Reluctance bore itself deep into Barston as he realized the journey to Rastome was almost complete. Only one other instance of attempted robbery against the merchant train occurred and he had avoided Freilas’ threat only because he had been sent ahead with one of the other hired guards, whose name was Bilkin, to survey the road as they came to a bend notorious for its ambushing opportunities.
For all the chaos Breshtk suffered due to the rumors of Queen Erise’s disappearance, Barston could not help but think he would find a new prosperous opportunity in Rastome. Surely, there was something that could be gained in one of the larger cities of his home hold.
Freilas screamed at him to get his attention and handed over a large bundle of empty water skins. “I can hear that brook has turned into quite the stream off the road. Climb down there and fill these.” The quiet days on the road left him surly and tasking Barston with extra tasks.
Barston skid down the steep incline, keeping his balance with his hands full. The water of the unnamed stream was cool against his skin, relieving the heat of the day. Bugs swirled around his face in the deep shaded area, undeterred by his swatting.
He heard the approach of someone, thinking they came to help but upon turning growled once he saw the blade aimed for his ribs.
Quick hands allowed him to block the strike with the tied water skins. His eyes kept on the blade but a moment’s look revealed Bilkin was his attacker. Barston’s feet plunked into the water as he moved to avoid the next strike. Bilkin bore an angry expression, sweat dripping from his bearded face, and reached for another smaller knife meant to be thrown. The earlier incident on the road proved his prowess at throwing the double-edged blade.
Bilkin reached back ready to throw and Barston did the only thing he could do. He grabbed his sword hilt and pulled the blade free. Bilkin’s eyes widened in shock. In that brief opening, Barston lunged forward and swung his blade downward. Bilkin’s chest opened despite steel not touching it. His shock lingered as he fell back to the ground.
Barston breathed heavily, unable to take his eyes from his broken blade—his Shoal-cursed blade—as steel rose only inches above the hilt. His eyes searched for others but either Bilkin acted on his volition or was the only one sent to betray him. Barston let his eyes run over the clean blade of his sword, shattered by the attack that left him alive but his princes dead months ago.
The water skins floated down stream while Barston crossed the water and began his quiet flight from the train up towards Rastome, not caring to confront what may be awaiting him at the train.