Friday, 10 June 2016

Swords, Sail + Scoundrels: Camping with Cleavers

Ah, just a nice camping trip with a bunch of Cleavers. How pleasant. :) Unfortunately, it isn't as great as the title suggests. Personally I don't completely know who these 'Cleavers' are but it started with 'c' and I felt like having a 'c' title this time. So the Cleavers came along! (I also keep almost leaving out the 'a' so they're Clevers instead. It can be rather amusing.)

I believe option two won this time round (I know actually, not just believe). Which left me stumped for a while until I had a lovely prod of inspiration from an equally lovely reader (you guys are all so great) and it all went fairly okay!

And I'm so excited for next week's part...

Four men stepped from behind the trees around, forming a half circle facing me, weapons in each hand.

Pushing myself into a half crouch, I flicked my eyes between the men and the dog. A sound from behind made me turn and I quavered at the sight of another four men.

I was surrounded.

The dog snarled again, sharp canines bared viciously.

I couldn’t get away.

A pinprick of sunlight through the trees glinted off the axe head of one of the men as the circle tightened.

Like a noose.

Panic froze my limbs, numbing my brain with fear. I let out a terrified squeak.

In a concerted movement the men stepped forward, every weapon threatening me.

I started to scream but a rough hand clamped over my mouth, smothering the noise before it began. Letting my legs fall limp, I dropped down, taking the man by surprise and slipping out under his arms.

This time I screamed at the top of my lungs. Eumin and Leonora must hear. They couldn’t be dead. I needed them.

The hand stopped my scream halfway, and a man jerked hard on a handful of my hair. Something cold touched my throat.

I remembered the feeling all too well.

“Not another sound,” he growled, pressing the knife a little harder. “The Cleavers will have you, like it or not.”

The Cleavers. I shivered at the venom-dripped words.

The knife slid away, but I remained frozen on the spot, surrounded by seven other bristling weapons. The man took a rope from one of his companions, large fingers wrapped tightly around my wrists as he lashed the rope tightly.

I stared dumbfounded at his leering face. “It will be our pleasure to escort Lady Louise to the camp,” he said, lips curling scornfully.

“How—” I choked through my shock. “You’re not meant to know—”

“The Cleavers have their informants,” he drawled. “Plenty of warriors that can find juicy bits of information like that.”

“Brains are better,” I gasped.

His hand flashed out, palm slapping hard against my already injured cheek. I stumbled backwards, one of the men behind me grabbing my arms before I could run.

“I don’t need any of your smart mouth,” the man narrowed his eyes. “I get enough of that from the gypsies.”

I opened my mouth in shock, pain blurring my thoughts, and a screwed-up cloth was shoved into my mouth and before I could spit it out again the man tied a long strip of fabric around my mouth, tying it at the back. I gave a muffled cry as the knot yanked at my hair. My cheek burned with pain.

The men laughed together at my weak attempts to pull free from the restraints. With a gesture from the leader, a massively tall man stepped forward, casually picking me up and flinging me over his shoulder.

My vision swam and I choked out a sob through the gag. This wasn’t how it was meant to go. There was nothing heroic about being slung over someone’s shoulder with tears dripping into my eyebrows.

They jogged through the forest swiftly, my head thumping rhythmically against the man’s lower back. A headache pounded in my temples.

The journey faded into a blur.

The next thing I became aware of was the giant man dropping me in the middle of a camp,  letting me collapse to the hard ground. I lay, sobbing and struggling for breath, ignoring the laughing looks the Cleavers gave me. I cringed away as the huge man bent down knife drawn. What did I do now?

He sliced through the gag, tossing the cloth on the ground beside his feet. Shoving me into a sitting position against a tall wooden pole, he took my hands and lifted them above my head, tying them firmly in place with yet another length of rope.

“Please,” I begged, hoping that he wasn’t as harsh as the others, “I didn’t do anything, you’ve got to let me go.”

The giant blinked silently and turned away as if he hadn’t heard.

“Please!” my voice broke. “Please, you’ve got to…” Another bout of tears started their path down my damp cheeks.

The camp was filled with the black clothed men, all with the same cruel glint in their eyes. A group of three walked past, glancing my way with a kind of hideous curiosity. The one closest to me spat contemptuously. “Having fun, princess?”

I shrank back as far as I could, unsure whether he actually wanted an answer.

“I asked a question,” he snarled, taking a threatening step closer.

“Y-yes sir,” I squeaked.

“Bah,” he snorted. “Better than your friends had.”

A chill of fear swept over me. What had they done to them? I closed my eyes. They couldn’t possibly be killed. Surely?

The cold heaviness in my heart assured me they could.

The group of Cleavers walked on, laughing loudly.

Tears squeezed between my eyelids, following their predecessors as they dripped off my chin onto my shirt. Nothing was happening like the stories were meant to go.

The afternoon wore on, the sun gradually sinking, still concealed by the thick trees around the camp. Cooking fires glowed heartily, sending delicious aromas wafting around.

I moaned, my mouth dry. The Cleavers hadn’t bothered to give me any water all afternoon, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. No one paid any attention to the tear-stained prisoner in their midst, all except the man ordered to guard me.

The ropes around my wrists had long ago left my hands unfeeling and having them raised above my head for so long left my arms tingling with pain. I struggled to reach the rope with my fingers, hoping to untie the knot. At the movement a flash of feeling touched my hands for a moment, shooting pain down my arms.

Gasping, I shuffled until I could get my legs underneath me and rise slightly to a kneeling position. Jerking my arms to the side, I tried to slide the rope around the pole but to no avail. The Cleaver giant had tied the ropes too tight.

A blow knocked my feet from under me, almost sending me sprawling but for my tied hands. The guard glared down at me, his hand resting on the sword at his belt.

I pressed my back against the rough pole, trying not to let the fear show on my face.

After glowering at me for several moments the guard seemed satisfied, stepping back again to resume his former position.

When darkness fell the Cleavers began settling into their sleeping blankets, a dozen or so posting as a guard around the edges of the clearing. My guard swapped, the other man giving me a final scowl before striding off into the darkness.

The pain in my cheek and arms throbbed dully through my head, sharp blades of the short tufts of grass digging into my thighs. I leant my head back against the pole, wishing it all away. The pain and hunger kept me from even considering sleep, my muscles refusing to relax though there was nothing I could possibly do.

The stars blinked in the sky, seeming cold and uncaring. Eumin and Leonora were gone, who knew if they were dead or alive, I couldn’t bear to think about it. A feeling of desperation gave me a sliver of strength and I yanked on the ropes again, twisting my hands to reach the knots.

A few steps away the guard shifted, head turned toward me. Even in the dark I could sense the hatred in his stare.

I slumped dejectedly back. No brilliant plan came to mind, no chance of escape. There was nothing but the hope that I’d be able to get my hands free.

The guard moved again, pacing around the camp. He disappeared from my line of vision for a moment and I wrestled with the ropes again. Then a pair of cruel eyes were near mine. “Don’t even think about escape,” he hissed, and moved off into the darkness again.

My heart pounding, I didn’t dare to move again, not even when the guard resumed his former place in clear view.

The night dragged on, stars glimmered in the sky, the sound of hounds snuffling and growling in their sleep sent shivers down my spine. At what I guessed to be midnight the guard changed.

My new guard was restless, almost constantly shifting his feet silently and scanning the clearing for any sign of intruders, his dark cloak moving slightly in the cold breeze.

I watched him with narrowed eyes, hoping for a glimpse of a weakness. It was clear that he knew what he was doing, no one was about to get past him. Pressing my lips together, I pushed away the hope of rescue.

This guard wasn’t about to let that happen.

The man rolled his shoulders, stepping backwards and prowling softly away behind me. I tensed, ready for him to repeat the previous guard’s action.

The night was silent, I couldn’t hear the faintest sound of footsteps. Slowly starting to relax, I let the breath hiss out between my teeth.

A hand clamped over my mouth.


1. “It’s me,” Eumin murmured. “We’re going to get you out.”

2. “Thought you were going to get away, eh?” a harsh breath snarled against my cheek.

3. “Don’t struggle,” a soft accent brushed my ear. “I am here to rescue you, mi seƱora.”


I'm really looking forward to what you think of the options this week! Hope they're good. :)

And while you're here, any aspiring writers don't forget to check out my last post - The Fellowship of the Keyboards - 'cause I'd love so much to have you join me in July.

Fair Winds!

Jane Maree


  1. Weeeeeellll... Option Three (I didn't think he was meant to be here yet...)
    I must say some parts of this week's story reminded me of a certain incident with ropes and trees and knives... except we were nicer captors as I remember it!

    1. Yep, I was actually thinking about our tying-friends-to-trees incident as I wrote it. :D

      (He is allowed to be here yet, 'cause I have a plan...)

  2. Replies
    1. Indeed, it might be that I get to bring my plan into existence...*rubs hands together with an evil smile*

  3. Three! Definitely voting for three :D

    1. This is cool, everyone's liking my favourite! (Oops, hopefully that admission won't make any other commenters biased just to be nice for me) :D

  4. I like number three! Nice and mysterious. Besides that I think it's about time for poor Louise to get some feeling back into her hands. :)

    1. Hehe, yup. I have personally seen what happens after only twenty minutes tied like that, so half a night would be waaay worse. :D

  5. Uh ... um ... *screws up face in thought* ... I vote for ... 1. No, 3. No wait, 1. Oh, I can't decide! Just say it's a tie between 1 and 3 :D.
    (also your writer-voice (I guess that would be Louise's voice, since it's first person) in this story is really good!)

    1. Thanks Savannah! I just really want to say how much I appreciate the encouragement you give me basically every week. It makes me so happy! :)

    2. You're welcome, Jane! So glad I can be encouraging :).

  6. Samuel and Joshua vote for 3. I have to vote for 1 (because I can't do Spanish accents).
    I reckon the replacement guard was Eumin. I feel very sorry for Louise, you're so cruel to your characters.

    1. Mwahaha, I know, but I've got to be cruel! If everything went nicely it would be unendingly boring; no conflict, no story. :)
      It'd never actually occurred to me that the guard was Eumin...I had thought it wasn't a normal guard though... *evil grin*


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