Friday, 18 December 2015

If Adventure Comes Your Way - Fragment Ten

Today marks the day we come to the last 'If Adventure Comes Your Way' for this year. I think it's kinda interesting that we finish with Fragment Ten, it almost looks like I planned it. How fascinating. Sorry to say, I'm taking the day off next Friday as we're not around for Christmas. We'll be leaving for my cousin's place on Tuesday. I'm really excited about it! I hope you don't mind that I purposefully finished with an extra big cliffhanger this time...Mwah ha ha, I am so evil sometimes. Sorry, I just couldn't help myself.

Option three won the votes by a long shot (Now I'd better check back to make sure I didn't word it quite that way last time...ok, cool, I didn't, we can continue now) which is very nice of you all, 'cause that was also my favourite. Authors are so unfailingly cruel to their characters...

Ahem, anyway, here is your dreadfully-cliffhanger-ended-last-post-of-the-year-story. Read on!

Half a dozen men had appeared from behind the trees. “Surrender, or take the consequences,” one of the soldiers commanded sharply. My heart sank into the ground.

Four of the soldiers held crossbows and they were all pointed at us. The commander took a step forward. “Surrender!” he barked.

I raised my hands slowly, knowing resistance was pointless. Jack followed my lead.

The soldier gestured at us with his sword. “Take them,” he said shortly.

Three of the men stepped forward, one grabbed my arms roughly, twisting them behind my back, the other two went for Jack. He started struggling, but two grown men were too strong. 

“Just go with them, Jack,” I said, hopelessness filling my heart.

The leader of the soldiers regarded me with interest. “What is your name?” he asked. 

I raised my chin defiantly. “Lady Louise De Corlette,” I said.

Jack jerked backwards but the soldiers prevented any more movement. His wide brown eyes fixed on me were filled with shock. My mouth formed and ‘o’ as I remembered that to Jack I was supposedly Louise Conwell, some nobody of no importance. I shrugged inwardly, he was going to find out sometime.

“I see,” the soldier murmured, rubbing his chin. “Very interesting.”

“Shall we take them to the castle, Captain?” the man holding me asked.

The Captain nodded briskly. “Yes,” he sheathed his sword. “You two go behind in case one of these kids try make a break for it,” he instructed the remaining soldiers, then glanced at me. “I recommend they don’t try anything silly.”

My mind dulled with despair as we were marched through the ancient trees, the ground sloping upwards as we climbed the hills. Everything was going wrong, Adventures weren’t supposed to work like this. I sighed. 

Before we moved off the soldiers had bound my hands tightly with a thin cord, and I could barely feel my fingers. I wiggled them just to make sure they were still there.

After tramping through the forest for what seemed like hours the Captain of the soldiers paused and turned back to us. “I’ll go first,” he said. “Send the girl next, then you—” he gestured to the man behind me. “Then the boy can come, followed by the rest of you.”

The soldiers saluted and the Captain disappeared through a narrow gap. I was shoved forward and I gasped as I realised just how narrow the passage was. It was basically a crack between two massive boulders, only just wide enough for a man to pass through without his shoulders touching either side. 

I calmed my heart, trying to blank my mind. Forget the fear, my thoughts became a mantra, keep going, forget the fear. I stumbled out the other side, almost tripping as my foot caught on a stone. A hand grabbed my arm and steadied me. I looked up into the deep eyes of the Captain. Then I looked past him and caught my breath sharply.

A castle loomed ahead, seeming to glare down on everyone in the hidden vale. It was even bigger than the De Corlette Manor, and that was saying something, as far as I’d been aware only the King’s palace could claim that.

“Welcome to the Stronghold of Hacaz,” the Captain said.

I looked up at the distaste in his voice, but his expression revealed nothing.

Soon all the other soldiers and Jack had entered the valley, and the Captain formed us up again and led the way to the castle gates.

I shivered as the gates swung open for us, revealing the dark courtyard inside. Keep going, forget the fear, my mind chanted. The Captain halted us with a wave of his hand.

“Inform the Garrison Commander that we have two new prisoners,’ he commanded three of the soldiers. 

They saluted and turned away, jogging to a low building to the side. The Captain nodded at the remaining men. “Let’s get these kids into the prison.”

I stumbled along behind the Captain, wishing Maree was here. She’d know what to do to escape. I crashed right into the leading soldier when he stopped suddenly.

He steadied me and drew his knife. I cringed back but he gripped my arm firmly, turning me around. The knife sliced through the rope around my wrists. I looked up, dazed, what was going on?

The Captain gestured at the other two soldiers and they grinned, releasing Jack likewise.

“Listen,” the Captain said. “I have a daughter at home, about your age, and a son. I’m not going to be responsible for your capture.”

I stared. “You’’re going to let us escape?”

The Captain shook his head. “No,” he said, and the small hope I felt instantly flickered out. “You are going to be rescued by a giant of a man and he is going to knock out us soldiers and we’ll never stand a chance.”

A smile crept onto my lips. “So when is this giant going to come?” I asked.

“Any time now,” the Captain said.

One of the soldiers behind Jack coughed. “Captain, we will be punished.”

“That is inevitable, Felix,” he replied. “What would you say to your wife if you had just locked up two young children? Or more, what would she say to you?”

The guard, Felix, shook his head. “I agree. I can already feel the folds of unconsciousness approaching.” With that the two soldiers collapsed to the floor.

Jack looked down and nudged one with his toe. “Wow, they’re good,” he murmured.

“You have to get away, there’s a door just down this corridor, first on the left. Hide in there until sundown and then leave through the servant’s staircase,” the Captain said, pointing the way. “Now go!”

The steady, even footsteps of a soldier echoed along the corridor behind us and Jack jumped into action, running down the hall. I sprinted after him, ducking into the side room right behind him. He closed the door quickly, leaning against it heavily.

“Phew,” he gasped. “That was interesting.”

“We’ve got to hide,” I panted, looking around the room desperately. “So they don’t find us before nightfall.”

“The bed!” Jack exclaimed, scrambling over to it. He glanced under it then looked up grimacing, “There’s only room for one, you hide there.”

I hesitated, but a commotion out in the corridor decided me, I ran lightly to the bed, dropping to my stomach and squeezing under it. I saw Jack’s feet disappear as he stepped into a large wardrobe.

The voices and shouting outside continued, and I hugged my arms around me, trying to stop my heart from jumping right out of my chest.

The door was thrown open, and a pair of gleaming boots came into view followed by several more. “We need to search the whole castle,” a voice said. “We can’t afford to lose prisoners, especially just before Lord Hacaz comes back.”

The boots came closer to my hiding place. I bit my lip and held my breath, forcing myself to remain dead still. The rustle of fabric sounded and I found myself staring into the eyes of a soldier. 

My heart froze, and our gaze locked. Then the soldier straightened. “I don’t think anyone’s in here, Sir,” his voice came from right above me. 

The reply came as a grunt and the soldiers walked out of the room. I released a shaking breath, there was another soldier who had some conscience, if this truly was the stronghold of Hacaz he obviously didn’t realise just how ‘loyal’ his troops were.

Hours passed slowly, soldiers hurried along the corridor, and loud voices called all through the castle, but no one came into the room again. Eventually the light began to grow dimmer and a door creaked softly. Jack’s shoes appeared, and I figured I could come out.

My cramped muscles protested to the movement and it was all I could do to keep silent as I struggled to my feet. Jack smiled tightly, his face showing the strain. I wondered if I looked as bad.

“C’mon,” he whispered, padding over to a nondescript door on the far side of the room. “Servants door.”

I nodded, slipping through the open door. Jack closed it behind him and then frowned at the dark corridor. “What way?”

I pointed. “That way,” I said, glad to know something useful. “There’ll be stairs going down to a kitchen just along there somewhere.”

“Well, lead on, m’lady,” Jack said, bowing slightly.

I sighed. “Just call me Louise,” I told him. “It doesn’t really matter.”

He lifted one shoulder in a half shrug and I headed off down the hall, listening carefully for any sign of other people.

The cold night air blew my hair back as we slipped out of the hot kitchen. There’d been so many servants, maids and cooks inside that no one had noticed our presence.

“Let’s get to the stables,” Jack breathed into my ear. 

I nodded and we shadowed along the wall, reaching the stables after a few minutes of tense sneaking. Jack pointed silently at the window and knelt, gesturing for me to use his leg as a step to climb inside.

I heaved myself into the musty dark of the stable, dropping onto the soft hay. Jack was beside me in a moment, peering into the darkness.

I caught sight of a ladder. “We could try,” I said quietly, remembering the correct word just in time.

Jack nodded. “Ladies first,” his whispered, holding the ladder steady. 

I mounted up the rungs, feeling the rough wood under my hands. Hay dust stirred as I reached the top, stepping from the ladder to the wooden boards of the loft floor. Jack coughed below me and I heard the nervous whicker of a horse somewhere in the stables.

The ladder quivered as Jack started climbing and I collapsed onto a pile of hay, instantly it ceased being so soft and turned scratchy. I was so tired I hardly cared. I was asleep before Jack reached the top of the ladder.

Sunlight streamed through a crack in the roof, right into my eyes. I blinked and sat up, wondering where I was. Memory returned and I almost slumped right back down again. A loud sound stopped me. Hammering and yelling came from just outside the stable.

Jack’s face appeared from the other side of a stack of hay. “Morning!” he said, his voice low but cheerful.

“Why so happy?” I asked, scratching my neck.

He shrugged. “I just have a feeling that today is going to be a good day,” he replied.

“What is that sound?” I asked as more shouts came to my ears.

Jack frowned. “I don’t know,” he said. “I didn’t want to climb down a look until you were up to agree that it was a good idea.”

‘Well, it’s not a good idea, but we’ll do it anyway,” I said, now thoroughly awake.

Jack peered carefully over the side of the ladder while I tried to get the hay out of my tangled hair. “I think it’s all clear,” he called softly before starting his descent.

I jumped down the last few rungs of the ladder, landing lightly on the hard floor. The nearest horse snorted curiously, tossing its head. I rubbed my hand along her neck, twisting my fingers in the flaxen mane. “You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you?” I murmured.

“Louise,” Jack’s voice was very different from the tone he’d used to say ‘good morning’. I spun around.

“What?” I asked, my heart quickening nervously.

He waved me to the window, his face grim. “I don’t think you’re going to like this,” he said.

I took a tentative look out the window and my eyes caught on the object in the middle of the courtyard that hadn’t been there the day before. A gallows. Crowds of soldiers and the castle’s inhabitants were milling around it, talking in loud voices.

A scuffle in the door of the castle caught my attention and I glanced that way. A group of soldiers were dragging someone towards the scaffold. As they drew closer I could see that the unfortunate person was struggling and kicking but to no avail.

I watching in horror as the prisoner was forced up the steps and onto the platform. A dark robed executioner stepped forward, but I wasn’t paying him much attention. 

Now that the prisoner was standing still and raise above all the soldiers I could see them clearly. And what I saw was a small figure, dressed in a muddy wool tunic and pants. Even from that distance and without the oversized leather jacket I recognised her.


My friend was about to die.


1. “Okay,” I said numbly, my eyes still fixed on Maree. “You got a plan?”

2. A second figure climbed the stairs onto the platform, a taste of loathing rose to my mouth as I saw Hacaz again. Dead or given up, am I? I thought, you’re about to find out just how wrong you are. 

3. Maree raised her bound hands, and waved them above her head. “I beleeve I have the preevilege of last words?”


I hope I haven't caused any deaths by ending there. It was kinda mean, but I did already admit to that. Looking forward to seeing your votes and opinion on the story! It was another long one...2,191 words...I think I'm starting to make them longer because I've been writing these paragraph sum-up of the fragment (so I know what's happening and don't have to moan and groan so much) and I keep including too much in them. :) Oh well, I don't think any of you mind. See you in two weeks and...

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, 11 December 2015

If Adventure Comes Your Way - Fragment Nine

It's getting closer and closer to Christmas, guys! Are you all excited to celebrate our saviour's birth? I am. 
Technically we're having our 'Christmas' on the 20th because we're going away for the 25th. So we have a Christmas at home and then we don't have to lug all the presents around on holidays. It works quite well.

I feel like I really need to come up with a different way of saying this, but option three won. Thanks to all who voted and read my post. I hope you aren't disappointed by your choice. To all those who think my fragments are too short, today's is an extra long one. 2,101 words including the options. I think that might be a record!

“Let her go!” another voice called from inside the house, a voice I’d heard before.

My attacker paused and the voice came again, “Let her go, this instant or I’ll have words for you later.”

The silhouette coughed. “Ahem, well, would you come inside?” he asked.

“Get inside this minute,” a second figure appeared beside the first. I stared in shock, finally realising where I knew the voice from.

Governess Kathryn,” I gasped, and promptly collapsed.

I was roused by the sharp smell of one of Governess Kathryn’s herbal teas. A blanket lay over me and I felt wonderfully warm. I opened my eyes reluctantly. 

“Ah, she awakes,” Governess Kathryn said. She sat by the bed, her needlework in hand.

“Why are you here?” I asked haltingly.

My governess clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “What a way to begin a conversation,” she shook her head. “Always begin by asking the other person how they are feeling.”

I sighed. “I don’t think now is the right time for language lessons, Governess,” I replied.

“You are right,” she agreed. “Drink this.” She thrust a cup at me containing a watery brown liquid.

I wrinkled my nose; I had experienced most of Kathryn’s teas and I didn’t like any of them. “Do I have to?”

“Yes,” she said firmly.

I took a deep breath and swallowed a mouthful, struggling to keep my expression free of distaste. “So what are you doing here?” I tried again.

“I was visiting my nephew,” Governess Kathryn said without looking up.

“What does everyone think about my...disappearance?” I asked. 

“I left before anyone had realised,” she replied serenely.

I frowned, she had no idea that I’d been missing, yet here she was, sitting calmly just after I’d appeared in the middle of the night, half a day away from the manor. 

“I have sent a message to them, and there should be an escort on the way soon,” she continued.

What?” my voice cracked. “I can’t go back!”

“Why not?” she looked up this time, her face severe.

“Maree’s a prisoner, Hacaz is going to do something bad, and I’m the only one who can help, because no one else would believe it!” the words poured out in a complete jumble.

Governess Kathryn looked at me steadily. “Nevertheless, I think it would do a great deal of good for you to be back in your bed chambers in the manor. We could send out soldiers to fix everything up.”

I jumped out of bed, angry now. “Exactly!” I cried. “That’s the thing, you don’t believe me that there’s anything wrong, and if you don’t, why should anyone else? I’ll tell you what, they won’t, and Maree will be left helpless, locked up in some fortress until they kill her.”

“Back in bed, Louise De Corlette,” my Governess said sternly, rising to her feet also.

I took a deep breath. “No,” I replied. “Where is the Knight Yerra Hacaz’s castle?”

Kathryn frowned. “I have had enough of this nonsense now,” she said. “Time to—”

“You have called me stubborn before,” I said, struggling to keep my voice steady. “So you know that I will never change my mind. Now tell me, do you know where Yerra Hacaz has his castle?”

Governess Kathryn was silent for a long moment. “I do not know of whom you speak,” she began. “But I can tell you that you will not be going anywhere.”

I turned around to survey the room. “Where’s your nephew?”

“He’s...out,” was the reply.

“And now he’s in!” a cheerful voice called from the door as it opened to admit a tall man.

I turned to him. “Please, sir,” I pleaded. “Do you know where the castle of Yerra Hacaz is?”

He stuck out his bottom lip. “Oh, some say it’s just over the other side of the lake,” he said before Governess Kathryn could stop him. He became aware of her glare and faltered. “Of course,” he continued, “It’s just a myth, really, nothing actually there.”

“Thank you,” I burst out and ran for the door.

“Stop!” Kathryn called after me as I ran through the thin layer of snow.

I paused and looked back. “Goodbye!” I yelled. “Tell father and mother that I’ll be fine!”

Governess Kathryn was silent as I continued on and soon I lost sight of her. I drew in a deep breath of cold morning air, glad that the snow had stopped falling during the night. My stomach grumbled as I jogged on and I wished I’d thought to take some food.

The sound of running water led me to the river and subsequently to the boats. Several men were loading bales of something onto a boat and I called to them as I approached.

“Do you have a boat I could borrow?” I panted.

One man looked me up and down. “Ye’ll have trouble usin’ one I’d say,’ he commented. “Got someone who knows ‘bout boats?”

“Where d’you need to go?” another added.

“I need to get to the other side of the lake,” I explained. “It’s just me.”

The men exchanged a glance. “Ye’ve got no hope, sorry lass,” the first man said. “A full grown man’d struggle to cross the lake solo this time of year.”

“Please, I need to try,” I begged them.

“Well, if you took a sail boat you’d have a touch of chance,” the second man considered. “D’you have any cash?”

My heart fell. “No, I—”

“Listen lass,” the shorter man said. “If you had a companion who knew their way around boats, we’d happily lend one to you, free. But as you are...” he trailed off and shrugged apologetically.

I nodded, my shoulders slumped dejectedly. There it was, I may as well return to Governess Kathryn now, I thought, Maree’s lost. I turned and wandered off down the river a little way and sat on a snow dusted log.

I sighed heavily. One day of adventure and things go impossibly wrong, it just wasn’t fair. Then I smiled wryly, Adventures were never fair, you got what you got and you took it as best you could. If things could go wrong by themselves, maybe they could fix the same way.

Thudding footsteps penetrated my thoughts. I ignored them for a while but as they came closer and closer I turned around.

A lanky boy was sprinting along the road towards the river. I jumped up as I recognised him. He seemed to see me at the same moment and changed his direction so he was headed straight for me.

“Jack!” I exclaimed as he nearly cannoned into me. “Is something wrong?”

“They’re right behind me!” he gasped breathlessly. “We need a boat.”

He turned to the boat loaders and started running to them, yelling loudly and waving his hands. I hurried after him, still confused.

“We need a boat,” he wheezed at the men.

They looked at me and then back to Jack. “You know how to sail?” they asked.

“Yes!” he almost shouted. “I’ve got soldiers right behind me. I’d need the boat even if I didn’t know how to sail!”

The men sprang into action and in a moment they had a small sail boat ready and waiting in the water. One man tossed me a package. “Here miss,” he said. “It’s me lunch. Not much, but it’s something.”

“Thank you,” I called as Jack basically shoved me onto the boat.

They raised a hand in farewell as Jack pushed off and the sail caught the breeze. I settled down in the middle, right next to the mast. Jack sat in the back, holding the steering oar.

“Pull that rope for me?” he called, pointing at one of the many ropes. I hesitantly tugged it and Jack nodded. “Now just tie it up tighter.”

I frowned at the rope, trying to work out how to tie it. No one had ever taught me how to tie knots. Eventually I settled with twisting it around and threading it in and out multiple times until it resembled my hair felt like when I combed it in the morning.

The breeze was steady and Jack seemed to be satisfied with the speed we were making so I guessed we were going reasonably well. My companion obviously had plenty of experience with boats and I just had to adjust random ropes when he asked.

The sun gleamed off the water and the snow on the banks and I had to squint to see anything much. Before midday we passed a small town and entered the wide open lake.

Jack started to get more restless then, peering forward anxiously every few minutes. “Is something wrong?” I asked eventually.

“I don’t want to get lost,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at the lakeside town receding behind. 

“Why were there soldiers after you?” I continued after a moment’s silence.

“I spied on their camp,” he explained a grin coming across his face. “I saw your friend but couldn't find you. Then they saw me and four of the soldiers came after me.”

We continued on in silence. The breeze picked up and I wrapped my arms around myself to stay warm. 

The temperature seemed to get colder as we neared the far side and the wind blew in uneven gusts. Water sloshed over the side and I tried to bail it out with my hands but the blustery wind just blew it right back in again.

Jack struggled to keep us on course, wrestling with the tiller. I reached under the seat, hoping to find a bucket or something of the kind. The clatter of tin came over the wind and I looked up to see a small bucket right next to Jack’s foot.

The wind whipped up more choppy waves that spilled over the boat’s side. I bit my lip and pulled a strand of hair from my mouth. I closed my eyes, whispered a silent prayer and started crawling along the bottom of the boat.

I kept my body low and spread my weight to try to avoid capsizing the craft. It had seemed small seconds ago but now the length of the boat looked hopelessly long. Water splashed onto my back and I reached out to grasp the handle of the bucket. The metal touched my hand and I gripped it tightly, sliding back along the deck to my seat.

I filled the bucket and tossed the water over the side. This movement was just too violent and I squeaked in terror as I nearly went over with it. The sailboat rocked ominously but I was still inside it and I steadied myself with a deep breath. 

I carefully emptied the next bucketful and after that I worked out the best way of balancing as I emptied out the bottom of the boat. 

A faint noise from Jack’s direction made me look up, his mouth was moving but I couldn’t hear anything. He pointed ahead. “We’re nearly there!” he shouted over the wind.

I twisted around on my seat and looked out over the water. The far side was getting closer and I could just make out a small cove dead ahead. Dark tree covered mountains rose up above, white patches of snow visible even from here.

Jack started yelling directions to me to loosen that rope and tighten the other one. I dropped the bucket and my fingers set to work on the knots. I was grateful for all the needlework practice I’d had in my life, I was an expert at untying knots.

The wind died when we entered the cove and everything fell suddenly silent. I looked around as the nose of the boat slid into the gravelly edge. Scrambling ashore, I pulled the boat up higher to stop if from drifting away.

When I straightened I looked up at the ancient trees around us. No sounds of birds stirred the quiet and the air weighed like a burden on my back.

Jack disembarked and stood beside me, looking through the trees and vines. He froze, his eyes fixed ahead. I followed his gaze and my heart fell to my shoes...


1. A gap between the trees revealed a heavy stone wall, half covered in ivy. 

2. The trees were thick, but not quite thick enough to hide our view of a massive iron gate, on either side of which, two well-armed guards stood sentry.

3. Half a dozen men had appeared from behind the trees. “Surrender, or take the consequences,” one of the soldiers commanded sharply. My heart sank into the ground.


If it felt too long, don't worry, it'll be back to the normal 1,500 next week. And if you like it longer, don't worry, I may raise my word-count-aim-thing sometime later in the story. 
Don't forget to comment your favourite option, and tell me how you liked the story. :)

Fare Thee Well!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Cool books and Giveaways

No, sadly this is not a giveaway that I am doing. I may do one someday, but I don't know yet...
Anyway, this is about a giveaway from Kingdom Pen!

You may remember that my half-done novel, The Bridge of Anskar, was/is being written using the 'One Year Adventure Novel Curriculum'. Daniel Schwabauer (I dare you to try pronounce his name) invented that. I've also read two of his novels: "Runt the Brave" and "Runt the Hunted" and liked 'em both heaps. Naturally I really, really want to read "The Curse of the Seer" as it's the next book in the series.

So, since I follow the Kingdom Pen place, I came across this giveaway! Yay! And since I'm such a terribly nice person (and because it gets me more points) I decided to do a blog post about it. That way, all of you can find it and enter as well. Just to tempt you, here's the synopsis:

Everyone thinks Eli is afraid of the dark, and they’re right. But it’s not because he can’t see in the dark; it’s because he can. After his father is murdered by kingsguard mice, Eli is tortured and condemned to death.

With the help of Tira-Nor’s old seer, AlBaer, Eli escapes his executioners and discovers that his mother, who was sold into slavery in Cadrid years before, may still be alive. Finding and saving her becomes his passion, but can he survive slavery, cruel taskmasters, foreign armies, the hatred of his own people, and even death itself? AlBaer can’t—or won’t—protect him from the supernatural evil that stalks him, and Eli must try to unravel the seer’s curse alone.

Cool? I reckon it is. Mr. S (what we one year adventure novel-ists call Daniel Schwabauer, probably because we don't know how to pronounce his last name) also did an interview thing. If you click on the picture, or right here you can go to the Kingdom Pen site and read it. All writers should also follow it, because they have some really good posts.

Giveaways are always fun...maybe I should think about doing one...But for now, just go, have some fun and enter into the Kingdom Pen Giveaway!

Fare Thee Well!

Friday, 4 December 2015

If Adventure Comes Your Way - Fragment Eight

I have this feeling inside me...The feeling that this Fragment is heralding a plot twist of major qualities...I dunno what it is, but I'm feeling it coming...

It didn't take very long to write today's Fragment. The last part was reluctant, but it wasn't terribly bad. 
Option three won (just) and that was slightly unexpected. It looked like 1 was going to get it. But then, surprise, surprise! Three more votes for option 3! So, yeah, here is the next Fragment of 'If Adventure Comes Your Way'!

The huge man turned to me with a guttural sound and, club upraised, he charged.

The fact that I didn’t stop to think showed that, even then, I had already learnt something from my adventures. Sometimes there wasn’t time for thinking. I dived for Maree’s bow.

I snatched it up, dragging an arrow from the quiver at Maree’s side. The giant of a man lumbered around, growling menacingly, his eyes fixed on me.

I fitted the arrow to the string with surprising swiftness considering I’d never been taught how. Governess Kathryn did not believe that noble ladies should be able to use weapons. I raised the bow, trying to pull the string back but finding it much too hard.

“Don’t come any closer,” I said loudly to the approaching man.

He stared at the arrowhead, his small eyes darting from it to me, as if gauging whether he could thump me before I shot. He definitely could have.

“Drop your club, or I’ll shoot,” I commanded, doing my best to keep my voice from shaking.

The man hesitated and I waited breathlessly; if he didn’t believe me and tried to attack, I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry out my threat. My attacker grunted and dropped his club.

I heaved a silent sigh of relief. “Right, so now just walk away slowly,” I instructed him sternly.

To my amazement he took a step backwards and then turned around and disappeared into the trees. I gaped after him. “Wow,” I murmured. “That went better than I expected.” Then I remembered Maree.

The falling snow was beginning to settle on her still form and I dropped to my knees beside her. I pressed my fingers to her neck, desperately hoping for a pulse. I felt a faint but steady throbbing under my fingers and a sob of relief caught in my throat. She was alive at least.

I stood up and looked around, I needed to get her out of the snow. Reaching down, I brushed the snowflakes off Maree and spread her mud splattered jacket over her. “Don’t you move,” I whispered. “I’m just going to scout around.”

I pushed through the fir trees, ignoring the branches slapping my face. Surely somewhere I could find some shelter. I pressed on, anxious for Maree. I wished I didn’t have to leave her but it was the only way. I stumbled and fell over a large branch on the ground. Looking up, I stared into a small cave, shrouded in deep darkness. I crept forward, cautiously watching out for any sign of occupation.

I crawled to the back of the cave and, finding nothing, I smiled. “Perfect,” I said aloud, scrambling out into the open, “Now I’ve just got to get back to Maree, and get her here somehow.”

I carefully retraced my steps. My footprints were just visible in the thin layer of snow that speckled the ground. I had almost reached the path once more when a sound alerted me to the danger.

I dropped on my stomach and wriggled forward. At first I didn’t see anything but then dark shapes came into view, and soon I could recognise them as soldiers. I caught my breath sharply as I saw the manticore symbol on the tunic of the nearest man. Hacaz’s men.

I crawled along the tree line, my heart in my throat, hoping against hope that they hadn’t found Maree yet.

All hope faded when I reached the place where Maree lay, only to see Hacaz standing over her, a huge sneer on his face. I strained to hear what he was saying. This wasn’t as hard as I expected as his was the only voice and he certainly wasn’t making any effort to speak quietly.

“...Whoever did it mustn’t have realised what a favour he was doing us,” Hacaz was saying. “I’ve wanted to thump her head ever since she slipped away the first time.” He turned to the Captain of the unit and bared his teeth in a ruthless grin.

The Captain rested his hand on his sword. “What better opportunity than now?” he suggested. He nudged Maree with his toe, “I don’t think you’ll get much resistance.”

Anger tugged in my gut, but I forced it down with a desperate effort.

Hacaz narrowed his eyes and looked down at Maree thoughtfully. “Yes, that's almost a pity,” he paused then shot a glance at the Captain. “We’ll take her with us,” he decided. “She’ll find it hard to escape from our dungeons.”

The Captain nodded and gestured to two of the soldiers. “Brett and Landrin, tie up the prisoner and get her to the horses,” he barked.

The two soldiers complied with practiced ease, dragging Maree away to ‘the horses’. I bit my lip, but there was nothing I could do against all these soldiers.

Hacaz glanced around and I dared not breathe lest he notice me. “The other girl, Louise De Corlette, seems to have disappeared,” he said, almost disappointedly. “I did expect more of her. Maybe she was taken away by the Head Thumper,’ he said these last words with a cruel smile.

With a last study of the area, Hacaz clapped his hands. “Well, we’ve got half the prize we were looking for, and probably the other half is either dead already or will give up. I doubt that they had enough time for explanations so we can risk having her roaming around. Freespirit, on the other hand, knows too much.” He turned back down the track and all the soldiers formed up behind him, setting off after the other two men with Maree.

Soon the forest was silent once more. I stifled a sob, what could I do? Maree was the only reason I was here, and there was no way I could rescue her, so I may as well go home. 

You’re wrong, a voice whispered deep inside me, and I knew it spoke the truth. I couldn’t turn back, not now. Hacaz expected me to, and I’d spent half my life doing things people expected me to do. Maybe it’s time for that to change, I thought.

I stood up, realising just how cold it was, lying on the snow. I looked down the track where the soldiers went and then at the other side, in the direction of the lakeside village. I headed that way. Chances were, if I followed Hacaz I’d either freeze to death or be caught. This way I might meet some friends and surely someone would know the way to his castle.

I walked as fast as I dared, without risk of losing the faint path. Time seemed to slow as I stumbled along, my fingers turning blue with cold. The falling snow deadened all sound and slowly got heavier and heavier so that I could only see a few meters in front of me.

‘Approximately two hours,’ Maree had said, I shivered; I didn’t have much chance. But she wasn’t sure and maybe she’d been wrong. I squinted at the ground, trying to make out the track. I couldn’t see it and there was no hope of turning back so I just continued forwards, hoping I was going the right way.

It seemed hours later when the trees around me started thinning and the unfrozen part of my head told me that I was nearly there. I staggered on, numb with cold. 

A glint of light caught my eye and I stumbled toward it. I lost sight of it and the frozen half of me was too slow in listening to the unfrozen half saying, it’s the wall of a house, so I crashed right into the door.

I blinked, waiting for the stars to stop zinging around my vision. I raised my hand to knock on the door but it flung open and I only just managed to jump back in time to avoid being knocked flying.

A tall dark silhouette emerged before me, and hands shot out and grabbed my shoulders with a grip like steel.

I fought against my capturer, tugging back urgently, twisting and struggling. “Oh no you don’t,” a voice growled, pulling me towards the door.

“Please, I’m a friend!” I shouted desperately, hoping I was right.


1. “That’ll be for me to decide,” the figure said.

2. “Oh,” I was released suddenly. “Sorry, I thought you were my cousin.”

3. “Let her go!” another voice called from inside the house, a voice I’d heard before.


Thanks for reading, I'm looking forward to all your comments.
And now I'd better go do my week's worth of maths. (I kinda forgot it...that happens when you homeschool...)