Swaths of pink and orange filled the afternoon sky. The day’s light breeze had turned cooler as the hours had passed.
“This will sustain you,” King Lucius said, handing her a meliam fruit he had brought with him for the ride.
She snatched it greedily from his hand and bit into the pink skin without hesitation. Juice ran down her filthy arms, creating thin, muddy pathways.
Callis was disgusted. And the alliaceous odor wafting from the woman was not helping his stomach.
He wished he had suggested they perfect combat tactics yesterday evening, instead of agreeing to go with the king for “an invigorating ride before dawn.” It would have been better to endure rounds of sword play than face the predicament of being far from home with someone who could be planning to kill the king.
Given the angle of the sun and the bark of the trees, Callis estimated that they were still about four hours away from the nearest outlying post of the kingdom. If they kept walking–even at a slow pace–they wouldn’t be home until morning. But if they stopped now, only to continue the slow walk in the morning, by his estimates, they would reach the perimeter of the kingdom about 10 hours from now. The faint aroma of petrichor was moving toward them. It would rain in about an hour.
And he knew what was coming next.
“Ma’am would you like to stop and rest for the night,” the king asked, pulling his horse to a stop. “We can construct a separate space for you to rest near a fire for the night.” The king handed the woman another ripe meliam fruit. She took it quickly, given a faint nod of agreement.
Callis’ spirit sank within him. The king often thought of protecting and helping others above himself, but protecting the king was Callis’ constant mission. Now he would need to do that throughout the night, staying awake in case the woman was part of a larger plot to end the king’s life, or was planning to act alone.
He sighed deeply as he began to quickly gather sticks for the promised fire. The night would be long.