Amber & The Secrets Hidden In The Shadows

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Chapter Three

The wildlife of night awakened, to the soft sound of Lana’s panting. Lana was once again running, dashing through the forest, trying to lose her pursuers. It had all started a couple of hours after she left Sir Kylz with the false idea of justice.

She was running in the forest, a cloak now on her back, the hood casting a shadow on her face, not that she needed it. It was dark, her presence well hidden in the shadows of the trees, the only light she needed was the silver light of the brightly glowing moon. She quickly moved from one shadow to the next, keeping out of sight while moving swiftly on foot. It went unnoticed to her that her hood got caught on one of the low twig-like branches of a new tree that she had just passed, tearing part of her hood.

She quickly learned that it was harder for her pursuers to follow her if she stayed in the shadows. Stealthily, she jumped shadow to shadow. If the pursuers had been lucky, they might have caught sight of her grey cloak that seems to glow silver in the moon’s reflecting beams. She slowed down after gaining ground; her pursuers falling behind.

She didn’t look back. She was in the clear, near a big oak tree, that had an animist vibe to it. She turned around to look behind her for her followers. She saw no one in sight, she took a step forward to the tree thinking it might be her only chance to escape. Her first mistake.

That one step had hit a trigger and sprung a trap within a matter of seconds. Now dangling in a net mid-air, a net for catching bears, not princesses. She stayed like that, encaptured, hanging from the tree, fixed.

As soon as the moonlight hit them, she examined them. The one farthest to the left, was a short dwarf of a man, having barely any hair and was only dressed up in a weathered brown jacket that was once leather and wearing skinny tacky pants.

Next to the dwarf were two others, over tall fellas that looked like they were twins. Just by their height, they stood out, easily they could be mistaken as miniature-giants. The last one of the quartet of thieves looked younger, a little over her own age.

Suddenly, a memory from her childhood of bright blue eyes looking upon her popped into her head. She shook her head, getting rid of the thought. Where did that come from? She told herself she would worry about it later.

“Let her down,” the one on the horse commanded. The dwarf man started walking up to her, only for him to take, one too big of a step causing him to fall into a ditch, at the exact same time one of them cried.

“Not there!” It was too late... A ditch had swallowed him up. From his response, Lana guessed that they made it themselves. Covering her hand over her mouth was the best she could do, to stop her laughter. One of the men, one of the twins, glared at her unamused.

“Go untie her, this time make sure it happens,” the same person on the horse commanded. This time the other twin walked up to her, apparently making a move far away from the ditch, that’s his comrade had previously fallen through. He drew the blade that was looped through his belt, and attached to his hip; and in one swift swooping motion, he cut the rope that was keeping her tied up. She let out a small screech, at her surprise falling and tumbling. Hitting the cold ground with a hard thump.

The twin that had cut her ropes grabbed her by one wrist, and yanked her up, in one single jolt. She bit back quite a few curse words that she would like to have yelled at him, into he turned red in the face, but she couldn’t. Because it wouldn’t be ‘princessly’ of her, that and it probably wouldn’t be the best situation, to be talking back when she was being captured at the moment. The only thing she could do was keep her royal identity a secret. That’s when the realization, of being kidnapped hit her, she couldn’t help but laugh.

“Shut up, you little whore, or I’ll make you…” one of the twins said threateningly raising his hand. She looked at it, surprising all of them, and herself by not flinching and instead once again laughing.

“Why are you laughing you little slut?” People had thought she had been kidnapped from the palace during the first attack, but now, only days later, she had actually been kidnapped. She couldn’t help but find humor from the new striking development. She didn’t stop, not until tears ran down her cheeks, and she was gasping for breath. Her left arm grabbed her stomach that hurt from so much laughter, while her right wrist stayed in one of the twins hands. “What’s so funny to you?” the twin that had ahold of her wrist growled, with no response, he squeezed her wrist even tighter, into there was a sudden pop. She took a sharp breath in, from the sudden flow of pain. “Now answer me…” he said threateningly, putting pressure on her injured wrist.

“I-it’s nothing… really, you… please” she said, unable to finish her sentence, through her teeth clenched. Begging in heavy breaths, each painful. What she was trying to say was “It was nothing, really, you need to calm down a take a few even breaths. Please. Thanks to you, you actually made my lie a reality” but apparently, that’s not how the twin took it.

“Listen here, you disgusting bitch-” Before he could get any further Lana raised her left hand, dominantly, stopping him.

“Lamber”

“What?” the twin asked confused.

“My name, it’s Lamber,” she said, her voice serious, showing no hint of the lie she was performing.

“What kind of name is Lamber, it sounds like you were named after a dying lamb.” the mini-twin giant responded, in disbelief.

“Hey! Say… what’s your name?”

“My name?”

“Yes, you know the thing, all of us humans are born with. Mine is Lamber, what is yours?”

“Octavian…”

“So, Octavian, hum? It sounds like a name of a dead Ronina soldier, one who dies because he forgets that he’s in a war zone.” She spoke back with spite, to the thieves previous comment.

“Do you know who you’re talking back to?”

“An idiot named Octavian, who loves to talk about the situation of peoples parents choosing names.” There was a line of silence, neither one speaking, neither breaking eye contact. While all the more, the others were afraid to break up the unrefined pair of uneven souls.

With a low sigh, a man was the first to break the deadly silence, “Lamber right?” The guy on the horse asked raising a brow, questioningly. She gave him a cheeky smile.

“That’s my name try not to wear it out,” she calls out giddily. Now newly renewed, and vigor from winning the stare down.

“All I’m asking is for you to show us some respect, you hear me?” The horseback man asked. She only nodded while a small smile forming on her lips, that turned into a grimace, as the slight spring of her step turned her wrist, throbbing once again.

“I have a question,” she said now, her voice returning to the slightly evenly neutral tone she had previously spoken in.

“Yes,” he said letting out a sigh, in disapproval.

“Is there any chance you can fix this,” she said pointing to her wrist. Only now did the man notice the slight cradle, she used to uphold her wrist, her hand sometimes through the argument had been dropped from the giants hold, which had gone unnoticed to all fellow parties.

“Oh… let me help you with that,” said the other twin, walking up to her.

“Sorry, about my brother he can be temperamental sometimes.”

“Only sometimes?” she asked raising both eyebrows, while both gazes locked on her wrist, that was now forming a dark purple and blue color.

“I’m sorry this might hurt,” the kinder of the two twins said, shooting her a sympathetic smile, before grabbing her wrist, and with a shove, and twist there was a pop. But that didn’t last long, as a screaming holler entered the once small forest. She felt a pain that was deafening when black spots started to cloud her vision. She embraced it, hoping that once she went unconscious, the pain would stop, she remembered herself losing ground and slowly falling back, into the blackness.

She woke up to a blinding light, with the flowing colors of dark green surrounding her. “Where, ugh who now?” She asked, puzzled by her scattered surroundings.

“Welcome back to the living, princess” a voice called open.

“Uhmm” she muttered, eyes closed before the name surfaced to her making them snap wide open. “What did you just say?” She asked, now a spectacle, eying each of the four-man that surrounded her placement on the forest floor.

“Uh, I called you a princess…” twin number two said, confused.

“Oh, could you please not…” she asked, feeling insecure believing her identity had already been guessed in a joking matter.

“Sorry,” he apologized, she nodded to him silently.

“No princess here, just a normal maiden, who been kidnapped, me Lamber. Say can you tell me your names, so I can stop referring you to twin number two?” she asked, deceivingly

“I’m Zane, you already met my idiot brother Octavian. The dumbass who managed to trip our own trap is Fred,” he said pointing to the left where the dwarf was located near clearing of trees.

“Who’s that?” she asked, nodding her head in the direction, that the horseman sat mounted.

“Oh that’s Co-” Before he could finish the name, the person he was talking about was off the horse, and had his sword pointed at the back of Zane’s neck.

“Idiot! Haven’t you seen what she’s doing?” he cried “She just got you to release all your names,” he snapped viciously.

“Oh, my bad, sorry Boss,” he said not at all reacting to the sword pointed at his neck.

“You dumbass!” the man now on foot yelled, “you just stupidly gave me away.” Before Zane could depend on himself, Lana stepped in. Since she started to like him and figured he’d only get himself into trouble, she decided to help him out by intervening.

“Actually, I had already picked you out as the leader, even without Zane’s help,” she said stepping forward surprising them.

“What you weren’t surprised by my age, and looks?” he asked, partly intrigued.

“No, I learned a long time ago, to read from people’s actions than their outer appearance. You’re obviously the leader of the group, you carry yourself with high status, then rest. There’s also the fact that you’re pointing a sword at your compadres neck, a guy whos twice your size, unflinching.” She commented dryly.

“Knock her out” mentioning he commanded.

“... Wait come on guys, I just woke up.”

“Yeah, and whose fault might that be?” Octavian asked sneering grimly.

“You, moron” the princess replied back formally.

“Do it now, Octavian!”

“Wait”

“Yes?” the boy she now identified, asked tiredly.

“You guys, really need to stop cursing like drunken knights, you’re thieves not waisted old men, so stop talking like them.” She said before turning to face ‘the boss.’

“Oi, yo, Colin! You gotta stop riding the fricken horse if you don’t want to be identified as the leader so soon.” She said, just as something hit the back of her head, as blackness once again took over her vision. Unknown to her that had been her second mistake.

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A young man could be found pacing back and forth next to a black stallion. His fingers tangled in a leather-like a chain that held one worn down the copper ring. While on the other hand, were running through his hair, yanking at it in frustration and disbelief. How could a girl he just met, make him this insanely crazy?

First, it had been the two hours he had been set up chasing her, then she fainted on them, making them all form a storm of panic, but not before gaining all but his name. And let’s not forget, she had to the nerve to call him Colin. Colin, of all names! Right after, back talking his appearance and leadership skills! What nerve did she have?! Who does she think she is?

“-onner! Connor” He turned sharply, only to take a step back in surprise when he came face to face with Octavian.

“You, idiot, how many times do I have to remind you to not call out names in front of captors?” he asked, shooting a brisk glance at the girl still laying unconscious in rags.

“Sorry, Connor, sir,” Octavian, said, a goofy smile still plastered to his face, giving him the impression of a wild mix, between an angry troll and hipper elf.

“And speaking of, weren’t you on guard duty?” he asked shooting a glare, at the elfish twin. Octavian, opened his mouth to answer, before closing it, giving him the impression of a drowning fish. He continued this expression of unknowing before, shooting a questioning glance at his brother as if to ask what-was-the-reason-for-this-again?

“Knights” Zane, said walking up two the duo.

“Right, Captain, sir, some knights have been spotted coming this way,” Octavian, the idiot, said running up to him. Connor just lets out an irritated sigh before turning his attention back to Zane.

“Knights? How many?” Connor asked seriously.

“I saw five, there might have been more…” Zane said cautiously.

“Which direction?” Connor asked, jawn now locked.

“They were coming from north-east.” “Sheranians...” he muttered,

Connor cursed under his breath. “Pack up. We’re going west now!” Connor commanded.

“What about the girl?” Zane asked, his gaze rested gently on her, laying the body. “Rope her to the horse?” he asked.

“We can’t tie her to the back of the horse, she still out of it, plus it would just slow us down tremendously.” Connor denied quickly.

“Then what?”

“Let’s try using that head of yours, get the rope, and tie up her wrist once more. Then tell everyone to pack up. Grab a blanket while you’re at it.” Connor quickly commanded, already having a beginning of a plan in mind.

When Zane finally appeared with Octavian in toe, the girl, also known as ‘Lamber’ in his arms. Connor had already decided on the only course of action, to keep the girl from slowing them down.

“Get the girl set up” Connor demanded. After grabbing the blanket, he wrapped it firmly around his legs, waist, and chest, leaving his feet, hands, and head exposed. Zane, used to his boss’ abnormal behavior of doing this, quickly obeyed, handing the girl over, setting her on the Captain’s’ covered lap, head resting on his chest. Zane then grabbed the rope that was tied around her wrists, walking around Connor to connect them, now being bond together.

They were so close together that Connor didn’t need to touch her to keep her up physically. Connor grabbed ahold of the reins.

“Is everyone ready?” he asked Zane.

“Yes,” he answered nodding his head. Connor looked at him, only to see what he had ordered not even a minute before had been followed and completed. Everyone else was packed up and standing behind him, their pack was over their backs or in their hands; all of them ready to move.

“Let’s go” Connor commanded, his voice stretching out, loud in the still and quiet forest. With one final checking look, Captain Connor, did one last sharp kick into his Mare’s rib cage, while grabbing onto the reins, as his horse leaped into a fast gallop. It was easy to tell that he was a master of horseback riding, by just the way he sat, back completely straight, not moving at all. Not even at the bumps, caused by the galloping the horse was doing under him. Connor took a quick glance over his shoulder, only to notice his teammates absents in the dust. Looking forward, he yanked on the reins, his horse coming to a skid like trot-stop; just in time. Standing in front of the horse was a knight, who had appeared in a blur of silver.

The horse reared back, in a fast charge, knocking both of the people on it’s back, off. Connor hit the ground hard. That, and the fact there was another body still on top of his had knocked the air out of his chest. He had tried getting to his feet, only to stumble and topple over like a fallen drunk. For a second there he had forgotten the situation he was in, with him still attached to the girl. He let out a harrumph of frustration, and irritation as his fingers fumbled, missing the strapped dagger that was located at his waist. By luck, and the swiftness of pure instinct, he manages to reach for his blade, ripping it out of its sheath, in the nick of time. He tried taking a step forward, only to realize with the extra weight the girl gave him, he couldn’t move. With a heavy sigh, he raised his dagger once again this time not to attack, or block another strike. This had a different purpose- he needed to drop the extra weight.

In one swift motion, aiming down, Connor used his dagger to cut the rope that connected the two. In one gigantic leap, the captain had jumped over the still unconscious Lamber and started to attack. The knight blocked every attack, but it was easy to tell that Connor was slowly gaining ground with the speed of his attacks. In just a few quick unexpected moves, Connor had gotten the upper hand and had hastily disarmed the knight. Connor launched at him, preparing for his final killing strike. But to his surprised the knight dropped to the floor and rolled. Connor let out a cold chuckle amused, and swung this time from the ground up in one direction, convinced the novice knight was going for his sword.

To Connor’s amazement, the knight rolled the opposite way, away from his sword and only weapon. Or, so Connor thought… Instead of his sword, the knight grabbed a small but thick branch that had been chopped in half. One side all bent and twisted, as it sagged, while the other side was jagged, sharp splinters pointed in every direction. He threw it like a spear, it made contact with Connor’s left shoulder. Tearing through his shirt, before sinking into his warm flesh.

Connor could feel warm liquid starting to roll down his chest and bleed through his shirt. He didn’t need to think twice before dropping his dagger and using both hands to snap the stick with a mighty blow of power. He knew better to pull it out, as it would only increase the blood flow, and make him lose more blood. And at the moment he was in no mood to just bleed out. Connor continuously to watch the knight, as he walked towards him, his sword lowered to his side.

Connor made no effort to attack, with him now on his back laying on the ground, upwards facing the sky. The knight bent down, but Connor kept his eyes transfixed on the sky, not meeting the eyes of the knight that was undoubtedly about to impale and end him. In a different situation, a person might have mistaken him as counting the clouds in the radiance of the blue sky, or at a later hour of the night, stargazing. What he hadn’t expected was the knight to kneel next to him, unarmed, and also rip a part of Connor’s shirt to help the clotting and slowly stop the bleeding.

“Why,” he asked threw clench teeth, as he bared through the pain, as the knight put pressure on his newly inflicted wound.

“...Because” the knight said his voice low and soft, a light whispered in the howling wind. He realized, he was a male, which wasn’t a real surprise, it was rare to see any women knights, surviving under the king these days. The only one odd thing he noticed, was the knight’s voice sounded younger then his skill indicated. Maybe not a teenager, but probably around Connor’s own age, a young adult. “As much as people believe it, I’m not a killer.” The knight was standing before he walked away, pausing to look back at Connor. “I only came for the girl nothing else,” he said before continuing on his way.

Connor hadn’t missed how the knight took his left glove off of his hand to tie up his shoulder. He also hadn’t lost when the knight’s bare hand touched Connor’s shoulder.

“No!” Connor wanted to cry out, almost in agony. “I don’t want it,” he wanted to shout, he didn’t want those memories. “It makes me weak,” he wanted to whisper in a whimper. However, he kept it to himself.

He had tried so hard to not touch anyone. Fearing what the simple contact might provoke. That was the rule that he tried so hard to follow, but it never worked, one way or another he slipped up. And with it, the visions that haunted him in his sleep. Showing sympathy to his enemies made him look like a weak leader and would one day get him killed.

Connor stayed like that, kneeling, one hand on the stick embedded in his shoulder, the other holding the torn cloth of his shirt, applying pressure to his wound. He stayed like that, not moving, afraid of the consequences of the lack of blood might provide him if he rushed in motion. He stayed like that, not moving until he finally lost consciousness from loss of blood. His body hit the ground like a stone.

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A knight in shining armor picked up an unconscious girl. He had already knocked out the others in the so-called group a while back, with a swift and easy chop to the neck. While he left who he presumed was the leader with a bleeding shoulder. He had finally come back to the girl, the one that had caused all his troubles to arise. He gently picked her up, bridal style, and started walking west, the direction he had come from. Thanks to his run-in with the crew of thieves it had taken more time regaining the Princess then he had first thought. The knight looked at the girl in his arms. Was this girl this much trouble? He remembered a time not that long ago when he had asked that same question.

“Is she that important? One stuck up Princess? Is she that important that we have to risk our cover, our group, our lives for? Our very existence?” The answer he had received came as a surprise and a punch to his pride as a leader. The knight noticed one of Lana’s hairs had fallen on her forehead. Without thinking, he had reached down and tucked the piece of hair behind her ear. He looked at her face, noticing how tired she looked, carrying bags under her eyes. This has to be the first time she had gotten a good night’s sleep since she decided to run, he thought guilty looking away.

He had done this to her. Gone to her, revealing the hideous and poisonous truth, made her have no choice but to rely on him, and forced her to run. From her own knights no less, he was the curse that was placed on her fairytale. The knight who was the real villain.

If it weren’t for him, she would have been killed multiple times from the attack, he tried to reassure himself. And it was all for it, the mission. Only for moments later he was counterarguing that it was his fault. If he had never gone against the orders that day, and gone exploring, then later getting lost in the palace, he would have never been in the place to eavesdrop, and he would have never found out. And if he had never found out the king’s secret, the king and the princess would have been safe. But alas, that is not what happened; he had gone exploring that day, and he had found himself lost, only to end up in the one area of the palace he was forbidden to enter. The royal chambers. No matter how much he tried, the knight couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt that clung to his clothes, the air around him, even his skin. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he did not notice the girl in his arms’ eyes flutter open until a shaky voice asked.

“Who might you be?” He raised his eyebrows, in mock offense only to realize he still had his helmet on. She couldn’t see his face. He raised his hand and took off his helmet rather quickly. Lana locked her eyes with her savior, her mouth falling open. Her electric blue eyes didn’t waver from the vivid green. She only knew one person in this world that had those type of eyes. One person she just met a few days ago.

“Alec,” she breathed out in a sigh of relief. A smirk was playing on his lips.

“Glad you still recognize me, you had me worried there for a second,” he joked. Lana just rolled her eyes, before realization finally hit her. Alec was standing right in front of her. The boy she had been upset, angry, and more importantly concerned about for the past four days was standing right in front of her.

Without even realizing what she was doing, she lifted her palm, then it was smacked across Alec’s cheek: all in an instant. Lana watched him, surprise crossing her features, while Alec stood there gaping like a fish out of water.

“Did you just slap me?” Alec asked, his tone a bit dazed as well as confused.

“Yeah, while also teaching you how to punch not slap” Alec commented his tone dry not matching right with his humorous words.

“Does that mean next time I can punch you?” She asked in joking delight.

“Only if it’s better then that puny slap of yours, that didn’t sting at all.”

“Does that mean I can get a round now with a punch of you?”

“Not now, got to first give you a chance with my training in the future and hope you have an effect on you.” Him now all sober.

“What makes you think I want to go through that again?”

“Why so angry?” he asked raising an eyebrow, “I came to get you just as I promised,” Alec said, and just with that one comment all those emotions Lana had been bottling up, exploded out of her, her hands connecting to his chest angrily.

“You freaking blazing idiot! You were gone for four days! Four days! And then come back just like that?” She yelled, with each word she delivered a hard hit, against his metal chest plate. “You are reckless, and stupid, which almost got you caught!! Not to mention, killed!” Lana yelled at him, not caring at the moment who heard. She was angry at him, and she wanted him to know it.

“You’re sorry… You’re sorry?! You left without a goodbye. You left me, abandoned me, in the flaming forest! I thought you were going to die. You had four knights chasing you.” His expression softened minutely, his eyes holding a glimmer of guilt. “Y-you…you left me after you convinced me to run with you.” Her anger had disappeared until her voice was a soft sob, a whisper in the wind. “You left me.”

Alec stared at Lana, his eyes full with realization before he decided to step forward and wrap his arms around her in a warm tight hug. Lana struggled at first. When she finally relented, now clinging to his chest plate, her whole body shuddered with her sobs.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Alec repeated, rubbing her back. Before embracing her in a hug. Slowly her sobs began to fade, being replaced with hiccups. Her breaths had returned to being even, and soon she had fallen back asleep. He bent down and picked her up, only for her to start muttering in her sleep. He bent down trying to make out what she was saying.

“Alec…” He raised his eyebrows as his name was called, he leaned in closer trying to catch more. “Please… I can’t handle… not again.” He looked at Lana quizzically, a little worried. “Please don’t… alone,” Lana whimpered. “Connor!” Lana cried out, before going back into a restless sleep. Alec stared at the girl sleeping in his arms, trying to make sense of her words, but couldn’t.

“I promise, Lana, I won’t ever leave you or make you feel alone again,” Alec whispered promisingly, kissing her forehead. Not yet knowing how fruital that promise would be. He stared at the runaway princess before shaking his head. What was he doing? He started to walk west. They were only a few steps of the beginning of their long journey ahead.

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