Chapter 7 ~ Draähilian Borders
R e n a
My feet carry me swiftly. It doesn’t take me long to arrive back at the south gates, making my way stealthily and as silent as a ghost, knowing no one can see me or discover Kian. The problem now however is finding the wagon I’d left Kian in, but as far as I can see it’s gone. I can only assume it has already left through the black gates and so without a moment’s hesitation, I jump into another, clear to make sure it is unmanned before I hide myself away under the cloths and sheets in the back.
If this is the only way to reach Kian, then I’ll just have to take it, though part of me just wishes I could’ve made my mind up a little earlier. The other, doesn’t know why I’m even doing this.
It isn’t exactly for Kian, but then it isn’t entirely for my sake either, just a gut feeling telling me to do something that feels right; there isn’t really a reason why, neither do I really need one. My intuition has never failed me before.
Yet I feel that there is a reason somehow, just hidden from my comprehension.
While my mind whirs, I’m suddenly jolted as the wagon begins to move forward.
There is certainly no turning back now. Ann odd sensation beginning to grow in the pit of my stomach; I assume it to be simply nerves. But I don’t jump out of the wagon. I stay put, barely breathing for fear of being caught.
By the Gods, I just hope I know what I’m getting myself into.
K i a n
The road is long and bumpy, making my journey a lot harder and uncomfortable.
I feel alone, but thinking of Rena or even Maya only makes it worse. I’ve been trying to keep my mind busy, planning my next moves for the journey ahead, though it doesn’t seem to be working. My mind can only picture one thing and that’s Rena’s face as the wagon pulled me away.
If I’m honest, I really thought she would have changed her mind, rushing to climb under the sheets with me. I hoped until we were through the black gates, deep in my gut knowing it was too late, she had made up her mind.
My heart practically stilled to nothing in my chest when the wagon slowed earlier on. It was only after we continued on that I realised we had only stopped to be checked over before we passed through the gates.
After the initial worry of being caught, it had dawned on me. I was finally out of Aldevia. I was free.
A smile breaks free on my face, the intense euphoria gives me hope, until the bittersweet loneliness settles in once more. I have to keep my wits about me, but I find myself unable to, clinging to my satchel for comfort, though it doesn’t help much. I don’t think I can do this on my own.
I know that we’re headed for Draäl and that’s good. That is exactly where I need to go, where they keep the Chronicle of words, one of the Books of Old and the second piece of the puzzle.
The only problem is how I’m going to get it.
I need it as well as the last Book of Old, located somewhere is the lost library of Argidain which just happens to be submerged somewhere in the Ruins of Chadim; one the deadliest deserts I’ve ever read about.
Once I have possession of all three of the Books of Old, I will be able to open the gateway to Asgard. That was always the plan, if it even exists anymore.
The dilemma is getting these two chronicles. There is no way I will get into the city of Draäl unnoticed. I admit, I need Rena. She’d know how to get in and out undetected.
It’s just typical, now that I need her more than ever, she isn’t here probably scaling rooftops back in Aldevia glad to be rid of me.
At this simple thought my mood plummets, the anger and frustration simmering in the pit of my stomach. I imagine she couldn’t wait to be rid of me and my presence, even after all that happened I’m sure she’s forgotten all about us. Why would she reminisce, she never seemed to be that kind of girl. And after the way she acted before I left. My stomach squeezes into knots as I think about it.
The matter of the fact is with me she would have been safer than staying back in that hell pit. She has more to fear within the walls of Aldevia than outside of them.
I think back to when I first met, I thought she was fearless and strong and after understanding her past I honestly believed she was the bravest person I knew.
Now, however, I realise how much of a coward she really is.
She really believes she’s free and she couldn’t be further from the truth. She had a shot at real freedom and she blew it.
I know it’s her loss, but I still feel an unexplained emptiness as though she’s as unreachable as Maya. But there is nothing I can do about it now. I suppose I’ll just have to come up with another way to get the Chronicle of Words.
R e n a
I don’t know how long we’ve been travelling, it seems as though I have been lying here for an age. I’m past the point of restlessness and it isn’t something I’m enjoying.
Its late evening now, I can only tell by the darkness, the natural light long gone with the day. The stars are bright in the desert, catching glimpses through the spaces between the cloths that hide me.
I can’t help but let my mind wander. There isn’t anything else I can really do while I lie here waiting to arrive at our destination, trying my best not to think about food or where Barnie is. My mind drift to the other topic I’d rather not wonder about but I can’t help myself. His presence in my mind is all too prominent.
As frustrating and confusing as it is, I can’t help but think about him. Nothing else is as important to me at the moment. While it scares me, I find some sort of comfort in that.
I have to keep reminding myself how little interaction I have had with others. For reasons of my own, but that isn’t really an excuse. Kian is showing me things and causing me to do things I’d never even dreamt of doing until I met him.
His influence on me isn’t entirely exasperating and somehow thrilling. But since Boe, I haven’t let anyone too close, other than Barnie. But can that be even labelled in the same category, a question I find myself unable or unwilling to answer.
Lying there, amongst the sheets letting my mind fill with questions, I can’t help but smile. Kian really is rubbing off on me.
He’d probably be dying to ask me pointless questions if he were here right now, beside me. I’d be telling him to keep quiet or just blatantly ignoring him.
My eyelashes brush against the thick cloth as I lie in silence, wishing I could communicate with him, tell him he isn’t as alone as he thinks.
I can only pray that he hasn’t got caught or decided to leave his transport. Because if he does, I doubt even I will be able to save him.
K i a n
We’re almost at the city of Draäl. I only know this by overhearing the driver shout something out to the impure boy he has with him. And I know this because he almost caught me out a couple of hours ago, when he’d been told to grab something from the back.
I twitched, I hadn’t even meant to move but I swear the boy noticed it. I could feel his eyes studying the heap of cloths before kicking it suddenly.
Though I admit it hurt, I didn’t move more fearful of being discovered than the bruising. In the end I’d heard him shrug and take what he was told to get before settling himself back in the passenger seat.
When I finally though it was safe, I sighed with relief whilst my heart hammered hard in my chest. I don’t think I’ve ever been that afraid before in my life. For those few minutes I felt like a wanted fugitive. It was terrifying.
We’re slowing down, but I think this is just another break. I hate these stops, reminding me how hungry I am. Not having eaten anything yet since the previous nightfall for fear of being heard. I can only hope we reach Draäl soon I’ve lost count of the days we’ve been travelling.
For the thousandth time since I left, my mind drifts onto Rena. I wonder where she is, what she and Barnie could be getting up to. Scaling rooftops and sleeping under the cover of the groggy night sky back home.
I wish she was here. I miss her almost as much as I miss Maya.
White hot pain slices through me for the hundredth time as I think of her, face so similar yet so different to Rena’s. Soft curls cradling her face in a more doll like fashion than her look-a-like.
I know she is gone, in a place I can’t reach her yet still that small part of me hopes I’m wrong. But then if that is the case I deserted her. I left her behind, just like Rena.
Friends don’t leave the other behind.
Friends shouldn’t desert each other, but that is exactly what I did, what Rena did.
My head starts to spin as the clouded thoughts merge and twist into questions I can’t answer and would rather not think about.
It no longer matters. Maya’s gone and so is Rena, so I can only suppose she will forever be the one mystery I never solve.
R e n a
By my hazy calculations we’ve been travelling for almost a fortnight and we still haven’t seemed to have arrived remotely close to Draäl. My patience has completely drained out now and I’m sick of lying here slowing becoming irritable and claustrophobic with every passing hour, my thoughts the only entertainment to keep me occupied.
I’m tired of thinking about Kian, but he’s the only thing on my mind apart from the hunger of broken meals and stifled heat.
I can imagine him in the same way, fidgety and thirsty for a good meal and water as I am.
I’m surprised I haven’t heard an uproar from his discovery yet. After discovering that my ride accompanied his amongst another twenty or so when I had gone for a quick stretch while the riders all slept. I’m relieved though, it means he’s been smart enough to keep quiet and to keep still.
I’m pulled from my thoughts when I overhear my driver shout out to another a little way off how little time left before we reach our destination. A huge smile stretches across my face. Finally I’ll be able to rip away these damn cloths and breathe in fresh, clear air.
A frown furrows my brow as I realise I’m going to have to escape the compounds of a dozen demon and their slaves in broad daylight without getting caught.
I use the little time I have left to come up with something, a plan slowly forming in my head. It’s simple enough but effective and with it my smile resurfaces.
All I need to do now is find Kian wherever he may be.
Something which will certainly be easier said than done.
K i a n
I can’t express how relieved I am to be finally getting out of this darn wagon and being able to eat and drink something. My stomach clenches with hunger reminding me how long ago my last meal was. I wait, my breathing light as I hear my driver and passenger get out of the wagon to speak to the others.
Its chaos, everyone abandoning their wagons and horses to group together a little way off. I hear their voices in the distance and take this opportunity to slip out from under the cloths and blankets. It’s so bright I have to blink a couple of times before I can see clearly.
When my eyesight focuses, getting used to the brightness after being in the dark for so long, I pull myself out of the wagon and hide behind the furthest from the group.
For a moment I stand there marveling at the sight lain out before me. Sand stretches for miles and miles, with nothing but blue skies to accompany it, not a single cloud marking the skies. For the first time in my life I can actually see the sun and I’m in awe of its beauty.
I turn my head away, dots marking my vision as I gasp inwardly at the sight. The city of the Pure Ones is magnificent.
A pair of bleached white walls surround the city as two cocoons, one inside the other with thick silver gates to enter either passage. A small moat circles the city giving it a foreign pristine aura. It stands proud, soaking in the sun with all its splendor.
I can now understand why it’s so precious to the Pure Ones.
Like any other halfling, I’d heard tales of it, but none of them came close to this.
It’s as I begin to walk forward towards it, completely mesmerized, that someone grabs me from behind. The stranger covers my mouth before I can shout out in alarm, my eyes flying wide, and drags me under one of the wagons with a force I can’t match in my shocked state.
By the Gods please do not let me die here and now.
R e n a
Following through with my plan had been easy.
Of course as soon as the wagons stopped, no one bothered to notice me slip out from my hiding place and begin to crawl underneath the wagons in my search for Kian. All of them too busy grouping together for the final time before they surpassed the gates, to notice the two intruders in their midst.
I didn’t need to see him to know that the idiot had already come out of his hiding place, standing around in plain sight and aimlessly walking around staring at the surrounding view. Though I admit, for a moment of two even I had been captured by its splendor.
I had never seen or even imagined anything like this. The blue skies free of red, menacing clouds and the sun just took my breath away. But I had a plan to go through with, so I tore my eyes away from the new captivating sights and got on with what needed to be done.
Kian had been wandering around like a buffoon until I came up behind him and dragged his sorry self under the wagon for cover before anyone caught him. Rather me than a demon.
The thought of me scaring him sends a wave of glee through me. Serves him right, the way he had no regard for being caught you’d think that was his plan.
I slowly release my hand from his mouth and let him move away, turning to face me with wary eyes. A grin shapes on my lips as I watch as a rush of emotions fly across his face, ranging from fear and shock to clear relief.
“I didn’t think- I thought you wasn’t coming!” he says, stumbling over his words.
I move a finger over my lips in a signal for him to quiet his voice, looking over my shoulder as I do so.
“Well someone has to keep you out of trouble,” I reply in a whisper, the grin not leaving my face.
Kian looks at me, a sheepish look on his face. I can tell he’s happy to see me and the same goes for me, though it doesn’t mean I’ll admit it out loud. Silence creeps over us for a while before Kian interrupts it.
“So what do we do now?” he asks.
I open my mouth but then shut it quickly. Honestly I hadn’t even thought that far ahead. My plan had been so focused on getting to Kian, I hadn’t even begun to think about what we’d do after I’d found him.
I look out from under the wagon, scanning our surroundings. Sand stretches for miles, we’d be spotted if we ran for it and even if we did with our resources low we wouldn’t last a week. I glance over at the moat and realise it’s our only chance at escaping.
I look back at Kian and I can’t help but grin.
“Feel like going swimming?” I ask him.
In seconds, he clocks what I mean by that and looks back and forth from the moat to me with a slanted grin slowly appearing on his face.
“Let’s do it,” he replies, his eyes dancing.
K i a n
Rena looks at me for a moment before she cocks her head to listen to the drivers.
I watch silently, waiting for her signal. She looks back at me suddenly, her eyes alert and alive with something I can’t quite describe and nods, signalling me to go.
I roll out from under the wagon and dash for the moat. Rena follows in pursuit soon after.
I slip myself as silently as I can into the water and begin to swim, following the direction of the moat. I freeze suddenly considering a thought. I turn to look at Rena who at this moment is giving me a quizzical look.
All I do is point my finger upwards and she follows with her eyes. In moments she understands what I’m trying to get at and looks up at the walls checking to see if any guards are watching.
She looks back down and straight at me, shaking her head at the same time.
I sigh in relief, before turning back around and continue to swim around the moat.
It isn’t long before we reach a safe place to stop and pull ourselves out of the water.
We dump our things down beside us and lie there quietly for a moment, both of us staring up at the rich blue sky.
A bird flies overhead and for a moment my heart stops in my chest, but it isn’t a raven. It’s Barnie. He swoops down and lands beside me, cooing softly.
The smile I give him is warm and friendly him as I softly pat his head, before regaining my lying position.
I just happen to glance over at Rena when she is wringing out her dripping wet shirt.
She has her back to me and her hair is stuck to her shoulders and is making drops of water slide down her back.
My eyes stare as I carefully take in the curves of her shoulders, the arch in the lower back, the smallness of her waist until I feel myself stiffen as I notice them. My eyes widen as I look closer at her back and I have to bite my lip to stop myself from gasping or saying something I’ll reget.
Her whole back is covered in irregular scars, raised from what I can only presume used to be deep and horrifyingly painful slashes. I don’t think I can see one patch of milky skin that isn’t ridden with reddened or lightly pink scars.
As if she can feel my eyes on her, she stiffens. She turns her head to look over her shoulder at me. I try to tear my eyes away, but I just can’t, caught in the act. Guilty as charged.
“Fire whip,” she says bluntly.
“What?” I ask as I shake my head, looking as lost as I feel.
“The scars are from the fire whip, from the time I spent in the Pitt,” she explains.
I nod to show that I understand, but I don’t say anything more. I don’t even bombard her with questions, because I find that I don’t want to know anymore details of the horrors of her past. I’ve heard enough of it to keep my curiosity at bay.
“Where do we need to go now?” she asks in a muffled voice, as she pulls her shirt over her head, her back still facing me.
“Into the city,” I reply.
“Why would we need to go into the city?” she asks as she turns to face me.
“The Chronicle of Words is somewhere in the city,” I explain.
“Oh,” she says, her face falling.
“We should have really stayed on the wagons until we were inside,” I say.
She shakes her head. “We would have been caught.”
“We’ll need to find a way in, we need that book,” I tell her, the determination clear on my face.
I look at her face to find it blank and confused telling me instantly she hadn’t understood that.
“We need it for where we’re going,” I explain in the simplest way I can.
I watch as the realisation of the task at hand dawns on her face. She then looks at me with an odd expression on her face, her eyebrows drawn in her eyes closed off..
“We are really going to have to go into Draäl aren’t we?” she asks.
I nod my head. “Yes, but not we exactly. Just you,”
She looks at me incredulously as if I’m insane. “Me?”
“I’m a Halfling. I’ll be caught straight away. You won’t, you’re one of them” I argue.
I watch quietly as she digests this information, her eyes lighting up then darkening as she sits across from me, no longer meeting mine.
“Why is everything so complicated when you’re around” she mumbles finally, her eyes cast to the wet sand.
I shrug and unsure of how to answer and whether or not she wants one.