They had been on the road, surrounded by vast forests, for a few hours. Jon knew they would soon be there. He could already smell the ocean, the salty streams of water, where his home was waiting for him. He made the horses gallop faster as he kept looking behind him, afraid of the possible pursuers.
Ricardo and Bruno had remained silent for a long time, though once in a while, Jon could hear Ricardo laughing like a maniac. He wondered what they were talking about, though he didn’t mind turning to them and actually ask.
Soon, the path he rode on turned to the right, deeper into the forest, but Jon turned to the left, moving onto a road barely used. It was a bumpy ride, so much so that he could hear Bruno cursing like a pirate.
The view that unfolded in front of him was one of absolute beauty. The sea was now clear in his view, shining to him like a vast blue crystal. The wind got caught in his hair as he rode on, moving close to the coast, though remaining on the rocky hills.
Another moment passed and he moved through a natural gate, a pair of tall rocks that had two torches stuck in them, though both dead. We’re home, he thought as he rode on. He was right, for as he turned the corner, he was greeted by the vast castle that was built into the rocky hill itself. It was well hidden, only a few men actually knowing its location. It was also a tactical location because of the near sea. He remembered how often they set sail from here.
“We’re here!” he shouted to his friends. “Get your asses up and ready.”
“Fine, fine!” Ricardo shouted. “No need to shout–as if my head didn’t ache enough.”
The castle had a magnificent wall protecting it as well as countless towers, made of stones, decorated with banners that had the silver cross on a grey field. The banners were wavering in the strong wind and Jon could even see a few men staring down at them from the towers. He nodded to them, though doubted they would have actually seen him that well.
He rode in from the gates, arriving in the courtyard of their home, where people were both buying and selling goods from countless stands. Shouting was everywhere, people were chattering, but as he stopped the wagon in the midsts of them all, countless eye pairs turned to them as the yard turned silent.
“They’ve returned!” shouted an older man with a wheezy voice.
The crowds moved towards them, smiling and chanting their greetings. Jon had never gotten used to the attention but smiled at them nonetheless. He jumped off the wagon and open the wagon’s door, revealing his friends.
“Alright, you can get out now,” he said, laughing quietly.
Ricardo shook his head, smiling as he helped Bruno down.
“Welcome back, warriors!” a woman said, making Jon turn.
“Thank you, lady Maria,” Ricardo said as he bowed to her.
Jon took off his hat, revealing his dust-covered face completely while allowing his hair to breathe.
“Where is the Grandmaster?” she wondered as she called a few maids to assist Bruno.
“He and Ivan remained behind,” Bruno said through his teeth as he tried to take a step by himself. “They said they should be here soon.”
“And the loot?” she queried, her eyes shining brightly.
Jon smirked and hinted at the back of the wagon. “We got everything, don’t worry, my lady.”
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She smiled back and nodded to them all.
“You’ve all done well, as always. We’ve prepared a meal and baths for all of you. Bruno will be sent to the doctor before anything else.”
Ricardo laughed jeeringly as he tapped Bruno’s back. He didn’t seem to appreciate that.
“Don’t worry, Bruno. We’ll save you some, right Jon?” he kept laughing as he began walking towards the entrance of the castle.
Maria and Jon shared a look which said, “That’s Ricardo.”
“It will be fine, Bruno. Don’t worry,” he said tapping his friend’s shoulder in a friendly manner.
Bruno sighed, seemingly appreciating his words.
Jon glanced at Maria one last time, tipping his hat to her as he put it on again. After that, he began following Ricardo, leaving Bruno with the maids. The loot would be taken to the vaults, thus, his work today was done.
Ricardo opened the vast doors and remained there, waiting for Jon as he slowly made his way to him.
“Come, Jon. I want to eat today,” Ricardo chuckled. The way his moustache moved when he laughed made him look like a living tree or something.
They moved inside, walking in the great hall of the castle. Beautiful chandeliers were hanging from the ceiling, while monks and nuns were walking around, dusting the paintings and other decorations that made to room look rich. At the end of the room, a vast altar was standing. There was a massive silver cross on the wall, countless candles in front of it.
At this time of the day, many monks and nuns, as well as soldiers had gathered into the hall to pray. It was an intriguing sight to see countless men and women bowing down to this cross, chanting their prayers.
Jon and Ricardo moved towards the door at the other end of the hall, but before they got there, both stopped before the cross, made a cross on their chest and only then did they walk out of the room.
The dining room was now before them. The vast tables, decorated with candles filled the room. There were only a few lonely men eating there, their faces darkened by their hats as they ate.
Ricardo began sniffing the air, muttering something to himself. Jon was once disturbed by his actions, but after many years of working with him, he had gotten used to Ricardo’s strange ways of being.
“I think we have some fish soup today, Jon,” Ricardo celebrated, licking his lip as he glanced at Jon who didn’t quite share his enthusiasm.
“It well may be,” Jon replied. “I’ll join you in a moment. I have other business I have to attend to and fast.”
Ricardo’s eyes widened up as he turned to him, continuing to walk, though backwards.
“Oh? Let me guess, it is something related to a lady, yes?” he said, acting overly surprised.
Jon nodded as he walked. “You could say that.”
Ricardo laughed again as he turned around. “Oh, Jon. You think people won’t know what you think, but I always do. Remember that, would ya?”
Jon chuckled. “I will.”
Thus, as Ricardo moved to sit on a table where a big pot of soup was waiting, Jon continued his way towards the door. He got to a staircase, walked up the countless stone steps before he reached the bed-chamber area. This wasn’t the place he slept, for his chamber was located at the other side of the castle, where the barracks were.
This was where the ladies slept, and where his master usually spent his time. His office was here. It was warmer here, cleaner, and in addition, more silent, for there were no soldiers cursing here.
He moved in the hallway, looking at the different paintings on the walls and occasionally watching out of the narrow windows that brought in some light. Soon, he was standing behind a beautiful wooden door. There were countless carved roses on it.
He took off his hat, taking a deep breath as he quickly ran his fingers through his hair and beard, trying to make them a bit cleaner looking.
He then stepped closer, knocking on the door. His heart was jumping and his eyes began to wander all around him.
He could hear steps closing in before the door’s locks were opened. The door creaked as it was opened and soon he saw her.
“Jon?” said the beautiful woman of his age with glittering eyes. She was dressed in a beautiful white gown with red roses painted on it. Her sleek black hair covered her left eye.
“Hello, Sandra,” Jon said, his words smooth as silk itself.
She blushed as she moved to hug him. He opened his arms and embraced her, placing his hand on her head, feeling her smooth hair.
“I missed you,” she said quietly. “You were gone for so long–I thought… something had happened.”
Jon smiled faintly and pulled her closer. “Don’t worry. Nothing will happen to me or the others as long as I live.”
He looked at her, deep into her blue eyes. Her soft lips seemed to call out for him and soon, he moved to kiss her. She was warm and her lips smooth. He had missed this feeling for a long time. He had missed her.