Jackrabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 11 (v.1) - Chapter 11

Submitted: November 17, 2017

Reads: 42

Comments: 3

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Submitted: November 17, 2017

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It seemed only a moment after I shut my eyes that I was violently shaken awake. Rachel peered down at me with a grimace. “Wake up, Lennard. We’re being summoned.”

 

With a groan of protest, I stood shakily to my feet. “It’s hard to think you’d take so easily to being summoned like a dog. Does a girl of your stature really do such a thing?”

 

She shook her head, short golden-blond hair flying out from atop her milky white shoulders. “My father summoned me all the time. I’m used to these things, albeit never by commoners. But we’re not exactly in a position where we can be rude, are we?”

 

I didn’t reply, stunned into silence by her answer. It was almost like she was intelligent. Outside in the sunlight, Layla stood sullenly, looking away at the trees. At her side, Larcei stood solemnly, fixing us with a pitying gaze. The medic stepped forward, his violet eyes surveying us. “I bring news from the elders.” His voice was clear and rehearsed, but try as he might, Larcei couldn’t hide the emotion from his gaze. “They are suspicious of you. To test you, you need to visit Erinys.”

 

I nodded while Rachel clenched her jaw. “She’s the Divine Priestess, no? She lives under the waterfall.” I kept my tone even, though my heart hammered inside my chest.

 

Larcei forced a smile. “I see Layla has filled you in. We’re not allowed to assist you in any way. You’ll have to find your way there in the woods, and procure your own food. So unfortunately, Layla and I cannot give you directions or anything else. Only our blessings.”

 

“But what about Renault?” Rachel asked, eyes wide with anxiety. “He’s in no shape to make such a journey.” Inwardly, I smiled. Renault’s incapacitation wasn’t a good thing, but at least it showed me Rachel had the potential for compassion.

 

There was a small glimmer in Larcei’s eyes. “Indeed, he is to stay here. You two will have to fend for yourselves.” Both of them turned around away from us. “Good luck,” the medic said evenly.

 

Rachel followed me as I led the way. About 40 yards away, the trees grew closer together, like a forest. It was only a few minutes before the village was out of sight. The princess gripped my arm anxiously, but I was wise enough to keep my mouth shut. It wasn’t worth facing her wrath.

 

“First thing’s first,” I told her. “We have to get food and find shelter once it gets late. We don’t know how far away the waterfall is from here.” On all sides, trees stretched before us as far as the eye could see.

 

“How are we even going to find the waterfall?” Rachel whined. “We don’t know which direction it’s in.”

 

“Simple. We find the river and travel upstream,” I replied, slightly surprised at how Rachel had actually devised an intelligent question. Vines lashed at her exposed ankles as we continued through the brush. My pants protected me well enough, but the princess didn’t seem nearly as comfortable. She panted in exhaustion, grime covering almost every bit of exposed skin. At least the treetops shielded us from the sunlight. Sweat still poured down my forehead, but it was considerably more bearable without the sun’s harsh rays.

 

Rachel suddenly stopped after tripping over a root for the 10th time. She stamped her foot in frustration, eyes beginning to water. “That’s it! I am so done with this!”

 

“The sun will go down soon,” I pleaded, hoping to at least get a bit farther in. There was no place to take shelter where we currently stood. The trees were small and withered, their twisting branches clinging to the ground. For the fact that it was summer, they grew few leaves. If it rained, we wouldn’t be able to take cover behind anything.

 

“Let’s just rest,” Rachel sighed, leaning against one of the withered trees.

“We can’t rest here,” I said emphatically, scowling at the princess. “There’s no place to take shelter. If it rains, we’ll catch sickness. You didn’t bring Lævateinn, did you?” I asked smugly, knowing for a fact that she had left it with Renault.

 

Rachel deflated, looking away guiltily. “Well, how was I supposed to know we’d be making some dumb journey in the woods? I didn’t want anyone to know about it.”

 

“Well maybe if you’d brought it, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” I retorted. “If we did catch sick, all we’d need to do is use the staff.”

 

“Stop blaming me for everything!” she shot back defensively.

 

“Stop blaming you for everything? Stop blaming you for everything?” Venom dripped from each word, seething with bitterness and frustration. “You’re the reason why I’m here in the first place! If you hadn’t made me stick around because of some dumb contract I didn’t even sign, I wouldn’t be a fugitive!” My knuckles were white as I clenched my hands into fists.

 

Rachel sniffed, turning her head away. “Fine, be that way. I can find the dumb cave by myself!” She ran off, pushing through the weeds and branches in her way.

 

Several seconds after she left, the anger petered away, leaving me with a tired frustration. I had no one to blame but myself, and perhaps Karen. I could’ve let her die and escaped the blame, but instead, I attacked Henry and helped her run away. Those were my own choices, not Rachel’s. Nor was it her fault Henry was trying to kill her. It seemed unlikely it was something she did, though no one besides Henry knew for sure.

 

My feet crunched against fallen leaves softly as I walked through the trail the blonde had left. “Rachel,” I called. “Rachel, I’m sorry, okay? I just lost my temper.”

 

There was no reply. I quickened my pace, heart starting to beat quicker. “Rachel? Are you there?” I called. No reply.

 

Suddenly, a high-pitched scream rang out. My heart plummeted to my stomach as I scrambled forward. Branches slapped me in the face, stinging and leaving marks, but I paid them no heed. I suddenly skidded to a stop just in time, coming to the edge of a large ditch. Rachel sat in the stream at the bottom, thoroughly soaked.

 

“Are you okay?” I asked, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet.

 

The princess looked shaky, but fine as she nodded. “I’m fine.” She suddenly winced, leaning her weight against me.

 

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

 

She shook her head. “N-nothing, it’s fine.”

 

“You are not fine,” I insisted, grabbing her wrist. “You’re not leaving until you tell me.”

 

“I…think I hurt my ankle,” she replied, eyes squinting from the pain.

 

I lowered her down into the mud slowly and ran my hand over her right leg. There didn’t seem to be any damage. It was only until I reached her foot that I saw the ugly bruise. “It’s a sprain,” I muttered, fumbling for something to bandage it with. Honestly, my medical knowledge was little to none, but it seemed like bandaging it was the right thing to do. An astelia plant grew sparingly by the mud on the side of the stream. I winced as the leaves sliced in my palms, leaving thin, red cuts.

 

“What are you doing?” Rachel asked warily as I tied the astelia leaves around the sprain. They were the perfect shape, though perhaps a tad sharp. They certainly weren’t soft, but that didn’t matter.

 

After a few minutes, I stood up and wiped the back of my wrist against my forehead. “There. We can’t stay here, so lean on me while we look for a place to spend the night.”

 

It didn’t seem possible that it could get worse as the night wore on, but it somehow managed. The moment the sun dipped low in the sky, the mosquitos appeared. They twisted and nipped at us, leaving itchy bites as they flew away. By the time the sun had completely set, both Rachel and I were thoroughly covered in small welts. The princess no longer complained; she merely hobbled along, keeping a slow but steady pace. The pesky bugs had targeted her eyes, leaving her eyelids partially swollen.

 

It grew darker and darker until we could no longer see anything. The canopy overhead blocked out the moonlight, leaving us in pitch black darkness. I continued until exhaustion completely took over my limbs. “Lennard,” Rachel murmured, “are we resting?”

 

My eyes quickly fell shut as we took shelter on the ground. I brought the princess close to me, trying to conserve warmth. “Yes. Yes, we are,” I replied, my voice hardly more than a whisper. Everywhere ached and itched, but I didn’t feel that miserable. It wasn’t time to feel miserable anyhow. We’d survive the night and go back to searching in the morning. My stomach growled low in hunger, but I paid it no heed. Right now, laying down on the ground, it felt like pure bliss compared to the agony of walking.

 

Rachel was still in my arms when I woke. The sun shined overhead, coupled with birdsong. My gaze turned to the left as I took in the information. “Rachel,” I whispered, nudging her. “Rachel, wake up.”

 

The princess stirred. “Hmm? Lennard, what is it?”

 

I merely pointed to the left. A dozen yards away, the trees opened up to the waterfall. It poured down with a roar, feeding into a large pond. In our exhausted haze last night, we had failed to notice it.

 

Somehow, we managed to get the strength to wade through the pool and get behind the roaring sheet of water. Mist sprayed up, soaking our clothes, but we still smiled. It was refreshing, and cooled the mosquito bites. The cave itself was dark, but comfortable at the same time. We ventured inside, looking for Erinys or any sign of life. At the very back of the cave, an altar stood. It was grand, covered with silk and candles. I ran a finger along the surface, feeling dust cling to my fingertip.

 

“Who are you?”

 

Rachel and I turned around, coming face-to-face with a dragon girl.

 


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