Chapter Three

Chapter Three

A Chapter by C. M. Ortega

CHAPTER THREE

 

THE MOON WAS HIGH in the cloudless sky, illuminating the ground below. It was the perfect night for an escape. Alison finally donned her dark green cloak, strapped her boots and pulled up her hood. She had carefully chosen her outfit to allow her to easily blend into the night. Grabbing her pack, she walked to her door, moving the chair aside and peeking into the hall.

Her pulse picked up as adrenaline coursed through her. Without a sound, she let herself into the hall. Her eyes darted around as her ears strained, but the only sounds to be heard were the sounds of heavy, sleepy breathing.

She tiptoed past her uncle’s bedroom, then past James’ guest room to the stairs. She swallowed hard as she stepped down the first step, then the second. The fifth step creaked and she froze. Her eyes were glued to the top of the stairs, waiting for her uncle to burst out of his room and catch her.

Seconds ticked by into eternity. Jackson didn’t come out.

Alison took a deep breath and continued down. The servants slept at the back of the house, around the kitchen. She would have to be very careful now. She doubted they were as heavy sleepers as her uncle. She hurried through the halls, barely hearing the sound of the light padding of her own feet over the drumming of her heart in her ears. She opened the kitchen door and to her relief everything was quiet.

The moon shone through the window, lighting her way. Setting her pack on the floor, she opened a few cabinets, grabbing things she thought she would need. She took a whole loaf of bread and wrapped it in a cloth. She also grabbed some fruit and some dried meat they had.

Her pack bulged with the added food, but still she shoved more; who knew when she could get more. Now, she had one final stop. She slipped out the kitchen and tiptoed to her uncle’s study. To her surprise, the door was open, but she had a problem. The key! She had completely forgotten it in her haste to get out of the house before she was caught. The key was always to be found on a string around her uncle’s neck.

She mentally chided herself. However she decided to make sure the key was even needed. Setting her pack down, she went to his large oak desk. Her luck ran out here; the desk was indeed locked. She jiggled it roughly but it held fast. She had no idea how to get it open without the key and she was wasting too much time. She needed those papers.

She grabbed a letter-opener that was displayed on Jackson’s desk; it looked like a small double-sided knife. Perfect!  Gripping it, she let herself back into the hallway and back up the stairs. She skipped the fifth step from the top and hurried to her uncle’s room. Before opening the door, she steadied herself with a breath. Thank goodness none of the hinges squeaked.

The room was nearly pitch-black and she was forced to give her eyes time to adjust. Then she saw him, her uncle’s sleeping form in his enormous bed. She palmed the letter-opener and crept forward.

Normally, she wasn’t a violent person; but the thought of waking him up with a knife to his throat sounded appealing for a moment. She’d demand that Jackson call off the arranged marriage. But he would probably have her arrested as soon as he got the chance. Besides, she could never go through with it, violence wasn’t in her nature.

She reached the bed, staring down at his sleeping form. He had a slight snore to his breathing. The tension between her shoulders lessened; his breathing meant he was sleeping deeply. His arm was strewn over his eyes, while the blankets were pulled up to his chin.

She leaned closer, eyeing the simple string he kept his key on. She gently pealed the blankets back and her tongue flicked over her dry lips in concentration. Her breath froze in her lungs as she reached across his form and took the string between her trembling fingers. Very gently, she worked the string until the key peeked out from under his shirt. On the count of three, she tried to slice the string, hoping the sound didn’t wake Jackson; but the letter-opener wasn’t sharp. Gripping the string tighter and praying it would work, she pulled the letter-opener with enough force to jerk free the key.

He snorted slightly, but slept on. She took a slow breath and pulled the key until it was off the string. With a sigh of relief, she palmed the key and the letter-opener and turned quickly to leave. In the process, her foot caught the rug and she was sent flying. The letter-opener skidded across the floor and she fell with an “oof!”.

She clamped her mouth shut and held herself still. When she slowly turned her head, Jackson was sitting up in bed, his eyes darting around the dark room. It took her a second to realize that he couldn’t see her. Her forest green cloak was covering her well, so she remained as still as possible.

He looked around again, finally relaxing and laying back down. She stayed where she was for a whole ten minutes. As soon as his snores filled the air, Alison dared to move. The key had made an imprint in her bandaged hand from how tightly she had held it. Making her way to the door, she made sure to keep low to the ground and with one last glance at her uncle, she slipped into the hallway.

Finally able to breathe freely, she took a deep breath to steady her shaky nerves. That was much too close. The longer she stayed in the house, the more she felt as though she were going to be caught. So, she hurried down the stairs, skipping the fifth and nearly running to her uncle’s office.

She jammed the key into the oak desk and tore open the drawer. Many papers lay inside. She shuffled through a few of them, but she was growing very anxious. So she took all of them, shoving them in her already full pack. She didn’t bother to shut and lock the drawer, when Jackson woke up, he would find her missing. Then he would discover the missing key. She wished she could see his face.

She secured her pack over her shoulder and crept through the halls to the back door. Stepping out into the cool night air, she found that the guards her uncle had set up were all posted in the front, below her window. She smiled at her luck as the moon shone the way to the woods. Tonight was the beginning of a new life for her.

Alison closed the door to the manor and without a backward glance, she stepped into the trees.

 

The canopy of trees blocked most of the moonlight; however, Alison still managed to make her way through the woods. She picked her way over branches and through bushes. Growing accustomed to the dark, her nerves made her move quickly, putting as much distance between the manor and herself as possible. Though her pack was heavy, she didn’t mind because inside she had everything she needed for her new life.

 

₪  ₪  ₪  ₪

 

JET-BLACK EYES CAUGHT A hint of movement through the trees. The creature slinked forward, its dark skin blending perfectly into its surroundings.

Alison, not knowing that she was being watched, let her pack rest on the ground as she leaned against a tree trunk trying to catch her breath.

A second creature joined the first, peering around at the resting girl. “Qwessannsssa badeaaaa essss raaaaaa,” one hissed to the other. Without pausing, the new arrival took off into the trees, a blur of gray and a gentle rustle of leaves.

It easily leapt over logs and skidded past trees, rushing to a strange rock face covered in a thick tangle of moss and vines. It slipped through a well hidden opening and entered a series of caves. With extraordinary eyesight, it navigated through the shadows until it arrived at a large iron gate. The ornate gate stood taller than five men and was quite impressive with carvings of the history of a strange race upon it.

The gate opened at once for the creature and it lost no time rushing into an underground city, searching for its master.

 

₪  ₪  ₪  ₪

 

ALISON FOUGHT OFF SLEEP, she had been traveling for well over an hour with the heavy pack. She pushed herself up from the trunk, forcing herself to keep walking. Her healing fingers circled the strap of her pack and slung it over her shoulder once more. She had only walked a few feet when she caught a blur out of the corner of her eye. She studied the trees, but couldn’t find anything. With a shrug, she shook off the feeling of paranoia and continued through the dark.

Another movement; her head snapped to follow it. Through the dark she could barely make out the forms of the trees and shrubs. Then she swore she saw something. Staring harder, her eyes made out the silhouette of a skinny body and eyes as dark as the night around them, staring back at her. For a moment, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her and then it crept closer and she gasped.

Without another thought, she took off into the trees. A strange hissing sounded from behind her, but she didn’t dare look back. She dodged trees, holding her pack close so it wouldn’t bounce and slow her down as she ran. Her cloak billowed behind her.

What is that? She thought as she ran in fear.

She heard more hissing and finally glanced back, wishing she hadn’t. Her heart leapt into her throat as she spotted, not one, but three creatures chasing her, and gaining. She screamed and dodged to the right, hoping to throw them off her trail. They stayed right with her.

Her foot caught a root hidden by the underbrush, and she stumbled, dropping her bag. Their hisses grew louder and she scrambled up, running for her life.

She knew she needed the bag, but she needed to get away first. Again, she changed direction, diving behind a tree before they could see her. Despite the terrible burning in her lungs, she held her breath; her heart beating wildly in her chest as they ran past, not seeing her. For the second time that night, she thanked her green cloak.

As soon as they were far enough away, she ran the other way, backtracking to find her pack. However, as she spun and looked at the trees, she found that she was helplessly lost. The woods looked completely different in the dark and her mind was so frantic it refused to register where she was. The creatures had more than likely realized they were chasing nothing. If only she could buy herself a moment to think then she could figure out where she was. Before she went any farther, she spotted a tree that she could easily climb and hoisted herself up, wrapping her cloak around her.

Her whole body was quivering from the amount of adrenaline rushing through her system. Suddenly, an unexpected silence settled over the woods and Alison knew they were coming.

Seconds later, a flash of gray passed below the tree. Her eyes widened in fear. It scared her more that she could not see what was chasing her. A few more blurs went by and she desperately began to study her surroundings; she needed to get out of here.

Too soon, they returned to the tree. How do they know where I am? She thought. She silently curled her legs into her chest, making herself smaller against the trunk. They circled back a few times, each time growing closer to the tree as they searched. Finally, one stopped below her tree, lifting its head in a strange up and down motion. After a moment, she realized that it was sniffing the air.

The blood in her veins ran cold as she stared at it. It seemed as if time had slowed down as she watched as it lifted its head more, its pitch black eyes finally taking her in. Its mouth opened in a strange hiss at its discovery. She had to act fast, or be eaten by the creature. So, she did the first thing that came to mind and jumped out of the tree, aiming for the beast. 

She felt its body crumble under hers. Recovering quickly, she ran into the forest before the others could catch her. They were faster than she thought. They found the unconscious creature and shrieked in anger. Alison pushed herself, her muscles burned, but she ran on, not knowing where she was going. She never should have left the manor. She didn’t even know where her bag was. Never had she felt so lost, only driven by the need to survive.

She heard an angry shriek not too far behind her and turned her head. The other two were making their way through the trees, quickly. Her breath was coming in gasps, but she ignored it. They were getting closer; she could hear them right behind her now.

She glanced over her shoulder again, and found that there was only one now. Where is the other one? She wondered. Had she outrun it? She didn’t have too much time to ponder, because the one behind her had a sudden burst of speed and touched her.

A new shot of adrenaline raced through her. She pulled ahead, if only by a few feet. Then the creature that had gone missing suddenly appeared in the trees ahead of her. She screamed and swerved, nearly running into a tree in her haste. Again one fell behind, but the one that had touched her caught up to her easily, but not grabbing her. It almost seemed as if they were toying with her.

The moon broke through the trees ahead; she bolted full speed toward the clearing, registering somewhere in her adrenaline soaked mind that this place looked familiar. The creature hissed behind her, grazing her again. She could feel its warm fingers on her shoulder. Stop! Her mind screamed as it suddenly realized what was ahead. Then her eyes widened in fear, they were approaching a cliff, very quickly. She tried to stop, but the dirt and leaves beneath her did nothing for traction.

Her scream pierced the night as her feet fell out from under her, her injured hands flailing for something to hold onto. The creature behind her slipped too and hissed, spotting the ravine too late. It stumbled over Alison, trying to grab onto her to stop its fall.

Alison’s fingers dug into the dirt, desperately trying to find purchase and stop from going over the edge. Then finally, her hand surrounded a root. She grabbed it for dear life. Her already wounded hand scrapped along the hard root causing her to grit her teeth against the pain. The creature’s fingers gripped her ankle and jerked to a stop. A surge of extraordinary pain shot through her body. She screamed and kicked frantically, breaking the weak hold and sending the creature careening head over heels down into the ravine.

Her heart was racing wildly as she pulled herself over the cliff, using the root. Her waist was dangling over the edge and her muscles bulged with effort as she pulled herself out, coughing up leaves and dirt.

Once she was safe, she dared a glance down the deep ravine. The creature was sprawled over the sharp rocks at the bottom, eerily still in the moonlight. She pushed herself too her knees, her body fatigued from all the running, her adrenaline dwindling. Alison used the tree as a brace to stand and gasped in pain, her leg nearly buckling beneath her. Somehow, she had broken her ankle. She slowly put weight on it, testing, and she buckled.

She hobbled a few feet; if she had to travel at this rate, she would never get far enough from the manor before her uncle noticed that she was missing, and she couldn’t outrun those creatures. They would find her.

Most of the bandages had been torn off during her fall and her cuts reopened. She curled and stretched her fingers, wincing in pain. This escape was not going as planned, at all.

Tears stung her eyes, but she fought them with all the strength she had left. Now was not the time to be overwhelmed, she needed to get herself to safety.

She pushed herself on, hopping mostly on one foot, she headed toward a thick of trees and bushes. Ignoring the sharp pain coming from her hands every time she grabbed a branch, she used the trees for a brace. She figured the other creature wouldn’t find her in the dense mess and she could blend in well enough.

Too soon, she heard a mournful wail that chilled her to the bone. She assumed that the other creature had found the body of its friend in the ravine. She pushed herself onward as quickly as she could manage, which wasn’t very fast.

Again, she underestimated her pursuers. Within minutes, she heard the rustle of leaves underfoot and tried not to whimper. In this state, she stood no chance against them. Her eyes scanned the forest floor, spotting a nice sized branch broken from the tree. She held the branch like a weapon, her eyes darting around. Hissing sounded at her side. She turned, swinging her stick and only managing to get it momentarily tangled in the mass of bushes around her. Nothing was there. More hissing behind her. She swung wildly, but only hit tree branches.

Her throat was dry with fear as she stopped to listen. Soft padding of feet sounded to her left. Before the creature could even hiss, she swung and turned. It ducked just in time, hissing angrily at her.

Her eyes grew wide as she got her first good look at one of the creatures up close. It was slightly shorter than she was. Its skin was almost black. There was a strange hump on its left shoulder and it had an enlarged left arm. Three fingers on each hand, one ear larger than the other, and eyes as black as the night sky completed the most terrifying beast she‘d ever seen. It looked so awkward. She was surprised that it could run so fast.

After her quick perusal, she brandished her weapon again. The creature opened its mouth, revealing tiny sharp teeth and a strange forked tongue. It hissed, its mouth opening wider. Before she could bring her stick down on top of it; the creature spit on her. The strange slime landed on her face, covering her nose and mouth. She dropped the stick, screaming. However, the sound was muffled by the slime that was quickly beginning to harden.

She tried to suck in a breath, but could barely get air. What she sucked in was a strange sulfur smell. Almost instantly, she began to feel lightheaded. Her fingers tried desperately to rip at the hardened substance, but it held fast.

Her lightheadedness caused her to sway on her feet. The creature just watched her. Her eyes felt heavy, but she knew that she couldn’t fall asleep because that monster would eat her.

Nevertheless, she collapsed to her knees, suffocating. Her lungs begged for air and her eyes watered. She crumbled to her hands and knees, steadily losing her strength. The world around her began to bloom with white spots. She clutched her throat, fighting, but the substance won. She fell to the forest floor in a heap, searing white overtaking her and her last ounce of strength. Her eyes closed.

 

The ground under her seemed to be shaking, waking her from her slumber. Her eyes fluttered open and what she saw made her frown in confusion. It was dark, darker than the forest should be. She tried to fight the fog clinging in her mind and remember what had happened to her, but for the life of her, she couldn’t recall. She moved to rub her eyes, only to find that her hands were bound and connected to a rope that also bound her feet. Now she looked around wildly, only to find that she was being carried over a creatures shoulder. Then it hit her; the chase, the ravine, the pain, the weird slime; she remembered everything.

Her heart leapt as she began to struggle. The creature turned its black eyes to her, making strange hissing sounds as its arms tightened around her. She tried to scream, but the slime was still covering her mouth, a portion of it had been removed from her nose so that she could breathe. If it wants to eat me, why did it let me live?

She wasn’t planning on sticking around to find out. She struggled more, flailing her bound legs and sucking in a quick breath of pain because of her ankle.

The creature continued forward and after a few minutes, she could see a light over his shoulder. Her eyes widened as they took in two large iron doors covered in complex golden carvings and in the center shone a crest. She didn’t have very much time to study it, because the gate began to open. Where is it taking me? Her mind screamed. The creature continued to tighten its hold on her, squeezing the life out of her.

She growled and tried to kick it with her good leg; however, as if sensing her weakness, it grabbed her broken ankle. She screamed in pain, no sound making it through the slime covering her mouth. Her captor got what it wanted; she lay limp and stopped struggling.

Now she could see the doors closing her in; a huge log pushed by four creatures, sliding into place to lock it. She was surrounded.

They made their way through another cave then entered a cavern larger than any she’d ever seen. Her captor began to descend a long flight of stairs carved right into the rock face. The stairs lined the cave wall all the way to the bottom.

Alison swung her body in a desperate attempt to see where they were going. What she saw made her question her sanity; glittering lights filled what looked to be houses. It seemed that a whole world resided in the cavern.

Houses that seemed carved from rock were scattered around the cavern, each big enough to house a family of five or six. The cavern went deeper and deeper. It seemed impossible that something so big could exist without being detected.

The creature shifted her to lie more comfortably on its shoulder and grunted. Lanterns were lit between a few houses, casting an eerie light. The “road” they were now walking on was made of packed dirt. As they passed houses, she spotted odd plants; they looked like bushes; however, they were giving off almost a greenish glow.

As she looked around, she noticed that, in fact,  almost every plant was glowing, some brighter than others. Then she realized that the cavern actually had no true source of light, but the glowing gave enough light to see by.

Where am I? She wondered. There were many forms of…people? She looked closer. They weren’t people, but more creatures. They were standing by their houses, as if they had come out to see her.

Alison’s bravery began to dwindle as she noticed that the number of creatures continued to grow. She had to figure out a way to get out of this crazy place.

How can a place like this even exist? She wondered. How could there be creatures here that no one knew about? She figured she was in a mountain of some sort or underground because the pressure around her had changed and her ears ached as though they had popped.

The creature had stopped and was speaking to someone…or something was more like it. Alison tried to bend her body to see what was going on, but her captor merely gripped her tighter. She gasped in pain as it resorted to squeezing her ankle, again.

Then they were on the move. For the second time, tears threatened to fall. She fought them back, knowing that her tears were the only thing she could control at the moment. More creatures gawked at her. Eventually she closed her eyes, trying to shut out everything that was going on around her. This is all a dream. I must have fallen and hit my head, she tried to reason with herself, but the throbbing in her ankle assured her that this was painfully real.

A chill swept through her as she tried not to imagine the things they would do to her. Perhaps they would eat her, or sacrifice her to their deity. Perhaps they would feed her to a bigger monster. Her future looked bleak either way.

The outlandish hissing surrounded her. That must be their language, she realized. Suddenly everything stopped. The creature holding her spoke to another. Alison tried more desperately to look at what was happening, but the creature squeezed her again. She moaned in pain, the sound muffled against her gag.

A voice sharp with authority was heard, causing Alison to pause. Suddenly, her captor dragged her off its shoulder, setting her on the ground. She tried to run the second her feet touched down, but her bad ankle caused her to buckle. The beast picked her up, hissing under its breath at her, facing another creature that was walking toward them.

Alison’s eyes widened as the tall creature stood before her. Its endless black eyes seemed to study her face before reaching up its four-fingered hand and pushed her hair back to get a good look at her face. As if snapped out of a stupor, Alison sucked in a deep breath and screamed into her gag.

The tall one hissed softly, now touching her with its other four-fingered hand. She screamed more, trying to get away. Suddenly its hands were on either side of her head, stilling her. Her eyes bulged in horror as what appeared to be a soft blue light raced down its arms and to its hands, engulfing Alison in warmth. Instantly her eyes grew heavy and closed as she collapsed and drifted into oblivion.

 



© 2013 C. M. Ortega


Author's Note

C. M. Ortega
This story has been PUBLISHED to ebook! Click the links below to read a larger sample or the entire story!

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arranged-c-m-ortega/1117397976?ean=2940148861362

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Arranged-C-M-Ortega-ebook/dp/B00GNQXEDA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384620104&sr=1-1&keywords=arranged+c.m.ortega

I appreciate your support. I hope you enjoy my story!

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Added on November 16, 2013
Last Updated on November 16, 2013
Tags: Fantasy, Adventure, Marriage, Underground, War, Creatures, King, Romance


Author

C. M. Ortega
C. M. Ortega

Provo, UT



About
I am definitely a people person who loves to laugh and create new things. My mind is always running and sometimes my characters take over the writing process, but that's what makes it fun. I'm definit.. more..

Writing
Chapter One Chapter One

A Chapter by C. M. Ortega


Chapter Two Chapter Two

A Chapter by C. M. Ortega





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