Speaking of numbers, this happens to be my 100th post. Kind of interesting considering my sister recently got 500 on her blog. She had a giveaway, but me? It'd have to be organised to do that.
I would like to commend all who commented last week. I had to choose out of six good options, and it was a close call between a few of them, but I settled on one of Alice's: The girl raised her head and spoke in a barely audible whisper, “I can’t find m’ brother.” (I did change it slightly so the phrasing didn't sound out of place.) Thank you all so very much. I hope you like the options I thought up this week. :)
The girl raised her head and spoke in a barely audible whisper, “I can’t find m’ brother.”
Whatever response I had expected, it certainly hadn’t been that. “O-oh,” I stammered, unsure of what to say. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault,” she sniffed, rubbing her nose with a sleeve. “I jest ‘ope ‘e’s noot…” she hunched over again, burying her face in her hands.
I wrapped my arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. “Don’t worry, I’ll help you find him.”
Her green-brown eyes raised to mine. “Really?” she asked, a tinge of hope in her voice.
“Promise,” I assured her.
She straightened. “He disappeared same time a-as Granda…” she trailed off biting her lip.
“I know,” I said softly. “I saw. I’m so sorry.” I felt the prickle of tears behind my eyes, and I tried to steady my voice. “Where did you last see your brother?”
“He were jest in the alley near t’ the main gate wi’ me,” the girl sniffed. “But he told me t’ hoide an’ I-I did, but he didna follow me…he sayed he’d come back, but what eef.” Her young voice choked, “What if he wants t’ git avenge? They’ll catch ‘im.”
“My friend got caught too,” I took a deep breath. “I’ll help you find your brother then I’ve gotta go help her.”
“I can ‘elp you, too,” a small smile crossed the girl’s face. “You heelp me, and I’ll ‘elp you.”
I looked down into her hopeful eyes and couldn't help but feel lightened myself. I couldn’t let this girl down now that I’d promised to help her. “I’m Louise, by the way,” I said, suddenly remembering introductions.
“M’ name’s Elianna,” she replied softly.
“Elianna,” I mused, “That’s a nice name.”
“So’s Louise,” she smiled back.
I stood, helping Elianna to her feet. “We’ll follow the soldiers,” I said. “If they’ve caught your brother, he’s probably being taken to the same place as my friend.”
Her small hand slipped into mine and I turned to go back the way I’d come, but she tugged my arm. “Don’t go thet way,” she said. “I’ll show ye.”
I submitted meekly, allowing her to lead through the narrow back streets, never losing her way once.
We slipped unnoticed from the town shortly afterwards, making our careful way up a small rise towards the dark forest. Elianna walked steadily, showing no sign of weariness until we reached the trees themselves. Her feet began dragging but she refused to ask to stop. Eventually I stopped, sitting down off the side of the track
“I need a rest,” I said, pretending to sigh in exhaustion. Elianna nodded, slumping down beside me. I smiled at the sight of her determined face.
After a few minutes I turned to her. “We’d better keep moving before it gets too dark. Why don’t you ride on my back? That way you can keep me from falling asleep while I walk.”
“Aw, but I’d slow ye down terrible,” she protested.
“Nah, you won’t do any such thing,” I remonstrated. With a reluctance that went no further than the surface, she clambered up onto my back.
I stood and set off again. She clung to my shoulders, ducking when I walked too close to low branches. At first she seemed to be cheerful, telling me a story her Granda always used to tell. But then she fell silent, and at first I thought she was just enjoying the silence, but then I felt a wet drop fall onto the back of my neck and she sniffed quietly.
“Don’t worry,” I whispered. “We’ll find your brother and bring him back safe and sound.”
Another tear fell. “No, it’s not that,” she mumbled. “I were jest remem’rin’ somethin’.” She snuffled again. “M’ older sister used t’ give me rides like thees.”
“She…she ain’t here anymore.” Elianna let go with one hand and rubbed the tears from her face.
I walked on in silence, but the sun had sunk below the horizon and the trees cast deep shadows all around. Finally I stumbled to a stop, lowering Elianna to the ground. She crawled to a tree and curled up in the roots, shivering in the cool of the night. I sat down beside her and she snuggled against my side. In moments she was asleep.
That night was a waking nightmare.
I barely slept, every noise made me jump in fright. Elianna slept peacefully, but when I drifted I woke with a jolt from dreams of terror. Dreams which usually included the old man’s death replayed over and over in my mind.
The next day we journeyed on through the forest, following the track worn between the trees. It was midday before we reached the looming fortress.
After creeping through the gap in the rocks, we inched our way right up to the dark wall surrounding the castle. Elianna shivered when she caught sight of the gloomy building through the heavy iron portcullis.
“Thet place looks horrid,” she whispered hoarsely.
“Which is why I brought you along, to think up an ingenious plan,” I said, trying to cheer her.
She looked at me with wide eyes. “We’ll ‘ave t’ git closer first. Try sneak in some’ow. The soldiers would a got ‘ere long time ago, so yer friend’ll be locked up somewhere by noow. An’ who knows what happened t’ m’ brother.”
“How will we do that without being seen?” I thought aloud. A vague memory came to the fore of my mind, something Sir Creighton had said. “The stronghold of Hacaz is not so strong as once supposed. There is a weak point.” The question was, what was the weak point?
“We’ll go onder the wall by the water gate,” Elianna said.
I looked at her in surprise, I hadn’t meant to ask her the question. “What water gate?”
“Jest over there,” she waved a hand to the left. “We went past a leettle while beck. It’s where the stream exits the castle grounds. Eef y’ look caref’ly you can see it at the edge o’ the courtyard. ‘t’s where they git their water froom.”
“I chose the right person for ingeniousness,” I said, raising my eyebrows.
I took Elianna’s hand again and headed left. In a few minutes I saw that she was right. A stream of water was flowing out from under the wall, exiting through a rusted metal grid. “So we can go in through there?” I asked hesitantly.
“The walls are quick thick so eet’ll be like a short tunnel,” Elianna explained.
I leant over the water carefully, peering into the dark of the low tunnel. “You’d better climb on my back again,” I said, wrinkling my nose. “No need for both of us to get wet.” The dirty water smelt none too pleasant.
Elianna mounted my back, wrapping her legs around my waist. I stepped forward into the water, swaying a little as the current caught on my legs. Grabbing onto the grating to keep my balance.
“How do I open it?” I asked, hoping there was some kind of latch.
Elianna was silent for a moment. “I’m noot sure,” she admitted.
I pressed my lips together and tugged hard on the rusted metal. It didn’t budge in the slightest. I tried kicking it. Still no movement.
“Right theere!” Elianna exclaimed.
“Eet’s covered in water agin, but I’m sure I saw a letch jest on the right side.”
I grimaced with distaste as I lowered my hand into the water, feeling for a latch. After a moment I felt something and yanked it hard.
It gave and I stumbled back as the gate swung open, smashing into my shin. I gritted my teeth and growled in pain, only just saving myself from falling.
Elianna’s grip was almost suffocating and she trembled slightly as I stepped closer to the black opening again. I bent down and frowned into the darkness. “I can see the light at the other side, I don’t think it’s too far.”
“How will we git oot the other side?” Elianna asked softly.
I shut my eyes tightly. “I dunno,” I groaned. An idea occurred to me, “Would the water run under the dungeons?”
Elianna didn’t reply by there was no need, my mind ran riot, imagining all the possibilities. If I could get under the dungeons by the waterway, then I could at least find out where Maree was.
“It might work,” Elianna said in a small voice. “Only…” she trailed off.
I realised something wasn’t quite right. “Only?” I turned my head in a useless attempt to see her.
“Only, I’m noot so sure I want t’ go een there,” she spoke a bare whisper.
“Don’t worry,” I assured her, squeezing her legs. “I’m going to be there too. It’ll be safer in there than it is out here.”
I felt her nod silently. “We’ll go in now, before anyone comes.” I ducked through the low opening.
1. Outside, a soldier strolled into view of the swinging water gate.
2. With a loud burst of squeaking, rats poured down from the roof. Jumping at us from every side.
3. A low voice came down the tunnel, echoing off the walls in a malevolent tone.
Ah, that wasn't very hard, actually. I had lunch at an almost reasonable time. And Elianna was fun to write. I think we're getting close-ish to the climactic moment, but it's kind of hard to tell with this kind of thing. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to fix everything, but I am looking forward to the sequel...it's gonna be funny. I've got some characters that are going to be hilarious to write.
Have fun commenting, just like normal again!
Fare Thee Well!