The knights needed to get up the mountain as fast as possible.
Despite being exhausted, the knights ascended the mountain. It was a steep climb. Remi could hear his young mind saying that it was not possible but that voice was faint a whisper.
The wind was gaining strength and speed the higher the three knights rose. Remi had never been this far west. He was born in the south-east, a small village that was surrounded by flat farmland. Remi struggled to believe that this part of the land was still in his country. He would remind himself that he was from Veromirel, but he had seldom been there. He had seen foreign shores to wage brutal wars. The blue sands of Balsino had been dyed red by whenever he left there. The narrow streets of Keruct clogged with the dead. The people of Keruct known for their diminutive stature. Affter he and his fellow knights of Gohla had cut them down they were shorter still.
The higher Remi climbed the further back he was taken by the beauty of his surroundings. A valley of mountains clumped together. Smoke rising from little towns that were somewhere out there.
As Remi looked out, he realised that he was looking eastward. East was where they had come from. The journey, the other four who started with them, his horse Hixen. It felt like a forever ago. They had covered so much ground in such a short space of time. The days stretched out, his perception had become distorted. Now he was here, barely a quarter way up a mountain. Climbing with the speed of someone wishing to escape a pursuing conflagration.
When Remi felt his spirit flag all that he would have to do was look up to see Falrod bounding.
It was as if some invisible harness aided Falrod. While personal details were forbidden, Remi suspected that Falrod was from somewhere near. Falrod had a rough face, descended from hill folk. It would explain his natural ability when it came to the scaling of the cliff face.
At the next admission ceremony, he would admit to having a certain amount of respect for Falrod. Here Remi was, getting ahead of himself. This journey had cost them several allies, and he might be another extension of the price.
There appeared to be an area of flat just above them. Remi figured to himself that if the other two were to stop for a rest, then he too could rest otherwise, it was upwards.
When Remi arrived at the level as his companions, he found that they were not alone. There was an encampment of twenty men. They were not expecting the intrusion. By their tents, there were casks of gold and jewellery. One of the men stood and immediately drew his sword.
“Oi, we stole this fair and square”, he said.
“To steal is to be most unfair,” said Falrod.
“Either way this is ours.”
“I pass not to question the ownership of your ill-gotten gains. I am simply a traveller on my way upwards under the command of the queen. Our path lies ahead. All that I ask is you stand aside.”
“You’re not taking it.”
“I agree, I am not, however, our way is through that cave.”
“Pick another way.”
“But I have already decided.”
Vilko and Remi closed in behind Falrod. The other men and women at the encampment had drawn their swords. Falrod had not brandished his steel. This meant that there was still a possible peaceful resoloution to the scenario.
“All we ask is for passage. My travellers and I will put our hands behind our backs, our noses to the sky. If we so much as let them dip you may have them for recompense.”
“This way is barred.”
“We are under time constraints, as knights of Halmodar we have a certain pedigree to maintain. You know our rule. Never to sheath a blade that has not quenched the blood of enemies.”
“You’re a little far out of the way, wouldn’t you say.”
“No distance is too far for my queen.”
“You’re going to have to go a little further than.”
“This is a shame, there’s no talking.”
“No there isn’t”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Falrod.
The three knights unsheathed their blades.
After they surveyed the remains of the camp.
“Let’s put this gold to some good use,” said Falrod.
“The day grows short.”
“This will only take a moment.”
The three of them pushed the plunder to the precipice and with a final shove sent it over the edge.
The three stepped over the bodies and followed the cave in the back.
The howl of the wind grew louder.
There was more climbing ahead of them. Remi has lost track of time he thought that it would still be daytime, but it seemed to be getting darker as they rose. HE put this down to exhaustion, new land and a constant throbbing where there was once a finger.
Remi took deep breaths. It was not much of a consolation. The other two appeared to be flagging in their upwards ascent, and that made him feel less of a failure.
The climb went on into the early evening. Remi did not know if there was an end in sight. There was a voice inside him that told him to just let go and tumble down to the ground. Let all the worries of this world slip away and have a well-earned rest.
There were moments when that thought sustained him.
Remi climbed on.
The climbing continued for several more hours.
The three knights reached a plateau.
They looked around at the surrounding area. The knights could see a small campsite over at the other side of the flat area. There was a river that flowed past the tent and over the edge. Remi licked his lips but waited for Falrod to take the lead. He would not drink until the other two had. Remi would also get a chance to inspect his hand better. That was if this was the place that they were supposed to come to.