Chapter 1A Chapter by Kate P. Lamb
Edited October 3, 2012 start again at journal entry -- add (create) date
An ancient grandfather clock ticked away in the living room of an old oak cabin. Despite the early hour, there seemed to be activity within the structure. Moonlight streamed through the windows, illuminating the antique furniture within. Nestled under the grate of an old stone fireplace,the embers from the previous night's fire still glowed, flaring every so often when a draft whispered through the flue. To one side of the fireplace, an aged desk was nearly hidden beneath sprawling sheets of paper of all shapes and sizes. Maps, outlines, research papers, even photocopies from old books written in an indistinguishable hand overflowed from the desk, stacked haphazardly or stuffed into drawers, and propped up against the sides. There were even individual leaflets of paper littering the floor around it, somehow completing the chaotic scene.
Erika O'Callaghan crept through the cabin, trying to make as little noise as possible. She, her father, and her friend Emily were staying there while on their trip, however, the latter two were still fast asleep, or so she hoped. Slipping silently into her father’s room, she manoeuvred her lithe frame around the various items on the floor, being especially careful not to hit anything. A pick here, a hand-spade there… She shook her head when she stepped over a chisel, wondering what any of it was doing on the floor. Turning, she bent to pick it up, and set it on the counter, only for it to roll off and land with a thud back where it started. Her father snorted in his sleep and rolled over, while Erika stood pressed against the wall with one hand over her mouth. When she was sure that he hadn't really woken, she resumed picking her way through the room until finally, she got to his rucksack. After rummaging for a bit, she found the keys to his truck, and made her way back out of the room, as carefully as when she entered. As the redhead made her way toward the front door, she fumbled the keys and felt them slip from her slender fingers and hit the floor with a loud crash. The sound echoed throughout the room despite its crowded nature, and seemed amplified by the stillness of the hour. Then suddenly, as if to mask her escape, rain began drumming against the roof. Erika scooped up the keys and lifted herself from the grasping crouch in which she'd froze when they'd fallen. She picked her way over to the window and peered through it, trying to make sense of the damp unknown world on the other side of the glass through the sheets of rain. Her fiery hair fell about her shoulders in waves, but was swept back and suddenly disappeared as she pulled the hood of her coat over her head, while a shiver skittered down her spine in anticipation of the cold.
Just as she turned to leave and inches from freedom with her pale hand on the brass doorknob, another hand reached out to catch her shoulder. Startled, Erika started, released the doorknob and whirled around with wide eyes, while somehow maintaining an iron-clad grip on the keys in her hand.
"Where are you off to at three thirty in the morning..?" Asked the amused, if somewhat bewildered voice of her friend, Emily. Erika’s shoulders slumped and her head fell forwards, her hand pressed against her breast as if to calm her fluttering heart.
"Emily... Please, please don't scare me like that." She whispered, raising her head and arching a brow at the other girl. Emily laughed in response, tilting her own head at the redhead inquiringly.
"Seriously, what are you doing up this early?" Erika averted her eyes, and Emily’s own eyes narrowed as her suspicions were confirmed. "Damn it, Erika. Are you serious?" She hissed. Erika smiled sheepishly in reply, batting her eyelashes as if to negate further beratement.
"I couldn't help myself." Her expression seemed to brighten and become dreamy, stretching her arms over her head as if to try to expel some of her excitement. "I have to see the site; I've been waiting for nearly two weeks now! It's not even five miles down the road, I've got to at least a look at it from the car!"
"Give me the keys." Emily said sternly, holding out her hand palm up and pursing her lips to intensify her disapproval. Erika's expression fell and she shook her head, hiding the keychain behind her back and retreated back a step, her back pressing against the door.
"Oh, come on... This is one of the biggest British archaeological finds in years!"
"Yeah, and your dad, would flip if he found out you were even thinking about this."
"What he doesn’t know won't hurt him." Erika replied in a low voice, in order to keep said man from waking. Her mischievous grin was back, and after a silent war between the two young women, Emily rolled her eyes at her friend and sighed in defeat.
"Fine, but if we get caught..." She trailed off, giving Erika a pointed look. They were guests at the dig site by the good graces of Erika's father, and Emily didn't like the idea of sneaking around behind his back.
"I’ll take the heat. Now let's go!" Erika exclaimed, and without wasting another second, began pushing Emily toward the room they shared. "Now get dressed. We need to get there and back before sunrise." Emily swatted Erika's hands away with a flick of her wrist and began dragging her feet on her own accord.
"I'm going, I'm going. You go start the car."
Barely containing herself, Erika slipped out of the cabin and hurried to her father’s pickup. She grimaced at the loud snarl the engine made as she rolled the engine over and praying that the rain was loud enough to cover it up. After a couple minutes, Emily opened the passenger’s side door and got in, pushing back the hood of her rain jacket and shivering.
“Alright let’s go before I change my mind. It’s damn cold out here!” She grumbled, reaching forward to crank the heat up and adjust the vents toward her. Erika nodded and pulled out a map that she knew her father kept in the glove box, and flicked on the dome light. Her fingertip traced the path to the recently uncovered temple, which her dad had conveniently circled it in red. Turning off the light, she stowed the map and slowly backed the truck out of its parking spot, and started heading down the road, needing to slow down every so often because of the rain. She just couldn't take her mind off seeing the temple. She didn't even know why; it was as if every fibre of her being screamed that she needed to.
The rain curtained the windshield it so that Erika could barely make anything out, save for when flashes of lightning forked the sky. She instinctively brought her hand to the
pendant around her neck for protection. A souvenir which she’d gotten when her father took her to
Finally, after what felt like forever, Erika saw the temple silhouetted as another flash of lightning illuminated the sky. Her heart leapt in excitement, and it seemed to take forever for her to ease the trunk into the sodden, muddy parking lot. Nevertheless, she jumped out as soon as the key was out of the ignition, and raced toward the massive stone building, stumbling as her plastic rain jacket got caught up between her legs. Eventually, she got to the tent that had been stretched out over the entrance of the temple, and hurriedly began taking off her wet things, setting them off to the side, before flicking on a flashlight she grabbed from the house, and entering the temple.
A thrill of excitement coursed through her as she stepped into the crumbling ruins, the beam of her flashlight illuminating stone pillars which stood every four feet along the entrance of the temple that led her toward the larger main chamber. A stone altar stood in the centre of the room, and the floor stained with a dark substance that was ominous enough for Erika to skirt around the other side of the dais. There had been tapestries draping the walls, however, the ones that remained were threadbare, their once vibrant colours bleached nearly white from the sun and time. Erika ran her hand along the stone wall closest to her, trying to connect with the feeling she got from the temple while helping her to keep her footing on the uneven floors.
Something didn't look right. Erika frowned, seeing something as lightning cast light through the high arching windows. She quickly trained the beam of her flashlight on what she’d seen, and made her way over to it. She could hear Emily fumbling in the darkness, using her cell phone as a flashlight, as they’d only brought one, somewhere near the entrance. She ignored her friend's attempts to get her attention with the single-mindedness only allocated to those who were intensely focused, and began walking forward, toward what appeared to be a small handle. She was so concentrated on the handle, that she was no longer watching her footing. A piece of the stone floor jutted up from the warping of time and erosion. Erika’s foot caught it, and she fell forward with a sharp yelp of surprise. Instinct told her to reach out and catch herself, and before she knew what had happened, her fingers curled around the handle. With a rumble disguised by the angry storm clouds outside, the red-headed woman fell through a hidden door.
Erika stayed where she was for a moment, groaning to herself. When she'd regained herself, she released the handle and picked up her flashlight. Turning it toward the inky blackness of the chamber she’d discovered, she took a few tentative steps toward it, her lips parted in wonder. She could still hear Emily trying to make her way toward her, calling for her. Cautiously, she closed the door, leaving it open only enough so she could leave later.
This chamber was obviously built after the temple, Erika mused, looking around. It wasn’t nearly as worn as the rest of the temple, though there was barely anything in it. The undecorated walls rose up as high as the temple’s ceiling, which is likely what made it indistinguishable from the rest of the building from the outside. A trio of stone platforms rose up in tiers in front of her, leading to a rostrum in the centre of the room. Erika scaled the steps the platforms created with care, her gaze set on the curious raised altar. She reached out and brushed her fingers over the dust which had accumulated, and then cleaned her hand off on her jeans. Focusing her light on the central platform, she saw that there was a slightly lighter accumulation of dust, set in the outline of something, though Erika couldn’t quite tell what it was. She scanned the rest of the room, and her eyes fell on a set of double doors, fashioned as if they belonged on a mausoleum. She began to make her way over to them, but stopped when she kicked something soft. When she directed the beam of her flashlight toward it, she discovered that what she had kicked was a book.
Erika stuck the flashlight under her arm and crouching down, picked the book up and wiped the dust from its cover. It had no title, but there was a pattern etched into the soft leather cover, and two pieces of leather cording wrapped around the width of the book, keeping it shut with a simple knot. Peering intently at it, she traced the pattern on the front with her fingertips, trying to discern what they meant, if anything at all. Carefully, she sat down on the step, and held the book in her lap. Repositioning the flashlight against her shoulder and tilting her head to hold it there, she gingerly undid the bindings and opened the cover. Curiosity overtook her need to be delicate with it, and she ran her fingers over the thick, aged parchment now exposed to by the glow of her torch. After a quick scan, she saw that it was a journal of some sort. She chewed on her lip in indecision and glanced toward the door before hunkering down and repositioning herself to be more comfortable while she read. Pushing back the soft waves of vibrant red hair that fell about her face at her movement, Her pale fingers lowered to lightly caress the coarse, worn pages as she turned them, wary of tearing them. Her dark green eyes squinted at the handwritten print, trying to make it out. It was not in English. Somehow, though, she could still seem to understand it.
Slowly, Erika’s vision began to blur, and she blinked to return the words into focus. Images began flashing behind her eyes, of men on horses, and of a group of terrified people, running, screaming, crying. Her vision focused on one boy in particular, who ran from the chaos, toward… The temple? She watched him break into the room she was in, and wrench a wicked looking blade from the centre… Haunting shrieks and howls filled her ears, causing her to sway dangerously from the intensity of it. A blinding flash of light erased the room, though Erika could still somehow make out the boy. She gasped, and her heart started racing in her chest. He was looking right at her, and his eyes were blood red. Behind him loomed a great shadow, and she knew it was staring at her too. There were no eyes, but the chill that crawled up her spine left no room for doubt.
"A day like any other, or so it seemed. So it had started. I rode through the vast plains upon Romaro's back to seek out the solace I could find only in solitude. There I had found shade beneath a stray oak to rest with only the blades of grass around me as my blanket and my forearms for a pillow. Perhaps I should've been doing something... more productive. Or, maybe even joining in on the 'celebration' within the village. However, I had never been one for religion. Little had I known, I wouldn't have a choice in the matter, for as I slept the day away I was awoken by a familiar face. One who had, since we were children, began insisting he call me 'brother'..."
Liquid ice hit the slumbering fiery haired boy with a jolt, sending him springing forward in an upright position. His eyes were wide with shock as the frigid water ran down his face, his hair and upper clothing soaked. A less than amused brunette hovered over the younger man with a slightly scolding expression, a now empty canister in his grasp. "Adel, this is no time for sleep," he chastised with a disappointed shake of his head.
Adel attempted, however very poorly, to suppress his howl of rage only for it to come out as an animalistic grunt. "What the hell was that for? Have you ever heard of just coaxing a person awake?"
"I had." The other man admitted. "And I was ignored. Five more minutes, you said. I'm tired, you said. Tell me when the food's cooked, you said." He pointed at Adel as he was getting up on his feet. "Have you no idea what this means to Serene? She wanted to see you there in the crowd. She should be performing the dance any moment now and look where we both are. You sleeping in the dirt like a hog and I trying to rouse you, brother, really."
At the mention of the girl, Adel became suddenly alert. His eyebrows went up and his shoulders straightened. "Serene?" His voice wasn't even close to the angry boom it had been just moments ago. He hadn't really thought of it like that before... He hadn't really considered the possibility that she might actually want him there...
Adel turned, placing steadying hands on the chocolate-coloured steed just a few feet from them. He slung himself on the animal's back, turning his head toward the man next to him. "What are you waiting for then? Let's go, Cyrus."
Cyrus stared at Adel in surprise, a soft smile eventually finding its way on his features. With a nod, he mounted his own horse. "Alright then, I'll lead the way, brother."
Adel arched a brow. "One, I'm not your brother. Just because we were raised by the same guy..."
Cyrus raised both of his own in kind. "The 'guy' who raised us was my father. And just because we aren't blood doesn't mean we aren't brothers." This earned him a sceptical look from the other boy. Clearly, he thought he was touched.
"Two..." He continued despite, "You can't lead if I get there first." Adel shot Cyrus a toothy, challenging grin.
"Are you proposing a race?"
"I don't know. Am I?"
Without another word shared between them the brothers shot forward, toward the small settlement, their nomadic-kin had created over several years. Odd for them to stay in one place for so long, however they had grown fond of the region and had made their home here. Adel suspected the temple of worship in the near distance was for this. A shadow behind them where ever they went. This temple had been built long ago by a native tribe honouring a 'God'. It was a creature that had been born from the earth itself, in the shape of a raven-shaded jackal. Of course, Adel never really paid much attention to the foreign preaching of the tribesmen. Why should he?
His thoughts now shifted back to the landscape him and his horse, Romaro, attempted to conquer, Cyrus shortly behind them. Like hailing thunder, their hooves trampled the earth beneath them as the two beasts raced through the vast plains. The wind stung their eyes and faces, however the coolness welcome in comparison to the beating heat of the sun. The rock and thick seas of gold coloured grasses faded into rows of towering oaks, the horses dogged and swerved to avoid their obstacles. It was quite easy, really. Aside from the boys knowing this land now like the back of their own hands, their horses had quickly adapted to the area just as, if not more, easily.
The vast and brilliantly shaded landscapes soon faded behind then in a blur of color and the two magnificent stallions skidded to a jarring halt, standing side by side. Before them now stood a small cluster of various handmade, leathery huts, no longer the endless row of wood.
Adel was the first of the two to dismount, leaping from the large animal to the ground. His feet hit the hard packed earth circling the encampment with a thump, causing a small cloud of dust to rise. "I win." He declared haughtily, moving his hands to fold over his chest as he lifted his chin high.
Cyrus moved passed him, leading his horse by the reins. He narrowed his eyes at Adel as he passed him, his expression stony even as a small trickle of sweat rolled down the side of his face. "It was a tie." He corrected.
Adel jerked his head toward him and furrowed his brow, his mouth popping agape like a trout in his eagerness to rebuke. Before the words could escape his lips, he noticed a faint glint in the sunlight, just atop the rolling hills in the distance. His brow furrowed as the sparkle repeated in several different places upon the horizon. What the...?
Just then a small brunette girl bolted toward them, her gray eyes alight with joy though the corners of her lips were curled downward in dismay. "You two are late!" She cried, pausing before them. Her small fists clutched the fabric of her pale blue dress and her shoulders tensed. "The dance already started." She turned partially to angle a slender finger in the direction of the crowd hovering within the center of the village.
In the process of tying his horse to part of the circular wooden fence along the edge of their home, Cyrus turned to face the girl. “I'm sorry we're late, sister. I should go to her now." Without another word exchanged between the three of them Cyrus slipped quickly into the crowd, pardoning himself as he bumped his way through the unusually large cascade of bodies.
He half forced his mount's reins into the young girl's hands just before bolting after the older boy. "Tie Romaro up for me, Lana!" He called after disappearing between everyone with the grace of a cat. Lana was left staring after her two brothers with a steadily narrowing gaze. Since as long as she could remember, her adopted brother had always been nipping at Cyrus' heels, trying to be better than him at everything. When would this silly competition finally end? It was all she could do but to sigh.
Crouching slightly as he darted easily through the walls of people, Adel glanced upward toward the tall lithe figure ahead of him, barred from him by both kin and a small assortment of strangers to their remote home, visiting briefly in hopes of witnessing this occasion. "There's no way he's getting there before I am." He mumbled to himself, expertly darting from one side to another, his hand absently shooting forth like the jaws of a cobra so that he might snatch an entire loaf of bread from the makeshift stall of a traveling merchant. Yes, minor theft was still completely second nature to the former street urchin. Of course, that didn't always mean he didn't sometimes get caught red handed.
The seller noticed almost immediately, angling a sharp accusing finger in the direction of Adel's retreating backside. "Thief!" He cried, though his voice was drowned out in all the crowd's shuffling. Adel heard him yelp again but he didn't even bother to look and see if he was being followed, nibbling away at the piece of bread he had popped into his mouth.
Bringing the entire loaf to his lips now Adel bit into the nicely baked grain, tearing away a generous portion to chew away on even as he slowed his steps, bumping shoulders with whoever stood in his way so that he could stand in front for a clear view… In addition, there she was.
She stood upon a soft bed of wide lush green leaves, all of which gave way to bright, ivory-white lilies, held high upon their thick delicate stalks. Her gown was as white and pure as the flowers at her bare heels, swaying as beautifully as gentle ocean waves with each movement of her hips. Her dance was light and patient, her steps delicate and slow. Upon her face she wore a simple wooden mask, panted a pale red, which covered most everything from her forehead to the tip of her nose. Her eyes were closed though she still managed to appear aware of everything and everyone around her.
She was so pretty Adel mused. No, she was more than pretty. She was damn gorgeous. Within and without.
That made the fact that she wasn't his even bitterer. As if by instinct, Adel's eyes found Cyrus in the crowd. He was several feet away, staring at Serene with a look in his eye that forced an ugly pang of resentment to hit him right in the gut. He didn't want to feel this way and he certainly didn't like it, but it wasn't something he could control.
Cyrus was everything Adel wasn't and everything he aspired to be. He also had everything that he could want. He had family and a place he truly belonged. Moreover, he had Serene. He was stronger, smarter, kinder, and Adel always came up short. There was another pang but this one was of more jealousy. He didn't hate Cyrus. It was for from it. Maybe, just maybe, that tiny bit of resentment he did feel toward Cyrus was more directed at his own shortcomings.
As for Serene, he had never made his feelings known to either of them. Better, he love her in secret than become even more aware of the fact that he didn't deserve her. Cyrus was the better man for her, too. And so, he had watched their love blossom gradually through the years, though now as it became more and more serious and obvious it only became that much more difficult for him.
Adel knew that if he had said something to Cyrus early on that his friend wouldn't have pursued a relationship with Serene. But, that would've lead to the two of them suffering in silence rather than just the one. No, all three of them would have suffered. Serene's heart belonged to Cyrus just as much as Cyrus' heart was hers and they deserved to be happy with one another.
Adel's gaze slipped back to Serene as she continued with her dance. Presently she was entangled with a figure dressed in black.
The person beside her wore a mask that ended with the length of her nose just as Serene's did. The ebony accessory was in the shape of what appeared to be a wolf's head with a long, extended snout and tall wide ears in the form of horns at the top of her head. It was an old, well-crafted mask, which was made purely of metal instead of wood. Though the actor was clearly female, she was dressed as a male and wore extended heels to give the impression of being of extraordinary height. The boots she hid carefully beneath dark pants and flowing cloaks that covered nearly her entire body. However, the cloaks were more than just for cover. They were there for the illusion of wings.
Together they danced intimately, their hands reaching for one another but never touching, and though their movements seemed wistful and even a bit sorrowful the figures around them seemed to rejoice.
It was a breath taking performance.
"Take the village." The command was simple and light though it held an authority that left no room for questions.
Nevertheless, Asche Scarlett found himself asking anyway. "But my lord, what real reason do we have to take them?" He looked downward to the specks of people below as he gripped firmly on the reins of his gray stallion. His golden brown eyes watched his liege as he sat on his own darker horse positioned beside him. "They are simple commoners..." He continued.
The armoured head of Prince Camber tilted toward his first in command as the silver glittered in the daylight. There was that shine again.
"Their leader refused to side with our people and their home lies on the border." His voice seemed to echo beneath his helmet, adding unintentional menace to his voice. "And this is war. Casualties are to be expected and I don't want them proving to be spies." He tilted back toward the camp below. "I've given them the opportunity to move their homes but they've refused it, ignored it.
Scarlett felt himself frowning but he didn't speak, his dark red hair whipping at his face. What would he do in Camber's position? He wanted to think that he would look the other way, even though that would be the moral choice, was it a wise one? After all, these people had grouped together with others and attempted to overthrow Camber's father years passed. Now, the man had been murdered in his bed and Camber had been left the thrown with assassins on his own heels.
But something had changed in him over the years, something that had come to surface with the loss of their King. Hardness had shielded his heart and turned it cold. Something that was thought upon poorly in normal men, but as a commander of war and leader of soldiers, he knew could prove useful. So he wouldn't argue further, but merely chew on his lip instead.
Though, they hadn't come all this way just to wipe out a simple village. They were passing through on their way to battle. This was just an unfortunate side trip during a war inspired by vengeance.
He watched as Camber's hand wrapped around the hilt of his weapon. "Murder isn't something I do out of pleasure." He reassured his friend. "But may the gods have mercy on their souls for they will find none from me."
Something was wrong. Adel could feel it in his bones. He glanced around as he disposed of the last of the bread with a guilty hand, figuring that the tingle of warning might just be his rogue's intuition.
Even so, he began pushing his way toward Cyrus. He didn't get far when a spray of warm liquid hit his face and caused him to stop dead in his tracks. It didn't take long for him to realize it was blood.
The body of the stocky bald man in front of him dropped to his feet, an arrow jammed into his feet. Screams began filling the air as the whirl of arrows connected with their targets, causing more people to hit the ground. Everyone started crying out in pure terror, frantically reaching for those familiar to them as they tried to run for cover. Were they were being attacked by bandits? It didn't matter and he didn't bother to think about it, didn't even bother to wipe the blood off his face as he lunged toward Cyrus. Who, he quickly realized, wasn't there any longer.
His head jerked around, his eyes wide as they searched for him. Then he saw him. He was running through the village with Serene held protectively against him, hand in hand.
His entire body jerked as an arrow flew right passed his head and he spun around in the hopes of spotting their attackers. Charging toward them was a small army of foot soldiers, lead by two men on horses.
Adel's heart shot into his throat and his blood ran cold. His feet led him after the crowd of soon to be victims, moving as quickly as if he were being guided by the wind itself.
No, no! He wouldn't let this happen! Was that the truth of it? Were they all just supposed to all to be slaughtered like a bunch of cattle? If there were any such thing as Gods, why would they allow this to happen? All these innocents butchered on their chosen day of worship? If no one else would put a stop to this, he would, somehow. But how could one man possibly stop an army?
As he ran, he felt himself stumble, bodies dropping around him, as his eyes fell on a temple just west of them. A place built in honour of the great jackal god, Abitio. Guardian of the dead and guide to lost souls.
Any other time to think this way would've been insane; he wouldn't have even considered it. But this desperation matched with the unexplainable sensation in his chest let no room for argument. He had to go there. Try to seek him out. If this God really existed, Adel for one wouldn't allow him to stand back while his people's blood pained the earth red.
Erika awoke with her face pressed against the dirty floor, a dull headache beginning to form almost instantly behind her eyes. Every bone in her body ached, as she slowly pushed herself up, only for her to come face to face with a pair of familiar azure eyes. Erika froze, staring at the giant canine uncomprehendingly. The animal stared back at her, studying her. Erika was not sure if she was imagining things or not, but the beast almost seemed amused. She raised a shaking hand toward the canine, which gently bunted her palm with his nose. There was something familiar about this dog, but she couldn’t place it… The memory was shrouded, as if it had been repressed. The dog continued to stare at her, sitting down on his hind legs with patience that seemed absurd for him to have. Slowly, the haze in her mind cleared, and she remembered where she had seen him before" however her epiphany did not help ease her confusion.
“You…” She gasped. Her voice was barely above a whisper. The canine’s tail wagged once and tilted his head slightly to lick her cheek. Erika brought her hand to her face, feeling the wetness. “But you’re not r-” She began to say, only to find herself very much alone, nothing but air in front of her where the dog once stood. She felt her cheek again. The moisture had disappeared like the spectral canine itself. Bewildered, the redhead slowly made her way toward the door she had entered through the night previous. Daylight was streaming through the topmost windows, so she was sure she would have hell to pay when she found her father.
As she opened the door, she was greeted with the heavy smell of smoke, and the dusty scent of broken stone. As she stepped carefully into the room, her foot sank into something soft and she retracted it reflexively with a small gasp. Upon looking down she realised it was no more than a rug. The same one she had tripped over last night, no less.
Erika looked around, then, but what she saw made her eyes widen. This wasn’t possible, it couldn’t be. The building looked centuries younger. Sunlight streamed into the room in thick golden shafts, caught by the dust in the air. In the corner, a tapestry burned, set on fire by a burning candleholder that had been thrown against the wall. There was damage, yes… However, the damage was recent. She could still see scuff marks on the floor.
Slowly, Erika made her way toward one of the windows, and cautiously peered out it. What she beheld caused her to recoil in horror. A little ways away, massive plumes of black smoke rose up from what appeared to be an encampment. There was chaos everywhere as men, women and children all fled in a futile attempt to escape the demons that chased them on horseback, wicked blades glistening with blood in the firelight of the burning air, striking and tearing flesh from bone. As Erika stood rooted to her spot with terror, the blade swung down, catching a small boy in the back, sending him flying into the air with the force of the rider’s momentum"only to land in a crumpled, bleeding heap a few feet away. Screams of terror reached the redhead’s ears on the wind, and the smoke that was carried with it eventually caused her to turn from the grizzly scene, and slide down the wall, coughing and gasping. It took her a few minutes to realize that the wetness on her cheeks were her own tears.
“I think I heard something over this way. One of the villagers could have escaped to hide here.”
Erika froze, not even daring to breathe. Her eyes were wide, and she stared at the doorway with mounting apprehension. As if her body acted on its own accord, she shot back toward the hidden chamber through which she had entered and looked around wildly for a place to hide. She did not notice that she was not alone in the room, until she tripped over something, and heard a groan.
Whipping around, Erika’s eyes fell upon the face of a man a little older than she was, with violently red hair and sun-kissed skin. Hurriedly, she scrambled over to him, and although her instincts were still screaming at her to hide, she leaned over and shook him in an attempt to rouse him.
“Hey, hey wake up. This is no place for a nap, buddy, you’ve got to wake up, you’re in danger here.” She said in a low voice, trying to make it not carry. “Buddy you’ve got to wake up.” Grabbing both shoulders, she shook him vigorously, and then jumped when she felt a hand close around her arm. She looked over to see that it was the man’s, and that he was now staring at her with angry and confused, teal eyes.
“Who the hell are you?” He demanded, in a tongue that Erika did not know. The men she was supposed to be hiding from spoke the same language. She struggled, and after a minute, broke his grip, then put her fingers to her lips in a shushing gesture, which only seemed to anger him, further. “Answer my question!” She saw his other hand clench around a wicked looking blade, curved and fish-hooked so that it looked like a lightning bolt. Erika instantly backed away from him, holding up her hands in surrender. “Are you dumb?” The man asked, and Erika scowled down at him.
“Would you shut up?” She snarled, her eyes flashing. She paused, listening as the footsteps grew louder. Then, suddenly, her stomach turned to ice. What if this man was one of them? Recognition of her words seemed to light in his eyes, and he quieted, listening now as intently as she was. Erika slunk around the other side of the dais and crouched down, pulling the hood of her sweater up to try and better conceal her flaming hair. She glanced warily over at the man, who had now risen slowly, dusted himself off, and held up the wicked blade in front of him as he moved in front the dais, and in front of her. Erika stared. Was he protecting her?
The concealed door finally flew open and a group of about ten men or so flooded into the room, all heavily armoured and all carrying weapons and shields. Erika cowered behind her hiding place, eyes wide as the man with his back to her slid into what was apparently a proper position for swordplay. The men created a semi-circle around him, blocking his exit. Erika shrunk further behind her hiding place. Then, as a single unit, they attacked him.
The man was doing a terrific job at fighting back, as if being outnumbered ten to one were a regular occurrence with him. However, as he spun, one of the armoured men parried his slash, while another brought his blade around; pressing the cool steel against his throat and making the man go instantly immobile. The surrounding men leered, and drew closer, while the men who held him tensed his sword arm. In a moment of clarity, Erika knew what he was about to do, and jumped up, her hood falling back, and screamed “No!” The men faltered, staring in bemusement at the new arrival, giving Erika time to push past them all, give the man who had so far been a help to her a burning, determined look, then pounced on the man holding him, and bit his wrist.
The reaction was instantaneous. The man dropped his sword, and the redheaded man dived out of the way, only to have the heavy, gilded hilt of another of the armoured men’s’ sword ram into his skull, effectively knocking him unconscious. Erika was pulled off her victim by the hair and held up, kicking and screaming bloody murder.
“Get off me you b******s get off of me! Help! Someone! HELP!”
“What do you think lads?”
“Perhaps she could be of use to Lord Camber. She certainly does not dress or act like any of the wenches from the village.”
“Do you think she could be a witch? Oi stop squirming! Ow!”
Erika had managed to get out her pocketknife, and with a surge of adrenaline, had rammed it into the leg of her captor. She staggered away, glaring furiously, brandishing the bloodied one-and-a-half-inch blade threateningly. One of the men dived at her, but she leapt away, and he ended up ricocheting off the dais next to which her aid was slumped. She ran around the far end, and gripped onto his shoulders, whispering in his ear.
“Wake up please wake up help me help me PLEASE!” She screamed the last word as she was dragged back up. The men had had enough of her antics, and proceeded to bind her hands and legs. She was then hoisted over the shoulder of one of the men, the iron of his armour digging ruthlessly into her stomach, his hand gripping her rear in obvious enjoyment. She was carried further away from the redheaded man, screaming and begging someone, anyone, to help her.
© 2012 Kate P. Lamb
Kate P. Lamb
Calgary, AB, Canada
AboutEnjoy reading and spending time with Nature. Studying for my BA as of Fall 2012, then hopefully onto graduate school to become a Naturopathic Doctor. Published poet, working on a fiction novel and ano.. more..
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