Friday, 3 June 2016

Swords, Sails + Scoundrels: Forest Frenzy

Winter is here folks! Or summer...depending on what side of the world you're on. But for me it's winter which means campfires, bonfires, lovely warm fires inside, no frying hot days, the sun is actually something to enjoy now! And it also means less rain, more dead grass, and the wish to stay in bed in the mornings because our bedroom is perpetually cold in winter and boiling in summer.
Good fun!

Option one won again, but it was a close tie with option three, so I'm going tell you all now that this episode is almost a mixture of both. That wasn't hard to do as option one was more pertaining to things that will happen in the future... (mwahahaha)

If you have any inspiration of anything that you'd like to happen in the story please tell me in the comments, because ideas are always welcome. 



The Rift was sailing along the horizon, sails catching a brisk wind, heading along the coast northwards.

I squinted my eyes to try make out more detail but the low rise of a tree covered hill came between us and the Rift slipped out of sight.

“Why’s he going that way?” I frowned, trying not to move my lips and trigger the pain in my cheek.

Eumin raised his shoulders slightly. “Who knows,” he said. “Captain Wielder isn’t one to predict easily.”

“Chances are he’s hoping to meet up with us somewhere along the way,” Leonora said. Her mount frisked lightly under her and she patted its neck. “You’re eager to be off, eh?” she grinned.

“So am I,” I agreed. “I’d rather get going than stand around thinking.”

Eumin and Leonora exchanged a glance. “And I’d thought we were the hardened adventurers,” Leonora remarked.

I smiled and urged my horse forward again, falling in between the two. The horses’ hooves clopped rhythmically on the hard dirt road leading out from Enisaema.

The road followed a reasonably straight path from the town and out past outlying farms until the forest loomed directly ahead.

“Shouldn’t we be going that way?” I gestured to my left.

“West would take us on a more direct route, aye,” Leonora glanced my way, “But north is easier. If we went directly west, we’d have to cross the Thieven Grounds.”

I nodded knowingly, pretending I knew what the so-called Thieven Grounds were.

“And I’d rather we didn’t get robbed of everything but the clothes on our back,” Eumin said. “Personally, I like travelling with a good supply of food, but the Thieves like that too.”

The very edge trees of the forest were around us now, the spreading branches casting dark shadows from the late morning light.

“We’re following the coast to avoid the Thieves then,” I said, making sure it was a statement not a question. I felt like I’d asked a lot of questions in the last few days.

“Aye,” Leonora nodded. “Unless you have an objection to going the easy way?”

I shook my head quickly. “Easy way is fine by me.”

She turned her head away, not quite hiding the grin that slid onto her features.

The forest closed in about us, trees drawing closer to the path, leaning over as if curious of the strange travellers invading their realm. The sun, now beginning its slide downwards once more, was mostly concealed by the countless leaves and branches. Ferns and bushes covered the forest floor, forming a thick carpet at about waist height. The dim light made every movement seem sinister and the foreign sounds kept me constantly on edge.

We travelled at an easy trot for the first few hours, exchanging small talk every now and then but for the most part we rode in silence, deep in thought.

I was thinking about Maree and Jack when a movement flashed in the corner of my eye, and I turned, staring around the dappled darkness of the forest. Nothing. I pushed my uncertainty aside and urged my horse faster again to catch up to the others. Nevertheless I couldn’t help feeling like we weren’t alone. Stop being so nervous, I berated myself, trying to shake the feeling away.

The slightest movement of a fern frond made me jump in the saddle, and I clamped my teeth down on my tongue to stop myself from crying out at the creak of a branch rubbing against its neighbour.

Again I saw a shadow in my peripheral vision. Spinning around in the saddle I glared at the branches swaying innocently in the breeze. A tiny bird hopped along a branch, pecking at invisible bugs, a moth fluttered a moment and then landed on the trunk of a tree, camouflaged against the bark.

I turned around again, taking several deep breaths. My mount could sense my fear and nickered hesitantly, its ears flicking to catch any strange noise.

“Something doesn’t feel quite right,” Eumin said slowly from his place in the lead.

Both he and Leonora were looking around the forest with an uneasy light in their eyes. Leonora pulled her horse to a stop, scanning the undergrowth.

“There’s definitely someone there.” She kept her voice low.

A moment of silence followed and I swept my gaze around, almost certain that an assassin would jump from the trees at any moment.

With a creaking of leather, Leonora swung to the ground, drawing her sword from its place behind the saddle. “Watch my back,” she said, moving toward the shadowed undergrowth.

Eumin dismounted, taking one step after his sister. I gripped the reins until my knuckles went white, my eyes darting around the forest.

Leonora lifted a fern frond aside with the tip of her sword, advancing further away from the path. A figure erupted from the bushes a bare meter away from her prodding sword, darting away through the massive fern bushes. With a shout, Leonora ran forward.

The man dashed through the ferns, leaping logs and low entangling vines, Leonora close behind. The fugitive bent under a low branch and scooped up a fallen branch, hurling it backwards at his pursuer.

“Watch out!” I yelled a warning, scrambling down off my horse.

Leonora dodged the branch but her legs tangled in the ferns and she fell crashing down. The man fled out of sight into the darkness under the trees.

I ran to Leonora, grabbing at the vines around her legs. As she grabbed at a handful with one hand her sleeve slid up her arm a little way, revealing cruel, red scars across her wrist and reaching further up her arm. I froze a moment, staring at the marks. Then the ferns ripped away and her sleeve slid back down her wrist.

“Are you alright?” Eumin rushed to us.

Leonora used her sword to slash the rest of the ferns away, dragging herself up. “I’m fine,” she growled, severing half a fern plant with an angry sweep of her sword. “So’s he.”

Eumin looked in the direction the man had disappeared in. “We need to get going. If he was a spy, which I don’t doubt he was, soon enough everyone we wanted not to know about our approach, will know.”

I shivered at his words, running back to my horse and mounting again.

As Leonora hesitated Eumin placed his hand on her arm. “It’s too late to catch him now, the best we can do is get away.” He shook his head, turning back to the horses.

A cry echoed through the forest, reverberating against the trees. It sounded again, high pitched and chilling. Eumin spun back, eyes wide. It was impossible to locate the direction the sound had come from, but I guessed quickly.

Eumin and Leonora took a step backwards, eyes still trained on the forest around us.

“What is it?” I said, my words sounding weak against the echoing vestiges of the cry.

“We’ve heard it before,” Eumin said. “Just before—”

“A dozen men and wolf-dogs came running out of the forest,” Leonora finished, sprinting to her horse, Eumin not far behind.

“Run!” Eumin yelled at me, slapping my mount’s rump as he passed.

The brown leapt under me, shooting forward with startling speed. I almost tumbled off backwards, only just catching hold of the dark mane to save myself. Another cry burst through the woods, spurring the horse on faster.

The reins slipped through my fingers but I concentrated on staying in the saddle, ducking under the branches that hung low over the track. The shouting that erupted behind me sounded strangely distant behind the roaring in my ears.

A bunch of leaves slapped my face, blinding me for a moment. I regained my vision just in time to see the low branch hurtling toward my face. Ducking low, I missed it by a hairsbreadth. The path had bent sharply somewhere back and the brown mare had charged on straight ahead in her terror, crashing through the undergrowth.

Lying low along the horse’s neck, I ducked branches and vines, the distant cry still replaying in my mind. Trees spun past, reaching out to grab hold of my clothes and hair, scratching any piece of exposed skin they could reach.

I looked back over my shoulder, desperately hoping to see Leonora and Eumin just behind me. Trees concealed everything from view, huge ferns waving silently as I passed. Turning back to look ahead again I saw the branch just before it hit my shoulder.

Tumbling backwards from the saddle, I had the sense to kick my feet from the stirrups before landing flat on my back in the middle of a large fern bush that cushioned my landing. My horse careered on, clearing a fallen log with a bound and disappeared.

Panting and clutching at my aching shoulder I lay where I’d fallen, trying to catch my breath. The forest watched silently, the lack of noise eerie after the frenzied rush. The rapid beating of my heart pounded through my body as I drew in deep breaths.

A stick cracked.

Almost impossibly, my heart sped up even more. I half rolled over, raising my head to see who was approaching.

A low growl ground through the bared teeth of a massive wolf-like dog. I stared through the green fern fronds at the black eyes. It took another pace forward, the sharp eyes fixed on me.



҉

1. I scrambled backward, away from the snarling wolf, remembering all too well the sight of Jack Danson’s blood-smeared arm clamped between the jaws of the hermit’s wolf.

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

3. The sound of a whistle cut through my terror and the drooling dog looked around, the growl turning into a disappointed wine.


҉

Crazy stuff. I have no idea what's going on. And my internet is being spastic with dying fits because my sister is uploading photos on the other side of the room, so I'll use that as an excuse for having nothing else to say. :)

Fair Winds!


18 comments:

  1. This is so HARD! How am I supposed to choose when all the options sound so good/exciting? Hmm ... I guess it's a tie between option 2 and 3.

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    1. It's kinda strange I guess, but whenever I get comments when people can't decide I get excited. It must mean I'm getting better at thinking up good options! I like to think so anyway. :)

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  2. Oh dear, I can't choose!! I'm just gonna say..... Either one or three!!! ~Sky

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    1. Wow! Two people can't choose already?! So cool. ;P Thanks so much for commenting Sky. :D

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  3. Ummmmmmmmm2... ummm yes I think 2

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    1. Cool! I like that one. I think it was going to have something funny come after it but I don't really remember...hopefully I wrote it down. If not, I will be very annoyed at myself. :)

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  4. It is hard to choose this week but I think I'll go for Option 2.

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    1. Hmm, if people are going to keep voting for option 2 I'd really better check if I can remember the plan I maybe had for it. :) Thanks for voting!

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  5. Here's another vote for option 2 Jane! Can't beat getting captured for adding excitement to a story! ;D

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    1. Heh, unless of course being captured wasn't originally in the plan and I have no clue what's going to happen. :) On the bright side, being captured would solve my problem of putting off the gypsies' arrival for a little longer...yeah, good plan actually, now that I think about it. :D

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    2. Always happy to provide inspiration Jane! :)

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    3. Thanks, as always. :)

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  6. Sorry to break the trend of not commenting! Option 3.

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    1. Ha! Why thankyou for being so considerate, my cousin. xD

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  7. Oops, bit late to the party! I'll vote for option three :D

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    1. Don't worry, I don't mind. :) Thanks for voting.

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  8. Wow, it's an exciting ride. The writing feels very real and full somehow. Joshua choose 1, Samuel and I choose 2.

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    1. Thanks! :D So glad you guys (my fan club) can enjoy it!

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And I always reply to them, so don't forget to check back!