Okay, so it was a little longer than two weeks... my apologies!
The next several chapters are pretty short in comparison to some of the others I've written. They're what you call 'filler chapters,' I suppose. I'm getting kind of nervous because I'm almost finished typing out the chapters in my first notebook and my second notebook has barely seven pages written in it.
But I'm going on a mission trip in a week and a half so there will be lots of time to write on the bus!
Enough about me and my problems for now. Here's Chapter Eight!
Flynn ascended the shadowed staircase in one of the castle turrets. Frustration expanded deep inside him, boiling over into his thoughts, I've dealt with this long enough! Any other man I would have taken care of in an instant but this… this… child! He’s not even of noble birth!
Reaching a locked door, he rapped it sharply. He heard the sound of a key sliding into the lock and the heavy click as the bolt slid away, and the door opened.
“Ah, Flynn,” Lord Joran stood behind the door. Dark eyes stared greedily from beneath long, white hair. They flickered unnaturally in the firelight, Flynn thought, but he said nothing and stepped into the dark chamber. “I assume you have something to report?” continued the nobleman.
“Indeed,” Flynn casually observed the interior of the room. Organized trunks lay open along the wall, each one displaying rolled-up maps and other bits of parchment. One sat unrolled on the hunting table in the corner. Flynn’s trained eyes instantly recognized it to be a map of the castle- all its passages, both known and hidden; its rooms; and its defenses.
Turning aside from it, Flynn lowered his steady gaze to meet the lord’s cruel face. He folded his arms, and announced, “My lord, I wish to entertain the possibility of Edmundson’s relocation.”
“Oh?” Lord Joran ambled to the table and pretended to study the map. “Why?”
“I have no other reason but my own instinct, and the fact that he currently resides with Sir Reuben troubles me. He may begin to consider ideas-options-other than our own.”
“What do your spies say?”
“Nothing,” Lord Joran clucked. “Now, if you and your instinct will go find something with which to make yourself useful, I have work to do!”
The following morning, Flynn was late. His absence surprised Skandar, as the knight severely punished tardy behavior.
Skandar stood alone, tossing his sword back and forth between his numb hands.
“Do you wish to learn archery?”
“Pardon?” Skandar dropped the sword, and Eoin caught it before it hit the frosty ground.
“Do you wish to learn archery? Oh, and you’d better keep a tighter hold on your sword.”
“Thank you,” Skandar laughed. “Archery, you say? I never considered it before.”
“Well then, seeing as Flynn has yet to show his stern face, come with me and I’ll teach you.”
Skandar watched closely as the younger man drew an arrow from the leather quiver on his back, knocked it on the string, and drew his hand back to the corner of his mouth. He inhaled deeply; his powerful shoulders flexed with the motion. Both of Eoin’s deep eyes stared fixedly at the red center of the target for an instant before the arrow slipped from his finger tips. It flew across the open space and sank deep into the center of the target. Several archers nearby applauded, and Eoin grinned.
“My da taught me to shoot when I was a young boy. You try.”
He pressed the curved piece of wood into Skandar’s hand along with an arrow. Awkwardly, Skandar placed the arrow on the string, the shaft resting on the side of his forefinger, and drew the bowstring to his cheek. The tension surprised him. It was heavier and harder than Eoin made it look.
When he released, the string twanged and struck his forearm with no small amount of force. The arrow flew wild and snapped when it struck the wall some feet from the target.
“Gah!” Skandar yelped, dropped the bow, and clutched his arm.
“Oh, sorry about that, man.”
Skandar rolled up his sleeve, and Eoin examined the inside of his arm. Already, a tender, red whelp formed from the inside of Skandar’s elbow to his wrist.
“That’ll leave a nasty bruise, I’m afraid.”
“What did you do this time, Eoin?” Cat accused, running over from her target.
“What do you mean, this time?”
Cat fought the urge to roll her eyes, and she eyed the thick red line on Skandar’s arm.
“Put it under cool water,” she advised. “It will ease the pain and keep the swelling down.”
“Thank you, physician Cat,” Eoin mouthed sarcastically.
The princess glared at him, but otherwise let the comment slide. “Hold the bow like this,” she demonstrated. “And don’t open your fingers when loosing the arrow. The string should rest lightly on your fingertips, and you allow it to slide off when it’s ready. You’ll receive a much cleaner release and you won’t hurt yourself. Hopefully.”
“Thank you,” Skandar said with much gratitude, and rolled his sleeve back down to cover the whelp.
“I was about to say that, Cat!” Eoin protested.
“Sorry,” she shrugged and walked away.
Skandar drew the bow again, wary of his throbbing arm, and released the way Catrain instructed. Fortunately, the string cleared his arm, but the arrow fell short and landed on the ground beneath the target.
“Don’t be too discouraged. We all do that at one time or another.”
Eoin paused. “Eh, no. Can’t say as I have!”
Skandar shook his head, “We all do it, huh?”
Eoin threw his hands in the air in mock annoyance. “Well, not everyone is perfect like me.”
Skandar’s mouth twitched.
“Eoin, give the man a break!” Aidan hollered. “What are you doing anyway?”
“Flynn didn't turn up, that arrogant, cruel-”
“Alright!” Aidan interrupted, and the words ceased flowing from Eoin’s mouth. “I’ll find Oliver. Maybe he can help you.”
He returned shortly with Oliver in tow.
“Do you know where Flynn is?” Skandar asked Oliver.
Oliver squinted and scanned the field. “Can’t say as I do. I haven’t seen him since yesterday. Why? Has something happened?”
“Right then. With me, Skandar.”
Finally someone other than Flynn! Skandar silently rejoiced and followed Oliver
Half an hour they practiced, and still, Flynn had not shown himself.
“Take a break, Skandar,” Oliver ordered after he beat the other young man for the third time in a row.
Flustered, Skandar panted, “Why? I’m not tired.” Though he readily welcomed the brief respite, he didn't want Oliver to know.
“Just… wait,” he scampered away, returning seconds later with Muriel.
“Are you ready?” Oliver grinned slyly.
“For what?” scoffed Skandar. “I've fought you all day!”
Oliver rolled his eyes, “I wouldn't call that fighting. You weren't focused at all. You didn't care whether you won or lost- in fact, it appeared you were happy to lose!”
Oh no, Skandar thought, glancing from Oliver to Muriel and then back to Oliver. Oh, please, no; I’ll be humiliated!
“So,” Oliver continued, affirming Skandar's dreaded assumption. “You’re not fighting me. You’re facing her.”
Skandar wished right there he could crawl into a hole. “Muriel? I wouldn't want to hurt her.”
Muriel came forward. “I think you will find me a worthy opponent.” Lightly, she stepped over the ropes and into the ring. “Let’s begin.”
Skandar grimaced at Oliver, who was annoyingly indifferent. His face was stern, reminding Skandar very much of Lord Joran. The expression startled Skandar, and without another thought, he stepped into the ring with Muriel.
Skandar barely readied himself when Muriel attacked, surging forward with a deadly, deliberate motion. The young man stumbled backward to avoid her sword, and sluggishly brought his about to block the blow.
Muriel continued her attack, rapidly jabbing at him in a frenzy of action. Each time Skandar belatedly knocked the blade away- almost too late. Several times the tip came within inches of his vest.
“Come on, Skandar focus!” shouted Oliver. “Keep your blade up!”
Skandar growled and put everything into blocking Muriel’s strikes. Every piece of information he learned from Flynn vacated his mind and he fought blindly. With each movement, his frustration grew, and little by little, his vision grayed.
Then Muriel issues a series of quick, decisive actions and the sword was wrenched from Skandar’s hands, landing in the grass a short distance from his feet.
Muriel tapped the cold tip of her sword to Skandar’s chest, right above his heart. “Dead,” she announced.
The world regained its color as Skandar inhaled deeply and relaxed. He laughed forcefully, “It seems you got the best of me.”
“It seems I have,” Muriel sheathed her sword and stooped to retrieve his own. “Here,” she said, handing it to him.
He muttered a slight ‘thank you,’ as he took it from her and slid it into the leather case. “I have much to learn, I know,” Skandar admitted aloud to Oliver and Muriel.
“All in good time. My father taught me from the time I was a young girl. I may possess a slight advantage over you.”
Oliver’s opinion, on the other hand, proved to be opposite his betrothed’s.
“You lack a purpose, Skandar. You’re lazy, and you don’t care at a-” Oliver stopped and frowned at something behind Skandar.
“Well done. It seems you are even more incompetent than I first believed.”
“Nice of you to show up, Flynn,” Oliver derided.
Ignoring Oliver, Flynn crossed his arms and peered down his sharp nose at Skandar. “As much as I loath to admit it, Edmundson, Oliver’s right.”
Skandar laughed dryly. “Wonderful! You know, this is exactly what I hoped for today! So far, I've been humiliated-twice! - and now my friend and my teacher are calling me incompetent! Let us see how else we can ruin Skandar, shall we?”
“Fine idea,” Flynn agreed smugly. “Back to work, and be absolutely certain I’ll not be so easy.”
That's all for now, folks! Let me know what you think!
As I mentioned earlier, I'm leaving on an eight day mission trip in a week, so Nine won't be up until I get back.
In the meantime, I'm planning on having Winter Bound uploaded for y'all sometime in the middle of next week.
Seeing as I have nothing more to announce, I believe it's time to say "so long" for the time being!
Oh, one more thing! During the mission trip, myself and many of my friends are going into juvenile detention centers, homeless shelters, Salvation Army shelters, and homes for abused children. Please pray that God will open the hearts of the people we're going to witness to and that through us, God will be seen and His love shared to the people there. Thank you so much!