He walked out of the room with the Ril in his arms. He took a deep sigh of regret. If only he could have saved her life. It was a shame to see a life that was taken prisoner not to die a free woman.
“Is it over?” Mask asked. His footprints went back and forth outside of the door.
“For you, yes. You are no longer bound to this cause. You are free to go.”
“Thank you, Apoc.” Mask passed a hand over his face and the shadow returned to his face.
“If I catch you helping men like this again, I will not hesitate to end your existence.” His voice was ice. There was no doubt behind the threat.
“I help only the good. It’s my brother, Shroud, who you must be wary of. He is my twin and is the Immortal of Thieves. He hunts further west. He knows not to test the God Killer of the Crossroads. You have made quite a reputation of yourself there. I’d say that I have never seen these lands so peaceful. It’s quite a feat. But nothing less than what Apoc of house Salamander is capable of.”
“Thank you. You are welcome to my city. I will accommodate you if you ever wish to visit.”
“We shall see.” With a shimmer of darkness, Mask evaporated into the shadows.
Apoc made his way out of the cave. He was alone with his thoughts. As he ducked under the entrance he could see Liam and Morgan ferrying the last of the prisoners out of the caves.
“Is that everyone?” Apoc asked. Some of the blood on Liam and Morgan dried, making their skin look as if it were scabbed.
“Yes. I see you took care of your business.” Morgan said looking at the dead Elf in his arms.
“Not my doing but that’s is a story for later.”
“Were there anymore men in the caves?” Liam asked.
“More than I care to deal with. But without their leader or Mask, this band of criminals are going to infight for the spoils and then scatter. There is little we can do here that they won’t solve themselves for us.”
They made their way through the entrance of the crevasse. The sun had just broke the horizon and the light waved over the green hills and protruding rocks. They had 23 freed prisoners with them. He placed Ril on the ground. He faced the freed men and women.
“I know that you’re all exhausted and traumatized. But this journey is not over. They will be a train heading toward the Junction today and it is a couple of hours of walking from here. If we miss the train it will be a couple of days before we can get to the Junction. I implore you to move like your life depends on it.” He pointed south. “The tracks are that way.” He pointed back into the caves. “Your captors are back there. Once they find out that you are free they will send some men to get you back if they haven’t already. We did what we could to stall them but they will come. Go.” With his final word the men and women began to march toward the tracks. None of them wanted to wait and see if the men who took them would be on their way. Apoc turned toward Ril.
“What are you going to do with her?” Morgan asked. She studied the still Elf on the ground.
“I’m taking her with us. She deserves to be at rest with her people. I’m going to send her North with the next caravan that goes that way.”
“Trade from the north has been scarce. Are you sure that you’ll be able to find a trader going up that way?” Liam asked.
Apoc lifted Ril into his arms and walked in the back of the group. “I know a few traders that owe me a couple of favors. I can always ask.”
The rest of the walk was silent. Animals began to stir from their slumber. The hills smoothed out and the extent of the plains could be seen. Once they were out of the rocky terrain his senses come back. It was a rush of relief when he could sense things with his magic again. From where they where he couldn’t sense anyone following them, but it had only been about an hour. After a bit more walking they started moving downhill toward a stream.
“Finally, water.” Liam sighed relief. He must have been eager to wash some of the blood off from his body. Before Liam and Morgan washed they blood and gore off of themselves they let the freed people drink their fill. Once they made it over the stream and continued south Liam and Morgan jumped in the stream like kids on a hot summer day. Apoc left the Twins to clean up and continued south.
The trek was simple enough, even though he had to carry Ril. He didn’t tire as quickly as a human did. He could walk for days without sleep or food. After a week, he would have to stop for water and food and he could go on for a few more days. Out in the wilderness such a skill was paramount for survival. Even humans can go a long time with neither food nor water but they needed to sleep often. There were things in the wilds that would prey on Apoc if they had a chance. Not many things were strong or brave enough to hunt an Elf but those things that were, were both dangerous and rare.
They rose to the top of another hill and the train tracks were in sight. He looked back to see if the twins were on the way and he could see them running. He looked further back and saw a large group of men chasing them. They lacked the speed of the twins but they would catch the group before the train would make it to them.