Chapter 5 - A Mouse Among Owls

Chapter 5 - A Mouse Among Owls

A Chapter by VassD

Sometimes the cornered animal doesn't fight all that well.


Ania’s hands scrapped against the rough stone. The tips of her fingers were raw and tingling. It was a long way down the side of the east tower from her bedroom. Her knuckles throbbed from where she had split the skin, and her head was aching form the tears that had forced their way out.


A few feet off the ground, Ania pushed off from the side of the wall and landed softly on the dark lawn. The sun had long since set, and the moon was obscured by thick rolling clouds that blew in over the mountains. In the distance, Ania heard a peal of thunder. She could smell rain on the wind.


Wrapping her arms around herself and hugging herself against the cold, Ania started along one of the stone paths that crisscrossed the lawn, not really bothering to pay attention to where exactly it was that she was headed. She stared at the ground without comprehension, letting each individual footstep fall without decision. Her mind refused to claim even that much purpose. She had no purpose " it was as simple as that. She had been stripped of her purpose, and she could feel herself listing, like a weak tree caught in the winds of a storm. With no roots to hold her firm, she was being ripped up and cast down to die, to let every ounce of life, of being, leech out of her. She felt empty.


She felt lost.   


Ania almost tripped as she felt the level of the ground at her feet change. Finally bringing what she saw into focus, she realized that she had left the boundary of her family’s property. She was walking along the forest road, with the trees casting shadows with what little light actually made it through the clouds and the leaves. It was the same road she had ridden this afternoon on her way to and from Karra’s, but it seemed altogether different. The trees no longer held solace and familiar comfort. They stretched out of the night road, like strangers trying to grab at her. She looked away, and continued walking. Strange or not, Ania did know the forest like corridors of her own house. It wasn’t like she could get lost. Not so long as she stayed on the road.


Ania trudge along, letting her mind fall deeper and deeper within herself. What was she supposed to do now? That Knight had been so sure that Ania would come to Magani. Ania had been so sure that she would come to Magani. She had never considered that her mother would try to stop her. She had never considered that her mother would try to come up with something else for her to do. There was nothing else for her to do " at least, nothing that would hold any weight. Ania had six older sisters, and there were only six academies in the capital. Those six schools of thought were the only places a child could be trained. The military, the Arcanium, the Holy Order, the scholars, the Ranks of Diplomacy, and the artisans. There had been six daughters in her family as far back as anyone had cared to count, and it was her family’s tradition to send one daughter to each school once she had turned twelve. Besides that, there was a law that only one member of each family could be admitted into an academy for each generation. The law made some sense " if any one family dominated the army or the political field, it could cause nation-wide instability. However, it left the seventh sibling " Ania " out in the cold. Being a Knight had been her only feasible option. Ania could see how becoming an advisor would be possible, but it was unlikely that she would be able to receive formal training, and so she wouldn’t be able to effectively advise anyone. Which was one more reason why the events of the evening made no sense to her.


Regardless of how much sense it makes, Mama wasn’t joking. I can’t just leave and rip everything apart. But now that I can’t go… What am I supposed to do? Ania looked up at the sky, as if the hidden stars would hold the answers. Mama promised me that I would have angels to guide me. Well, if you’re out there " some guidance would be nice.


“Well, well. Look who wandered in.”


Ania froze, snapping her neck back down to earth to see the world around her. She knew that voice. Oh, not now… Please not now… If anyone up there is listening, please not now…


As much as she tried to deny it, her eyes began picking out the scene in front of her. A group of teenagers, a few years older than herself, stood before her in a semicircle across the road. They were all girls, as she knew they would be. They were the same girls as always. These were the ones who always seemed to find her, even on the darkest, coldest nights. No matter how safe she felt they were always there.


The tallest of the bunch, a girl three or four years older than Ania, stepped forward, her arms draped lazily over a long wooden stave. It looked suspiciously like an unfinished axe haft from the lumber yards north of Avionne. Good, solid oak that would bend metal before starting to splinter. Looking Ania up and down, her beady eyes didn’t fail to notice Ania’s slumped shoulders and empty eyes. “What are you doing outside, mouse? It’s getting dark, and owls live in the woods.” The girl leaned in so close that Ania could feel her breath on her face. “You wouldn’t want to get eaten, now would you?”


“Leave me alone, Sanna,” Ania said. She tried to walk around the older girl, but she found herself walking straight into a leveled axe haft that connected quite solidly with her rib cage.


“Ooh, look at the brave little mouse. Not scared of the owls, are you?” Sanna reached out and grabbed Ania’s necklace. She was wearing black gloved with no fingers, and so in the sparse moonlight, it looked like the invasive grip was coming from the night itself. “You’re not scared of the owls, because you’ve got your little hawks to protect you. Tiny little mouse, hiding behind a bloody hawk.”


Ania heard the rest of the gang surround her, and she started berating herself for letting herself into this situation. She never should have been out in the woods so far from the border. She should have been able to walk away from this before they’d closed the circle. How could that Knight have ever thought she was quick? “I told you, leave me alone!” She tried to push the older girl away from her, but Sanna grabbed Ania’s shoulder and dug her fingers into the tendons until Ania’s arm went numb.


“You see, that’s the problem, mouse,” Sanna sneered. “You told us. You think that just because you ride on the back of a hawk, you can order us around. That you’re better than us.”


Ania felt the circle closing. The pain in her shoulder where Sanna was grabbing her was radiating down her spine and up the back of her head, removing what little power of thought she had previously possessed. Some part of her told her she should probably be trying to diffuse the situation before they got themselves riled up, but she couldn’t make herself focus through the haze and the pain.


“How can you be better than us? Tell me how a bunch of bloodstained cowards be better than anyone?


The fire started at the base of her spine, but the pain pushed against it. Cowards? I’ll show " Aagh!


“And you,” Sanna hissed. “You ride on their coat tails like a cockroach, reveling in all the destruction they leave behind. What kind of monster must you be to make them flock around you? We saw that figure in town today, using black magic to hid from everyone. I couldn’t even look at it without feeling like my eyes would burn out of my skull. And there you were, staring right at it. Talking with it. Like you were one of them. You are one of them.”


A crushing weight settled on Ania’s chest. She felt like she was collapsing in on herself. One of them? I’m not one of them. I can never be one of them. To hear the words she wanted with all her heart to say come out of the mouth of someone who hated her… The pain in her shoulder was nothing compared to the pain in her chest. She began shaking with dry sobs, unable to muster anymore tears, no matter how much she wanted to. All of her tears were at home, slowly drying off the carpets in her room. “I… I’m not… not a…”


“Not what? Not a monster?” Sanna jumped in, shaking the hand clamped onto Ania’s shoulder once for effect. “The Knights have swallowed you whole, and you like it. You thrive on their tricks and lies, and you practice your own black magic to try and keep us from noticing them. You love being around them, and the blood on their hands has smeared all over you. Admit it, mouse. Your hawks are nothing but cowardly, bloodthirsty, murdering"


The pain didn’t stand a chance against the wave of heat that shot up her spine. “Shut up! Don’t you dare say that!” Not really caring that Sanna was older, taller, and stronger, Ania swung her fist at the ring leader, wishing very much that it would connect. Hard.


Her fist never even got close enough to make Sanna flinch before two other girls from the circle jumped in, one twisting her outstretched arm to the point where she thought her elbow would break, the other pinning her deadened left arm up behind her back. The girl twisting Ania’s right arm shifted her grip and locked the second appendage behind Ania’s back next to the left one. One of the girls behind her " she wasn’t sure which " grabbed Ania’s hair, pulling her head back so she stared right at Sanna. The older girl’s eyes had a deadly gleam in them. In the partial moonlight, her brown eyes looked red, and decidedly feral.


The axe haft jabbed into her stomach just below her ribs, driving the breath from her lungs. “Don’t you tell me what to do. You don’t own me, and you don’t control me.”


Staring into Sanna’s eyes, Ania realized that she was scared. Not frightened. Not nervous. She was terrified. Sanna’s going to kill me. She’s going to kill me, and I can’t stop her.


But even as she stood face to face with hatred in its purest form, Ania realized something else. She didn’t want to die. She really, really didn’t want to die. I don’t care if I’m not a Knight. I don’t care that I never will be. I don’t care if they think I’m a monster.  I don’t want to die.


She tried to break the grip of the girls holder her arms, but every move she made sent waves of pain through her shoulders. She was relatively certain that the muscles were being ripped to shreds. I can’t move my arms, so I can’t use my knives. They have my head, and there’s no one directly behind me anyway. What can I use? Careful not to move her head, Ania looked for something " anything " she could use to defend herself. She shifted her weight, and blinked. My feet! They haven’t done anything to trap my legs! Ignoring the pain in her shoulders, Ania did her best to use the grip the girls had on her arms as leverage, kicking out at Sanna. She was close enough that she should connect with Sanna’s chest, and maybe then


The sound the axe haft made when it connected with her shin was a sickening combination of the crack of wood on wood, and the wet sound a foot made when it slapped into a shallow rain puddle. Ania screamed as she felt what had to be her leg splintering like a rotten log. The girls holding her pushed her forward onto her ruined leg, sending a tidal wave of pain that turned her limbs to water.


Sanna knelt down to where she was staring into Ania’s eyes. “Finally,” she whispered. “The mouse is on the ground, in the mud, where it belongs. Where’re your hawks now?”


Tears hot with pain rolled down Ania’s cheeks. She lashed out at Sanna, swinging the arm that was still tingling with numbness, hoping that just once she would connect, but before she got anywhere near her attacker, Sanna brought the axe haft down on Ania’s shoulder. She felt her collarbone snap, bending like a willow switch before cracking right down the center. Ania collapse, her whole body pulsing like one gigantic wounded heart. She could feel her muscles clench and unclench, adding to the rolling throbbing sensation that possessed her entire body. She barely registered the kick that landed, quite squarely, in the small of her back.


She did, however, feel the stomp that came down on her shattered calf. Her vision flashed white, and her whole body seized up. When it loosened enough to start shaking again, she realized that she had screamed. From the way her throat felt, all ragged and tinged with the taste of iron, it had been loud.


She had just barely started to hope that someone had heard her when the next blow came.

© 2013 VassD

Author's Note

This chapter was a bit of a trick because of Sanna's dialogue. I've never written a scene like this, and I wanted to make it genuinely frightening. I was also trying to give a different perception of the Knights than we've seen through Ania's eyes, because they do have a bit of a dark past.

Anyway, I would really appreciate feedback for this. Specifically, I want to know how engaging the story is. I have a lot of plans for this story, and I want it to fly. So, with this in mind:

►What did you like?
►What didn't you like?
►What was your favorite line?
►What do you want to see in the future chapters?

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Added on February 13, 2013
Last Updated on February 13, 2013
Tags: black horizons, draft two, edit, fantasy, knights of the covenant, ania kyatei, randen derris, alliania, vassternichdrauka, vassternich, drauka, novel, chapters



A tiny random town-city-dimension, ID

I'm a fledgling author with dreams about as big as one of Robert Jordan's books. Maybe more than one on top of each other. I love writing fantasy and science fiction stories (No matter how long a piec.. more..

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A Chapter by VassD