Chapter 2: FriendsA Chapter by Zorina
The route she chose was certainly the safest route she could have taken. It would have confused anyone who wasn't familiar with the woods, making it impossible for them to get out of the forest, unless by accident. The route was also the longest she could have taken. Between the circling around in wide circles and choosing seemingly random directions, only to double back and choose another direction, it took her all day. By the time she came upon a cabin, the silver moon was high in the sky and the windows glowed with the flickering light of fire. She opened the door and walked in.
"Finally!" A voice exclaimed from the couch in the sitting area to her left. "Where were you? The other side of the world?"
Zerlinda scoffed and pushed the cowl of her cloak away from her face as the door closed behind her.
"Sarcasm does not become you, Agmund," she said. "You're not terribly good at it."
"Well were you?"
"Hardly, I was delayed and forced to take the longest way home for the sake of being cautious."
"More like forthe sake of being paranoid," he said, to which Zerlinda rolled her eyes.
"Cooking dinner," Saya replied, walking out of the combined kitchen and dinning area to Zerlinda's right. The heat from the stove in the kitchen had caused some strands of Saya's light brown hair to fall down from her now-messy ponytail and the strands framed her face. "What delayed you?"
"A messenger," Zerlinda answered, walking further into the cabin to lean against a wall. "He claimed that King Achan sent him to ask for my assistance with their orc problem."
"Really?" Agmund said, perking up. The points of his spiky black hair pointed in every possible direction. "What did you say?"
"That it was no longer my concern."
"You know what they say about things coming back to bite you in the a*s ..."
"Achan should have thought about that when he declared us traitors with no substantial proof."
"So we're helping the orcs?" Agmund asked, frowning. "That could prove to be irritating."
"Yeah, no," Zerlinda assured him. The thought of working cordially with orcs made her shudder. "I was thinking more along the lines of being neutral."
"We're just going to let all those people die?" Saya asked incredulously.
"There's no guarantee that the orcs will win," Zerlinda said reasonably.
"There's no guarantee that they will lose either!" Saya argued. She shook her head. "Sometimes I think you have a heart of stone, Zerlinda."
"My heart is not made of stone, just the wall around it."
"You know," Agmund said, eager for a change in topic. "The prince, Adalric, he defended us. Maybe we could offer him a sanctuary?"
For a moment, Zerlinda said nothing. She only nodded her head as she considered the validity of his point.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" She said. "Of all the elves in Treewood, only one saw fit to defend us." Then she pushed herself off of the wall and made her way back to the door.
"Where are you going?" Saya asked.
"To break into the castle."
The night air was still and quiet. Treewood, or the Forest City as it's sometimes called due to it being the only major city in the middle of a forest, stood before Zerlinda with flickering lights. She crept slowly and silently through the buildings, moving closer to the stone castle that occupied most of the clearing that it was built in. The white stones that made up Castle Taure seemed to reflect the moonlight, giving it the appearance of an enchanted glow.
Zerlinda knew that she would not be able to climb up to Prince Adalric's balcony or anything romantic like that. Primarily because Prince Adalric didn't have a balcony and typically kept his windows closed. Her best chance would be to go inside the castle. Fortunately for her, she had changed her appearance somewhat since the last time anyone had seen her in Treewood. Chances were, nobody would recognize her. She had passed the messenger who had stopped her earlier as he slept under the trees a while back, so he wouldn't have been able to tell anyone of anything that had happened yet.
She took a deep breath, preparing herself, and walked quietly to the stone wall that surrounded he castle. Gripping the stone, she began to pull herself up the wall. Balancing on the tops, she carefully stepped onto a branch of a nearby tree in the castle's garden, keeping an eye out for any guards. They might not recognize her, but she wasn't going to show herself unless she needed to. That and the fact that they if they caught her climbing over the wall to get into the castle, it wouldn't be good. After all, if she was allowed to be there, she wouldn't need to climb the wall as opposed to walking through the front door.
Using the shadow of the plants to conceal herself, Zerlinda dropped onto the stone path and approached the building. One of the windows on the third floor was open. It was a floor below where she needed to go, but it would have to do since it was the only window open that wasn't lit.
Two guards were standing on either side of the double doors that led from the garden to the inside of the castle. Casting a quick glance at them, she started to climb, taking care to avoid windows when possible and especially cautious when she couldn't avoid lit windows. Eventually, she reached the open unlit window. Zerlinda peeked into the room. The furniture told her that it was a nursery. She assumed it was for a girl considering it was positively drenched in purple. She was careful to be silent as she lifted her feet over the windowsill and pushed her body in after it.
A crib stood against the wall to her left and she walked closer to it, taking a look inside. A baby, with a curly mop of brown hair, slept peacefully. Her skin was fair and the shortness of her hair revealed one of the baby's pointed ears. It was, without a doubt, the king and queen's daughter.
Having given a fair observation to the baby, Zerlinda crossed the room to the pearly white double doors and crouched down, peeking through the crack at the bottom of the doors. The feet of the two guards standing on both sides of the door were as visible as their yawns were audible.
Zerlinda found it odd that the doors weren't thicker like Adalric's were for the purpose of keeping the guards and staff from eavesdropping. All of the royal's walls and doors were irregularly thick for this purpose and this girl, however young, was clearly a royal. Then she remembered that King Achan did not have much respect for women. She, herself, had to make him believe that she did not have too much power when she worked for him, though, if she wanted to, she could beat him into a pulp with very little effort.
"Let's go," one of the guards said in a rough voice. "Those two lazy idiots won't come without being told to."
Personally, Zerlinda had to agree with his statement wholeheartedly. In her experience, guards weren't too fond of actually guarding, especially late at night or in the early morning. They got on their shift as late as they could and turned it over as soon as possible.
"We're not suppose to leave until they get here," the other guard argued. He's obviously new, Zerlinda thought. Any guard who had been working for a month would have agreed to the first guard's suggestion in a heartbeat.
The first guard scoffed.
"It'll be fine. How much trouble could a sleeping baby get into with a few minutes?"
"Fine then, you go and I'll stay here."
"Are you crazy? Without the two of us, they'll pummel me into mincemeat!"
Groaning, the second guard agreed and Zerlinda watched through the crack below the doors as the two pairs of feet walked off.
She waited until the sound of their footsteps had disappeared before slipping out of the nursery and quietly closing the door behind her. She pushed her cowl back and freed her hair from it's bun to lessen her chance of being recognized; before she was banished, Zerlinda's hair only came down to her chin and she had typically kept her cowl up. Now, her hair reached down to the middle of her waist.
With an air of confidence, she walked down the hallway and up the wide, stone staircase as if she belonged there. None of the guards that she passed stopped her to question her presence as there was no hesitation in her step. It was an old and ancient trick that still worked very will. If you act like you have a purpose, then no one will question you.
The guards at Adalric's mahogany double doors, however, did stop her as she approached.
"King Achan sent me to deliver the prince a message," she said purposefully and they allowed her to knock on the door.
"Come in," called a voice from inside. Zerlinda turned the brass knob on one of the doors and walked in, allowing it to click close behind her. She never said a thing, but she stared intensely at Adalric, bent over in his chair in front of his desk.
After several moments of silence, Adalric turned away from his writing to see his visitor. Upon seeing Zerlinda, a vague memory of familiarity stirred in his mind, but he couldn't place it. He stood from his chair and stepped closer to her, squinting his eyes as though doing so would help him remember.
"Do I know you?" He asked eventually.
"You should," Zerlinda said. "You defended me against your father several years back."
There was a sharp intake of breath from Adalric.
"Yes. Are you surprised to see me?"
Fear seemed to fill him.
"Please understand that I did everything I could, I --"
A small laughed escaped Zerlinda's lips, stopping him in mid-sentence.
"Come now, Prince," she said. "You do not seriously think that I have come to kill you?"
"But my father --"
"Your father convicted others as traitors besides myself," she interrupted. "Two to be exact."
Adalric's eyes widened.
"Agmund and Saya? But how --?"
"They found me."
"I tried to tell my father --"
He seemed to relax.
"Then why are you here?"
"Oh ... Just the relatively small matter of the orcs planning to surmount Treewood."
"My father sent a messenger to as for your assistance," said Adalric, nodding his head knowingly.
He stared at her in shock.
"Can you blame me?" Zerlinda asked. "But that's not why I'm here. I am here to offer you safety if the orcs should be successful."
"And leave my people?" Adalric said, insulted. "Become a traitor like --"
"Like who?" Zerlinda shot back. Her eyes flashed with anger and narrowed dangerously. "Saya? Agmund? Me? I declined your father's request for help because I refuse to fight for a king that made me and my friends out to be something we're not. Because the people, whom I would have given my life for, accepted the lie without a shred of proof. We have done nothing but fight, bleed, and nearly die for them and this is how they repay us? We weren't even told how we supposedly "betrayed" them and we certainly weren't given a fair trial."
Adalric could say nothing. It was true, after all.
"But since you were the only one who defended us, I'm here to offer you a sanctuary. Feel free to refuse, of course."
"I ... I need time to think about it."
"Go ahead," Zerlinda replied, walking to the window and looking our at the forest.
"I missed you, Zerlinda," Adalric said after a moment of silence.
"You shouldn't have."
"But I did."
"It would never work and you know it."
"What makes you so sure?" He asked, moving closer to stand behind her.
"You're going to be the King of West Wood soon, Adalric!" Zerlinda exclaimed, turning
around to face him.
Anger flared inside him.
"So it won't work because I'm royalty?" He argued. They were both fighting to keep their voices down.
"Our lives are too different! You know that, Adalric! This isn't the first time we had this argument. I'm supposedly a traitor, remember?"
Adalric sighed, knowing that, once again, she had spoken the truth. He reached up and touched her hair, attempting a different tactic.
"You've grown your hair out," he said. "I like it."
Zerlinda wasn't fooled.
"Don't try to flatter me," she said. "You're changing the subject."
"It could work," he persisted.
"We're too different," Zerlinda repeated
"Do you think that I care?" Adalric countered, leaning in.
Just moments before their lips touched, Zerlinda pulled back and stepped away.
"I should go," she said, opening the window. "I'll be back in two nights. Have your decision ready by then."
Zerlinda paused, halfway out the window, looking back at him expectantly.
"Where would we go?"
"The same place that I've been for the past eight years."
"And it would be the two of us?"
She climbed out of the window before he could say anything else. Above her, Adalric closed his window at the same moment that his door opened.
© 2012 Zorina
AboutHobbies: Dancing (mostly jazz and lyrical, but I also do a ballet techniques class), writing, drawing, painting, reading, singing, doing puzzles, sudoku, word finds, fill ins Movies: Harry Potter, .. more..