"Elansa, I want you to run to the ruins and wait there for us. We'll catch up," Red said, her words rushed out in an undertone. The Shaa shook her head - she wanted to stay with her mistress and protect her. "I'll be okay. Get there and clear it out - if there's anyone there, kick them out. Find a good spot for us and then wait for us there." She kissed her companion on the head and dashed into the stable with Nikko.
The stablehand was asleep, she noted, as they rushed past him to where her Unicorns were. They whickered happily at the sight of their mistress, breaking the wooden door to their double stall in their excitement. They trotted out to greet her, hesitating only slightly at the sight of Nikko.
"He's fine, he's with me," she told him quickly. Hollywood stepped up to him and headbutted him in the shoulder, her own way of greeting. "We need to get out of here, quickly." Simply at Red's tone of voice, both Earth Unicorns knew that something was wrong, that their mistress was potentially in danger. Their skin twitched over their muscles, and they pawed at the ground with their hooves.
"Hollywood is an excellent steed. She will carry you swiftly, and safely," Red told Nikko as he mounted Hollywood. As she hoisted herself onto Lightfoot, she saw him running his fingers fondly through Hollywood's mane. "Are you ready?" she asked him. Nikko looked up at her, his mouth set in a hard line, and he nodded.
"Let's go." Red squeezed Lightfoot's sides, and he leapt into a run, cantering out of the stable with his mate and Nikko right behind him. As soon as they were clear, she urged him into a gallop. Hollywood and Nikko came up along side them. Red was relieved to note that Nikko was certainly not an inexperienced rider. His form was good, and he held himself low over her neck. It was going to be a long, hard ride; the last thing she needed was some goofball that kept falling off while they were possibly being pursued.
Neither Red nor Nikko looked back at the inn, else they would have seen two figures poking their heads out the window, staring at their retreating figures.
The ride through the dark desert was long and unrelenting. More than once Red wanted to slow down to an easier pace, but Nikko was adamant about maintaining the arduous pace he set. Red knew the Unicorns didn't mind it, but riding so long and hard without a saddle or something to cushion her was painful. Whenever she looked at Nikko to glare at him, his eyes were constantly moving, scanning. But for what?
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of hard riding, the ruins of the ancient civilization came into view. As they rode in, they slowed the Unicorns to a light jog, and eventually a walk. Elansa came out of a hole in the side of what was once an opulent manor house. She bounded to her mistress, who slid off of Lightfoot's back and dropped to her knees to receive kisses. Red looked up to attempt glaring at Nikko once again, but her eyes softened.
Nikko's forehead was pressed against Hollywood's, and he was stroking her neck gently. His lips moved slightly, and it seemed that he was talking to her. With a defeated sigh, Red stood and rubbed Lightfoot's flank. He swished his tail and whinnied happily.
"Thanks for getting us out of there. You two are real lifesavers," she murmured. Lightfoot tossed his mane and stamped his hoof in agreement. She patted him twice on his rear and he trotted off; there was a place here where a few trees still bore fruit, along with a shallow well from which they could drink. Of course, they could always grow their favourite grasses should they desire them. Hollywood followed her mate, lipping playfully at his tail.
With a bark, Elansa grabbed their attention. She knew that her mistress could not fit through the hole in which she had, so she led them instead to the front door of the mansion, which was locked. Elansa could have broken the door down, but she wouldn't have been able to fix it. Nikko threw his weight behind his shoulder and tried to force the door open, but to no avail. He sighed and stood back, holding up his left hand. Blue-white magic crackled around his fingers, and he directed the blast at the door. The iron lock cracked and fell away from the carved wood. He pressed on the door and it opened easily, not even squeaking on its hinges.
Elansa trotted in ahead of them, leading them inside. Red walked in last; she turned and waved her hand at the door - the lock zipped off the ground and attached itself back to the door. She closed the door and locked it for good measure. She didn't want whoever was following them to be able to track them. There were enough places that they could hide that didn't have locked doors that they would check first.
Red was really not in the mood to go exploring the manor; she was in the mood to find out why she was currently not sleeping in a mediocre bed in a small room.
"Not a bad place to camp for the night, eh, love?" he smirked, turning around to face her. However, the smile left his face when he caught the look Red was giving him. "Oh dear. Are we not a happy camper?" he asked, feigning an innocent look. Far, far in the back of her mind, Red had to give it to him - he pulled off the innocent look surprisingly well.
"What did you do?" she demanded. She began advancing on him, her finger pointed at his chest. "Who did you piss off that is now following you - US - hells, me
through the desert?" He put his hands up in a surrendering pose, backing up and almost tripping over Elansa (who was watching things with an almost amused expression). She poked him hard in the chest.
"Whoa, easy there, love. You're quite a little spitfire, aren't you? Look, I didn't do anything to anyone. I've traveled all the way down here from the Arkene, and I haven't done anything to anybody," he said. Red crossed her arms over her chest, maintaining her glare.
"Well, you've done something to irritate someone to the point where they will chase you all the way down through the desert," she pointed out. Nikko sighed and ran his hands through his hair, turning and walking away from her. He puffed out his cheeks and blew air out of his mouth. He beat his fists against his forehead, as if debating something. As he paced back and forth, Red stood watching him in disbelief.
"It's not what I've done so much as who I am," he said finally. Red stared at him, a tiny smile quirking at her lips.
"And who are you? Some crazy ax-wielding murderer on the run for killing some faraway princess? A rapist who's been defiling and murdering young women from city to city? Whoever you are, I'm sure I can handle it," she said.
"I'm a sorcerer."
DUNDUNDUUUUUUNNNNN. Sorcerer won out in the poll, so that's what he is. Questions, comments, concerns, critiques, mistakes found, post 'em!