Chapter 10: Witch Hunt
All three took a deep breath before continuing forwards. The air had taken on a damp, musty smell. Once they had passed beyond the castle walls, a courtyard opened up before them. Littered with broken statues, overgrown briars and weeds, and upright rocks that resembled tombstones, it fairly reeked of evil. It felt as though they were entering a completely different world.
"Not a very good housekeeper, is she?" Keith quipped, trying to sound cheerful. He only half succeeded.
"She's going to be under one of these tombstones when I'm through with her," Purim promised.
"Be careful. For all we know, this might be another illusion." Personally, Randi doubted his own words. This place felt too real to be an illusion. The environment could be duplicated maybe. But the sensation of dread was tied to something else. Maybe his sword was letting him know that he was in a dangerous spot. Even if that seemed obvious to begin with.
"Something's here," Keith whispered. "And it doesn't smell like anything we've met before."
"Not much. It's too foggy. Let's hope it can't see us either."
No sooner had the words left Keith's mouth then an arrow shrieked through the air - narrowly missing Keith's head as the sprite ducked - bouncing off a stone statue behind him. Instinctively, he launched himself a good distance through the air, already looking around to see where the arrow had come from. His sharp eyes quickly located the source, a short figure crouching down behind a statue.
Another arrow zipped through the air, imbedding itself in the attacker. Keith traced the flight back to Purim. At least she was good for something now and then. Upon landing atop a tombstone, he looked around carefully for any more enemies. Now that he knew what to look for, they wouldn't get another easy shot like that again. Almost immediately he spotted one.
"Behind you, Randi!" he yelled, making ready to throw one of his rings at the hiding figure.
Without even looking, Randi's sword whipped around in a wide circle, slicing through a statue. A startled squeak revealed that whatever was behind the statue had been cut in half too. The three looked around carefully, searching for more of the attackers. They saw none.
"Why didn't you warn us sooner?" Purim demanded.
"Shut up!" Keith retorted, more than a little peeved. "The air's too damp to carry much smell. And the wind's going the wrong way. Maybe if you weren't so noisy, they wouldn't know we're coming!"
"Me noisy? I'll have you know that-"
"So shut up both of you," Randi ordered, looking at one of the archers. It was even shorter than Keith, but covered in fur all over and clutching a bow in its paws. If he didn't know better, he'd have figured it used to be a beaver of sorts... no doubt another twisted monster. And this one was smart enough to use a bow... "Be careful, guys. I'd say Elinee's got some good magic. Spread out a little."
Taking care to be more quiet, they continued across the castle courtyard, anxiously scanning behind every tombstone or tree. Only once did another archer present itself, but Purim managed to spot and shoot it before it even had a chance to notch an arrow.
After traveling several hundred yards, they came to the central building. It was as evil and foreboding as everything else they seen so far, but there seemed to be a darkness around it that suggested they were approaching the source of it all.
"I betcha Elinee's in here," Keith said grimly. "We'd better watch out for traps. You don't even need magic to make a good trap."
"Then move slowly, and look out for anything suspicious. And stay quiet."
They all nodded in agreement, starting forwards. Keith stopped suddenly. "Back off for a minute."
As ordered, they all backed up. Keith picked up a medium-sized rock from the ground and tossed it into the entrance. It bounced once on the stone-tiled floor. With a tremendous roar, the entire entranceway collapsed in a pile of rubble, hitting the ground with enough force to have easily smashed the three of them to a pulp.
Randi smiled faintly, keeping down the nervous feeling he had in him. If Keith hadn't been there to see that... At any rate, the witch would be disappointed to know that her trap hadn't succeeded.
Purim seemed rather mystified. "How did you know?"
Keith shrugged. "The entire entrance was smothered in smells. There were a lot of creatures here at one time. Besides, those bricks didn't have any mortar in them."
"You expect me to believe that?"
"Believe it, sister. I've grown up in Dwarf Village. Dwarves know all about brick-laying and when monsters started appearing, they learned how to make traps to keep them away from the village. I've always been smart enough to learn things good when I'm given the chance. You royalty slobs just think you're above that kind of stuff. Never occurs to you that you're below it all."
"You're just jealous," she retorted.
The sprite made an exaggerated cough. "That is a load of garbage, Princess. Now why don't you make yourself at home in the trenches with us for awhile and hope that we don't have to make a grave for you here? Not that I'd even go to the trouble..."
"Shut up, you two," Randi ordered, beginning to feel very repetitive. "We don't need distractions right now."
As annoying as they were, Randi thought to himself, he had a hunch they were both quite correct about each other. Purim was pampered, and although she had no shortage of determination, traveling alongside a scrapper like Keith was no doubt something entirely new to her. As for Keith, Randi had a hunch that the sprite was green with envy over Purim's lifestyle. Of course, someone brought up in the industrious Dwarf village would naturally see Purim's lifestyle as paradise.
He was privately disgusted with them both. How could they possible think their problems were serious? At least they had a home to go back to. They didn't have powerful enemies who wanted them dead. They didn't have to worry about some sword that was doing strange things to them without their permission. There was always the chance that even if they survived this, things might not work out for them. Maybe Purim's fiancee was already dead. Maybe Keith's memory wouldn't return. Their lives would go on. Him... he couldn't afford to have anything go wrong.
They cautiously made their way over the remains of the trap-doorway and ventured into the castle. There was a damp, dusty smell that hung in the air that made them want to retch. Light was offered by occasional torches on the walls, the flickering flames making dancing shadows of the three of them.
"How big is this castle?" Purim wondered aloud.
"I can't feel any draft, so it's either bloody huge, or we found the only entrance," Keith informed them.
"How would you know?" she muttered silently.
Keith heard her easily and glared at her. "Eight years of living underground says that I'm right, Princess!"
"What does it matter?" Randi interrupted. "We'll get to the end when we get to the end. Now how about shutting up just in case someone in this castle doesn't know we're here yet?"
"Not likely with Princess's shrieking," Keith growled, returning his attention to the passageway that led forwards. "Now this passageway looks too empty..."
Randi had to agree. Elinee had already demonstrated that she had some magical illusions to her credit. What else did she have? He could feel his neck hairs beginning to prickle. If something didn't happen soon, the suspense was going to kill him.
Then something did happen. The ceiling on either side of them suddenly fell down, boxing them in. A rumble could be felt through the floor.
"We've been trapped!" Keith shouted, looking around quickly.
"The walls are closing in!" Purim shrieked.
They were. Whether by some hidden machinery or magic, the walls were closing in towards each other. Unless something happened soon they would nothing more than pancakes.
Randi laughed to himself as he saw what the trap was doing. Elinee hadn't been planning on him coming along, had she? His sword was already leveled at the walls. Gritted his teeth, he sent the blade of the Mana Sword cleaving through the stone walls. Four cuts, and a square of rock had been cut out. Randi kicked at it, but it refused to budge.
"The wall's thicker than your sword!" Keith realized.
"Do something!" Purim yelled frantically.
"Try cutting through the floor!" the sprite ordered.
Randi nodded. Risky, but they weren't in a position to be picky at the moment. "Brace yourselves," he yelled, slashing downwards with his sword. The stone beneath his feet parted easily. Four long cuts, and a huge square had been cut around them.
For a brief instant, nothing happened. Then the entire floor caved in underneath them, letting them fall down into the darkness. The ground arrived much sooner than expected, only Keith managing to retain his footing.
"Nice going, Randi," he called out cheerfully.
"Ouch!" Purim complained, gingerly rubbing her hip in the dark. "Where are we now?"
"One floor down, dummy," Keith informed her. "Let's get going. Maybe this is the dungeon area or something."
"Maybe Dyluck's here!"
"Maybe he's already dead," the sprite muttered.
"Hmph. What do you know?"
"Can you think of one good reason for the witch to keep him alive?"
"Maybe good help is hard to find for a witch," Randi offered lamely.
"Maybe she's hard up for a man," Keith suggested.
"Be quiet, both of you!" Purim ordered. Although Randi couldn't see her, the sound of her voice was beginning to head away from them.
A bump, followed by a muffled complaint informed him that she could see just as well as he could.
Keith snickered, obviously able to see what had happened. "If you can't see down here, your highness, maybe you should let someone else lead the way!"
"Then start leading, freak!"
"Be quiet and let me get my bearing... okay, follow me."
"Not too fast," Randi cautioned. "Purim and I can't see as well as you can. But there might be some monsters who can."
"Let ‘em try something! I'll carve their guts out before they know it!"
As they slowly advanced, Randi's hand tightened around his sword. He could barely make out anything in the darkness, and he knew that his eyes would have adjusted by now. Would the witch know what they'd done to escape the trap? Maybe she'd figure them dead now.
"Hey, check it out!" Keith whispered in surprise. "Soldiers!"
"Where?" Purim demanded, nocking an arrow on her bow.
"Soldiers, stupid," Keith retorted. "They're probably from Pandora or something. Over here."
After some bumping into the walls, they were able to follow Keith's voice to where some figures were laying on the ground.
"They're alive," Keith informed them. "I can't see any chains on them."
"Then why are they still here?" Randi asked curiously. Surely they would try to escape? "I dunno." Keith lightly slapped the face of one of the soldiers a few. "Hey, wake up, buddy. No sleeping on the job."
Purim meanwhile, was looking them all over carefully. Randi realized that she was looking for Dyluck among the group. "He's not here! Dyluck's gone!" she wailed in horror.
"What's goin' on, buddy?!" Keith demanded of one soldier who seemed to be stirring slightly.
He got no reply, even when the soldier was fully awake.
"He's zonked right out or somethin'," was Keith's professional opinion.
"Just like everyone in Pandora!" Purim exclaimed angrily. "Dyluck must be prisoner somewhere!"
Randi recalled Dyluck's words to him. Witches weren't very strong, but they were tricky. Elinee wasn't strong enough to fight these soldiers, but she hadn't even needed to. She had probably just made them wander around long enough to starve them into weakness. Then she had moved in to capture them.
"Hmm... L'dy Pur..."
"This guy's still got half a mind of his own!" Keith noted. "Hey, where's Elinee?"
"Where... is... Dyluck?" Purim spelled out slowly.
"With... witch...top... floor..."
She stood up angrily. "I knew he was alive! I'll rescue him yet! Let's go!"
"There's some stairs over there," Keith observed. "Top floor it is, I guess."
A growling noise from the stairwell let them know that something else had heard them.
"You really need to learn to keep your trap shut," Keith muttered.
"Kill them all!" Purim yelled, letting fly with an arrow towards the beast's silhouette. It struck dead center in the creature's chest, the monster dropping to the ground, no longer a threat.
"Lead the way, amazon!" the sprite invited sarcastically.
The invitation was unnecessary, as Purim was already making a bee-line for the stairs at high speed.
Randi shook his head. She was getting her second wind, it seemed. "Suit yourself, Keith, but I'm going to stay behind her for now."
"Yeah, me too!"
The next five minutes were a blur for Randi. All he remembered clearly was a mad charge through the castle, going up stairs whenever they presented themselves, and Purim always in front, pausing only to fire an arrow through anything that threatened. For their part, Randi and Keith brought up the rear, and tried to keep up with her.
Finally they arrived at a pair of huge oak doors, with no stairs in sight. They had clearly arrived at the top floor. Several slices from Randi's sword let him kick the doors off their hinges and allowed the three to storm through with weapons at the ready.
They were on the roof of the castle now, standing at one end of it.
"Elinee!" Purim shouted angrily, seeing two figures at the other end of the roof. She saw the second one. "Dyluck!"
"Allow me to send you to Thanatos!" a silky voice declared. Lightning began to fill the sky, occasionally thundering so loudly they could feel the rocks shake under their feet.
Randi exploded into a run to reach the witch. Purim simply drew another arrow and began to aim it at the witch. A figure tackled her from the side. She fell to the ground, trying to fight the attacker off.
"Not yet, you don't, Princess! You can kill her after me and Randi finish with her!"
"Freak! How dare you!"
"You can kill her later on!" Keith snarled, holding Purim in an armlock. Purim squirmed and twisted to no avail. To Randi, he yelled "Take her alive, Randi! We need her magic!"
Randi knew that of course, thankful that Keith had stopped Purim from possibly killing the only person who could get him into the Underground Palace. He was almost to the witch now. Just a few more steps and he'd have her helpless. He saw her gesture up in the air.
The air suddenly exploded around him, making his eyes see stars. He staggered, trying to get his bearing. Of all the sneaky tricks to play...
"DYLUCK!!!" Purim screamed in terror.
His vision returning, Randi looked at the spot where Dyluck had been standing. It was vacant. Where had he gone?
"And now for you," Elinee said, turning to face them.
"What have you done with Dyluck?" Purim screamed, bodily throwing Keith aside. She recovered her bow and prepared to let fly with another arrow.
"Kill her and he might never come back!" Keith shouted. He himself had no idea what had happened, but if it kept her from killing the witch, so much the better.
Randi leveled his sword at Elinee, bracing himself for whatever trick she might try. What else could she do? Make a person disappear, obviously. He didn't feel like being next.
Elinee gazed at her indifferently. Contrary to what he'd thought of witches, Elinee was by no means a shrunken hag. Clothed in flowing green robes, a stone-carved face frame by night-black hair, she was strangely beautiful. She stood straight and tall as she faced them down. "You're no ordinary fools if you've gotten this far."
"Where's Dyluck!" Purim demanded, keeping the arrow pointed at the witch. Nevertheless, Keith's words seemed to weigh in her mind, whether or not they were true.
"Him?" Elinee shrugged. "He doesn't seem to respond to my mind control like the other soldiers, but Thanatos wanted him, so I sent him there."
"The head of a secret organization that intends to crush Pandora. It is only matter of time now before his troops storm the undefended city and trample both it and the people into the dust."
"How could you?!" Purim protested in horror.
"I can do anything I want, dearie. Now if you'd be kind enough to feed yourself to my little Spiky..."
As she said that, Keith's nose picked up a faint odor of something unpleasant behind them. Whirling around, he saw something that made him gulp. The others saw him turn and followed suit.
"Eep!" Purim squeaked. "What is that?"
"That's Spiky, idiot!" Keith muttered sarcastically. "You think a witch keeps a frickin' hamster for a pet?"
‘Spiky' didn't seem to qualify as a pet. Unless you wanted to consider him a cat. A thirty foot long cat with three foot fangs that looked more than willing to eat them for its next meal.
Spiky growled and began to advance on them.
"Bah. Just another monster," Keith snorted, making ready to throw one of his knives.
"Just another monster," Purim muttered in agreement, aiming and firing an arrow towards it. The arrow stuck itself into the cat's thick hide, but did nothing but annoy it.
Keith wound up and hurled one of his metal rings towards the creature. The cat crouched down low, letting the ring pass overhead harmlessly.
"Forget this," Randi said. "You guys distract it while I get in close."
That strange calmness was beginning to come over him again. Just like the incident back in Dwarf Village. The sword was beginning to exert some influence on him, he knew. Randi advanced forwards, knowing that the other two were doing likewise, splitting up to the side to try and create a distraction. Without even turning, he knew that the witch was doing nothing, no doubt just hoping that the cat would make short work of them. She might be in for a surprise.
The cat gave a rough yowl and sprang directly at Randi, massive claws aiming to disembowel him in one stroke. An arrow struck it from the right side at the same time a knife impacted from the left. The cat didn't even notice the weapons, so intent was it on attacking.
Randi dove forwards, rolling underneath the animal and recovering fast enough to slice the end of the cat's tail off. The cat twitched in pain, but immediately wheeled around to attack again, this time approaching slower.
A twang sounded to Randi's right as an arrow spend through the air. This time it landed right in the creature's eye. Randi winced out of reflex. Messy, but effective. Whether Purim owed the shot to luck or her own anger, it was a good one. The cat gave a high-pitched scream and rushed the three of them again.
Randi darted forwards to meet it, springing to the side to avoid its weight, while presenting his sword in its path. He saw the edge of his weapon bite into the shoulder of the cat. An instant later, he felt a massive impact from the side. Before he realized it, he was tumbling across the stone roof in a heap, a searing ache in his shoulder.
"Randi!" Purim and Keith chorused in horror.
Randi staggered to his feet, realizing that while he had hit the cat, the cat had also hit him. He had better be more careful next time. A hit like that should have taken his shoulder right out of joint. At least the cat was wounded too.
"I'm fine. Be careful!" He didn't want to imagine what would happen if the cat hit one of the other two like that.
"I'll bleed that thing dry!" Keith snarled angrily, flitting forwards with deadly intent.
The cat lunged at him, crashing down on the ground so hard that they could feel the vibrations fifteen feet away. The cat looked around expectantly, unable to see the sprite. Then it had a knife ripped through its belly from below. And another. And another. It howled, jumping away quickly to reveal the sprite smiling evilly.
"Try all you like," Elinee sang sweetly. "Spiky is tougher than he looks. He doesn't need to see you, and you've done nothing but scratch him."
"You're probably right," Randi agreed. "So let's try something else..."
"What?" Keith demanded.
"Guys, I don't care what you have to do, but hold that cat off for as long as possible."
"Um... okay," the sprite agreed in a skeptical tone of voice. "No problem, eh?"
"Easy for you to say," Purim objected.
"Pretend that getting Dyluck back and your memory back depend on it."
Without another glance, Randi sprinted straight towards the witch.
"DIE!!!" Purim and Keith chorused, letting loose with and volley of arrows, knives and razor-edged throwing rings.
Spiky never had a chance this time. It tried to charge, but after a knife landed in its other eye, two arrows had crippled its right shoulder, a metal ring had hamstrung one of its hind legs, it couldn't even move. It opened its mouth to roar, and as it did so, a third arrow found its way down the beast's throat, effectively dispatching it.
Randi was still running towards the witch with deadly intent. The witch was controlling the cat, so she was the real enemy. Elinee realized what he was doing, and threw out her arms towards him. Bright light flashed, but this time Randi closed his eyes to avoid becoming blinded. He opened his eyes, getting his bearings again.
"Fight all you like!" Elinee sneered. "You think you even hurt Spiky? He heals himself, you know. He'll track you to the ends of the earth to kill you..."
True enough, Spiky was beginning to stand up again, his injuries seemingly non-existent. Even his eyes had reappeared. He advanced towards Purim and Keith with deadly intent. The two gulped and began to back up. Purim half-heartedly fired an arrow, but it only glanced off the cat's thick hide.
Elinee laughed at their plight. Randi used that chance to grab her arm and force her to the ground. "Call it off or die, Elinee." He leveled his sword across her neck threateningly.
"But you need something from me, I believe?" she reminded him. "Wasn't that what you said? Spiky, come over here and get rid of this fool!"
Obediently, the cat changed course and zeroed in on Randi. Randi braced himself, realizing that the edge of the roof was behind him. Only one chance...
"Kill him. NOW!!!" Elinee ordered sharply, backing away.
The cat immediately broke into a sprint, rushing Randi at top speed. Its teeth glistened as it screamed with deadly purpose. Ten feet away, it pounced on him, clearly intending to crush him against the ground.
Randi leveled the Mana Sword in front of him, the tip level with his eyes and the flight of the cat. He braced himself. Either this would work or he would die...
He felt only the slightest push backwards as the cat met him head on with claws outstretched. He felt the outstretched claws brush by his ears, pushing his hair back in the process, but missing his skin. Suddenly his entire world went red as a torrent of blood was splashed across him. He ignored it until he could no longer feel any pressure on his sword. He heard three gasps of surprise from around him.
He slowly turned to look over the edge of the roof behind him. Sixty feet below them, two halves of a gruesome carcass lay, identical halves of the cat before it had thrown itself on the Mana Sword. It was no longer a threat, but this fight was far from finished...
He began to advance towards Elinee, who backed off slowly. "I'd stop. You're at the edge of the roof."
"Then why don't you try... this!!!" She threw her arms towards him, possibly intending some sort of spell.
"Randi... watch out!" Keith yelled from behind him.
Randi was already springing to the side, intending to tackle her to the ground before she could do anything else to attack them.
To their surprise, nothing happened. An instant later, Elinee had been thrown to the ground by Randi and the sword laid across her neck a second time.
"Give up?" he demanded. "I need something from you, but you're no good alive if you won't cooperate!"
She looked up at him, eyes looking rather empty. "So what did you need, warrior? I have been forsaken."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Keith demanded, him and Purim approaching cautiously.
"Do you really know nothing about witches? A witch has no power through herself, only through that around her. Thanatos gave me power of my own to use, but he has taken that away now."
"You mean... you don't have magic anymore?" Randi guessed.
"Exactly. So what did you want?"
"To kill you!" Purim retorted, drawing an arrow.
Keith knocked her aside again, putting her in an even tighter armlock. "Kill her later on, Princess!"
Elinee looked carefully at them. "You three had mixed motives for coming here, I see."
"The Underground Palace," Randi said slowly. "I need to get in it. You put that lava seal up. I need it down."
"You need the magic of water," the witch answered easily.
"Bullshit!" Keith retorted, without taking an eye off of Purim and the knife he held to her throat. "You think some water's gonna put that pool out?"
"You have seen the seal? Have you seen the crystal in the middle? Cast the magic of water on that crystal and it will freeze the lava itself. Only a small amount of magic is needed to trigger it. But it must be magic."
"I don't have any magic. You'll have to..." Randi's voice trailed off into silence as he remembered what the witch had just said.
"I no longer have magic."
"See? She's useless to you. Now kill her!" Purim demanded angrily, although she was somewhat of her position and the pressure on her arm the frustrated look on the Keith's face was enough to suggest that he might just increase the pressure even further.
"Is there somewhere else we can get water magic from?" Randi asked, trying to act calmer than he felt.
"The guardian of the Water Palace controls the magic of water, but I also understand that she is tied to the palace. She could never go all the way to Dwarf Village."
Randi knew that she was right. Hadn't Luka said as much before? Maybe she would know something. "Anyone else?"
"In this part of the world, the only other person who uses magic is Thanatos... and yourself." She said the last part almost accusingly.
"I'd settle for understanding it first," he retorted. "What about Thanatos? What do you know about him?"
"He'll be watching out for you now. He is now your enemy. You would be wise to stay away from him. I can only begin to imagine what power he possesses. He had ample power to give to me before. And he was quick to know when I had outlived my usefulness."
"Then my best hope is the Water Palace," Randi decided aloud.
"Then we're going there," Keith agreed, releasing Purim from the hold. "A fat lot of good you turned out to be, Elinee."
"Where's Dyluck? Purim demanded, glaring at Keith briefly, who returned a look of indifference.
"The captain of the soldiers? I sent him to Thanatos. He'll be somewhere around those ruins south of Pandora along with all the other people who lost their minds."
"Can you restore them?" Randi asked.
She laughed bitterly. "I never caused their condition in the first. I was just using Thanatos's power. Pandora is lost unless Thanatos is defeated."
"Forget it," Keith interrupted. "Let's go, Randi. This ain't finished yet."
"No, it's not," Purim agreed, advancing towards Elinee. "You two have what you came for, so now..."
"Kill me if you think you can," Elinee challenged. "But it will not bring back those soldiers or the villagers. And don't think I'm helpless without that magic. I'm still a witch."
"You're on your own, Purim," Randi said sharply. "I'd leave it be. You did what you could, right?"
She glared at him. "I swore Dyluck would die over my dead body, and I meant it! I'll be the one who decides when I can't do anything else! If Dyluck's not here, then I'm going to the ruins to get him back! And as for you..." She advanced on Elinee slowly.
Elinee didn't even flinch. "Attack me at your peril, young girl. I have lived for hundreds of years without Thanatos' magic to aid me."
Randi tried one last time. "She's not the real enemy, Purim. Let it go for now. You heard what she said. Thanatos is the real enemy."
Purim plainly didn't care, but finally relaxed and turned away. "You're not worth it," she muttered. "I have more important things to do."
Randi allowed himself to exhale, only now realizing that he'd been holding his breath. "Let's go then. Elinee, is there a faster way out of this forest?"
"Are you headed to the Water Palace?"
"I am." Randi was fairly certain about Keith, but didn't want to speak for Purim.
"I'll direct you to the secret entrance. It is but a day's walk to the Water Palace."
"Do not mention it. I will ensure that the creatures of this forest do not give you any trouble."
"You can do that?" Keith asked skeptically.
For an answer, Elinee gave a quiet whistle. Almost immediately, a sparrow came to light on her finger. She looked at Purim meaningfully. "All animals in this forest obey me. If you had succeeded in killing me, this creatures of this forest would have torn you apart in revenge."
"Nice incentive to leave you alone, huh?" Keith agreed, not looking particularly perturbed about the threat.
Elinee looked at the sparrow. "Lead them to the secret exit."
The bird fluttered over to them and chirped expectantly.
"There's our guide," Randi agreed, trying to sound more confident than he felt. This seemed like quite a change of heart for the evil witch.
"And warrior..." Elinee said quietly. "Consider yourself fortunate that you win with more grace than your two companions. I might not have been so favorable towards those two ruffians you travel with."