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

Chapter 8 (v.1) - Chapter 8

Submitted: October 27, 2017

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Submitted: October 27, 2017



I woke to the pungent-sweet smell of rosemary wafting through the air. The curious face of Alex took up my entire vision, his green eyes knit with concern. We made eye contact for an intimate moment before he jerked his head away. “Guys, ‘e’s awake!” he called.
Rachel, Renault and Iselle rushed over, all three peering down at me intrusively. “Lennard, are you okay?” the princess asked, for once a genuine look of caring on her face. It was perhaps the first time she’d spared me any worry since our journey began. 
“I…I’m fine,” I replied, wincing as I sat up. With each beat of my heart, a pulsing shock of pain shot through my head. “Shit,” I hissed as Iselle rested a hand on my forehead.
She sighed and shook her head. “That’s a nasty welt all right.”
Rachel shook her head and withdrew Lævateinn from one of the sacks we’d been carrying. “Here, let me,” she offered, bringing the staff near my face. The cold surface of it made my head slightly ache, but after a few moments, it was replaced by a serene warmth. A smile graced my lips as the pain faded away completely. After several seconds, Rachel withdrew the staff and put it away once more.
“So it is true, ya really are the princess of Leviatan,” Alex said at last, looking at her warily.
Rachel nodded solemnly. “Yes, I’m sorry to deceive you.”
“Lady Rachel, Lennard and I have been on the run since the recent incident you’ve probably heard about,” Renault explained. “I’m not sure of what word has been going around since then, but Prince Henry tried to assassinate the princess, so we came to her rescue. Now we’re on the run, while Prince Henry tells His Majesty lies regarding the whole situation.” At the mention of it, his eyes darkened. I wouldn’t want to be in his way when he got angry like that.
“I mean, doesn’t matter to us,” Alex replied lazily. You could’ve told him something as simple as the sky was blue and he would’ve reacted the same way. “As long as we is performin’, it don’t matter where ya from. Y’all are friends, right?” he asked Iselle with a wink.
The dancer smiled softly. “Yes, you saved Alex’s life. If you need a place to stay, you’re always welcome here.”
I shook my head, not giving Renault or Rachel a chance to react. “No, we can’t. Our being here is what got you into danger in the first place. We don’t want to drag you any further into this, so I’m afraid we’ll have to go our separate ways.”
Alex looked down while Iselle fell silent. After a few silent moments, he pulled out a necklace from behind his shirt. He had been wearing it the entire time, but it had been hidden by his shirt collar until now. On the end of the rough cord was a single scrying stone. It was misshaped, not even comparing to Rachel’s. Despite that, though, you could tell it had been treated with love. The bard held it in an outstretched hand. “Here, this was from me ma. Don’t remember her much though. She gave me this when I was a babe. I want y’all to take it.”
“Why, Alex, I couldn’t.” The princess shook her head, refusing to accept the offering. “That’s important to you. It would be wrong for us to just take it.”
“Nah, I want ya to have it,” he insisted. “Besides, I got another in me pocket. They were cut from the same stone, ‘pparrently.”
Rachel took the stone and held it in her hands. “I think…this could be useful.” She looked up at the bard. “Twin scrying stones like this can allow two people to communicate. If you control the mana just right, it’s possible to form a connection between the two of them. So if you keep the one in your pocket and we take this one, we’ll be able to communicate you should the time arise.”
He smiled. “All right. Sounds good then.”
Iselle suddenly stepped forward and handed me a necklace. It was a rabbit’s foot, mangled and dirty. It certainly wasn’t of very fine quality. The dancer smiled. “Here, this is for you.”
“Thanks, but I can’t see what use it’ll serve me.”
“You’re Jackrabbit, aren’t you?” A smirk spread across her face. “That’ll help paint the picture.” Even though they knew my true name, they covered their eyes and pretended. Pretended that the whole world wasn’t against them while they sang their song of innocence and falsehoods. It hurt to leave more than anything, but it was for the best. The last thing they needed was to be dragged further into our mess.
The goodbyes after that were quick. Rachel hid her tears, trying her hardest not to let anyone see them. But it was obvious. None of us said anything, though, as we left. Once again, the journey had become quiet -- somber, even. Hills of rolling grass spread out as far as the eye could see. There wasn’t a single tree to take cover behind, or a single place to hide. If Henry found us out here, we’d have to make a run for it.
Renault stopped, bending over a strange-looking flower. The center was pitch black, outlined by pointed, yellow petals. “I’ve never seen this flower before,” the manservant noted, peering closer at the unique flora.
Rachel stopped, her eyes sharpening. “I sense mana coming from it,” she said excitedly, lighting up like a little puppy. “Renault, pick it. I want to study it later.”
The manservant fastened a hand around the stalk of the flower before withdrawing it with a hiss of pain. On his hand was a tiny slice, no bigger than the average paper cut. “What a baby,” I laughed.
“Milady, we’d best get a move on,” Renault said, turning towards Rachel. He was stoic as always. Even so, his right hand twitched every few seconds, giving his pain away. Of course, Rachel didn’t notice things like that.
“All right,” she chirped, having already forgotten about the strange flower.
The hours trickled by slowly like honey. My stomach was empty. Every step I took was a stab of pain. Even Rachel, as oblivious as she was, seemed to finally notice. “Lennard, are you okay?” she asked, slowing to a stop.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s just keep going.”
Renault withdrew a few yellow flowers from the pack he wore. “Here,” he said, handing the herbs to me. “This is fennel. It curbs appetite.” Since he had been cut by the flower, the manservant seemed to be growing increasingly tired as we continued on. It didn’t fail to escape my attention that he used his left hand rather than his right to hand me the fennel. His entire arm hung by his side limply. Renault’s face was shiny with sweat. Even his eyes were starting to droop.
“You okay?” I asked.
He shook his head dismissively. “In truth, no. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve been poisoned.”
“What?!” Rachel exclaimed in dismay, hopping around. “What do you mean you’ve been poisoned?!”
Renault winced. It was the first time I’d seen him ever show any weakness. “My arm is turning numb, but it still itches and burns,” he confessed. “I’m being forthright about it, since delaying treatment could be deadly. I’m unfamiliar with the plant, so I know nothing of how dangerous its poison is. We need to find a place soon and rest. Preferably a local place with a medic. They’d know what these flowers are, and probably have a cure.”
The leafy fronds were bitter, but I had to admit the pain was no longer as sharp. The hunger instead settled down in the bottom of my stomach, seething and bubbling as it waited to resurface later. Had I ever really known hunger before now? Not the want for food, but the need for it. The feeling that made your stomach twist into knots, and made you want to throw up even though there’s nothing to empty. My father had not spoiled me, but at least he didn’t starve us. A low chill of fear passed through my body. I’m so far away from home, struggling to stay alive while the entire kingdom is after me. How was Elizabeth faring? Was she put to death? Was the rest of my family put to death? I suddenly felt way out of my league. Renault’s exhaustion made all of us feel insecure.
The manservant squinted against the setting sun. He had become the stone statue once more, grey eyes imbued with a stout hardness that none could penetrate. He pointed. “There’s something in the distance.”
Turning my gaze towards the sunset, I felt my heart drop. It was far away, but there was no denying the pulsating blue mass on the horizon. No matter how many times I tried to forget, the memory would never leave me. “That’s Luther’s summoning magic,” I breathed. “He must be using it to sniff us out.”
“Summoning magic?” Renault may have been educated, but it wasn’t surprising he was still in the dark regarding those things.
“Yes, it’s a new type of magic recently discovered a few years back. Luther’s house, House Sachien, is leading the study for it.” A grimace covered my face. “He’s using the specter of his Wildebeest to track our scent.” With each passing second, my heart sank lower. This was it; we were going to be apprehended. “Wildebeest can smell better than any hunting hound. On top of that, it also can run faster than any horse. We’ll never be able to outrun it or hide.”
Rachel tugged on my arm, her eyes bright with stubbornness. It was a sort of spark that lit up her features and refused to be extinguished. “They can’t scent us if there’s nothing to follow,” she said. The princess pointed at the river flowing in the distance, about 300 yards away.
“It’s no use. We’ll never make it. Besides, we’ll still be in eyesight. No point in covering our scent if Luther can see us.” My fingers clutched into a tight fist. Was this really the end? Once Luther caught up with us, my only future was at the end of a blade.
“We’ll follow it into the woods,” Rachel insisted, grabbing my arm and dragging me. Renault kept pace, his thoughts unreadable. Even if Rachel suggested we throw ourselves at a pack of rabid dogs, he would obey. Personally, the idea of complete servitude was foreign to me. She may have been a princess, but I wouldn’t trade her life for mine.
Yeah, right, my inner voice chided. If that’s the case, then why are you running across a field from your brother-in-law? This whole mess is because you decided to interfere. The water was growing closer, but so was Luther. He rose on top of Wildebeest, letting the luminescent-blue apparition tear across the ground in hot pursuit. He was definitely close enough to see us, even if our features were difficult to make out. 
My legs screamed for a break, as did my mind. The princess was giving me hope, which was the last thing I need. There’s nothing crueler than giving a dying man hope that his fate would change. There was no way we could escape Luther -- not in a million years. Rachel gave me another tug, picking up the pace by a few steps. “Come on,” she panted, obviously just as exhausted as I was, if not more. It must’ve been the adrenaline that allowed her to keep running.
Feeling the sharp shock of the river water slap my legs snapped me out of my thoughts. We had made it to the stream, but Luther could definitely see us. We waded in further, nervously aware of how deep the water was getting. It was now more of a river than a stream. Thick, foamy water churned hungrily against the rocks, threatening to sweep us away. Renault somehow managed to hold his balance, but he could do nothing to save Rachel from the current. “Keep going,” she urged, looking into the distance.
“Milady, current could carry us away if we continue,” Renault warned her.
“We don’t have a choice,” I growled. “If we don’t go, we die.” Even so, my heart couldn’t help but leap to my throat as I slipped on a rock and pitched forward. The water caught me like a bed, carrying me swiftly away. Each time I opened my mouth to shout, liquid poured inside, choking any words that would’ve left.
“Help!” In the corner of my vision, there was a small, thrashing mass. It was Rachel; she had also been swept away. The girl’s head broke the surface, dirty-brown hair clinging to her face as she gasped for breath. 
“Milady!” Renault was also caught by the current, but even a brute like him couldn’t fight it in his current state. 
The water grew faster, sending my stomach plummeting. When water got this fast, it only meant one thing. Indeed, it seemed my predictions had been right. Several dozen yards in the distance, the water suddenly fell away. There was nothing but mist past that point. A waterfall. We were going over a waterfall.
Rachel screamed again, thrashing her hands in the water. She looked like a drowned rat. But something sparked in my heart in that moment. I won’t let you die. Using the current, I didn’t fight it. Instead, I angled myself so that I was moving diagonally across the water towards the princess. The edge was getting increasingly closer as each second pass. The steady rumble of the churning river water had become a roar, blocking out all other sound.
Right as we reached the edge, I wrapped my arms around her and pressed her close to me. Here goes nothing. And then the world suddenly fell out from underneath us.

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