The Story of Jasmine notes proceed:
The moment Thorne spied Gavin, she knew something serious was up. She disentangled herself as fast as she could from her traveling companions and followed the hawk. She chris crossed her path, in case Rogan would try to locate her tracks. When she finally returned to the road, she picked up speed as she turned her stallion loose to run.
This is where her horse, Mindy, excelled. None was faster. Even Rogan’s stallion, who proved to be a worthy horse, could never best Mindy in a race. But they never raced. Thorne wanted to keep her horse’s exceptional penchant for running all to herself.
At last, the bird landed in some trees next to a clearing where there were three battle maidens waiting. “Ambassador Thornekill?” queried the rider in the middle, “Oh Ambassador! Praises be, we caught you in time!” Thorne recognized the voice of the maiden with the copper-colored hair.
“Hail Clara,” Thorne called, “What urgent news awaits me?”
The riders trotted their horses closer to each other. “Come,” said Clara, “visit our camp and we’ll tell tell you everything while you, your horse … and Gavin rest.”
Thorne accepted their hospitality. It wasn’t long before she was eating diltsfef wrapped in flat bread. How long was it since she enjoyed diltsfef? In between savored bites, Thorne listened. She understood that the Northern road had just been compromised by Melantha’s forces.
The Armildians did not want any of their own to fall into her hands, and especially not their Ambassador. Clara chose Gavin, a trained hawk she knew Thorne was sure to recognize, to intercept her before her party took that road. Clara’s plan worked.
As the news unfurled, Thorne’s eyes grew wider. “Gavin may have been too late,” Thorne told them, “if we had not continued west, instead or north. That change of route made little sense at the time, but now I perceive it was the right choice.”
“Praises be!” they agreed.
“Gavin found me right before I set foot into the Hungry Forest.” Thorne continued, “it IS fortuitous that we are now together. Can I trust you to give the report I am about to divulge to the High Council?”
While declaring their devotion, Clara and the others responded by making a secret hand-gesture. “Good,” said Thorne, “Here is my report. My negotiation with the King of UR never took place. King Aranbrod was no longer in power by the time we arrived in Oxted. UR has fallen. I cannot report whether or not our preparations would have met with success.”
“This bodes ill … So the rumors were true?!”
“Yes, they are true. Bardulf’s soldiers enjoy a very public presence.”
“We know, we got wind of a group of Bardulf’s soldiers quickly making their way across the plains about a day behind you.”
“They probably think we’re horse thieves.” Thorn quipped. I’m sure it was through magical means that an upstart named Bardulf-Thaatur was able to wrest control of the Kingdom. As yet, we don’t know if he has a relationship with Melantha, but he is one not to be trusted.”
“We heard rumors but we could not verify anything. Where is Rogan the Red?”
“Oh him? Rogan is … Rogan. I took steps to assure he could not follow me. But he still has a place in our party. I am traveling with three others besides Rogan. And I believe the daughter of King Aranbrod of UR is among them. She has a dwarf protector, probably a mercenary, Glynn Oakenshield and there is a Dockalfarian royal of all things! I find it hard to believe we are all together by happenstance.
“I found myself in the perfect position of keeping tabs on all these people and determine what they really want, Rogan included. I plan to disengage his services the next time I see him. In the interests of our Nation, I placed the Princess under Armildian protection. The Council will appreciate the political advantage and wisdom in assuring her well-being. So, you see, I must reunite with the group as soon as possible.”
“Ambassador,” her hosts said with alarm, “you and your horse require more rest. Besides, we can help you with time constraints by showing you a little-known short cut into the forest from the south. Mayzelle is familiar with all the Forest pathways for quite a distance. I believe she knows one that leads up towards the bend of the Hungry Forest. We understand the route your party is taking is very, very slow. If you allow her to guide you, you will make good time.”
When Thorne finally gave in, Clara was triumphant, “So now, rest, stretch your muscles and replenish yourself. Have some more diltsfef.” She started humming an old Armildian folk tune, which immediately relaxed Thorne enough to allow herself a full glass of chewy beer.
“If the soldiers were chasing you,” Clara reassured her, “To continue west isn’t the usual choice. Bardulf’s men will surely think you took the north road, sealing their fates.”
“Of this, we cannot be sure. All they have to do is follow the tracks.”
“Those types follow orders. Soldier men can’t think for themselves. Men are creatures of habit, they’d assume they were following you north. They will not take the time to vary their intended course.” Clara’s chatter was quite persuasive, especially when the light struck her hair in places to shine the same honey-color as her eyes.
“…That your group chose to travel west was completely unknown to us. Praises be to Gavin who knew how to find you.” Clara was beaming. “Gavin is under my care now. He’s an exceptional bird.”
“Oh yes,” Thorne said, leaning back into some pillows, “exceptional!”
© 2018 DARLENE