Friday, January 3, 2014

Friends and Enemies // Chapter Sixteen // A Close Call



The echo of horses' hooves thudded through the misty night air. Lady Adira of the Province of Corrinath sat at the window in her private study, writing in her diary. Her reddish-brown locks twirled in the breeze from the crack in the window. Pausing as she wrote, Adira lifted her sea-green eyes to peer out of the second-story window, to see if her husband had yet returned. Lord Kriddan was her husband, and Knight of Corrinath.
    Hoofbeats, she mused. Kriddan must be home! In her eagerness, she dropped her pen, pulled on her dressing gown, and descended the stairs.
   But it was not Kriddan who awaited her under the awning of her front door. Three cloaked young people, all dressed in various shades of green and grey, stood dripping rainwater on the stone steps. "Aunt Adira?" a female voice inquired from beneath one of the cloaks. "We need your help!"

   Within five minutes Aliatha, Teclemith, and Willow all sat in Adira's sitting room, all wrapped in various dressing gowns of hers and Kriddans. After handing them each a cup of hot tea, she sat down as well.
   "What do you need my help with, dear ones?" she inquired.
   Teclemith seemed like the only one who could speak at that moment, so he relayed most of the story, except the parts about Tajoreth, of which whom Willow told the tale.
   "And so we are fleeing for Essgarothe. Willow suggested stopping here for a rest, but I was against it, Madame. I fear that we will lead the Shadow straight to you," Teclemith bowed his head.
   Adira nodded slowly. "But I do not fear the Shadow. They will not hurt me, and if they did, I am sure there would be some sort of revolt."
   Willow nodded vigorously. "But if you feel that it's too risky, we understa-"
   "I said nothing of the sort! You will most certainly stay with me tonight, as long as you need. Now I must go prepare your rooms. Aliatha, Willow, you do not mind sharing?" Adira asked as she stood up and brushed the front of her dressing gown with delicate yet strong hands.
   "That's fine. Thanks so much!" Willow clasped Aliatha's hand eagerly. Poor Aliatha hadn't done very well on their ride. She wasn't used to adventurous living, and was now quite exhausted from this endeavor.
   "You okay, 'Liatha?" Willow asked her softly as Teclemith followed Adira to try to persuade her to let him help her with the rooms.
   Aliatha shuddered. "That was one of the most terrifying experience I have ever had in all of my days! I thought for sure that my time had come!"
   Willow nodded sympathetically. "It feels like that at first, at least it did for me. I don't know, maybe with time and experience the fear when you're in danger lessens. I have to admit, I was kinda scared, though. When I don't know what to do, it's hard to stay calm. Our mentor, Estburn - he's the Shining One I told you about - he taught us, - the Four, I mean - how to stay calm in scary situations. Pray, and recite verses from the Writ in your head. I've done it, and it works! You could try it tonight, if you're scared," she suggested, squeezing Aliatha's hand comfortingly.
   Aliatha shrugged timidly. "I do not think that I could ever be as brave as you." She stared ashamedly down at Willow's small but sure hands clasping her own delicate, long-fingered ones.
   Willow patted her hand. "I'm absolutely sure that you could. All of the things you did to help me and Teclemith, that took considerable bravery. And you know that bravery isn't not being scared. It's being scared and doing something anyway. That's bravery."
   Aliatha leaned against her friend, laying her head on Willow's shoulder. "I know."
   Teclemith appeared and rapped his knuckles against the door frame. "Lady Adira has our rooms prepared. I suggest you all get some sleep."

   Willow rolled over for {what felt like} the hundredth time. Staring with annoyance at the whitewashed ceiling, she tried to soothe herself to sleep by listening to Aliatha's slow, even breathing. Unfortunately, her mind kept in beat with her breaths, so it was rather pointless to try to sleep. Puffing an exasperated sigh, she sat up.
   Throwing on the pale blue dressing gown hanging on a chair, she tied the sash carelessly, then nudged open the glass doors of the small balcony. Standing in the silvery moonlight, she gazed out at the grounds of the estate of the Lord and Lady of Corrinath. The grounds were quite well-kept, and obviously a gardener had been recently at work, trimming the bushes and manicuring the lawn.
   Willow's sharp eyes caught a whisper of movement on the neatly trimmed grass. Crouching behind the stone balcony railing, she peered cautiously out through the carved bars. A ghostly figure was gliding through the mist, it's cloak swirling in the fog. Willow edged for the door, her intent to warn Adira and Teclemith as soon as possible! But another movement from the figure distracted her for a moment. It turned to look up right at her hiding place. With a barely audible squeak, Willow flattened herself on her stomach. The coolness of the stone seeped through the thin nightdress and dressing gown, chilling her to the bone.
   The figure's face was very pale, and her lips very red. Her features were cold, and seemed almost chiseled in stone on her expressionless face. She was Zemerah, eldest child of Tashmath, and Tajoreth's elder sister. And close confidant of Tash. Her eyes were so sharp, they seemed almost like knives, slicing into everything that came across their path. Willow held her breath. Did she see me?
   Zemerah studied the stately house for what seemed like an eternity and half for Willow, who was wishing she could disappear. Finally, Zemerah turned on her heel and swept away. Willow let out her breath. As silently as she could, she stood and twisted the handle of the door. It seemed to shout into the night as it creaked open. "Shhhh!" she whispered to it frantically. If Zemerah saw her...
   When Zemerah did not appear out of nowhere, Willow edged the door shut, secured it, and scurried out into the hall. No use telling Aliatha until a plan was set.
   She knocked frantically on Teclemith's door, praying that their enemies would be slow in advancing upon the house. It was only a matter of time...
   "Yes?" a sleepy Teclemith answered, garbed in a warm green dressing gown and deep blue nightshirt and trousers, as he opened his door.
   "No time to talk," she hissed at him. "I just saw Zemerah outside, she was standing in the back garden! We have to get out of here before they catch us again! And no telling what they'll do to Aliatha!"
   Teclemith miraculously made sense of everything and grabbed his sword off the dressing table. "We must wake Lady Adira. She had a secret passage under her house with which we may escape."
   "Well that's a relief! I was thinking more of a last stand type thing, like in movies where they know they're gonna die and they do this last stand and try to take out all the bad guys before they die-" Willow was left chattering nervously to the door as Teclemith hurried down the hall and up the stairs to Adira's room.

  
   Adira was sleeping peacefully, dreaming of her husband returning from the capital, until she was aroused by hushed, though insistent knocking. "Enter," she instructed drowsily.
   "Lady Adira?" It was Teclemith, with Willow right behind him.
   "It's the Shadow!" she whispered frantically. "I just saw Zemerah - you know, Tashmath's daughter, the creepy one - standing outside in the back garden! I think they know we're here!" Willow sucked in her breath. "So what should we do?"
   Adira wrinkled her brow for a minute, then in smoothed out. "I know just what to do. Go. Dress quickly and arm yourselves, though I do not think this will come to blows. Willow, Aliatha may need help, you must watch over her. Go now, and I must speak with Teclemith." The dark-haired girl nodded and raced down the hall to awaken Aliatha.
   "Now Teclemith. You understand the danger. You cannot hold off all that the darkness will throw at you. But trust the Author, and he will lead you. Go now, arm yourself. I will do my best to distract them." She lay back down in bed. "The hatch to the passageway is underneath the barrel of flour in the cellar. The Author be with you. Now fly."
   Teclemith gave a quick nod, than rushed back to his room to grab everything that could possibly incriminate Adira.

   Willow pushed open the door to the room the girls were sharing, and started hurriedly dressing in the outfit Adira had laid out for her the night before.
   "Is it morning?" Aliatha asked sleepily, yawning and stretching. Her large eyes blinked in the light of the single candle. "Is something wrong?"
   Willow tied the belt hurriedly. "The Shadow are coming, and we need to hurry. Can you get dressed while I get the rest of the stuff?" she asked over her shoulder as she adjusted the sheath to her sword and made sure she had her quiver of arrows.
   Aliatha took a deep breath. Be brave, she instructed herself. She quickly followed Willow's lead and dressed.
   "What are we going to do?" she questioned, nervously tugging on a cloak.
   Willow grabbed her hand. "We're going to disappear into the night. Come on!"
  

   The girls descended the stairs and found Teclemith waiting for them. "Make haste!" he urged them in a low voice. "To the cellar!"
   "Why to the cellar?" Willow trilled after him as she gently pushed Aliatha ahead of her down the wooden steps. Being nervous made her talkative.
   "Adira said that there would be a opening to the passageway under the flour barrel in the cellar. Does anyone see it?" Teclemith started holding his lantern next to different barrels to try and read their labels.
    Willow snapped her fingers, and a purple fire sprang up on her palm. Aliatha stared at her with utter confusion.
   "Oh my goodness! How did you do that?" she cried, forgetting to keep her voice down in her surprise.
   "Oh, it's just... a thing, I got, you know, when I was... chosen. Yeah. It's not actual fire. It's... special... fire." Willow held her palm out, lighting up the labels of barrels. "Let's seeeee.... hmmmm... dried corn.... peas - yuck, dried peas - ..... beans........ pepper - good grief, they have a whole barrel for pepper? - .... ooohhh, here's the salt .......... flour, here we go! Yes! Over here, you guys!"
   A sharp knocking was heard on the floor above them. "Lord Kriddan of Corrinath! Open this door immediately!" a muffled voice proclaimed.
   "Hurry!" Willow hissed, straining to shove the barrel off the hatch. Teclemith rushed over and helped her move it. Crouching down, Willow tugged at the hatch. "There's a lock!" she gasped. "Teclemith, where's the key, for grief's sake?"
   Teclemith rooted through his pockets. "She never gave me a key!" he realized with horror.
   "Great, now what?" Willow sat back on her heels with a defeated sigh.
   Aliatha sucked in her breath. "I'll go."
   "Go?" Willow and Teclemith sputtered together.
   She nodded. "I can sneak past everyone. They will not notice me, I am sure of it. I will wear this servant's veil."
   Willow paled. "I know you can do it," she murmured. "Here, take my dagger. You never know if you'll need it."
  
   Aliatha gently slid the cellar door open. Please keep me alive, Author, she prayed. Tiptoeing down the hallway, she peered around the bend in the hall. Adira was standing there drowsily in her dressing gown, in front of Zemerah with an escort of palace guards.
   Aliatha's mind raced. If they heard something outside, they would leave, and Adira would be able to give her the key... Edging into the parlor, out of sight of the Shadow, she slid open the window and hurled a small rock she had picked up in the cellar out against a garden shed. Instantly Zemerah and all of the guards raced outside to investigate.
   "Lady Adira!" Aliatha cried softly. "The key to the secret passageway! Do you have it?"
   Adira whitened. "I had forgotten! Author, forgive me! Here," she slid a chain with a key dangling from it from her neck. "Take it, and make haste!"
   Aliatha nodded and mouthed a thank you. Spinning on her heel, she raced down the hall and wrenched open the cellar door. "Here!" she cried, tossing the key to Teclemith. He snatched it from the air and shoved it into the keyhole, twisting it with all his strength. It protested, than gave. Yanking it open, he gestured to the girls.
   "Go!" was the only thing they heard. Willow shoved Aliatha down first, then dropped down herself.
   "Hurry, Teclemith!" she called up from the damp passage. He nodded, than jumped down, pulling the door closed behind him.
   "Can you lock it?" Aliatha asked, pressing herself against the damp passage walls nervously.
   Teclemith handed Willow the key, and she stepped gracefully onto his shoulders, twisting the key in the old lock. It gave a slight creak, but that was all.
   "Come," Teclemith instructed, lifting a small lantern. "We have three miles to walk. Let's go."
   "Curses," murmured Zemerah under her breath. "I was sure that the Resistance scum were hiding here. Move out!" she ordered her small band of guards. "They will live to fight another day."



   Well that was fun! This is obviously one of my longer chapters, but it was fun! Anyway, Happy New Year and all that. I told you I would be posting next year ;)
   If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
   Oh! And I'll try to do a post sometime about Forgotten, the next book after F&E. I was going to do it yesterday, but got lazy watching Dr Who and forgot {forgotten? heheh}.

 Be a friend, not an enemy,

-Willow

11 comments:

  1. Do you always have to end at places like that?!
    Loved it and can't wait for more. :-)

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    1. Because I can ;) Just kidding :) Thanks!

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  2. Hey Willow!
    It's me, Megan Jane, from Pinterest. :)
    I just read all your chapters, and I LOVE it! You are an excellent authoress! I can't wait to read more!
    Sincerely,
    Megan Jane

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    1. Hey Megan! Thank you so much!

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    2. You're welcome! It's an amazing book!

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  3. Hi, Willow. I’ve read Darrion’s story (The Watchmen Flies), Megan Jane’s stories on her blog (The Ransom and The Interlock), and Ammelia’s story (Without Cause), and so I’ve decided to read your story (Friends sand Enemies). I often check yours and Darrion’s Pinterest page. Your story looks very interest. I’ll let you know what I think about your story. I liked Darrion’s Megan Jane’s, and Ammelia’s story, so I’m sure I’ll like your story.

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    1. Awesome Sarah! I can't wait to hear about how you like it!

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  4. i was here reading [the part with willow out on the railing], and the words blurred in my mind, only to be replaced with a wondrous scene of this happening...in a movie. this is the second time it's happened with me. goodness sakes, it felt weird, but the, er, mind-film (?) looked epic! <3 the power of words is strong with you, my friend.

    in less eccentric terms, obviously this chapter is beautifully suspenseful (that flour barrel part, for example. speak of intense moments!), the characters portray themselves in their usual way which easily intrigues the reader. when willow said, "bravery isn't not being scared. it's being scared and doing something anyway," and i say this in the best way, i got the feels. (are you sure this shouldn't be called "feels and enemies" or something? ;)

    oh, and please tell aliatha dear that someone who calls herself les feels empathy for her, about being brave and all. x

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    1. Thank you so much, Les! I always love reading your comments, as writer to writer. Thank you again :)

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