Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chapter Seven

  I knew if I didn't ignore my pain that I'd lose, but it just hurt so badly. My hand tightened around the sword hilt and I ducked out of my opponents way, wincing as I tripped and fell on my arm. My opponent laughed. I narrowed my eyes and noticed that he only held his spear with one hand, not both, so it would be fairly easy to knock out of his hands. If only I could get close enough without him shoving it against my arm. But then I saw a hole in his strike.
  When he thrust the spear forward, he left his side open for attack. I rushed forward, blocking his attack and slashed at the weak link in his armor. He let out an angry yell and slammed the butt of his spear into the small of my back. I staggered forward and fell, blindly chopping at him as I did. I hit his leg and he yowled in pain.
  Then I rolled onto my back, hacked at him and kicked him back. His arms windmilling, he dropped over the edge of the cliff. I was just relaxing when he came back up. I sighed and raised my aching arms, trying to stay from falling over the edge myself. My tongue was dry, my heart hammering, and I was extremely tired.
  "Are you ready to give up?" the Galelie panted. I was tempted to give in. To allow him to capture me and sacrifice me. But I could not. I had to save my people.
  "Never." I lunged at him, ignoring the stinging, and jammed my elbow down on the base of his neck. He crumpled to the ground, then pulled my legs out from under me, making me scream in pain when I landed on my arms. "Michael, Peter! Help me," I yelled desperately as I rolled back to my feet and blocked his attempts at incapacitating me.
  I was just beginning to think that I should give up, I should sacrifice myself, when they came bursting through the line of trees and attacked the other Huntsmen of Galelie. Meanwhile, I was losing my battle.
  Then I heard a howl and smiled, looking over my shoulder at the forest. The Huntsman took that as an opportunity to try and charge at me, but I leaped out of the way with a new surge of energy and grinned. Then I threw back my head and howled back to them, a mysterious joy flooding into my heart.
  They pranced in like royalty, surrounding me and nudging me while they whined, whimpered, yipped and panted at me. I laughed and knelt down, petting them behind the ears. The Alpha female came up to me and rubbed her snout on my cheek. I smoothed her soft fur back and she seemed to notice the state of my arm. She whined and licked it, making the pain slowly ebb. I looked down at it in wonder and smiled, rolling my shoulder as the last tendrils wore away. I petted her again and faced my attacker again.
  "Would you like to try this again?" I asked, raising my hands as all the wolves stood.
  "N-no," he stammered before running back into the forest with the rest of his Huntsmen.
  I turned back to the wolves and, as one, we howled.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chapter Six

  We continued to ride for hours, I don't know how long exactly, but it was until my whole arm ached and my stomach roared. When we did stop, Peter and Michael were huffing. "I thought you were never gonna stop," Michael laughed. I smiled at him, but flinched when a branch grazed my injured arms. "That looks bad," he added.
  "We'll rest for a while, then continue on," I said, looking for a place where a fire wouldn't burn the forest down. "Over there." I nodded towards a small clearing, bare except for some dead wood and dying flowers. My arm screamed in pain when I hopped off of King and I squeezed my eyes tight as dizziness swooped over me. When I opened them again, I was relieved to see that the ground stayed still.
  "Ariana, we're going to go hunt down some lunch, you stay here. Okay?" I narrowed my eyes to slits at Michael.
  "You think I can't hunt because I'm a girl?" I challenged him. His eyes widened and he quickly shook his head.
  "No! I mean... It's just that... I just meant that you should stay here because-" he sputtered.
  "It's because you're hurt, Ariana. You have to save your strength if you're even thinking about riding for the rest of the day," Peter explained, shooting a look at the floundering Michael. "Plus, how are we supposed to finish the mission if our leader is worn out from hunting when she should have been regaining her strength?" I felt really stupid for overreacting.
  "Oh," I said lamely. Peter smiled at me and pulled his blanket out of his saddlebag. 
  "Lay down, we'll be right back." He handed me the blanket and started back into the shadows. I did as he had instructed and spread it out, untying my cloak and using it as a cover while I drifted into an uneasy sleep. My arm sent stabs of pain through  me and I woke up before I'd even got a minute's worth of rest. I knew sleep would not come as long as I felt like I did; like I was being watched. Grimacing, I stood and wrapped my hand with the spare rags we had brought. Bushes rustled, to big to be a deer or anything else I could fight off in my weakened state, but too small to be a bear. 
  Alarms went off in my head and I hurried with my swollen arm, then mounted King, strapping the sheath on and tying my robe again. Something moved again and I squeezed my thighs, urging King forward towards the forest. "Peter! Michael!" I called, hoping it was them who answered and not some unseen force. But there was no reply, I had no idea what part of the forest they were in, or how far they had traveled away from camp. I wasn't sure if I was comfortable going out on my own while I was injured and not sure of my friends' location. But if there was something or someone stalking me, I needed to move. Preferably fast.
  King melded with the darkness and the rustling stopped, out jumping a man whose face was covered with red tattoos. He hollered and more men jumped out, all of them carrying swords. They had to be the Huntsmen of Galelie, and they were probably due for a sacrifice. Which just happened to fit the same profile as me. Great.
  I looked behind me and in doing so, missed seeing the branch surge up in front of me and knock me down. They gained some ground before I could catch my breath and start running, but not enough to capture me. At least not without some magic.
  I guess I should have thought about the color of my robes before; wearing white during the season filled with vibrant colors and a silver cloak probably wasn't my best idea. But it was the dress easiest to move in, the lightest one I had. Plus it had a hood too, so I could cover my head even when I could not wear my cloak. But still I knew I could get away from the Huntsmen of Galelie if I could just get out of sight for a few moments. Or, if I could find Peter and Michael we could fight them. It didn't matter; I didn't have time to do either, because I had found my way to a cliff. A steep cliff, with jagged rocks like a cougars teeth at the bottom. There was no way I'd survive the fall or the trip down if I dared to try one or the other. Even I wasn't crazy enough to do that.
  They moved stealthily closer, moving slowly as if not wanting me to get scared enough to jump. I brought out the sword and they shrunk back ever so slightly, then proceeded in coming closer. "Stay back, or you'll die right here, right now, by my hands," I warned, my voice strained from trying to breath around the pain from running, getting smacked by a branch, and falling once more on my injured arm. They laughed, a jovial but dangerous sound. 
  "You do not truly believe you could harm us, do you, girl?" The one who spoke laughed again. I laughed at them, but it was a hollow sound.
  "Do you not believe in miracles?" I countered. "And do you think the only reason I can't fight is because I'm a girl? Or are you just being cocky?" He smiled again and I saw that he was only a year or two older than me.
  "Maybe I believe both. Or perhaps I just don't think you could harm us. And yes, I am quite cocky, but I have a good reason to be." I rolled my eyes at him as I stood up, looking utterly relaxed.
  "Then fight me, one on one. I win, I go. You win, well I doubt that'll happen, but if you win I stay." He grinned. 
  "Shake on it, I want your word." He took my offered hand and I pulled him closer. "But just know this; I won't be good. I'll fight back, kick, scream and do just about anything I can to get away. And you should know that I will get away." He smirked.
  "We'll see about that." And the fight began.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chapter Five

  We woke up before dawn and packed up our things, taking off into the trees just as the sun began its ascent into the blue sky. I had braided my hair down the side, and pulled my hood back up again. We weren't riding fast yet, so I didn't have to worry about it getting knocked down every five seconds. A tree branch shook and sent a flurry of pink blossoms down on us. I laughed and looked at Peter and Michael.
  Both were silent, but smiling. "I love Springtime!" Peter laughed at me and grinned.
  "Ariana, you love every season there is," he said. I chuckled and nodded happily.
  "Yeah, but especially Spring." King snorted and whinnied, shaking his head and stopping. "King?" I said questioningly. Then there was a zip as an arrow embedded itself in the tree in front of me. My eyes widened and I yelled, "scatter!"  They took off as I added, "we'll meet up where we had our first job, okay?" Imperceptible nods. I took that as a good sign and made a lot of noise as I started off in the opposite direction. "Yah!" I hollered, whipping the reins and leaning forward.
  Crunching branches and thundering hooves followed me as I crashed through the forest. I turned around on King and reached for my bow, straining to keep a hold of my saddle as well. I snatched it just as King leaped over a fallen log, knocking me off. My cloak whipped over my head and my arm slammed into the log. The other horses jumped over, the last one hitting the log and making it roll on top of my arm. I screamed, tears pooling in my eyes.
  I pulled my cloak down and tried to move the log back off, but it just rocked a little and settled again. A fat tear rolled down my cheek and I whimpered. There were three thuds and and then the crunching of leaves as three people made their way towards me. I notched my arrow and aimed as best I could, but the fog surrounding my brain was too much to see clearly through. Then a foot pushed down on the log and I screamed again. My heart went into over-time as I bit on my lip to keep from crying.
  "Lysander, stop," a voice said and instantly the extra weight lifted, leaving me gasping. "You're not supposed to hurt them." I shuddered and laughed harshly.
  "Too late," I snarled; it was getting harder and harder to breathe after both the fall and the log rolling onto my arm. The bark rubbed my skin raw and I lay flat on my back, staring up at the bright blue sky. My heart thudded in my chest as I took in the Knights armor.
  "She's pretty," another voice said. "I think the prince will like her." I growled menacingly and sat back up, aiming my bow at them again.
  "If you don't stop talking about me, I swear I will shoot all of you." There was silence, then they laughed. My anger spiked up to a whole new level. I kicked furiously at the log, ignoring the tears pouring down my face and the pain screaming in my arm. I heard angry yells and hooves clopping as Peter and Michael stampeded into the puny clearing, spears aimed at the Knight's throats.
  "Get away from her," Peter snapped. The Knight called Lysander smiled and hefted his sword out of it's sheath. 
  "Or what?" he asked mockingly. Then the growling began. First it was just one or two, then it was four, then eight, then fourteen. All snarling wolves, all from the same pack that had "attacked" us last night. The pack leader looked at me and nodded, practically bowing. I smiled and nodded back. The Knights looked scared.
  Michael and Peter rushed over to me as the wolves began to circle ominously around the Knights and heaved the log off. I looked down at the bloody mess, bruised and puffy, then glared at the Knights. "Give us your swords."
  "What?" Lysander said, baffled. "No! Why would I do that?" I smiled with fake innocence and gestured to the wolves.
  "Because if you don't, my friends here will eat you." He scowled, but handed it over. I lifted an eyebrow at the other two. "You aren't getting out of this, idiots. Do you not see the two guys behind me? They need swords too."
   "But what about us? We need the swords." I smirked at them and shrugged, wincing slightly when the motion caused pain to stab through my arm.
  "That sounds like a you problem. Plus, we're only seventeen. Well, they're eighteen, but not by much. Anyways, like I was saying, we're just kids. You guys have had special training. We haven't." They still didn't hand them over. I narrowed my eyes. "Give. Me. The. Swords. Or. I. Will. Hurt. You. Severely. Got it?" They handed me their swords. "Thank you!" I tossed one to Michael and one to Peter, then strapped mine on. "All right, let's roll." They smiled encouragingly at me and, as one, we whistled for our horses. I almost cried with joy when King burst out of the trees.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chapter Four

  "Ari! Wake up!" Michael's voice jolted me out of my sleep and I sat up quickly. The fire flickered in the pit, chasing shadows across our faces. A howl pierced the night. "Wolves," Michael said. I furrowed my eyebrows and stood, picking up my bow from where it lay beside me. "Don't, the fire will keep them away."
  "What about when the fire dies? Besides, I'm just getting some wood. Don't freak out." I rolled my eyes and walked to the edge of the circle of light that the fire cast around us. Bushes rustled just out of sight, yips became closer and closer to our campsite. "Wake Peter up and bring the horses closer to the fire," I ordered in a monotone voice as a wolf popped out of a shrub and began growling at me.
  Michael did as I said and I slowly began backing towards them, making sure to keep eye-contact with the wolf the whole time. Then my foot slammed down on a twig and chaos began. "Ariana!" Michael yelled, tossing me a stick with fire on the end.
  I caught it and waved it in front of it's nose. It snapped at me and back up a little, then lunged forward as more wolves stepped out. "Michael, come here a sec." He came up beside me and I pulled my bow off my back and an arrow out from my quiver. "Hold the torch. Peter? Make the fire bigger, then move everything closer." They both listened to me and I notched my arrow. "Please don't make me do this," I pleaded with the wolf. "Just find something else to terrorize. I'm tired, I just want to sleep." The wolf stopped snarling and cocked it's head.
  We stared at each other for a few minutes, then the wolf turned to its pack and shook it's head. I breathed a sigh of relief and lowered my bow. I dipped my head and smiled gratefully as the wolf did the same. "Ariana?" Michael asked.
  "I really have no idea, let's just be glad that it worked, okay?" I watched as the wolves retreated, then finally breathed a sigh of relief. "I seriously can't believe that worked," I laughed, sinking back onto my pallet. They smiled at me.
  "You are..."Michael paused.
  "Something else," Peter finished for him.
  I grinned at them. "Let's just hope that something else is enough to get us through this safely." They smiled and lay down as well. "Get some sleep; we have a long day of riding ahead of us tomorrow." But they were already snoring.

Chapter Three

  I smiled at Father and Gabriel, doing my best to look brave. "I'll see you again," I assured them. Father nodded woodenly and Gabriel tried to look encouraging. He kind of failed. "Well, later."
  "Wait! Ariana, I want to give you something before you go." Father ran  back into the cabin and came back out with a package. "Here," he said, "it was your grandmothers. She told me to give it to you when you were ready, and I believe you are." He smiled genuinely and handed it to me.
  "Thank you, Father." I unwrapped it and gasped. It was a silver cloak that looked like it was woven from moonbeams. "It's beautiful!" On the back was a design that resembled a young wolf, howling at a moon in a sparkling white thread.  I grinned and slipped my arms through the holes, then tied the strings. "I love it so much. I'll never take it off!" He laughed.
  "Just be careful while you're out there and know that like that wolf cub, you always have a family watching out for you. We will always be protecting you, Ariana." 
  "Yeah. And Little Sis? Try not to die, okay? I'd just gotten used yo having you around." Gabriel smiled and hugged me, then helped me onto King. "I'm expecting you to be back by summer solstice, hear me? Oh, and don't forget to snag some souvenir's, 'Kay," he chuckled.
  "Okay, I'll try, Big Bro." We started laughing as Michael and Peter rode up on their horses, Fortuna and Ares, and smiled at me. "Are you ready?" I asked seriously.
  "Yup," Peter said.
  "Uh huh," Michael said absently, looking at the sky. "We better get going if you want to cover some ground before nightfall." I nodded.
  "Yeah. Let's go." After one last wave good-bye to our parents, the three of us rode away. Off into the shaded trees, birds chirping happily as bucks and deer skipped alongside us. The hood on my new cloak fell down, and the wind whipped my wavy chocolate brown hair back and made it stream behind me.
  I smiled and realized why felt so good when so many bad things where happening; it was because I felt good doing something about it. If I'd just stayed home, I would have gone crazy. But out here, I could help.
  I just wish I'd known that I was going to be the one needing help.
  "Come on, let's go; I just hope we aren't too late to save them all." Especially Mother. I can't loose her too. Not after Bethany. There's no way I could handle the claustrophobia of living in the village without them. I'm barely managing with only one. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chapter Two

  Everything froze and I caught my breath. "Mother?" I whispered. Lilith nodded, tears streaming down her face. "What happened? Where is she?"
  "The Knights took her," she cried. "I'm so sorry, Ari, we tried to keep them out!" My heart felt like it was breaking into a million pieces as I jumped back on King. "Ari, please don't be mad. We tried, I swear we did. Your father and brother, they weren't here and-" she broke off pointed towards the center of the village, her shoulders shaking.
  "It's okay, Lil. And I'm glad they weren't here because if they were than they probably would have been killed," I took a deep breath, "I'm just gonna have to find her."
  "But Ari! The Kingdom is days away, and even if you made it there, you wouldn't get past the Kingdom wall!" Her eyebrows merged and she shook her head wildly. "You can't go. Either way you're sure to die." 
   I shrugged and nudged King forward. "Then I'll die, but not before getting my mother back." she yelled something after me, but I ignored her, noting how the village was too quiet. Too empty. I had just assumed the coldness I was feeling was left over from winter, but now I saw that it was the feeling of utter loneliness from the Knight's visit. 
  When I got to the heart of the village, I saw why no one was in the streets; they were all gathered here. My father looked up, pain on his face, and met my eyes. "Ariana," he started, but I shook my head.
  "I know, Father, Lilith told me at the gate. How did they get in?" I was surprised and thankful that my voice didn't waver as I spoke.
  "They knocked out the Watcher on duty. We assume that they knew that most of the men were hunting, because they came right after we left and left right before we came back. There's a spy among us." His voice was gruff and I saw my brother standing with his back turned, fists clenched. 
  "Gabriel?" I said. His shoulders shuddered.
  "I saw them in the woods," he began. "I saw them, and I didn't even think to tell anyone. If I'd just said something, them maybe so many of our people wouldn't have been taken. Maybe Mother would still be here." He turned to look at me. "It's all my fault."
  "Wait, I thought only Mother was taken. Who else?" Panic made my voice raise an octave. "Did they hurt anyone?"
  "They took Anne-Marie, Fiona, Lucy, Roxanne, Jessica, Yvonne and Riley as well. And it seems they only hurt the Watcher and the two Warriors that we left here. Nothing fatal," Father said. "But I fear they were taking them to sell to men in the Kingdom. I'm just glad you weren't here, they would have taken you for sure." 
  I looked down, wondering how I was going to tell him that I pretty much wanted to walk straight into their hands. "Well, that's the thing. I want to save Mother." I looked him in the eye.
  He shook his head. "You can't! You're only seventeen, and a girl no less." I narrowed my eyes and glared at him, catching his gaze.
  "But you know I'm the only one who could. You know I could find her and get us both back alive. I know you know it, Father. Why do you doubt me all of a sudden?" He sighed and waved his hand.
  "I don't doubt you, I just don't know if I can watch you leave and not know when you might be back." He smiled. "But I guess if you're positive, I can try." I grinned and jumped off King to hug him.
  "Don't worry, I wont let you down, I promise. And I'll try to get everyone else back too."
  "I know you will, Ariana. I know you will."

Chapter One

  Clouds moved restlessly across the sky, impatient, waiting to pour on us. "Are we almost done?" I asked in irritation. Sawyer glared at me.
  "Stop being so impatient, Ariana. We'll be done when we're done," she growled. "Why is she even here? All she does is complain," she said to Michael. He glanced at me and then looked back to his watch. "Ugh. I don't understand why you insist on bringing her to all of the jobs."
  "Sawyer," Michael said, cutting off her next words, "you're annoying me." Then he turned to Peter. "Has anything changed?"
  "Nope." I sighed. It was obvious that nothing was going to change, it hadn't for the last three-freaking-hours we'd been here. Yet they insisted on staying and watching the nothingness that was the  Mountain Guards for the Temple. 
  "If all we're gonna do is watch big hairy guys stand around with shields and spears, then I'm going back to the village. This is so boring, I can't stand it anymore." I rolled my eyes and walked over to my beautiful black stallion. "I'll see you guys later," I added once I'd swung a leg over his back. Sawyer scowled and crossed her arms.
  "It's so unladylike to ride like that, Ariana! You should at least try to act more like me, I mean, you're going to wrinkle your new dress." Sawyer smirked. "Not that anyone cares enough to point it out."
  "Just shut up and focus on the Mountain Guards." I turned King, my stallion, around and rode away from Peter and Michael's laughter. While King and I raced through the forest, I thought about what Sawyer had said. She wasn't the first to tell me to act more like a lady. And even though she was right about me not being ladylike, it still made my angry when she pointed it out. She knew it, too. 
  I saw the wall and steered King towards the gate, smiling at the Watcher posted there. "Hello," I said politely.
  He grunted and and looked at my face. "Sampson Kahlan's daughter?" he grumbled. I nodded. "Go on." He jerked his head towards the inside  and I smiled gratefully .
  "Thank you." When I was almost to my home, I heard someone call my name. I looked around and saw my best friend, Lilith, tears streaming down her face. "What's wrong?" I asked, sliding off of King and running to her.
  " It's your mother," she cried, "she's been taken." I caught my breath and my blood ran cold.