I woke the next morning to find Toeryn passed out in the bed next to mine. I hadn’t heard him come in. The room at all. Sliding from the bed, I shivered slightly as my feet touched the cold wooden floor. I made my bed and dressed quickly in the still too big clothes. Toeryn had left his clothes on the floor, I picked them up and folded them neatly. My eyes spotted a red stain on his shirt, shaking it out to examine it better. The rusty brown color told me immediately what it was.
“Toeryn?” I said shaking him awake. He didn’t respond immediately, so I shook him more violently, my voice filling with panic. “Toeryn!”
It took several attempts to wake him, but he finally did.
“What Ana?” He mumbled. “What’s wrong?”
“There’s blood on your shirt,” I cried “Are you hurt? What happened last night?”
“Nothing happened,” He lied, rolling over. “I’m not hurt, I had a job moving some meat is all.”
I eyed him suspiciously, I could tell he was lying to me. “Oh, okay.” I said unconvincingly.
We lived in the inn for several months, Toeryn always paying for the room weeks in advance. I badgered him about getting a place of our own, but all for nothing. Toeryn left every night and didn’t return until I was well off in my reverie. Every time I approached him about what he did he would tell me it was menial jobs that required hard labor and not something for a girl to do.
“It’s not fair Toeryn!” I shouted at him one evening. “I want to help too! I’m sick of being stuck in the inn all day long.”
“Then go out.” he told me flatly.
And I would just that. The next morning I dressed quickly, tucking my hair underneath a newsboy cap. Toeryn eyed me curiously for a moment.
“I’m going to need some money,” I said softly.
“What for?” He asked.
“Food, some clothing that fits.” I said in return.
“Alright then,” he said pulling out a medium-sized pouch.
Toeryn counted out five gold coin. My eyes widened at the amount, noting my expression he just smiled and placed them into a small brown pouch.
“Don’t lose it,” he told me firmly, handing the pouch to me. “Get what you need and don’t spend it all, Ana. Promise.”
“No,” I replied. “I can’t promise that I won’t spend it all. But I will see about a way for me to earn my own.”
I bolted out of the inn, excited to spend a day in the square. Everywhere the colors were bright and stood out against the thick gray walls. The sun was shining, the cobble shone with wetness from the melted snow. It was cold, but not bitterly so. I weaved my way down the roads looking at all the stands, looking for one in particular. It wasn’t there like it had been when we first arrived. Perhaps he moved on. I continued on through the square, looking at the items that each merchant had, purchasing a few trinkets, then located the tailors. The tailor had clothing sitting out on tables, carefully I looked through them.
Later that evening I returned to the inn with my coin purse containing only a few coppers. I had disposed of the ill-fitting clothes and wore my newer ones back to the inn. Not even stopping to say hello to the innkeeper and Meg, I bounded up the steps two at a time, eager to get into the bedroom and hide my goodies.
A year had passed since we had been there and living in the inn. Several murders of high positioned aristocrats were targeted The city officials couldn’t find who had done it and that’s when the Knights of Stonebridge showed up from Halde to investigate. There had been a series of murder that were all too much alike, and in a small city like this, they were hardly unnoticeable. I had been working with Meg and keeping the inn tidy, her father, paid me two silver and five coppers every other week. Toeryn had told me that he was working with Bertoline down at the docks, unloading ships and cargo. Each night he came home with a full coin purse.
The knights of Stonebridge, were a marvelous sight to see, they wore cloaks that hung to their thighs, a crisp clean white with gold trimming along the edges, in the center was large castle tower with a sword pointed down. The armor was gold colored breast plate with white leather and cloth underneath. The well made leather leggings and boots were white, with only the slightest traces of dirt on then from travel. Golden helms sat on their heads with white plumes, their riveted shields also contained the tower and sword emblem and a fine looking blade hung sheathed on their left hip. They were very intimidating to watch, their faces hardened as they milled about asking questions, or speaking to city officials. Toeryn seemed ill at ease with the presence of the Knights, yet each night he continued to go out and each morning would come home with a new coin pouch of money.
“Who do you thinkable be next?” I head one merchant say to another. I was leaning against a wall in one of the alleys listening to the merchants chat about what was going on. Some were fearing for their lives as it seemed to be going down from the richest.
“Dunno, but I heard that it might be Vens and his lot.” Another relied. Vens. That name sounded familiar to me, Toeryn had been talking about him recently and then it occurred to me that Toeryn might know something about the murders. I moved from my perch and ran back to the inn to seek him out. When I arrived I seen several of the knights struggling with Bertoline, he jerked and bucked trying to get free. There was another knight sitting on horse back, his expression was stoic, not a single speck of anger or rage as his men carted Bertoline off.
“Tell them nothing!” He screamed at my brother. Toeryn stood there with a somber look on his face, his eyes saddened even more when they fell upon me.
“Take him into custody as well,” The man on the horse instructed. “And gently if you please.”
“Lyssa run!” Toeryn screamed at me. It took a moment for it to register who he was talking about. “Run!”
I stared at Toeryn in disbelief, then looked to the knight on horse back as if weighing my options. His eyes seemed gentle, friendly even. I didn’t know what to do, and going with instinct I turned, running down an alley way. The knight seemed to know what my decision was, I could hear him sigh and set his horse off after me. Behind me Toeryn screamed in anger as he was hauled off. I knew I was in trouble when the hooves grew louder and louder. Within seconds I was lifted by a strong arm and set into the saddle. I trembled with fear as the knight held me between his arms, clinging to the saddle horn as tightly as possible while he slowed the beast to slow canter.
“You’re Lyssa?” He asked me softly. I shook my head, keeping my eyes closed. Fear had gripped the core of my being. “I am Sywyn Wennemein, a knight to the city of Stonebridge. I will not harm you, you have my word.”
“I-I didn’t do anything,” I stammered “I don’t k-know what is going on.”
“That is what we are going to find out little one,” Sywyn said calmly. “You have nothing to fear.”
We continued at a gentle pace to the garrison where Sywyn was stationed. He slid gingerly off his horse and tied the reins to the hitching post. I assumed he knew I wouldn’t run as he didn’t even face as he did so. I looked down to the ground and waited. I was too terrified to jump down. After a moment he offered me assistance in getting down off the horse. Carefully, he led me into the building and a small room with tables and chairs.
“Wait here, I’ll get you some water,” Sywyn told me, before he left the room.
Below me I could hear the sounds of two men screaming. I could only assume one of them was my brother. When Sywyn returned he had brought with him a pitcher of water and a small stoneware cup.
“What’s going on?” I asked him shakily. Watching him pour the water into the cup.
“I’m going to ask you some questions and if you tell me the truth, you will be released,” he replied. His voice was firm but calming all at the same time. I was thankful I got the nice knight. “Mind you, little one, I will know if you are lying to me.”
“Alright,” I gulped. Sywyn passed me the glass of water and I drank deeply from it.
“Lyssa, where does your brother go at night?” Sywyn asked me calmly.
“Don’t know,” I replied. “Toeryn doesn’t tell me anything. Just that he’s going to work. Though he did tell me once that he worked at the docks unloading cargo. Another time he said he was working for a butcher.”
Sywyn inclined his head once, pursing his lips together for a moment. “And how does he know Bertoline?”
“Again, I don’t know. We met Bertoline when we first arrive in Tel’thurian,” I said. I felt compelled to tell him the truth, he seemed to believe me for what it was worth at face value. Toeryn asked Bertoline if he knew anyone who had some work to be done.”
I drank some more water, my head was spinning with the events that had been taking place. Suddenly, I was exhausted and sighed deeply as I studied the knight in front of me. His black hair was pulled back into a neat pony tail at the nape of his neck. Sywyn’s eyes were a hazel green color that was unfamiliar to me, they gave off the feeling of having seen too much in his life time But not once did they lose that friendly disposition.
Once I had answered all of Sywyn’s questions, he took me back to the main hall. There were other men there, each one eyed me suspiciously. I walked with my head down almost afraid to meet eyes with any of them. Guilty by association was enough for most of the guards.
“What is going on with her brother?” Sywyn asked firmly.
“He is still being questioned, Sir.” One of the guards said.
“Very well,” Sywyn said with a nod. “See to it that Miss Lyssa here has a place to rest until he is free or otherwise. If any of you lay a harmful finger her in any way, I will take it as a personal offense. Do my make myself clear?”
“Yes sir!” The guards said in unison.
Sywyn looked at me with a warm smile. “My men will take good care of you. if you need anything, ask for them to locate me.” I nodded but said nothing.
Emotional exhaustion had set in as I was lead into the bunk room. The guard who took me there, motioned to a bed. There I collapsed, forgetting what was going on and falling asleep almost the second my head hit the pillow. Some time later I heard voices in the doorway.
“How long has she been asleep?” A male voice said, I recognized it as Sywyn’s voice.
“About six hours, Sir,” another said. “Poor thing’s exhausted.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Sywyn agreed. “Given what she’s been through, she’s handling it quite well for someone so young.”
The voices faded as I fell into a deep slumber again. I didn’t stir again until morning, feeling eyes upon me. While my eyes focused, I inhaled deeply. The smell of toast and hot tea filled my nose and forced my stomach to growl loudly.
“Good morning Lyssa,” the voice said. It was Sywyn again. “I thought I would have breakfast with you, while we wait for your brother to finish with the inquisitor.”
I rubbed my eyes and stared at Sywyn. He set the tray down on the bed as I sat up. At first I thought it was a dream, but then remembered all that happened the night before.
“What’s going on with Toeryn?” I asked groggily.
“He has told us what Bertoline had done,” Sywyn explained, pouring two cups of tea. “He claimed that Bertoline had threatened your life if he didn’t help.”
I began to slowly eat the thick slice of toast. It was coated with butter and strawberry jam. I was half way through the my second piece when the door flew open. My brother, Toeryn stood there, his eyes wild with rage. He stormed forward and pulled me from the bed, not even giving me time to say goodbye to Sywyn.
“What did you tell him?!” Toeryn screamed at me, as he dragged me down the road.
“Nothing!” I exclaimed, wincing as he gripped my arm tighter.
“Ana, I swear to God if you told them anything that will get us killed, I will personally beat you into the afterlife.” He growled at me.
“I don’t think the One would like you swearing against him,” I retorted smartly.
His hand was so fast I didn’t even have time to dodge it. It connected with my jaw, whipping my head to the side. I cried out in pain, the blood rushing to the area, setting every nerve ending on fire. It only took a moment for his hand print to appear on my face. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I didn’t let them spill. It was the first time that I openly showed resentment towards my brother. I glared hatefully at him as I spit blood from my mouth.
“Smart me again Ana,” Toeryn scolded. “And it will be worse.”
I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to press any more buttons. Both of our nerves had been set on edge from the previous night. We walked the rest of the way to the inn in silence.
“Pack your things,” Toeryn told me as we entered the inn. “We’re leaving.”
“Where are we going?” I asked quickly.
“Away from here, away from those guards,” he told me as he began to throw things messily into a knapsack. I carefully began to put my possession into a bag.
“Only take what you need, Ana,” he said. “I’ll buy you more when we get to Stonebridge.”
As I continued to pack my stuff, he came over to help me, stuffing things into the bag. The necklace that Bertoline gave me, hung from my neck. With a quick motion, Toeryn snapped the chain and threw it across the room.
“Have you lost your mind?!” I screamed at him. “I like that necklace.”
“Ana, Bertoline gave that to you right?” He asked.
“Yes, he did.” I replied. “So what?”
“He got it off a rich dead girl,” he told her. “He is going to hang for what he did, made me do.”
I stared at him, confusion gripping my face.
“He killed those people, robbed them,” he replied. I couldn’t tell if he was lying to me or not. “he told me he would hurt you, Ana. If I didn’t help him commit these crimes, there’s no saying what would have happened. I didn’t want to do it, but to protect you, I did. I would steal what I could from them, and he.”
Toeryn broke, tears fell from his eyes. I studied him for a moment, as I continued to pack my belongings. He leaned forward on his hands and sobbed into them, before he sat back up again. Taking deep breaths he furiously began to finish packing.
“Hurry up,” he demanded. “I’m gonna find us horses.”
When he returned, we loaded the horses, settled our tab with the inn and left. Night had settled when we left. The horses moved at a steady pace along the road. I pulled my traveling cloak around my shoulders as we rode on. The cold air had a faint woody smell to it from the fires that burn in the houses of Tel’thurian. It made me long to go back, and into the warm bed I was leaving behind. I had grown familiar with the inn we lived in and wondered if we would do the same when we got to Stonebridge.
“How long will it take us to get to Stonebridge?” I asked Toeryn when we slowed to a lazy canter.
“About a month.,” he replied without even looking in my direction. I thought it was maybe because he didn’t want me to see the fear in his eyes of not knowing what we were going to do. Or the fear that the guards could very well come after us. In truth, the fear would be mirrored in my eyes as well. Not knowing what either of us would do. It was a thought that would haunt me for the entirety of our journey.
I looked back and saw a knight sitting on a horse, his expression, though distorted by the moonlight was sad. He raised his hand somberly and waved. I bowed my head knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time I experienced trouble, just as the knight knew that it wouldn’t be the last time he seen me. It was just a matter of time until we met again.