For all the inner strength Gwen possessed, it left her at the sight of her mother’s necklace. Knowing she was no match for this mysterious, well-muscled stranger, she allowed herself to be led to the solid grey mare. She gracefully mounted and, much to her surprise—and chagrin—the man climbed up behind her.
“I demand to know who you are before we go one step further!” insisted Gwen, defiantly ignoring the obvious fact that she was captive to this man’s every inclination.
“Philani” was his curt reply.
Before Gwen knew what was happening, she was shrouded in darkness, and Philani had tightly tied her hands together in front of her. But as she began to protest, the man eased the horse into a quick trot.
“What are you doing?!” she cried out.
“Can’t have you running off and finding your way back, now can we?” Gwen could hear the smirk in his voice.
He urged the horse into a slow canter, gradually picking up speed.
“Are you taking us across the border?” she cried.
He ignored her, and pressed the mare faster.
Kasane was surrounded by an invisible border, marked by 13 posts made of èrythrite, an elven material. Èrythrite is designed to transmit information occurring between itself back to Kasane’s gatekeepers. This meant that anyone exiting the borders, at any time, was known. It was the system they had set up when Tau had been vanquished, to safeguard Kasane. Lesedi had also placed an elven sanction on the town, which guarded anyone from entering, except through the Premier Gateway and the western minor gate.
Gwen had spent many of her childhood days sitting at the main gate watching the comings and goings of strangers and friends alike. Other than that, however, she had never ventured far from the town’s center and the settlements of dwellings scattered throughout the hills of Kasane. Now, as she darted on horseback around the trees of the Northern Forest, she wondered what would happen as they crossed the border.
“We’re about to find out…” murmured Philani, whether from reading her mind or from his own musings, Gwen wasn’t sure.
Gwen knew the implications of this decision. Lesedi and the rest of the gatekeepers would know immediately when the border had been breached. Not only that, they would know their exact coordinates.
“HYAH!” yelled Philani, and the horse fought to gallop harder than she already was.
The quiet hum of the èrythrite grew louder and louder, and all at once Gwen’s darkness became darker and she slumped down in the arms of Philani. They had passed the border, and she had passed out.
Kgose, the warrior captain, was reclining in his chamber, intent on a map of Kasane, when someone hurriedly entered the front vestibule.
“Kgose, my lord!” It was one of the gatekeepers.
What does he want? “Yes?”
“The border has been breached, my lord.”
“The border? Where?”
“From the Northern Forest,” the gatekeeper replied.
“Thank you; I shall consult Lesedi about it,” said Kgose.
The gatekeeper bowed slightly at the waist, their sign of respect, and hurried back to the Gateway. Kgose rose immediately to locate Lesedi. He was halfway to Lesedi’s dwelling place, when he spotted him heading toward the center of town.
“Lesedi! I need to speak with you!”
“And I you,” he replied. “The border?”
“Yes, what news?”
“Someone on horseback. Just now. Exiting through the Northern Forest.”
“Who would be leaving Kasane through the Northern Forest?” mused Kgose aloud.
“Probably just some lovesick elf running away to find his bride,” joked Lesedi.
“Or an agent of Tau,” came the muttered reply.
“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but if you want to go on a wild goose chase, I won’t stop you. That is, assuming you can spare any soldiers right now.”
“I can’t,” Kgose grumbled. “But what if I’m right and it is a spy? Kasane could be compromised!”
“Well, my lord, my advice is to focus on what we know—Tau’s forces are lined up ready to advance on our minor gate at the western end of Kasane. We have no choice but to defend ourselves there. However, if you are convinced you can spare the soldiers, send someone to track this lovesick elf. I will support whatever decision you make.”
Does Kgose go after Gwen and Philani, or take Lesedi’s advice and chalk it up to a lovesick elf?