"A fine mess you got us into, Angus."
Garrett leaned against the bars of the small, dark prisoncell the two knights were sharing, hoping to catch a glance of something, or someone, to quicken their escape.
Angus, no stranger to captivity, had made himself comfortable in the only corner that didn't contain ratdroppings. His knees pulled up to his chest, and his head resting against the damp stone wall, he tried to make as much of this situation as possible. Annoyed but tired, he slowly turned his head toward where the prince of Rheged was standing.
"Me? Pray tell, how is this my fault?"
Garrett turned to look down at the dark haired man. "It's certainly not my fault," he spat: "If yóu hadn't gotten yourself caught, we would've been back at the castle, joining in the Beltaine festivities. Next time my friend, I'll do the sensible thing and patroll with any other person but you!"
Angus was desperately trying to think of an argument that would proof Garrett wrong, but he knew there weren't any. He had made a mistake, and it cost them dearly. It cost them the greatest feast of the season to be exact. The thought of the music, food, fine nectars and ales annoyed him further. They both hadn't eaten since sun up and as far as he could tell, the night had fallen several hours ago.
"I know, allright?," Angus muttered, grudgingly admitting to his fault. His hand rested on his stomach, rubbing it slightly. Garrett smirked at him, and started to search for a reasonably clean spot to sit on.
Through the scarcely lid hallway they could hear and smell the Beltaine festivities as held in Temra castle. Maeve hadn't spoken with the knights since they were brought to the castle, and thought it torture enough to not supply them with the customary bread and water. Their stomachs ached and their throats were dry, and the thought of nourishments occupied their thoughts more and more as the hour grew later and later.
The two men ceased to speak to each other and both tried to get some sleep, which turned out to be impossible. Their rest was often interrupted by the occasional drunk soldier that came by to jear at them through the bars of their cell. The prince and the thief made a silent agreement to ignore them and not waste any energy on these men.
Angus leaned his head back against the wall, his green-brown eyes fixated on the ceiling. He tried hard not to, but his thoughts kept wandering back to that same morning.
His first Beltaine feast in the castle! Angus rubbed his hands and grinned widely at the thought of it. The castle was buzzing with anticipation, and servants were busying themselfs with all the preperations.
Rohan grabbed Angus's arm as he stumbled over a large basket with ribbons and flowers, meant for decorations. Draganta smiled at his friend, who barely noticed how he almost fell flat on his face, and continued to rattle on about the coming events.
"Do you think we should wear our armour? You know, to impress the maidens?"
"That's an interesting thought Angus, but it might be a bit impracticle with all the dancing going on."
"Brilliant Rohan. We should go as we are. Only better groomed. And maybe we should bathe first." The knight of Earth stopped for a moment to smell under his armpits, to the dismay of the approaching princess.
Rohan nudged Angus in the ribs, who looked straight into Deirdre's disgusted face. "Bathing would be a good idea, we don't want to fend off any of the guests." Rohan joked quickly. The princess smiled at the Fire knight, once again taken aback by his handsome features. "How very thoughtful of you both." She then added in a more serious tone: "But I don't know if there will be time for bathing boys, my father needs us." Deirde half turned and beckoned the knights to follow her. Angus and Rohan exchanged a quick look: surely Maeve wouldn't be wicked enough to disturb the Summer fest?
Shortly after arriving in the throne room, the king immedeately reassured the Mystic Knights. He was just taking precautions and wanted to a send a few small troops to shortly patroll the Temra border. If all would be well, the knights should be back in time for the feast to start.
"Rohan, Ivar, you patroll the southern border. Things have been quiet there, maybe a little too quiet. Garrett and Angus, I want you to check on the western outposts. There have been some small skirmishes there, led by Temra soldiers, and I want to know how our men are doing. I want you all to take a ration of our finest nectar with you, to hand out to the Kells men who can't be with their families tonight."
The four men exited the throne room, heading to the stables to fetch their horses.
"Father, and what about me?", Deirde said in a high pitched voice, her hands resting on her hips, looking all but pleased. The king grinned and winked at his daughter: "Why, I want my best knight to stay in the castle of course." This reassured Deirdre only slightly. "But father.." "Oh, and I almost forgot: I had a new dress send for you, and I think you'll need your time fitting and altering it for tonight." The princess beamed, and was secretly glad her father didn't mention this in the presence of the other knights. She might be a fierce warrior, the mystic knight of Air, but she was also still a woman, with certain.. needs. She enjoyed that her father kept on spoiling her with these gifts, and after kissing Conchobar on the cheek, she hurried to her room followed swiftly by her chambermaids.
It was still a one hour ride to the first Western outpost, so Garrett and Angus decided to make a short stop at the lake of Nordir. That way the horses could rest up, before continuing their journey to the four outposts.
Angus lay down onto the long yellow grass, his hands behind his head, as Garrett found a suitable spot under a great Willow Tree. The former thief looked at the sky and noticed worriedly that they might not make it back to the castle before sundown.
"We will if you try to keep up more," the blonde knight teased, his blue eyes sparkling mischeavously. "I had to look over my shoulder almost continuesly, just to make sure I hadn't lost you."
"It's not my fault that old creature was the only horse available!", Angus said, raising his voice, taking the bate Garrett had just laid out for him.
Garrett laughed aloud and started to look for pebbles to throw into the lake. Angus staired upward again, and ballanced one of the long grass straws between his lips. Suddenly he was alerted by the flutter of wings flying closely over his head.
"Aha, so this is what knights do when on a king's bussiness," a tiny voice said.
"Aideen, if you had taken a closer look at Angus's horse, you'd have noticed we did the noble thing of taking a rest before the poor beast collapsed, never to arrise again," Garrett smirked.
"Awh, poor Gahn." Aideen said, addressing the horse by his name. She flew toward him and started to stroke his manes with her small hands. "Don't listen to that mean Forest knight, you're a great stead, yes you are!"
Angus now sat up straight and rolled his eyes at both Garrett and Aideen's remarks. "Not that we don't appreciate your company Aideen, but what brings you here? Shouldn't you be following Rohan?"
"Ingrateful humans!" Aideen huffed: "I merely came to give you a heads up. I've seen a small troop of Temra soldiers scurrying around the Mordigray fields."
"Mordigray fields? That's near the third outpost.." Garrett pondered.
"Thank you Aideen, you've been most helpfull. Where would we be without your ever watchfull eye!"
Aideen gleamed with pride, and then left for Kells castle. Cathbad had asked her to lean some of her fairy magic to enhance the Beltaine fire, and she had gladly said yes.
"So..", Garrett said, readying his horse: "Up to Mordigray fields we go."
The third outpost was strangely silent. The knights got of their horses and approached the camp on foot. As they reached the tents they noticed weapons and shields scattered around the field. They both assumed that the soldiers must've fled the camp in a hurry, which became more evident when they noticed the remains of a few burned down tents.
"Tyrune must've visited here not too long ago," Garrett said and Angus nodded in agreement.
"Let's split up and circle the camp, maybe there are still some Temra dogs lurking in the shadows." Garrett took the left side of the site and moved slowly between the trees and tents. Angus's words had alerted him to look for all the places the enemy could still be hiding in. A few times he thought he saw movement from the corner of his eye, but when he turned around all seemed still and peacefull. A growing feeling of uneasyness overcame him, and he decided to keep his sword at hand. He approached the centre of the camp and waited for his friend to show. It seemed like there was nothing they could do here, but to return to the castle and report this to the king.
When after a short while Angus didn't show, Garrett felt annoyance. No doubt the thief was searching for some trinkets to take with him. But when minutes later the knight still found himself alone, annoyance turned into worry.
He walked in the direction of the other side of the camp while shouting Angus's name. Soon there came an answer, one that send shivers down his spine. "Over heeeere,", he heard a dark, familiair voice chanting. He followed the sound of the voice and soon he found that he was right to have worried.
"Took you long enough."
Torc showed his crooked yellow teeth in a hideous smile. On the ground next to him sat Angus on his knees, bound and gagged, his gaze shamefully directed to the ground. Before Garrett could rase his weapons the general swiftly moved his metal covered arm around Angus's neck and slowly tightened his grip. Garrett's eyes widened as he immeadiately saw the dark haired man turn into an unhealthy shade of red, moaning in his attempt to breath.
"Needless to say that I want your surrender, or the thief dies a slow and unpleasant death."
Garrett's mind worked fast, as he tried to work out a plan. He quickly scanned his surroundings, but found that the Temra men had circled him. Any attempt at an escape would fail, and would surely cost his friend his life.
"Well, what will it be?" Torc growled. Angus's face was now a purplish shade of red, and he was no longer struggling for his release. "Fine, I surrender..", Garrett shouted, and threw his twin timber axes to the ground. He looked on in horror as he saw the eyes of his friend turn upward into his skull. "Keep your word Torc, release him!", Garrett shouted. Torc grinned falsely and was obviously savouring this moment of depency from the two knights. "Very well, you're lucky Maeve wants you alive.."
He unlocked his arm and Angus weakly fell to the ground. He inhaled the air hungrilly and colour started to return to his face. Garrett tried to approach him, but the soldiers held him back. "Are you allright?", he shouted instead. Angus pushed himself up to a sitting position. His vision was still a little blurred, but he managed to focus his gaze on Garrett to nod at him.
As the Temra soldiers pulled Angus up to guide the knights to Maeve's castle, he couldn't help but thinking about the festivities he would now surely miss.