I’m back. Yay me. =D I’ll post some pictures maybe-if-you’re-lucky eventually. =) …and as a consequence of being gone three days…I’m like six thousand three hundred something words behind. O_O …I love Thanksgiving break already. =D Forget the Anatomy I was supposed to be finishing this week…*evil grin* That can wait until Christmas. Right?? =D
…Ahhhhhh…it is SO good to be back. =P
Mysteries And Mistakes
“They’ve found us.” The three words, so simple, carried the weight of our lives as I spoke them.
“No. It can’t end this way,” Netya whispered roughly, pacing furiously across the room. “He didn’t see us, or he would be here by now. Maybe he’ll go away.”
“’Maybe.’ Too many ‘maybe’s, Netya,” I replied. “There’s smoke coming from the chimney and the horse is tied outside. As soon as he sees it, we’re lost. Help me, Netya. We can’t let him in. We have to hold out as long as we can. Here, push the table against the door.” My mind worked clearly, surprising even myself. The urgency and complete hopelessness of our situation should have rendered me unthinking, but the cold lack of feeling that had sunk into my heart seemed to leave me incapable even of frantic terror.
Bracing myself against the wall, I began to push the heavy table slowly across the floor towards the door. Netya ran to help me. Once it was in place, we took the chairs, wedging them sideways below the table in the doorframe. Stepping back, I surveyed our work, saying, “It won’t hold. Not for long. Not against Pethnor.”
“What about the window?” Netya asked, pointing. A single thing wooden latch twisted down to hold the shutter in place. It could be easily broken.
“We don’t have anything to secure it with. It’s small, though…I doubt a man would be able to fit through it, even if he does get it opened.”
“I know,” Netya replied, shaking her head sharply, “But what if he has a bow?”
I paused. “I did not think of that…I guess…we’ll have to figure that out when it comes.”
Netya, the terror she felt still evident on her face, walked slowly to where Thalon lay, still unconscious and fevered, by the hearth. She sat down on the edge of his bed and took his burning hand in both of hers. When she looked up at me, her eyes were full of tears.
I sank down beside her, taking her hand and Thalon’s. Looking down into his pain-scarred face, I said softly, “Just think Netya. He won’t hurt anymore. And you and I…we’ll be alright, somehow. Like you told me, we’re together.”
She shook her head, leaning back against me. “I guess.”
I nudged her gently, smiling at her. “I know.”
We sat motionless on the edge of the bed, our hands clasped together around Thalon’s. Outside, the woods were silent, peaceful almost, but we knew it could not be long before our presence was discovered. The man we had seen had been barely a hundred yards away, traveling towards us. The darkness of early night must have hidden the horse from his sight, but he could not help but notice it soon. In a moment, we would be discovered.
Those few seconds seemed to me to pass by like years. We did not know, could not know, what would happen to us. And yet, I almost felt content. Alone with Thalon and Netya, nothing could touch me. Nothing could touch us. Almost.
Almost. One small word. Yet it held more meaning than all the ‘maybe’s in the world. Almost. I almost felt content. Nothing could touch us, almost. Nearly sure, but not quite. There was room, in that one small word, for our lives to change. For our lives to end, even. Room for the world to crash into nothing. Room for everything, every person, every sight, every sound, I had ever known to disappear. Room for Nothing to seep into the ocean of all that is.
Restless sounds filtered in through the closed window. The horse was moving restlessly before the cabin. It whinnied loudly, blowing and snorting. I heard footsteps crunch on the hard dirt before the cabin door. The latch jiggled, but the door stood closed, locked tight. I squeezed Netya’s hand.
A cold voice, cruel and pristinely accurate, spoke softly from without. “Open the door. I know you’re here, Saewon. I see your horse. You can’t escape Pethnor forever. He follows you everywhere. A locked door cannot hold him out. I will reach you, and you will be dragged before the master you betrayed. You saw what happened to the last one. Don’t hope for anything less. Open the door before I must take…stronger measures.”
Netya looked up at me, mouthing silently, “Saewon?”
I shook my head, and whispered to her, my voice barely a breath in her ear, “He must be tracing someone else! The someone who lit the fire and then left it. He…he must think we are who he wants!” The enormity of my whispered words struck me forcibly, setting my mind reeling. Once again, a wrong decision. Once again, I took the wrong turning. If we had not seen the cabin, if I had not gone to the door…
“Saewon! You have ten seconds. Then I shall make you answer me, knave. Open the door,” the cold voice spoke again, harsh with anger.
I looked in terror at Netya. My mind still reeled, uncertain. Should I speak? Should I say we are not who he thinks? Or should I remain silent, wait to see what the strange masked man will do? I did not know what to think, how to act. A single word could condemn us. And yet, our silence only further provoked the man standing so close on the other side of the door. Any action could bring about disaster.
The man outside pounded heavily on the door, calling again for it to be opened. Netya looked up at me and drew a deep breath. She hesitated for a moment, seeming to gather what little courage she had left. Then, closing her eyes tightly in resolution, she spoke. Her voice was steady and firm, and yet all color had drained from her cheeks. “There is no one here by the name of Saewon. You must be mistaken. Go; there is no one here by that name.”
Outside, all sound ceased. A stunned, ominous silence permeated the room, buzzing into my head like a herald of ruin. The man outside remained silent for some time, and I could only picture him, standing frozen with his fist raised against the door, the shock of hearing a young girl’s voice rather than that he had expected registering on his face. The seconds ticked by, each passing moment filled with double the anxious anticipation of that before. Finally, just as I thought I could stand it no longer, the cold voice spoke again, an edge of uncertainty tingeing it’s cadence. “What did you say?”
“There is no Saewon here. Please, go.” Netya said again, her voice still firm and resolute.
“Saewon is not here, you say,” the man answered through the door, his voice regaining it’s calculated cruelty. “Then, pray tell me, where is he? And how can I know you do not lie? Who are you, that I should trust you? Who are you that I should simply go, as you ask?”
Netya spoke again, the calmness in her voice becoming forced and threatening to break. “No. There is no one here by that name. I do not know where he is. I do not know of whom you speak. Please, leave here. Do not ask to come in.”
“Who are you?” the man asked, voice sharp with suspicion.
“My name…is Netya,” my friend answered softly.
There was silence for a moment again outside. When the man spoke again, his voice was filled with all the harsh pitiless malice in the world. “Well then, Netya,” he sneered, twisting her name until it sounded rough and hideous, “If you would be so kind as to open the door. I fear my…very dear friend Saewon is hiding inside, and I am going to reach him. Open the door. Now.” His voice became cold and commanding.
I shook my head hard, grasping Netya’s arm. She looked in fear at me. I did not speak, not knowing what the man would do if he realized there were more of us inside the small cabin than Netya. Faltering, Netya answered the dark man’s command. “No. I…I cannot do that. I do not trust you.”
“Do not trust me. You, strange little girl that you seem, do not trust me…As well you shouldn’t.” He paused, and laughed. The sound cut like ice straight to my heart. “As well you shouldn’t,” he continued, still laughing without amusement. “And I do not trust you either, little bird. I will enter the cabin. Now. If you do not open the door, I will break it down.”
“You can’t do that,” Netya said, her fear betrayed in the flare of her voice.
The man outside laughed again. “Watch me. Watch me, and try to stop me.”
A scuffling nose came from outside the door. I grabbed Netya’s arms tightly, as though trying to hold back my courage from sinking into the floor. As suddenly as they had started, however, the noises stopped. No sound penetrated the walls of the cabin for a few moments. When the man spoke again, a dreadful glee seemed to emanate from his voice. “No. No, I won’t break the door down. I believe I know a better way…a better way to exterminate you quickly, and Saewon, if you are hiding him. It will cost me slightly more effort…and yet the amusement shall more than pay for that. No, I believe I will not break your door down after all…” his voice trailed off meaningfully into a sinister silence.
Alone in the dark cabin with Thalon, only the glow from the ashes lighting our faces, Netya and I stood close together, uniting our courage to face whatever evil the man would bring against us. We both knew we could not stand firm much longer.