“Show yourselves!”

Liam ignored the command, and kept his back turned.

They had practically landed right in front of Blayze and his knights! How embarrassing.

“Rethik!” Blayze gasped. “What are you doing here? And who’s –“he broke off.

Gritting his teeth, Liam turned.

Blayze’s jaw dropped, but he quickly closed it again. “What do you think you’re doing? Father will be furious!” Liam set his jaw. “I’m not joining the quest, if that’s what you’re thinking.” He said.

Blayze narrowed his eyes at Rethik. “I can see that. Otherwise you wouldn’t have taken this with.” Blayze replied, jerking his head at Rethik, who was starting to snarl.

This was a classic example of the relationship between Liam’s two friends; they couldn’t stand each other.

“I have a suggestion. Why don’t we pretend this never happened? You go on your quest, and I do my own thing.” Liam suggested, wanting to avoid a fight between Blayze and Rethik. Under normal circumstances, Blayze would have just shrugged and agreed. But with Rethik here, these weren’t normal circumstances. It wasn’t just the usual rivalry between knights and Riders, although Liam and Rethik were an exception. The prince and the redheaded Rider had, for some reason, hated each other from the moment they had met.

Rethik was now glaring at Blayze, while the latter was quivering with temper.

Liam hurriedly interfered. “Please, Blayze. Can’t you just ignore him for once?”

Blayze seemed to think this over.

Then “Fine. Just don’t cross my path again.”

Rethik opened his mouth, a retort on the tip of his tongue, but Liam quickly shut it for him. With a final glare at him, the knight stalked away.

“What was that for?!” Liam rolled his eyes at Rethik’s furious demand.

“We don’t need to have Blayze telling on us, so there’s no point in goading him on.” He patiently explained.

I could have gotten him, you know…” Rethik muttered.

At this Liam exploded “You could have just blown our chances on doing something together for a change, you idiot!! Why do you hate him so much?!”

His friend fell silent at this, but was still fuming. So was Liam as they sat some way away from where they had had the misfortune to stumble across the journeying knights, though luckily only Blayze had found them out. Syth the hippogriff was quietly sleeping a few meters away.

Sighing, Rethik rubbed the heavy stumble on his chin, so, taking the opportunity to change the subject, Liam asked “Are you growing a beard?”

His friend nodded.

“Long enough to plait?” Liam added cheekily, getting a playful kick in return. He laughed “Seriously! Are you?”

“Maybe…” Rethik murmured thoughtfully, his hazel eyes staring into the distant trees.

Following his gaze, Liam was tongue-tied by the view. They could see down into the valley from where they sat on the crest. Here the forest stopped before resuming below them.

Looking away, Liam felt sick, as he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that the trees in the valley where so far down.

A sigh of content came from Rethik as the red headed man leaned against a pine tree, briefly interrupting Liam's reverie.

They had left the leafy forests long ago, and even down in the valley were it was warmer there were nothing but trees that were covered in prickly-looking needles.

“When do you think we should go?” Liam asked, impatient to be off.

Rethik scratched the back of his head. “I really don’t know. When Syth wakes up, I suppose.”

When the dark haired warlock started to get up he hastily warned “Oh, I wouldn’t wake her up if I were you.”

“I wasn’t going to.”

It was late afternoon by the time they got back into the air, and the sun was sinking.

This frustrated Liam, but he didn’t complain. Now they were at least on the move. Without any clear idea of where to go, southward was the only option. To the north there were barbarians, and some were rumored to be cannibals. Eire was in the west, and to the east were the Viking lands, but foreigners were considered dangerous things, so they daren’t go there.

Thus the only way was south, Liam reflected as he tried to avoid looking down, and instead concentrated on Rethik’s back, but the sheer height was unfortunately for Liam hard to ignore. Feeling like he was about to throw up, they passed miles of forest that was completely untouched by humans, which eventually gave way to farmland as the evening drew near.

Until now they’d had good weather with clear blue skies, but just ahead were heavy storm clouds, rumbling like the hungry belly of a giant.

Rethik looked worried, and just as he shouted “We’re going to land now!” a huge rumble drowned out his words, so Liam didn’t know to hold on as they went into a steep dive.

The following events happened quickly.

Green eyes wide with panic, Liam made a grab for Rethik, but it was too late.

Rethik yelled “NO!” as Liam went tumbling down.

Syth gave a screech and dove after him.

Liam could feel the wind tearing by as he fell, going faster and faster, until the black wave washed over him.

The last thing he saw was the hippogriff above him, and rain, pelting down on him.

Liam woke to see a redheaded person looking down at him.

Rethik! Was his immediate thought.

The person came into focus.

It was not anyone he recognized.

He found a young woman alike to Rethik smiling at him.

She moved away, calling something to someone else, but Liam couldn’t hear anything yet. What was that weird buzzing sound in his ear?

The woman looked at him again, standing further away. Then her eyes glowed briefly, and Liam’s ears popped.

“Better?” she asked.

“Much.” Liam said with a sigh of relief. The buzzing sound had been irritating.

The woman smirked. “Thought so.”

Liam stared at her, faintly realizing he was in a bed in a house. Why did he look at her and think Rethik? This was a woman, for the love of it, not a man! Suddenly, Rethik came in. He grinned at Liam’s confused expression.

“This,” he announced, “is my sister, Gretel.”

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