We only made it slightly further along the road today. A drizzle started last night, but slowed by dawn; the clouds remained, though, thick and black. Thunder rumbled and crackled in the distance. Lightning sliced the horizon. Horses nickered and had to be coaxed forward.
An hour after dawn, another commotion rippled along the road. This time it was from behind us. Meramon and Sasha went to investigate After they left, there was a snap, and then a boom of thunder. And then an unaccompanied snap. I looked around – a pair of Sharaglin were watching from the tree-line. One of them had a spear of some sort; it looked makeshift, but it may have just been a rough design. The other wore a sheathed sword that looked very much like a Falamornian bastard sword. Captain Bjard had worn one like it. On the burly Sharaglin, it looked more like a longsword. If the sun had been out, I might have missed the pair in the shadows; everything was dark enough that my eyes were wide open. I’m glad they were.
The people around me scattered.
In that moment, as I watched the ravenous gazes of two Sharaglin scouts and realized that Meramon would not yet return, I knew I had to be strong. There was no maybe, no “if you really want to”. I simply had to do it. I had to take command, or everyone would die. I had to do it for Eliana’s sake, for Tim, for Reyla, for Meramon’s sister-in-law, and for everyone else. No, I wouldn’t be a king, but I could help.
I put all my strength and breath into a shout calling everyone to stop. I almost fell off Gaunt with dizziness, but I felt a hand steady me, and looked over to my right to see Eliana, reined up beside me. Everyone paused and looked to me. Some looked confused, others, scared. One man asked what authority I had. Others sneered and nodded and ayed. I drew my sword and raised it high. I didn’t need authority, not really – I said that if we stood together, we could hold them off. I don’t know if I quite believed that we actually could. Another man must have seen the wisdom in that, because he hefted a wood-axe and shouted that I was right. The people rallied. I had done it.
My success was more astonishing than helpful. The pair of Sharaglin didn’t attack; they stared at us and just watched. Slowly the people resumed their journey east, but Eliana and I and our companions stayed back and watched the beasts. Then there was a whoosh of wings, and the Sharaglin vanished into the trees.
Meramon and Sasha had returned. A pair of Sharaglin had been watching from beside the road further back, too. They had similarly melted away into the forest.
It isn’t over. Torches are lit at intervals along the road, in case the beasts attack during the night. Hopefully they aren’t near enough for that – hopefully it is only their scouts that can reach us. And now I’m expected to lead. Word passed along the refugee lines that “the gypsy boy on the horse” would lead them to safety, and now I keep getting called “Gypsy Lordling”. I can’t fail now, it’d be a massacre. All these people, though… they expect so much of me… I wanted unity and calm, but on top of those I was given ultimate, deadly responsibility. The very thing from which the Wyvern Lords had shied away. At least I have Eliana with me. She says she is happy that I have taken leadership.