“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Nyx gulped, her heart rate spiking as she met the guard’s menacing gaze. “This woman is clearly ill and I was just removing her necklace for safe keeping. There are a lot of shady people around here.” She nodded with what she hoped was sincerity.
“I see…” The guard sounded unconvinced “you were simply taking a stranger’s valuables to be helpful…”
“Of course,” Nyx nodded “I’m an honest woman.”
“I don’t think so!” The guard snatched the necklace from her hand and seized her by the arm. “I’m taking you to the guard captain.”
“I am highly insulted by your insinuations!” Nyx struggled, eyes scanning the room for Cassandra. Cassandra stood twenty meters away looking petrified. Nyx stared at her expectantly, willing her to cast the sleeping spell again. It seemed Cassandra caught on as she waved her hand in the air once more. This time, however, did not go so smoothly. The guard did not collapse into sleep. Rather a sizable fire sprung up at his feet.
The guard shouted in alarm letting his grip on Nyx loosen. Nyx wrenched herself from his grasp and darted through the panicked crowd. Taking hold of Cassandra’s hand, she dragged her out of the tavern into the crisp night. The other patrons streamed out of the tavern with them. Nyx was pleased to note the guard carrying the unconscious woman. She was a thief, not a murderer. At least not under the majority of circumstances. For Livia, of course, she would happily make an exception. In the commotion, it was easy to slip away. Glancing back over her shoulder Nyx grimaced at the amount of smoke billowing from the tavern. It seemed the fire was spreading. She dragged Cassandra into the cover of the trees to the sound of shouting as the rest of the town guard arrived to extinguish the fire.
“What was that!” Nyx hissed at Cassandra. “I thought you said you knew how to cast the sleeping spell!”
“I do!” Cassandra protested “Mages have limited magical reserves. Being inexperienced mine are more limited than most. I already used a lot during training this evening. When your magic is reaching depletion, things can go wrong.”
“So, that’s why Izzy doesn’t use her magic very often even though it could make our travels easier?” Nyx inquired.
“Exactly” Cassandra whispered back. “If she uses too much magic for small things she might not have enough if there’s an emergency.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Nyx nodded thoughtfully. She led Cassandra on a round about route through the woods weaving back and forward through the trees to ensure they were not followed. They kept a brisk pace. While the guards were currently occupied with the fire it was still better to be cautious. When they finally arrived back at the campsite they were both out of breath.
“We need to leave now!” Nyx whispered as she shook Izzy awake. Izzy surveyed her suroundings in sleepy confusion. She glanced between Nyx and Cassandra and sniffed the air a look of suspicious concern dawning on her face.
“Cassandra…” Her tone was warning “Why are both you and Nyx awake and why do I smell smoke?” Now that the adrenaline of the initial panic had worn off Cassandra burst into tears.
“Nyx, what if someone gets hurt?” She sobbed “We should go back, see if we can help.”
“They’ll be fine!” Nyx snapped “The guards are taking care of it and we can’t go back they’ll be looking for us.”
“You didn’t?” Izzy, now on her feet, fixed Cassandra with an incredulous stare. By now Livia was also awake. “We agreed we would stay out of the town.” Izzy’s eyes remained trained on Cassandra who squirmed under her intense gaze.
“You and Livia agreed!” Nyx pointed out “Cass and I didn’t get a choice.”
“I’m disappointed, Cassandra. Once we reach safety you and I are going to have a very serious talk.” Izzy ignored Nyx’s comment.
“But what about Nyx?!” Cassandra protested “She was there too! It was her idea!”
“Nyx is not my girlfriend.” Izzy replied in a mild tone. “Besides, I’m sure that Livia will be more than happy to deal with her.
“I will indeed” Livia shot Nyx a menacing grin.
Nyx gulped. This situation was getting worse and worse. Not only were the handful of coppers she had managed to acquire throughout the night insufficient to pay Livia back for the loss of her gold, now it appeared Izzy was going to give Livia free reign to punish her. This was not going to end well for her. She needed to come up with a plan and quickly. Izzy was unlikely to consider them safe until they reached the Dwarven Kingdom so she had until then to find a way to dispose of Livia. She had to be smart about it this time. She couldn’t afford to anger Livia any more than she already had.
The group packed their things hastily. Cassandra paused a few times to cast worried looks in the direction of the town. When she did Izzy hurried her on with an icy stare. Once their belongings were packed they set off into the night. Cassandra remained teary and for once Izzy’s ire was apparent. Livia appeared uncharacteristically cheerful, likely contemplating her plans for Nyx once they reached the Dwarven Kingdom. A shiver of dread ran down Nyx’s spine. She retreated deep into thought. A plan she most definitely needed a plan.