For a full listing of all chapters, and a brief description of the story, click here.
Please enjoy the ninth chapter- more are in the works now.
The Guard Liem, and the girl who was once his prisoner, had finally stopped falling. They landed abruptly on a large heap of something. They could hear the grunting of beasts nearby. It was quite dark; no doubt they were far below the main floors of the castle. Both of them had to allow a moment for their eyes to adjust, to get their bearings. Liem spoke first.
“Miss, are you all right?” he said, just above a whisper.
“Yes, Liem,” she answered him. Liem noticed the girl was still timid; no doubt, after so many years of punishment, she knew not where the next threat might come from.
“That was quite the fall. I do apologize,” Liem smiled at the girl as he helped her to sit upright. Remarkably, neither of them had not been hurt or killed after such a long fall. They had landed on something brittle, but soft. Liem looked at the piece of parchment for direction, but none new had been revealed.
“We are in the stables,” said the girl, rubbing a piece of hay between her fingers. “Is there a way out of the castle grounds from here?”
“Regrettably, I do not know much about the stables. I have spent all my time in only barracks, training grounds, or the halls of the prison since coming to the castle. I am afraid my habit, and Dorian’s commands, have made me a poor navigator.”
The girl nodded in understanding, “How long have you been here? You cannot be very old.”
They had been resting a few moments, but began to carefully amble down the massive haystack. Liem answered the girl as the two of them reached the bottom.
“I have been here half my life, miss,” he observed darkly, “Dorian brought me here to be a soldier when I was twelve. After. . .,” Liem said nothing else, casting his gaze to the floor.
“Dorian is the man with the green eyes?” asked the girl. Her own eyes watched Liem carefully. He nodded, looking a bit ashamed at the thought of allying himself with a man like Dorian for so long.
“Of course, I remember him being the one putting me into the prison,” the girl said, “It was shortly after the King’s death. The last I can remember of my old life is Dorian asking me ‘Where are they?’, and my refusing to answer him. He became angry. He lost control; beat me very badly.”
“Is that why you can’t remember who you are?” Liem asked carefully.
“It must be. The next few days Dorian beat me all the worse. He thought I was keeping something from him on purpose. I suppose he still thinks this. Or refuses to accept otherwise, anyway.”
She pushed the gate open carefully.
“I promise to help you,” said Liem, taking her hand.
She flinched, but smiled at him. She gently slid her hand from his, to smooth her hair.
The stable was a vast, wide room. There were a number of rows of stalls. Many held horses, cattle, sheep, or donkeys, although some were empty. There were larger stalls, such as the one with the haystack, to hold food, water and supplies for the animals.
They had barely noticed a little, old woman who had emerged from one of the stalls. She came charging toward them holding a torch in one hand, and a bucket of milk in the other. She spoke to Liem suddenly.
“Young man! What are you doing down here with that girl?” she looked a bit confused as to how two strangers could have entered the stables without her noticing.
“Forgive us for alarming you, ma’am,” Liem said. “The girl is under my charge, by Lord Dorian’s orders. She is ill, and Lord Dorian has asked me to remove her from the prisons as quickly as possible . . . so as not to infect any of the guards, or any of the other prisoners. We require a horse,” his voice stiffened.
The old woman’s eyes were wide. “Go on, then! Get out of here, the pair of you. Don’t let her rot spread to the horses, neither!” she spat, as if the horses were her own children.
“Of course not, madam,” Liem glanced to the girl, who had replaced her hood and was standing in her familiar posture: upright, head down, hands folded in front of her, “The animals will remain unharmed. But I advise you: leave until we have departed, for your own safety,” he said with seriousness.
“Very well, be gone with you both!” snapped the old woman. She hurried out of sight, clutching her light and her milk bucket.
The girl beamed at Liem. Seeing the glint of mischief in his eye, she said, “That was brilliant, but I’m not sure I deserved a plague.”
He smiled at her and opened a gate. Inside was a beautiful, black horse. He was very tall, however. This made him very difficult for Liem to saddle, but he managed to do so.
“If only he would kneel for you to mount him,” said the girl lightly.
“Kneel? How on earth do I get him to–?” Liem stopped.
The both looked, shocked, at the horse, who had all but laid on the floor of his stall. Liem glanced with uncertainty from the girl to the horse, and back to the girl. He mounted cautiously; the horse slowly beginning to stand beneath him.
The girl laughed at the spectacle and said, playfully, “Wait for me!”
The horse’s head nodded, and he resumed his prior position, nearly letting the tip of his long nose brush the floor, in order for the girl to mount. She and Liem exchanged a bewildered look. The girl placed her arms around Liem, steadying herself in the saddle. Liem had all but forgotten about the amulet on his neck in all the confusion. It was unmistakably glowing, radiating green light and warmth. Liem swallowed and cleared his throat.
“Let’s get to somewhere far away from here,” the girl began, “somewhere Dorian won’t think to look right away.”
No sooner had she said this than the horse began to gallop. The girl cried out, half surprised, half delighted; she was free. Liem had freed her. Her hood flew back in the wind, her fire-red hair whipping about her face as they sailed over the low fence encircling the pasture.
“This is some horse,” Liem practically had to shout over the rushing of wind and the pounding of hooves. The noon sun was bright in the sky. The three of them were headed west.