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A Kingdom Beyond the Horizon

Chapter Text

"Ic I Tóspringæ." 
The gentle whisper carried easily through the thin walls of Forridel's home, but even had it not, the slight 'click' from the door's latch would have given away the intruder's presence on its own.  Sliding her sword quietly from its makeshift sheath, the young woman crept towards the front entrance. 
The door opened and a dark haired youth in his teens slipped inside the house.  Though cautious, it was clear that the boy was unaware the girl he sought hid so close by, waiting to strike. 
The youth stepped further into the room and swept his searching stare everywhere.  Or quite nearly everywhere.  Behind was a direction that, unscathed by the boy's gaze, would prove to be his undoing.
Before her victim could make another move, Forridel stole across the little space that separated herself and the unwanted guest.  One swift movement of her wrist, and the deadly blade poked the boy's back in a most uncomfortable manner.
"Move and I kill you," The woman informed him without emotion.
The youth, as ordered, did not move.  Instead he spoke in a tone that contrasted greatly with the one he had used at first.
She stiffened but did not answer in the affirmative, for now choosing only to interrogate her prisoner.  It wasn't as though she didn't have time to waste, despite the fact that she would much rather not spend it on an incautious burglar who was using sorcery in Camelot, and in her home, of all places.
"Who are you?"
"There is no time to explain, we have to get out of here.  The King's men are coming for you." 
To Forridel, the torrent of words collapsed in a murky pile after emerging from the boy's mouth.  We?  The King's men?  Now?   Her sword hand faltered in its task as its master processed this strange message, but not for long.  A raucous noise tore the woman from her thoughts.
Rap.  Rap.  Slamslamslam- 
And a pause.  Both the intruder and the owner of the house turned to look at the door, their quarrel almost forgotten.
"Open in the name of the King!" A stern voice barked.
The noise continued and Forridel pursed her lips.  She might have considered staying and pointedly denying the order if the boy hadn't seemed so insistent and the door's shaking hadn't been quite so noticeable.  She didn't want to learn why the King's men summoned her if it meant she would learn while at their mercy, and besides, she suspected she knew their reasons already.  The boy gestured broadly to the back exit.  In response, his new ally slid her weapon back into its sheath, plucked her hooded cape off the back of a chair, and followed him, the mysterious do-gooder, into the alleyway.
The two fugitives dodged between a few narrow spaces before stopping a safe distance from their starting point.  Open-mouthed and panting, Forridel peeked around the corner of the house she took shelter by.  A few strands of blonde hair that hung down in her face and the smoke that rose steadily ahead impeded her view, but not by much.  She could still see the armor-clad figures that poked through carts of hay with their swords.  The girl turned back to her co-conspirator, saying in a breathless and grateful half-whisper, "How did you know they were coming for me?"
"I'm Prince Arthur's servant."
"You took a great risk, thank you," Forridel murmured.  The servant of the King's son had chosen to rescue a mere villager from certain death?  How unlikely this seemed even as the facts were placed before her. 
"I'm just sorry I couldn't help them all."
The boy did not appear to put any thought to what he said, for he stared past his companion and around the corner, distracted.  Forridel, however, now saw this stranger in a new light.  If she ever had the chance, she would not hesitate to repay him for his act of kindness.
She took another hasty glance around the building.  The Lower Town was a mask of smoke and emotionless shouts.  The people were being marshaled from their homes by the stoic knights who cared for nothing but their orders. But truly, who could blame them?  Even when faced with teary pleas the knights did not waver.  They knew their King would punish them if news of their uncertainty spread, for uncertainty meant that their pledges of loyalty were voided.  The ruler of Camelot could not afford to harbour false-hearted subjects.
It was time to leave, Forridel decided.  When the King's men searched the surrounding houses—and they would, soon enough—the girl planned to be far from the scene.
"We better go," she told the boy, hurrying forward.  But he pushed her back into the wall with a serious expression.
"No, wait. I need your help. I'm looking for a way to contact the Druids." He said this in a 'heed-my-words' way, just as he had said everything else.  He projected a feeling that would assure any in his presence that he desperately wanted, even needed help. 
His light, grey-blue eyes bore into hers in a gesture of sincerity.  Forridel still could not trust that he spoke without malicious intent, and she answered with distaste.
"I wouldn't know anything about them."
"You don't need to lie to me."
Is that so? she thought.  How could she be certain?
"I'm not lying," she snapped back, blatantly doing exactly that.  She turned away from the servant and cast her gaze to the villagers once more. 
"Please, if it wasn't for me, you'd be under arrest. You know I'm not a spy for Uther."
At this name, Forridel looked back to the boy.  He continued urgently, "I'm a friend of the Druids. I need their help."  A nod accompanied these words, and again the woman being addressed found her acquaintance looking straight into her eyes.
He stared; she stared back.  What more was there to do?  Could she assist him?  He betrayed his master for the sake of those who used magic, but then, he himself practiced sorcery as well.  Many magicians she had encountered were not the friendly type, and the appearance of those who were less harsh in manner still did not bode well.  They rarely brought good fortune.  But this boy was a picture of innocence.  His dark hair lay messily upon his head, his maroon handkerchief, hanging limp about his neck, had worn thin with use, and his face reflected eager hope.  Yet behind all that was a determination Forridel had not seen in a long time.  In this moment, she just knew.  He was here to help.
"What do you want to know?"
"My friend, she's in trouble. I know only they can keep her safe. Where can I find them?"
The woman under questioning answered after a moment of thought. "I have not made contact with them often, but last I knew, they camped in the forest of Essetir. The Druids are not easily approached," she warned. "Especially not in these times. Their journeys are fraught with danger. When Uther's men aren't chasing them, other kingdoms that forbid magic await them in every corner. You must be cautious."
The boy nodded. "Thank you. I-" 
But their time was up. The unmistakable sound of uneven marching drew close — too close for comfort. The boy glanced at Forridel in acknowledgment and the two parted ways, the boy darting off to the left and the woman pulling her dark cloak over her ragged red dress, hurrying down a winding path in the opposite direction.