be fine now. I brushed the hair from his brow, he stirred in his sleep but did not awaken.

            It was dusk when I left the hut, Raziel was standing next to his big horse. He swung up easily into the saddle and held his hand out to me. I reluctantly took it, and he practically dragged me up behind him. I didn’t want to have to touch him, but I realized that I was forced to clutch him with one arm while my other hand held my staff. The horse moved rather smooth for such a large animal, and oddly silent through down the forest path. While so close to him I realized he had a musky scent that I actually found appealing. His body was warm, and though I had brought Grandmother’s heavy caped cloak, the night air began to get chilly as the night went on. I found myself glad that I was pressed against him.

            We rode silently, my arm around his waist, it was like clutching a rock, but my inner thighs were beginning to get sore. I noticed I was beginning to doze anyway. The ride was wearing me out. It was when we stopped for a moment that I jerked awake, clutching Raziel tighter for a moment.

            “How much farther?” I asked looking around noticing that the dawn was coming.

            “It is a three day ride to the capitol,” he replied quietly. “We’ll stop for the moment.” I tried to slide gracefully from the back of the horse, and realized that my legs couldn’t hold me, they’d gone numb and I fell to my hands and knees. I slowly pulled myself up with Grandmother’s walking stick. Raziel had dropped down from the horse’s back with an elegance I clearly lacked.

            I looked around, we weren’t on the Kingway, but in the middle of a forest. The trees looked different than the ones around Grandmother’s hut. The ground was covered in needles rather than the wide flat leaves of my forest. I watched as Raziel tethered the horse to a tree, he removed its saddle and bridle. I sat at the base of one of the trees. The forest had a pleasant scent to it, almost something I’d like to take back with me to my own forest near the ocean. He said nothing to me as he took care of the horse, then built a small fire. I removed an apple from my satchel along with a small knife and began to peel it. I took great care in trying to get the peel all in one peace. Doing so should bring me good luck and I may need all the luck I could get while traveling with Raziel.

            “Where are we?” I asked.

            “Ealdwood, I know that Zeke will try to follow us, so rather than using the Kingway, I’m making a beeline for the capitol.” I was impressed, I think this was the most he’d ever said to me without shouting. Actually I think it was the most he’d ever said to me and he’d been rather forthcoming.

            “Aren’t the woods dangerous?” I was full of questions. He seemed slightly annoyed.

            “There isn’t anything in these woods I can’t handle,” he began, “but it is less dangerous at night. At night the udead come to life, and they’re much harder to deal with.”

            “And you can handle them too?” I asked suddenly worried that we might not make it to the capitol. The undead could pick us off, I had visions of being murdered then becoming one of them. I shuddered.

            “Sever the head, it is the most efficient way to kill anything,” he stated rather coldly.

            “Have you killed many?” I wasn’t sure if I was asking about the undead or real people. Raziel seemed dangerous, even just sitting across from me at the small fire he’d made. He was fingering the ribbon on his wrist, rubbing it between thumb and forefinger.

            “You ask a lot of questions,” he replied and I felt offended. This was the most civil conversation I’d ever had with him. “Go to sleep.” I was curious about the scar on his face and down his neck. I wanted to ask him about Gretchen, but I obeyed him and laid down on the needles, they were surprisingly soft, and quickly I was asleep.