Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 14 (v.1) - Chapter 14

Submitted: December 11, 2017

Reads: 113

Comments: 2

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Submitted: December 11, 2017

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I opened my eyes a crack, blinking languidly as the room swam blurrily across my vision. Small creaks in the floor wafted across the room, almost too quietly to be heard. Someone was murmuring, their voice hoarse and breathless. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up, casting my gaze across the room.

 

I froze, my breath catching in my throat as my heart hammered in my chest. Layla hung off the ground, gasping for breath. There was a hand across her neck, holding her suspended above the floor. A pale hand. Rachel’s hand. The princess stood, completely expressionless as she gripped Layla’s neck.

 

The dragon girl’s gaze met mine, tears welling in her eyes. No sound left her mouth, but her lips still moved: Help me. I shoved myself to my feet, unsure of what to do. “Rachel!” I shouted. “What are you doing?!”

 

The princess didn’t react, as if she didn’t hear my words at all. She tightened her grip slightly, not even flinching as Layla coughed silver blood onto her skin. I merely fidgeted, unsure on a course of action. Do I tackle her? Do I punch her? Do I wake Renault or someone else to figure out a solution?

 

Layla’s eyes shut as she fell silent. Feeling panic seize my chest, I lunged forward, tackling the princess to the floor. “What the hell are you doing?” I hissed, trying desperately to pin her down.

 

Rachel showed little reaction, but her strength was uncanny. She threw me off with ease, walking over to the prone body of Layla. In a second, I was on my feet, running over to them. I wrapped my arms around Rachel, tackling her to the ground once more. “Rachel, stop it!” I cried, trying desperately to hold her down. Layla didn’t move, a trickle of quicksilver blood dripping from the corner of her lip. It may already be too late, but I pushed that thought away.

 

For a moment, Rachel’s eyes met mine, the depths completely glazed over. She was gone. I brought myself close to her, ignoring the painful strikes to my body. “Wake up,” I whispered, hardly more than a whimper of pain. “Wake up, you stupid brat!”

 

I felt her chest expand as the princess suddenly gasped. The blows stopped, leaving me with aching bruises. For several moments, we just sat there in silence. At last, her fingers met the back of my neck tenderly, seeking out comfort. “Lennard…what happened?”

 

“I don’t know,” I replied, turning my attention over to Layla. The dragon girl had yet to move, blood staining the floor. “You have to help Layla. She’s dying.”

 

Immediately, the princess scrambled to her feet, grabbing Lævateinn from the corner of the hut. She knelt over Layla, resting the jeweled head of the staff near the ugly mark on her neck. Sparks of light emanated from the staff, but they died off after a few moments. The dragon girl still didn’t move, though the mark was gone.

Tears pricked my eyes as I sat there. She was dead. “What have you done?” I murmured in horror, my voice choking up.

 

“What do you mean?” Rachel asked in a fearful tone.

 

Before I could reply, Layla suddenly gasped. She sat up, her dress snagging on the floor. Rachel immediately offered the dragon girl her hand. “Are you all right?”

 

Layla backed away like a scared animal, her eyes wide with terror. “Get away from me!”

 

Rachel flinched. “What do you mean? Layla, I’m your friend.”

 

Layla reached a hand to her neck, feeling for the mark that was no longer there. Her entire body was shaking. “Leave me alone, you monster. You’re a killer!”

 

“I…don’t….” I grabbed Rachel’s arm, sending the princess spiraling into silence.

 

“What happened?” I demanded, looking over at the blonde.

 

“I don’t understand what you mean,” she shot back defensively, tears glistening in her eyes. Her gaze was back to normal, the absent glaze gone.

 

“There you are! I made it in time,” Erinys exclaimed, arriving at the entrance with a flourish. The priestess panted, clearly having rushed over here. “Layla, are you okay?” she asked, looking down at her little sister tenderly.

 

“She tried to kill me!” Layla shot back hysterically, pointing a finger at Rachel.

 

Erinys sighed, looking down at the floor solemnly. “I knew this would happen. I should’ve just told you the truth.”

 

“What are you talking about?” I pressed, frustrated at my lack of knowledge. What was going on? This whole thing was just so sudden.

 

Erinys looked over at the princess, her mismatched gaze ethereal in the winter moonlight. “You must leave, Vessel of Yonah.”

 

“What are you talking about?” Rachel asked, a hint of pleading entering her voice.

 

Erinys’ fingers grasped Rachel’s chin, tilting the girl’s head up. “You are the vessel of Yonah, girl.” The priestess looked away ashamedly. “But I was too weak to pass judgment, so I lied. I said it was a jest. You were so bright, so vibrant, that I couldn’t bring myself to banish you.” Her grip tightened, earning a grunt of pain from the princess. “But I’ve made a misstep in my judgment. I came here, seeing in my dreams what you would do to Layla. I see I was too late, though somehow she lived anyway. Either way, you need to leave. You are not welcome in Celstine.”

 

“You’re saying she’s the vessel of a goddess?” I protested, getting to my feet.

 

“She is,” Erinys answered. “She was just possessed, in fact. So long as Yonah dwells in her body, this girl will seek out our kind to extinguish us. Having her here is a danger for everyone.”

 

“I don’t understand,” Rachel sobbed, losing her composure. “I thought…we’d be safe here, away from Henry.”

 

I met her wrist, holding it soothingly. “Maybe Henry knows something. Maybe that’s why he tried to kill you.”

 

Renault jogged over briskly. His hair covered his forehead in messy strands. “What happened?” he demanded, his face red. Several yards behind him, Larcei walked silently, watching us with his cheeks flushed a bright silver.

 

Layla trembled next to Erinys, her eyes fixed on Rachel in terror. Every move the princess made, the dragon girl flinched.

 

“We should talk,” I said to Erinys, trying to block out the whole situation. “Rachel can stay behind with Renault, or something, but just talk to me. I need to know more.”

 

“I’ll help Layla,” Larcei offered, jogging up to us. His breath fogged in the frigid night air as he stood, shivering. “She could use some chamomile for shock.”

 

Renault guided Rachel away, still fixing me with a curious look. Larcei also retreated, Layla in his arms. For such a feminine-looking man, he sure seemed strong.

 

Erinys fixed her gaze on me as I fidgeted awkwardly. Something about it was so electrifying. “You need to leave,” she repeated in her smooth, fluid voice.

 

“Yeah, but why? I don’t understand.” Frustration filled my tone, against my will. “Everything was fine until now. Why…? Why is this happening?” We were going to spend our lives here. Rachel and I…would pick flowers for the children, and do chores. It was a life filled with toiling labor, but if that was the price to pay for freedom, so be it. The dragonkin were kind beyond measure, and I wanted to know more about their traditions. But now, that was all being thrown into question.

 

“She will kill us all,” Erinys answered, the bells in her hair tinkling softly with each shift in her movement. Unlike the rest of us, she seemed unbothered by the withering cold. “I like you. Layla likes you. Larcei likes you. None of us want you to leave, but you must. She is a threat to everyone.”

 

“Where will we go?” It was a quiet question, no malice behind it. Only hopelessness permeated my voice as it spread through the air.

 

“I don’t know,” she answered, shaking her head sadly. “You’ll have to figure that out on your own. But you three need to leave now, before the elders catch wind of what happened, and come for you.”

 

There was no time for getting dressed; we were in our nightclothes. It was freezing cold, and we were clothed in little but thin cloth. Wind whipped at us, throwing our hair back as cold chilled us to the bone. Rachel sat behind Renault on the horse, sheltered by a wool blanket. I walked beside them, my slippers sinking into the snow. Each step send a shock of prickling fire through my ankles, until I no longer felt it anymore.

 

After I could no longer feel the pain, Renault noticed my discomfort, and offered to let me ride on the horse. Rachel pulled out Lævateinn and pressed it to the cracked skin, healing the damage until I felt warmth bloom across the appendages. “Thanks,” I muttered, trying to shield myself from the cold. I didn’t want to think about what would’ve happened if she hadn’t been there with her staff.

 

“Where do we go now?” Rachel asked, bracing herself against the cold.

I rested my fingers against the warm flesh of her throat, on the string of the necklace. “Use the scrying stone to contact Iselle. I’m sure the caravan will be willing to take you in.”

 

Even in her current state, the princess was lucid enough to recognize what my words implied. “Jack, what do you mean by ‘you?’”

 

My gaze drifted far out in the distance, towards the horizon. Towards the castle that could not be seen, but was surely there. “I’m going to find Henry.”

“You can’t! You’ll be killed.”

 

I shook my head, letting brown hair fall down my shoulders. It was an ugly mud-brown, not interesting or special in any way. I was just…normal. How the hell did I get wrapped up in this anyway? This sort of thing was Karen’s specialty. It should be her here, not me. “I have to, Rachel. He knows something; why else would he kill you? We had been pondering his motives until now, but this makes perfect sense.” It was the only way for us to solve the issue. Nobody else knew a solution.

 

Her hand met mine. It was warm, sending a prickling heat through my aching joints. “Jack, we can just run away again. Find a place where we’ll be safe. Henry thinks we’re dead, remember?” Rachel’s tone was soft -- pleading, almost. It almost hurt for me to push it away. Almost.

 

“Rachel, there is no real solution besides this. You might lose it again, and maybe next time kill someone. Do you really want that?” That time, she remained quiet, though I couldn’t see her face. I patted her back. “Now go contact Iselle.” She didn’t reply, but rather picked up the scrying stone in her palm. For several minutes, she remained like that, her eyes tight shut as she held the stone. Finally, she lowered it to her chest and sighed.

 

“She talked to the caravan, and they can pick us up at Stalkheim. It’s about a day’s journey away once we’re off the plains.”

 

I turned my gaze to Renault. The manservant sat up straight, though his shoulders seemed droopy. “Renault, you all right?” It wouldn’t do us any good if he collapsed right there.

 

“I’m fine,” he replied, his tone edged with defensiveness. “Do not worry about me. The cold does not bother me.” Even so, the slump in his shoulders was definitely visible. Neither of us said anything else, not wanting to push the matter. Before I knew it, my eyes were drooping. At last, even with the bitter cold and fear of dying, I was lulled into sleep.

 

I woke to a gentle yet firm tap on the shoulder. Blinking my eyes open, I focused on Rachel as she sat in front of me. “Jack, we’ve got trouble.”

 

I turned my gaze past her, and blinked in dread. Dozens of guards surrounded us, their weapons pointed. The tallest one stepped forward, breaking the ranks. “In the name of the Crown, I command you to relinquish your weapons,” he announced. “You are being arrested for treason against the country.”

 

My eyes darted back and forth, looking for a way out. To the left, there was a small break in the numbers. If we ran…. “I’ll get off and surrender, while you two take the opportunity and make a break for it,” I whispered. Hearing the rising protest in her voice, I slid off the horse before it could come to fruition. I raised my hands; they were already empty. “All right, all right. I submit to arrest. The girlie’s injured, so she’s sitting on the horse. They said they submit as well.”

 

Renault nodded, having heard my whispered plan. “We submit to arrest as well,” he announced, unsheathing the sword at his side and dropping it. The soldiers relaxed slightly, but it was enough of an advantage as we needed. Renault suddenly charged ahead, bowling through the soldiers on the left. None of them were on horseback, and couldn’t possibly give chase.

 

The head soldier looked back at me, scowling in anger. “We’ll find them later. Until then, you can be punished for their mistakes.”

 

With a grim smile, I walked forward as they placed shackles on my wrists. They chafed, hurting my skin. But that didn’t matter. My anxiety swallowed any pain, as I thought of Henry back at the castle. He didn’t possess nearly as much brute strength as these guards, yet I was much more afraid of him than I ever had been of them. Because Henry could probe my mind and torture me until I spoke of Rachel.

 

Snowflakes coated my shoulders as I marched behind them, aware of the cold blade pressed against the small of my back. Casting back a look at where Rachel and Renault had fled, a soft smile pressed at my lips. Please…be safe.


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