No on followed him from the soldiers camp, the soldiers probably had their curiosity filled by the two soldiers who had met him by the gates, and they must have had their opinions made up in their mind by now. Soldiers were sometimes hive minded, they followed one thought and moved in sync and their collective curiosity can be easily sated. And as a result, they usually come to conclusions fast. And that’s why most them usually stays soldiers their life.
As Yulan moved farther away from the group of soldiers, he noticed men break away from other groups and walking towards the one he was walking. Some still waited, but soon more will be coming to know the news from the forest.
But Yulan will be damned before they gets another word from his mouth, he wanted to get dry, find a warm corner, something to eat, but that can wait, warm fire first. All eyes were on him as he approached the group. Closer, they looked to Yulan like a rag tag group of travelers huddled around sweet warm fire which they actually were, tormented by the forest and the weather, they all looked worn out. But unlike him they weren’t dripping wet.
“You are welcome to our fire stranger “, said a huge man with graying hair and beard, who sat by the fire warming himself. He extended his hand bidding Yulan to come closer. Yulan stopped for a moment listening to the response of his unspoken words. Good man or maybe he had gone through the same when he came in first. His eyes watched him steadily.
“My thanks, the fire from the soldiers was cold “, Yulan replied. He removed his shoes as he approached them, the rain had soaked it wet and his feet were starting to feel numb with cold. He set the shoes beside the fire as he sat in the space offered by the group.
No one spoke as he warmed himself by the fire, he hadn’t realized before how much he was shivering. He looked up at the old man sitting before him; he had dry bread in his hand held towards him.
He mumbled thanks and took the bread from him, and began chewing on it.
“My name is Sechelles Dawnwalker, a rank seven knight of the order of watchers.” he said bowing his head slightly. Yulan wasn’t sure whether he was bowing to him or to the name of the order.
” They had been questioning everyone here since they arrived and had talked with everyone who had come in after them about the condition outside the walls which would be about half of our group “, said the man. ” But no one other than you had come in after the storm had really started blowing the land away.”
” They suspect some army or bandits are outside there… “, interjected another one, as if the soldiers must have forgotten to mention that to Yulan. Yulan looked at him. He was a boy, may be fourteen, but couldn’t be sure. He looked younger when the light from the fire touched his face. He had a dark shock of hair in his head, and ears that looked too big for him. He continued. “They were probably making sure that that you were not one of the bandits, they can know when someone is lying”
The soldiers probably hadn’t mentioned it to him when they questioned him, one of the others here must have told him that Yulan thought, human tendency always makes one to look for in others something like them, something they can relate to. In his case someone who had been in the dark like him. Well the night outside had been really dark. Yulan nodded.
” How can they do that? “, asked one of the men who had joined them from one of the other groups . He was a mercenary, Yualn had ones met him before, he had been an ass and Yulan was sure he had worked with him. But he seems to be trying to pass of us a merchant guard now; well there was little difference between the both and he didn’t seem to remember Yulan either.
Deserts have a way of changing people, Yulan had heard before. But to point of making him unrecognizable to the man, that man must have a dim brain Yulan decided.
” It is said that Lords of Castlemoor have Prophetic blood in them”, said a man to Yulan’s left. He was cloaked in richly embroidered clothes which seem to have seen better days. His blond hair was tied to his back. Of all the ones around the fire, he looked the most haggard, as if something haunted him. He continued, “The Old castle lord is said to have been a prophet himself”
“He was a good man, too bad he died “, said another man from across the fire. Yulan for the first time looked around him, there were about eight men around the fire, and more were making their way towards the group.
“Every one dies “, said the blond haired man. He had a forlorn look in his eyes, as he continued watching the fire burn the wood.
“Not really “, said another one, he wasn’t looking at Yulan like some nor was he staring at the fire like others. He was looking at the two, a man and woman who was sitting side by side a bit far away from the fire, as if the cold doesn’t touch them, watching Yulan with interest.
They both wore travelling cloaks, and had their hoods drawn back revealing strikingly beautiful faces; the woman saw him looking at them, she smiled. Yulan felt the muscles in his jaws slacken and felt his own face smile in response. He didn’t stop to think how hideous will be to see him smile. Her face seemed to brighten a little bit.
All the while her partner kept his face impasse; he shifted his head and murmured something in her ear. She looked back at him, smiled and said something back. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.
Yulan was brought back from his revere as the old man spoke to him. “Stranger do not get thralled by her beauty, she is not made by the gods”
” What? “, asked Yulan
” He is referring to the immortals “, said someone.
” Blood leaches “, someone else murmured behind him. Yulan recognized the voice as the mercenaries.
” They do not drink blood boy”, said another one. Yulan turned to see a scrawny looking old man who was also drying by the fire. He had his clothes dumped beside him in a heap and was sitting bare chested. He had a staff beside him, placed alongside his heap of clothes.
” Got a bit of the rain myself “, he said seeing Yulan watching him.
” What do you know about them you old crab “. A snarl spread across the mercenaries face.
The old man smiled for a moment then his right hand touched his chest, suddenly the smile was gone and his face became uncertain. He began searching through the heap of clothes and few seconds later fished out a medallion. He breathed a sigh and threw the chains of the medallion around his neck.
“An erudect monk, I am surprised” said a tremulous voice. Yulan looked up to see the woman who has become the point of conversation speaking.
“At your service”, said the monk. He made a small bow.
The man sitting near her murmured something to her. She smiled and spoke with the same alluring voice, enough for everyone around Yulan to hear. ” Aaah .. Hanal .. you do not know about them “. She stopped for a moment and looked at the monk, the smile in her face spreading further and then continued speaking. “We may live a long life Hanal but even we don’t have the knowledge those monks possess”
“Are they powerful “asked Hanal, this time not bothering to murmur.
“Knowledge is power Hanal “, She said the smile still covering her face.