“I’ll be back up as soon as I deliver this to the king.” I told them as we stood outside the tavern. Winter was rapidly approaching. All of us could see our breaths solidifying as we breathed.
“Promise?” Jowey asked with begging eyes.
“Of course.” I whispered to her stroking her unhurt cheek lovingly, “And when I get back we can marry.”
She smiled, and nodded.
I knew she wouldn’t want to get married just yet. Enjoy her freedom of being an independent woman a little longer. But I also knew better than anyone she wouldn’t stray. It was one of those mysteries about her no man could figure out.
“Good luck.”Martain said and we shook hands.
“Be sure to bring Reggie up with you.” Zuren said as he took mine.
“The whole family back together again.” Alec said, “Baba’d be happy ’bout it.”
I smiled, “Shouldn’t take more than a week. If I’m any longer it’s either because I’ve been imprisoned for refusing to marry the princess or I’ve been killed for the same reason.”
“But you wont go and lay in her bed again, will you?” Jowey asked and bit her lip in anticipation for the answer.
I stroked her cheek again longingly.
“Never.” I moved my hand to tangle in her hair, pushing her head forward and pressing her lips to mine. It was going to be a long week or so.
“You don’t come back after seven days I’m going down this mountain to hunt you.” Jowey threatened when we pulled away.
“I know.” I said and let my hand drop.
I turned around and picked up the sack with the head in it.
“I’ll be back.” I told them.
“We’ll be here.” Alec told me.
I smiled and was off down the mountain to the castle. Along my walk I thought to myself, how I was going to decline wedding the princess, and how I would explain myself o the king.
At the tavern–>>
We were all settling in for the night. Well almost all. Jowey was leaning against the wall staring out the window.
“He isn’t going to return any faster if you keep staring out there.” Zuren told her.
“That’s not what I’m watching.” She said softly.
“What then?” I asked walking over to the window she was staring out of from the corner of her eye, “I don’t see anything.”
“Not on land, but in the sky.” She stated.
I glanced up and noticed dark ominus clouds.
“I’m worried Martain.” She said looking down, “What if a blizzard starts and he’s caught in it. You know how bad these months are. And he’s traveling in them.”
“If a blizzard does start, which’d be unusual for this early in winter, Paul’d find shelter. He survived this long in the mountains with us and bounty hunting. You know he’s not going to be kept down that easy.”
“I know.” She whispered so lowly I almost had to strain to hear her, “I just want him back.”
I was making a lot better time then I thought thanks to the short cut one of the bandits gave me just before leaving.
I know understood how Jowey could get up and down these mountains so fast and unnoticed.
I figured that if I kept up this pace I’d reach the Castle by about dawn. But I couldn’t help but keep looking up at the clouds that threatened to let snow fly.
I picked up my pace and readjusted the sack over my shoulder. I wasn’t about to get stuck in a storm. Not after what I promised.
But then again, in order to keep my promise to Jowey I’d have to go back on my word to the princess. The king and his many men had every reason to strike fear into my very heart, but they never did. It was the thought of leaving that little black haired, miss matched eyed, scared girl alone to cry again.
I could live without, Dawn. I finally concluded. But I wouldn’t want to live if I lost her a second time. I knew that the second we kissed. She’s my everything and I’m not about to lose it again.
–The next day—>>>>
I had finally arrived at the castle. The guards let me through no problem. I went straight into the throne room, not even knocking or letting anyone announce me.
I pushed open the doors and saw the king there basically yelling at his daughter.
“How could you disgrace yourself, and more importantly me, like this!” He boomed.
Princess Dawn was bawling like a little baby.
“You are too be married and you go and give in to lust with some man and become pregnant!” He hissed, “Who is this man!”
He was too busy yelling to notice me.
“I-I don’t know.” She sobbed, “S-s-so manny-y-y.”
“What?” He roared.
“I’ve been with so many!” She shrieked back, “I don’t know if it’s to be one of the knights, a merchant’s, hunter Garry’s, hunter Drew’s, hunter Paul’s! I don’t know!”
“You!” He growled.
“Sir.” I said breaking in.
His eyes snapped their glare towards me.
“You layed with my daughter in her bed at night?” He demanded.
I nodded, “As the princess wished, I did.” I told him, “I was told I was her only, and I would have done anything to keep the secret and marry her before she became with a child of mine. But I wish no part of her anymore.”
“You promised!” She yelled.
“And you swore I was your one and only!” I snapped back, “We’re even know.” I directed my gaze to the king, “His head your majesty.”
I threw it to the floor in front of him.
He smiled graciously, “I thank you. This immediately pardons you for your crime, Paul.” He said and cleared his throat, “You’re dismissed, Dawn. I will speak with you in private later.”
“Now.” He hissed.
She quickly dried her eyes and rushed out of the throne room.
“What happened to the others?” He barked.
“All dead, sir.” I told him.
“The Shadow?” He asked.
“Some sir. Not all.”
“What happened to the rest?”
“Barry, Ash, Harley, Garry, Drew, and James were all done in by the Shadow. The rest were taken down by either other bandits or the wild in the mountains.” I told him, all was true so I hadn’t been lying there.
“How did you do him in?” He asked pride rising in his voice.
I cleared my throat, “Sir, I didn’t expect you to be interested in the details of the this hunt.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” He asked, “You have just taken down the most wanted man in all the land. I want to know how you did so.”
I sighed, knowing I wasn’t going to be going anywhere without telling him.
“It was a hard battle.” I started trying to make it sound real, “I managed to get him while his back was turned to me, he was finishing off the others. I drew from behind, and stabbed in the back. He was down after that. So I kept him down and took off his head in a clean sweep. I’m sorry sir, but I’m not one for details.”
He smiled down at me, “Non sence, I’m just happy you at least came back alive.”
I nodded, “Thank you sir.”
“As a reward though,” He thought, “What should I give you?”
“All I’d like sir is the retirement from bounty hunting for you.” I said.
He stared at me like he couldn’t believe it.
“I have come across a woman as I was traveling.” I admitted, “I promised if I could I would come back for her. The princess is obviously a mess, and I know you wouldn’t marry her off, nor do I wish to indulge in her anymore now. So with your permission, I’d like to go back to her.”
He smiled, “She must be a lovely one to have you want to give you bounty hunting.”
“You have no idea sir.” I told him, smirking remembering her naked body tangled up in mine.
“Very well.” He said, “The bounty for the Red Shadow may be collected from the knight station on your way out of the castle. I suggest you speak with your brother about this though.”
“I was about to sir, thank you.” I said, bowed and left.
I headed to the library where I knew, Reggie’d be.
“Hey.” I said walking up to him.
“You’re back.” He smiled looking up from his studies.
I nodded, “I came across them, this time.” I said looking away.
“Really? Where are they? How are they? Are they okay? How did you come across them?” He asked all at once.
“Tavern, top of the mountain. They’re okay.”
“How did you come across them up there?” He asked staring at me know.
“I, uh, I went into that tavern. Didn’t recognize any of them at first. But it was just after the Shadow did Ash in. She appeared, told me everything and knocked a little sence into my thick skull.”
He smirked, “Sound’s like Jowey.”
I nodded, “I, was wondering if you wanted to see them again.”
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” He asked.
“I mean,” I restated,”How would you like things to be like they were? Us up in the mountains, being crazy and having fun.”
“What are you saying?” He asked.
“I said, when I left that Id’ bring you up with me.” I told him.
He shook his head, “To chose between family and the opportunity given. Paul, it’s a hard decision.”
“You don’t have to answer me know.” I told him, “I was going to leave tomorrow.”
“Why not today?” He asked, “It’s still early morning, we could get supplies and be out of here well before noon.”
“You wanna come?” I asked.
“Paul. It’s a hard decision, but not impossible.” He said and stood up, “Besides, I’d like to see the kind of people they turned out to be.”
“You’d be amazed.” I told him, “Especially when you see her.”
He smiled, “Has someone finally admitted to a crush on our young girl?” He teased.
“Nope!” I said as we walked out of the library and down the halls, “I’ve admitted I love her, Reggie.”