I’m lazy and unmotivated. I have no excuses. And I’ve said this a hundred times before, but I really WILL try to write more this week. Because I miss it…and my characters are like dying and need me to rescue them AGAIN. …although it would serve them right if I just left ’em hanging like that for a few weeks…Heh.
And yea. I know Thalon is incredibly lame and very silent now. But I don’t know what to do with him =P Netya and Alasse and all the rest are WAY more developed than him now =P Because I have been writing with them through the whole book, so I know them…I haven’t done anything substantial with Thalon since like, chapter five =P So I don’t know him at all…and I have no ideaaaa what to dooooo with himmmmm now. -_- So. Sorry =P When I go back and edit this here thing, maybe I can…do something about that *facepalm* =P
Oh. And yea. This is a short chapter. XD
~Chapter Thirty One~
Dead Beneath The Walls
The rough stone slammed hard beneath our feet as we ran. Before us, all was still and open, our path as yet unhindered. I could hear Tugo still shouting from his prison behind the gate as we wove out of sight. Suddenly, a rush of pounding feet echoed up the narrow street behind us, and the song of bending metal grated into my head. The guards in the dungeons had made their way to the locked gate. I imagined them, unable to smash or pick the huge rusted lock, forcing the thick bars apart. With the strength of so many men combined, I knew it could only be moments before they ripped the bars off, creating a space wide enough for them to pass through the gate. They were after us.
The road before us was still empty as we broke at last from the mouth of the cavern. The rest of Pethnor’s city lay spread out before us, sloping downward towards the walls. The rain still pelted down from above, falling hard and fast from the nearly black sky. In the heat of the forges below, my hair and Netya’s had nearly dried, and the drenching weight of our dresses soaked slowly into the black cloaks we still wore. I had forgotten completely about the rain.
Pausing for a moment, just inside the shelter of the cavern roof, we looked out at the stone city. In the dark storm it was impossible to tell the hour, yet I knew it must be late morning. The exhaustion of a night spent running in terrified secrecy had begun to weigh on my mind, and I knew Netya and Thalon must be feeling the same numb tiredness. And yet, no time remained to stop and rest.
A loud crash reverberated from the darkness behind us, and I jumped. Netya gasped, grabbing Thalon’s arm in one hand and mine in the other, pulling us out into the pounding rain. “The gate must have given way. Come on. They’ll be on us in a moment. We have to get out of here.”
I nodded. “Yes, but how? We can’t go back to Lastare’s.”
“I don’t know. Just run. We’ll have to find another way through,” she replied, glancing around quickly at the roads that snaked down the curving hilltop towards the walls. Pointing towards the narrowest street that opened before us, she added, “Let’s go this way. The narrower roads will be harder for them to follow.”
We jumped forward, our feet slipping in the muddy puddles where the stone floor of the cavern transitioned to the dirt and mire outside. As the heavy pounding of iron feet grew stronger behind us, we disappeared down the narrow road. Just as the black-clad soldiers erupted in a hell of tumult from the cavern mouth, we turned, diving down a side street and disappearing from their view. My black cloak floated out behind me, already completely drenched. It’s heavy edge caught on the corner of a stone building, jerking me back. In one motion, I released the clasp and sprang forward again, leaving it where it fell. The thick fabric could only slow me down.
I caught up quickly with Netya and Thalon again. The rain, slanting down into our faces, struck like lightning bolts and hindered my sight. Netya’s cloak, waterlogged as mine had been, flapped against her as she ran, and soon she too paused for a moment to loosen the clasp and let it fall. Picking up the dripping bundle, she pushed it out of sight against the wall of a building, leaving it behind a jutting corner of stone. I caught my breath as she turned quickly back towards me. The front of her dress shimmered bright crimson as the rain soaked through the bloodstains that marred the soft brown of the doeskin. The fight with Pethnor’s man in the house had been washed from my mind, but as the pounding rain trickled sickeningly down Netya’s dress, spreading the red stain, I shuddered. Memories all too vivid clamored to break into my mind again, and I pushed them away, forcing my mind to focus on running, running, running.
Behind us, a shout went up. The men had found my cloak, twisted and muddy on the ground by the entrance to the street we had turned down. The chase was on.
We ran as hard and fast as we could, turning down new roads as often as we could. Soon, I lost all sense of direction. I knew only that the walls lay below us somewhere, and we must get to them and out somehow. My sword slapped against my leg as I ran, a burden added to the already heavy weight of my rain-soaked dress. I would long since have thrown it away, but I knew I must not cast off my only weapon. My hair flew against my face and stuck, washed black in the falling water.
Always the slower one, I soon began to fall behind. Netya and Thalon outpaced me, drawing ever further in front. Or perhaps I fell ever further back. In the pounding rain and the thunder of my own heartbeat, I could not tell. My breath came in choking gasps, each one burning its way unfiltered into my lungs. I could hear a horn braying somewhere far up and behind me, from the top of the pinnacle shelf of stone. An alarm call, twisted and muted by the heavy clouds and falling rain. The city was aware of our presence, and our attempted escape. It could not be long before our position was pinpointed and encircled.
Ahead of me Thalon and Netya turned to dash down another narrow street, but reeled back quickly, continuing instead down the same path we already followed. As I passed by the street opening a moment later, I saw why they had jumped back. At the opposite end, their backs towards me, stood two guards, black-cloaked against the rain. Pethnor had already begun forming the trap. Soon, no roads would be left unwatched, and Thalon, Netya, and I would be caught in the web of darkness he spun.
I kept running, willing my feet to move faster after the slowly disappearing forms of Thalon and Netya ahead of me. My head wanted to scream for them to stop, wait for me to catch up, but my heart knew I could not speak. My heart hoped against hope that they would not notice I had fallen behind. My heart begged them not to stop running, not even for me.
Just as I began to lose hope of catching up with my friends; just as the shouts of the men chasing behind us began to grow louder and nearer, swelled by the voices of many more soldiers; just as my breath gave out and every fiber of my body screamed to stop, to give up; just as my hope washed away with the rain, the black shadow of the walls appeared rising up before my eyes. I gasped, crying with my relief, and pressed harder to catch the shimmer of Thalon’s retreating back. I threw my final strength into catching up again with my friends, and the distance between us began to grow smaller.
But as my hope flared again, just as quickly it melted into the bitter taste of despair. We had reached the walls. Yet there was no way out. Thalon and Netya stood silently, waiting for me to catch them up. We had reached the walls, yet here our path stopped abruptly. The road we stoop on was a dead end.