This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts
Xavier was determined to get to Quirinus’ land and compete in the quest. Xavier brought with him two of the oldest men in the village as his entourage. His concern was for his villagers, his people. He would not leave them unprotected, vulnerable to attack. He wanted to journey alone but acknowledged that King Quirinus would look down on a supposed nobleman with no attendants.
So it came to be that Xavier traveled with old Gracchus and Hagen. Xavier could hear Gracchus’ bones creak in time with the step of his horse, and Hagen grunted in time Gracchus. It amazed him how keen his sense of hearing had become since he lost his vision in his left eye. It was how he detected they had a follower since the previous day.
“You can come out now,” Xavier called into the forest. Xavier reasoned that if the follower had evil intentions, he would have made a move during the night when his companions snored as loudly as the thunder of Jupiter. Still, he drew his sword from its scabbard as a precaution. The movement caused more pain than he anticipated; his wounds not yet healed completely.
“You caught me, old man,” a familiar voice called out from the copse of dense trees where Xavier had heard the rustling. It was his younger brother by two years, Valerius. Valerius who was supposed to be in charge of the defense of the Village.
“What, in the name of Jupiter, are you doing here?” Xavier thundered.
“Glad to see me?” Valerius emerged from the trees, grinning as he brushed the leaves from his shoulder.
“No. Who is defending the village if not you?”
“Not to worry, Marcella is fiercer than the both of us combined.” Valerius tried to give his brother a bear hug. Xavier pointed his sword at him.
“You left the village in the hands of our sister? Our younger sister?!”
Valerius could tell Xavier was about to erupt. He tried a new approach. “I was worried about you, brother. You shouldn’t be out of bed, let alone wandering the roads with only older men than you for company.”
Xavier grunted. There was no refuting his brother’s words.
“It’s taken you a week to cover the distance I’ve covered in two days. Send the old men home. I’ll get you to Quirinus’ land.” Encouraged by his brother’s silence, Valerius continued. “Besides, I want a look at this Cardelia; see if she’s really as beautiful as they say.”