Barrett and Reina slowed their horses and turned to look. Ruben and the other three had already turned and were riding toward them. Ruben continued to speak, “Thank you for waiting. I wouldn’t want to miss a chance to speak to the beautiful lady.” Ruben looked only at Reina, smiling as he approached, “I saw you in the tournament. You have a very elegant fighting style.”
“Thank you. I learned everything I have from my mistress.” Reina smiled slightly
“Wonderful! Is she here with you?”
“She had some business delay her but will be along shortly.”
“I see. I was hoping to invite the two of you to visit us.” He snapped his finger, “Ah, I know! You can come with us now, I can leave someone here on the road to watch for her.”
“I appreciate the offer,” Reina nodded, “But I really should be going. She expects to catch up to us on the road or in Ember.” Reina’s eyes moved toward the city whose tallest buildings were just visible in the distance. “Perhaps you can come wait with us there?”
“Alas, I must return to the sect soon. You really should come along.”
Reina turned to look at Barrett, “You know, this fellow has the same sort of charm as your cousin. Perhaps when Mistress Seviren arrives we should go visit them.”
Ruben frowned, “I really did mean for you to come with us now.”
The other three had been edging their horses into a half circle. Suddenly, without warning, Reina drew her sword and spurred her horse which was facing to the side. She slashed the horse in front of her as she turned her horse back down the road toward Ember.
Barrett was also ready, but he had turned his horse completely around. That meant when he spurred his horse he went directly past Ruben. There was only the slightest bit of delay… but that and the distance between them was enough for Ruben to pull his halberd and parry Barrett’s wide swing.
Barrett looked back as he rode, and he saw Ruben turning his horse to chase him as he ordered his companions. “You three- grab the girl!”
Barrett had a head start- within the first handful of seconds, before Ruben was fully turned around, he was almost a hundred meters away. The gap widened slightly more before Ruben was at his top speed… but then the gap started closing. Barrett wasn’t worried about that, though. The only thing he was worried about was not being chased.
After a minute, Ruben was only a length or two behind Barrett… but they were both a very long distance from Reina. The roads curves meant Barrett couldn’t see what was happening… but he couldn’t do anything about it even if he could see. He thought the other three weren’t as strong as Ruben. He didn’t remember thinking much of them in the tournament. That gave Reina a chance to fight even if she couldn’t escape. If she made it to town… well, even the Raging Fire Sect couldn’t do whatever they wanted in the city. Once Mistress Seviren showed up, Reina would be fine.
Barrett, however, was going further into danger. Regardless of the fact that Ruben was catching up, he was heading toward Raging Fire Sect territory. Ruben had enough status there that they would take his word over Barrett’s even if they didn’t specifically allow Ruben’s actions.
He wouldn’t have to worry about that, though, because Ruben was catching up. With a short burst of speed he was within striking range… and Barrett had to jump off of his horse to avoid being impaled. He tried to ignore the sounds of the horse as it died in his place.
Barrett rolled as he hit the ground, coming up more or less on his feet. He took off running away from the road, and heard the sound of hooves continue after him. Good.
Barrett intentionally took the most difficult path on the rocky ground. He jumped over boulders and ran through scree. On flat ground he might be slower than the horse… but he managed to stay ahead.
Then the sound of hooves changed to the sound of boots… and Barrett could hear them getting closer. He didn’t have much spare attention to glance back… he was busy navigating the mountainside. When he came to the top of the immediate rise, he turned.
Ruben was only a short way behind him, and had already ignited flames around his body and halberd. Seeing that Barrett had stopped, he grinned, “Just give up. I’ve beaten you already.” Then he thrust out with his halberd.
Barrett didn’t even have his axe drawn yet but Barrett responded with step to the side and a kick. “Not a chance!” The top of the slope had better footing, unlike the scree below. That was enough for Barrett to avoid the halberd thrust and send Ruben tumbling down. He probably wouldn’t be injured… but he would have to climb back up. HIs boot felt like it would catch fire- but it hadn’t actually done so.
Barrett doubted Ruben would fall for the same tactic twice, and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to getting skewered from below. He swiftly turned back around and chose a path to continue on by instinct.
Down below, Ruben’s enraged voice rang out. It then started to move closer again, “Get back here you little twerp!”
Barrett would have grinned if the situation hadn’t been so bad for him. At least Ruben seemed to have forgotten why this was happening in the first place. He ducked between boulders and jumped over smaller rocks… then sprinted across an open area. Every time Ruben got close Barrett would pick an advantageous position to throw him back. Sometimes he just picked up rocks on the ground and chucked them at Ruben.
Even so, Ruben was not without his successes. He’d managed some glancing blows on Barrett, and his armor was already heating up. That made running and fighting that much more difficult… while Ruben seemed relatively fresh. Then Barrett realized that not all of the heat was coming from his conflict with Ruben.