-Always Together, Eternally Apart-
The countryside truly was a sight to see this time of year. Trees were full of beautiful crisp leaves displaying vibrant colors of red, orange and golden hues. Birds chirped unmatched symphonies while fluttering around the lush forest surroundings, making the countryside all the more breath taking.
Taking a relaxing breath, Joey closed his eyes. The sound of the birds as well as the steady pounding of hoof beats was enough to lull him to sleep. He was almost getting ready to doze off when the braying of a mule caused him to jump. Blinking his eyes wildly, he looked over to Bakura and couldn't help but snicker.
The poor white haired escapee had apparently fallen asleep and leaned over to far for the mule's liking, because now it was bucking up and braying loudly while Bakura was hanging sideways from its neck with his legs wrapped tightly around the mule's middle.
"… Having problems, Bakura?"
"This bloody animal has a DEATH WISH!" Bakura growled, glaring at the mule as it turned to look him in the eye, as if to return the glare. "Don't you even think about it you lousy- Ow!" Bakura yelped painfully as the mule bit his arm, causing him to let go and fall to the ground with a loud thud.
Hearing the commotion, Yami tugged back on the reins, pulling his horse to stop before turning to see what happened. Chuckling, he watched Bakura get to his feet and dust himself off before walking toward the feisty mule with a scowl on his face.
Not really wanting to see the poor mule meet a cruel death, Yami guided his horse in between Bakura and the mule. "What's the matter?"
"Oh, nothing really that concerns you. I just have a mule to strangle!" Bakura snapped, glaring at the flea-bitten beast as it snorted back at him in response while pinning its ears against its skull. "You just wait till I get a hold of you, you infernal beast of burden!"
Hearing another snort, Yami chuckled. "Oh yes, that really scared it, can't you see his hooves shaking? Be careful thief, this mule may take another bite out of you, if you keep threatening it," noticing the glare that he was receiving from Bakura, he shook his head. "How about doubling up with one of your companions and then if we encounter someone along the trail, we give the mule over to them?"
"Fine," Bakura grumbled, crossing his arms while continuing to glare at the beast. He still wanted to kill it, but at the prospect of getting rid of the animal, he was more than happy to agree.
"Come on Bakura, you can double up with me." Tristan offered while lowering his hand down to his companion, who grumbled lightly before taking the offered hand. Smiling, Tristan helped Bakura onto his horse.
Watching all of this, Yami smiled briefly before guiding his horse over to Tristan's and handing the rope reins of the mule to Bakura. "Just hold him for now," he stated before turning away. He could already sense that sunset was coming soon and they needed to find shelter as soon as possible before he changed. "Come on, it's almost sunset."
"How can you tell?" Joey asked while looking up at the sky.
"Call it a gift," Yami sighed, offering the blond a small smile. "After traveling so much, you soon learn when the sun rises and sets." He didn't want to worry the others, but he was worried himself. The village that they had left was miles behind them now, so that was out of the question. They needed a new place to stay, and they needed it fast.
Almost completely consumed in his panicked thoughts, Yami was brought back into reality by a familiar screech. Looking up, he smiled at the falcon circling above them. "Well it seems Hikari has found shelter for the rest of the day," he announced, turning to the others to see them smile in relief before looking back up to watch the falcon fly off in another direction.
"Come a long, we best keep up with him," Yami suggested, giving his stallion a nudge to gallop off after the avian.
Watching the captain ride off, Joey looked back at his friends. "Let's get going before he gets too far ahead of us."
"Can I leave this beast here?" Bakura whined, glaring at the mule before moving his hand as it snapped at him. "Bloody beast!"
"Leave it alone, Bakura," Tristan huffed, kicking his horse to make it gallop off in the direction the captain went.
Grumbling, Bakura tightened his grip around Tristan's waist while dragging the mule behind him. Looking over at Joey, he noticed the blond snickering at him. "Keep it up, twit! I'll get you when we reach shelter."
Shutting up, Joey nudged his horse to go faster, eager to get a way from Bakura as fast as he could.
Yami smiled as he lifted his arm just enough so that the falcon could land on it. Reaching over to stroke the raptor's chest feathers, he chuckled as it cooed in return. Turning his attention back to the small farm in front of him, he set his horse off into a steady walk.
Riding along the path beside the barn, crimson eyes took in the worn building and its missing boards. This place had definitely fallen on hard times. Looking over the farming land, Yami shook his head before the sound of someone chopping wood caught his attention.
Hikari squawked while turning his head in the direction the sound was coming from. Dismounting his horse, Yami gripped the reins and pulled the large stallion behind him as he followed the sound to turn the corner and find an elderly man panting for breath and leaning over the large ax.
"Excuse me, sir?" Yami asked, walking over to the man as Hikari perched himself on his shoulder. Seeing the old man look at him, he bowed his head lightly to hear the old man chuckle heartily.
"I think I should be the one bowing to you, instead of the other way around."
Offering the other a smile, Yami shook his head. "I thought I would save you the trouble."
"Indeed and how can I be of service to you?"
Hearing approaching hoof beats, Yami turned to find the escapee trio pulling their horses into a walk while coming toward him. "My companions and I need a place to lodge for the night," he replied turning to look at the man while untying a velvet patch from his belt.
"DAMN YOU STUBBORN MULE!"
"Keep your money, the tax collectors would only take it away from me," the old man sighed, waving his hand away as Yami tried to give him the pouch of coins. "You all can stay in the barn- that is the only place where there is enough room for all of you. If you or your companions are hungry I have some food inside."
Smiling at the man, Yami looked back at his companions to find Joey walking the mule toward him while Tristan was holding back Bakura. Meeting Joey half way, he relieved the other of the reins and brought the mule back to the old man. "As a show of thank, you can have this mule."
"Deal," the man said, taking the reins from Yami to receive a gentle nuzzle from the stubborn creature.
Nodding, Yami grabbed his horse's reins and pulled the horse behind him as he met up with the others. "He has agreed to let us stay here in the barn and if the three of you are hungry he said there is some food in the house."
The three nodded while following Yami in the barn and putting their horses in the stalls.
"C'mon guys, let's go get some food. Do you want anything Captain?" Joey asked, looking back at Yami to find him unbuckling the saddle and chest collar on his horse.
"No, I think I'll rest in here with Titan," Yami smiled, patting the large black horse as it pawed at the floor.
"Okay," Joey replied before leaving the captain and joining up with companions in the house.
Yami sighed while relieving the black horse of its saddle and blanket before placing both items on the stall wall. Patting the stallion's head, he gently took off the bridle to place it with the other tack items. "Another sunset, eh boy," he whispered, having the horse bump its nose against his stomach. Running his fingers through the silky forelock, he chuckled as the stallion nipped at his tunic.
"I'm running out of options" he mumbled, giving the horse another pat before going over to the saddle bags and rummaging through them. Opening the left bag, his breath caught in his throat as he pulled out a petit white tunic with gold trim. Bringing the article of clothing up to his face, Yami took in a deep breath to breath in the familiar scent of lavender and vanilla.
Fighting to hold in his tears, he rubbed his fingers through the silky fabric before walking over to a corner of the barn where the falcon was perched. Placing the clothing on a bale of hay, he removed his cloak, armor, and the belt that sheathed his sword before walking over to the window where the falcon was perched. Stroking the raptor lovingly, he blew over the falcon's head, causing the petit raptor to ruffle its wings and coo.
"Be careful, little one," he whispered, giving the falcon one more stroke to the back before sneaking out of the barn and running up to the hill just as the sun set.
The lonesome howl of a wolf caused Joey to tense as he looked around at the rest of his friends. "Did you guys hear that?"
"Yeah, it's a wolf… so what?" Bakura asked, cocking an eyebrow while biting into another piece of meat.
"Sounds pretty close… do you think the Captain will be alright?"
"Hmph, he has a sword doesn't it?" Bakura snapped. "And if a wolf was to get in that barn those horses would kick the hell out of it."
"He has a point, Joey," Tristan shrugged, taking a drink of water. "I'm sure the captain will be fine."
Nodding, Joey went back to eating while keeping an eye on the barn through the window beside him. He didn't know how to explain it, but he just knew that something was going on… or that something was going to happen soon.
"So where are you all heading?"
Looking at the old man, Tristan shrugged. "We don't know."
"Ah, well the four of ya best be careful. Word has it that 3 prisoners of Aquila managed to escape, said to be murderers."
The three all exchanged looks before going back to eating their food, deciding to not voice anything about what the elder had said.
Yawning, Joey stretched while making his way to the barn, he had stayed back to help the old man clean up since everyone else left. Opening one of the barn doors enough to walk inside, he started to close it behind him when a familiar voice stopped him.
Turning to the voice, Joey blinked at seeing Bakura saddling up Tristan's horse. "Where are you going? Tristan, why aren't you doing anything?"
Shrugging, Tristan shook his head. "There's no use talking to him… plus he has a knife," he sighed, looking back at his blond friend.
Rolling his eyes, Bakura fastened the last buckle on the bridle before pulling the reins back and climbing up into the saddle. "As for me, I'm leaving. The captain has disappeared and I want to put some distance away from him as much as possible."
"He saved our lives," Joey glared, gripping the reins and stopping the horse in its tracks.
"Let go," Bakura growled. "There is something about that captain that I don't trust!"
"Nothing new there, you don't trust anything," Tristan mumbled.
"Shut up!" Bakura snapped before glaring back down at the blond gripping the reins. "You two can stay with the captain if you like, but I'm leaving. I told you back at Aquila that I worked alone and yet I dealt with you two longer than I liked, so now that you have a new traveling companion, this is where we will split ways."
"You'll get caught!" Joey hissed, tossing a glare of his own up at the white haired thief. "It's safer to travel with the captain!"
"I say this again, there is something about him that I don't trust. I've heard rumors about him from the dungeon keepers, they said that the 'Dark' Captain was cursed," Bakura sneered. "Besides I don't need his help, I can take care of myself."
"Yeah, sure you can, that's how you ended up in Aquila in the first place, handling everything on your own," Joey bit back. "Tell me Bakura, are you really eager to have that noose around your neck and seeing the Bishop watching you hang?"
"He does have a point…"
"Shut up!" Bakura snarled, tossing another glare over at the brunet before looking back down at the blond. "Those bastards got lucky the first time they got me, it won't happen again," he scoffed, kicking the horse firmly in the sides, causing the roan to rear up and knock Joey away as it galloped out of the open barn door.
"Damn him," Joey muttered, getting to his feet and dusting himself off before looking over at Tristan. "He's going to get himself killed out there." Thinking about what had been said, he looked around to notice the captain's black horse still in its stall. "Is the captain really gone?"
"Looks that way," Tristan nodded, looking out the barn door where a faint dust trail Bakura was leaving behind him. "I wonder where he went, especially since all his stuff is still here… well everything but that falcon."
"No surprise the bird disappeared, it can fly anywhere it wants too," Joey sighed, running a hand through his blond locks. "Well might as well get some sleep," he groaned, flopping down on one of the bails of hay and covering his body with the one of the spare blankets that their elderly host had provided.
"Aren't we going to go after Bakura?" Tristan asked, taking a seat beside the blond.
"What's the point, all he would do is bite our heads off," Joey shrugged, shifting into a more comfortable position. "He won't be able to ride out too far tonight, so maybe we can track him down in the morning."
Nodding, Tristan pulled his blanket tighter around him before leaning back against the hay. "I guess your right," he mumbled while yawning. "Sleep well."
"You too," Joey yawned, turning away from his companion and drifting off to sleep, unaware of the amethyst eyes watching the both of them carefully.
TWO HOURS LATER…
"Your friend needs you, he's in trouble…"
Honey brown eyes blinked open at the soft, melodious voice that drifted across his mind. "Wha?" he asked, yawning while rubbing the sleep out of his left eye and looking around the barn. It was dark except for the cascading moonlight that drifted in from the cracks in the roof and from the windows.
"He needs your help…"
Whirling around, Joey looked up to stare into wide amethyst eyes that seemed to glow in the moonlight while the owner remained hidden in the dark shadows of the barn. "Who are you?"
"Ungh… Joey… stop talking in your… sleep…" Tristan mumbled, using an arm to whap Joey in the side, though he ending up hitting nothing but thin air since the blond was standing up.
"Well, who are you?" Joey asked again, ignoring Tristan since the other had fallen right back to sleep.
"It doesn't matter; all you need to know is that your friend needs you…"
"My friend, who are you talking about?"
"The white haired one."
"How do you know? Is this one of those weird dreams or something?"
"Yes, this is all a dream, and I am warning you about your friend."
Blinking, Joey was getting ready to ask another question when the captain's black horse neighed loudly, causing him to look over, but when he looked back the amethyst eyes were gone. "What the hell?"
"Remember what I said…"
Looking around the barn, Joey felt a bit freaked out since he couldn't see anyone else in the barn. Thinking about what had been said; he quickly used his foot to kick Tristan hard enough to wake him up. "C'mon Tristan, wake up!"
"I'm up, I'm up, quit kicking me!" Tristan snapped, glaring at the blond while covering up his yawn and looking around the barn. "Why the hell did you wake me up for? It's not even morning yet."
Running over to his horse, Joey quickly grabbed all the tack and set to getting the horse ready. "We got to go out there and find Bakura, I think he's in trouble," he sighed, buckling up the girth strap.
"Wha? How do you know this?" Tristan blinked, walking over to the blond to buckle up the bridle straps.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Joey mumbled, buckling the saddlebags to the saddle. "All I know is that Bakura needs us."
"Ok, that part I understand, question is, how in the hell do you expect to find him in the dark?" Tristan groused, still not happy about being rudely awakened.
"Looks like the problem has already been solved for us," Joey replied, opening up one of the saddlebags to reveal flint rocks and torch sticks.
"Don't ask," Joey shrugged, pulling on the reins and walking the horse out of the stall before climbing on its back and watching Tristan open the door. Riding the horse over to the entranceway, he helped Tristan climb up before giving the horse a kick and riding off in the last direction they had seen Bakura take, neither one aware of the amethyst eyes watching them from the window in the loft of the barn.
"BAK-OW!" Tristan yelled, rubbing his ribs from the harsh elbowing that Joey had given him. "What was that for?"
"To get you to hush!" Joey countered. "Wouldn't want anything to know that we were coming."
"Oh," Tristan sighed, guessing that there was some truth behind the blond's words, but how else was Bakura going to know they were out there to help him. "But what about Bakura?"
"If Bakura is out here, we'll find him in a quiet way, no sense in making a racket and drawing attention to ourselves," Joey explained, keeping the horse on the trail while Tristan held the torch to give them some light.
Looking around the area, Tristan tensed as a pair of eyes caught in the firelight gleamed before disappearing. "J-J-Joey… something's out there," he stuttered out, tightening his grip around the other's waist.
Getting to reply, Joey was jerked out of his thoughts as his horse came to stop and pawed out the ground while letting out a snort and twitching its ears. Patting the horse's neck, he had to suddenly fight to regain some control as the horse started to back up on its own while letting out a fearful whinny.
"I told you there was something out there, and judging by how the horse is acting, it's a predator," Tristan uttered out, keeping the torch firmly in his hand.
A lonesome howl broke through the silence, causing the skittish horse to almost rear up, but Joey had managed to stop it in time.
"Well at least we know it's a wolf out there," Joey sighed.
"Oh yeah, that makes it so much better," Tristan grumbled. "I think you're forgetting that wolves hunt in packs."
"This one doesn't."
Hearing the voice, Tristan and Joey both yelped and nearly jumped out of their skins before turning to find Bakura covered in mud, pulling the horse behind him while one of his hands cupped the bicep of his other arm.
"Bakura, don't do that!" Tristan yelled, glaring down at the injured thief. "What happened to you anyways?"
"There was a group of soldiers out here and they caught me off guard and I fell into the mud, they managed to graze me with one of their arrows," Bakura grumbled, looking at the others. "They would've caught me if it wasn't for a wolf darting out in front of their horses."
"So you were saved by a wolf," Joey blinked, looking down at the other.
Looking into the woods to catch another gleam of eyes glowing in the firelight, Bakura nodded his head. "Yeah, it was a big black wolf of what I seen," he sighed, wincing at the twinge in his arm. "Why are you two out here?"
"Something told me that you were in danger," Joey replied. "It woke me up and everything."
"You must've been dreaming," Tristan sighed, rolling his eyes.
"Funny when something in your dream tells you that you are dreaming," Joey grumbled, looking back down at Bakura. "But either way, it did say that you needed help and here we are."
"I feel so much safer," Bakura stated dryly while climbing back up into the saddle and looking around. "We better get out of here before those guards can track me down."
"Might want to get that mud off first," Joey pointed out to receive a glare in return.
"I'll deal with the mud later," Bakura growled, glaring at the blond while nudging his horse into walking toward the other horse.
The trio had just started to get on their way when the sound of hoof beats caught their attention. Getting ready to kick their horses and gallop off, they were cut off as three riders stopped in front of them, each one packing a large sword and wearing the insignia of the Bishop.
"Damn," Bakura cursed, turning around to find another rider on a white horse behind them. From the armor style and shield attached to the saddle, it was clear that this rider was in charge. "I thought I lost you all when the wolf cut you off."
"You still left us with a trail to follow."
"Nice going Bakura," Joey mumbled, shooting a glare at the thief to get one in return.
"Aquila and the Bishop are waiting for you," the guard behind them stated, guiding his horse up closer to the three escapees.
"I bet," Bakura growled, glaring at the approaching guard.
Another howl echoed through the clearing as the horses all pawed at the ground and fidgeted at the sound of the close predator. Hearing a threatening growl, everyone turned to look through the thick brush of the forest, but nothing could be seen.
Joey patted his horse's neck in attempt to calm the horse as it whinnied in fear and kicked up its front legs. "It must be close," he whispered back to Tristan to find him straight as a board and pointing over into a clearing. Looking over in the corner, his eyes widened at the gleaming crimson eyes that were glowing in the shadows.
Pulling his sword from its sheath, the leading guard, nudged his horse to get closer to the captives, but the horse was rooted to the spot. Continuing to kick at the horse's sides, he cursed as the stallion neighed and shook its head while taking a few steps back, "Infernal animal! Move forward!"
"Seems some one is having problems," Bakura smirked, watching each of the guard's horses acting out their fear of predators. Patting his own horse in a calming manner, he glanced to the side to notice the crimson eyes circling them from the shadows. "Keep your horse steady, the wolf is stalking us right now," he whispered, siding his horse up to the blond's.
Finally getting his horse back under control, the commanding guard glared at the escapees. "Guards, seize them!" he shouted pointing his sword at the trio.
"Aquila… here we come," Tristan whined, already mentally feeling the bite of the noose around his neck.
A blur of black and vicious snarling snatched everyone's attention as they turned to watch the guard behind them being thrown from his horse.
Landing on his back, the guard drew in a ragged breath before opening his eyes to stare up into a mouth full of gleaming fangs and jaws capable of grinding bones to dust. Trying to reach for his sword, he was cut of as he screamed out in agony as fangs pierced his neck, ripping into his throat without mercy. "…H…help… m…me!" he rasped out, his glassy eyes looking over at his guards to only have his vision blocked by a pair of vicious crimson eyes.
Vicious snarls and sounds of ripping flesh drowned out the dying guard's gurgling screams, causing everyone to turn away from the carnage. Not hearing anything else, they slowly turned to watch as the wolf dropped mangled pieces of tissue from the guard's throat to the ground before licking the blood from its muzzle.
"Ugh, I think I am going to be sick…" Joey groaned, turning away. "I also hope we aren't next on its list."
"Maybe… maybe it's on our side… I mean it does seem to be helping us."
"It's a wolf, imbecile," Bakura snorted, rolling his eyes at the brunet's suggestion. "However, without their commander, I wonder what our three guards are going to do?" he smirked, looking ahead to see the three guards frozen in place.
"D-d-don't even think about moving… You three are under arrest in the name of the Bishop!" one of the guards shouted getting over the shock of having his commander mauled in front of him. Pulling out his own sword, his comrades followed his lead but they all flinched in fear as a viscous snarl caught their attention and they looked over to stare into blood red irises.
"Not so brave anymore, are you?" Bakura taunted, smirking as he turned his horse to go back in the direction of the old man's farm.
"You won't get away with this! Captain Raphael…!"
"Couldn't catch a cold or find water in a bucket," Bakura chuckled, pulling his horse to a stop as he looked over his shoulder at the guards to enjoy their annoyed glares. It was rather amusing to watch, since neither one of the guards was willing to move because of the snarling wolf standing across them. "Oh, by the way, next time you see the 'good' Captain or the Bishop, tell them to take my sentence and shove it up their…"
"I would rather you not finish that statement," Joey sighed, shaking his head while receiving another one of Bakura's infamous glares.
Frustrated and enraged, the three guards nudged their horse's to make them move, but they seemed to be rooted to the spot. Hearing another viscous snarl, the guards were nearly thrown from their horses as they reared up trying to flee from the snarling wolf in front of them.
The wolf growled as it lowered its head into position, its lithe frame poised for attack. Its fur bristled and hackles raised with its ears pinned against its skull while bloodstained fangs gleamed at them in warning. Snapping at the horse's hooves, the wolf growled while dodging each stomp of the horse's hooves until the horse's fought control from their rider's and galloped off in another direction.
"Next time you won't get away!" One of the guards yelled, his voice fading in and out from the distance. "The captain will find you!"
Exchanging looks between each other, they all blinked as they turned to find the wolf had completely disappeared.
"Ok, that was weird, but I think I have a new respect for wolves now," Joey smiled, nudging his horse.
"So Bakura, are you coming back with us?" Tristan asked, looking over at the thief.
Snorting, Bakura chose not to answer as he directed his horse through the woods. "I still don't know how you found me out here or that…"
"You needed help?" Joey butted in, earning a growl from Bakura.
"Believe what you want, dolt. I had everything under control."
"Sure, Bakura," Tristan smirked.
"I'm being punished… the Gods are punishing me by sticking me with you two," Bakura groaned, glaring at his companions to see them snickering. "I really hate you."
"We know Bakura, but look on the bright side, you didn't get caught," Joey smiled. "And when we get back to the barn, I can patch up your arm."
Snorting, Bakura merely nodded his head before looking at them. "So how did you two really find me, or were you both following me?"
"I told you that someone told me you were in trouble," Joey sighed.
"He was dreaming and talking in his sleep," Tristan countered, earning a glare from the blond.
"I was not talking in my sleep!" Joey snapped. "I know what I seen and heard… it's just that they told me that I was dreaming."
"So that means that you were talking in your sleep because you were dreaming."
"Oh shut up!" Joey snapped, nudging his horse to go a little bit faster. "I still say that I wasn't talking in my sleep."
"Then your loosing your mind, that's what happens when you stay in Aquila," Bakura smirked.
"Then that explains a lot, since you were there a lot longer than we were," Joey countered.
"Keep it up and it won't be the Bishop you'll need to be worrying about," Bakura growled.
"Guys, knock it off!"
"Stay out of this, Tristan!"
The three continued to argue as they rode back to the farm, none aware of the crimson eyed wolf following them closely from the shadows of the forest.