The Amulet Saga
Volume Two: The Traveler
Others in the series:
Rose inhaled deeply, reveling in the new sights and smells. “Isn’t it beautiful here?”
Myrta sneezed. “I don’t know about beautiful. It’s too flat. It ain’t natural to be able to see so far without seeing any trees or mountains.”
The forest that encircled Legerdemain had passed out of view more than a week past. Rose and Myrta parted from the caravan two days before. It was only a matter of time before Rose’s father’s soldiers caught up to the caravan, and she wanted to be as far in the opposite direction as possible before that happened.
While the caravan made its way south and east toward Cadalania, she and Myrta traveled south and west toward Sunnland, the largest and most prosperous kingdom this side of Malakai’s Ridge. Best of all, no one in the caravan knew she was gone. She and Myrta slipped away at the last village, a small town that gave its allegiance and taxes to Kirlan, telling conflicting stories of which part of the caravan they’d be riding with that day. No one in the caravan would miss them for at least a day. If Rose had calculated correctly, that would be about the time her father’s guards caught up. By the time all the confusion was sorted out, she and Myrta would be another day or two away, and they’d be lost in the bustle of the city long before anyone picked up their trail.
“Be glad we’re not going east,” Rose said. “I’ve heard the desert is nothing but sand for days and days.”
Myrta shuddered. “I don’t know that the sea will be much better. Water in all directions for days sounds just as bad.”
“We don’t need to go across the sea. I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity for work in a city like Nynthavin.”
“I do hope you’re right, m’lady.”
“Rose. You must call me Rose. We’re equals, now.”
Myrta snorted, but didn’t argue.
By late afternoon, Rose’s back ached from sitting so long in the saddle, and her backside ached even more, yet the landscape stretched on, low rolling hills in every direction, with not so much as a farmhouse in sight, let alone a village.
“Surely we must be almost to the sea by now,” Myrta said.
Rose frowned. Everything looked so much closer together on the maps she studied. She knew Legerdemain was small—she could travel from one end to the other in a day—but she hadn’t realized how large the rest of the world really was.
Night fell, and darkness obscured the road. Rose urged the horses to pick up their pace, but they were weary, too.
“I suppose we’ll have to camp under the stars tonight,” Rose said at last.
Myreta nodded “At this point, I’d sleep anywhere.”
A small cluster of bushes grew a little off the side of the road. “How about there?” Rose suggested.
They dismounted and tethered the horses to the bushes.
“Should we build a fire?” Myrta asked.
“I don’t know how,” Rose confessed.
Myrta frowned. “I could do it in a fireplace, but I’ve never tried outside.”
“Let’s not, then. At least it’s warmer here than at home.”
Rose spread her cloak on the ground and pulled some provisions from her saddlebags. “Well have to buy more food at the next village. I didn’t think we’d be traveling this long.”
They ate in relative silence.
The sound of hooves on the road broke the stillness. Rose’s heart thundered louder than the horse. Could it be her father’s guards, coming to take her home?
A lone rider ambled up the road. He wasn’t wearing a Legerdemain guard uniform, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t sent for her.
Not that it mattered. It was too late to run away and there was no place to hide.
The man rode on.
Just when rose thought he might pass by without stopping, he veered toward them and waved. “Greetings ladies. I was looking for a good place to stay the night. If you’ll accept my company, of course.”
Rose didn’t recognize him, which meant he wasn’t sent for her.
She smiled. “We would be delighted. I am Rose, and this is Myrta.”
The man dismounted and tethered his horse near theirs. “I am Sir Billham of Kirlan.”
A gentleman. Her relief was almost palpable. “We are from…” Rose tried to remember what would be far away from Kirlan but still a probable location for them to be traveling from. “Zyan. We’re from Zyan.”
“Oh, artisans, then?”
Rose nodded. “On our way to Nynthavin, looking or work. Have you traveled this way before? Do you know how much further it is?”
“Oh, not too much more, now. On horseback, you can make it in a week, though ten days is more realistic. Fortunately, the villages are closer together the closer you get to the city.”
Another whole week? Rose’s heart sank. Every day they were out in the open gave her father’s men that much more opportunity to find her. Still, all they could do was press on.
They talked for awhile longer, Sir Billham regaling them with tales of his travels, and then Rose and Myrta curled up in their cloaks to sleep.
Rose woke up sometime before dawn to the sound of a yelp from Myrta. She sat up. Dark forms wrestled in the dark. The bigger one landed a blow to the smaller one’s face. Myrta cried out again. The other shadow—Sir Billham, apparently—sprang up and mounted his horse. He bolted for the road. Rose’s horse, and Myrta’s, followed.
No, not followed. Were led away.
Rose ran after them, but they were gone in moments. She hurried back to Myrta, whose once-fine dress was now stained with a growing patch of blood from her nose. “Oh, Myrta. I am so sorry.”
“I am the one who is sorry, m’lady. I couldn’t stop him. He took everything, the saddlebags, the horses…” Myrta choked. She looked up at Rose. “What do we do now?”