“I would sooner ask you how you hot to the capital so quickly,” Nashtra replied, peering at the young noble warily.
“We thought you weren’t coming!” Cerys chimed in.
“It was better that you think I was not coming,” James told her. “Besides that, my father was not sure whether he wanted me to come or nit until you had already gone.”
“Pray tell, then, how you arrived before us,” Nashtra said, his tone even and serious, as though he had no interest in suspense.
“I rode as swiftly as I could,” James explained. “I got here late last night.”
“Late?” Nashtra asked, raising a brow. “Was the city not surrounded by noir beasts?”
“Of course it was,” James told them. “I had little trouble, though; you have seen me fight them.”
“You’re telling me that you traveled in the twilight and fought your way through?” Nashtra seemed incredulous.
James was starting to look irritated. “You did not?”
“I was charged with keeping them safe.”
“And with getting them here as quickly as I could. I have kept my word, son of the baron.”
“He really has,” Cerys added. “We kept moving as much as possible.”
“You could have been here two days ago!” James was trying to keep his voice down, but was clearly having a hard time doing so.
“On my own, I could have been here three days before you.” Nashtra retorted. “And in the morning. You charged me with not only haste, but the care of four novice humans. Not only that, bit they come from a foreign realm.”
“You figured that out, did you?” James grumbled. Then he drew in a long breath and added, “They could have helped you get farther each day. Among them you have an archer, a wizard, a warrior, and–”
“A trusty bard!” Bayani finished for him.
Peter narrowed his eyes at him, clearly unimpressed by his enthusiasm. He looked ready to give him an elbow to the ribs.
“Just what have you been up to?” Nashtra asked, raising a brow as he stared at James.
Cerys had let her mind go, and was staring at the two of them. She pondered first how much taller the elf was, and then tried to guess at how much older he might be. Nashtra had a lot of experience, it seemed. Besides, weren’t elves always older? Did the Elves of Summerlay live for hundreds of years, the way the elves did in some of the stories that she had read? She quickly lost track of what they were arguing about as she focused on trying to decipher the elf’s features in terms of years.
“… but they had the funds to buy armor and weapons,” James was saying the next time she tuned into the conversation.
“The noir beasts still could have hurt them,” Nashtra insisted.
“Why are you two arguing like this?” Himeko cut in. She was not usually one to interrupt, but she had even less tolerance for nonsense. “James, you never asked us to fight our way through the twilight so that we could get that much further each day. “Even so, we are novices at best. I had only a little martial arts training back home.”
“I thought you understood it better,” James sighed. He lowered his tone in order to speak to her. “Cerys has the magic of a mage here, and you have all the qualities of a paladin. You can do this.”
“Paladin?!” Nashtra was wide-eyed. “Does she even know anything of the beliefs of Summerlay?”