Jackrabbit

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

Chapter 6 (v.1) - Chapter 6

Submitted: October 13, 2017

Reads: 125

Comments: 3

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Submitted: October 13, 2017

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“A lovely moon, isn’t it?”

My eyes blinked languidly as I struggled to sit up. My vision was hazy at first, but soon it cleared. Karen sat across the now extinguished campfire, legs criss-crossed as she looked back at me in her plain dress. Our gazes remained connected as the two of us remained silent. After all, I was no stranger to these late night confrontations.

At last, I finally opened my mouth. “Karen….”

Within the blink of an eye, she had her arms wrapped around me lovingly. The girl leaned against me and exhaled softly. “Leonard, it’s good to see you.”

“Why do you visit me now with all that’s happened?”

She ignored my question, instead looking over at Rachel. The princess was perfectly awake and staring at the extinguished campfire unblinking. She took no notice of my twin sister. “You’re faced with a choice, Leonard,” Karen murmured into my ear. “This is your chance for a new life; make sure to choose well.”

“I know. I will.”

She got to her feet, dress swaying in the breeze. If Father had seen her ankles showing like that, he would’ve taken Karen inside and given her a real beating. “It’s strange,” she muttered. “Why won’t you run? Abandon them and make a life of your own. Surely you’ll be safer that way.”

My jaw clenched. “After you died, I told myself I wouldn’t falter. Your death was my fault. Because of my hesitation, you were struck down. If I stop regretting my decisions and changing my mind, I won’t hesitate. I won’t falter. I refuse to let that happen again.”

Karen fixed her gaze upon mine. Ours were the same color: a dark brown. Not particularly breathtaking or attractive. But that never mattered. It was the warmth inside her gaze that made me smile anyway. And since we looked so alike, I knew that there was a warmth inside my gaze as well that made her smile. My hand found hers, grasping the warm fingers. It was strange how my mind could paint such vivid pictures of the impossible. The real Karen was rotting away in some grave, no doubt a skeleton by now.

“Don’t worry. No matter what, I’ll make sure to redeem myself. It’s all I can do,” I told her.

The saddest of smiles graced her lips. “Be careful, Brother. You might end up doing more than what you came here to do.”

Before I could ask what that was supposed to mean, I was awake. The fire was still blazing, even though Renault had been asleep for quite some time. However, the manservant twitched every so often, showing that he was prepared to wake at a moment’s notice and defend his master. Rachel was the same as in my dream, gazing at the crackling fire. She blinked more than usual, most likely since the heat was drying her eyes. That was the only movement from her though. The girl was completely still otherwise.

Scooting over gradually, my hand poked her side. “Hey, you awake?”

She finally looked over at me, though her eyes didn’t register any emotion. “What?”

“What are you going to do now?”

She shuffled to the side, withdrawing further into the blanket. The princess looked almost like an owl, her wide eyes peeking out from the top of the cloth. “I…I don’t know.”

“Well, with Hen….” The sentence trailed off as I noticed the darkening of her gaze when the name was spoken. “Well, with you being unable to return to the castle and all that, what shall we do? No doubt he’ll keep searching for you. He must’ve had his reasons to want to kill you.”

Even in the dim firelight, I could see the whiteness of her knuckles as the girl gripped her knees with a surprising ferocity. “I don’t know, okay?! Henry, he…,” her voice cracked, “he’s a good man. There must be some mistake. I-I need to go back and talk --”

“Enough whimpering!” I growled. “The fact of the matter is that you’re lucky to have escaped with your life tonight. Now you need to decide what our next course of action is. If you hesitate, then we all die. So make a decision.”

For several tense moments, there was nothing but the wind to sway the silence. At last, Rachel swallowed before looking up. “We leave,” she said. “I have no wish to fight for the throne. When morning comes, we leave to find a place where nobody will find us.” Though she sat up resolutely, her eyes held brief flickers of doubt in the honey-gold depths.

I leaned back, sighing as I willed sleep to overcome me once more. No doubt we’d need all the rest we could get on the long journey ahead. Rachel, however, seemed to be taking no part of it. She fidgeted, lost in thought. No one could blame her; after all, most people would be notably distraught after having almost been killed.

“By the way, Lennard, is that really you? You look different. More…presentable.”

In an act of self-consciousness, my fingers slipped towards the brown locks and caressed them. More than half my hair had been severed off by Renault’s dagger. Three feet of meticulously groomed hair, sheared off in one night. “What does it matter? Because of your dumb problems, I got half my hair cut off,” I grumbled in reply.

She leaned back, looking up at the stars. They glimmered brightly overhead, a quilt of various shining dots. Almost like a sea in the sky. “You know…I like it,” she sighed, her eyelids beginning to droop from weariness. The princess snored, but it was a quiet sound. Almost cute. Even when she was asleep, everything about her just screamed, “delicate.” Looks like she was going to be pretty useless.

Despite that though, my cheeks felt warm in the crisp air. Suddenly, my hair being cut didn’t seem all that bad.


 

The sun filtered through my gaze, forcing me awake. Several feet away, Rachel yawned and stretched. The campfire had been extinguished, and Renault had tried hard to erase any evidence we had been there.

“So what’s the plan?” I inquired, stretching my aching back.

“I have an acquaintance in Milian by the name of Bertholdt. He’s a rather secretive man, but he knows of a place where we’ll be safe. A place where anyone would be hard-pressed to find us,” the manservant answered.

“How far away is Milian?”

“About a day’s walk.”

Grudgingly, we got up and continued down the dirt path. Oddly enough, everything was quiet. No palace soldiers patrolled the area, searching for the missing princess. Renault was on-guard, paranoid from the lack of activity. Since it was the middle of summer, the sun beat down on our backs. Est was a rather cold country, but that didn’t stop it from making you sweat during the summer. The pitiful countryside trees did little to shade us from the onslaught of heat.

Rachel sat on the horse, tiredly leaning against the creature’s neck. I followed close behind, also weary. The only one who looked unbothered was Renault. The manservant merely walked ahead, looking forward to the horizon. His expression changed not in the harsh light. For a man of his youth, the manservant held a kind of experience most men years older lacked.

It would be a lie if I said I cared not what Rachel was thinking about. The princess looked like she was about to keel over. Was it because she was unused to travel or something else? Unsurprisingly, her hair was tangled and her skin was dirty. It was most likely the first day she hadn’t had a bath in years. But she merely clung to the horse like her life depended on it. Was she thinking of Henry? Or how she missed her family? Perhaps it was fear of the unknown. Her life had been laid out in front of her the moment she was born; there was nothing left undetermined and nothing to worry about. But now she was riding out further and further away from everything she knew to a place she had never heard of before.

Her horse was slowing down so she was almost right beside me. My mouth tingled, as if begging me to say something. But the two of us remained silent, understanding that there was a primitive need for pondering inwardly. For all Rachel knew, tomorrow she could be dead. In fact, I doubt she noticed anything besides her own thoughts in that long journey. There was merely dust.

My thoughts began to turn towards my own family. Now that Henry knew my name and everything else, what was to happen to them? Luther could be thrown in a dungeon to waste away for all I cared, but Elizabeth and the others…? My father was not a caring man. We were forced to work from the day we were born, but even he didn’t deserve death for what I had done. No doubt at the very least, my face would be plastered across every spare piece of parchment from here to Groust.

At that thought, a grim smile crossed my lips. My old face would be on those posters. Now I was a new man with a new look. I just needed a name to go with it. A new name and a new past. Despite that, though, I couldn’t spare the thoughts to consider it. Henry’s visage kept appearing in my mind as the prince held up that dagger, ready to spear me through the throat. Just at the memory, my heart leaped into my throat and refused to stop.

The only thing that ceased my quickening heartbeat was the sudden stop of the horses. “This is a good place to rest for the night,” Renault announced, turning and helping Rachel slide off the creature’s back. He had made a good call; the trees were much more abundant here, giving us plenty of cover. The sun still hadn’t set yet, but the deepening glow of the sky told me that it would start soon.

“Do we have anything with us?” I asked, also getting off the horse.

He shook his head. “Just this blanket and whatever happened to be on our persons when we left.”

Indeed, that unfortunately seemed to be the truth. Though the blanket was quite useful. The forest clearing was cool, leaves coating the grass. Most likely there was a pond nearby. It seemed a good time to bathe and rest, so I set off in search of any water.

Maple leaves coated the ground, rustling under my boots but still too fresh to crunch. I stopped, squinting in the growing darkness. By the pool farther in, there was a figure. Rachel.

“Rachel?”

She jerked her head back and looked at me, her eyes raw. “Lennard? What are you doing here? I was just…washing my face.”

“You were totally crying just now, weren’t you?” I scoffed.

“I was not!” She fell quiet almost immediately after the outburst, already over the conflict. In just those mere moments, the mood had completely changed. “I’ll just go now, so you can do what you need to do….”

“No, wait.” The words had left my mouth before I had registered what was happening. I sat next to her on the smooth rock, making sure to sit far enough away so that she didn’t get upset. “Just get it off your mind, lest it slow you down later. We won’t have time to dwell on things that don’t have to do with our survival.”

The princess bit her lip, fresh tears spilling over her cheeks. “I just don’t understand…why he wanted me dead. Weren’t we friends?” Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the stony surface as tightly as she could manage. “Did I really mean so little to him?”

For several moments, I just watched the tears drip down her face in silence. Was there really anything for me to say? I knew nothing of what her relationship was with Henry, nor how she grew up. I could only sit there in silence and listen to her pain. “I mean, there must be a reason as to why he did what he did. If he just wanted the throne, I’m sure he could’ve convinced your father to let you two marry. No, there’s something else he’s trying to obtain that could only be met through bloodshed,” I said finally.

She glared at me. “Can you be quiet?! I don’t care why Henry wants me dead! I just…I just wish I could die,” she choked out miserably, looking down at the pellucid water.

My stomach churned; suddenly my throat was tight. “What are you talking about?” I growled. “You can’t just go up and die on me.”

Rachel merely looked back at me, her eyes fixed in a stubborn line. I merely charged ahead, not paying her any heed. “If you haven’t noticed, Princess, by making the decision to save your life, I may have just damned my future and perhaps even my family’s future.” My fingers found her wrist and tightened around it. “If you think you can just go ahead and die on me, you’re sorely mistaken. I didn’t go through all this to find you dead on the ground.”

“Lennard, you’re hurting me,” she yelped, trying to pull her hand away. After several seconds, I relaxed my grip. Even so, my gaze didn’t soften.

“No matter what you do or where you go, I intend on keeping you alive. It’s what I owe Karen. Besides, don’t call me that. I’m a new man now.”

The girl shook her head. “What? What are you talking about?”

“Renault told me I had to give up my name and who I was if I wanted to continue on this path.” In a surprising moment of consideration, I took her hand. This time, my grip was gentle. “My name isn’t Leonard anymore, or Lennard as you called me.”

“Then what is it?” she asked, looking me in the eye. As frail as Rachel looked, once in a while she’d have the fiercest gaze.

Once again, Henry’s face flashed in my mind as he pinned me down. Your heart’s beating fast, just like a jackrabbit’s. “Jackrabbit. That’s my name now.”

Rachel scoffed. “What kind of name is that? I refuse to call you something so ridiculous.”

“Then don’t.” My grip tightened slightly, but not enough to hurt. Just enough to show her that I was serious. “Call me whatever you want, but in company, my name is Jackrabbit. I’m a rogue who grew up in the slums and learned how to get by the hard way.”

The princess shook her head, lifting herself to her feet. “Do you even know how to live life the hard way?”

Despite the circumstances, a grin forced its way to my face. “You’re preaching to the choir there, Princess. I may not be able to do all the things I boast of, but if I am one thing it’s a pretty decent liar. People should steer clear of us if they see Renault and hear my claims.”

“Whatever,” she scoffed, yanking her hand away from mine. “I’d best get back to Renault lest he worries.”

My gaze followed her as she disappeared from view. As soon as she was out of earshot, a small sigh escaped my lips. You really know how to pick ‘em, don’t you? Of all the people I could’ve been bound to, why did it have to be that brat?


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