Sienna stood at the edge of the escarpment and looked out across the valley. It was so lush and green – a stark comparison to the land they had been travelling for the past two days. It felt like a mirage, like it couldn’t possibly be real. A hidden gem. Down there was the target of her pursuit. Travis had the stone and she needed it. She knew he was close, her intuition was burning a hole in her belly. She looked across at Blake and nodded. This was it. There would be no going back.
She started down the slope, sliding on rivers of rock like a natural. Years of snowboarding had given her the skills and strength to manoeuvre her way through the jagged rocks as she made her fast descent. Blake was grinning like a Cheshire cat as he slid past her effortlessly. Always competing, she thought and smiled herself.
As she neared the bottom, her pace slowed and she had a chance to raise her eyes and look around. There ahead was a trail of broken underbrush and it was a dead giveaway that her intuition was right, she would find Travis here. She quickly removed her shoes and saw Blake do the same. They would be able to move through unheard. It was important to be silent as she did not want to alert Travis of their presence. He would be waiting for them, and that was the last thing she wanted. She had known Travis her whole life and knew they were evenly matched in battle. She couldn’t afford to lose, the stakes were too high. Their best chance was the element of surprise.
They ran nimbly and silently through the underbrush until they reached a tall statue that blocked the path. This was it, this was the place she would find Travis. A little shot of fear trickled through her for the first time and she furtively looked around for Blake. He was only a few feet away, but he could see her confidence drop. He gave the a thumbs-up and a smile. That was all she needed – she drew off his strength and determination and the fear was gone.
They edged silently through the bush and there he was, standing inside a circle of stones, the ground cleared around him. It was almost too late, the ritual had begun. She moved around the edge like a leopard, looking for the best point to make her attack. Suddenly her heart went cold as she felt the dry stick beneath her foot. It seemed an eternity for the cracking noise to come. It rang through her ears like a gunshot and she froze, waiting for Travis to realise they were there. He did not move and she realised that he could not hear her, already in the precursor trance. She knew she had to take action now or all would be lost.
She drew the rope from her pocket, ready to do what she needed and bounded across the clearing. Blake came running behind her. She caught a shadow out of the corner of her eye. Of course, you idiot. As if he would be here alone, she thought. She had been in too much of a hurry – foolish. She would have to deal with the shadow – and quickly. All she could hope for was that he was not trained in the arts. That would cause them delays they did not have.
Sienna nodded to Blake and he raced across into the shadow and dragged a woman out into the light. Sienna was a little shocked – she had expected a man. The woman had no visible weapons and the look in her eyes was one of fear and confusion. The strangers eyes moved from Sienna to the man standing between them and her face softened. Sienna knew then that this was no warrior, she was clearly in love with Travis. This was going to make it difficult. Sienna quickly grabbed the rope and they bound the woman’s hands. A squeal escaped the woman’s lips and it was enough to rouse Travis from his trance. He pulled a knife from the pouch on his belt and they prepared for the fight. She knew this was going to be a fight to the death… and he was angry.