The Hunter Series - Penelope

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Chapter 12

The wind howled and blew a bitter chill past the swaying trees; it danced with the leaves, dragging them away from the autumn ground. The odour of decomposing wood filled the air. The forest seemed to never end; tall silhouettes shadowing the ground, ravens circling overhead and screams echoing through the wind. Beady eyes hidden within the bramble scanned the area, oblivious we were prey to this forest. I sat on a broken tree branch, breathing deep and heavy breaths. While Alexia caught her breath as she leant against a tree.

“We should take a break. Your ankle is pretty swollen. All this pressure on it isn’t doing you any good.” Alexia said sternly. “Can you use your healing power on yourself?”

“No, I don’t use my powers for personal gain. It’s an oath each witch takes when we are granted our powers.” I explained, then changing the subject added. “How far away are we to Edith’s?”

“We are at least four hours by foot.” She said shifting her feet, sounding anxious. “You shared your secret with me about your powers and healed my eyes. I owe you a debt of gratitude and wish to share my secret.”

“Your secret will be safe with me.”

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to gain the trust and train wild dragons. My mother told me, when she was alive, when I was around six years old, I wandered off into these woods. I came across a wild adult dragon. If that had been any other child, they would have been burnt alive or ripped apart. But I was able to get up close and stroke its head. I didn’t know any better at the time. Mum bought me a pet dragon some time after that. Though I soon learnt it wasn't just my dragon I could train but wild ones too. My mother used to say it's my calling.”

“Oh wow! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised dragons exist but that is a really cool power to have.” I said, then added. “I’m really sorry to hear about your mum.”

“It’s okay. She died when I was around sixteen. My father didn’t want to bring me up so he made a deal with a vampire. He paid bounty hunters to bring me to this part of Enukeador to be a slave. I’ve been escaping and running away ever since.”

“That’s awful! How can he do that to his own daughter? You must have been to hell and back. How old are you now?”

“I’d say I’m around 22 years old now. But yeah, never got on well with the man before she died and I hate him even more now.”

“Chin up, Alexia. There are still good people in the world and I’ll get you out of this terrible place. My nan and I, we come from another dimension, free from most supernatural creatures, just humans mostly. You can be properly free to live your life. You can get a job or go college and study or whatever you like! You’ll love the internet and we can watch movies or TV programmes on Netflix. We have electricity and cars and aeroplanes. People from my world have no clue that this place exists. They believe vampires and witches are nothing more than Halloween costumes.”

“That place sounds amazing.”

“Yeah it is but people don’t realise how good they’ve got it. I live in a country where you receive free education. You use that to go to university and follow your dream. We don’t have slaves any more and have Human Rights to protects us from discrimination. Look, I’m not saying everything is perfect but its so much better than this place.”

“I can’t imagine a world like that. It sounds too good to be true... Anyway, we should get going soon. The sun is going down and these forests are a dangerous place to be. Are you able to walk?”

My ankle had swollen to twice the size in the short time we had been resting. Alexia helped me get to my feet, the dull pain was bearable but no longer needing to lean on her for support. She lead the way through the forest, crunching the leaves and branches breaking with every step.

We took our time, mainly because of me, as we followed a trail leading to a steep hill with a road running around beneath. When we reached the top of the hill, we could see the waterfall miles away in the distance. Edith’s cottage should be close by. I scanned the area in hope of a sign but there wasn’t one. The pain in my ankle made me sit down, taking deep breaths and clenching my fists.

The clouds stretched long across the sky with arrays of pink, orange and yellow. We watched as the sun slowly went down. It was a dangerous time to be out with no food or shelter and soon the wolves would sniff out our scent. Far in the distance, I noticed smoke, as though someone lit their fireplace. It brought me hope and a new sight of direction.

“That must be Edith’s home. We should head there.” I said but Alexia shushed me and listened, hearing something I couldn’t.

“Oh shit! We’ve got to hide.” She said with a sense of urgency, tugging at my arm and climbed up branches. As I struggled to climb behind her, my ankle throbbing from the pain. Alexia gripped my hand and pulled me up and out of sight.

There were lights moving towards us, fire torches and pitch forks. Men riding horses wearing silver armour. The horses wearing coats with the black flag and a red rose. There were many followers, horses pulling cages with people chained inside. There was something that I found odd, something I couldn’t quite understand.

“I saw two men wearing the same armour in the village before I was taken…” I murmured.

“Knights of Enukeador often walk the villages. Anyone caught doing anything they shouldn’t are taken to the castle…” She answered me.

“But… why do they wear armour? I thought vampires ruled the kingdom. Vampires wouldn’t wear silver armour, it burns their skin… Unless… they’re human and its a way of protecting themselves…”

We stayed quiet in the tree as the mob travelled below us. It felt awful to witness the people chained in the cages being whipped and poked with pitch forks. The worst part was there wasn’t anything I could do for them, not in the state I was in.

Suddenly, time seemed to slow down around me. Something within me began to beg for help. The pain didn’t feel my own as the whip lashed at my skin and blood splattered. My wrists felt hot as fire as the burning silver cuts deep into his skin. A silver ball locked in his mouth stung his tongue. My heart ripped apart as the bounty hunter continued to whip Isaac in the cage.

It was then I finally comprehended how connected our souls were. We had the ability to feel the other's suffering and pain. My mind could hear his cries for help even though he wasn't able to speak. It took me off guard. My chest tightened, my breathing ragged and my mind fuzzy. Slowly, losing my sense of reality and balance.

“Whoa, careful.” Alexia whispered. She looked over to the cages. “It’s really sad, four years ago the Prince came back to Enukeador. The King had him imprisoned because he left when he had a duty to this Kingdom. There was an attempt on the Prince's life and they had to move him to safe house. The King doesn’t want his only heir dead just punished. Looks like they are taking him back home…”

My mind zoned out with tears spilling down my face.

“Penelope,” Alexia whispered, shaking my shoulders. “What’s going on with you?”

When they were no longer in close range, the pain had disappeared. My mind snapped out of the trance. The last time I saw Isaac came back to my mind. Something inside of me willed me to put it aside to help him. He didn’t deserve to suffer like this. He didn't leave me when Justin and Craig beat me to an inch of my life. He even stayed with me to bury them. Saving him felt like the right thing to do.

“We can head over to Edith’s now it’s safe... Penelope?”

It took me a while to look Alexia in the eye. “I’m not going.”

“What? Of course you are. We need to get there before the wolves get us. You need a safe place to rest that ankle.”

“No. I can’t just let him suffer.” I said in a shaky voice.

“Let who suffer? Are you talking about the prisoners? Because none of them will have a happy ending. You don’t want to go down with them. I won’t let you.”

“You can’t stop me, Alexia. I have to save Isaac.”

My soul knew what to do and made up my mind. I needed to save the man that held that other part of me. The part I haven’t yet explored. It would never happen if he stayed a prisoner, nor would he become the sweet guy in my dream.

“Isaac? You mean: The Prince. Even if he’s imprisoned; slaves aren’t allowed to call him by his name. Besides, vampires live for an eternity, after another seven years, he’ll be back in the King’s good books. He can look after himself. This is just get a slap on the wrist for him.” She sneered.

“I’m not a slave! And that wasn’t just a slap on the wrist. They were torturing him. I can’t just leave him, not when I can help him.” I argued. “I didn’t leave you and I’m not going to leave him.”

She fell silent. The look on her face seemed regretful. Then, she finally said. “Why would you want to help someone who participated in the torture of slaves?”

“I’m not going to condone his behaviour...” I began to say.

“Tell me why...” She butt in.

“Alexia, I’m going and I don’t need your approval.” I began to climb down the tree, avoiding causing too much pain to my ankle.

Suddenly, she jumped. She landed on the ground with a thump, completely unharmed, blocking my way.

“I need to know why you would risk your life for someone who never cares about anyone but himself. Why would you throw away your only chance to see your family again?”

I thought about my family. I remembered my mum’s voice, her warm smile and comforting hugs. I missed my dad, he had been away for work, now he was back and everything just seemed better. There was a chance that nan would be waiting for me at Edith’s and we can skip on out of Enukeador forever…Of course I wanted nothing more than to see them again. But could I live with myself everyday knowing I had a chance to help someone who I cared about? No. I’d regret it until the day I die.

“He’s my soulmate, Alexia.” I confessed.

“Do you realise you might not get out of this alive?” Alexia said.

“That’s the risk I’m willing to take.”

I was sceptical whether Alexia would let me follow Isaac. After a few minutes of awkward silence and her giving me the you’re-completely-mad look, she moved out the way.

“Right, well you better take this…” She said as she got a pink vial out of her pocket.

“What’s that?”

“It will help with the pain. It won’t last forever but hopefully for enough time to get in and out of there. We better hurry up or we’ll lose their trail.” She handed me the potion and I knocked it back. The taste was foul. I spat hoping the taste would leave my mouth but I was sadly disappointed. However, moments later the pain in my ankle disappeared. Instant pain relief.

“And you never thought of giving me this before?” I smirked.

“It was my last one. Not everyone has fancy healing powers like you.” She said with the edges of her lips rising to a smile. Then, we headed off in the direction of the castle.

The castle stood proud and tall over the village. We snuck passed three guards and round to the side until we reached a gate leading under the castle.

“How do you know this leads to the dungeons?” I whispered.

“It’s how I escaped.” She said, shrugging; like it was no big deal. “Take this…”

Alexia handed me tiny silver knife and a small wooden stake.

In the corner of my eye I saw a light flickering. Instantaneously grabbing Alexia’s hand and yanked her over to hide in the bushes. We watched as a large built, muscle guard stood in front of the gate.

“How are we going to get in now?” I whispered, angrily.

“Oh, leave this one to me. They’ve put Asher on the door, maybe he’s willing to help me in.” She whispered back.

“How can you be sure?” I said with a skeptical tone.

A wicked grin rose on her lips. “He was the one to help me escape.”

“So he’s not going to be thrilled you’ve decided to come back.”

“The only way to find out is to ask him.” But I grabbed her hand before she could move.

“Wait... Are you sure this is a good idea?”

Her eyebrow raised and smirked. “Are you really going to grill me on good ideas?”

Alexia moved through the bushes, getting as close as she could without being seen, sticking to the shadows. She caught his attention with a whistle he seemed to recognise. Looking over his shoulder to check no one was following he went to her. This was my chance to get a little closer to overhear their conversation.

Alexia grinned when he came to her. My eyes widened as they embraced and kissed. It seemed she knew him very well.

“Why have you come back, my love?” Asher said in a deep husky voice and kissed her again. “You know what will happen if we are caught.”

“I know Asher. I came back because this is important. I need your helping getting back in the castle.”

“Why? You’re just asking for trouble. I helped you get out so you didn’t have to die and now you want to rub under their noses now you’re back?” He said angrily.

“Please let me explain.” She pleaded and stroked his face. “After I left the dungeons, I didn’t get too far before getting caught. It was so dark in the forest. I got lost on my way to the woman you told me to find. I was attacked by a wolf and blinded. They put me on the first prison carriage back here. I thought there wasn’t a way out. Until I met Penelope and she healed my face with her power... Now she needs my help to save her love who has been taken to the dungeons.”

“Would you really risk your own life for this girl?”

“Asher, my life was over. The second I got back here with the bounty hunters I would have been their next meal. Penelope granted my sight back out of the kindness of her heart. And that makes her trustworthy so, I’m not going to let her do this alone.”

“Alright,” He accepted. “I can let you in but I can’t guarantee that I’ll be out here to let you back out.”

Alexia nodded and kissed him. “Thank you. I love you.”

“I love you too, Alexia. I always will.”

Alexia looked over her shoulder towards me and smiled. We found our way into the castle.

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