//FINALLY! I doubt this chapter is a good as the others, though, for I had little inspiration over this one. Anyway, here it comes. And do not worry, there will be battles later on//
BOOK II - WILDERNESS
Chapter XI – Exodus
About one thousand people were now fleeing advancing army, half more securing the troop's tail. Although they were slower than the coming tide, they fully expected to reach the security of Mithral Hall without having to fight, for the place was less than two days of march from the city. Badly outnumbered and with wives and children to defend, having to battle was the least of their wishes.
Night had gone. Already did Aeris feel sheer exhaustion numb her legs, as did many others. Blossom also seemed tired, and although Buttercup wouldn't admit it, she would have gratefully stop the continual pace. Even Bubbles, who had only waken up since two hours or so, was growing weary of the march. Hopefully, horses were brought to the weakest ones by soldiers, and soon the four of them were riding on a handsome black stallion.
Coldness slowly disappeared from the air as soon as the sun went on his daily routine. More than one had already dozed off on their mount, and soldiers went back and forth to see that no one would fall on the ground. The young woman fought hard to keep her eyes opened. No adept to horse-riding, she clearly doubted her ability to stay on the horse if she was to fall asleep. Blossom had already rejoined dreamworld, Buttercup was gazing upon the grand wilderness with curiosity and interest, and Bubbles was patting playfully the steed's neck.
Midday. At last, the marching mass was allowed a rest. Some literal fell asleep from their mount. Food was distributed, Aeris refused her ration, since her bag was full of provisions. She would soon regret her generosity.
Late afternoon. Again she was riding the black stallion, Shadow, as Bubbles called him. She did not ask her if she knew the horse's true name or just invented it. The young woman was beyond the real world. Something was amiss. Imagination? Anxiety? No…
Twilight. As Aeris watched the sun disappear, she felt as if she would never see it again. Her heart sore, her mind ached, everything was wrong! Wrong! Her hands were trembling, she felt flesh burning, droplets of sweat flowed from her delicate skin. Fire. Fire! Her whole body was consumed! Light was diminishing, the few inches which separated her from her daughters seemed like miles. Their anxious cries were no more than wind's secretive murmurs. Her vision blurred. She dropped to the ground.
At last. I thought you would never wake up.
The soothing voice seemed vaguely familiar. However, in the impeding darkness, she could not recognize the speaker.
What happened? She curiously asked.
A bright flash of light exploded in her mind. Dazed and pained, she fell to the ground.
Let her rest… She heard a melodic and gentle voice address the previous speaker.
Time, Rim. Time… We lack of time, said the boy, concerned.
The… The children? Aeris managed to ask.
They are sleeping, don't worry, answered the voice gently.
That was the only thing the young mother needed to hear. Her consciousness fell once again in the dark oblivion.
Dawn. Opening her eyes to see the sunrise, the young woman already felt much better. She tried to rise, but stopped as soon as she realized that her daughters were holding her and still asleep. Where were the others…? Sleeping too…
She glanced at the speaker.
Wait… I know you… Lélio!
I'm glad you still remember me.
You healed me?
Nah, said the boy, shaking his head.
He pointed a young blond elf, sleeping no more than five feet from her.
Oh… Is Mithral Hall in sight?
Mithral Hall's East door, the young lad corrected.
No more than one hour, and your gazes will witness its imposing door.
I'm not going East. I plan on going North.
When one and a half thousand people go towards a city, we should inform the city before their arrival, right?
What if the guys sent did not return?
Wait… Are you telling me…
Exactly. I'm thinking Mithral Hall's route is cut.
Then why didn't the soldiers tell us?
When one and a half thousand people are told that they have nowhere to go, what do you think would happen?
The young girl began to understand where Lélio was leading her. She looked upon the sleeping citizens, wondering what future was left for them.
I cannot risk to try North before I am sure that Mithral Hall is inaccessible.
That's your choice.
But… Why North?
Here, let me show you.
He quickly sketched a rough map on the ground.
East, Mithral Hall. West, Amandine. North, the mountains. South, the Evermoors.
Why not try South in that case?
Trust me, the Evermoors are the last place you want to cross. The mountains may hold many beasts, but numerous are its caverns and tunnels. One can hope to find his way to Mithral Hall through the mountains.
And how will you find the way?
I trust my instinct. It never failed me before.
She looked at the adolescent, unsure.
I'm leaving in one hour. By the time, the march should resume.
And he left Aeris weighting the odds.