The Torch Bearer Series - The Fallen

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

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Would like to finish this short story any feedback i would be greatful thanks folks

 Kian slumped against the broad trunk of an oak trying to catch his breath, the harried flight through the woods of this land had being torturous but self-preservation is a strong motivator so the pain in his sides had stopped bothering him an hour ago and the burning in his legs became a distant discomfort and all thought came down putting one foot in front of another, but he needed to catch his breath just a while he reasoned – they can’t be far behind.

He glanced over at the other two men who had also agreed to the offer put before them – both facing the rest of their natural life’s in confinement so the chance at freedom was too good to ignore but that had being this morning at dawn and by the reckoning of the sun through the trees Kian thought it past midday, they were looking less sure about their chances of escape, all but one were unfamiliar with the land and they were  growing ever disheartened by the thick forest which seems to stretch from horizon to horizon.

“What are you staring at boy?” - Dreig breathing the hardest and the oldest to take the offer of freedom “nothing” was all Kian could manage in between big gulps of air the pain in his side was back and he knew that if he didn’t stand up soon he wouldn’t be getting back up at all – already his legs were starting to cramp.

“Don’t go getting any ideas of trying to sneak of by yourself – we stick together just like we agreed”.

“You agreed” piped up the other criminal, 'Jota' he had introduced himself as.

 “The strength of three men is better than one – if we are set upon” Drieg smoothly replies.

 Kian shared a look with Jota  that said both men knew Dreig would throw them to the wolves in order to save his own hide – his pronouncement of unity was only an illusion that was fooling neither men.

Kian reluctantly and slowly stood, trying to ignore the tightness in his legs, the screaming muscles and joints that wanted just five more minutes off rest, to focus his mind he takes in his surroundings, listens to the birds that happily share news with one another, trying to discern between the many different sounds to hear if they were close behind.

“Sit down you fool – do you want to give us away” Dreig hissed, his breathing had returned to normaL but his face was a harsh red “we have to keep moving” it was Jota who spoke up before Kian could.

"He's right we don’t know what lies ahead – sitting here could be our end” Kian adding the weight of his words to the argument of leaving.

Leaning heavily against a small tree for support Dreig raises himself up slowly like a man disabled being told by a prophet/preacher to stand and walk for the first time, his face betraying the uncertainty of whether his legs would hold and not crumble beneath him, both men caught the flash of triumph that passed over his haggard features when he let go of his support and remained standing - if a little shaky, more than anyone Dreig's flight had exposed his age and condition he looked one score over his 50 summers and Kian didn’t think he could get through another forced march.

“If you leave me none of you will make it – after all im the only one who knows the way out of this cursed place” Dreig speaking to both, all the while scanning the undergrowth for movement.

Jota the first to react makes up the distance between himself and Dreig in two strides, in one swift movement he has Dreig pinned against a tree, one meaty hand closed around Dreigs throat, his vice grip slowly extinguishing whatever life remains in the elder man’s body, the swift movement had caught Dreig off guard and now he could only flail weakly at joha's torso, his face had gone from the harsh red to a dull blue. “I grow weary off your horseshit old man”.

Jota applied more pressure to his chokehold his mind made up to end Dreig's life here and now, Dreig's eyes sought out Kian, a last desperate act of a panicked man imploring and pleading for Kian to intervene before it was too late.

It was that imploring look that shocked Kian into a response although he did not trust Dreig he knew that their only hope of clearing this vast woodland was to follow his directions, he threw himself at the broad back of Jota hoping only stun him into letting go of the now nearly unconscious Dreig, Jota was a much larger man but he was caught surprised and both men toppled to the ground.

Kian was the first to get to his feet Jota just after, his eyes still held their malevolent glare but now they were fixed on Kian, his upper lip curled into a snarl, body coiled like a snake ready to attack this new threat “We need him Jota” Kian trying to penetrate the deafening silence which seemed to have fallen around them, it seemed the forest held its breath, no birds calling or small animals conversing, the only sound Kian could hear was the pounding of his heart in his ears which reminded him of the loud drums played on festival days in the village where he grew up. “Only he knows the route out of here”.

Kian thought his voice sounded even and calm which was nothing like how he felt, this exchange had cost them valuable time and they needed to get moving before it was too late.

“He lies  – can’t you see that ?” , Jota speaking to Kian but turning his head to stare at Dreig's semi - conscious form, “He's weak he knows........... “Why take the chance – he's all we have” Kian hated his supplicating tone but knew that more confrontation would only result in more bloodshed – and very likely his.

Dreig had started to stir, Kian thought that if a corpse was to raise out of its own casket at its wake it would look a lot like the scene before him, first Dreig's left foot twitched, soon to be followed by his right, suddenly his whole body shuddered and his eyes flared open and tried to fix on everything and nothing, careful to give Jota a wide berth Kian went to Dreig's side helping him to a sitting position.

“Took your sweet time boy – were you waiting to see which of the gods was going to claim my shade”, even in the hoarse voice barely above a whisper Kian recognized the anger in his tone, anger that could not be turned on Jota, so was directed at him, let him have his pride  Kian thought – as soon as we clear the woodland i'll strike out on my own.

The distant sound of dogs barking back along the trail they had come shook Kian from his thoughts – he stood straining his ears in the direction they had come but could hear no sounds other than the forest life.

 “I heard it too – we have to move” Jota had crept silently up to Kian’s side was staring intently in the same direction trying to penetrate the green world they had travelled through.

It was Dreig that broke the silence, standing now if shakily behind both men “ If we can stay ahead of the wardens hunting party till sundown we can find a place to hole up – after all they wont pursue us in the dark” .

Jota took his eyes from the forest and fixed Dreig with an humourless grin “Agreed – lets move” - “Lead on old man after all you know the way out of this green hell” .

 Dreig ignoring Jota set off through the clearing calling back to Kian without turning around “Bring up the rear boy and keep your wits about you”.

Kian without objection followed in Jotas wake, occasionally glancing back, each time expecting to see the arrow that would claim his life or the dog that would sink its teeth into the flesh of his leg maiming him so its master could claim his prize.

As the day wore on and fatigue set in there was very little interaction between the men, each wrapped up in his own private struggle with tiredness and hunger, but driven on by the thought of living out there days in freedom, the land around them seemed to never change,(once they came across a small stream which they drank greedily from – drinking as much as their bodies would allow)

Dreig pressed on occasionally stopping to check his bearings, twice he led them off their path, skirting around trees that had become too thick to pass through, to Kian it seemed their small group was being given a guard of honour tall, proud trees flanked them on each side, heralding them further into their domain.......further into the unknown……………..

When evening finally arrived and snuffed out the last rays of the setting sun, darkness fell on their surroundings so completely...............

Submitted: March 14, 2014

© Copyright 2022 Patrick Strange. All rights reserved.

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