Yea, I’m posting another chapter so soon. But our internet is currently dying, and then I’m leaving Thursday and will not be back until Saturday night, and I will probably not be able to post at all then, since I’m leaving my computer at home and using Mother Dearest’s because it actually has a battery =P (Airplanes should have electrical outlets in them -_-) Anyway. …besides. I really want to get to chapter nine or so…it gets more interesting XD
And refrain form calling my characters dumb. -_- It hurts their self-esteem. -_- They don’t know any better. Yet, at least. Heh. =P
Trusting To Hope In Desperation
The heat in the room began to grow oppressive. Thalon kept trying, again and again, to throw off the blankets, and Netya and I pulled them back over him a thousand times. We bathed his forehead and hands with water from the small cask, and talked to him, but he did not understand us. As the morning wore on to noontime, and the noontime to afternoon, we became more desperate, shaking him and calling out his name again and again. We got no response. Each hour, each minute even, Thalon sank visibly deeper into unconsciousness. Finally he stopped trying to struggle out from underneath the blankets and lay deathly still. His voice, cracked and delirious, still rambled, talking of things we did not understand, but always coming back to his bow, and the strange people he must protect, and the forest.
We sat beside him, unmoving. My hair lay damp with sweat against my neck, and my hands trembled as I held them, fingers locked, in my lap. I could see the struggle on Netya’s face as she watched our friend passing further and further from us, out of thought and mind. So helpless, we could only look on as Thalon grew weaker. I let my mind run back to the castle, but thoughts of home and safety only made our reality more dark.
Finally, as the sun sank behind the trees, ending our first full day hidden in the small cabin, I stood. Netya stood slowly up as well from where she had been sitting by the fire, keeping the flames bright and hot. Coming to my side, she gently took my hand, leaning wearily against my shoulder. I rested my tired head against hers, staring into the flames. The silence pressed cruelly on my ears. Finally I spoke, my voice sounding faint and tired in my ears. “We’ll stay here through the night. If…if Thalon is still alive…in the morning, we’ll take the horse and ride for help. We came northeast from the ridge where…where we saw Pethnor’s man,” I said, flinching from the memories that thought brought crowding back. “If we travel southwest, away from the rising sun, we can at least get back there…unless we turned in the dark as we came here. I suppose…we’ll have to trust to hope…” I trailed off, looking uncertainly at Netya.
“If there is any hope,” she said quietly.
I shook my head, smiling slightly. “If there was any hope, we would know what to do. But I don’t. If Thalon dies…” my voice broke, and I turned away, looking down on his pale face where he lay. “We have to get back to the castle,” I finished finally, sinking to my knees beside the bed and burying my face in the blankets.
I felt Netya sit beside me and lay her hand over mine, offering what encouragement she had left to give. I pulled my hand away, turning my back to her and laying my head on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry, Netya,” I whispered, taking a slow, trembling breath. “I’m sorry I brought us here. I’m sorry I ran and Thalon had to put himself in danger to save me. That arrow was for me, not for him. I should be the one laying there. If I could go back…Oh, if I could go back, how gladly I would have taken it.” I let my head sink to my knees, hands falling clenched beside me. If Thalon died, if the arrow he took to save me brought about his death…I knew I could never forgive myself, never go to the woods again. If I killed my best friend…
I heard Netya sigh behind me. When she spoke, I could hear the sorrow, anger, and hate in her voice. But it was not directed at me. “No, Alasse. Don’t say that. It could not have been otherwise. You heard what Thalon said. Pethnor will not stop until he has Thalon’s blood. The golden chalice in the note…that was Thalon. Don’t you see? If Thalon had not stepped behind you, shielding you, you would have been shot too. But then the arrows would not have stopped. Pethnor does not care if you live or die. He only wants Thalon’s life. Alasse…don’t blame yourself for this. It’s not in either of our control. But…Oh Alasse, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so glad you’re alright. I couldn’t do this by myself,” Netya said, her voice sinking to a frightened whisper. “Alasse…we mustn’t give up. Thalon still needs us.”
I shook my head, determined for her to see it my way. “But Netya…If I wasn’t here, Thalon would be. If I hadn’t been so…so stupid, and run. If I hadn’t slipped. If I hadn’t made us run in the first place. If I hadn’t…Netya. I am older than you. Nearly as old as Thalon. I shouldn’t…I should not be causing all this. I should know better! I should…be better. How can I not blame myself? It’s my fault Thalon’s dying! It’s my fault we’re lost. It’s my fault you’re scared, and I’m scared too. I…I have to get us out of here. Somehow. I have to. If Thalon dies, Netya, I will never forgive myself.”
“He will not die. He must not die. He can’t,” Netya said, desperation tingeing her voice. “Alasse. Please. Don’t. We have to stick together.”
I sighed, wiping the tears from my cheeks and standing up. “I’m sorry. Don’t listen to me. It’s just…I’m so scared, Netya. I don’t know what to do…”
“Neither do I. But it’s ok. We’ll be ok. Somehow…we’ve got to believe. Alasse, don’t let go of hope yet. Not yet.”
I stood slowly, turning back to Netya again. “Alright. All we can do now is hope, isn’t it? But Netya…”
“Hush. Don’t, Alasse. It will turn out ok. We’ll go for help in the morning. Southwest, like you said. Maybe we are not as far into the woods as we think. Maybe we can find the castle again. Maybe we can make it home. Only…getting through Pethnor’s net will be difficult.”
I nodded. “Yes. But…we have to make it through.”
“We do. Now…we should get some rest. Tomorrow will be hard. But let it come when it comes. It cannot hurt us. …yet, at least…”
I smiled slightly. “Yet. Not yet. You sleep first. I’ll watch Thalon.”
Netya nodded wearily and turned to the other bunk. She was soon asleep, her expression of fear and worry softened by the unconsciousness of rest.
The morning came too soon. I awoke to find the fire nearly dying and the soft grey light of predawn filtering gently through the window of the cabin. It was almost peaceful. I laid my hand on Thalon’s brow. It still burned from within. I could almost see the flames licking under his skin. Silent, I turned away. Netya still slept, a slight smile playing over her lips. I did not want to wake her. And yet wake her I must. I reached out, brushing a lock of hair from her face and shaking her shoulder gently.
Her eyes opened slowly, and she sat up. The peace on her face was replaced quickly with the dread of desperate readiness. I sighed. “Come on. We should start as soon as we can.”
Wordlessly, we gathered the remaining food from the chest and tied it carefully into a piece of the green cloth. Netya drew the two green cloaks out of the other trunk and handed one to me, throwing the other around her own shoulders and hiding the stained crimson of her dress. I fastened mine about my neck and went out to the stable. Netya and I both knew how to ride, it being ‘ladylike’ enough of an exercise for us to be taught well.
I brought the horse around to the front of the cabin by the door, tying its halter to a tree. It had no saddle and only a thin makeshift bridle. Going back into the cabin, I saw Netya sitting by Thalon’s bed again, studying his face. She looked up and there were tears on her lashes. I gave her a smile, going to her side. Thalon seemed to have pulled out form his unconsciousness of the day before by a bit, for his hands moved restlessly over the blanket again, and his lips moved. I looked at Netya. “Maybe he’s doing better. He’ll make it,” I said, not really daring to believe it.
“Maybe,” she answered, smiling back at me. “Come on. Let’s get him on the horse.”
This turned out to be a much harder task than we at first realized. Thalon, a dead weight in our arms, was too heavy for us to lift to the back of the large horse, and he could not help us. Finally, Netya led the horse back into the stable. We stood in the manger, struggling to get Thalon situated somewhat comfortably. The added height of the manger helped, and we finally reached success. Thalon lay against the horse’s neck, his hands hanging weakly by his sides. I helped Netya mount behind him, and she clung to his back, keeping him steady. Handing the makeshift bag of provisions to Netya, I led the horse out into the early morning light again. Taking my bearings from the new-risen sun, I set off into the woods, leading the horse slowly. I traveled in the direction I remembered coming from, hoping against hope that it would prove right. If we could not find help by nightfall, we would be lost in the woods with no protection and no hope for Thalon’s life. I shivered, the thought of another night spent alone in the darkness far from home bringing the fear creeping back that had been banished for a moment by necessity.