Jacque was standing there watching, not moving. Ziel started sweating and fidgeting nervously, she felt her life ending, there and then. She was captured without even noticing who it was who held her life to a knife. ‘Could it be the masked men again? Probably not, this guy smells of cheap spirit and he is also alone.’ She felt the knife’s blade dancing on her skin, and a faint stream of blood appeared. Ziel wanted to scream, but she knew it would not end well. “Ye better just let me take ‘er and nobod’s gettin ‘urt.” Jacque slowly moved his right arm behind his back, reaching for something, and he almost had it. “What ar’ ye doin’? ‘AND WHERE I CAN SEE ‘EM!” Screamed the thug and held the knife even tighter against Ziel’s neck, she let out a small squeal. “Ya ‘ear? She squeals too. Will fetch me a pretty penny. Hehehe.” In the meantime Jacque moved his hand back by his side and raised them in the air. “Look, just let her go, and nobody will get hurt.”, the thug got mad, “Ar’ ye t’reating me?!” The thug got agitated and made a shallow small cut on Ziel’s neck. “If ye don’ lemme pass the next cut will be ‘er last one. Good, now giv’ me yer ‘orse. Jacque turned round while holding his hands in the air, ‘What is he doing? Is he really going to let me go just like that? I… I thought he was different.’ Ziel’s eyes filled up with tears. As Jacque reached for the bridles he turned with a swift motion throwing a dagger in the thugs direction, unfortunately he missed and the dagger landed short of his feet, he also managed to throw himself out of balance and fell on the ground, on his back. The thug started laughing at Jacque’s poor aim, “Is this ‘ow ye wanted to save ‘er? Har har har! Yer the one needin’ savin’. Har har har!”

Ziel looked shocked and stared at Jacque. He looked pathetic, on the ground, on his back, helpless. ‘I must do something, maybe I could somehow punch him in the belly.’ She was aware that all hope was lost and that she will meet her end today. But, as she was glaring at Jacque, she noticed him looking her dead in the eyes. When she made a shocked face, Jacque knew this was the chance his was looking for. He pointed to his right with his eyes, repeating a few times until Ziel finally noticed him looking at her. It took her a while to realize what he was trying to tell, but when she finally managed to move her head to her left, to Jacque’s right, he sprung up from where he was lying on the ground and turned in a full circle unsheathing two more daggers in each hand. Before he landed on his feet he launched the daggers, and even sooner than the thug had realized what was going on he saw two daggers flying towards his eyes. He panicked and threw Ziel to the ground, and managed to hit one of the daggers with his own dagger. However, the other dagger hit his left eye, blood sprayed out his eye. He reached to pull the dagger out his eye, but it was already too late, Jacque ran towards him, picking up his long sword and with a swift and quick movement swung his blade, aiming to cut off the thug’s head. In a split second the thug managed to fend off with the dagger pulled from his left eye and while Jacque was off-balance the thug kicked him. Both Ziel and Jacque on the ground, the thug took his chance and ran off. Leaving behind a small trail of blood.

Everything happened so fast and Ziel had no time to react in any manner, when she saw Jacque falling to the ground she ran over to help him up. “Thank you for saving me! I… I… owe you one!” She spoke quietly while helping him up. “He will be back. Someone is after your head. Why? ” Jacque seemed alright and started interrogating Ziel. “Who would be after you, girl?”, she had no idea who could be after her besides the masked figures from earlier. Maybe they hired someone to get her? “I don’t have any idea who he was or what he wanted. I am just a…”, Ziel had trouble saying this last part, she did not want to believe that she was indeed a… “Yes? Who are you Olivia?” Hearing that name made Ziel visibly cringe. This may have been the very first lie of her life, but she felt terrible. ‘I lied to him in order to protect myself. And to protect him as well. He does not need to know what’s going on.’ She gathered her courage and decided to just spit it out without raising anymore suspicion. “I am just a nobody, really. He might have attacked me because he thought I could be worth something.” Jacque took a long look at her. “I believe you. I just wanted to make sure I can trust you.” Ziel could not believe what she was hearing, ‘He… trusts… me?!’ She felt even worse than before. “You really… thank you.” Jacque nodded and pulled off a shy smile.

He mounted his horse and turned back, facing Ziel, he extended his arm, “Come on. Get up, I will give you a ride to Old Obarren.”, “But, you just came from there. Why would you waste your time like that?” She already felt bad, she did not want to make him do more. She wanted to get rid of depending on others and to become self dependent.”Don’t worry, really. I’ll just give you a lift, and I’ll be on my way. I can’t let a pretty girl like you walk alone after all.” Jacque said this with a flirtatious smile and helped Ziel up onto the horse. “Thank you.”, she said it with a whisper. ‘Why is he so kind?’ was rushing through her mind, why would anyone help her? “Hold on tight now… Olivia.” Every time she heard that name it was like a dagger through her heart, she felt really guilty about it, ‘Maybe I should tell him?’. As the horse started galloping Ziel tightly wrapped her arms around him. “My real name is… my… real name… is… Ziel. Sorry I had to lie.” Jacque looked back with the corner of his eye, smiling, not answering, tugging on the bridles.

They continued on horseback for the next few hours, mostly talking about irrelevant things an discussing topics that Ziel had read in her books. Jacque also told a few things about the world around Ziel and about the things she should look out for. At the first signs sundown, they reached the outer skirts of Old Obarren. A small village surrounded by a wooden palisade. The gates were wide open with two guards standing by. One of them said: “As long as the gates are open, you can freely enter the village. Please, cause no trouble and behave. Have a nice stay.”, and gestured for the riders to enter. Jacque got down from his horse and helped Ziel down as well, took the bridles into his hands and they went into the village.

Ziel has never seen anything like this before, she read about it, dreamed about it but never experienced anything like this before. She was thrilled, happy and sad at the same time. “Come”, said Jacque and pointed at the nearby Inn, “we will spend the night here.”

… Magic is alive …

By Dejan Vicai

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