Ziel had no idea what was going on but she did know that it was time to get going. Judging by the Sun’s movement, at least a couple of hours have passed and it should be around noonish. Oddly, as Ziel was getting up to continue her journey, she wasn’t the least bit bothered by the scorched area around her. As if it felt a part of what she was. Going back to the side of the road she used her compass once again to find north and to head in the direction of O.O. It didn’t seem like she was getting any closer to anywhere, but she had no choice. Ziel felt that if she continued to stay too long in one place she will be found. However, she was ready this time, not sure what she would do but she won’t run or cower.
It was another warm and sunny day, and after what felt like an eternity walking Ziel was getting hungry, she was hungry all along but had no time to think about sustenance. Looking around she couldn’t see anything remotely edible. Thinking back and remembering the stories she read in her books, there were certain berries in the wild that are edible. ‘Were they red, blue, or purple? No, definitely not blue.’ Ziel was trying to remember what colored berries to look for. Sadly, there weren’t any brushes nearby for her to even start picking berries. She just kept moving on, she must be near a settlement by now, hunger an exhaustion were catching up to her. After another good couple of hours of walking she noticed that small fields of maize. The idea of stealing left a bitter taste in her mouth, but she was too hungry right now to let her moral compass be her guide. Like a predator ready to pounce, she looked around making sure nobody saw her, and walked into the field. Even though she knew that maize shouldn’t be ripe yet, she was too exhausted to think about small details. She reached for a big clip and broke it off, unwrapping and revealing that the produce was indeed edible. She muttered a very silent: “I am terribly sorry for stealing…”, and started eating like there was no tomorrow. The taste was amazing, as if she has never eaten anything like this before.
Ziel felt ashamed for what she done, but she had no other choice. After she felt filled she continued her journey, and as soon as she started walking, she finally saw someone in the distance. It was a lonely horse rider. Ziel felt excited that she will finally see another living being, but at the same time she also felt scared. What if it was one of those masked guys? What will she do in that case? No matter who it was she still felt thrilled. After a few minutes they met, it was a tall human, cloaked, nothing out of the ordinary. ‘At least he has no horns’, this was the only thought that could make Ziel really happy.
The rider stopped next to Ziel, they were back to back, her breath stopped, she clenched her fist in anticipation for a fight. The hooded rider slowly turned his head towards her, it seemed like an eternity passed when the rider finally started speaking. “And what is a little girl like you doing on a dangerous road like this. You should be wary that travelers are ruthless in these parts of the land.” His voice was deep and raspy yet somehow trustworthy. She felt intimidated but not scared, not anymore. “A good girl never talks with strangers.” The rider smirked and shook his head. “Where are my manners, I am Jacque. Pleased to meet you miss…?” Ziel had to think fast, she couldn’t just tell her real name. ‘What could I say, um, I never thought about girl names. maybe Janet, or Margaret…’ She turned her head away so that he could not see her nervousness.
“The pleasure is all yours, well, my name is… Olivia.” Ziel said this while turning her head back. The rider also turned his head back and yanked the bridles and the horse started walking slowly. “You best take care of yourself young miss, the road up ahead is not safe. Old Obarren isn’t what is used to be.” And with that the rider wandered off. Even though his encounter has not ended in bloodshed, Ziel still felt like she was badly wounded. Who knows what awaited her up ahead. ‘Wait a minute, how far is it to Old Obarren? I could have asked him, I could still ask him. What if he thinks I am lost. I better just stay quiet and go on.’ That is exactly what she did, without having the slightest clue what awaits her, she continued onward towards Old Obarren.
As she was walking on, the road also got more lively, she saw a lot more travelers, they all minded their business and nobody seemed to care who or what she is. This made her rejoice. She could be herself without having to tell lies and without having to cover up her origin. Hunger and exhaustion were once again crawling up to take her over, but she was determined that she would not give in until she finds a decent resting place. After a while though, she noticed that someone was riding a horse behind her, as if the rider was following her. She got nervous, but kept her composure nevertheless. This kept on for another half an hour before Ziel got finally fed up. She just stopped, turned around and expected to see someone ready to jump her throat, instead she saw Jacque. ‘What is he doing here? Was he following me?’, Ziel stood there shocked. Jacque just continued slowly without taking notice of her. “Are you following me?” Nobody answered. And it seemed like Jacque was ignoring her, he didn’t even flinch or turn or anything. He just kept on moving, passing Ziel, continuing wherever he was going.
“Hey!” Ziel yelled, and started to walk after Jacque. “Hey! I am talking to you! Are you following me?!” Ziel was now almost shouting, she was getting angry at him for ignoring her. ‘How dare he follow me? Maybe… maybe he is trying to capture me as well?’ Ziel managed to keep up the pace with the horse. “Why are you ignoring me? Why are you following me?” She kept asking without any answers, he was ignoring her. But she did notice that he was rather focused in what he was doing. He did look left and right, maybe he was searching for something or someone, maybe it isn’t even Jacque. She stopped, filled with despair and shame, she just wished the ground would swallow her up.
Though Jacque moved on another few meters, stopped, looked left and right and finally looked up before jumping off of his horse. As he turned around he also unsheathed a short and a long sword, assuming a battle ready position. Ziel was surprised and got scared, ‘Was he after me all this time? I should run!’, she started walking backwards and stumbled and fell to the ground. Help appeared out of nowhere and offered a hand. Without noticing who it was, she reached, the hooded stranger quickly grabbed her arm and twisted it around her back and held a dagger to her neck. “If ye value yer life, ye better not squirm. Or my ‘and might, slip.” Ziel was terrified, the only thing she could think of was that perhaps Jacque would help her. But he just stood there. ‘Help me. Help me! Help me!!’ In her mind she was screaming in hopes that Jacque would hear her.
… The Magic can be restricted …
By Dejan Vicai