Naliria left her mother's room and went straight for the exit. There was no way she was going to tell her father about the trip. After all, it was a big lie just to get out of the house. She was too curious about Sarah’s visit to John at the festival, the day before. She wanted to know where they were going, why they were going, and how they were going to get there. Sarah's last words were about meeting at the cross junction that led up north. She knew where that junction was, and she was going there with or without permission.
She went to the stable and brought out her horse. As she mounted and was about to ride off, one of her father’s work men came in. "Good morning miss, heading somewhere?” He asked.
“No!” was her reply. “Not really, just taking a ride. I will be back shortly.”
“Okay,” said the man “When you get back, please let me know so I can tend to the horse.”
“I will." She assured him before riding off. She silently said words of appology to her parents for the anxiety her action was about to cause them, but she had to go. She knew John well enough. He would go with Sarah, though she didn’t know where to. She had to follow him behind, silently watching, in case that witch, Sarah, had evil intentions. A good thing her father taught her how to man-oeuvre the jungle, she was going to need all the strength and skills to survive her mission. Apart from that, if she ever got to the ancient city, she would have to pay Freda a visit and ask her to please cover her tracks, just in case her parents start to make inquiries about her visit.
Naliria rode on for about fifteen minutes before coming in view of the cross junction leading up north. She rode faster until she got to the spot. However, there was no one there. The place was quiet. “Well,” she thought, “It’s either they haven’t come, or, they’re long gone.” Just as she started to nurse the idea of waiting a little while before deciding what path to follow, she saw something in the far distance. She strained her eyes trying to make out the forms. finally, she noticed that it was two people traveling on horse back. "It must be them.” she said. Without a moment’s hesitation, she turned in their direction and followed, taking a bush path so as to avoid being seen. All she wanted to do, was to watch them closely.
The sun had started setting and the evening breeze blew softly against the trees and tall grasses, making them wave their leaves at each other. It had been a very warm and friendly day which was now coming to an end. The sun was setting and night was fast approaching.
Naliria dismounted her horse. She took its reins and with her in front, led it. She knew the horse needed some rest but she could not stop. As she moved on, following the duo behind, Naliria saw some other travellers hurrying to nearby villages to pass the night and also, avoid the dangers in the high way. One of the traveller, an elderly man, was so much in a hurry that he almost bumped into Naliria. He staggered while trying to hold his balance. Naliria did her best to steady him. He was dressed in fine robes and sandals. He didn't look like a poor man, he looked more like a rich merchant.
"Thank you." he said as he studied her briefly. “You don’t seem at all in a hurry.”
“No sir,” She replied, "I'm just… walking along.”
“Well,” said the elderly man “I suggest you stop walking along and hurry to safety before it’s dark; this is no place for a lady, especially at night.” The man turned and took off without a moment’s hesitation. Naliria watched him briefly as he ran along before facing her direction again. It was a well known fact that robbers, slave traders as well as wild animals, flocked to the roads at night and devoured anyone they came across. Naliria didn’t care about that, she was her father’s daughter and so nothing could possibly happen to her.
The road path was not too comfortable, they were filled with rocks and her horse always bumped on them. Naliria didn’t like the situation, but, there was nothing she could do. The people in front of her were moving at a rather slow pace; they didn’t seem disturbed about the approaching night and she liked it. She liked it because that gave her a little extra time to check her horse’s hooves just to make sure none of the rocks or stones were stuck in it.
The journey had been on for almost the whole day. They travelled past three neighbouring villages and were getting close to the old forest. By that time, Naliria was very hungry and thirsty; she hadn’t taken any food or water with her, neither did she eat anything before leaving home. But she was determined to stay strong until she could find water and food.
By the time they got to the old forest, it was mid-evening. The forest was just as it had been years back, when Lucas took Naliria and her mother for camping in it. Then she was ten years old. “How time flies,” she thought.
The trees were very tall as usual and the grasses were low. It seemed the forest maintained itself. Her father had once told her that the old forest had magic in it. No one could do evil there and go unpunished. That was why he was comfortable taking them there for a family camp. Well, night was around the corner and being in the old forest spelt safety for her.
As she journyed on inside the forest, still following the trail of the people in front of her, Naliria came in view of a spot that had a chain of little houses made of wood. The houses were made of wood and separated by trees. Her family had camped in the first house, and a friend of her father camped with his family in the next. She also remembered the day it rained heavily. She wanted to bathe in the rain so she ran out. She was having fun and ran to a little lake located some distance away behind the house. Because of the rain, the water level began to rise but, she did not notice. Her parents happened to notice that she was missing so they went under the rain searching for her. They found her in the lake with the water level above her chest. Her father ran to her and pulled her out. Now, going through the forest and remembering that event, shook her a bit.
“What if papa had not found me?” She wondered. Probably she would have died that very day. After that incident, her father started to teach her how to swim. She learnt the act very fast, and soon, she became a fantastic swimmer.
Looking at the chain of wooden camp houses, Naliria noticed there were campers in some of them. She thought of going to ask for water and a little food when she noticed movement some distance away by her right. This snapped her back to reality. As she studied the movement, she noticed another just behind the first. She squeezed her brows into a frown as realisation dawned on her. The movement she saw were actually riders in black and they were about ten in number. Five in front and five behind.
“Slave traders,” she thought. “Since I’ve not been spotted, I better ride to safety.” She mounted her horse again, took the reins and rode off as quickly as possible. She didn't mind riding fast, after all, the people she was following were far away, in front. She rode for about 5 minutes. However, when she was far away from the riders and close enough to the duo she was following, she slowed down. At least, she felt safe. The rest of the journey through the old forest, took only thirty minutes.