Twice Fallen

Twice Fallen

A Chapter by SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
"

Had this been a story, he would have scoffed at the bard's lack of attention to the probability of events. It seemed too far-fetched to be true. Yet this was happening. This was their life.

"

            Lindo was tired, hungry, and cold. The three worst things a hobbit could possibly be. His head burned terribly where he had been struck by what he assumed to be a blackjack hanging from one of his captors’ belts. Bandages had been crudely wrapped about his head while he was unconscious. They'd staunched his bleeding, but they did not allay the vertigo. The withered, dead trees scattered throughout the area swam before his eyes. That and the jolting from every stride of the palomino horse was enough to make Lindo almost glad to have an empty stomach. Almost. He tightened his grip on the horse’s mane, grateful that unlike Folco his hands were uninjured.

To say the horse on which he was forced to ride by one of his captors was uncomfortable was putting it lightly. It felt as though if his legs, much too small to comfortably ride without the support of stirrups, were forced any further apart, his hips would pop out of joint. However, Lindo did not dare turn sidesaddle of his own accord lest he incur the bandits’ ire. The only time he’d spoken had been when the bandits had paused long enough for one to relieve himself behind a scraggly old tree with grey, peeling bark. He’d asked their leader in an embarrassingly timid voice if Folco could have something to use as bandages for his hands to spare the prince the indignity. His friend had been visibly in pain trying to hold the black horse’s mane, alternating between hands and at a few points even relinquishing his hold entirely.

            There was an eerie feel to the air they breathed. The area showed no signs of life. No plants. No animals. Not even insects. Sharp, jagged boulders littered the clearing. The rocky hills rising around them in the distance were  devoid of grass, moss, or anything but other than sharp rocks of  many dark shades of grey and beige . The scattered trees were a grayish-beige color, withered, and dead. Then there were were the unnatural elements that frightened Lindo even more than the lack of life. There were spots of what looked horribly like blood in several places. Once or twice, Lindo thought he’d heard a faint scream in the distance that would curdle the blood if one were too close. The leveled buildings showed there once had been life. It was as though something had torn them all asunder and squashed them as one might smash a spider with a roll of parchment

In fact, the area they were in bore a disturbing resemblance to the dark takes and hushed whispers of the Waste of Dré. Fifteen years ago, when he and the prince had only been small children, this area had been as vivacious and bountiful as the rest of Drémeadow. Then the disaster of unknown origin had happened, leading to insurmountable loss of life, dissension and chaos in Dremeadow’s Council, and a deep loathing and revulsion for the area because of the foul transformation.

It couldn’t be, though. If it were, that would put them within the borders of Drémeadow. The last place he and Folco wanted to be. Surely this was coincidence.

            They had ridden all through the evening and night. Dawn could not have been long ago, for the sun was still low in the sky on the eastern horizon. The bandits’ steeds were shockingly fast, unnaturally fast,  faster than any horses Lindo had seen. Despite that, there was no way they could have ended up in the Waste of Dré, within Drémeadow’s borders, in just twelve hours or so- right? Even if their only stop had been for one of the men to leave evidence of what he had eaten recently? They couldn’t possibly be in the very land from whence they’d fled.

            If they were, and if this was the Waste, then they had a bigger problem than even being kidnapped by brigands. Or, Lindo thought, perhaps not. Horrible though the very air felt, at least he could take comfort in the fact that guards would be loath to patrol this part of Drémeadow. This area was the sort of place hobbits warned both their children and travelers about. This was the sort of place found in one’s darkest nightmares. It had been for fourteen years, ever since he was four, ever since the Great Devastation.

            Another sharp pain of hunger shot through his stomach. Lindo doubled over slightly, pressing his elbows into his stomach in hopes of stemming the pangs. Didn’t these bandits ever eat? How could they go so long without food? They hadn’t even eaten dinner the previous evening!  

He cast a glance at Folco. The prince was slightly pale, and his mouth was set in a grim straight line. Bandages covered his head where one of the ruffians had hit him with a blackjack. Dark blood had seeped through the bandages on his hands, though at least the bleeding from where shards of clay cut him had finally stopped. He looked every bit as miserable and scared as Lindo felt.

The bandits checked their horses, who were showing every sign of tiring out, to a walk. “Can we eat? I’m hungry,” one of them complained.

“Not here. This place gives me the heebies,” another responded. “Why did we go this way? Whose idea was this?”

The leader, a heavyset human with grizzled brown hair, cast a cold glare. “It is the fastest route to Baur. We’ll have good pickings there with the festivals they’ve got going on in less than a fortnight,” he said. “I’m hungry myself. We’re setting up camp here whether or not if anyone else likes it.” He looked pointedly at the one with the self-professed heebies. “Humphrey, Nikos, guard the prisoners.”

The men who bore the hobbits on their horses dismounted, roughly pulling them off and setting them on the ground. “Sit!” one of them barked. Lindo glanced at the fidgeting Folco, unsure of whether to obey the bandits. Indecision was in his friend’s face for a long moment, but  Folco sat when one of them moved to force him down. Lindo followed suit. “Don’t try moving from your spots or we’ll tie your hands AND feet!”

“Best do as they say for now, I think,” Folco whispered. Lindo was about to whisper the question of whether to use their real names when one of the guards nudged him with his foot.  Off in the distance, there was a series of faint, muffled thuds. Around them, some of the bandits were arguing about how long they should tarry over food.  He only hoped the men were planning on sharing with them. Though it was generally unwise to accept food from visibly hostile strangers, especially for Folco, these men were directly in sight. He’d know exactly what they were doing.

He suddenly realized what the rhythmic thuds sounded like. Hoofbeats. At first, Lindo shrugged it off as the horses’ footfalls still reverberating in his head from being the only sound he’d heard all night. But then the clops grew louder and louder. They were coming from behind him. He glanced over his shoulder. “Don’t move,” the tall and malodorous guard behind him drawled.  Lindo obeyed, but cast a sidelong glance at Folco, whose guard was idly toying with his dagger. His friend’s face had blanched white. He was frowning as though angry, but the look in his eyes was more terror than wrath.

One look past Nikos and Humphrey’s comrades immediately explained why. Unnoticed, several hobbits donning earth-colored attire and bearing badges with the telltale red, brown and gold of Drémeadow’s crest had silently emerged from behind the rocks upon the hill directly in front of them.  There was even one with a sheriff’s badge, a hobbit-woman who looked to be in her mid-to-late thirties. Most of the hobbits lingered among the rocks, but the sheriff advanced upon them. It seemed their worst fears had sprung to life right before their very eyes. He wanted to yell some sort of warning or threat, but Lindo couldn’t bring himself to speak.

The hooves, now thunderous, echoed in his head, redoubling the pain where he’d been bludgeoned earlier. Several men on horseback, clad in earth brown and bearing the Drémeadow crest, appeared in sight from the hills, three from the east and three from the west, two from the south and four from the north. They spread out in a circle around the bandits, enclosing them. The bandits, several cursing loudly, discarded their efforts to build a fire and drew their weapons.

“Drop your weapons!” bellowed a scraggly-haired human who looked barely older than he and Folco. 

The bandits laughed. “Mebbe ye should drop yers, little boy, before ye get hurt!” one of their captors called back to the human. “Those dangerous for children to play with, they are!”

The human who’d given the order flushed crimson, knuckles whitening on the hilt of his sword. Another one of the humans, a carrot-haired thirty-something who exuded self-confidence, roared “drop them or we attack!”

In answer, one of the bandits lobbed his dagger at a bald man next to the redhead. His form made Lindo wince; he’d seen seven-year-olds throw with better technique. Granted, those seven-year-olds were hobbits, and humans were woefully uncoordinated, but he’d expect better from full adults. The lethal projectile, predictably, missed by a mile, clattering harmlessly on the  ground.

Chaos erupted. Crossbow bolts rained into the group from the hobbits. One of them narrowly missed Lindo, flying past his ear. The humans drew their own weapons- the instant result was a foray where it was hard to distinguish between bandit and Drémeadow guard- both tended to dress to blend in.  Instinctively, Lindo crouched into a ball, pulling Folco down with him, in hopes they would be left alone or even unnoticed, using the boulder nearest their group as a shield. The sickening thuds of bodies felled by quarrels and swords echoed in his ears. One or two sets of steps faded into the distance. 

He suddenly sensed someone right in front of him. His eyes opened to see a blade pointed right at his throat. Comprehending  what the man intended to do, Lindo’s heart skipped a beat. Every muscle in his body tensed up while his insides plummeted to his toes.

“Don’t!” shouted a female voice. The hobbit sheriff. “Those hobbits haven’t attacked us!” Lindo relaxed only slightly. Even if this lot meant not to kill them, he doubted they would be allowed to walk away unscathed,especially if they were recognized. The instant someone identified Folco, it would all be over. They would be dragged back to the king to meet whatever fate he had in store for them. They would face interrogation at the very least. Even if by some miracle none of the group realized Prince Folco and his closest friend were in their grasp, the Drémeadow guards would want to know who they were and why they were there. Perhaps he and Folco were better off dying with the bandits. At least in that scenario they’d carry vital information to their graves.

“Those hobbits were with those ruffians!” protested the brown-faced human. The sheriff fixed him with a beady stare. He rolled his eyes, but then said in a polite voice, “yes madam. D’you wish us to question them, then?”

Lindo’s jaw dropped. Some of these humans must be quite daft for him to ask such a thing. From the incredulous look on the sheriff’s face, it was clear to Lindo she shared his opinion. “Well, wouldn’t that be the obvious thing to do?” she said very slowly as though speaking to an imbecile. “We do need to know who they are, where they came from and why the company of brigands. You know, the basics.”

Lindo shuddered inwardly. Those were the last things he wanted this group, or anyone working for the Drémeadow monarchy for that matter, to know.  He wanted nothing more than to make a break for it, but even as he considered the possibility the dozen humans and four hobbits of Drémeadow closed in around them. The sheriff stepped forward. Rooted to the spot, Lindo weighed his chances. He and Folco were unarmed whereas the Drémeadow guards were armed to the teeth.  Even if they did the suicidal move of trying to break through the ring trapping them, or even to make a grab for weapons, they were outnumbered enough that their enemies would not even need weapons to stop them. It was clear they meant to take them alive. The only chance he saw was to try to talk their way out of this. Glancing at Folco, he saw the taller hobbit bore a look of forced calm.

 The sheriff stopped a foot away from the frightened pair. “Were you two willingly with them?”  she snapped, her blue eyes moving to their bandaged heads and Folco’s hands. They shook their heads no. Murmurs rose around them. Some seemed to believe them, but he overheard one whisper that they did not look like they were the bandits’ prisoners because they weren’t tied up. In the same brisk tone, she next asked “what are your names?”

 “Er…” Folco began to say, but Lindo quickly cut across him with “I’m Linus Buncy. This is my cousin Freddy.” He straightened, staring the sheriff straight in the eye without blinking.

“Freddy and Linus Buncy, is it?” echoed a pointy-bearded human. Lindo concentrated on maintaining a straight face, feigning a lack of concern . He had to keep attention on himself, away from his friend. If anyone recognized Folco… “Brothers, you said?" No. He hadn't. They were trying to trick him into contradicting himself.  "And where are you two from,Freddy and Linus Buncy?”

Lindo airily replied, “Drémeadow.” Being truthful about that would not be quite so fatal. Most hobbits were from there. Rheeding had a sizeable population too, although humans were the vast majority, but around the rest of the continent there were so few in other countries that they did not register in the race percentage approximations except in the category of other. “And we’re cousins,” he hastily added, stressing the word cousin like one indignant about the man getting it wrong would,  lest he be caught in the trap of contradicting himself. 

“Where in Drémeadow?”

“Hardscrabble.” That truth was a bit dangerous. It would call the royal family to mind. However, if pressed for details about where they lived, Lindo could only explain his own area accurately. He’d only been more than half a day’s walk from his home a few times in his life, all involving either their upper school’s archery team or Folco bringing him someplace Besides, it was the most populated region.

“Papers, if you will,” said a sandy-haired hobbit in a bored voice.

Folco stared blankly. “Papers?” he blurted out.

Lindo added, “what papers? What are you talking about?”

Menacing sneers appeared on several faces. The sheriff responded matter-of-factly, “your identification papers. You know, those scrolls His Majesty gave everyone a fortnight ago to prove they belong here. Those papers you are required by the king’s law to carry.” Lindo’s palms felt sweaty. He had a sudden urge to vomit. Fortunately, he had nothing in his stomach to upchuck. He lightly bit the inside of his cheek.

So,” said the bald human, a grin broadening in his face, “you don’t have your identification papers, eh? That’s one law we know you’ve broken already. It’s Freddy and Linus Bunce, right?”

“Buncy,” said Lindo at once.

“Are you aware you’re required to carry them at all times?” asked a hobbit whose face curiously resembled that of a rat. Rat-Face, Lindo decided.

“Ye- no.

“No?” the sheriff exclaimed incredulously. “The town criers have only been saying it for two weeks now.” She folded her arms, staring beadily.

Lindo searched frantically for a viable tale to tell this group. “No, ma’am. I’m sorry. We aren’t. Well, actually we are now, considering you told us half a minute ago, but we’ve been away from Drémeadow.” Folco stirred slightly behind him. Calm down, Lindo silently reproached his friend. I’ve got this… let me handle it, I’ve got an idea.

The sandy-haired hobbit said “oh, really? That’s unusual for those of our kind who are not part of the Foxtrot’s court or serving Their Royal Highnesses. How long were you away?”

“Two months.” That seemed a reasonable length of time. The  true length of time- one month- might arouse suspicion or even incriminate them outright. Two months sufficed to explain their obliviousness about the papers.

"Two months?” echoed Pointy-Beard.

“Yes. Two months. We've relatives in Rheeding.” It was getting harder to keep his voice even. Lindo could not help noticing that the hobbits were looking at Folco more than was normal. One of them, a fellow with particularly large ears, was scrutinizing him from top to bottom, as was a hobbit with spectacles. “So yes, we’ve been away a while. We were visiting them.”

The red-haired human snapped his fingers. “I’m going to check something, I’ll be right back,” he said. Lindo’s head followed him as he walked over to a palomino horse and rummaged through the saddlebag. Extricating a thick book, he began to flip through the pages.

“So where were you for two months?” asked the sheriff, all business again.

“Rheeding,” replied Lindo. “Visiting our grandparents.”

The bald human raised an eyebrow. “Really, now? Tell me about Rheeding then. What part were you in? I used to go all over Rheeding when I was younger, even the halfling parts. so probably been where you were too.

Lindo frowned slightly, trying to remember what he had read or heard about the place. He did not want to give inaccurate information. It would blow their cover.

“Well… it’s got a lot more humans and a lot less hobbits than Drémeadow,” Folco said matter-of-factly. Lindo exhaled quietly. Of course. Folco had been down there with his family numerous times, most often to pay a visit to Rheeding’s King Leonardus and the other Seiferts. He’d even confided in Lindo about his indignation at some of  Rheeding’s nobility talking down to him and his family as though they were five-year-old children. 

“Oh, he DOES talk!” interjected a dark-skinned human sneeringly. “Was beginning to wonder whether you were missing your tongue, little one.”

Unfazed, Folco continued.  “Most of their hobbits live close to the border with us, especially those with relatives here.” He launched into an explanation of a town he’d apparently been in at some point, naming several inns, an armor shop, a weaver he liked, and several other features. “We even passed by this one university near it since we’re almost that age, Hamilton University. We went to a few of the places the students like going. McLain’s Pub, the Brown Bear… I heard that place has delectable ale… but of course we’re too young to drink, alas, I suppose we’ll find out when we’re twenty. We had the venison they serve there, anyhow. Quite good.  Need me to tell you anything else about that area?” Lindo wished he could clap a hand on Folco’s back for his brilliance. Hamilton was where his sister Xenia had went.

“Well. That one certainly has been to Rheeding. That part of their story checks out,” the dark-skinned human said, satisfied.

The sheriff shrugged. “So, tell me, how did you two end up here?”

“Navigational error, I suppose?” Lindo suggested with a shrug of his shoulders. “I’d thought we were going north though, not sure how we ended up in this wasteland… and then we ran into those bandits… is this the Waste of Dré, then?”

“It is,” said the Sherriff. “Which way were you thinking was north?” Lindo pointed what he knew as northeast, slightly closer to the east than north. “Well, that certainly explains how you got north, didn’t you know the sun rises in the east? See, you practically pointed at the sunrise! No wonder you got lost.”

Lindo gave as embarrassed a chuckle as he could muster. “Well, sense of direction has never been either of our strong suits, it’s enough of an accomplishment we didn’t end up in Averda or something,” he said, laughing nervously.

The ginger-haired human rejoined the group and whispered something to the sheriff. She frowned. He then repeated whatever he had just told her to some of the others. The sheriff fell back, whispering with the hobbits.

So,” Rat-Face said in a low, ominous voice. Lindo’s heart dropped. He did not like the sound of Rat-Face’s tone at all. “We seem to have a bit of a problem, Linus and Freddy Buncy.

Lindo gulped. “A problem?”

The redhaired human stepped forth and  began to circle around the hobbits like a hawk stalking its prey, hands folded behind his back. “Yes. A problem. You see, we don’t seem to have a record of a Freddy Buncy or a Linus Buncy in Hardscrabbles. In fact, I did not see any Freddy or Linus Buncy records anywhere in Drémeadow, nor were there any Buncys anywhere near your age.” Lindo felt lightheaded with fright. “That means you lied to us. Do you always lie to Drémeadow guards, Linus and Freddy Buncy? Including a sheriff?”

Folco stammered, “ No… I mean ye- I mean no!”

“What else have you lied about?” shouted the scraggly-haired human in Lindo’s face. He recoiled, treading on Folco’s foot.

“Nothing!” he said after a hasty whispered apology to his friend. “Was just scared is all!”

Rat-Face laughed harshly. “That means you’re hiding something. One who has nothing to hide knows he has nothing to fear from us.”

“What're your real names?” asked the hobbit with the outsize ears. Neither spoke. His hazel eyes narrowed. The one with spectacles whispered something into his ear, glancing at the terrified pair.

So,” said the human with the pointy beard. “You lied about your names, we know that much. Are you even cousins? Or merely two friends pretending to be cousins?” Lindo, drawing on all his willpower, maintained a stubbornly neutral face. “Were you really visiting family in Rheeding?

“Um…”

The red-haired human, still walking a slow circle around them, began to close the distance between Lindo and Folco. The adolescents shrank together, petrified. “We know you’ve broken Drémeadow law not carrying identification papers. That alone makes you lawbreakers. We know you’ve lied to us. That makes you liars. Therefore you’re lawbreakers and liars.” He paused to glare at Lindo, stooping down to get closer. Lindo could feel hot breath on his face. “You know who else doesn't have identity papers?”

“People not from here?” suggested Folco.

The redhead’s glare moved to him. “Them, yes. AND!" he yelled in their faces. Lindo recoiled. "Traitors to the Crown. Specifically, the sort of traitors who side with their queen’s murderer. Over their king. Over Drémeadow. Are you two traitors to the Crown, then? Because I’m beginning to think you are.”

“No! We’re not in league with murderers!” said Lindo.

The sheriff stroked her chin thoughtfully. “So when we have your real names, we won’t see them on our traitor list? What are your real names? The more you cooperate, the better off you'll be. If you don't cooperate, however..." She let her voice trail off. 

            Without warning, the spectacled hobbit seized hold of Folco by the coat collar, dragging him roughly away from Lindo.  “OI!” Folco bellowed, thrashing around furiously and pulling at the iron grip. A flailing elbow missed dislodging his captor's spectacles by a hairsbreadth. “Get your hands off me at once!”

            “Hold his arms!” the hobbit said, repositioning his eyewear. “I want to check something.” Two humans seized Folco's wrists, jerking his arms at an awkward angle. His face contorted. Lindo started forward, but a third human grabbed a large handful of his overlarge coat.

The spectacled hobbit moved behind Folco. He seized  the back of his collar and wrenched back his shirt, peering inside at the material. “What do you think you’re doing!” Folco shouted through clenched teeth. “Get your…!” Suddenly, he was cut off by a squeal of triumph.

“I KNEW IT!” the hobbit with glasses shouted in joy.  A gleeful smile had spread across his face. "Oh, we'll be getting that reward money for this! I can build another fireplace!"

Lindo's heart skipped a beat. It couldn't be...

The sheriff, nonplussed, said “knew what?”

The hobbit shook Folco roughly. “This one looks very, very much like Prince Folco, does he not?” Lindo’s breath caught in his throat. “His clothes are certainly expensive enough material to be something a Foxtrot would wear. Even if they are torn and dirty. And too big for him.” He gave a look of scorn down at Folco’s attire, battered by the refugees’ long journey in the wilderness. “He looks the same age as the traitor Foxtrot. Same hair, same eyes, same gangly body. And,” he wrenched Folco’s collar back further, displaying the Foxtrot family emblem sewn into the clothing for all to see, “the Foxtrots have this sewn into all their clothes.” He let go, shoving  a coughing Folco forward a step. The prince stumbled within the loose grip of his captors but managed to stay his balance.

It was over. They were done for. Lindo glanced wildly about, hoping for a gap through which they could make a break for it. No such luck. Meanwhile, Folco had stopped thrashing; he'd frozen with shock and horror. His mouth dropped open in a silent scream. The front of his neck where his shirt had dug into his throat was red. 

The bald human stepped in front of Folco, a derisive sneer on his face. “Well, well. Isn’t this our lucky day? We have a prince in our midst! His Royal Highness, the prince of traitors! He's going to make us rich!”  He gave an exaggerated bow. As he mocked Folco, the group tightened the circle. The jeering laughs from the enclosure reverberated through the eerily still air. Folco stood stock-still, eyes averted and ears red. Lindo cringed, not wanting to know how his friend must be feeling about this situation.

“The greatest traitor of them all,” chimed in the hobbit with the big ears. “So YOUR name is?” he spat at Lindo, who tightened his fists. They wouldn't get anything out of him so easily as that.

Smirking, the brown-skinned one stooped next to Lindo, whose rejoinder was an impertinent stare. “You know,” he said softly, his breath hot on the young hobbit’s neck, “we cannot guarantee your family’s well-being if you do not give us your name…” Lindo’s heart skipped a beat. He was unsure of what to say or do. He’d already been caught in a lie once. “Besides,” the human continued mockingly, “it should be easy enough to figure out… you cling to your betters like a leech… you'll only make things worse for them if you force us to find out from someone other than yourself…”

Lindo’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Odious though it was to admit it, that human was right. It would not be hard for anyone to learn who he was. It was no secret he was close friends with Prince Folco.  If he were taken before the king, he’d be identified at once. “Lindo,” he said grudgingly. “Lindo Rivers.”

The human gave a contemptuous snigger. “Good to know that a prince, even a traitor prince, doesn't keep complete duffers for friends. Shall we arrange a nice little family reunion for His Highness, then?”

The taciturn, scraggly-haired human finally spoke. “Our orders are that this one,” he grabbed Folco by the hair, dislodging the crude bandage covering where a bandit’s blackjack struck him, “gets taken to Jarmir.” These baleful words showed Lindo exactly why it was said that the quiet ones around who people ought to be the most cautious. However, why were those their orders? Why wasn’t the king doing whatever he wanted to do to his son himself? Why was he delegating prosecution of the prince to an advisor?

            Suddenly, Folco gave a loud yell, kicking the shin of the man pulling his hair with all of his might. “Seize them!” someone shouted. Before Lindo could take even a single step, a violent force struck him in the lower back, knocking the breath out of him and dropping him to his knees. Someone pushed their hands against his shoulderblades, forcing him to the ground. A cloud of dirt flew up. The dust scratched against the inside of his nose and throat. As Lindo gagged on the irritant, someone shoved his face into the dirt. Large, rough hands seized his wrists, wrenching his arms behind his back as tightly as possible. Lindo bit back a yelp as he felt ice-cold metal touch the bare skin of his wrists, then another as the biting chill of the shackles clamped shut as tightly as his captor could force them. Something rustled in his ear as whoever had flattened and cuffed him resumed his feet.  Lindo  attempted to roll onto his side, earning a foot in his back that pinned him facedown to the ground.

Nearby, Lindo could hear sickening thuds and muffled cries. “No, I SHAN’T” Folco protested, punctuated by a yet another blow and an “OOF!” There were several more successive thuds, groans, and finally the metallic click of shackles. His own hands were beginning to hurt something fierce from the tightness of the cuffs, but Lindo was more worried for his friend. Suddenly, someone hauled Lindo to his feet. Three humans and two hobbits knelt over what he assumed was Folco. Presently, they stood, the scraggly-haired human jerking his prey around to face Lindo.

Folco was sporting a bloody nose and split lip. Blood issued from his mouth. One of his eyes was already beginning to swell. There were red knuckle marks on his face Lindo could tell would later become iridescent bruises. The young hobbit looked slightly unsteady on his feet, unsurprising given that from the look and sound of things they'd beaten him into submission. Despite this, the prince managed to say “Drémeadow law says prisoners are supposed to be treated with respect. Not manhandled." He nodded towards Lindo. “By the way, hands looking all purple like that means the cuffs are too tight. I advise you to loosen them enough to not cut off his circulation.” 

His slurred words were met with laughter. “You have no authority here!” crowed the hobbit who'd uncovered Folco’s identity. “We don’t take orders from traitors! Even if they are technically royalty!”

“Well,” said Folco, “when last I checked, it was in our laws to respect the basic rights of citizens- even when citizens are accused of having committed crimes.”

“Laws can be changed,” scoffed one of the humans, “You of all people ought to know that. Besides, traitors to the Crown don’t generally have rights, you worthless rat.”

            “Well,” replied Folco pensively, “that’s… interesting. So according to our laws as of now, foreign ruffians have more rights than Drémeadow citizens, do they?”

            The gingerhaired human turned red. “Shut the insolent vermin up!” he said. “And get them onto horses!”

            Lindo gagged as rough cloth was forced into his mouth and tied behind his head. Just a few feet away, Folco received the same treatment. Lindo cringed; that rag was filthy. Even as blood began seeping through Folco’s gag- it looked as though he’d had at least one tooth knocked out- someone picked Lindo up and slammed him onto a horse. Another did the same with Folco.

            The human with the hair the precise color of a carrot loomed into his view. He cast a cold stare between the helpless halflings and sneered, very pleased with himself. “Dear me,” he said sardonically. “I nearly forgot one key element of protocol… I suppose I ought to remember it given His Royal Highness felt it necessary to lecture me on adherence to what he thinks it is.” As he mentioned Folco, the human pressed down hard on his head right where the bandage was. The young hobbit attempted- and failed- to suppress a wince. The human chuckled mockingly before continuing, “Folco Foxtrot and Lindo Rivers, you are under arrest for treason, sedition, trespassing, obstruction of justice and espionage, just to name a few. And I haven’t forgotten about your attempts to resist arrest either. Fear not, Your Highness, I shall ensure word gets to Jarmir about that as well. And,” a malevolent grin indeed crossed his face, “you both are considered accessories to the murder of Her Majesty the Queen. Dear me, Her Majesty’s own son…”


 He could not believe they'd escaped the horrific events at the Pre-New Years Banquet and found temporary safety at the home of the Cancalian king's brother only to run into trouble with a bunch of thugs. He could not believe that all the places of the world, they had to bring them to the Waste, and that guards from their homeland just happened to be in the area.  Had this been a story, he would have scoffed at the bard's lack of attention to the probability of events. It seemed too far-fetched to be true. Yet this was actually happening. This was their life.


           Terror overwhelmed Lindo at the enormity of the situation. They were being taken to Hardscrabble where they likely faced trial for treason. Worse, the person they were being brought to was not even Folco’s father, but his rather eerie advisor Jarmir Esteel. It sounded as though King Hrothgar refused to have anything to do with his youngest son. Not even when it came to prosecuting a supposed crime. Not even when that crime was the murder of his own wife. Not even after accusing his youngest son of being an accessory. 

          How were they going to get out of this one?

                      

 

 



© 2015 SpeedyHobbit Armstrong


Author's Note

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
I am hoping I have found a better balance between description, dialogue, and action. Also, please let me know if you see other areas for improvement. Like all aspiring authors, I wish to fill in as many holes and rectify as many snafus as I can before seeking publication. As I like saying, withhold nothing, for publishers certainly won't!

Also, I'm currently transferring some chapters, including marking placeholders on some where I intend to insert a new one between two others

My Review

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Featured Review

so this was a lot of fun. I loved this whole scene. I seriously thought that they might get away with it at first. Then, slowly, it got worse an worse. This scene was really well done. You through down the gauntlet in this chapter and dared me to not finish the story.
I would possibly consider swapping the last paragraph with the second to last one. possibly.
My other notes are here: https://diigo.com/02cyfg

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago



Aww, thanks so much! Yeahhhh, they're definitely in a bit of a situation now. Lindo th.. read more
jjwilbourne

6 Years Ago

In the alpha readers group, there is a thread in the forum called 'and interesting article on critiq.. read more
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Awesome sauce! This shall be useful. Also, your suggestions have been applied and I reworded a few o.. read more



Reviews

Good job with this one! Great job with the scene, very riveting. Well done!

Posted 6 Years Ago


Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Another good chapter.
I mentioned in a previous review, capital letter after the quote mark at the beginning of dialog needs checking.
Well done.

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Got it, sir! Yes, they're in deep s**t indeed xD
Brilliant story. Nicely written.

Kaze~ :-)

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Thanks! [=
Lildeadcupcake

6 Years Ago

Your very welcome. :-)
so this was a lot of fun. I loved this whole scene. I seriously thought that they might get away with it at first. Then, slowly, it got worse an worse. This scene was really well done. You through down the gauntlet in this chapter and dared me to not finish the story.
I would possibly consider swapping the last paragraph with the second to last one. possibly.
My other notes are here: https://diigo.com/02cyfg

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago



Aww, thanks so much! Yeahhhh, they're definitely in a bit of a situation now. Lindo th.. read more
jjwilbourne

6 Years Ago

In the alpha readers group, there is a thread in the forum called 'and interesting article on critiq.. read more
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Awesome sauce! This shall be useful. Also, your suggestions have been applied and I reworded a few o.. read more
This definitely has a better balance than the last chapter I read, although I believe this one appears chronologically beforehand? Some of the descriptions, especially at the beginning of the chapter, are still very weighty, but on the whole there is a better mix of dialogue, description, and action. On the dialogue point, make sure that your characters all sound like themselves. For any character named or given a title or otherwise described for future reference (red-haired man, rat-faced halfling, etc), make sure you have a little something so you remember who they are, how they talk, and what motivates them. For named characters, you could even go so far as to write down their history prior to the action of your book, like their entire childhood, as a way to know more about them yourself.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

It's possible, I'm notorious for sending RRs out of order, just because I never sent them when I fir.. read more
I find it hard review this type of story. It's not one that I've any knowledge about. I've never been a fan of fantasy like this, too old I guess.
I will say I thought it well written. I could follow the plot and your descriptions are well presented.
Sorry I can't be more constructive.
Clive.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

That's okay! Thanks for taking the time to read and review! [=
I really like the balance between description, dialogue, and action you have created here. I really need to work on that myself;) Folco and Lindo are sure having a tough time....

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Yeahhhh, definitely a "gahhhh, we are so screwed" moment here! Not one of the easier times in their .. read more
Wow! They're in a real fix for sure. It will be interesting to see how the get out of it.

There were a few typos and errors here and there. A re-read will probably catch them.

Hmm... the Waste of Dre sounds an awful lot like Mordor. ; )

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Good call, I'll definitely have to edit it in, the price on Folco's head! Perhaps gleeful comments a.. read more
This comment has been deleted by the poster.
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Whee, did some revision where I caught at least some of those typos and repeated words! I made sure .. read more
Master! You are a master storyteller!
Simply wonderful and I love it!
lissalovesyou:)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Awhh, you overpraise me much hun!
Love it!!! You are doing a great job.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

6 Years Ago

Thanks for reading and reviewing, hope you like the future chapters!

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Added on November 19, 2013
Last Updated on January 12, 2015
Tags: friend, friendship, prince, capture, kidnapping, missing, fear, fantasy, fiction, afraid, scared, teenagers, friends, bad, bandits, trouble, exile, outcast, traitor, foreign, travel, arrest, prison


Author

SpeedyHobbit Armstrong
SpeedyHobbit Armstrong

Long Island, NY



About
My name is Cher Armstrong, also known as Speedy Hobbit. I'm a USATF athlete in racewalking for the Raleigh Walkers club team. I just graduated from Queens College in Queens borough in New York Ci.. more..

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