Yes, you read that right. I said Chapter Thirty Four. Mhmm. I really did. Don’t believe me? …I don’t blame you. XD
Yea, I wrote another chapter. Finally. =P It may or may not be incredibly lame. I can’t remember if I gave Aranel a cloak or not when she first reappeared, and I’m too lazy to look…so she has one now. =D hehe =P I posted the last two paragraphs from the previous chapter, so you can remember where I left off. =P I was threatened with a slow and painful death if I didn’t finish this before starting on the next novel idea I have…heh. =P Not that that will stop me from working on it. …I’ll just work on it and not post any of it here…*evil grin* …Maybe. I still don’t have a plot for it. I need a theme. Any ideas? I’ll give you chocolate…
…and WHY has my blog had 57 views today already?? …I didn’t even post anything yet…O_o I feel stalked. Rebekah. Are you getting me in trouble again? -_-
Anyhow. Here we go again. *ahem* =P
The guards pressed upon us again, all cruel playfulness gone, overpowering us quickly. I fought, but my arms were too tired to lift my blade. We were bourn down in a moment. As I fell, crushed beneath the mass of hatred, I looked up. Between the hovering, shimmering blades of the men that waited only for the signal to fall upon our unprotected breasts, I saw the sky. The storm clouds boiled and subsided. I noticed for the first time that the rain had stopped, whether because the storm ended or because the cloaks of the black men overhead sheltered me, I could not tell. No raindrops reached my face from above. Almost I believed the clouds parted, revealing the washed-blue sky of early noon. I watched for a second time the killing edges of steel descending, and closed my eyes, wishing I did not have to see the friends I had traveled so far with die beside me.
As my eyelids fell, so did the weapon above me, crashing from the hands of the soldier and sticking deep in the mud. A weight as of a crushing burden slammed into my chest, and stars rang in the black behind my eyes. The horn sent out a fourth blast, nearly upon us. I would have laughed to escape by death the destruction it heralded, but could not for the splitting fire that burned into my body beneath the crushing weight of death. As the horn rang out again, bringing with it the leather-bound sighs and dim shouts of swords drawn and wielded in a field of battle forever lost, the pain in my side and head filled all my world. Gasping death and horror, shrieking white light, fading cold and burning void. The breath escaping my lips turned to ice.
~Chapter Thirty Four~
“Do you see them? Look by the wall! Wait, here – behind you, soldier! Watch the left flank! We’re finished if they bottleneck us. – Archers, ready. Nock, draw, shoot! – Have you found them? Here…here! – Get them up, get them up! You, get them out of here! Take one or two – There! Hold the line! Archers! – I’m needed here; get them safe. I’ll follow when we’re stable. – Nock, draw – Go! We’ll hold. Watch your backs! Pethnor – Get them out of danger; return as quickly as you can. I’ll lead them out. – Draw, shoot! – Here, go!”
A gasp, a weight overturned, the clash of blood-raging battle. Heavy hands, ungentle. Scraping over rock, tossed, bruised. Held. Caught up, flying, urgent. Pulled away. Sounds fading, feelings gone. Running, hurry, hoarse breath catching. Quiet, stillness, a hand grasping and shaking, harder. A word uncaught, a breath unheard. Running feet, fading backwards. A cry; a drawn sword. Drowning in muted yells. Cold, hard rock and wet earth. Nothing…
My eyes flicked open, the sudden dampening of battle noise loud in my ears. I tried to sit hurriedly, but fell back in a moment, crying out weakly in pain. My side and chest ached, burning and throbbing, feeling my heartbeat in every pore of my skin. Shutting my eyes and biting my lip, I tried again, slower. Easing myself up onto my elbow, I opened my eyes, wincing and shaking.
There was no one. No men in black. No leering masks and grimacing, socketless eyes. No swords and blood. Nothing. And yet the sounds of battle raged, ricocheting behind me. I pushed myself to a full sitting position, looking around me. For a moment, the sight of the four people haphazardly sprawled beside me, as though they had been simply dropped and left to lie as they landed, frightened me. Then, gasping and crying, I remembered.
I pulled myself crawling towards Aranel, who lay closest to me. Her eyes were shut, but I could see her chest moving, breathing in ragged gasps. She appeared for the most part uninjured, as though she had merely fallen beneath an overwhelming weight and now lay crushed but unbroken. I reached out, struggling to summon the energy to shift her out of the crooked position in which she lay. As I moved her slowly, she coughed, spitting blood onto the stones, and opened her eyes. I spoke quickly, barely giving her time to recover. “Aranel! Are you alright? Can…can you sit? Help me wake them. I can’t…”
She nodded, sitting slowly up. “What happened? How…?” Crawling to Netya’s side, she suddenly laughed, smiling almost in joy. “I knew he’d come,” she said, nearly in a whisper, gently shaking Netya and brushing a wisp of hair from her pale cheek. Before I could question her words, she pointed towards Thalon, where he was struggling to rise from the grip of exhaustion and pull himself to his feet. “Get him up. An you don’t want to leave him to what he deserves.”
I smiled slightly, crawling to his side. Aranel had still not changed. Before I could reach Thalon, however, he had already stood, reaching out to steady himself on the stone wall of the low, sinister-looking building behind which we had been left. He reached down, pulling me to my feet as well before going to Aranel’s side.
She still struggled with Netya’s unconscious form, and cringed away from Thalon as he knelt beside her, as though his presence burned her lungs. Aranel glared at him, her flaming black eyes meeting his quiet glance. I watched, almost afraid, as he bowed beneath her gaze, nodded to her authority, and reached out to help. Netya moved weakly in Aranel’s grasp, struggling to stand, and Thalon took her arm, helping Aranel pull her up. Netya leaned into Aranel’s steady grip, stumbling over herself to find her footing again, smiling at her own clumsiness.
We stood silent a moment, Aranel between Netya and I, Thalon beside her. Aranel made as if to speak, then stopped, biting her lip and glaring at Thalon. Shaking her head, she started again. “Lets get out of here while the soldiers are caught in the fight. This way, come.” She turned, and we followed.
We had been left lying in an alley, behind a low building. To our right, the outer wall rose high into the clearing sky. The rain had left everything a muted grey, turning the dusty ground to mud beneath our feet. Judging by the nearness of the battle sounds, we had not been carried far from the fight. Aranel led the way to the mouth of the narrow alley, looking cautiously from our sheltered position. Nodding back over her shoulder, she signaled us on and out.
I looked towards the sounds of battle as I turned quickly out of the alley after the others. We were closer than I had thought at first, and I could see the swirling cloaks of the soldiers merely a hundred yards away down the muddy street. I gasped. Sable mingled with malachite and argent. Raging against the bloody, sun-devouring lynx of Pethnor, the green of the forest Rangers and silver-blue of the Castle Guard rose valiant.
We walked slowly, slipping close to the walls of the buildings lining the road, towards the gate. Though Aranel and Thalon were mostly unhurt and could lend their aid to the fight, there was nothing Netya or I could do to help in such a battle, and I knew they would not leave us to find our way out alone. Nor would we have left them. My head and my side burned where I had been wounded, and when I reached up to brush the hair from my eyes, my fingers came away scarlet red and dripping.
Aranel caught me as I fell, swaying from the pain in my side. She lowered me to a sitting position against a wall, kneeling to examine my wounds for a moment. She shook her head, reaching into the small pouch that hung at her waist beneath her cloak and pulling out a small bottle. “Drink this,” she instructed, pressing it into my hand. “To help with the pain. As soon as we are a safe distance away from this place, we can stop. But not yet. Come, stand up. We’re nearly to the gate.”
I nodded, feeling the cool liquid numbing the throb in my head and side. Aranel pulled me up, keeping one hand supportively on my arm as we stumbled to catch up to Netya and Thalon, standing waiting for us a bit further down the narrow road. I walked as though in a dream, dazed and staggering from exhaustion and the unfeelingness Aranel’s strange liquid had poured into my limbs, my head bowed.
When I looked up again, the sight that met my eyes almost filled me with a sudden newness of strength. The narrow road we traveled on had ended. Thalon and Netya leaned against the side of the last building, pressing back in the dim shadow of protection it offered. Beyond them, a wide courtyard opened, cobblestones grey and wet in the shadow of the storm clouds that now threatened to cover the sky again. Across the courtyard stood the gates. Their iron-barred fastness seemed impenetrable.
Aranel pulled me to Thalon and Netya, whispering quietly. “The gates. We cannot lift the iron bars alone. That is a job for many strong men. We will have to enter the guardroom directly beside them. From there, a small stair runs down to an armory. There is a trap door, leading to a tunnel. Lastare told me of it, once. It comes out a short ways down the hill outside, in direct sight from the battlements. We will have to be very careful when we climb from the tunnel. An we make it so far. Look,” she pointed up, motioning towards a window high in the wall of a tower that rose from the battlements beside the gates. In the dimness of the overshadowing clouds, I could see a light burned in the room beyond the sill. As we watched, a shadowy figure paced past the window, once, twice, a third time. The gate was not left unguarded.