Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Mark of the King: Chapter Twenty

Hello all! I hope you have had a lovely Saturday.
Alright, so chapter twenty is significantly longer than those I've posted recently. Which really isn't saying much, but it's long...ish. So I hope you enjoy it!
That's all I'll say for now. 

Chapter Twenty

            The ground sloped down sharply before leveling and flattening again as gradually, cliff walls rose on either side of Skandar. Even so, the constant shifting and turning of pebbles and stones underfoot made walking difficult. Skandar stooped, knees bent, arms hovering out to his sides to maintain his balance when he slipped.      
            It is almost profitable we lost the horses when we did, he thought gratefully as he narrowly avoided losing his footing. They would not have fared well. Most of their group at one time or another misstepped and slid a brief distance across the rocks before either a friend caught them, or they themselves latched on to a tree branch or root, ceasing their fall. When it happened, Skandar’s heart seized in momentary fear and thumped seconds later in anxious relief. Only Flynn and Catrain remained sure-footed during the trek, even when the path dropped off and they leapt the short space to the flat ground below.
            Skandar hopped and landed off-balanced, but righted himself easily enough. While the rest of his companions followed suit, he gaped at the beauty that surrounded him.
            To either side, rocky cliffs jutted skyward; feathery trees growing along their tops. Moss mottled the stone face, green among the varying grays and browns. Between them, as Flynn promised, a stream bubbled up from a hidden underground spring and ran through pebbled banks. Skandar licked his parched lips, staring greedily at the clear water. Hours before, his water skin had run dry.
            The same thought likely crossed the other’s minds as well, for each took one look at the stream before racing to reach it. As they ran, Aidan, Eoin, and Oliver kicked off their boots, unfastened their cloaks and satchels and, whooping gleefully, they splashed into the stream. 
            At the bank, Skandar halted and dropped to his knees; the water around the rocks dampening the legs of his pants. Cupping his hands beneath the rippling surface, he allowed the water to play over his skin before drawing his hands to his mouth and drinking eagerly. He lapped it up until his thirst had been quenched, then splashed some onto his face and the back of his neck. Droplets rolled down his now slightly crooked nose and plopped onto his pant legs.
            Laying on his back, Skandar closed his eyes and felt the spring rays from the sun warm him. The babble of the stream, and the gentle rustle of the breeze through tree leaves lulled him into a sense of false-security. Although his body was at rest, his mind wandered, restless and contemplative.
            What spooked the horses so? He mulled over the pressing question throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Catrain said the reigns had been cut, but surely Aidan and Eoin would not do such a thing, he reasoned. If not them, however, then who?
            A shadow passed over him, and his eyes snapped open. Too late, Skandar was assaulted by a wave of water.
“What was that?” he sputtered before Oliver, the source of the shadow, sent another spray of water in Skandar’s direction with a sweep of his hand.
            Gales of roaring laughter erupted from the brothers and Oliver. They waded near the middle of the stream; the water lapped at their bare legs and the base of their pants, which they rolled up to their knees.
            “Come in,” Oliver invited and said something else Skandar failed to decipher over the rowdy shouts from the brothers. Quieting them, he repeated, “The water will soothe your blisters.”
            “But you are scaring the fish away!” Catrain and Muriel shouted simultaneously, and for the first time Skandar noticed them downstream, perched on a cluster of boulders that had fallen from the cliff into the stream.
            Skandar’s attention darted between them, and the brothers and Oliver. Between his fear of being thrice bombarded with water or the unpleasant task of gutting fish, Skandar opted for the latter. “I will manage,” he replied to Oliver, and jogged over to Muriel and Catrain.
            Catrain stood poised atop one of the giant rocks with an arrow on her bowstring. Her head moved up and down as she searched the water below her. On the bank, Muriel crouched, her sapphire eyes intensely scanned the ripples for the flash that signified the presence and location of an unsuspecting fish. Skandar observed with fascination as Muriel would spot a fish and point in its direction. Then Catrain sent an arrow into the water with the hopes of hitting the creature. It took her several attempts, but she finally managed to skewer one. Scaly body wriggling and fins flopping, it plopped to the surface, arrow clean through its center.
            “Skandar, it’s there! Do you not see it?” asked Muriel elatedly. “Can you fetch it?”
            Casting a tentative glance at the stream. Near the bank, the current moved and swirled lazily, but in the middle of the stream, white foam capped the tips of the waves. The fish writhed not far out from the bank, but far enough that the water would be well over Skandar’s knees.
            If I keep to the shallows, I should be alright, Skandar assured himself. If I use the larger rocks as stepping stones… He proceeded cautiously and sprung from the bank to the first rock. That was not so bad.  
As he bent his legs to leap to the second, he glanced down at the water running between the rocks. Images from his dreams ripped through his mind, consuming his senses with the petrifying sensation of drowning he experienced when the wave hit. Crouching on all fours, Skandar clung to the jagged stone with quaking fingers. The playful gurgle of the stream turned to a deafening roar in his ears, joined in cacophonous melody by the pounding of his heart.
“Calm yourself, Skandar,” a musical voice penetrated through Skandar’s panic. “Turn around.”
Skandar obeyed and laboriously, he turned wide eyes on Muriel. She stood at the border of the bank and stream, only about five or six feet away, but to Skandar it may as well been half the ocean.
            “Move to the first rock and jump to the ground,” she instructed, her serene face knit with concern.
            Skandar stood; his knees wobbled beneath his weight. Sliding a toe to the edge, he steadied his body and mind, and managed to push off and land safely on solid ground beside her. Instantly, his knees buckled and he fell, gasping for breath, his chest and lungs heaving. Muriel lowered herself to his level and placed her arm gently around his shoulders. Nausea overcame him, and Skandar staggered unevenly to a nearby bush and emptied his stomach.
            A damp cloth was placed across his neck. Skandar sat heavily on the ground, Muriel at his side.
            “I am sorry,” she apologized softly. “Had I known, I would never have asked you to retrieve the fish. Cat and I are fully capable. I only wished to include you in something…”
            Skandar wiped his sleeve across his mouth. “I should have told you.”
            “If you wish, you can tell me while we make a fire,” she patted his hand. “When you are ready.”
            They gathered fallen branches and pine needles from along the base of the cliffs until they amassed a sizeable pile. Retrieving an iron fire-striker from one of the packs, Skandar struck it against a rock, sending sparks flying. A few more strikes and the dry kindling snapped and fizzled to life. Skandar blew on them gently, coaxing them to flame. In minutes, the wood caught and orange fire danced between the sticks.
            Catrain, having fetched the fish herself in addition to shooting three more, strode over along with Flynn, who appeared from nowhere. More unsettling to Skandar was the notion that he never saw Flynn leave.
            “Only four?” asked Muriel.                                                      
            The princess stuck four arrows, each with a tender pink fish atop it, at an angle near the flames to cook. “One for you, me, Skandar, and Flynn.”
            “What about Oliver? And the brothers?” Muriel regarded the three in question, who, when the smell of roasting meat touched their noses, began to emerge from the stream.
            “They can hunt for themselves. You helped me locate the fish, Flynn cleaned them, and Skandar aided with the fire. They did nothing.”
            Flynn smirked, and Skandar glared at him. “Where did you run off to?”
            “Scouting ahead,” Flynn replied, toneless. “I followed the river until it bent, and then I returned.”
            “Anything interesting?”
            “What a shame,” Skandar quipped dryly.
            In the meantime, Oliver, Aidan, and Eoin grabbed their boots, cloaks, and various arsenals and ran barefoot up the shore. Their faces eager and eyes alight with hunger, they inspected the browning meat. The wistful expressions slid away, replaced with confused dismay.
            “Only four?” Eoin noted, repeating Muriel’s earlier query.
            Oliver, reading the disapproving look his betrothed offered him, nudged Aidan’s arm. After lifting Catrain’s bow, the two turned and padded to the cluster of boulders. Only Eoin remained behind.
            “Aye, four,” Catrain echoed, not bothering to glance from the flickering flames.
            “What have we to eat then?”
            “You have a bow.”
            “Wood is not appetizing, Cat, neither is it satisfying,” he teased.
            He received silence by means of reply. Abandoning his attempts to win her over, Eoin joined his brother and Oliver.
            When he was beyond earshot, Muriel said, “I understand that you are irked with him. I do not lie that I am disappointed with Oliver. But Cat,” she caught her friend’s gaze, “did you have to be so cold?”
            “I am not upset,” the princess poked at the fire with a stick, causing the branches to shift and send up a shower of sparks. “Nor was I cold. Eoin will survive.”
            Muriel sighed and shook her head. Flynn crossed his arms and chuckled, as if he knew an amusing secret and refused to share it with anyone else. “I suppose you will douse the fire when you’ve finished to spite him as well?” he asked, the corner of his mouth twitching.
            “Mayhap I shall,” she smiled.
            Oliver and the brothers returned a brief time later. Shortly after that, the group ate. Before Skandar wished it, he found himself lacking a fish and licking the juice from his fingers.
            “Stomp out the fire and distribute the ashes,” Flynn instructed as he swallowed his last mouthful.
            Everyone pitched in; the larger charred branches they tossed in the water to be carried by the current while the smaller twigs they ground to blackened smudges against the rocks.  The ashes they kicked, scattering them both on the bank and into the breeze. Satisfied with their work, they gathered their belongings and followed the path of the stream further into the ravine. After a couple miles, the stream dwindled, becoming a trickle before disappearing underground altogether.
            The path it left proved easy to journey along. Emerald grass sprouted between rocks and around the occasional tree; where boulders had long-since fallen, rich brown soil lay in patches. Skandar glanced skyward at the jagged tops of the cliffs and grimaced. Imagine traversing that, he mused. And Flynn wished us to travel that way.
            As they progressed, however, the sides narrowed, casting dark shadows on the ravine floor with a thin sliver of sunlight between them. Skandar estimated no more than ten men walking abreast could pass through. A shadow moved, and a shower of pebbles plummeted from above.
            All heads lifted skyward. Warily, Skandar scanned the tops of both walls for any signs of movement. He saw nothing. Not even the scurrying of a rodent or the flight of a bird. Even the air stilled.
            Reaching for his sword, he heard Flynn say, “I do not like this.”
            Catrain and Eoin shifted to the center of the group, their bows drawn, arrowheads glinting in the scant, fading light. Flynn drew his ebony sword and whispered just loud enough for Skandar, the farthest from him, to hear, “This is the ideal location for an ambush. I fear we have walked into one already.”
            “Who would want to ambush us? My father’s men? Niwl warriors?” Oliver tugged at names.
            “Our friends from the tavern,” Flynn responded tensely. “Princess, Eoin, do not hesitate to shoot if your instincts urge you to.”
            “True King be with us,” Muriel murmured, her porcelain skin ghostly white. Despite that, her face hardened and she became the fierce fighter Skandar trained with.
            Skandar nearly uttered a silent prayer, but stopped. When has the True King come to my aid?  
Through the enveloping silence, Skandar felt the tension rising. It hung, a heavy, smothering cloud upon them, the very air thick with an unforeseen danger. To Skandar, it seemed his senses heightened. Grouped, they walked onward, anxious and aware. The tops of the cliff walls receded, shortened gradually as once again, they began to widen.
            Skandar relaxed, and his grip on his sword loosened. But as they emerged from the passage, an arrow whizzed by his ear, narrowly missing his neck. Startled, he cried out.
            “Keep to the sides!” Flynn bellowed, his voice strained. More arrows rained down upon them from both cliff tops. Skandar sheathed his sword, useless to block the lethal projectiles, and for once, obeyed the knight. He threw his cloak around him, a temporary but effective shield.
            They sprinted along blindly, dodging arrows as they ran, each unable to spot their attackers. The shafts snapped against the rocks and clattered to the ground where they were trampled underfoot. Skandar ducked when one flew over his head, his hair moving with the minuscule wind it generated. Another penetrated his cloak, the sharp head stuck in the thick fabric. One managed to slip through his guard; he gasped as the honed tip sliced through his shirt and grazed his side. Hot blood trickled across his ribs, but he ignored it and continued to press on.
            Disturbance, a rustling in the brush and trees above and opposite them, alerted them to their pursuers. Skandar chanced a sideways look to his left.
            Along the rim of the cliffs ran about a dozen armed men. Hunters, he realized. He assumed as many hailed them from the ridge directly above.
            A gray wall appeared before them as the cliff walls met in a shallow bowl. Skandar and his companions skidded to a halt, keeping low as arrows continued their volley now from behind.
Shadows moved as the hunters spread out along the top; more joined their numbers. Now Skandar guessed there to be at least thirty.
Thirty to our seven.
Skandar whirled around, surveying every angle. The hunters at their backs held bows, those ahead, swords. Hopelessness surged within him. “You!” he screamed, pointing accusingly at Flynn. “You lead us here!”
“As I recall it was you who begged to venture this way!” the livid knight returned.
“Cease your bickering!” Catrain intervened. “I have a plan.”
Six pairs of frantic eyes locked onto her, then hastily shifted back and forth between her and the men on the ridge, who watched the spectacle below with amused interest; their attack held at bay for the present.
“Well, hurry up then!” Skandar urged.
“We climb. Here it isn’t so high.”
“We will die up there.”
“We will die down here!” she argued. “At least if we climb we possess a chance. You, Flynn, Oliver, and Muriel go first. Eoin, Aidan, and I will remain behind. If they,” she indicated the men surrounding them, “try to stop you, we can offer you some protection.”
“Why me as well?” Aidan protested.
Skandar thought the same. After all, he uses no bow! He would serve a better purpose by our side.
“Trust me,” Catrain nocked an arrow onto her bowstring. “Now fly!”
Reluctantly, Skandar agreed, finding that when he turned around, Flynn had already scaled half the wall.
As the assault of arrows began anew, Skandar ran to the wall, tossed the folds of his cloak down his back, and placed his hands on the rough surface. Inwardly he groaned, pushing thoughts about the steep drop and sudden death he would encounter if he lost his grip or footing and fall out of mind. Then he clambered up after Muriel and Oliver.
Inch by inch he discovered a crevice into which he inserted his fingers or toes. After testing it gingerly and deeming it reliable, he hauled himself up to the next. By the time he climbed a few feet, he glanced up and saw Flynn swing himself over the ledge, his black boot disappearing.
Shouts and grunts, accompanied by the peal of swords clashing echoed off the stone. Let him die, Skandar thought angrily.
Poorly aimed arrows bounced off the walls on either side of his perilous path. The twang of Catrain and Eoin’s bows reached his ears from below. Too quickly, the number of enemy arrows decreased as his friends dispatched the men. Skandar tried not to imagine their bodies tumbling through the air like ragdolls or lying lifeless in broken heaps at the base of the walls.
Instead, he kept his eyes up, forcing himself to focus on the climb. His limbs ached and trembled when he reached halfway. He resorted to mentally reciting his actions. Hand, hand, foot, foot, up.
Oliver eased his body over the top, reached down, and swung Muriel over. Their voices, Muriel’s blade, and the wet whacks of Oliver’s axes joined the fray.
Battling exhaustion, Skandar pushed himself faster. “Whoa!” he exclaimed as one foot slipped. It dangled dangerously in the air before Skandar located a narrow ledge. Clinging to the rocks, he steadied himself, inhaled shakily, and pushed upward, grateful the arrows ceased altogether. The archers, he gathered, were either dead, shot down by Catrain and Eoin, or had gone to aid their companions in the fight with Oliver, Flynn, and Muriel.
They need help, Skandar reminded himself, and with one final effort, he grasped the top of the cliff and lifted his leg over the rim. He flipped onto his back, reveling in the solidity of the ground beneath him.
His respite was short-lived. A tarnished silver blade appeared at the corner of his vision, descending rapidly in a swift arc toward his neck. Eyes bulging, Skandar rolled to the side, toward the blood-stained boots of the hunter. The sword whistled as it sliced the air and stuck in the dirt.
Skandar kicked at the ankles of his attacker, throwing the man off-balance and allowing Skandar time to rise and draw his own sword. Facing his rival, Skandar revolved around the man and distanced himself from the cliff edge.
With a start, he recognized the short, burley man as the leader he encountered in Carn. Skandar’s nose throbbed, remembering the man’s knuckles.
As though reading his mind, the thug snarled and chuckled darkly. “How’s your face, boy?”
Through narrowed eyes, Skandar glared at the man.
“I’ve been looking forward to this,” he taunted, twirling his sword in one hand and gripping a dagger in his other. “And this time, your friend will not save you.”
Skandar scanned wildly around. Oliver and Muriel fought nearby, each engaging five or six hunters. Where is Flynn? And where are the other hunters?
“He ran off,” the leader said.
Wait for him to strike, Skandar subconsciously recalled Flynn’s tutoring. Then parry and use his force to your advantage.
The man sprang forward with surprising agility. Skandar caught the strike near his knee and twisted to block the dagger aiming to impale his side. The movement tugged at the cut along Skandar’s ribs and he winced as warm blood slid down his stomach. The leader swung again, and Skandar spun to the side, momentum driving the man forward. As he stumbled, Skandar shoved the man square between the shoulder blades with his elbow, sending him reeling. The thug tripped, his dagger flying out of his hand and over the edge of the cliff.
Emitting an ominous, guttural growl, the hunter lunged, driving his sword once more to a point at Skandar’s upper thigh. Skandar bent to block it, but met nothing. It’s a feint!
The man slashed; the sword’s razor edge bit deep into the flesh of Skandar’s upper left arm. Skandar gasped and cried out through clenched teeth as tears welled in his eyes. The sword came away, dripping blood, leaving a ragged hole in Skandar’s sleeve. The light brown of the fabric quickly turned deep scarlet as blood soaked through from the wound.
Skandar’s opponent stepped back, grinning. “Never felt the sting of a blade before, eh boy?” he mocked.
Skandar’s head spun, his strength waning, his sword heavy and foreign in his hands. The man swung at him again, unleashing the brunt of his fury, invigorated by Skandar’s weakness. It was all Skandar could manage to evade the onslaught. Back it drove him, nearer and nearer the cliff’s edge.
Rocks shifted under Skandar’s heels.
I am going to fall, the notion settled in his mind, but did little to wash the exhaustion addled fog away.
An arrow flew from Skandar’s right and embedded itself in the thug’s shoulder. Startled, the man whirled to his left to face the shooter. Even through his delirium, Skandar possessed clarity to seize the opportunity. Cat, he issued a silent thanks.
Mustering what power he retained, Skandar lunged, driving his sword forward and slashing. It sliced with a wet squelch, through the man’s wide belly. He froze, his sword dropping from his hand, and clutched at the wound, dark blood gushing between his fingers. It poured in a seemingly endless wake from his middle as he crumpled and fell, twisting and writhing. The dirt soaked up the blood, which bathed the grass in crimson.
Queasy, Skandar turned from the dying man. Bile rose in his throat, and he forced it down. Two hunters, not including his opponent, lay dead; three more injured. Oliver, Muriel, and Catrain engaged four at the border of the forest. There had been over thirty at the onset of the ambush. He checked behind him and saw the forms of six or seven dead in the ravine. Where are the rest?  With a start, he remembered the brothers. Where are Aidan and Eoin?
Pushing his fear to the side and ignoring the sharp ache in his arm, Skandar breathed deeply, and then hurried to his friends’ aid.
Only seconds after Skandar entered fray and evened the odds, a dozen hunters sprung from the surrounding greenery.

Flynn’s long legs carried him further and further from the fight. Being the first to the top of the cliff, he permitted the hunters time to study his face, allowing them certainty that he was their prize. He fought through them, dispatching a few in mere seconds. Then he ran. That act of supposed cowardice, he hoped, would draw the majority of the hunters from his companions. Judging by the crashes of people trampling recklessly through the underbrush, his ploy worked.
The stab wound in his leg a distant memory, he sprinted on, zigzagging between trees and shrubs, ducking behind boulders, all the while dodging the arrows that flew like a lethal flock around him. Each transition, each shift of movement he made certain his pursuers saw. He slipped behind the thick, mossy trunk of a tree and noiselessly drew his sword.
Approaching footsteps warned him the hunters drew near. When one drifted too close to Flynn’s tree, he jumped quietly into the man’s path. Startled, the rogue’s mouth fell open, but snapped it shut. Flynn waited calmly and ready, awaiting the man to strike. Patience is the key to success, he thought; Lord Joran’s strategy proving time upon time to reap benefits.
Without fail, the man charged, twin daggers poised at Flynn’s heart, greedy eyes gleaming with malicious intent.
Amateur, the experienced knight criticized silently. Effortlessly he stepped and thrust his sword forward, shortening the distance between the two men faster than the hunter expected.
He slowed his bull-like advance, but it was in vain. His eyes widened and his mouth gaped in surprise as the tip of Flynn’s blade pierced his chest.
Flynn felt the tension as his sword struck bone, forced it forward, and smiled, grimly and with tight lips. The sword slid through the man’s body before bursting through his back. He gurgled and coughed, spraying blood across Flynn’s face. Flynn grimaced, resisting the urge to jerk backward. Instead, he held the hunter closer as hot blood seeped through his gloves, watching as the life drained from the man’s eyes.
Something odd stirred within him, fleeting. He had blocked it out for so long that was several seconds before he named it. He dipped his sword, the man’s body sliding off. Stunned, he stared at the corpse, lying spread out at his feet, glassy eyes naught but unseeing, soulless orbs in his rough, gaunt face.
The other hunters caught up, led by the scarred man from the tavern.
So they banded together. That explains their numbers. Regardless, Flynn knew he must prolong the fight. Just long enough for the others to flee to safety.
“Take him alive,” the scarred leader ordered in Niwl. “Money’s halved if he’s dead.”
His men wasted little time, attacking as one. Flynn struck blindly, carelessly. It mattered not to him whether he contacted an enemy or emptiness. His capture he knew to be unavoidable, undeniable. No use prolonging the inevitable.
Someone caught his hand, forced his wrist back, slamming it against a tree. He dropped his sword. Another fist drove deep and hard into his ribs. Flynn grunted and doubled over. Blow upon blow reigned down, driving the air from his lungs. One of them grabbed his hair, slick with sweat, and jerked him upright. Fists pummeled his ribs and face; it was all he could do to throw his arms up to protect his face and head.
Memories of a young boy, small, living off the streets being beaten to a bloody mess and abandoned in a back alley flooded into his consciousness. Flynn choked it back; he had thought it buried deep and locked away.
A blow broke through his defenses, splitting open the scar along his jaw. Blood filled his mouth and ran down the outside of his cheek. He remembered the day he received the cut. Remembered how she tenderly stitched it up; remembered how the pale winter fire gleamed off her auburn tresses. Remembered her melancholy smile. Tears swam in his eyes, not brought about by his pain, but by memories of her.
Knuckles connected with his temple knocking her away. Sparks flew across his vision, accompanied by a blinding ache. A knee collided with his gut at the same moment someone kicked the inside of his knee. His leg crumpled, and he landed in a heap on the ground, his consciousness slipping.
Blood oozed from a cut above his eye; it poured from his nose and ran from the corners of his mouth. He fought to rise as the men hammered him mercilessly. A sickening crunch sounded as several of his ribs cracked and snapped. A strained, agonized howl escaped Flynn’s lips. It was cut off with a series of Niwl curses and taunts from the hunters.
Is it odd I find it a comfort to hear my language? Flynn’s mind wandered in its muddled state. Blackness enclosed around his sight. The excruciating agony was nonexistent as he surrendered to its cruel embrace.
He heard the leader bark a muffled command and expected the barbarous beating to cease. It didn’t. With a final cry, Flynn curled his spine, tucking his knees toward his chin and wrapped his arms around his head.
A woman’s distressed scream pierced the air.
“Stop!” roared the leader in Niwl. Instantly the onslaught ended. Flynn rolled onto his back, gasping. Searing flashes of pain shot through him with every breath. His head lolled to the side. Squinting between swollen eyelids, he peered through the legs of his attackers. Over a dozen hunters stood behind the leader, eight of them holding Oliver, Skandar, Muriel, and Catrain, knives at their throats. Muriel had been the one to scream.
“You fools,” Flynn spat, a gob of blood flew from his mouth. Hands reached under his arms, forcibly lifting him to his feet. Flynn groaned as they dragged him. He hung like a dead man between two hunters, too weak to bear his own weight.
“What fortune found us, meetin’ ya in that tavern,” the leader mocked in heavily accented Corrthainian, looking Flynn up and down with his one good eye. “Had I known ye’d fall so easily, turnin’ tail and runnin’, I’d have ordered my men ta grab you there. Either way,” he leaded close. The rank odor of dried blood, grime, and sweat infiltrated Flynn’s nostrils. “The bounty on your head will dress us up like kings.”
The hunters drove their captives deeper into the woods where their horses were left tied to stout trees.
They spooked our horses, Skandar realized drowsily.
They bound his hands with a coarse rope and fastened the end to their saddles, even though many of the steeds would be riderless. Skandar’s heart sank.
In their already disheartened and wounded state, they would be forced to run behind the horses. Skandar and his companions had no choice. It was either keep pace, or be slaughtered where they stood.

I'm afraid that's all for now. With school starting next week, I will try to post a chapter a month, maybe more depending on homework and such. For those of you beginning school as well, I wish you the best this coming semester! May God bless you!

And as always, feel free to comment your thoughts, ideas, of even just to say hi. I love hearing from you, my dear readers.