Chapter 3: Soldiers
Many painstakingly slow hours later the sound of everyone sleeping graced my ears. I was out of the hut downing my cloak before the next snore passed through my father’s open mouth. On the left side of the hut, I grabbed my bow and arrows. Dashing to the forest edge my impatience built.
As my luck would have it I got delayed once again by these two. Huffing out my frustration. How the hell did they make it out of here before me. I thought I was being careful, but I shouldn’t be surprised when it came to my sister and Nash.
The tension in me was urging me to get a move on. Over the past couple of hours that growing urge to find the soldiers had tripled in its need. Making it almost impossible to sit still. I was afraid my father would take notice and drill the truth out of me. For once my father’s mood swings came in handy and kept him distracted. He was too lost within his own mind to even notice my agitation.
Unlike these two, who were way too perspective for their own good.
No words had to be exchanged. They knew there was no stopping me. Leaving only one option.
Huffing, “fine you can come.” In my mind, all I could think was how I was going to regret this later on.
Before we got moving an idea popped into my head. “Nash, why don’t we ride on your back, your eyesight is way better in the dark?” Gesturing between Terra and I. He didn’t argue just crouched down so we could hop on. Once situated with Terra wrapping her arms around me I gripped onto the long silky fur on the back of his neck. With a gentle nudge from my mind, his body coiled and shot forward. A rush shot through my veins as we sped along the forest floor. Wind whipping my loose strands around my face. I may love when we raced but this was even better.
At the speed, Nash was traveling it didn’t take us long to locate where we had spotted the soldiers this morning. By the look of It, they didn’t take much care to cover their tracks. Then again why would they? We were out in the middle of nowhere.
After five minutes of following their tracks, the nagging feeling in my gut intensified, letting me know that we were getting close.
Linking Nash to warn him, we should slow down. We’re getting close. His pace slowed.
Bringing her lips to my ear Terra whispered, “are we close?”
Nodding my head to confirm her speculation. Terra tightened her grip around my waist. She may try to put up a brave front, but I could feel her nerves. I can’t blame her, all I had to go on was this feeling. It may have felt right, but I’d be stupid not to be a little wary. Exspeshaly when there was a possibility of someone getting hurt.
The sound of voices up ahead broke the silence of the night. Crouching low Nash stalked his way towards the noise. Close enough, I slid from his back. Landing softly on the ground. The ground was cool, sending a shiver through me. Starting to follow me Terra swung her leg over but I quickly stopped her with a hand on her thigh. Not wanting her to get off in case things took a turn for the worse. She peered down at me in question. I shook my head no, hoping she would understand my reasoning. Squinting her eyes down at me I waited to see what she would do. Relief went through me when she resituated herself, but she didn’t look all too happy about it. That was fine with me. She could rant about it later, I just wanted to make sure there was a later.
Satisfied I began moving towards the cluster of trees and bushes that separated us from the soldiers. Taking a deep breath I reached out grabbing the branch blocking my view, parting them ever so slightly. Careful not to make a sound.
Leaning forward I took my first look. A small camp filled the area. One larger tent in the center flanked by two smaller tents. Each was lit from within showing shadows of men moving around inside. To the side was a fire with five men conversing around the flickering flames. Out of the ones I could see there were a total of twelve soldiers. If this did turn into a fight the odds weren’t looking in our favor. I may be a good fighter but I’m not that good. Pushing the worry aside I focused back on the group of men around the fire. The need to know what had pulled me here ate at me.
Just as I was losing hope, one of the men laughing caught my attention. My body tensed at the familiarity of it. My mind whirled, how was that possible. Questions filled my mind. Leaning farther forward I tried to get a better look, but the fire was obscuring my view.
I was about to change positions when the sound of a muffled sneeze came from behind me. Glancing back, Terra’s wide-eyes met mine. Hands still covering her mouth. Pinching my eyes closed I turned back to the group of men. Before I even opened my eyes the dead silence already triggered warning bells to go off in my head. Cracking my eyes open, each of the men had all stopped their bantering and were completely still. Flicking my eyes around the group in anticipation I waited for what was going to happen. My searching came to a stop when I noticed the gleaming eyes through the flickering orange flames.
Shit, I knew I would regret bringing the two of them. The thought came and went as chaos erupted throughout the camp.
The soldier that had spotted me shot up and began shouting, “INTRUDER, INTRUDER, ARM YOURSELVES!” He repeated this as feet began shuffling around and the clanging of swords rang out.
Thinking fast I linked Nash, we need to get moving. I want you to take Terra and run back to my father. I’m going to try and distract them long enough for you two to getaway. I’ll meet you at our rendezvous location. As I spoke Nash’s concern increased more and more until it was consumed by fiery rage. He did not want to leave me behind. I hated causing him to feel split but what else could I do. I would not put anyone else in danger when it was my fault we were out here in the first place. Leaning forward I placed my forehead to his. Inhaling, his calming scent, a mixture of pine and fresh rain soothed me. Without wasting any more time I swirled around and launched myself in the opposite direction. Not giving either of them the option to argue.
The hurt that spiked through our bond, almost caused me to stop, but I couldn’t. My feet continued to carry me away.
Nash yelled into my mind, So help me, Aspen, if you don’t come back to us I’ll hunt you down and kill you myself. His voice was sharp, anger and pain wafted off of each syllable. His message was clear. The threat should have worried me, instead, it warmed my heart at how much he cared.
To divert the soldiers from following Nash and Terra. I began purposefully stepping on as many dried leaves and sticks as I could. The noise would hopefully draw them to me.
With my sensitive hearing locked in, I picked up the instant they took the bait. With them in pursuit and a good distance away from Nash and Terra, I silenced my steps and began scoping out a tree that would be easy to climb.
Spotting the perfect tree off in the distance I beelined towards it. Reaching it, I launched my body up. With my extended hands, I gripped onto the lowest branch the rough texture biting into my palms. Dismissing the sting I swung my legs back and forth using the momentum to lift the rest of my body up. Not stopping on the branch for long I continued climbing and jumping my way up. High enough up I flattened my body against the trunk of the tree.
Peering through leaves and branches I waited for the soldiers to pass so I could double back.
The humor of the situation wasn’t lost on me. It was only this morning when I was hunting and now the tables had turned, and I had become the hunted.
The sound of running feet grew closer. The First two men passed, then four more. I waited to see if it was clear. When no more came after some time I figured the rest of the men had stayed back to guard their camp and hopefully not after Terra and Nash. Leaning forward I was about to start my descent. Sadly luck continued to evade me. The sound of something hitting the tree directly above my head stilled my movements. Tilting my head back my eyes landed on an arrow lodged into the bark of the tree.
Swearing once again, I turned. Launching myself onto the next branch to get out of shooting range. Going from one tree to the next, executing various twists, turns, and swings to reach branches further apart. Flying through the air a sharp sting struck my right bicep as an arrow tore a gash through my skin. Unfortunately, the hit had also thrown me off course and I was now hurtling towards the ground. An image of Nash’s pissed face appeared in my mind. I had no doubt he felt the cut the moment it happened. Sensing one’s pain was another ability our bond allowed us to feel. Now there was no way he would stay away.
Remembering that the ground was getting closer I used cat-like reflexes. Turning my body just in time to land in a crouched position with my hands and feet absorbing most of the impact. It was moments like this that I truly appreciated being part elf. A normal human would have died or been severely injured falling from that height. It only caused a small amount of pain.
I didn’t even get the time to stabilize myself before boots blocked my view of the dirt floor. The sound of other soldiers stopping around me indicated that everyone else had caught up and I was surrounded.
Well isn’t this fucking fantastic.
This wasn’t looking good, a smirk played across my face, for them! One thing I never doubt about myself was my ability to get out of sticky situations.
The sound of an arrow being notched into place hand me moving faster than the man could release sed arrow. Grabbing the blade strapped to my chest, I lashed out. Cutting the tip of the arrow off. The soldier stumbles back. Shooting up I gript his shirt letting the momentum tip us over. We hit hard, pulling an umph from the man below me. Out of the corner of my eye, the soldiers tighten their circle around us. Ready to strikeout.
Grabbing the collar of the man’s shirt I yanked him closer at the same time I brought my knife to his neck. I was about to call out when my eyes collided with the man beneath me.
Familiar blues with gold flakes stared back at me, tugging at some buried memory. The smell of lilacs mixed with the sound of warm laughter consumed my last grip on reality.
Thanks again to all those who chose to read my story.