Sarai followed the blue trail into the town. In the main square, they stopped at a small cafe for some hot apple cider to warm them up from the cold mountain pass. They ate bread, cheese, some apples and salad, and a sweet roll each to lift their spirits. Their horses were fed oats and given plenty of water to drink, too.
Thus satisfied, they start back on the path. Sarai started having more and more trouble picking it out along the road. Down one street, it stopped altogether. She backed her horse a few steps and found it again, but every time she came forward it disappeared completely.
She started to panic. Which way would they go? How would they know where to look? The others sensed her indecision.
Tiana reached over and put a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong?" she asked quietly.
"I can't see it! It just seems to stop here," Sarai replied.
Mandalar put his hand on the hilt of his sword and slid it just barely out of its sheath. He looked quickly around but saw no threat.
Alatar got down from his horse and looked around. "There's no magic shops, witches hovels, or any other source of magic I can see from here."
He held his staff in both hands. He placed it firmly against the ground and began muttering in a language long forgotten by most.
"Alume sata inuroni tasoru..." he intoned softly, his voice falling to scarcely a whisper. For a time, his lips moved without any sound appearing to come out. When he lifted his face, his eye swirled with dancing orange lights and he looked slowly around. Then he shook his head vigorously and his eyes cleared.
"There is a powerful magic at work here but I do not know it, or where it comes from," he said after a moment. "Sarai, can you try to reach out to the genie with your thoughts? Perhaps the spell he cast links the two of you and he can hear if you ask for his help."
With the others looking on encouragingly, she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around herself. As soon as she did, she noticed that she could still just faintly make out the blue line with her eyes closed. She quickly pressed both her hands over her eyes and could see it better.
"Quickly! Give me some cloth," she said to her companions. They handed her a length of fabric that she folded and bound over her eyes. With this blocking out most of the light, she could make out the direction they had to go. "I'll tell you which way to turn, but someone will have to lead my horse.
Mandalar took her horse's reins and tied them onto the back of his saddle. They started off again, Sarai watching for any turns in the path.
"Straight ahead here for a bit. Now it turns left! Hard left - that's right. And up ahead just a short distance back to the right..." Turning back and forth, the path led the through the town and out to the countryside beyond. As they rode along the road, the blue thread seemed to grow stronger again.
When it blazed behind her eyelids once more, Sarai pulled off the blindfold. With her eyes open, she could now see it as strongly as ever. "It's back," she sighed, "Whatever was stopping it is behind us."
Alatar looked at her closely and then back toward the town. "Whatever it was may try to come after us to interfere again. Let's move quickly."
They followed the trail down the slope of the land toward a harbor town. A great many ships were clustered in the bay, everything from large warships with a great many sails to sailboats, fishing vessels to rowboats. The path led them straight to the docks and down to one end. It turned sharply out onto the very last pier with only a single rundown looking lobster boat tethered to the end.
The captain and two crewmen were leaning back against the pier's piles, looking all scraggly and unkempt. They looked up curiously at the approaching riders.
"Captain, do you ever take passengers? We would like to ask you to take us out to see," Sarai asked.
The captain looked them over and answered, "We don't usually, but seeing as how it's not lobster season and haven't much to do... Have you any coin, perhaps?"
Mandalar opened his change pouch and pulled out several gold coins. He let these drop slowly, one after another into his other hand. Each made a satisfying clink against his metal gauntlet.
"Well, that's settled then! Welcome aboard!" the captain smiled. With that, they boarded the ship and prepared to make way.
Elie: What did they do with horses?
Me: They probably stored them in the hold under the deck with some fresh hay.
Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.