Life After Life

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Chapter 15 - Everose

I started to struggle in Axels arms and he looked down for a split second, sweat and tears rolling down his face. He put my feet down but kept a hold of my hand. I looked down as I tried to keep up with him and noticed that somebody must have untied my wrists. The shadow gives another loud screech. My eyes snapped up, it was right above us now, I didn’t dare to lift my eyes from the ground, but I heard the other’s running around us, their hurried footsteps. Axel never slowed down and my legs started to burn, the adrenaline kept most of the pain at bay.

The trees were growing thinner and I felt Axel speed up.

I yelled out “What is it?”

Lettie’s voice to my right screamed out “Dragon!”

I felt Axel speed up again, which I didn’t think was possible, my legs strained to keep up with him. My mind was racing knowing that a dragon, which was not supposed to exists was chasing me right now. I looked around Axel to see why we sped up, when I saw another cave.

Somewhere to my right Apole was yelling for everyone to make it to the cave! I saw Apole race in first, then Eric, Lettie followed him close behind. We were almost to the opening and I was so relieved, I let my legs slow down just a little, but Axel’s hand was still secured around my wrist and he pulled me hard. My legs tangled, and I tripped face first into the ground. A whooshing sound assaulted my ears and the dragon was right above us. I let out a cry and looked up to see Axel’s arms scoop me up again as we dashed into the cave right behind Galiver. The opening barely fit me in Axel’s arms and Galiver had to really suck in. But once past that tight spot the cave opened. Axel didn’t set me down, instead he leans against the rock, his arms tightening around me.

A loud boom came from the front of the cave, the dragon ramming into the opening. A shower of dirt and dust fell on top of all of us. We heard the rocks start to fall and a loud screech. Then all it was silent except for our breathing. My heart was still beating wildly, and I was trying to take deep breaths to calm down. Axel’s legs gave out and he slid down the rocks until I was sitting in his lap. I tried to push out of his arms but I so weak from the running, that I could hardly move my arms. Lettie lit a torch since the cave was pitch black, he made a small hole in the ground it placed the torch inside, throwing our shadows all over the wall. I looked at Axel’s face and saw that he had hit his forehead, blood dripped down the side of his face and mixed with his tears on his cheek. His eyes stared vacantly, and it seemed like I was the only one who noticed how close we were.

I found the strength and moved to sit next Axel, leaning against the wall. I looked around and see that everyone has their heads in their hands except Eric, he was staring towards the crack that led to the opening. His mouth was moving but no words were coming out, I realized that he was mouthing Trent’s name repeatedly.

I heard Axel whisper something and I turned to see what he was saying “I thought we lost you, when you fell off the horse.” he took a deep breath “I thought I didn’t get there in time to keep you from hitting your head.”

I shook my head in wonder at how that mattered, when one of his friends just died.

He whispered so quietly only I could have heard him say “I couldn’t lose you too.”

I pulled my knees to my chest and felt my lungs contract as a sob rose in my throat.

I must have gone crazy, crying over the death of one the men who kidnapped me, who was planning to kill me. I sat there as stunned as everyone else.

Eric took a deep breath and stood up “Check our supplies, see what we have left. it may not be much.” No one moved for a moment.

Eric yelled “Did you hear me? Trent is dead, there is nothing we can do about it.” He took a deep breath “If her majesty had been on the horse instead of in the Arms of our dear Axel then she would have been dead. But instead everyone rushed to see if she was okay because Princess Everose can’t handle being on a horse too long or else she’ll faint.”

Everyone flinched at his words as though he had physically struck me, Eric turned in a slow circle.

“Are you all becoming attached to her? Really?” the look in his eyes was the same one he had in the dungeon. “What kind of rebel group are you? We are supposed to be ruthless killers and instead you are joking and laughing and protecting her?”

Eric moved so quickly I didn’t see him for a moment, and then he was standing over me, he grabbed my hair in his hand and lifted me up, putting a knife to my exposed neck. I let out a cry and Axel and Lettie made a move as if to stop him, but Eric pushed the knife closer to my neck.

“Not so fast. Do you know what the end purpose of this mission is? Or did you all forget?” No one says anything as he continued “To right the wrong that she created! Our families suffered because of her! Our country has fought in a two hundred war because of her!” He pointed his finger at Lettie “Your father and brother are all dead because of her!”

His words rang out in the cave making my ears hurt, then as suddenly as he grabbed me he let go. I crumpled to the ground holding my neck. Eric walked to the crack between the two rocks towards the entrance to the cave.

No one made a move to come closer to me, I took a deep breath that rattled in my chest. I could feel myself losing grip and I knew if I started crying I wouldn’t be able to stop. So instead I sat up, pushed my hair out of my face and counted to 20. As I was counting I thought of home, I saw Hayther’s face smiling at me, I remembered Veryan’s soft hands when I was sick. I sighed and opened my eyes as I finished counting. Eric reemerged from the opening of the cave covered in dirt. He lifted his shirt to wipe away the dirt from his eyes.

“It’s caved in.” he coughed “I tried my best to get rid of the rocks, but it wasn’t any good.” he looked to Galiver “your turn big guy.” Galiver huffed and heaved himself up.

Galiver grunted “Lettie, bring me the light.” Lettie just continued to stare at the flames, until Galiver let out a low growl “Lettie!”

This shook him from the spell and he scrambled up to Galiver. I stood up and looked around the very dimly lit cave, Apole and Eric were busy looking through our supplies that had made it and Axel was still just staring blankly into the distance. I noticed what looked like an opening at the back of the cave and I decided I would try and make my way over there. Only a little light spilled out of where Lettie and Galiver were. I wiped my hands on my dress, it was shredded on the left side. I put my hands to the wall and I started to shuffle my feet to the side little by little. I kept my eyes on the others in cave, I made no noise as I slipped inside the tunnel and out of view. The light from the torch was completely gone now and my hands felt along a slightly damp rock. The voices from the others became muffled until the space around me was filled with the sound of water. I hurried my steps, stumbling a little. I started to see a white pure kind of light, not made by torches.

I came around the corner and saw light filtering down from a hole in the cavern ceiling, a small stream ran through the middle of the cavernous space. Flowers grew all around the stream, and the soft gurgle pushed away the silence. My mind started to click together, flowing water, it must have been coming in and going out somewhere. I almost turned around to yell for the others, but then I remembered Eric’s knife at my throat and my body shudders. I considered my options and realized that no one had come for me yet, I could try to make a break for it. I walked to the stream and knelt, radiant flowers of blue and purple soaked in the sunlight and brushed against what was left of my skirt. I peered into the clear water and my distorted reflection looked up at me. my hair was tangled and wild around my face, dirt laid like an extra layer of skin. I don’t waste precious time trying to clean my face off instead I cupped my hands and drank the water slowly at first, it was so refreshing, I hadn’t realized my throat was as dry as a desert, instinct took over and I was drinking as much as my hands would hold.

Once my thirst was satisfied my eyes wandered up the water and saw that it slipped out from underneath some rocks, they looked like they had been there forever, green moss grew on the rocks and climbed the wall. I decided against trying to move them. My gaze continued upward, from where I was sitting I could make out the beautiful blue sky above me. Grass grew on the edge of the hole, and it swayed in the breeze. I reached down and ripped a strip of fabric from my already torn dress and use it to tie my hair back and out of my face. Being so close to freedom my heart ached to be home. Nothing hung down from the hole, so I stood up and walked to one of the walls. It was smooth dark stone, there was nothing for me to hold onto to even attempt to climb up. My head turned down at these homesick thoughts and followed the current downstream. It also disappeared underneath rocks this way, but these didn’t look unmovable. I ran to the other side of the cave and got down on my hands and knees and started pulling at them, slowly a small hole formed. I could see sunlight coming from the other side and I began to dig more quickly afraid that they may have noticed my absence.

As I pushed a large rock out of my way, part of the way fell away from me opening a hole that was twice the size of my body and I was able crawl through onto a jagged rock that jutted out from the side of the cliff. The water now soaked most of my dress, but I didn’t notice because I was staring down the side of a jagged cliff. I was up high, but I could see below a river cutting through the trees. Down the side of the cliff were rocks that looked like I could use them for footholds.

Seeing no other option, I swung my legs over and found a rock. I tested my weight out on the rock slowly. A noise in the cavern caught my attention and I could see glow from the torch coming around the corner. I sucked my breath in and put all my weight on the rock too fast, it crumpled and gave way. I began to slide down, my hands desperately grabbed for anything to hold on to.

My hand caught a rock sticking out about 6ft down from the opening and my toes were trying to stay on a small ledge, but my left foot kept slipping. My chin was scraped and burned but I didn’t dare make a noise. Fear froze my movements, but I felt my muscles trembling all ready. I tried to look around to see where I could go, but the rocks near me were completely flat, I was stuck.

I started to berate myself, why had I thought it was a good idea to come out here? A sob swells up in my chest and foot slipped again sending a small spray of rocks to the river below. I closed my eyes and pressed my body as close the cliff as I could. All the ways I have died go racing through my head, this would be one of the worst ones yet.

Suddenly my mood sobers, if I was going to die I decided I want it to be my way. I had gotten away and crawled down here, if I was going to go at least it would be because of my choices and not a part of some insane sacrifice. I kept my eyes closed and felt my grip start to loosen on the rock, my mother’s face flashed behind my eyelids and I was saddened at the thought that I may not see her wherever I went this time. I took a deep breath and leaned back away from the rock, letting my hands go. I fell for a sweet moment until a horrendous pain ripped through my shoulder, someone’s hand had latched onto mine just in time. I squinted up blinded by the sun. For a moment, I thought it was Hayther who had saved me, my heart jumped for joy but then my eyes adjusted, and I was staring into Axel’s eyes. His other arm reached down and just like that he had a secure grip on me.

He turned his head and yelled “I got her! Pull us up!”

I saw Lettie hanging over the side of the rock holding onto one of Axel’s ankles, Galiver holding the other. My body was shaking as they pulled me back inside the cave. I was still high on adrenaline as I heard them arguing about whether tie my hands again and who was supposedly watching me. I sat up and stared right at Axel, who was standing in front of the whole that I see they made bigger.

He caught my gaze and strides over to me and squatting down “What were you thinking?” he took a deep breath and murmured absentmindedly “How many times will I save you?” My hand caught him by surprise and strikes his cheek.

He fell backwards his hand covering where a crimson hand print now was appearing. I stood over him my shoulders rocked up and down with every breath I took. He looked hurt and this just enraged me more. My eyes now scraped over everyone’s face, Galiver’s forehead was full of sweat and he looked very nervous, Lettie looked very unsure. Eric’s face was impassive and Apole looked calm his hand resting on his knife at his side.

“I have never had a choice in anything! I have been made to live life after life and remember them all! Every family, every friend I left behind haunts me. But did I choose to live those lives or this one? NO!” I was on a roll, everything was spilling out of me “Every single time do I bloody decide how I die? No! Someone else does! But this was different I had escaped from you, I had made the choice to try and climb down, I had made the choice to let go. But now I am stuck here with you people making a mockery of rebels across all the lands!”

Lettie was the first one to come out of shock over my raging fit. “What Eric said was true?”

I screamed and made a break for the hole again, determined to get out, but Axel grabbed my feet and I fell hard to the dirt. Something animalistic broke free inside me and I growled at him. But he looked at me determined, none of the others made a move to stop me-yet. I kicked dirt into his face and his grip loosened as he turned his head from me. I scrambled up the opening was in my sight.

Axel roared as the dirt got more lodged in his eyes “LETTIE! DAMN IT! GRAB HER!”

At this Lettie started and looked as though he was seeing me now for the first time. He ran towards me, but I darted out of the way. Eric looked on, confident that his men would subdue me, as I battled for my freedom.

Galiver & Apole stood back from the fight as well, not seeing a chance to intervene yet. Lettie was now standing in front of me and the hole, I tried to dodge around him, but his arm clipped my throat and I fell to the floor. I tasted blood in my mouth from where I bit my lip, but I wiped it away with my arm and pulled myself up. Lettie looked at me terrified, I didn’t care.

I screamed at him “GET AWAY FROM ME!”

I made another attempt towards the opening when Axel snuck up from behind and grabbed me around my waist pinning my arms to my sides. He lifted my feet off the ground and suddenly I felt like a toddler, just floundering around.

I screamed out “Why can’t you just let me go?”

My breathing was heavy. His breath was hot on my ear.

“I can’t Everose, I just can’t.” he took a deep breath “I will never let you go, I will do whatever it takes to keep you breathing.”

Lettie was staring at us his eyes wide, Axel put me on my feet, spun me around and crushed his mouth to mine. I stood there unsure of what to do, my lips burned where his touch. He pulled away, his blue eyes cloudy. The kiss has made every ounce of anger leave me body, instead confusion takes its place. I want to return his kiss, but then the thought of Hayther pops into my mind.

A slow clap began, my eyes snapped to Eric as he walked towards us. “Well then” he sighed “that makes you a traitor, brother.”

Eric slammed his fist into Axel’s head and then turned towards me. I turned away from him and the last thing I saw was Lettie, I lifted my hands towards him, but Eric’s fist was too fast. It slammed into my head and I cried out as I fell to the ground. I fell next to the stream on my back and felt the sun warm on my skin. The world was becoming fuzzy, just a bright light in the distance as I closed my eyes.

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