But in addition to April fool's day it is also the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. Aghhh! I don't know what I am doinggg! (For those of you who don't know, camp NaNo is where you set yourself a word count goal and MUST REACH IT OR DIE. Or maybe not. That's just how I feel when I have absolutely no clue what in the world I'm doing.)
When I finished Dusty Red I was really surprised to look back and see how much I'd improved since the beginning, and how massively the story changed from my original plan. And it's been no different with If Adventure Comes Your Way. I've purposely avoided the massive world travelling stuff I crazily did with Dusty Red, but it still changed a fair bit. So did the characters and how I imagined them.
But anyway, to the point. Option three got voted in. Somehow I feel like option three in particular got a lot of votes, but I'm probably just imagining stuff...Second thoughts, after looking through them all, option 3 got voted in fourteen times. Option 2 got twice. Option 1 got six. Aaand option 5 got once (that was for Fragment 20 when all of you thought up the options). So apparently three is a favourite!
I'm really looking forward to your comments today. :D
Loud shouts started up on the walls again and I turned in spite of myself. My eyes widened at what I saw.
A solitary figure was charging the remaining soldiers, holding a long staff out before him. Before they could dodge, the wooden pole smashed into them, turning into a wheeling blur. In another moment a second fighter sprang from the shadows, her long sword catching the light.
The soldiers gathered around the three Freespirits turned uncertainly, not seeming sure which to deal with first. Maree jumped forward, grabbing the sword from a surprised man’s hand, proceeding to bash the nearest soldier.
“Ellie!” I yelled, running to her as Dael joined his older sister. Sweeping her up, I dodged through the melee, sprinting to the stables. “Hide there,” I said, putting her down by the door.
Her eyes were wide and frightened, staring at me with fear. “What ‘bout Maree?” she gulped tremulously.
“Don’t worry about her. I’ve got t’ get the portcullis up so help can come,” I replied, gently untangling her fingers from mine.
“How d’ye know?”
I glanced over my shoulder as a boy jumped down off the wall, stumbling slightly as he landed. “Jack’s back,” I answered.
Soldiers were scattered around the courtyard, a bunch in chaotic battle with Maree and Dael, still more running for the walls to aid their falling comrades. Two were running for Jack.
I ran toward the gate where Jack stood oblivious to his danger, pushing my legs as hard as I could to try and beat the soldiers. I slowly fell behind despite my efforts and I yelled as loud as I could to attract Jack’s attention.
My voice was lost in the riot of noise.
The leading soldier staggered and went down with a crossbow bolt in his chest, but the other barely hesitated. I tripped over something, sprawling neatly on the hard ground. I scrambled up, seeing myself almost beside the dead soldier. His lifeless hand clutched a bow, a quiver of arrows strung over his back.
Pressing my lips together I tugged the bow from him, dragging an arrow from the quiver. The soldier was almost upon Jack and I struggled to fit the arrow to the string. The tight string pulled against me as I strained to draw it back, aiming the bow in the general direction of the gate. Know it was impossible, I gritted my teeth, wrestling with the bow string.
My arms and back revolted, fingers slipping from the string. With a thrum the arrow sprang from the bow, flashing toward the portcullis of its own accord. The soldier yelled as it sprouted from the back of his leg, and he fell forwards onto Jack.
With a startled shout, Jack went down under the sudden weight.
I dashed forward, dropping the bow in my haste. “Jack!” I cried, seizing his groping hand, and hauling him up.
He gasped, scrambling away from the moaning soldier. “How close was he?” he managed.
“Too close,” I replied, panting from my effort.
“I didn’t know you could shoot a bow,” he said, looking at me in surprise.
“I can’t.” Turning to the portcullis I examined its workings. “I think we’ve got to go into that room there and turn some…thing,” I said, hastening to a half open door.
Something heavy hit my side like a whirlwind and I fell, crashing against the wall. “Henry isn’t going to let the Louise escape,” he hissed. “Henry has been watching, waiting for the Louise to come in. Henry knew it would.” The slimy fingers twisted around a heavy plank of wood. I scrambled back from him but he grinned evilly, raising the plank high above his head.
Then tumbled over sideways, collapsing limply on the floor.
Jack dropped the staff and held out a hand to help me up, staring at me curiously. “I’m not going to ask just now,” he said, “But sometime I’d love to hear the story.”
He turned to the large mechanism, scratching his head. “So, what do we do with this?”
I wrapped my fingers around the winch handle. “We turn,” I replied.
Throwing ourselves into the struggle, we forced it around in a slow circle, grunting with the effort. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that help was outside, and it would all be fine if they could only get in.
Sounds of battle from outside continued, gradually getting nearer. I heaved on the winch with all my strength, wishing it would turn faster. Seconds seemed like hours as the portcullis slowly inched upwards. “How…will we…know…when it’s...up high…enough?” Jack gasped.
“You’ll hear ‘em,” I returned shortly, through clenched teeth. “They’ll go through…soon as they can.”
Another turn; and then another. My arms ached, stars flecked my vision. Jack panted beside me, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead.
A rousing shout echoed outside the walls and the thunder of horses charged past. I slumped down, relieved. “We did it,” I wheezed.
Jack flopped on the floor breathing heavily. Henry groaned close beside him and Jack gabbed up his staff again and thumped it down on the man’s head. “Just stay there,” he muttered, dragging himself to his feet.
I opened the door again, looking out cautiously. Hacaz’s soldiers were outnumbered, but that didn’t stop them from fighting. A few dropped their swords and fled at the first sight of the king’s banner, but most stood firm. A thrill swept through me at the sight of the ordered battalion of king’s men charging the soldiers.
Eumin and Leonora clattered down the stairs from the walls, sword and staff ready for a fight. Leonora grinned. “Good job you two,” she said. “Things were getting tight up there. When we came her looking for la…er, doing our mission…we weren’t exactly expecting to be part of a castle siege.”
A sudden thought flashed upon me. “What about Hacaz?” I blurted. “Has anyone seen him?”
Leonora and Eumin exchanged a glance. “I haven’t,” Eumin shrugged. “There wasn’t anyone of particular rank up on the walls, and, judging by the chaos down below, it was the same there.”
“That means he’s probably escaping through some secret way,” I looked around, alarmed. “We’ve got to stop him!”
Eumin jogged out, calling a few soldiers. In a moment he and half a dozen others stood before me. “Care to show us the way?” he asked.
I gulped. “O-okay.” I ran off toward the door I’d come through, jerking it open and tearing across to the next door. Vaguely heading in no particular direction, I randomly opened doors, following staircases up and down, desperately hoping that maybe Hacaz would be behind one of the doors.
When I was almost giving up, and almost certain I was going in circles, I emerged from a long stairway and burst through another door. A large hand clamped over my mouth, dragging me further into the room.
Eumin followed me into the room, stopping short in shock. All the other soldiers entered, along with Jack and Leonora.
The razor edge of a blade pressed against my throat.
“If any of you move a step closer, this whelp gets her throat slit,” Hacaz growled in a sneering voice.
I looked at Eumin’s hard face, trying to get him to understand that Hacaz mustn’t escape. He took a half step forward, and the knife move across my skin opening a shallow cut. I closed my eyes, trying to stop shaking in terror. In a moment it would all be over. Very soon now.
“Let her go,” Eumin commanded. “What have you against her?”
Hacaz laughed scornfully. “What haven’t I?” he returned.
I opened my eyes again, finding Eumin standing uncertainly. “Are you such a coward that you would kill a girl?” he spat.
“Aye, he ees ectually.” Feet thumped of the floor as Maree vaulted through the window and strode across to Hacaz. She casually plucked the dagger from his grasp, stepping back again before anyone fully comprehended that she was in the room. “I’ll teke that for ye; wouldna want ye hurtin’ yerself.”
The soldiers jumped into action, leaping on Hacaz. I dropped to the ground, scrambling away. Maree pulled me up, draping an arm around my shoulders.
In moments it was over. The soldiers disarmed Hacaz, two brawny men holding his arms behind his back. He snarled around the room, saving his worst death glares for Maree and me.
Refusing to quail under his hatred, Maree slipped from my side, picking up a dark bundle from the table. “I’ll teke that too,” she said, pulling her jacket on. She looked down at herself, brushing some dried mud from the sleeve. “Thet’s better,” she sighed happily, her lopsided grin filling the room.
I couldn’t help but smile back.
Hacaz spat on the floor. “You will pay for this Freespirit,” he swore. “And you,” he turned to me, “One day you will regret that you ever knew me.”
“Oh trust me, I already do,” I replied, raising my eyebrows.
“Well, what’re we waitin’ fer? Dúinn aller!” Maree marched proudly from the room, her jacket shedding crusts of mud profusely.
Out in the courtyard the fight was well and truly over. Hacaz was swept off to some prison that probably suited him perfectly, disappearing under the portcullis with a rather large escort. I never laid eyes on him again.
Pretty soon we were surrounded with king’s soldiers, all cheering and congratulating us and themselves. Broad grins on every face. They parted suddenly, allowing room for an important looking man to approach.
“That’s Sir Gawen,” Jack whispered in my ear. “He’s the commander of the king’s army. Pretty important guy, but rather nice.”
He halted in front of us. “My great thanks to you all for your aid. Hacaz has been stirring up trouble in the realm for years now, the king will be very pleased to offer you all a reward.” His eyes settled on me. “I have heard much of your exploits from Jack Danson,” he said. “It quite amazes me that one so young as you could do such things. You have done the De Corlette name proud.”
I curtseyed automatically. “Thank you, Sir Gawen,” I replied meekly.
A groan came from behind and Eumin and Leonora stepped forward, ignoring the confused look from the commander. “Oh please,” Leonora groaned. “Please tell me I just heard wrong. Did he just call you De Corlette?”
“Er…yes,” I said, frowning in bewilderment.
“Drat,” Leonora exclaimed, slapping her leg with a hand.
“You’re Lady Louise De Corlette?” Eumin asked.
“That’s me,” I nodded uncertainly.
Leonora grabbed my shoulders. “Honestly, why didn’t you tell us before?” she almost shouted. “We’ve been looking for you for years!”
*Dramatic music begins*
And there we leave them to live happily ever after.
But not for long! Because, as you probably already know, there will be a sequel! Next week I will be taking a break from writing and will do a post with the title and a few other stuffsies: you'll get to meet some new characters…And the new cover picture has not yet been completed, so that may delay things a little. (Note to my artist: don't die of terror. I'll give you alll the time you need.)
So, that was a little bit of a surprise. It just went and ended! Not much warning, just suddenly boom. The end. On the bright side, we're not just leaving them there forever.
Sorry about the slight cliffhanger ending. I just couldn't resist.
If there’s any details you’d like to know about the ending of this story, just ask me in the comments, and I’ll give you a little more detail than ‘happily ever after.’ (Sorry, but I'm not telling you much about Leonora and Eumin's mission [I might drop hints if anyone asks]. Seriously, that's the whole plot of the sequel! I may tell you next week though...)
I really can't say how much I appreciate you all. *Thumps you on the back several times hard* So, yeah...thanks.