Chapter 2: Friends

Chapter 2: Friends

A Chapter by Syren Creates

Although the route she chose to go home was certainly the safest one she could have taken, it was also the most time-consuming one she could have chosen.  Between circling around in wide circles and turning in seemingly random directions, only to double back and choose another, it took her all day to reach her destination.  One might have thought that she herself was lost and would have had severe issues finding their way back out. By the time Zerlinda came upon a small cabin, the sun had fallen far below the horizon and the stars scattered the night sky.  The flickering light of fire shone through the cabin windows as she 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 rolled her eyes, pushing the cowl of her cloak away from her face and scoffed at the feeble attempt of sarcasm.

"Sarcasm does not become you, Agmund," she said. "You're not terribly good at it."

"Well were you?"

"Hardly," Zerlinda assured him. "I was simply delayed and forced to take the longest way home for the sake of being cautious."

Agmund snorted. "More like for the sake of being paranoid,' he muttered, to which Zerlinda rolled her eyes again.

"There's a fine line between cautiousness and paranoia." She looked around. "Where's Saya?"

"Starting dinner," Saya answered, walking through the archway that led to the combined kitchen and dining area on Zerlinda’s right.  The heat from the stove had caused several strands of light brown hair to come loose from her messy ponytail and hang down to frame her face. "What delayed you?"

"A messenger claiming that Achan had sent him," Zerlinda replied.

"What does he want?" Agmund groaned, flopping back onto the couch.

"Apparently, my assistance with their orc problem."

"Is the poor fellow still alive?" Saya asked with genuine concern.

"He was when I sent him running back to West Wood."

"What did you tell him?" Agmund asked, perking back up.  The points of his spikey black hair went in every possible direction.

"That West Wood's problems were no longer my concern."

"You know what they say about things coming back to bite you in the a*s...”

"Achan should have thought of that before he declared us traitors with no substantial proof and without..." she stopped herself and shook her head to clear her mind.  There was no need to go into that topic of discussion.

"So ... we're helping the orcs?" Agmund asked, frowning and completely ignoring her unfinished statement. "That could prove to be irritating."

"Yeah, no," Zerlinda guaranteed him, snapping out of her reverie. "It would prove to be disastrous." The mere thoughts of having to work cordially with orcs made her shudder and want to vomit. "I was thinking more along the lines of remaining neutral."

"We're just going to let all of those people die?" Saya exclaimed incredulously.

"They may not die," Zerlinda reasoned. "There's no guarantee of the orcs' victory against the elves."

"There's no guarantee of their defeat against the elves either!" Saya argued, letting out a frustrated sound.

"True, but that's the way war works, Saya. You know this."

Saya just looked at Zerlinda and shook her head. "You know what Zerlinda?  Sometimes I think you have a heart made out of stone."

Her statement caught Zerlinda off guard and she paused, moving her eyes to hold Saya's gaze as she answered, "My heart is not made of stone.  Just the wall around it."

There was a prolonged moment of silence as the two girls stared each other down, blue fighting gray.  Agmund looked between them, a little nervous at the tension building in the room, before clearing his throat.

"You know," he said, eager for a change in topic. "Prince Adalric, he defended us.  Maybe we could help him out?  Offer him sanctuary?"

For moment, Zerlinda made no notice of his comment and continued to stare at Saya before both of them looked away.  She nodded her head as she considered the validity of his suggestion, and then shook it slightly as she scoffed and a humorless smile overcame her lips.

         "It's amazing isn't it?" She said. "There are hundreds of elves in Treewood alone, but only one in all of West Wood saw fit to defend us." She pushed herself off the wall that she had been leaning against and walked towards the door, flicking her cowl back over her head.

"Where are you going?" Saya asked.

"To break into the castle."

c  d

The surrounding night air was still and quiet. Treewood, or the Forest City as it was occasionally called since it was the only major city in the middle of a forest, stood before Zerlinda with flickering lights illuminating many windows.  She crept slowly through the buildings, being careful not to make a sound as she moved closer to the white castle that occupied the majority of the clearing it was built in.  The white stone walls of Castle Taure seemed to reflect the moonlight, creating a glow of some sorts around it.

Zerlinda stood, staring at the castle as she contemplated on how to get in.  She knew that she wouldn't be able to climb up to Prince Adalric's balcony or anything romantic like that.  Primarily because he didn't have a balcony for her to climb up to and he usually kept his windows shut.  Grimacing, she accepted the fact that her best chance would be to walk through the castle to Adalric's room.  It was an idea that she wasn't particularly fond of, as things could go fatally wrong if somebody recognized her before she got to Adalric's room.  Fortunately for her, she had changed her appearance a bit since the last time anyone in Treewood had seen her.  Most likely, she wouldn't be recognized and she had seen the messenger sleeping under the trees a while back, so he hadn't been able to tell anyone about anything that had happened yet.

Taking a deep breath to prepare herself for the task ahead, she walked briskly to the stone wall that surrounded the castle and gripped the stone as she began to pull herself up the wall and carefully step onto the branch of a nearby tree in the castle's garden while keeping an eye out for any guards.  Especially on a particularly close one who was leaning against the wall, sleeping.  They might not recognize her, but she wasn't going to show herself until she absolutely needed to on the off chance that one of them did recognize her.  That, and the fact that if they caught her climbing over the wall to get into the castle then she would have a hard time talking herself out of trouble.  After all, if she were allowed to be there, why would she feel the need to climb the wall as opposed to walking through the front door?

She dropped from the tree, down into the bushes, but before she could make another move the dozing guard's light snoring came to a startled stop as he woke up.  Fearing that she had made too much noise, she looked up, but the guard didn't make any sounds to tell her that he had somehow sensed her so she relaxed and started to move, using the shadows of the plants to conceal herself as she stepped onto the stone path.  Her naturally heightened senses were on alert as she approached the building and, looking up, saw one of the windows on the third floor was open.  It was a floor below where she needed to be, but it would have to do since it was the only window that was open and not lit. She didn’t get to be picky.

Two guards stood on either side of the double doors that led from the garden to inside the castle.  Zerlinda spared them a quick glance as she started to climb, taking care to avoid windows when possible and extra care when she couldn't avoid lit ones.  She moved slowly, making sure that her fingers and toes were as secure as possible before moving on.  Eventually, she reached the targeted window and silently climbed in before observing the room.  Despite the lack of light, Zerlinda could tell that the walls were purple, along with nearly everything else in the room that wasn't wood or lace.  Purple rugs covered the wooden floors and white lace hemmed every single piece of embroidered fabric in the room.  There was a rather large crib surrounded by a purple canopy and in it slept a baby whom Zerlinda judged to be at least a year old.  Being careful not to wake the baby up, Zerlinda tiptoed away from the windowsill and to the pearly white double doors.  She crouched down and peeked underneath the doors.  The feet of the two guards standing on either side were as visible as their yawns were audible.

For a moment, Zerlinda thought it was odd that the girl's doors weren't thicker as was custom for royalty to prevent the guards and staff from eavesdropping.  She was clearly royal �" if the large room and elaborate furnishing was any indication �" but then she remembered that Achan had little respect for females and probably thought it unnecessary for the girl to have privacy in her own room.  Even if the girl was his daughter.  Zerlinda rolled her eyes, remembering how she had to make Achan believe that she didn't have too much power when she worked for him and how much harder she had to work for her position despite the fact that she could beat him into a pulp with minimal effort.

"Lets go," one of the guards said in a rough, tired voice. "Those two lazy idiots won't come if they're not told to."

Personally, Zerlinda agreed with his statement whole-heartedly, and not entirely because she needed them to go away so that she could sneak out of the room.  In her experience, guards were never too fond of actually guarding anything, especially late at night or really early in the morning.  They always 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 at least a month would have agreed to the suggestion in a heartbeat.

The first guard scoffed. "It'll be fine.  How much trouble can a sleeping infant get into within a few minutes?"

"She's the princess!"

"So?  She's still a sleeping infant."

The second guard hesitated before replying, "Fine then.  You go and I'll stay here."

"Are you crazy?  Without the two of use, they'll pummel me into mincemeat!"

Groaning, the second guard reluctantly agreed and finally gave in.  Zerlinda watched through the crack below the doors as the two pairs of feet walked off. Under any other circumstances, she would have been appalled at the novice way they had upheld their duty as guards, but reasoned with herself that �" given her situation �" she couldn’t really complain.

Once the sound of their footsteps had disappeared, Zerlinda slipped out of the nursery and quietly closed the door behind her.  She pushed her cowl back and unwove her hair from its braid, fluffing it around her face.  She marveled at the difference a few changes could do.  Before she was banished, her hair rarely dropped past her chin and she kept her cowl up the majority of the time.  Since then, however, she had grown it out so that it now reached the middle of the back.  Nonetheless, she was sure that no one would recognize her �" especially as she had made a point of listing all the annoyances that came with having long hair whenever she was asked why she kept her hair so short as it was uncustomary for females.  She was positive that no one would dream that she would ever grow her hair long.  In truth, she liked her hair long, but she'd be lying if she said there hadn't been times when she was tempted to hack it off with one of her daggers.

With an air of confidence, Zerlinda walked down the hallway, passing numerous guards along the way �" none of which even glanced at her twice �" and up a wide, stone staircase as if she belonged there.  Not even the guards at the top and base of the stairs stopped her to question her presence.  The lack of hesitation in her step seemed to tell them that she had a purpose and an important one at that.  It was an ancient trick as old at time itself that still worked like a charm; if you act like you have a reason to be there, then no one will question you.  Either that or they simply didn't care.  Zerlinda was willing to bet it was the former.

As she approached Adalric's doors, though, the guards on either side did stop her, as was protocol before anyone entered the personal chambers of a member of the royal family.  Having expected this, Zerlinda was not deterred and answered their unspoken question without fumbling.

"King Achan sent me to deliver a message of great importance to Prince Adalric." The two guards looked at her, then shared a glance before relenting and allowing her to knock on the door.

"Come in," called a voice from inside, granting her permission to open the door.  The guards stared straight ahead as she turned the brass handle and walked in, allowing the mahogany door to click close behind her.

There was a long moment of silence as Zerlinda's blue eyes watched Adalric intensely.  He was bent over his desk, with a quill scratching away at the piece of parchment in front of him.  She briefly wondered what he was writing.  A report?  A letter?  But then decided that it didn't matter and walked further into the room.  Her soft leather boots made no sound on the clean wooden floor below her.  Adalric kept writing, as if he were ignoring her presence, but Zerlinda knew that he was expecting her to say her fill while he continued doing whatever it was that he was doing.  Of course, he had no reason to even suspect that it was Zerlinda who had walked in.  Tough, she thought.  He was going to have to put that quill down and look at her if he wanted her to speak.

Sighing, Adalric put his quill down and stretched, turning away from his writing with an exasperated look to see who had come.  His expression changed to one of confusion as he saw Zerlinda.  A vague sense of familiarity stirred in him as if he knew her, but couldn't quite place his finger on how, when, or where.  He stood from his chair and stepped closer to her, squinting his eyes as if doing so would help provoke his memory.

"Do I know you?" He asked eventually.

"I hope so," Zerlinda replied. "Of course, it's been a while since we last saw each other �" years in fact �" and I've changed my appearance a bit."

Adalric breathed in sharply as he recognized the voice of the woman standing in front of him.


"Yes," she confirmed in a pleased tone. "Are you surprised to see me?  I know I didn't exactly announce myself, but you know how things are now-a-days."

The prince seemed to be more scared than amused and began to plead with her. "Please understand -- I did everything I could, I --"

A contemptuous laugh left Zerlinda's lips. "Come now, prince," she said, smiling and walking over to lean casually against his mahogany bedpost. "You don't seriously think that, after all these years, I broke into this castle to kill you, do you?  I mean, even if I did, I would've done it with all that time you spent ignoring me as you worked on ... whatever it was you were writing."

"But ... my father, he�"" Adalric sputtered in a mixture of confusion and relief before Zerlinda interrupted him again.

"Your father wrongfully convicted others as traitors besides myself.  And, to be quite honest, if I wanted you dead because of that, you would have been dead long before now.  Especially with my two friends who have had similar experiences with Achan to help me."

Adalric's eyes widened as he put the pieces together. "Agmund and Saya?" he said. "But how-?"

"They found me," she answered simply.

"I tried to tell my father�""

Zerlinda let out an exasperated breath as she slid down the post to sit on the bed.  One booted foot rested on top of the expensive green fabric of the bed while the other dangled off the edge.  Her sapphire blue eyes rolled to fix him with a steely look.

"Seriously, Adalric, shut up about that already.  I can honestly say that if your death was what I wanted for my revenge, you would've been dead the year I was banished.  So put those fears to rest and quit blabbering on about it."

He seemed to relax but his eyes followed her every movement with caution, now suspicious as to what her motives were for being here if not to kill him.  Her posture was nonthreatening but he knew that that could change in a split second.  Stiffly, he sat at the head of his bed.

"Then why are you hear?" he asked.

She shrugged and studied her nails, which were all dirty and uneven. "I came to discuss a proposition with you."

"What kind of proposition?" He asked, narrowing his green eyes slightly.

"One regarding the relatively small matter of the orcs invading Treewood.  You know of this, of course?"

Adalric nodded his head. "Of course I do.  My father sent a messenger into the woods to request your assistance."

"I refused."

He stared at her in shock, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water as he tried to think of something to say.

"Can you blame me?" Zerlinda asked. "But never mind that.  I am not here to explain the reasons behind my decisions.  I am here for you to make a decision."

"A decision?"

"Yes.  A decision.  I am prepared to offer you sanctuary if the orcs should be successful in overtaking Treewood."

"And leave my people behind?" Adalric asked, insulted and shooting up from his spot on the bed. "Become a traitor like --"

"Like whom?" Zerlinda shot back, also jumping up.  Her eyes flashed with anger and narrowed dangerously, daring him to finish his statement. "Saya?  Agmund?  Me?  I refused your father's plea for help because I will not fight for a king who made me and my friends out to be something we're not.  Because the people whom I would have given my life for in a blink of an eye accepted the lie without a shred of proof.  We did nothing but fight, bleed and nearly die for them and this is how they repay us?  We weren't even told what we were charged with and you know as well as I that we were not even given a trial after all those years of faithful service.  And if I did agree to help, for all my trouble, he probably would've had me executed the moment the orcs were gone." She breathed in deeply to calm herself as Adalric said nothing.  He couldn't.  It was true, after all. "In spite of all of this, I realize that you were the only one who defended us and so I am offering you sanctuary.  We will figure out a way to reclaim Treewood for you, of course, but you would be safe.  Feel free to refuse; I won't kill you if you do."

His brow furrowed and he shook his head. "I ... I need some time to think about it."

Zerlinda lifted her shoulders in a shrug. "Go ahead," she said, walking to a window and staring out at the forest.

The moments of silence stretched between them.  Adalric felt a little awkward, having a close friend whom he hadn't seen in years, standing in his bedroom, not knowing what to say.  For him, the silence felt awkward, but Zerlinda seemed unbothered by it and she was.  Silence had never bothered her and she rarely felt the need to fill it with idle chatter.  Adalric was not one of those people and he blurted out the first thing that came to his mind.

"I missed you, Zerlinda.”

         "You shouldn't have," she replied quietly, not turning away from the window.

"But I did.  How could I not?"

Zerlinda rolled her eyes and casted a look over her shoulder at him. “I don’t know.  Why don’t you go ask the villagers?  They seem to have forgotten me just fine.”

Adalric shook his head. “They haven’t forgotten you.”

“Oh, that’s right,” she scoffed sardonically. “I forgot; I’m the horror story parents tell their children to keep them out of the woods so that they won’t get lost.  That’s so much better.”

He walked over to her and brushed some of her hair over her shoulder, exposing the right side of her neck. “Zerlinda…”

“No, Adalric,” she said, shaking her hair back around her neck. “Don’t even think about going there.”

“Why not?” He asked, taking a slight step closer to her.  She took a full step away from him.

“Because you and I both know it would never work.”

“Why are you so sure about that?” He questioned. “How do you know?”

“Because you’re a prince! You’re going to be the King of West Wood soon, Adalric!” Zerlinda exclaimed, glaring at him in frustration.

Anger flared like a wild fire inside him. “So it won’t work because I’m royalty?  Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes!” Zerlinda whispered, fighting to keep from yelling.  The walls and doors of Adalric’s room may be thick, but they weren’t completely sound proof.  Yelling would still be able to be heard by the guards and alert them to trouble happening from within the room. “That is exactly what I am saying.  Thank you for finally understanding that!”

“Well I’m sorry that my high social status intimidates you so much,” he replied sarcastically, also fighting to keep his voice quiet.

         A humorless laugh escaped Zerlinda’s lips. “Oh, stop flattering yourself and start thinking a little harder.  Your father convicted me as a traitor, remember?  I’m not supposed to be here, remember?  He wants me dead, remember?  Do you not see how that might cause a little conflict with your ‘high social status’, as you put it?  Our lives were too different before all of this and they’re definitely too different now.  You know that, Adalric.  It may have been a while, but this isn’t the first time we’ve had this conversation.”

         “The last time we had this conversation, you used the ‘our lives are too different’ line because you weren’t ready,” Adalric argued, not giving up.

         “And I wasn’t.  I still don’t think I am, but that doesn’t matter anymore.  Our circumstances make it impossible for us to be involved romantically without ruining your reputation and my head getting chopped off.   Unless you want to give up the throne, which I know you won’t do because you’re so damn loyal to your people �" as a good leader is.”

         The prince sighed and ran his hand through his hair, knowing that, once again, she had spoken the truth.  But he couldn’t resist stepping closer to her and reaching up to touch her hair for the second time.

         “You’ve grown your hair out,” he observed. “I like it.”

         Zerlinda, however, wasn’t fooled. “Don’t try to flatter me,” she said, leaning away from his hand. “You’re changing the subject.”

         His lips twitched into a smile. “It could work.” His breath washed over her as he spoke.  She involuntarily breathed in his scent and her eyes drifted closed.

         “We’re too different,” she repeated as if to remind herself more than him.

         “Do you think that I care?” Adalric countered, leaning into her.   They were so close to each other.  Even with her eyes closed, Zerlinda could sense the lack of distance between them and felt an urge to tilt her chin up and eliminate what little of it remained.

         Just moments before their lips touched, reality kicked in and Zerlinda’s eyes flew open as she pulled away, taking a step back to regain the distance she had wanted to disappear mere seconds previously between them.  She walked over to another window and opened it.

         “I should go; it’s getting late,” she said, throwing one leg over the windowsill. “I’ll return in two nights to give you time to think.  Have your decision made by then.  If you decide to come with us, you’d better have a few clothes packed and be ready to go.”


         Zerlinda paused, halfway out of the window, looking back at him expectantly as Adalric, suddenly forgetting what he wanted to say, fumbled for words.

         “Where would we go?” He finally asked.

        “The same place that I’ve been for the past eight years.”

         “And it would be just the two of us?”

         “No,” she said, fully climbing out of the window before he could ask her anything else.  She wasn’t lying when she said it was late and that she needed to go �" the sun would be well above the trees by the time she got by to Agmund and Saya at the cabin.  She hoped that they would save her something to eat.

         Above her, Adalric closed his window at the same moment his bedroom door was opened.  She had left just in time.

© 2014 Syren Creates

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I love this! I gotta say, your character Zerlinda is Bad. A*s. Fun to go through her life in this story. I'm going to keep reading this for sure and probably comment on each chapter.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 7 Years Ago

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Added on June 16, 2012
Last Updated on July 2, 2014
Tags: Elves, betrayed, fight, orcs, traitor


Syren Creates
Syren Creates

Rock Hill, SC

Hobbies: 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..


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