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I tugged at the chain around my neck, freeing the key to my more important chest. I carefully unlocked it, and retrieved my father's sword, where it lay on top from its recent use. Beneath it was my armour, which would not fit either of us at this point, I imagined. I set that aside, to get at the precious bags lying underneath. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. All there. They were what remained of the war chest from my last campaign. It was nothing--absolutely nothing--compared to what I had lost when Haverford fell, but it would be more than enough to buy us room and board on the road.

I stuffed the loot into a knapsack--regretting that I didn't have any proper saddle bags. I then tossed the armour back into the chest, before looking back to see how Amina was doing. She had done her best to fit into the clothes, but she still looked entirely too much like a child in adult's clothing.

"Toss everything into the chest, except for your outer robe," I directed. "Best for them not to know you've changed." She did as she was told, and pulled the outer robe back on. I closed the chest and locked it before grabbing my empty water skin, some stale food and other basic provisions, and threw them into my bag. Finally, I climbed onto my bed, reaching behind it for my shield, which I quickly wrapped in a blanket.

"How long will that chest hold up?" Amina asked, fastening my sword at her hip.

"Made it myself," I said, with a faint smile.

"That didn't answer my question."

"Depends," I said. "No time to worry. Let's go."

I spotted a pair of horses rapidly approaching as we stepped outside. "Gods, Amina, be quick!" I shouted, loosing the horse, and swinging my two bundles onto its back. I mounted, and then helped pull her up in front of me. With a quick jab of Amina's heels, the horse was off. I slung the knapsack on my back and held the shield fast in my arms, as I had not had even a moment to fasten either down.

"Where are we going?" she shouted.

"Just go!" I shouted. "We need to lose them!"

We careened out past some outlying sleepy farms, and across a glen, towards the thick woods. An old, broken-down gate blocked the path into the forest where the old highway used to pass. The way led to Vanders--in the days when there was a Vanders. The town had been taken by a pox some two years ago. We slowed to push past the gate. I imagined that jumping it, with this much extra weight on the horse's back, would be unwise.

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