Friday, February 7, 2014

Friends and Enemies // Chapter Twenty One // Making Friends

   Willow and Asharlah rode in silence. Willow pulled out a small hand-drawn map and directed their path towards Essgarothe.
   "Are you sure of the way?" Asharlah asked snidely, wrinkling her pale nose at Willow.
   Willow tossed her head. "Of course I'm sure," she replied, trying to keep her tone even. Asharlah bit her lip, but said nothing.
   Willow led the way with her mare, and turned off the busy road onto a path leading into the Wandering Woods. Asharlah hesitated, than followed her begrudgingly. "Are you sure that this is the way?" she finally asked, glancing around at the surroundings.
   Willow puffed out a sigh. "Asharlah, I am sure of the way. If you keep asking, you'll throw me off, and we'll be lost."
   "Suit yourself," Asharlah murmured grumpily.
   What is with her? I mean, she shouldn't she be grateful? Willow wondered, gnawing on her lip. "So..." she started. "Asharlah, how old are you?"
   Her companion looked annoyed at being asked, but answered measuredly, "Twenty."
   Willow nodded in time with her horses' footsteps and glanced back. "I'm nineteen. What's it like being twenty?"
   Asharlah shrugged, for the first time looking rather at ease. "The same as being nineteen, I suppose. Besides more people expecting you to get married."
   "Oh," Willow muttered. "That's just what I need."
   "Do you have anyone?" Asharlah inquired slyly, a smile slowly breaking over her pale face.
   Willow reddened. "No. You?"
   Asharlah shrugged again. "Perhaps..." she trailed off, a soft, genuine smile on her lips.
   Willow twisted around in her saddle to glance at her. "Ooo. Who's the lucky guy?" she teased.
   Asharlah smiled wider. "You will see," she assured her softly.
   "Not to bother you, but exactly how much longer?" Asharlah called up the path to her guide, who was muttering to herself as she examined the map.
   "Shouldn't be too much longer!" Willow called back, squinting at the path and then back at her map. "Is this the right way?" she murmured.
   "Ummm... Willow?"
   "Just a sec, Shar!"
   "Willow! Look out!" Asharlah's shouted warning came a second too late as Willow's mare whinnied loudly and reared on its hind legs in fright.
   "Whoa!" Willow called, trying to sooth the mare, but as the horses' front hooves hit solid earth again, she glimpsed a darkly dressed figure. The mare reared again, this time throwing her rider off, and then galloped away, whinnying madly.
   "Ouch!" Willow grunted, groping for a handhold as she tried to climb out of the bush she had been thrown into.
   "Stay away from me!" Asharlah voice warned, and the sound of swords being unsheathed reached Willow's ears. Uh oh. Now what?
   Grasping a tree branch, Willow hauled herself out and found herself at sword-point on three sides.
   "Willow Elvish-grace, I presume?" the most elaborately dressed of the guys in black asked, glancing down at a scroll he was carrying.
   "Uhhh... whom is it who asks?" she replied, slipping her hand into a secret pocket where a tiny dagger was stored.
   "Morgeth, Captain of the Sixteenth Order of the Shadow Knights."
   "Oh, come on!" Willow groaned, pulling out her dagger. "I go all the way out to a way Outer-Rim planet, and still you guys won't leave me alone! Give me a break!"
   "What will you do with that dagger?" taunted one of the sword-wielding Shadow Knights.
   "This." Ducking, she did a quick somersault under their swords and popped up out of the ring of swords. "Hah!"
   The clash of metal drew her attention back to Asharlah. She was acting like she did this every day, and was easily dodging and deflecting blows with two double-daggers. "What do you want with us?" Asharlah demanded as she ducked easily around a Shadow Knight's blow.
   Willow managed to reach where her bow and quiver had fallen, and now had an arrow ready. "I never miss, so you'd better be ready to meet your Maker," she warned.
   The Shadow Knights glanced at each other, than at their leader, who gave them a signal with his hand. "The king will not be happy," he called to Asharlah as they retreated back down the path. "Traitoress!"
   Asharlah leaned against a tree, panting. Willow scrambled over to her. "Are you okay? You seemed to handling them pretty well."
   She grinned. "I suppose so. Yes, I am alright. Only a few scratches." She held out her hands, which had three or four cuts on them.
   "Here," Willow offered, pulling out her Veritas Sword. "Let me." She laid the bladeless weapon upon her new friend's outstretched palms. Asharlah winced as a slight burning came from her cuts, but then smiled widely as she held up her now healed hands. Only almost invisible white scars were left.
   She glanced at Willow's hands as her new friend tucked the sword back into its place. There were many almost invisible scars on her hands and wrists, almost not there, but still visible.
  "Where did you get those scars?" she asked, indicating Willow's hands.
   "Oh," Willow tucked her hands into her pockets. "Places. Just.... places. Anyway," she changed the subject. "Why do you think they were following us?"
   Asharlah looked thoughtful. "I believe they may have been trailing me since I came from the capital. I suppose Father was suspicious of me. And now he knows I have made my choice."
   "To be with the Resistance?" Willow clarified.
   "Yes," she nodded, with slight sadness. "It has meant turning my back on everything I have believed. But all will be well, when my cousin wins."
   Willow nodded. "I know the feeling. Now 'cmon, let's hurry. We should be able to reach Essgarothe by dark if we run." But she couldn't shake that feeling that she had when she'd seen Asharlah fighting. Those Shadow Knights weren't trying to kill us, she realized. They were just trying to scare us.

   Hope you liked it! Any questions, just leave a comment! Sorry so late, needed to finish it.

Be a friend, not an enemy,


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Watchmen Files // Chapter Thirteen // Crash Landing

Hey everybody!

It's Darrion again.

   For the last two Wednesdays, I did a question and answer session and got some good inquiries. I hope my answers were informing enough :) If you didn't get to check that out, click here to view the Q&A.

   So this week, I've got that next chapter for you, chapter thirteen for T.W.F. I hope it's actiony enough for you, but the next chapter is going to have some more one-on-one combat if it isn't.

So brace yourselves, we're going down!

File One
Chapter Thirteen
Crash Landing

   The landscape of lush green ground falling and rising with the turns and dips of the hills and the clusters of trees, rivers, and small-town farms reaching as far as the eye could see, seemingly covering the entire state of California in the gleaming orange sunset that was stretching its fingers to make long dark shadows with the rolling landscape.
   Far above in a specially designed Watchmen aircraft was Mason Kruger, seated comfortably and leaning on his elbow, gazing out at the scenery. Something swelled up inside him, the feeling you get when you see a masterpiece of nature. It made him feel very small and insignificant. And, in a way, he was. He was one of the many lost and lonely people out on that planet bellow, just trying to live their lives and find some form of happiness, something to fill the God shaped vacuum pulling at their souls. He was alone.
   But glancing around him, that feeling subsided. He noted Sargent Graham, who, even after what he had done to him and his 'boys', had taken him under his wing anyway, to train him and help him. Graham, noticing Mason's gaze, offered him a bag of peanuts, which he took and nodded his thanks as Graham took the seat next to him and started snacking.
   And slouching on the seat opposite him was Conner McKee, hunched over the mission report and studying it thoroughly. He couldn't have been nicer to me in any way, Mason mussed to himself. I wonder if he knows how much of a guy he is.
   After a few more minutes of pecking at his snack, the sun finally sunk out of sight, leaving the landscape colorless. Looking up at the sky above, he noticed a commercial plane jetting closer to them. "Sarge? Did you see that?"
   "Oh yeah, that's a commercial craft," Graham brushed it off casually. "We've got an agent on board, there's no harm there. I put our ship on autopilot, it'll keep us far enough away. It's perfectly safe."
  Mason nodded that he understood as the plane drifted farther away into the sky where the light was fading with the lack of sunlight. With nothing else to look at, he observed Conner flicking on the overhead light and continuing to examining the mission log. "Con?"
   Conner perked up. "Hum?"
   "What's that?"
   "The mission log," he hesitated, then continued. "Well, sort of a mission log. Well, not exactly, it's more of your story, how you got here, what they're looking for, etcetera. But, Sargent, I do have a few questions."
   Graham glanced up from his cellphone. "Shoot."
   "It says here that Hydra's initial mission, as far as we can tell, was to capture Mason, not Ava. But they got her instead of him. Why?"
   "We think they tried to grab him, but since he was freaking out with the serum and all, they left him with us."
   "But why?" Conner insisted. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would they want a little girl? She's worth nothing to them. Why would they leave Mason with the Watchmen to be used as an asset?"
   Graham opened his mouth to answer, but then stopped. "I don't know, we're still working on it back at headquarters. They think that they could've thought he would kill us or react wrong to the serum."
   "What would they have done with Mason if they caught him?" Conner continued.
   "Most likely used him as an incentive for Hans to keep up the inventions. At least that's what we assume."
   Conner paused to think, clicking the puzzle-pieces together in his head. He looked up. "What if that's what they're doing with Ava? Using her as incentive?"
   Graham shook his head. "I don't think Hans really cares about her that much."
   "Or maybe he does," Conner countered, then continued on with his inquiries. "And that note the Hydra left at the apartment. Listen carefully to the wording... 'We have the M├Ądchen. If you want her to live, give yourself up. She will not be harmed. It is you they want. You are a Hydra. It runs in our blood. Embrace who you are, save the child. Live to tell. Cut off one head, two more will take its place. Hail, Hydra.' "
   Mason stared blankly. "So...?"
   Conner sighed and proceeded to educate them by giving his deductions. "Did you notice how whoever wrote this used plural at certain points and singular at others? Like here, 'it is you they want', and then later, 'it runs in our blood'. They at one point, as if he isn't entirely part of it. And he said our, so that must mean that he is part of your family, a Kruger. One of your cousins, perhaps? Sargent, did the Watchmen check the handwriting?"
   "Yeah, but it didn't match anyone in our or S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system," Graham acknowledged.
   "And is the signature of Sven Kruger or Dominik Kruger in the system?"
   "Um, no, I don't think so."
   Conner smiled triumphantly, leaned back, and put his hands behind his head comfortably. "What did I miss?"
   "You're a genius," Mason smirked as Conner beamed.
   "Cleaver, but that doesn't help us in the search for the kid," Graham noted.
   Mason nodded, suddenly thinking of poor little Ava, alone and afraid with that Hydra scum. Trying to wipe that image from his mind, he gazed back out the window at the night sky and the commercial plane that had come back into view.
   Conner nodded also but continued anyway, "Yes, but at least we have something to go on. We know that Sven who, since he was at the apartment, most likely left the note, must know where she is, or maybe he's with her right now?"
   The plane banked left toward them and kept equal speed with their craft, coming closer every second as Mason watched it suspiciously. "Hey guys...?"
   "Yeah, he probably did, but when would he of had time to slip it into a teddybear's stuffing like that?" Graham reasoned with Conner, ignoring Mason. "He was in and out. How did he have time to get it in there?"
   Conner considered the thought. "I don't know. Maybe it wasn't him that planted it? Maybe a different Hydra agent?"
   "Maybe, I better look at some security footage to see-"
   "Guys!" Mason barked as the plane got a little too close for comfort. "That thing is kinda close!"
   Graham leaned over him to get a better look. Now concerned, he pulled his cellphone out of his pocket and clicked speed dial. "T.L.B.? Your plane is getting awful close to us."
   The guy on the other side of the phone spoke in a calm oh-so-what tone. "It's fine, Sarge. We already ran a security check on the pilots and interior."
   "Sorry, the kid's just getting a little jittery about it. Out." After hanging up, he shrugged at Mason. "See? It's all fine, they're probably getting so close because we're cloaked, they can't see us. Well, technically they're reflection panels, but you get the picture. Besides, you heard him, they checked the interior."
   As Graham spoke, Mason watched the other plane tilt so it's side was facing them, and a long tubular shape seemed to materialize out of nothing on it's side. "How about the exterior?"
   Graham's eyes widened and he shouted, "Get down!" moments before the shape launched itself off of the plane and directly at them.
   There were three terrifyingly seconds of quiet before the impact of the missile smashing into the side, tossing them across to the other side of the small craft like rag dolls and a blue shock went up the walls.
   The lights dimmed, then went out completely. Mason's stomach churned as the craft began to fall. "We're going down!"
   Graham grabbed his arm and shouted, "Hold on!"
   Conner's eyes filled with terror as they slid the the back from the G force and yelled for his life.
   Papers flew in their faces as the craft descended faster and faster. Through the door to the cockpit they could see the clouds whizzing past them and dispersing to revile the dark green hills coming faster and faster as the plane plummeted bellow the cloud line.
   The craft shook as Mason's eyes grew wide, their end in view and coming fast. Seeing Graham grabbed the side of one of the chairs, Mason followed in toe and held onto a seat for dear life, his knuckles pulsing red.
   Smashing onto the earth and through some trees, the craft viciously scrapped through the ground. It lurched up and down, bruising it's passengers and throwing one who wasn't holding onto something around and slamming him into the walls.
   Tearing through a cluster of trees, it continued some yards, then lurched and got stuck at an angle into a sharp dip in between two of the hills, with the front side of the craft stuck in the ground and the back side sticking straight up in the air.
   Other than papers flitting down, seat cushions falling and some groans of the ship, there was a long silence inside the craft. The only light was Mason's glowing red blood rushing to his head and the anger burning in his heart. Hydra. They found us. They would kill him if they got to him, he was sure. A swell of hate filled his mind and he felt like punching something, hard.
   But then he heard a weak pain filled gasp from the end of the ship that had fallen into the crack, where the cockpit was. Conner.
   Immediately, the red faded and blue replaced it as Mason wrenched his iron grip off of the seat and slid down to the cockpit and landed on the back of one of the seats. "Conner? Con, are you okay?"
   Now very anxious, Mason studied the interior. The small room's only window was stuck in the ground, covered in dirt and tufts of grass that had also found their way into the craft by means of a tear in the connection from the cockpit to the body. With the autopilot on, there was no need for pilots, so the two chairs were empty. Going from right to left, his eyes scanned for movement, any signs of life. With all the grass and dirt, it was hard to see anything.
   In the very left corner, the debris shifted slightly and he could make out Conner's caramel hair.
   Mason's eyes brightened. "Conner!"
   He heard a short gasp as the grass tufts shifted some more before Conner started choking and clamoring for air.
   "Con, don't move, I'm coming!" Mason carefully climbed off of the seat and descended onto the control board, pressing buttons that had powered down in the crash with the bottom of his shoes. Not knowing how to help him, Mason knelt next to Conner as he gasped desperately for air.
   After a minute of coughing and deep gasps of breath, Conner caught his breath and coughed one more time into his elbow. "Oi!" he shook his head and rubbed his back. "I think I got the air knocked out of me. I couldn't breath."
   "You weren't strapped in, were you?" Mason inquired as he put a hand on his friend's shoulder and inspected his clothes for any sign of blood or injury, but luckily, there were only bruises.
   "I wasn't thinking," Conner lay on his back, looked up into the back of the plane and shook his head. "Thank God we're alive! It's a miracle we survived that crash." He closed his eyes and whispered his thanks.
   Mason glanced around while Conner was preoccupied. "Where's the Sarge?"
   Conner sat up and looked around with him. "I thought he was holding onto something..." He slapped a hand onto his forehead. "You don't think he was sucked out of the plane?"
   Now very concerned, Mason stood up and peeked through the tear in the ship. "We should go look-"
   "It's okay boys," Graham jumped through the tear past Mason and landed on his feet next to Conner. "I was scouting out the perimeter. How are you two? Are you hurt?"
   "No sir," Mason reported. "Conner just got the wind knocked out of him. Aside from bruises, we're both okay."
   Graham nodded hurriedly and looked out the tear carefully, scanning the hills and tree clusters for movement.
   Conner tried getting up, stumbled, and sat back down again. "What's out there?"
   "Who," Graham corrected in a low tone. "Mason, I need you to do something, and quick."
   He stepped forward, ready for orders. "What do you need?"
   Graham squatted down and Mason did the same as he whispered to him, "I need you to run out there and pull the back side of this plane down so it's level, and quick."
   "What?!" Mason nearly shouted, then realizing how he sounded, lowered his tone but still kept it sharp. "Are you crazy?"
   "They're out there waiting for us and we've got to escape," Graham explained hurriedly. "This is our only shot." He put both his hands on Mason's shoulders so they were eye to eye. "You have to trust me, Mason."
   Mason glanced at his feet for a second, then looked back up. "How fast?"
   "Under a minute, maybe thirty seconds."
   Taking a deep breath, he nodded, stood, and clamored through the tight opening in the wall out into the night. "Wish me luck."

To be continued in Chapter Fourteen (yet to be named and written)

 Well that went well. Check back here for the next chapter next Wednesday :)

We've got one announcement to make today,

Willow's next chapter (chapter Twenty) is up! This one's got Asharlah in it. This is going to be interesting... I don't like her much, though. Willow has better watch her own back.

Good'ay, ya'll (this is me trying to be southern which I clearly am not)

Go Hawks!

 Always watching,