This is part of the A to Z Challenge. A story told in 26 parts. Check Sunday’s post (4/14) for a recap of parts A-L.
Valerius and Xavier traveled by horseback at a moderate pace. Their goal was to get to the border of King Quirinus’ land by nightfall. Valerius deliberately held back so that Xavier would not over-exert himself. Xavier looked clownish with his face swathed in bandages. Apparently Cardelia had told him to do it. The man was a fool for love. Valerius enjoyed the serenity of the woods, the only sounds the clip clop of hooves and the water of the river whose path they followed. “Horses!” Xavier cried, slapping Valerius’ horse’s flank and pulling hard on his own horses rein. They were both were barely off the road when three men on horseback thundered by. Valerius inhaled the dirt the other riders kicked up and coughed as he directed his mount back on the road. “Wasn’t that the nobleman from last night?” “Get off the road!” Xavier yelled at him. “There’s another horse coming!” Valerius did as he was told, just as a young lad with carrot orange hair whipped by on a magnificent white horse. “Are there any more coming?” Valerius asked. “No, all clear.” Xavier led his horse back onto the road and Valerius followed. Their horses had barely taken a few steps when Xavier said. “The last rider is coming back.” “By the Gods!” Valerius was irritated now, having inhaled several lungfuls of dirt. He drew his sword and stood his ground. Xavier laughed. “You’re a brave one, ready to run through a young lad half your size.” The young lad appeared, galloping back towards them. “Come! Come quickly Xavier!” “How do you know his, er, my name?” Valerius growled. “Never mind that! They’ve got Di—Cardelia!” Cardelia shouted in as masculine a voice as she could. “Wha? What?” Valerius sputtered as Xavier took off at breakneck speed down the road and the lad with the high-pitched squeak followed. He urged his horse forward and hurried after them.