The darkness overtook the grassy landscape as they made their way onto the pebble road. Night descended, leaving Darian feeling immersed in darkness. It almost felt like the dream made flesh, and it unnerved Darian just a bit. Maximil erected two large torches, which lit up the small loaded wagon. Every once in awhile Marideen flicked the reigns to keep the horses moving in the direction of the road.
The light of the flames seemed to bounce off of small reflective panels that lined the stone road, creating a distinct outline of the road a few meters ahead of the cart. It was enough to keep them on the road in the blackness of the night.
“It is still going to take us the rest of the night to reach Geneva,” Marideen suddenly spoke up, “I think you should all get some sleep, tomorrow is going to be a stressful day.”
Darian had to agree with her. At that point, they would be back on Taerran-occupied land. Up until this point, they had yet to run into any patrols or signs of pursuit. Darian only was vaguely aware of how strange that seemed. Perhaps that was simply because they were preparing traps in Geneva. Without needing to ask, Darian was almost certain that there would be traps.
They had to know what Marideen looked like. They also had to know what Darian looked like. He couldn’t quite imagine how they would just stroll into the city without being ascertained. He moved up beside Marideen on the driver’s seat and asked her that question.
“There are rules,” Marideen responded, glancing over at him, “It’s considered a violation of rights to search a farmer’s goods. My face is the only one I’m sure the guards have been given. I’ll hide under the supplies when the time comes. Unless they come up with a valid reason to search the cart, it is illegal for them to do anything. We’ll be fine.”
“What if they do check?” Darian asked, concerned.
“They wouldn’t expect us to waltz in through the front gate. They will expect us to go around the back. I think that is our best bet. Hide in the open.”
Darian shook his head, already feeling uneasy about it, “I don’t think it’s going to work.”
Marideen remained quiet, the hooves of the horses clattering on the rocky pebble road and the creaking of the wagon wheels grinding being the only noise. Finally, she glanced over at him again.
“Not visions, but a bad feeling. We’re going to need a disguise to get through; I think they will be searching every wagon this time around.”
Marideen nodded without saying another word, continuing to look off into the distant darkness. Darian sat with her for a few more minutes, listening to the absence of sounds in the night. He had never noticed it before, but the world had a kind of hollow sound. There were not very many animals on this planet, not while they were terraforming it. The noises of insects, birds, and small animals rustling were completely absent. Even Darian, with his broken memory, remembered that the outdoors should have more noise than this.
Eventually, he let out a sigh, moving back into the carriage again. He found a spot where he could sit down, and close his eyes as he leaned against a hard crate. With the supplies, the cart did not afford enough space for any man to lie to sleep. Beiromon, Berret, and Maximil were all already asleep, curled into their respective cubbyholes of space.
It was a long time before Darian finally drifted off to sleep. His dreams started back up again that night. Darian dreamed of Maximil wearing a crown. Then he saw Marideen also wearing a crown. Danelle was there as well, with a crown on her head. Darian reached up and his hand hit metal. His fingers wrapped around the crown and pulled, but it didn’t seem to want to come off.
Light pierced Darian’s eyes and he squinted. The cold from the previous night was starting to quickly dissipate, and he could feel the warmth of the sun beating down on him. He finally willed himself to open his eyes. Darian’s back was sore from the previous uncomfortable night. A small sound caused him to turn and look out the wagon. There he saw Marideen, and he stood up in shock.
Marideen was ringing her hair out droplets of red dye falling into the grassy dirty she was standing nearby. She let go, pushing her hair into a loose ponytail. She turned to Darian and gave him a flat look. He turned away in embarrassment, but still watched her out of the corner of his eye. Her hair was now a dark red.
She had made several cuts and modifications to the blouse and skirt. The blouse now exposed considerably more cleavage than it had the night before. The skirt was slit up the side, allowing her to pull out a leg, which was exposed up to the thigh. Darian shook his head in disbelief.
“What are you doing?” he finally managed to get out incredulously.
“I’m working on my disguise,” Marideen stated, “A simple farmer’s daughter, it always works.”
“Her and her farmer’s daughters,” Berret whispered nearby, a smirk on his face.
Darian looked over at him, although he had his face turned away and was pretending to check the wagon’s wheels, before turning back to Marideen, “You do know we were at a farm last night?”
Marideen frowned, “Yes.”
“She had daughters there?”
“They didn’t dress like-“ out of the corner of Darian’s eye, he noticed Maximil waving him to silence, “Well I mean your disguise is just…”
“I’m not done yet,” Marideen reassured him, “I have a fake nose, add a beauty mark here and there, and you won’t even recognize me.”
Darian nodded numbly before turning away from her. He looked at Maximil, who shrugged with a smirk on his face.
“She very proud of her disguises,” Berret whispered under his breath, a great deal of mirth in his voice.
“Yeah, but is this going to work?” Darian asked, concerned.
Berret shrugged, finally turning to him, “We’re going down the main road. Its harvest time on this planet, so there is almost the equivalent of a mini-festival going on in the city. It will be very crowded by the time we get there; chances are they won’t be able to check a single cart. Plus, guards see what they want to see. A redheaded “farmer’s girl” is not the head of the Lancers. Either way, they’ll be too busy looking at her…”
Berret coughed when Maximil glared at him sternly. Darian chuckled a bit to himself, but he still didn’t have a good feeling about the whole thing. Something was wrong. Something was going to go wrong. He could feel it.
“What about me?” Darian asked, “I’m an escaped prisoner.”
“You’re welcome to wear a rubber nose and dye your hair as well,” Maximil smirked.
“That’s not what I meant,” Darian frowned.
“There were hundreds of escaped prisoners, and I doubt they expected them to come into the city on a cart full of supplies dressed as a farmer. We’ve done these hundreds of times, relax. You’d be surprised what you can bluff yourself through. Just keep your head down, your eyes low, and they’ll see what they want to see.”
Darian sighed, sitting back down into the small cramped cubby hole he had slept in the previous night. His back groaned in protest, but he fought the urge to move. Before long, Marideen had finished the touches on her disguise. Darian did have to give him some credit. She only looked vaguely like the woman he had gotten used to. To him, the eyes gave it away though. He hoped the guards would not be so thorough.
The cart started moving. Maximil was now at the reigns of the horses, while Marideen was back in the cart, she sat kitty-corner to Darian. Berret was walking alongside the cart, not inside of it. As they merged onto the trail, Darian found the cart to be just one of several dozen carts coming in early in the morning. It appeared Marideen had been right; it was a very busy day. Darian felt a renewed sense of hope; maybe they could make it through.
Still, he had that bloody intuition nagging at his gut. Was it just nervousness, or something more? Either way, he couldn’t ignore it any longer. He closed his eyes as he had done a hundred times before, searching for the future. He focused on Marideen, the city, the wagon, and even himself. Each focus gave him a little bit of intuition, namely a feeling of foreboding, but otherwise didn’t seem to help nearly as much as he had hoped. Eventually, he gave up, opening his eyes with a sigh.
“No help?” Beiromon asked.
Darian shook his head regretfully.
“There is Geneva,” Maximil stated.
Darian hadn’t realized he had been meditating for that long. He glanced out in front of the wagon passed the horses and gasped. Not too far away, a series of massive structures sat in what Darian knew must be a city. Had cities always been that large? Their cart pulled up short, running into a line of heavy traffic. There were so many people.
Darian’s time in isolation and prison had simply skewed his scale of things. That was all. He simply needed to readjust his perception of the world around him. He took another look at a building that was almost four stories high and gulped. It would certainly be a long uncomfortable readjustment.
The remained in line for what seemed like hours. Marideen began to shift uncomfortably, and the rest seemed to lose outward optimism as well.
“What’s wrong?” Darian finally asked.
“This is taking longer than we expected,” Maximil finally spoke up, “It would appear that they have decided to check the wagons one by one.”
Darian went white, “What do we do?”
“We stick to the plan,” Marideen muttered under her breath, “We are still in disguise, we have a wagon full of supplies, we dumped all of our weapons, there is no reason to suspect us of foul play.”
Darian looked over at her doubtfully. His intuition didn’t seem to be giving him any kind of assistance. This wasn’t feeling right. The meditation hadn’t done anything. Why could he delve into what was about to happen next? The guards approach the cart in front of his. He could hear the mumbling of the guards as they asked the driver question after question. They swept over the cart thoroughly before giving them a wave.
Maximil moved his cart up the road until the guard halted him. He stopped and waited patiently.
“What are you transporting?” The guard asked with a bored expression on his face. His voice was grainy and groggy as if he had been woken up early to do this.
“Vegetables, Carrots, and Peas mostly,” Maximil started before the guard put up his hand to silence him.
“Why are you visiting Port Geneva?”
Darian sat in the back, keeping his head low. He could hear a second guard’s footsteps crunching in the gravel as he walked around to the back of the wagon. He glanced up into it. His vision moved across each of them. It seemed to pass across Marideen without a seeming care in the world but lingered on Darian for a moment. Berret stood up in front of him, drawing the guard’s attention.
“May I help you?” Berret asked in a chipper voice.
The guard sniffed, wiping his nose on a sleeve before peering over his shoulder back into the wagon, “I’ll need to check your wares. There was a prison break a week ago and we have reason to believe some of them may be trying to get into Port Geneva to escape.”
Berret put on a look of shock, he wasn’t a half-bad actor, “Oh my, well please do. Benny, Tua, let’s get out of the wagon so the man can do his business.”
Marideen smoothly rose, passing the guard while giving him a glowing smile. Darian had to give her credit. Darian had never seen her smile, and with the clothing, makeup, and red hair, she looked ridiculous. No one would guess that that was the Butcher of Braun. However, the smile didn’t seem to touch her eyes. Darian hoped the guard wouldn’t notice that.
Berret cleared his throat and Darian looked up. Oh, he was Benny? He rose quickly, hoping the redness in his cheeks was taken as an inattentive farmhand and not the embarrassment of almost blowing their cover. He wished Berret had told him he would be giving him a name before they got to this point. Not everyone could improve on the fly.
As he passed the guard the guard grabbed his chest. He hadn’t noticed before but the guard was at least a foot short than him. The guard looked darkly up into his face for a second, his eyes widening just slightly before he nodded for him to join Marideen. Darian had to give it to the man. He had good control of his facial features. However, after interpreting the wooden-like features of Marideen for a few weeks, this man’s looks almost seemed expressive. It was clear that he had recognized Darian. Was he guard on the prison? Could he separate Darian’s face from the list of five hundred other prisoners who escaped?
Darian moved down towards Marideen and stood next to her, keeping his head down, “Tua.”
Marideen cocked her head towards him but continued smiling at the guards like she was love-struck.
“Tua,” irritation flashed on her face and she looked over at him, “I think they caught on.”
Marideen made no comment, instead, she nodded as if to herself. The smile on her face slipped just a bit.
“Why would you say that?” she whispered back a moment later.
“I think he recognized me, I think we underestimated the Taerrens desire to get me back.”
“Why would they care about you, or any of the other prisoners, they would leave that to local authorities. These are red guards, they specifically want me.”
The guard moved out of the wagon and the pair went to silence. He moved over to the guard who had finished asking Maximil questions. They moved away from the wagon a fair distance and began speaking in a low murmur. The other guard suddenly looked over at them in shock before turning his head and refocusing on his partner.
“This is bad,” Marideen murmured, “We have no weapons. They must have recognized me.”
“I don’t think it’s you they recognized,” Darian whispered back, causing her to frown, “I should have worn a disguise as well.”
The guard spoke on the radio with someone. This situation was going to escalate very quickly if Darian didn’t do something.
“Orders?” Berret asked.
Marideen seemed panicked, not quite sure what to do. Darian had to think of something. He closed his eyes, imagining every scenario he could. In some of them, they would wrestler away several guns from the guards, and fight against waves of guards until they were overwhelmed. In other scenarios, they gave up quietly only to be arrested and sentenced to death. There had to be a way to make it out of this. Darian could only think of one.
The large grouping of guards had congregated near the wagon. The two broke up their discussion and began walking toward them with smiles on their faces as fake as the one Marideen had been wearing. Several of the other guards, although attempting to appear as if they were surrounding the cart by coincidence, started advancing as well. The guard reached toward the gun at his built. Maximil tensed, looking about ready to leap at the guards.
Darian moved first. He reached into his pocket, pulling out the small knife he had been allowed to keep. He grabbed Marideen, who yelped in surprise and he yanked her in front of him with force. Her reflexes kicked in, her elbow ramming him in the stomach. He leaped at her as she tried to twist around.
“Will you trust me,” Darian grumbled under his breath.
The reaction was quick as she allowed him to overcome her. He put the knife up to her neck and turned toward the guards with what he hoped was a panicked look on his face. In the amount of time it had taken for him to overpower Marideen, the guards had stopped in their tracks, starring with surprise. Their demeanor seemed to completely change. Maximil and Berret glanced at him in shock and confusion.
“Don’t come any closer, or I’ll kill her!” Darian shouted, causing Marideen to groan under her breath.
The guards interpreted it as a moan of fear. They pulled their weapons on Darian but otherwise seemed to keep their distance from her.
“Prisoner A79, you are under arrest. We have been ordered by Prince Boramont himself to bring you in by any means necessary. Do not think you will be able to get away from us. Let the girl go.”
Prince Boramont? Why would he want Darian? He couldn’t know, could he? Darian glanced around at the guard, all of them with guns trained directly on him. No, the prince knew Darian had killed his brother. He also knew where he was.
“I didn’t kidnap these farmers and make it all this way just so I could be caught,” Darian winced at that, maybe he was being a little too obvious.
Still, the trick seemed to work. Beiromon, Berret, and Maximil seemed to get the hint, adopt a look of fear and resignation. Marideen also seemed to relax a bit, although he couldn’t make out her face. It looked like the trick worked. The guards tensed a bit but continued to advance on Darian. Where they originally going to arrest all of them, they now saw the group as victims of Darian, a hardened criminal. With hope, it would be enough. Now Darian needed to worry about himself.
He kicked Marideen forward at the guards. Two of them raced to catch her as he turned and ran. He didn’t make it more than five steps before a few other guards descended on him. He could see it. He could dodge one, incapacitate the other, acquire a gun. He could double back, leap through a wagon, and take off. The guards would chase him, but he could shake them. He could do it. He could get away. In the process, he could leave behind Marideen and the rest of the Lancers. He would leave behind his friends.
He allowed the first guard to tackle him. Darian thrashed and fought until the man slugged him, then allowed them to hogtie him to the ground as increasingly more guards descended around him. He gritted his teeth as the guards landed a few extra guards for good measure. As he was dragged away, he saw several guards hovering around Marideen, showing a great deal of concern for the poor farmer’s daughter having been imprisoned by the escaped convict. Darian was sure Marideen’s exposed cleavage helped double the number of “concerned” guards.
The other three put on looks of relief as the guards questioned them while simultaneously offering them reassurances. Marideen spared a look at Darian and their eyes met. She gave him a look he had never seen before. Was that a look of respect? She gave the slightest of nods before a guard touched her shoulder and she looked away, once again throwing him a smile that almost seemed flirtatious if Darian hadn’t known her better.
Darian closed his eyes as his feet dragged along the ground. He’d have to use every ounce of intuition he had to get through whatever came next.