“You… made friends with the serpent?” Sylvie asked.
“Yup,” Inés confirmed. “He was actually quite a nice serpent.”
“I wasn’t aware that sea serpents could speak so that humans could understand them,” Serena stated.
“This one could,” Inés said.
“Leave it to the mermaid,” Sylvie muttered. “At least we can get out of here without any real trouble.”
“You gonna claim the reward?” Priscilla asked.
“No,” Sylvie said. “We were just doing our duty. I think we’ll just be moving on.”
“Couldn’t we take it as a donation for the temple or something?” Serena asked.
“Come here for a moment,” Sylvie ordered. She waited while Serena moved closer. “Not without proof that we dealt with it,” she whispered.
“Oh, I see,” Serena said.
“Don’t blame me,”Inés whispered. “We don’t kill anything that surrenders or that won’t fight back. That includes serpents.”
“I wasn’t blaming you,” Sylvie clarified. “Just stating the facts.”
Upon reaching the shore, the three immediately went to the market stalls and picked up a few provisions. Then they made way to the stables and retrieved their horses.
“Wicadia is the next stop, is it not?” Serena asked.
“Yeah,” Inés confirmed. “There are some roadside Inns built between here and there, but no actual cities or villages.”
“I can’t wait!” Serena declared. “I’ve always wanted to see the great magic academy!”
“It’s a pretty special place,” Inés stated. She turned to Sylvie. “Hey, remember when we stayed there to study magic?”
“I studied magic,” Sylvie said. “You wasted your time getting involved with the girls and trying to work your way into Headmistress Elivy’s robes.”
“Think she’ll be up for it now that I’m older and not her student?” Inés asked. She chuckled. “But I studied too, you know? I didn’t spend all of my time with the girls.”
“Yeah, I know,” Sylvie muttered. “You got very good at offensive water spells.”
The three made steady progress, eventually stopping for a midday break. Inés took Serena to practice with her tonfa while Sylvie began making a meal from their provisions.
She was just about to go retrieve the others when she heard a small, high-pitched voice. “Excuse me.”
She looked around. A pixie, barely the size of her hand, was hovering near her ear. The little lady had a silken white and gold robe and short, bright red hair.
“Can I help you?” Sylvie asked.
“Yes,” the pixie said. “I need your help desperately. I saw the emblem on your armour and recognised it, you see. A warrior priestess is just what I need.”
“All right,” Sylvie said. “Please, slow down and explain what happened.”
“Terribly sorry for getting ahead of myself. I am called Rose,” the pixie introduced herself. “My friends and I were attacked by most grotesque creatures. I believe in your tongue they’re called trolls.”
Sylvie nodded. “Are they still nearby?”
“I’m not quite done,” Rose said. “The trolls took my friends and put them in hanging prisons in their carriage. I tried to get the key, but I couldn’t get near enough to their jailer. Even if I could, I don’t know if I could lift the heavy iron ring that the keys are on. Won’t you help me steal it and free my friends?”
“I’ll deal with these trolls personally,” Sylvie said. “Just lead the way.”
“But there were so many of them,” Rose protested. “Will you be all right in a straight up fight?”
“Perfectly fine,” Sylvie stated. “I am one of Athena’s warriors. A handful of trolls are hardly going to pose a grave threat to me.”
“Then I will lead you,” Rose said. “Please, follow me.” Sylvie readied her rapier and followed the pixie, leaving the meal she’d made behind.
It was nearly a half hour later when Inés and Serena returned.
“Where did Miss Fortunio go?” Serena wondered.
“Toilet?” Inés shrugged. She looked over the food. “No… This has been left sitting for too long.” She dropped to the ground and examined it. “She moved in a hurry, I think. See, if you look at her footprints they’re spaced like she was sprinting.”
“But why?” Serena wondered.
“Don’t know,” Inés said. “We’d better go after her, though. Just to be sure. It’s strange, though. I don’t see any footprints besides hers and ours. I wonder why she left.”