I catch the arrow and drag Paula as we run back the way we came.
“I had it” Paula mutters.
“No…. You didn’t, any slower and you’d be dead right now.” I tell her.
“How many times have I told you not to rush without looking at your surrounding? You wait, you look and you make a decision based on what you see and feel.” I scold her and Elena chuckles.
“Shut up” we say at once to her.
We reach the narrow passage way and I stop us from moving further. The men come behind us.
“Now Paula you can go crazy, this place is too small for an arrow target, keep moving and don’t stay in one place for too long.” I say to her and she goes to fight.
“What do I do?” Elena asks.
“How long will the poison last?” I ask.
“I honestly have no idea, I was too fascinated by the prospect of the poison.” She replies.
“I guess we will have to fight our way out afterall. Just stay close to me.” I join Paula as we fight our way through.
A man is close to hitting Paula with his sword, I’m occupied, I scream to warn her but Elena stabs the man at his back, which gives Paula the opportunity to finish him off.
Soon we are covered in blood and the men are down.
“Wow, you two are amazing.” Elena gushes.
“I did the right thing by betting on you.” She claps.
“I see you have a thing for stabbing people in the back both figuratively and literally. Do you have some kind of fetish?” Paula raises her brows.
“Is that a thank you?” Elena retorts.
“Your head is still on your neck, isn’t it?” Paula counters.
“You say the most romantic things.” Elena winks at her.
“Alright you lovebirds, let’s get out of here.” I chuckle.
We come out of the place and I see that we are not in Rale anymore, I don’t fully recognize the place but from the way Paula glares at Elena, I can tell she knows.
“Where are we?” I ask her.
“The lost city of the Rabians, this is all that’s left after the last war.” Paula says with a sigh.
“I’m sorry” I say to her.
“Why are you sorry?” Elena asks.
“None of your business” Paula cuts her short.
“We can’t travel like this, we look insane. This place is closer to Roelum than Rale, do you think your father would be happy to see you?” Paula asks with a smirk.
“Yes, yes… Am I not his beloved daughter after all?” I say with a wry smile.
“I feel like you two are talking in codes, I can understand you, yet I don’t understand you.” Elena whines.
“I thought we were on the same side, let me in on the inside jokes too.” Elena looks at me with those eyes that have fooled countless others.
Paula scoffs. “Why are you really with us?”
There’s a second silence before she sighs and raises her hands up in surrender.
“I regretted it, I thought I wouldn’t but as it turns out, I like you way more than I thought. I think it’s because no matter how much of a sham our relationship was, it is the most honest I’ve ever been and that’s saying something considering how much I’ve pretended all my life. You reminded me of who I am, I was beginning to forget.” She plays with her hair.
“And you are a two faced snake?” Paula asks quietly.
“Paula….!” I say with a laugh.
“She is right, that is who I am though… I forgot that for a minute. I am not some innocent girl that depends on another person to live. I am a two faced snake but a snake that is on your side. Although I am not going to pledge loyalty, you can’t trust me because I don’t even trust myself but for right now, I’m honest.” She says with the most serious look I’ve ever seen her wear.
“Interesting….. Who exactly are you?” I ask.
“It doesn’t matter anymore….” She sighs.
As we are walking, some armed people come out from the trees, dressed in animals skin and leaves, we are cornered at every turn. They point their weapon at us and I hear Elena gasp and Paula groan.
“Common, I need a break!” I massage my head.
“How did they get so close? I thought you were a warrior of superior sensitivity?” Elena whispers and I glare at her.
I am also flustered because I didn’t hear them move in which could mean I’m either getting rusty or they were always here.
“They are Rabians…. Not even I can completely sense them. They are one with the woods.” I whisper back to Elena.
She looks at them in awe and one of them that looks like their leader comes out, Paula stares at him in shock.
“Papa??….” She stutters.
As we follow Emek and Emer as they track Salem and Paula, Akka takes another gulp of his drink and for a second I wonder how he is able to walk steady considering how much he drinks.
We reach a place that looks like an ancient city, Aster goes in and comes back out.
“I wondered why it was too quiet, there are dead men everywhere. ” Aster says with his arms crossed.
The rest of us go in and we see that many of the assassins are dead, some look like they are sleeping and others look wide awake but can’t move.
“This is Paula’s work… She has a thing for necks.” Ladda points at a dead body.
“They both have things for necks. I mean there are other parts of the body but they are so particular about the neck. It’s disconcerting to be honest.” Shem shudders.
“Sometimes I think I catch Paula staring at my neck, that gives me the chills.” Akka laughs out loud.
“I don’t think your friends need our help to save them. If they did this, if only two people did this, then I think they will be fine.” Aster says in a tune that says he admires them.
“At this point, I am worried about whoever they meet especially if Paula is angry, Salem does a great job of managing her but she is a Rabian, that bloodlust can’t be controlled.” Roark says as he comes on another dead body.
“This one looks alive.” Roark says and Ladda comes closer, he looks at the colouring on his lips.
“This feels familiar…” Ladda says as he bends to sniff the body.
“Oh.. this is mine… This is my poison, it went missing five days ago; I didn’t think much about it since I didn’t think it would work.” Ladda says happily but confused.
“How would they have access to it? The only person I bluffed about it to was Elena… Why would…” He says and his eyes widen.
Akka mutters “That idiot…” Emek and Emer shakes their heads at him.
“You have it bad for her, don’t you?” Shem asks with a teasing smile.
“Shut up… All of you.” Ladda rolls his eyes.
“She must have stolen it from me, how was she able to get to all of them? It has to be ingested to be able to work. It’s strange.” Ladda comments.
Aster’s men are with us but well hidden in the shadows.
“As it appears, they are not here but I found a lady unconscious in a room… It looks like a torture chambers.” Aster points at the room and we move there.
It’s Ayo, she doesn’t look dead so I suspect she is poisoned.
“How long would the effect last?” I ask Ladda.
“I don’t know, I haven’t used it on a human before, it was in the testing stage… I am trying to create an untraceable poison, but this is a failure. I have to start all over again.” He whines.
“Should we leave her here?” Emek asks.
“I say we take her with us, she will be able to answer some of our questions.” Akka suggests.
“She won’t confess easily” I reply.
“It’s okay, Ladda has a truth potion.” Akka says and I look at Ladda suspiciously.
“This was how you people got our men to talk in the battles of the wayes, those men would rather die than give up military secrets.” I say in realization.
“Let’s not talk about the past” Akka pats me at my back.
“They went this way…” Emer says.
As we organise ourselves to move, some of the men paralyzed start to move, Ayo adjusts herself.
Before I can comment on how the Poison is beginning to lose its power, Akka and his men kill the rousing men. I am surprised by the smoothness of their actions.
Aster looks on at them with me.
“They are cold … Really cold.” He mutters.
I look at them and once again I wonder what life Salem must have lived before.
While the night guards were killing surviving men, we hear horses and more men coming to where we are. They look like reinforcement from the house of Ini.
“Surrender now and you might live.” Someone like their captain says to us.
Aster stands in front of me.
“Not on my life.”