Selene and I jogged for two uneventful days. She asked more questions about my past, and this time I answered most of them. We would run throughout the day and stop to rest at night, though neither of us really needed to. I never slept, but I was content to watch Selene rest each night, happy that she was cared for.
At the start of the third day, Selene turned to me and said, "The weather is getting a lot warmer, and the clouds are starting to disappear. Our environment is about to change." I looked up at the sky and saw that her words were true. Turning to Selene, I asked, "What does that mean for us?" Shrugging, she responded, "Nothing really. Just happy that something is changing. We should be coming across a very hot and dry area soon."
I nodded my head and asked, "What does that mean for you? I know that you don't need to eat or drink, but will the heat be a problem for you?" Selene smiled and answered, "I appreciate your concern. To answer your question, I will feel the heat, and it may make me tired. But I won't die from it unless it is an extreme exception." Happy with what I had just heard, I nodded my head in understanding, and the two of us took off running.
It wasn't long before what Selene had said came to fruition. The farther we walked, the grass under our feet slowly turned into hard sand. Soon we rounded a bend, and I was surprised to see multiple soldiers standing in the middle of our path. One spotted us and quickly called out to the others. In no time at all, the four of them were approaching us.
Next to me, I felt Selene tense up, so I whispered, "No need to fight now. We can't get information if you kill everyone." She only grunted a response, but slowly relaxed.
One soldier called out, "What are you two doing here? State your business." I didn't know what to say in response, so I looked to Selene for help. With a sigh, she said, "My husband and I are traveling mercenaries and are looking for work. Is there anything available in this area that you know of?"
The soldiers stared at Selene for a moment, then began to quietly converse amongst themselves. Eventually, one broke away from the group and stated, "We will take you back to our camp. We are about to go to war and are looking for more soldiers. But first, you must be tested."
Selene and I nodded our heads in understanding and followed two of the soldiers back to their camp. One of them looked us over and asked, "You said that you are traveling mercenaries, but you don't have any weapons. Why is that?" I didn't even bother to answer. Selene was so much better than I was at thinking on the spot. Selene let out a long sigh as if it pained her to talk to this man and responded, "We don't need weapons. We are more than capable with our hands."
Hearing this, both soldiers began to laugh at what Selene said. I turned to Selene to make sure she didn't do anything reckless, but she was already staring at me. Through gnashed teeth, she said, "You owe me for this." I nodded my head in understanding but remained silent, knowing there was nothing I could say at the moment to appease her.
Eventually, the camp came into view, and it just kept going. Tents were lined as far as the eye could see, and everyone was moving around. I was impressed by the sheer volume of the camp and heard one of the soldiers ask, "Impressive, isn't it? Kingdoms think that they can oppose us just because they are far away. Don't get comfortable yet, though. If you don't pass the test, I can't guarantee your safety."
This soldier was starting to infuriate me with his indirect threats. Before I could respond, though, another said, "We will be taking you to the ring now. You will have to wait for the crowd to gather. Then we will begin." I had no idea what he meant, but I figured everything would be explained soon enough. So I remained silent.
We were led throughout the camp, weaving through the maze of tents. Soon enough, we ended up in front of a much larger tent and were roughly shoved inside. I sat on the floor while Selene angrily paced back and forth, saying, "This better be worth it. These people are idiots. Did you hear what the soldier said about kingdoms being far? They are going to travel to fight a different kingdom with these numbers. The terrain will only worsen the farther we go, and those huge numbers will only make that worse. The amount of water an army this big will require is absurd."
I stared at Selene for a moment, then replied, "None of that even crossed my mind. I always viewed you as someone who was ready to fight, but you are incredibly clever to figure that all out in an instant." Selene stopped her pacing, noticeably caught off guard by my sincere compliment. She muttered something under her breath that I couldn't hear and quickly turned away with a slight blush on her cheeks.
Before I could tease her, multiple soldiers entered the room, and one said immediately, "We are ready for you two. You will be fighting two prisoners to the death. If you win, you will be able to join our ranks, but they will win their freedom if they kill you. Now follow."
Looking to Selene, she gave me a happy nod, and it took all I had not to laugh with how quickly her attitude changed. With that, we followed the soldiers to our impending fight.