Saturday, June 29, 2013

Chapter 13

They ran blindly through the thick forest, with no idea where they were headed.
Eventually, they reached a clearing and stood in the middle of it, listening for another sound.
There was nothing but birdsong.
"I'm beginning to think this wasn't such a good idea." Cayle commented. Alroy nodded in response.
"Maybe we should turn back." Alroy suggested.
Cayle was about to reply when another scream ripped through the forest like a blade on grass.
They bolted after the screamer, once more getting lost in the brush with no idea where they were heading.
                                                                         * * *
Deanna stifled a yawn as she and Krennan walked along the road. She'd been letting him lead since he seemed to know where he was going, and she didn't.
Occasionally, they were passed by a wagon filled with food.
Probably being taken to some storage place, Deanna thought as the first one passed them, not giving them a second, barely a first, look.
She gently pulled Krennan to a stop. "Krennan, I know you're eager to get there, but I'm falling asleep up here." She explained. "So, I vote we stop so that we can both catch up on some sleep."
He snorted in protest.
"Look, I'm not thrilled by having to stop either, but it's human nature to have to sleep." She said. He gave her a look and locked his legs. "And horses, too, of course, but I thought that was implied."
He allowed Deanna to direct him into the trees.
They found a small clearing, though it didn't necessarily deserve to be called a clearing, as there was barely enough room for Krennan to fit.
She loosened his saddle, but left her packs.
"Well, this is going to be a tight squeeze." She commented as Krennan did his best to lie down in the tight space.
She sat down and leaned up against him. "We'll just grab a couple hours' of sleep, and then we'll start moving again."
She closed her eyes and was soon asleep.
                                                                         * * *
"Where did it come from?" Alroy demanded as he paced.
"Calm down," Cayle said. Alroy turned on him.
"Calm down?" He repeated. "Calm down?! How can you say that when someone's life is at stake?!"
"First of all, we don't know if this persons life is at stake." Cayle pointed out. "It's just speculation. And second of all, getting yourself all worked up isn't going to help anybody."
Alroy was silent.
"I want to help whoever it was just as bad, but there's nothing we can do since we keep losing the sound." Cayle said.
Alroy began to respond when there was another scream. And they both took off running.
"I'm sensing a pattern, aren't you?" Cayle said as he and Alroy chased after the sound. "Everytime we are about to go back to our normal business, there's another scream."
"Hadn't noticed." Alroy said simply as he changed direction, following his instinct.
The forest ended suddenly, leaving Alroy and Cayle in the middle of a massive clearing. There were wagons and people all around, all stopped when the two men suddenly came barging out of the woods like wild men.
"Uh, hi." Cayle said with an awkward wave. "We were just in the neighborhood and decided to stop by."
"Cayle," Alroy whispered.
"Shut up."
"Who are you?" One of the people asked, an elderly woman with a basket underneath one arm, and cord in her white, wispy hair.
"I'm Alroy, and this is Cayle." Alroy said, indicating himself and Cayle.
"Why are you here?" She asked.
"Uh, well, you see, we didn't mean to be here, mam." Alroy said. "It was an accident, we apologize for bursting in on your camp."
The woman nodded, acknowledging the apology. "How did you come to be here?" Another asked, a man this time who looked like he'd seen his fair share of battles.
"We were following a scream." Cayle explained.
"We heard no such sound." The woman said. "Are you sure it was a scream you heard? Perhaps it was overbearing joy."
"Uh, mam, we are not sure." Alroy said, staying respectful. "But, I see we have interrupted you in your chore, so we must be going now. I apologize once more to the elder of the village and her people."
Cayle glanced quickly at Alroy. He hadn't known the woman was an elder.
Alroy bowed and glared at Cayle, who did the same. They then turned to go back into the forest.
"Wait!" The woman said, her voice sharp.
They turned back, Alroy with confidence, Cayle with a sinking feeling.
"You have shown me much respect, please, let us house you for the night." She offered.
Alroy smiled. "You are too kind, wise one." He said. "But I'm afraid we must not."
"Why do you decline?" She asked.
"We must meet with our friends soon, but we got sidetracked." Alroy said, bowing his head to show he meant no dis-respect by declining her offer of shelter.
She nodded. "I understand."
Alroy bowed and turned once more to leave.
"Which direction did you hear this scream?" The man asked.
Alroy turned back for the second time. "I believe it was north-west, but the directions keep changing. The wind is changing."
The man nodded. "Where are your friends housed?" He asked.
"The next town." Alroy explained.
Cayle was watching how he handled this situation, almost as if he had done it before.
"We shall investigate these screams you have heard." the man declared. "You and your companion go to your friends, I shall meet up with you at the town with my findings."
Alroy bowed. "Thank you, tribe-master."
He turned and left after one more bow to the elder.
Cayle stood there for a moment before bowing to them himself and following after Alroy, with new suspicions replacing old ones and too many questions to ask.
This was getting weird.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Chapter 12

Deanna glanced up from where she was examining the dirt, looking in the direction that the horse had gone. It had sped away quickly, almost as if startled. Though she hoped that it was a lead on Herndon, and not just the hoof prints of a scared horse.
"What do you think, Krennan?" She asked. He neighed in response.
She smiled.
"I think it's a lead too." She said, getting to her feet and walking over to him. "Shall we go see?"
                                                                    *  *  *
They'd stopped a little before midnight that night. Alroy went out to collect some firewood, while Cayle set up the campsite. They had a warm meal of leftover stew and tea, before rolling up in their blankets to sleep.
After a while, Cayle could hear Alroy's steady breathing, signifying that he was in deep slumber.
He laid awake, thinking over ways to try and get Alroy to open up about his past, and why he was being so secretive about it.
Tomorrow, he said to himself, I will find out more about you, Alroy, and then we'll see if you're trustworthy.
Eventually, he fell asleep. Awakened soon after by Alroy so they could move.
                                                                    *  *  *
She stopped when she reached another fork in the road.
"Why are there so many of these things?" She asked Krennan as she dismounted. "Very inconvenient for following someone."
She knelt on the ground once more to examine it.
"This must be one of the active roads." She commented, noting all of the footprints. "Looks like this won't get us anywhere; any one of these could be Herndon's. It's your call, Krennan, which way?"
There was a pause, and then Krennan stomped his feet and trotted over to the south.
"South? But the trail was heading east..." Deanna said. "Are you sure?"
Krennan snorted and shook his head, moving a little farther south.
Deanna held up her hands in a peace making gesture. "Ok, ok," She said. "I was just making sure, no need to bite my head off."
She mounted again and headed off to the south.
                                                                    *  *  *
"So tell me," Cayle said after they had been walking for an hour. "Where are you from?"
Very subtle, Cayle. He thought.
Alroy glanced at him. "Here and there." He answered, dodging the question. "Any idea which direction if there is a fork?"
"We just continue in the same direction we're going; and I'm fairly sure there are no forks in these parts." Cayle said. "And you're avoiding my question."
"How could you tell?" Alroy said with a grin. "I don't like to talk about myself, alright? Can we just move past it?"
"Alroy, you do realize how suspicious you look by not talking about yourself and dodging every single question that brings anything up, right?" Cayle said.
"Vaguely." Was the answer.
"Look, Alroy, I'm not trying to be rude here, I just need to know that I can trust you." Cayle explained. "And I'm sorry if this is uncomfortable."
"You can trust me." Alroy said simply.
"I'm going to need more than that to go on." Cayle replied.
Alroy was about to respond when they heard a scream coming from the woods.
They both stopped in their tracks and looked at each other briefly before running into the woods.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chapter 11

"That's it!" Cadman screamed after the wheel fell off for perhaps the fourth time that morning.
He jumped down and walked to the back of the wagon and started removing the contents.
"Cadman, what are you doing?" Cayle asked.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Cadman responded.
"Let me rephrase that." Cayle said, jumping down from his own wagon. "Why are you doing that?"
"Where the hell have you been for the past two days?" Cadman demanded, pausing for a moment. "The damn wheel keeps coming off, so I say we ditch this cursed thing and just use the one wagon."
"But then there is a chance that the wheels on the other wagon will come off from the excess weight." Alroy pointed out.
"Got any better ideas?" Cadman demanded as he started loading the contents into the other wagon.
"You realize this is going to slow us down considerably, right?" Cayle asked.
"We can buy another wagon at the town." Cadman said. "Now, are you going to continue to stand there and argue some more, or are you going to do something productive and help me?"
When they finished loading the second wagon, Finn positioned it on the side of the road, out of everyone's way. He jumped down and unhooked the horses and walked them over to the other wagon.
"Do we all ride in the wagon or do we go as normal with only two?" he asked.
"I say we stick with two, that way the horses won't have to pull the weight of two more grown men." Cayle said. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he said to Cadman as he caught sight of the man preparing to mount one of the two horses.
"Uh, mounting?" He answered. "Why?"
"This was your idea; so that means that you get to drive the wagon." Cayle said.
Cadman was speechless for a moment, before he consented and climbed into the wagon beside Alroy.
They glanced at each other, but didn't say a word as Cadman clicked the reins, and started crawling along the road, leaving Cayle and Finn to mount the remaining horses.
"That's going to be an interesting ride." Cayle commented to Finn as they started out after the still slow moving wagon.
After an hour of this, they stopped for a rest.
"This isn't working." Alroy said. "We're moving too slow, and we're almost out of daylight. Nice idea, Cadman."
Cadman glared at him, but otherwise didn't answer.
"Why don't we use these two horses? The wagon would move faster." Finn suggested, dismounting.
"We dismissed that one already." Cadman said.
"And how's that going for you?" Finn asked calmly. He retained his calm expression even after the glare he got from Cadman.
"Why don't we get something to eat?" Cayle suggested. "We can come up with some ideas while we do that."
"Works for me." Cadman said as he climbed down.
Finn dug out the vegetables and meat to make a stew; and while he did that, the other's tried to think of what to do about their singular wagon problem.
"I told you this would be a bad idea, Cadman, but you didn't listen. You never listen to me." Cayle pointed out.
Cadman was about to retort when Alroy stopped him. "Can we just think for a second without arguing?"
They were silent as they thought, thinking up and dismissing several ideas.
"Don't hurt yourselves." Finn called over from the camp fire.
They all glared at him.
He turned to them with an innocent expression. "What?"
They ignored him.
"I say we just hook up the other two horses, at least we'll go faster than we are now." Alroy suggested.
"Well of course you'd go faster than you are now, you're not moving." Finn said as he walked over with the pot. "Stew anyone?"
After they ate, they attached the other two horses to the wagon.
"Let's see how easily this is pulled with all four of us." Cayle said.
Finn, sitting in the front, nodded and clicked the reins.
They were going faster than they had before, but not by much.
"Well, this isn't working." Cadman commented as Finn brought the horses to a stop again.
"Why don't two people hop down, and we'll see about that?" Alroy suggested as he jumped down off the wagon. Cayle followed.
Finn clicked the reins again and he went forward at a steady trot, going a lot faster than they had for the past couple of days.
He stopped the wagon again and waited for Alroy and Cayle to catch up.
"Well, that settles it." Cayle said. "You two go on ahead, we'll meet you at the Inn."
Alroy grabbed their packs from the back, handing Cayle his.
"OK," Cadman said. "We'll see you there."
Finn clicked the reins again and they headed off.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chapter 10

Deanna dismounted and looked at the Inn a moment before going in, hoping this time they'd have seen him. She was beginning to lose faith in her search for him, and if she didn't pick up a trail soon, she'd have to find a new tactic. She took a deep breath, and walked in the door.
It looked like your average Inn, tables, waiters, barmaids, drunken regulars getting riled up for a brawl.
She walked up to the counter, stepping over a patron who had fallen asleep on the floor.
"Excuse me," She said, putting on her best smile. The burly Inn Keeper looked up from where he was polishing a cup, though it looked like it should be firewood, let alone something to drink out of. Not very sanitary.
"What do you want?" He demanded. 
"I was wondering if you'd seen a man, about this high, with a-" she started.
"An ugly ole' scar?" The man finished. Deanna nodded, her hopes rising. "Yeah, he was here, the rude bastard. He bullied my servers, broke several dishes, and refused to pay."
"Wow, he did all that?" Deanna said, feigning surprise. The man nodded.
"What did you want him for?" He asked, setting the cup down on the counter and picking up another.
"He didn't pay his taxes for a previous town, and I've been sent to retrieve him." She lied easily. The man nodded.
"I can believe it." He said.
"Do you happen to know which direction he went?" She asked.
He thought a moment. "He went north, I think."
"What?" She asked.
"I said I believe he went north." He repeated. "You hard of hearing or what?"
"Thank you." Deanna said briefly, walking outside and mounting Krennan again, wondering why on earth Herndon would go north.
                                                                  *  *  *
"You have got to be kidding me!" Cadman shouted as he maneuvered the wagon to the side of the road. The wheel had come off once more and was now happily bouncing down the small hill, with Finn giving chase.
"I am seriously considering welding the damn thing." He raged.
"Calm down, will you?" Cayle said as he walked over to examine the empty space where the wheel should go.
"Sabotage!" Cadman screamed, still raging.
"Is he always like this?" Alroy whispered to Cayle.
"Only on the days ending in 'day'" Was the answer.
Finn rolled the wheel back up and glanced over at Cadman, who was raging some more by the horses.
"Is it really that big of a deal?" He asked.
"Apparently so." Alroy answered.
"Best to leave him be for a bit." Cayle said.
All three turned to see Cadman hopping on one foot and holding his fist, still raging, though now it was aimed at an oak tree.
"What are you looking at?!" He demanded. They all shook their heads and turned back to the wheel, obviously trying to hide their smiles.
Cadman glared at them.
                                                                  *  *  *
Herndon sat on his horse, pondering his next move. He was sure that she had picked up his false trail by now; the bartender had been only too willing to cooperate. Inn owners will do just about anything to protect their establishment.
He looked at the sun. It was half past noon.
"In a few more hours, she will be walking right into my trap." He said, a smile forming on his lips. He turned his horse and headed back down the small hill, heading east.