Friday, 26 February 2016

If Adventure Comes Your Way - Fragment Nineteen

Why are the most interesting options unfailingly the hardest ones to write?

Maybe I should just adjust my level of 'hard' so that every week is really easy (I started at nine and actually finished at twelve! Can you believe how fast that was?!). At the moment 'hard' is after one o'clock. Buuut, at the same time, hard can be fun too. I get to procrastinate on Pintrest until I eventually convince myself to stop, I can sit listening to epic music for ages, and I'm writing, which, despite all appearances, I do actually enjoy doing. I like that I can create whole worlds from just my imagination. I mean, how cool is that?

Option three got double the votes against option one, and boring, old option two got none. :) So there wasn't any close ties this time. 

I better not forget to mention that I have some news for you...which I'll hopefully impart on Monday maybe...or sometime as soon as I can. But only if you survive in suspense for that long!


The door closed again. Silence.

I felt the blood drain from my face, no sound of footsteps approached, no sound of breathing. Either no one had actually come in, or the person who had was being very careful about not being heard.

I glanced sideways at Maree. She stood rigid, eyes fixed on the doorway. With barely a rustle of movement, Leonora rose from the floor, her hand resting lightly on the hilt of her sword.

Striving to keep my breath silent, I watched the door, waiting to see what new horror would appear.

A shadow stepped out, a dark hood obscuring his face.

Maree leapt forward, tackling the figure to the ground. A shout came and I blinked trying to remember where I’d heard that voice. Suddenly remembering, I started forward.

“Stop!”

Maree and her assailant froze.

“Get off him,” I grabbed Maree’s arm and pulled her away, kneeling beside the man. “Are you okay?” I asked.

A shaking hand reached out to mine. “I weren’t goin’ to hurt ye,” the old man said, grasping my fingers.

“Of course you weren’t, we just didn’t realise who you were,” I said, helping him to his feet.

Turning, I saw the eyes of all in the room were fixed on me. I shrugged. “This is a man who helped me get away from the soldiers earlier,” I explained.

Maree was staring at him, her head on one side and a curious expression on her face. Leonora stepped forward, bowing her head slightly. “I’m very sorry, sir, if I had known…” she held out a hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He shook the offered hand, looking around at the watching faces. “I’d not realised there were this many of ye,” he said.

I smiled. “Well, now you know. I’m Louise, by the way,” I introduced myself.

He nodded. “I saw the hermit leavin’ so I knew y’ were in here,” he spoke urgently. “I came t’ warn you. The soldiers are surrounding the town, it won’t be possible t’ leave soon. It’ll be hard enough now, with so many o’ ye.”

Eumin rose. “We’ll have to leave now then. Is there some way out other than the front gates?”

“Aye, there’s the old gate, that’s niver guarded, but don’t count on it at the moment.”

Eumin and Leonora’s eyes met and a silent message seemed to pass between them. “I’m for leaving now,” Leonora said.

I nodded. “Same here. We’ve got to get to the king.”

Maree nodded vaguely, her brows lowered in thought. Everyone turned to Jack. He waved a hand. “I can’t really stay behind while all my bodyguard leaves, can I?” he said, standing. “I’m with you.”

The old man nodded and turned to the door. “I’ll show you the way.”

We walked through the back streets with heads lowered, avoiding other people whenever possible. Some saw and recognised us, but they just moved on, pretending not to have noticed. One of these passed me a grin as he moved away. But it was Maree who drew the most glances, she was walking behind with the two horses that she’d refused to leave behind.

Our guide stopped us a building away from the old gate. He pressed a finger to my lips as I went to ask a question. “Sorry lass, there’s soldiers a plenty here, no way ye’ll be able t’ get out.” He gestured for us to take a look.

I glanced around the corner quickly, pulling back almost as soon as I did. The image was clear in my mind. Soldiers. All alert, all ready. All with orders to catch us and bring us back to Hacaz, and if we resist, to kill us.

A shiver ran down my spine.

“What’re we going t’ do now?” Jack asked after a quick survey of our situation.

“Nothing,” Eumin replied heavily. “What else can we do? If this gate is that heavily guarded what are the main ones going to be like?”

“Less,” I said.

Everyone turned a confused stare on me.

“It makes sense, don’t you see?” I continued, undaunted by their incredulity. “They would expect us to try for the old gate, or some small insignificant way of escape. What if we just walked out through the biggest gate there was? The soldiers wouldn’t expect that.”

Leonora began nodding slowly. “Yeees,” she drew out the word. “That does make sense.” She looked around at the others. “I don’t see that we’d have less chance, if anything it’d be easier. Here there’s a dozen soldiers for a meter wide gap. Say they have a dozen soldiers for a three meter wide gap. That would make it much harder for them to keep track of everyone.”

The old man looked consideringly at me. “Yer obviously no novice a’ this game,” he remarked. “If you’re all decided I’ll show ye the way.”

Without waiting for an answer, he trotted off along another narrow alley. I followed, the rest coming behind, Maree taking up the rear. The horses’ hooves clopped softly on the ground.

Not softly enough.

The soldiers were almost upon us before we realised. Maree yelled the alarm and started running, the horses following suit.

The old man ducked into an alley, and then another one that came of it, and yet another. He led us to a dark corner and when the soldiers ran into the street they stopped, spreading out immediately to scour the area.

“We should split up,” I hissed. “Each take one horse.”

Leonora nodded. “Good plan,” she said. “Any more coming?”

“If we ride the horses through the gate then the soldiers might be less likely to notice us because it makes sense that we would try to hide,” I added after a moment.

“Is that your motto?” Leonora asked in an amused voice. 

“What?” 

“To think of what would make sense and then do the opposite?” 

I grinned wryly, “Maybe.”

“We’d best become scarce soon,” Jack said. He nodded to the soldiers, “They’ll see us if we don’t move, and if we do. I’d prefer to be caught moving, personally.”

“Let’s go then,” I said, grabbing the reins of a horse. “Get up,” I said to the old man. “You’re coming with me. I’ve been lost once today already. Jack, you’re probably the next lightest, so you can ride with him. I’m the best for running.”

“We’ll be meetin’ y’ on the heell on the oother side o’ toown,” Maree said.

I was about step into the open when Leonora grabbed my arm. “Which way are going? Left or right? We’ll go the other way.”

“You go straight for the gate. I’m going the way they won’t be expecting,” I said with a smile. Shaking off her arm, I ran out, sprinting directly at the soldiers.

They yelled in triumph and ran toward us, I released my hold on the reins, slapping the horse’s side. It jolted forward, moving at a canter. The soldiers realised that the horses wasn’t planning to stop, or move from its course and they scattered, diving out of the way.

I ran as fast as I could, right through the staggering men, following the horse as best I could. Our old guide knew the backstreets perfectly and it was just as well for me that the soldiers were less accomplished. But it was still a fair amount of time before they had completely lost us in the maze.

The old man smiled down at me. “We’ve lost ‘em now,” he declared. “And the main gate’s just over there.” He waved a hand in the general direction, joining me on the ground, “You get up now, an’ I’ll lead you the rest o’ the way.”

I mounted the horse with a bit of difficulty, since Jack was already. I held the reins loosely in one hand, remembering the feel of riding my prim mare under Governess Kathryn’s hawk-like eye. Those days seemed like years ago.

I followed the hunched figure of the man as he led us out onto the busy main street. People were coming in and out of the town just as usual, if not more than ordinary, and I could see the soldiers at the gates had their hands full.

The people around ignored our presence, except to move out of the way of the horse. I resisted the urge to hunch down in the saddle, but sat straight, keeping my eyes on the far line of trees as we neared the gate.

Surely they would hear my heart beating even from here. They’d recognise me or Jack and then we’d be lost for sure. I steadied myself, blanking my mind from thoughts of that kind.

I directed the horse through the gate with a last tense smile at the old man. “Thanks for the help,” Jack said.

“Yes, thanks,” I agreed emphatically, my voice quavering ever so slightly.

Receiving an acknowledging smile and nod, I returned my eyes to the trees. The soldiers paid only a passing attention to us as we rode out of the town.

My breath came easier as we drew away. I caught sight of the others on the hilltop, Maree waved from the horse. Apparently they’d gotten out alright. I urged the horse faster, eager to reach the safety of the trees.

“Hang on a moment,” Jack said, gripping my sleeve. “Something’s going on.”

At the sounds of commotion behind us, I pulled up the horse, half turning to see. The soldiers that had chased us through the back streets had finally caught up and were almost at a gate.

One had a bow in his hands and he paused, drawing it back. At first I was surprised that he would expect to hit one of us from such a distance, and then I realised that he wasn’t aiming for us.

The arrow bounded from the string, flying true to its aim. The tip thudded into the old man’s back.

He tottered for a moment and then fell face forward on the ground.


***

1. Up ahead, Maree jerked the head of her horse around, her eyes alight with an inner flame. She dug her heels into the horse’s sides and it took off at a gallop. Back toward the soldiers

2. I stared at the still body. It was all my fault, if only I hadn’t suggested to try this gate. Then a red hot pain ripped up my shoulder, seeming to tear through my whole body.

3. From the street beside him, a young girl flew out, her mouth open in a wordless scream. She scrambled to reach the old man but a soldier kicked her down to the filthy cobbles.



***

Hmm, this is getting gloomy. More people are dying now. More people will be dying later. We must be getting closer to the climax. I'm interested to see which option you guys all like this week. Sometimes I'm glad you get to decide, 'cause I dunno which I'd choose. :)

Fare Thee Well!


17 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. That one may be my favourite...but I'm not sure. Maybe three is...or maybe one. :) Yeah, I really don't know.

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  2. Well I admit...I didn't expect that. Not sure what I expected, but not that. :)
    I like option 1! That just might be the option I would choose were I in her situation.

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    1. Well, maybe I just thought up what you'd expect and then did exactly the opposite. :D

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    2. Haha! Well played Jane, well played. :D

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  3. I think it has to be one. they can't get away too quickly

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    1. Yeah, we'll shove a couple more problems at them before we let 'em go. :) Maybe I should have called it "If Problems Come Your Way."

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  4. I'm gonna vote for option three :)

    Just to be clear... was that the old man from the house with the fireplace Louise hid in?

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    1. Yup, it was that guy. Hope you weren't too attached to him. :)

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    2. Attached? pfft.. no. Hahahaha.. ha.. ha.. *sniff*

      Well okay, not really that much that I would cry about it. But the girl's reaction in option three pretty much broke my heart :(

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    3. She was attached to him...I wasn't really, but it still wasn't fun to just kill him off. Oh the horrible deeds an author does! :(

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  5. I vote Option Three... You are sooo mean!

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    Replies
    1. Undoubtedly. :) Which particular thing made you say that this time?

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    2. You just killed that guy... there are other mean things too though...

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    3. Hmm, that was mean I guess. Not as mean as some other things I've done. At least you didn't really know him much.

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  6. Three votes for one. The others are bad right away, if it's option one you'll take at least a few paragraphs before you can do anything terrible. :)

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    Replies
    1. Heh, it's like that sometimes. :P

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