The box had a ring in it, and nothing else. It was a ring of stone. Maybe, just maybe this was some sort of rare and valuable Methos artifact.
Orion’s expression proved me wrong. He simply smiled.
“Looks like you’ve failed, Alexandre.” He said, placing the ring in my hand.
Two of his followers bound my arms behind my back. He always used two, just in case. I was lead away, out of the hideout and into the dark woods. I looked back. This hideout appeared to be a small shack next to the sea. It nearly flooded at high tide, and larger waves hit the side. That’s why Laila had to grease it.
I realized that they were leading me far away, that I was in for a long walk, and I relaxed. Maybe I could escape? I guessed that I could probably jump and pull my arms forward. With my hands in front of my body, I could probably put up a decent fight. I still had my sword, and the ring. Perhaps it had some sort of magical power? It was a Methos artifact after all. I decided not to get my hopes up.
There was a person in a tree. It was evening, and my escort was comprised of two Solune men. They probably would not notice the person unless I had pointed them out. I did not. I just stared out of the corner of my eye. This was no Riley, no Solune. It was a Plainkind woman, but her eyes seemed unusually dark. I would not learn until later that this was because her sclera were black, not a common characteristic of any race Alexandre knew of.
It was clear that her Plainkind traits were average for her race. She had large arm and leg muscles, but a small frame. It looked both cartoonish and formidable at the same time. She was also incredible heavy, her body loaded down by thick muscle and dense bones, and thus she could only stand on particularly large branches. The only thing other than the eyes that was unusual about her was her blonde hair and her clothing. She was wearing a form fitting jumpsuit. It reminded Alexandre of the Solune Guard’s uniform, but black instead of grey.
I avoided looking at the Plainkind and trained my eyes forward. If this was a guard or some other government entity, the Plainkind might be my ticket to freedom. Occasionally I would hear the sound of her leaping to a different tree behind me, her powerful legs making twenty or thirty foot jumps not only easy, but quiet. The noise the Plainkind made was no louder than a breath, or wind in the trees. Neither of my captors noticed her for the entire duration of the trip.
I walked for four hours. The dusk became night.
Days passed. I was not fed, but the made sure that I had enough water to continue walking. We exited the Djeb forest and walked along the merchant walkway that paved a safe path through the treacherous western desert.
After six days of walking, we crossed through the Solune Kingdom wall and, I realized where I was being taken. It was the hideout of the main gang, the largest one, led by Mhanuel Argus. Out of the three group leaders, I had always liked Mhanuel the best. He was a father, and some of his children served under him. Lex didn’t know if he had a wife, and if she was among his ranks. I liked him best because he was wisened by his rule. Despite being the head of a gang, he was still an honourable leader. He might have made a good military general, or mayor or something.
Four days later, we entered Murdock, the Solune capital. By then I was exhausted. I was at the point of starvation where all I wanted to do was sleep. I marched blindly most of the time with my eyes closed, hoping I would somehow learn to sleepwalk. Every time I did nod off, it was clear that I also stopped walking. I would be rudely awakened, sometimes even threatened if I was lucky.
We arrived at the wealthy part of town and entered a mansion. For whatever reason, the Solune government had never realized that we were among them, right there in the open. I was pulled through the doorway, and I immediately noticed the change in decor. My heart fell. That could only mean that Mhanuel had been replaced.