After we left the cottage and said goodbye to the novice priest, we continued our journey back to Insomida. The princess didn't make any real problems. Every time she started complaining about something - the cold, hunger, thirst, pain in her legs because of walking - we just ignored her, or gave her a tiny bit of our food or water.
What I realized after the first few miles of walking was that Tartek and Sereliaen were holding hands. This is nothing unusual because they are married anyway, but I've never seen them do that. It just makes me smile to see them not arguing once in a while.
Carana wasn't talking a lot today. Something is going on in her head. She's probably thinking about how we should deliver the princess to Insomida. Or she's trying to imagine what we could get into when they find us guilty of injuring the princess.
We could already see Emtik still a few miles away at the roots of the Ventorania Mountains, when Tartek suddenly stopped walking.
"I don't think we should go there," he said, staring at the six wooden houses in the distance.
We all turned and looked at him with a big question mark in the air.
"Are you going to try to explain this thought?" I asked him.
"I may be just a bit too paranoid, but we actually have the princess accompanying us and she is injured. Someone over there might know her and turn us in." Tartek blinked and looked at us, one after another.
There weren't many people in Emtik. Most of them probably were never leaving this place. But there was still a risk of a visitor, maybe even Insomida Guards, trying to find four people, two men, two women, seeking the reward for returning our heads to the king of Insomida himself.
"We don't have much food and water left," the princess said. "I still have a mouth to support the truth, you know?"
"Will they listen to you or will they think that I put a spell on you?" Carana asked with a bit of sarcasm in her voice.
The princess shrugged. "I don't care about you people, but I'm starving and I want a warm place to stay." The royal daughter pushed Tartek aside and continued walking towards Emtik. I've seen the sudden explosion of anger in Tartek's face, and I'm sure he pictured how his right fist slowly and painfully smashed the princess' face.
We were too tired to resist, so we just winked off all thoughts about risk and danger and followed her.
In the afternoon we reached Emtik. One of the guards came towards us with a forced smile on his face.
"What ye be doing here again?" he grunted.
The princess stepped up to him. "Princess of Insomida. I'm sleepy, hungry and thirsty, and by the name of my father, I request well deserved hospitality for me and my bodyguards here."
The guard blinked. "Ye isn't looking like the princess of the big town. Better think of something better to convince me."
The princess slowly touched her injured eye on her face, the fresh scars on the cheek below, and fumed. She went to Tartek who carried the bag of the princess on his back, took Vetar's note out of it and showed it to the guard.
"Don't fool me, I can't read," the guard mumbled. "Wait here, will ye."
The small man in armor turned around and went into one of the houses, and after a while he came back - with Imarp behind him.
"Well, if it isn't the folks from Insomida," he said, tried to smile, but a lot of things must have been going on in his head, that prevented his smile to completely unfold. "What can I do for you? I heard you are bringing the princess with you? Is that correct?"
The princess almost jumped at him. "Who do you think I am? Of course it's the princess they-"
Carana touched the princess' right shoulder with her hand and smiled at her as the royal daughter turned her red head.
"We were sent by Vetar. The princess has been injured in an accident and we have the objective to bring her back home," Carana explained. The princess showed him the note.
Imarp looked at us, doubtful, but after a while he stepped aside, and with a welcoming gesture he let us go into the inn.
We were told to leave our luggage in the stables - the house in the middle of Emtik. Imarp gave us tea to warm us up. In the evening he told us to go for a walk because the people from the mines were coming back and they needed their daily rest in the inn.
We didn't walk around, instead we just sat down a bit outside of the circle of wooden houses. Shortly after we had sat down the princess fell asleep in the grass. The ground wasn't very cold - and luckily the snow was already gone too, unlike just a few days ago - but we still covered her with two hides that Carana got from our luggage in the stables.
When the sun was gone we woke the princess and returned to the inn. Imarp gave us something warm to eat (not much, and not the best thing I've ever eaten, but it filled my stomach), we moved the chairs and tables to the walls again and prepared for sleep. When Imarp opened the door Carana thanked him for everything. He just looked at her, left and closed the door behind him.
Just now we've been talking about where we should be heading from now on. We figured that with the princess accompanying us, we could even try to get rooms in Mirnda's Inn. It does sound risky, but I don't feel like disturbing ranger Ontarm's peace again after the problems we've already caused him. We also thought about going to Astatik first, since it's even closer to Emtik than Mirnda's Inn. Carana's parents would surely help us out somehow. Tartek reminded us that the reason we didn't go to Astatik in the first place was to not get Carana's parents involved, but again, the princess is with us and maybe it would work out somehow.
The thing is just - what will happen once we have delivered the princess? I suppose we will just have to wait and see ...