Nyx awoke just before dawn, sore and shivering. Her body was covered in a sheen of dew which had soaked through her clothing. On the bright side the cold had numbed her bottom slightly, slightly being the operative word, she still felt like she had been thrown into a fire butt first. Any attempt to shift positions hurt terribly, not that she could do much moving, still tied up with rope. She craned her neck to glare at Livia over her shoulder. Livia to her deep irritation was sleeping soundly, wrapped in a pile of furs, do doubt warm and comfortable.
Nyx lay seething as the sun began its slow ascent emerging from below the horizon. Far too soon Livia was awake. Nyx feigned sleep but this course of action was swiftly met with a jab from Livia’s boot.
“Wake up little elf, it’s time to get moving.” Livia sounded almost cheerful. Nyx grunted in displeasure. “Will you try to run if I untie you? I do not recommend it. If you choose to do so I’ll have to hurt you.”
“I won’t run.” Nyx sighed. She was in too much pain to run. For the moment, she would have to settle for her vivid imagination, in which she was currently flaying Livia alive. Livia bent down untying Nyx before hauling her into a standing position. Nyx yelped as the pain in her bottom intensified in response to the rapid change in position.
“Eat!” Livia thrust a chunk of bread in Nyx’s direction. Nyx stood munching on the bread as Livia started on her own breakfast. Once they had both finished eating Livia grabbed Nyx by the forearm and dragged her along as she began the trek back to the clearing where Livia had left her horse. Upon reaching her destination Livia sighed in relief to note Aristides was still there and unharmed. She set to grooming and feeding the horse while Nyx stood sullenly plotting revenge. Finally, from Livia’s perspective, but far too soon for Nyx’s preferences, they were ready to leave.
“Seeing as you are being so cooperative this morning I shall permit you to sit on the horse rather lie bound across its back.” Livia smirked leaping onto her horse and pulling Nyx up to sit in front of her. Nyx wailed as her bottom made contact with the horse’s back.
The morning was spent in relative silence with the exception of an occasional yelp from Nyx. To Nyx, the ride felt never ending. Livia, however, was enjoying the day tremendously. Her captive was being cooperative and if they made good time they were set to reach the palace by tomorrow afternoon. They made a brief stop at midday to have lunch and water the horse. Before continuing on their way.
At dusk when Livia deemed it time to make camp Nyx was on the verge of tears. She had thought she was in pain this morning, however, spending the day sitting on a horse had made things exponentially worse. Livia offered her a sparse meal of dried meat and bread and the two ate in silence. Livia, not wanting to take any chances, bound Nyx again before tending to Aristides. Once she was satisfied her horse had received adequate care Livia sharpened her sword and settled in for the night, draping one of her furs over a sulking Nyx before lying down to sleep herself.
When morning arrived, Livia allowed Nyx to remain sleeping as she prepared for departure wishing to minimise her captive’s opportunity to cause trouble. Nyx awoke with a jolt and a feeling of rising panic just as Livia finished feeding the horse. While she felt slightly better than she had yesterday she was still far too sore to stage a successful escape attempt and they were close to reaching the palace. Apparently, Livia was having similar thoughts as she chose that moment to turn and beam at her. After a quick breakfast, Livia adjusted Nyx’s bonds to facilitate her placement on the horse. She was not going to risk escorting her prisoner unbound when she was so close to collecting her reward. Once she was satisfied her captive had no chance of escape she mounted her horse, pulling Nyx into the saddle, and set off across the forest at record speed.
The ride passed far too quickly for Nyx’s liking, in spite of her sore bottom. By noon the palace gates were in sight. When they reached the gates, they were met by armed guards. Livia leapt from her horse and pulled Nyx’s down to stand beside her.
“I have captured the thief the Queen seeks.” Livia announced.
“This is excellent news!” The senior guard extended a smile which didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I shall take you to the Queen, your horse will be taken to the stables.” Livia nodded in agreement and began to follow him up the path towards the palace, dragging Nyx along with her. They were escorted up the path and through the courtyard. They paused at the palace doors as the guard instructed the doorman to open them, and then made their way up a broad corridor into the throne room. Upon reaching the throne room Livia strode forward at a brisk pace pushing Nyx to her knees at the Queen’s feet.
“I have retrieved the thief and the property she stole from you.” Livia held out the necklace. The queen gave her a look of derision. Standing, she slapped the jewellery from Livia’s hand.
“I care not for trinkets.” She snarled turning her attention to Nyx. “Where is the mage?”
“I believe she is standing in front of me.” Nyx retorted. “Unless you are referring to one of your children, but I fail to see how I could know their exact whereabouts. Everyone knows only members of the royal family are born mages.” The Queen gave Nyx a menacing glare.
“You and I both know that is not true.” Her voice was dangerously low. “I know you helped her escape. You are her sister. Nobody else would be stupid enough to cross me!”
“You must have me confused with someone else, I have no sister.” Nyx lied. Queen Cerise clenched her hands into fists, took a deep breath, and then slowly relaxed them.
“I will have your cooperation eventually.” Her face broke into a predatory grin. “Guards, take them to the dungeon!”
“Wait! What! You can’t possibly mean…” Livia began.
“I cannot have a thug running around my kingdom telling anyone who cares to listen that there’s a non-royal mage on the loose.” The Queen explained in a placating tone.
Livia spluttered in indignation as guards seized her. Despite the severity of her situation, Nyx couldn’t quite suppress a giggle.
“I told you it was in your interest to let me go.” She smirked.