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The Magician Within Chapter 6
They traveled by night even though sleeping during the day was nearly impossible. Lilah found herself beyond exhausted and unable to keep her eyes open. They had been taking turns on who got to sleep and who kept watch. However both were too paranoid to actually sleep. "Tristain, we must find some place to stop and sleep before we pass out completely. I can't focus on anything and my eyes are beginning to blur." Tristain agreed and thought of the old village just an hour or so walk from where they were. "We'll make camp in the next village. I'm sure there is a stable or barn we can sleep safely for the night. Can you manage the walk?" Lilah wasn't sure but she would do her best. She nodded slowly trying to maintain control of her head. Tristain took her hand and lead the way.
Once they finally arrived to the village they suddenly felt very awake and on high alert. It was like a ghost town; every home and barn were empty. Lilah searched more of the cabins while Tristain walked toward the large barn at the very end of the village. He approached the large doors to discover they had been locked on the outside. His gut rolled with a horrible feeling. Lilah came to his side. "I think we should leave this place. Something bad has happened here." Lilah had seen her share of ghost in her years alone in the forest. She knew any spirits in this place would bring no harm to them. However she agreed they needed to leave for whomever done such a horrible deed would surely be coming back. Lilah's body was begging to sleep but her instincts screamed to run. Tristain grabbed their things and took Lilah by the hand and guided her quickly out of the village and not a moment too soon.
A stampede of bandits came roaring into the ghost village. "Spread out and find them. Cover every inch of this place." Mason ordered his men. The men looked around and hesitated at first noticing the lack of life in the village. "Move Out!" Mason ordered. He knew Markus was displeased with his failure to find Lilah and Tristain and was not sure how much longer he would allow such actions. The men searched every cabin and and stable with no luck of finding the boy and girl they were ordered to find. Two of the men ventured down to the large barn; like Tristain they too had an uneasy feeling that something terrible was to be found behind the large doors that stood closed before them. "Is there a problem with that door? Get it opened and find them now." Mason yelled from the short distance. The men looked at each other and hesitated for a moment but then moved the barricade that blocked the large doors and opened them slowly.
The ground rumbled as a gust of air blew past them that smelled of decay. Terror covered their faces as they looked upon the rotting corpse of the missing villagers. "What do you suppose happened to them?" The men asked each other fearful that it was a plague and that they would be next. Just then Markus rode into the village to discover the gruesome sight. "Burn the bodies and the barn." Markus ordered as he turned to Mason. "Mason, I gave you a simple task to find two children and bring them to me. Two children that should be starving, cold and exhausted. Why can't they be found?" Markus paced the dirt waiting for Mason's answer. "Well sir, we have looked for them but they are smart and the boy has grown fond of the orphan girl. They take care of each other." Mason wasn't quite finished but Markus had heard enough as he raised his hand for him to be silent.
While Markus continued to try decide Mason's fate Tristain and Lilah made their way across the river to an old cottage that looked as if it may fall down but they needed sleep or they would be caught for sure. They found the cottage had a cellar that looked more sturdy and safer than the house itself. Tristain locked the cellar door from the inside and Lilah made their beds. After she was finished she couldn't hold her head up any longer and fell to her bed and closed her eyes . Tristain was far behind her he made a small fire to keep them warm and he to fell asleep quickly. Morning came sooner than expected however Tristain was up and standing guard; hoping to give Lilah all the sleep she could get before having to make their way to the Forest of Gala. That and he had no idea when the next chance of sleep would come again. Lilah woke shortly after. She gathered all their belongings, made them something small to eat, as well as looking throughout the house to find any supplies that may be of any use to them along the way. Once they were finished they set out for the Forest of Gala.
Markus had made his final decision on handling Mason and the task of finding Tristain and Lilah. "Mason, I am going to give you one more chance and this time we are going to make it interesting. You and Gabriel are going to hunt for the children. The one to bring me them both alive will get to live." Markus gave a wicked smile. "Do you accept Mason?" Taunted Gabriel. Mason's skin crawled at the sight of them. He wasn't stupid he knew they planned to have him killed off; the when and where is what posed the problem. But in any case he had to accept the reality of the situation, accept the terms, find the children, and die, or don't accept and die. He figured it didn't make much difference either way he went Mason was stuck with the death card. "I accept." His voice came steady and hard. Markus gave the order and sent Mason and Gabriel in different directions along with five extra men a piece. Mason made a slight change to his hunting grounds. He too was heading for the Forest of Gala. He had been told as a child that the forest had magical properties that could give him an advantage.
Tristain and Lilah were clearing ground quickly. By Tristain's calculations they would be at the forest's edge by the following morning as long as nothing slowed them down. Lilah felt refreshed and ready for anything. She managed to catch a couple of rabbits and she knew of a stream to far off the path to the forest where the fish were abundant. She could keep them fed for days on just the fish. "Tristain, are you okay? You haven't spoke much since we left the village." Lilah dialed herself down a bit after noticing he had not been acting like himself. She studied Tristain a little closer she found the journey had taken its toll on him he looked as if he had aged by years when it had only been in fact a month since their journey had began. Her heart ached at what she was just now seeing. Tristain slowed his steps as she walked by his side and gently took his hand.
Tristain was taken by surprise at the affection of Lilah; she usually kept her distance for the fear of being abandoned again however this time she opened up and let him in. "Tristain, I know I'm just here because you allow it, but I'm really grateful to you and everything you have done for me." He stopped in his tracks with a look of confusion. "Lilah, you're here because I want you here. If it wasn't for you I would probably be dead by now. I'm the one that should be grateful and I am. I also ummm, well." Tristain wanted so much wanted to tell her he was in love with her but words were usually hard for him to find when it came to expressing his feelings. Therefore he did the only thing he knew to do. He slowly reached up and brushed her cheek all the while praying she didn't reject him as he ppulled her to him and kissed her gently.
Lilah's heart raised with joy and fear but she refused to let this moment end any sooner than what she wanted. When they finally did part Tristain kept holding on to her, just watching for her reaction once what happened finally sunk in. She never moved. "I love you, Lilah." Tristain finally managed the words out. Lilah giggled and the thought of someone loving her. "I know you do and I love you as well my dear Tristain." They began their journey once again only this time with a new outlook on life. They reached the edge of the Forest of Gala just in time to watch the sun rise on a new day.