Tialla felt her mouth growing dry as her eyes rose to meet his. Even this look seemed so personal, her eyes finally dropping as she coughed slightly, looking around herself. “What now, oh great warlord?”, her words filled with a note of teasing.
Laughing, Cadell stepped back, he too scouring the area, now his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “Well, I would say that perhaps the best thing to do would be to find shelter. I had some of my men explore the area”, his eyes widening innocently as she gasped.
Shaking his head, his finger wagged before her. “Absolutely not Tialla. Smart. Any good ‘warlord’ is going to only move when they have information. So, not cheating.”
Rolling her eyes, her head cocked to the side. “OK. And what did your scouts find out for you?”
Grinning, he moved to one of the larger trees, Tialla’s mouth falling open as he began to scale it, she amazed how quickly and gracefully he moved up the trunk, his actions making it seem almost effortless. When she could no longer see him for all of the branches and greenery, she began fretting on her lower lip. If he got stuck, there was no way that she could help him.
The sound of his moving back down was a strange relief, he jumping the last ten feet with ease before turning to her. “I found out that there is a section of this forest comprised of rock, where a waterfall hides many caves. Caves, that we can use for shelter”, his tone now becoming more sombre. “While we possibly could be safe around a camp fire, I prefer to have more solid protection”, his eyes glinting with fun now. “Especially when the rain comes, and from my research, I happen to know that happens regularly.”
Tialla could not help but be impressed with the warrior. He was certainly not the man she had thought she might have to endure Tol Dor with. Nope, not by a long shot. Indicating a certain direction, he gallantly offered to carry her bag, she chuckling as she shook her head. “I appreciate that, but I’m fine.”
Flicking a look down her he nodded, before leading the way. The hour long march through the dense foliage was gruelling. She admired the way he cleared them a path with the large machete which magically appeared from his backpack. It certainly made traversing the area easier. Despite the way she would often trip over the long skirt of her dress, he never once commented, only ever offering her a hand or catching her.
As they walked she became aware of a low sound, that noise growing louder as they seemed to grow closer to the source of the sound. As they cleared through one particularly almost impenetrable area of greenery, the noise filled the area, he giving a grunt of satisfaction, Tialla coming level with him. Gasping, she could only stare at the beautiful vision before her.
Now stood in a clearing, a waterfall thundered into a pool of blue-green water, she seeing fish swimming around the large watering hole, the water clear enough to see right to the bottom. Looking up, she could see the tall wall of rock, the dense forest hiding the outcrop, even while they had been close.
Turning, he gave her a pleased smile. “OK, now, let’s go home hunting shall we?”, he pulling his backpack from his shoulder as he pulled out several weapons, the knives quickly disappearing into previously hidden slots in his tunic and trousers. Raising an eyebrow, she looked surprised. “Are we expecting company?”
Flashing her a warm grin, his head shook. “Probably not, but I think it prudent to make sure that we have some protection. You never know if some of this area’s less friendly inhabitants have had the same thoughts as us. I heard that you have some nasty animals living here, including a bear. Now in my experience, bears have a liking for caves.”
With the vision of a bear now firmly seated in her mind the two moved towards the oasis, she unable to stop staring at the natural beauty of it. Holding down the chuckle, she allowed her eyes to slide down Cadell. Not many would have been so prepared, would have thought to send scouts out ahead, even for what was meant only to be a getting to know each other exercise. Now, it looked like they would be spending the time in some relative comfort.
As they got closer, the sound seemed to strangely diminish, she realising that when they were lower, they did not get the effect of the sound echoing around the rock face. However, it was still loud enough to make hearing him talk more difficult. Together, they made their way around the back of the sheet of water, the water falling far enough forward to allow them to follow what appeared almost to be a path to the rocks behind.
Gasping, her eyes blinking from the sudden darkness fear thudded into her as Cadell disappeared. Rushing forward, the strangest sense of fear for the man gripped her. Had he fallen into a crevasse? His name left her lips on a high cry, the man himself appearing almost instantly, anxiety deep in his eyes. “What? Are you OK?”, the genuine concern for her safety making something deep within her warm.
“I thought you had fallen.”
His lips curved into a grin as his handsome head shook. “No, there is a cave here. I was just checking it out.”
Relief swamped her as she nodded, trying to regain her composure. As though sensing her unease, he stepped forward, reaching out and taking her hand, his voice gentle. “Why don’t we look together?”
Nodding, she gave him an approving smile, not aware how this made her large eyes glow, even in the half light, nor how this more intimate look made his stomach pitch. She really was the most stunning woman he had ever met.
next installment (7th May)