Sunday, June 23, 2013

Friends and Enemies // Chapter Four // Essgarothe

by Willow Silver Black

~The Four Rings Series~

Friends and Enemies

Chapter Four


"Willow?" a voice questioned somewhere above her. "It's morning, and we have to start for Essgarothe soon, as it is light out now," the voice stated, accompanied by someone shaking her shoulder.
   "Go away, Cole. I'll get there when I get there," Willow mumbled into her pillow.
   "Cole?" the voice asked with confusion. "Lady Prophetess, this is Emmeth. Remember?"
   Lady what? Cole never calls me that. Who on earth is Emmeth... oh. Right. Duh! With those thoughts still echoing in her mind, Willow pried her eyelids open and sat up. Emmeth was standing next to the bed, politely clasping his hands in front of him, watching her anxiously. He must think I'm a complete idiot, she grimaced.
   "Sorry, I get kinda forgetful in the mornings," she apologized. Emmeth nodded.
   "Are you ready?" he asked. "It's already seven o'clock, and the sun has already risen." She nodded, embarrassed at the fact that everyone was probably up and waiting for her. It was never like this back on the Valiant. Cole had to practically force-feed her tea so she could wake up. He never stood around waiting patiently.
   Willow had slept in her clothes, so she didn't have to hurry to dress, but she did re-braid her long dark hair. Emmeth politely waiting outside her door while she clumsily raked a brush through her uncooperative locks and struggled to twist it into a braid. She hoped that he didn't think she was normally clumsy. Ew. I hope he doesn't think I like like him or something. Sick. She shuddered and promptly dropped the brush.
   After retrieving it and finishing her hair, Willow fastened her horn to her belt and made sure it wouldn't slip off. That's just what I need, then they'll really think I'm a klutz.
   Emmeth pointed to the group of young men surrounding Sirius Darkfeather, who was still tied up. He glared at Willow as she followed Emmeth to the group.
   "Are we all ready to depart?" he asked. A young man with reddish hair stepped forward. He must be the leader-type of this squad-group-thing.
   "We have secured the prisoner and are ready to depart, Prince Emmeth," the guy affirmed. Emmeth nodded.
   "Then let's go."


Walking to Essgarothe for the most part wasn't that bad. The forest was absolutely stunning, and the light filtering down onto the footpath made the whole place feel inviting and friendly. The trees and underbrush grew more thickly around this path than the one that Emmeth had taken her on the day before, so that it seemed to be like a leafy green tunnel. Having to trot to keep up with the guys' long-legged strides, Willow was panting in only a few minutes.
   And it was during this long peaceful walk that Willow got to learn some more about their rebellion.
   "So Emmeth, why are you doing this rebellion thing?" she asked, cocking her head at the young prince.
   Emmeth gazed thoughtfully ahead for a minute or two, than turned back to her. "My father was a just ruler. His elder brother, my uncle, always admired the Shadow lord Tash." Willow shuddered.
   "Tashra was once a deeply Shadow planet. False worship was everywhere. Than my grandfather became a Codebearer, and invited Codebearer missionaries to the planet, and everything changed. But then about a year ago, my father disappeared from the capital, and was never seen again. We don't know if he's dead or being held prisoner on Dolor or something. Then my uncle claimed that my father's throne was rightfully his. I was and still am not yet of proper age to be ruler."
   "What's the age?"
  Red haired guy strode up on her other side. "Twenty one. An eligible prince must be twenty one years of age."
   Emmeth nodded. "Killian is right. I must be twenty one, and I'm only nineteen."
   Killian shook his head. "But that's not all. Emmeth's uncle is trying to get his son-Emmeth's cousin-onto the throne! His cousin is twenty, a year older."
   Willow's chocolate-colored eyes widened. "Can he do that?"
   Emmeth sighed. "He's going to petition the Council of Knights soon, but we don't know when. That's why I was at the capital when you fell from the tear in the sky."
   Willow sighed. "That sounds pretty complicated."
   "It is. And his uncle tried to have him arrested, but he escaped thanks to Sir Richard." Killian commented.
   "But you still haven't answered my question," she pointed out.
   Emmeth smiled. "Of course. Well, I don't believe that it's right to let my uncle and the Shadow be cruel to my people. And as their rightful ruler's heir, it is my duty to come to their aid. Many of the "Rebels" as some call my army, convinced me that it was right to do this. what is hard to understand is that my people are so afraid. They obey my uncle, and don't challenge the Shadow."
   Willow nodded sympathetically. "Back on Torpor in Solandria, that's what it's kinda like. But not quite. Everyone was just minding their own business."
   "Precisely," Killian commented.
   Changing the subject, Willow asked, "Is that Sir Richard guy on that Council of Knights thing?"
   "Yes," Killian replied.
   "Can't he make a speech in favor of Emmeth?" she suggested.
   "That's what we were planning, but we don't know if it will work. Sir Richard is known to be fiercely loyal to the true king."
   "So what are you gonna do?"
   "We are going to find out when the Council of Knights will take place. Then we will try. That's all we can do. Try." Killian said forcefully.
   "Try and pray," Emmeth added with a sigh.
   "Dark Marshes just ahead!" a youth at the head of the group call back.
The "Dark Marshes" place was probably the worst part of the trek. It was darker there, the trees closed in more and looked unfriendly. No sunlight peeked through the green leaves or fell in puddles on the pathway. Willow shivered as she ran a finger down the rough bark of a foreboding tree. The path was now a smooth stone pathway that forced everyone to go single-file.
   Then ahead came a almost purple-ish light. When they arrived at the spot, Willow realized why. Across a rather narrow canyon snaked a bridge connected to various rocks jutting up out of the horrible dark water at the bottom of the canyon.
   "We don't have to cross that thing, right?" Willow asked nervously.
   Killian hid a smirk with his gloved hand. "How else do you expect us to cross the canyon? Fly?"
   Willow shot a glare his way, but he didn't see it as he was occupied with instructing his group on how to drag their prisoner across the single-file bridge, because he had been blindfolded so he wouldn't be able to recognize the way. Finally, it was agreed that one would go in front, pulling a rope attached to his wrist, then another would go behind, holding a rope attached to his belt.
   They went first, tromping over the precariously balanced bridge. Willow hesitated for a millisecond, going forward only because Killian would probably make an comment about her being afraid of heights {a fear she kept as secret as possible for fear of being made fun of}. Just don't look down. Willow commanded herself, stepping as lightly as she could, trying not to hyperventilate. Ignore the possibility of falling.... Willow instructed herself, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other {as gently as possible}.
   "This place is kinda creepy," she commented.
   Killian smirked. "Not really. If you think this is "creepy", you should see Tash's Headquarters. It's positively horrid."
   Stepping off of the bridge, they climbed the continuing steps up the rocky canyon's side. The light gradually got better, until they reached what looked like a wall of rock covered in vines and brambles. Emmeth stepped forward to the front of the group and pulled out a large rusty key from his trouser pocket. Pushing it into a hidden opening, he twisted it with hardly any difficulty and a round door made of the rock {and vines and brambles} swung open to reveal what seemed to be a giant hidden cave with steps running down ahead of them to dirt path leading into the darkness. Willow stood on her tiptoes to peer over Emmeth's shoulder.

"You guys are pretty tight on security," she commented. Killian nodded.
   The steps were made of stone, and the whole group descended them in a single-file line. It was darker now, not creepy dark, but more of a soft dark. Emmeth led the way through the soft darkness. Then they came to a place where the walls were tan stone, not grey. Torches lit the arched halls.
   Then they finally approached a door. It was an old, strong door. Emmeth pulled out another key from another pocket and started twisting it in the lock's large keyhole.
   Killian caught Willow's elbow and pulled her a little behind everyone else. "There are many different entrances and exits to the Secret Way. This is the most commonly used way. Depending on if you stay, I'll be glad show you the ins and outs, if you like."
   Willow shot him an annoyed glance. "I'm staying until I know that I've done all I can, thank you very much."
   Killian shrugged. "You never know."
   Willow opened her mouth for a retort, by didn't get have enough time to say anything, because Emmeth caught her other elbow and pulled her through the now open door with sunlight filtering through. So she had to settle for gritting her teeth.
   Emmeth excitedly half pulled half dragged her up some carved winding stone steps to another door. It was unlocked, so he simply pushed it open and stood out on a carved stone balcony overlooking what she assumed to be Essgarothe.
   Willow hadn't known what to expect when she'd heard the name of Essgarothe. What she was overlooking, though, was quite different than what she had been expecting.
  "So, what do you think?"
   Willow took in her surroundings. The balcony overlooked a courtyard walled in with grey stone and green vines twining their way up the walls. Everything basically had the same color scheme. All around the walls she could see towers and more walls rising out of the mist. It was very cool, in a mysterious and quiet sort of way.
   "It's lovely, Emmeth. What was it originally?" she asked with interest.
   A handful of young men were milling about the courtyard beneath them, and Emmeth waved them up.
   "Originally," he explained, gesturing to all of Essgarothe. "It was a fortress-castle. Built up by heroes and knights of ages gone by. But it had been forgotten, until Killian and I stumbled upon it a few year ago while we were hunting. It became our secret hideout until I was hunted by my uncle. Then we all helped clean it up and now it is our base of operations." Willow nodded.
   The small group of youths had by then appeared and were waiting patiently for Emmeth to introduce them. The group that she had traveled with hustled by with their prisoner, probably taking him to some kind of prison. Serves him right. Willow thought scornfully.
   "So who's this, Prince?" asked a rather scruffy young man with rather short brown hair, gesturing to Willow.
   Emmeth cleared his throat. "Gentlemen, you have heard of the legendary Chosen Four, who by the will of the Author, execute justice upon this galaxy." Willow blushed. "You also have probably heard of the second of those Chosen. A certain prophet? Well, this is she. She has come by the Author's will to help us in our quest to bring the Shadow to justice!" At that he pumped his fist into the air. Willow blushed harder as all of the youths cheered loudly.
   "Thanks," she managed to say over the din.
   "Now, I believe it is time for our noon meal? Let us dine together." He offered her his arm, to which she {finding no way to politely say "no thanks"} took it, and he escorted her to another courtyard that had tables set up about it. After showing her to his table and making sure she was settled {instructing Killian to watch over her} Emmeth explained that he needed to speak with some scouts and that he would be back shortly.
   Willow quietly ate her food, which tasted a lot like top ramen from back home in the Veil. She knew for a fact that she couldn't send a message to the Valiant, no matter how much she needed to. They'd all be worried about her. She'd been gone for about two days now. And she had lots of things she was supposed to do, meetings she was supposed to go to. But I'm on the Author's business, what could be more important than that? She consoled herself.
   "So," she directed her question at Killian, who was seated across from her. "Have you guys had any battles yet?"
   Killian nodded. "Only a handful. But though we are trained fighters, most of us lack the experience of battlefield command and strategy." Willow's eyebrows lifted.
   "I have experience in both of those. The first was when I was a Jedi Padawan, and wasn't following the Author. But it still gave me some helpful insights. I've also been instructed in battlefield strategy. I may be able to help with that, if you need any," she offered.
   Killian shrugged. "I suppose it couldn't hurt."
   Emmeth reappeared, looking extremely excited. Before anyone could ask he burst out, "Guess what? A messenger bird has just arrived from the capital and it bears a message from Teclemith! He sends word that they have found out that the Council of Knights is being held in three days! We must begin to prepare and make a plan!"
   Killian grinned. "Of course we must! But shouldn't you..." he gave the food a meaningful look. Emmeth laughed.
   "Of course! We must finish our food. I apologize." He seated himself and began to eat ravenously.
   Wow! What a busy time! I suppose that means we will be going back over that bridge again, Willow thought with a slight shiver. I wonder what adventures lay ahead?

Stay tuned for the exciting next chapter! The Council of Knights!

I hope you like it! What did you like it if you did? What do you think will happen?



  1. Willow, WOW! O_o this is Incredible!

    So descriptive a-and...epic. Yes, that's the word I was looking for. It's completely EPIC. Like, someone needs to make this into an epic motion picture. Someday.

    For now, this's amazing! You're so talented at writing. I wish I could be half as good at you. I mean sure I can write, but as exhilarating and catchy as you? Nope! :)

    Stay incredible, epic YOU.

    LOVE YOU!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Leslie! And this is just the beginning! I have some fun ideas for the next chapter!


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