"I'm running like this," Harmen said, "because it's familiar."
Was he jumping around to fit some last-minute practice in, or because of his nervousness?
"It helps calm me down, because I've been running like this for years."
And what did that mean, thought the blue haired man.
On more than one occasion the young man had run away from the caravan or him. Even if he was just asked a question or was at the end of an argument, he would "have to run." He had said that he intended to vindicate Baron's fears. He had said that he didn't want his village's loss to be in vain. Despite his current determination - all those times Harmen had run away from something.
This was Harmen's final fight. The culmination of far more than the year this journey had already taken. This fight had been set years ago, when Baron had slaughtered Aldealcan. This was the decisive, absolute end. Either Baron would be slain, or they would die - their souls fueling his power. Harmen said that he intended to vindicate Baron's fears. He had said that he didn't want his village's loss to be in vain.
In the very least he was running towards something. For now.
Aurn glanced up to the hills that shrouded Heien, at the slivers of rooves cut out between stretches of forest. In the fading light he could have sworn he caught the glimmer of metal in the evening light. The metal of weapons and armor they would be pitted against in short time. They were slowly making their way around the hills, moving as far away from the more obvious entrances, and closing in to the village while they did so. They cleared a ruined, waist-high wall that cut through the field back towards the inn and refugees.
More wild as they closed in on the hills, the field was soon a mess with worn, overgrown rubble, mixed with shrubs and shoots of bamboo. Not fifty feet away the ground suddenly sloped up and away, covered in a dense layer of foliage, all tangled under the forest's canopy. The remains of a few more wait-high stone walls seemed to meet at another, higher wall. Just one short section remained of the wall. Aurn slowed down and stopped. Harmen - ahead of him by no short distance stopped and turned around. They had been running for a long while, longer than he had run in in probably a year or more. He could feel the sweat under his armor, on his brow, on his arms. Breath more heavy than he preferred.
"I'll hide my backpack here." Aurn said as he kneeled down near the corner where one of the short walls connected with the lone section of far older wall. He swung his backpack down, and quickly began feeling bricks along the bottom of the shorter wall. Each was still solid until one larger brick right on the ground jiggled. Soon enough Aurn pulled it out, and dug a bit out from under the wall to fit his backpack.
He pulled his backpack to himself - all that he owned - and reached inside, slowly, almost mechanically. Aurn knew everything would be where it was, exactly in it's given, organized spot - but he reached anyway. A calloused finger touched bound paper, and he didn't even need to look at it. It's thick, heavy edges and corners were worn and crumpled - despite the reverence with which he had treated it over the years. These were the hereditary documents that proved Aurn's heritage. A strange feeling slowly gripped him then. A doubt and uneasiness. He was the last Novak. If he died up on the slopes of that Nijonese village, everything Xavius, his Mother and his Father did would been in vain. So, at least to some degree, Aurn understood the anxiety that chewed at Harmen as he waited. Aurn let go of the paper.
He closed his backpack, hid it in the wall, and pushed the brick back in place.
Because of his honor, Aurn had been dragged into something he never thought of - things he hadn't experienced. And yet he was willing to face Baron. He was willing to sacrifice it all to uphold his honor - paradoxically so that it all wouldn't be in vain. What about Harmen, who had made it his duty to confront Baron?
"You had better steel yourself." Aurn said as he stood up, dusted the dirt from his hands and looked at Harmen. He began to re-tighten the grip and straps on his weapon. "There is no running away once we enter that village."
With surcoat trailing behind him, blue hair brushing against his brow, and Aegis at the ready, Aurn walked through the crumbled skeletons of walls and old things and stepped into the underbrush of the rising slope.