Sunday, January 27, 2013

Friends and Enemies: Chapter One: The Tear

 "Come on, Lib," nineteen year old Willow coaxed her Kestrel Thunderbird, Liberty, out of her kennel. "We'll just go for a quick ride. Nex just wants me to do some target practice. Then you can go back to your snacks."
   Liberty cawed excitedly as she pranced out of her 'birdhouse'. Laughing, Willow tugged at the kestrel's lead rope as she led her to the mounting block. Even though Willow had been riding Liberty {affectionately called 'Lib'} since she had been chosen five years ago {see Test Flight} she still mounted her thunderbird with the block. Liberty was still a very young bird, and still quite, ah, well, an energetic bird. She bounced in place, eager for her mistress to saddle her.
   "There you go, Lib," Willow patted the saddle. "All saddled up. Now just let me get my bow, and we'll be off," she assured the kestrel as she adjusted the silvery quiver across her back, "Tony promised to count how many bulls-eyes I'll get. He'll be riding Swift, his thunderbird." Liberty ruffled her feathers impatiently. "Okay, okay, I'm done. Let's rock 'n' roll."
   Willow bent to quickly tighten the laces of her lace-up boots, then climbed atop the mounting block and mounted Liberty. Liberty didn't even bother waiting for the signal, she took off, flapping her wings at top speed.
   Whipping out an arrow, Willow aimed for the first target. Twang. Bulls-eye! This went on for a while, Willow shooting and hitting the targets with exact precision. She had been taught well. Then...
   Riiiiiippppp. About forty feet ahead, the sky had been torn to reveal a swirl of colors and scenes changing so fast that they were a blur.
   "Tear in the sky!" The warning rang out. Willow's heart beat faster. She and Liberty were headed straight for the tear! Now you must understand what tears are. They are like portals that the Author opens in the sky to bring an individual {s} to another place. Mostly they do not appear on Inire accept to bring people there, so you would want to avoid them to avoid a collision.
   Quickly, she jerked the reins hard to the left, hoping to avoid the tear. Liberty ignored this gesture and continued straight forwards. Now getting worried, Willow used her left foot to jab Liberty sharply. Ignored again. A decision had to be made. And she made it. Quickly unclipping the hook from her belt, she used her left leg to push off of the bird and into open air. But the relief was only for about a split second. With horror Willow realized that she had pushed off too late, as she herself tumbled head over heels through the portal.
  The next few minutes she could never remember very clearly. She was suddenly falling towards a cobbled road in the middle of a row of houses, all whitewashed. Her dark hair tangled in her face, making it hard to see. Then a sharp, painful whack on her forehead. Then everything disappeared into an inky blackness.


"This was a bad idea, Emmeth. We have no idea who this girl is, she could be some kind of spy for all we know!" A voice somewhere above Willow accused. Her head ached terribly, and her eyes absolutely refused to open.
   "Now Betromith, we couldn't just leave an injured maiden lying on the street, unconscious," a deeper, more majestic voice pointed out. "That would be breaking the code of chivalry."
   "She is an armed maiden, sir. See, she carried this bow and these arrows, as well as these swords and this horn," a slightly kinder, though nobler voice stated. "A Via bow, and a Veritas sword."
   "A Codebearer as well, you should be ashamed of yourself, Betromith."
   "She could have stolen them, and killed their original bearers."
   "I most certainly did not!" Willow's eyes flew open as she sat up quickly, "Oh, my head..." she moaned, rubbing her forehead and realized with surprise the bandage wrapped about her head.
   "You should not have sat up so quickly," a young man with dark curly hair chided gently, handing her a bowl of something that smelled like stew. Willow smiled her thanks and began to chew quietly.
   "For shame Betromith. These weapons belong to one of the legendary Chosen Four Ring-bearers. I saw them myself once, last year. I saw the bearer of these weapons and this indeed is she," the majestic voiced one argued. He was probably in his late thirties, with hair as dark her's, just about to his shoulders with a tiny bit of curl. He had intense green eyes and a wise expression. He looked vaguely familiar, but her head hurt too much to think right then. 

   "What is your name then, my lady?" asked the noble voiced one. He looked both bold and kind at the same time. He also looked vaguely familiar.
   Willow looked him straight in the eye. "I am Willow, Prophet of the Chosen Four and bearer of the second golden ring, also known as Elvish-grace," she stated calmly.
   He stared back straight as an arrow. "And I am Emmeth son of Clemathith, King of Tashra."  
Before she could reply, she seemed to be swallowed up in a vision. It was Emmeth, turning to look behind him as he held open a concealed door, his face dirty and tear-stained. Then him turning and
darting into the passage. All of this takes time to say, but it happened so quickly that she blinked thrice and it was gone.
When her head cleared, the older man had his hand on her shoulder. "My name is Sir Richard of the province of Gossgath. Welcome, Prophet of the Author," he bowed his head with respect. Willow nodded.
   "So, where am I?" she asked.
   "You don't know? You're on the planet Tashra," the one called Betromith answered in a rather condescending tone.
   "Tashra? You mean that planet that, well, you know..." Willow stuttered.
   "Is basically run by the Shadow lord Tash?" Emmeth stated bluntly. Willow nodded wordlessly. Sir Richard sighed.
   "That is only true because of Emmeth's uncle. He serves the Shadow. 'Lord' Tash is here, on this planet though. That's why, well..."
    "For goodness sake sir, don't tell the girl everything. She still has not conclusively proven that she is she of the Four," cried Betromith.
   Emmeth threw a glare Betromith's way as he took Sir Richard's arm. "Please sir, may we speak privately in the kitchen?" Sir Richard nodded and led the way out of the room, followed by the curly haired young man and Betromith. Willow now had an opportunity to survey the room she was in. It was obviously a sitting room of sorts, evident by the couch-like chair she was reclined on and the small table {that reminded her of a coffee table} that held a vase of cheerful flowers and several books. It was obviously the room of a rather wealthy person.
... Willow thought, gnawing a fingernail. She had researched Tashra for a report she was writing. Tashra was an Outer-rim planet, far in the most far areas. It was surrounded by a perpetual cloud-cover, which made it difficult to receive transmissions, much like Sparra {the pirate planet}. So they lived in mostly non-communication with the rest of the galaxy, and hardly any electronics, as the weather and atmosphere were not kind to them.
   "So, what do we think?" Emmeth asked the group.
   "I think that she is who she says she is," Sir Richard said slowly, rubbing his chin. "I saw her once before on the Codebearer's flagship Valiant, when I was there last year. She carried all of these weapons. She is whom she says she is, as she carries the second gold ring. No one but the proper ring-bearer can carry that ring." Betromith sighed.
   "I think she's a spy, sent here by Tash." Betromith stated coldly. Teclemith, the dark curly haired young man who had given Willow the stew, rolled his blue eyes.
   "You think everyone's a spy."
    Betromith shot him a dark look, "Only when there is reasonable doubt. Otherwise we would be awash with turncoats and spies."
   Emmeth looked thoughtful. "Betromith is right, we must be wary. But all of the evidence is in her favor at the moment. She bears the ring, and isn't affected by it as a pretender would, according to the Writ." Sir Richard nodded.
   "Emmeth speaks the truth. I believe she will assist us, if we ask."
   Betromith shook his head. "Right. You expect us to trust this complete stranger?"
   "Why don't you let her speak for herself?" a female voice interrupted. They all turned to see who had spoken. Willow strode up to the group. "I know you doubt that I am who I am, but I am willing to be used by the Author. I know that I have been brought here to help you, Prince Emmeth of Tashra. You would be a welcome addition to the Resistance," she bowed her head with respect. "And it is not often that I am hurled through space and time to another planet to stand idly by and do nothing. Count me in," her lips twitched into a mischievous grin. "You'd be surprised at my aim with a bow, and my training is of the absolute best." And at that, her golden ring flashed as if the light had caught it, sending a rainbow of colors dancing about the room.
   Emmeth smiled. "Then we shall count you as one of us, Lady Prophetess," he turned to his companions. "Gentlemen, I believe she has proved her worth with her silver tongue. We shall depart for Essgarothe immediately. She and I will go by the Secret Way. The rest of you, remain here to see if you can hear anything of my uncle's plans."
   Sir Richard looked thoughtful. "But on the road to the Secret Way you may encounter an orc patrol," he turned to Willow. "For your safety, lady, you must be disguised as a boy, that road is scarcely traveled by young women."
   Willow's face broke into a wider smile. "Sir, I don't mind at all! Though I believe that I'm too small for any clothes these gentlemen might lend me." There was hardy laughter all about the group. Even Betromith's stern face broke into a small smile.
   Willow was easily fitted with one of Emmeth's spare shirts and trousers, which were thankfully a bit small on him. They did look a bit baggy on her, but nothing her sword belt wouldn't fix. She insisted on wearing her own hooded cloak, which she had somehow brought along through the tear.
   It wasn't until she and Emmeth had started down the busy city road to this 'Secret Way' that she remembered a very important detail.
   "Emmeth? Whatever happened to Liberty, my Kestrel Thunderbird?"
   Emmeth's face clouded. "She was taken by the Royal Guard. But do not worry, we will recover her. They will not harm her. They will most likely use her as a pet of sorts."
   Emmeth fell into silence, and Willow brooded about her Thunderbird. She hoped that Liberty was alright, but surprisingly she didn't worry as she normally would. Instead, a phrase, a favorite phrase of Estburn, echoed in her mind. All will be well.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Friends and Enemies, Chapter Two: The Secret Way

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