Hey, Everyone! This is the first chapter to the story I’ve been writing. I figured I’d share it, and possibly get some of your opinions (good or bad, throw ’em at me!), so please comment and tell me what you think! Thanks!! :)
Meadows of Sulfur and Rust
Chapter one: Stone and Steel
A broken scent flooded the forest, carrying droplets of burning flesh as it cascaded down the mountain-side. The rotting stench grew like thorn bushes; grabbing at anything that walked within reach. Like pins and needles it stabbed at the senses; coursing through the body like a poisonous gas, and as though a thousand soldiers had emptied their guns, the smell of gunpowder and smoke mingled with it. There was almost the faint sound of screams coming from its source as the trees shivered with fear. As if their shivers had called the fire inside them; they burst into flame.
~ * ~
Staring out the window of the old castle, she could feel the world break. As she listened to the distant streets fall apart, and the far away orchestra of screams, her eyes began to swell with tears. Her father’s twisted body lay at her feet; his blood turning to rust. His gore stricken face was still as handsome as ever; it made her heart sink. Her hands had his blood, his essence, and his death on them. She was trying not to lose control, but then a hand softly touched her shoulder.
“It’s okay to cry, Isobel…” As the words were spoken she lost all of her control. She turned to face the man behind her, his blonde hair stained with blood and dirt, a firm chest showing through a ravaged green tunic; he fought his way to her. A trickle of joy flowed over her as she threw herself into his arms.
“I thought you were…” She couldn’t even say it without sobbing.
Death was something she didn’t even think about, much less see in the safety of her home. It was all but safe now, as war raged its way through the nearby towns and in her family’s beloved castle grounds. Even with the war at their steps she felt safe in her lover’s arms. With that thought she pulled away to look into his icy blue eyes, rimmed with frozen sorrow.
“Ardan, my father said I must find his scroll and leave. He was trying to explain when,” a lump caught in her throat as she tried to say it. She held back the tears. “He said it was important that we get the scroll out of here.”
Ardan stood silent for a moment; he seemed to be thinking of her words before speaking again. “Alright, I can get us out of here. Do you know where the scroll is at?”
As she thought about his question, he searched her room for a satchel. When he found it he started to quickly pack a few articles of clothing, and the fruit and bread from her table into it. He then grabbed her bow and quiver off of her bed and handed them to her.
“He would keep it with my mother.” Isobel responded. She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t thought of it before, it was so obvious now. Ardan grasped her hand then, leading her towards the door, and past her father’s unmoving body. In the hall, she could hear the clanging of steel swords echoing. No doubt her father’s soldiers were loyally fighting to their deaths, just as they pledged.
Getting closer to the fighting, she could hear their shouts and commands. Approaching the doorway into the dining hall, where the battle seemed nearly over, she could see the bodies of soldiers, cooks, and hand maidens that she’d known her whole life, their blood staining the floor and walls. One group of soldiers remained, swinging their weapons through the air, some cutting flesh, others clanging against the attacking swords. Ardan released her hand to draw his sword and join the fight. Suddenly feeling helpless she remembered the bow on her back. Bringing it forward she loaded an arrow, the bright feathers resting on her fingers.
Searching for Ardan, she found him on the floor, swinging his sword at his attacker. Her racing heart pounding in her ears, she drew back the string of her bow. Deep breath, aim, release. Singing as it soared through the air; the arrow made its way into the chest of Ardan’s attacker. Before she could lower her bow, a man had her by the hair, laughing as he tried to pull it from her head. Without even thinking, she reached for the dagger at her side and plunged it into the man’s kidney; just like her father had taught her. In an attempt to avoid the blade, the man jerked backwards, only to set them both off balance, tumbling to the ground and pulling Isobel with him. As they slammed to the stone floor, she could feel the silver dagger cut into her hands before going deeper into the man’s flesh. For a moment she watched her hand bleed and the memory of her father’s body came back to her. A single tear made its way to her cheek, but she quickly wiped it away and got to her feet. She could not afford to die today.
Another man came running towards her, his sword raised in the air ready to strike her where she stood. Before he could bring it down on her, a blade exploded from his chest. The man’s face was one of awe as blood spurted from his mouth. He was truly surprised to die. Falling to the ground he revealed his killer. Her father’s best friend and right hand stood in front of her.
“I’m sorry, Lass,” he placed his hand on her shoulder, “I didn’t mean to scare ye. Where’s ye father, the blasted fool, should be fightin’!” A hardy laugh escaped the big man.
“He’s dead, Greagoir…” She didn’t know how else to say it. Her words were met with silence. For a moment; just a moment, the battle seemed to melt away. Greagoir swallowed hard and nodded his understanding. The cheer in his eyes turned to pain. “I need to get to my mother, Greagoir. I have to get the scroll.” Again he nodded in understanding.
“I know where the scroll is hidden; it’s not with your mother, I’ll get it. We need to leave now. Ardan and I will meet you at the stables, and my girls are there. Take the King’s passage, stop for no one.” With that he rejoined the battle, making his way to Ardan.
Isobel turned and quickly slid behind one of the painted tapestries hanging in the great hall. There was a hole in the wall; it led to the King’s passage. It was meant for the king to move quickly and safely from one end of the castle to the other. Her father had taught her how to use them in an emergency. They were a twisted catacomb if you didn’t know the way through them. Her father never truly used them until today, when he appeared in her room; a dagger deep in his side. He was dying and she couldn’t help him. His last wish had been for her to get the scroll and run. But, why? ‘Why’ didn’t really matter now, she realized. She’d have to figure that out later.
As she made her way to the stables she could hear whispers, followed by the quiet whinny of a horse. Peering into the stable she could see two small, red-headed girls hiding under the feet of a large wagon horse. “Maeve, Meara.” She called out to them. Startled, it took them a second, and then they were running towards her with their arms open, hugging her tightly.
“We saddled the horses, just like father said.” Meara spurted out excitedly.
“Eira, Derryth, and Castan are all waiting in the first stall. Their saddles are tight and ready to go.” Maeve added.
“Isobel, what’s happening?” They asked in unison.
“Bad things now get on Yoirn, quickly.” She answered.
Lifting them up onto the large animal one at a time, she made sure they each had a blanket on. Bitter cold wind sang through the windows; a reminder of the snow resting on outside air. Tightening up their saddle one last time, she finally worked her way towards the stall door. She could hear shouts from outside, but the coast was clear inside the stables. Opening the door she moved quickly into the hall and down a few stalls. Eira, her white mare, was watching her every move. Entering the stall she checked the saddle of each horse, making sure they were ready to go. Confidant that they were ready she climbed into Eira’s saddle. As she swung her leg over she could hear soft footsteps making their way down the hall.
“Isobel?” Ardan whispered out to her.
“I’m here.” She replied. “Castan is saddled and ready to go.”
“Good. Greagoir said to bring Derryth, he’ll ride him. He’s going to meet us at the river; he said he’ll have the scroll.” He paused while throwing saddle bags onto his saddle. “We’ll need to grab an extra horse as well.” He then mounted Castan, the tall chestnut’s sides heaving as he pranced from the stall at Ardan’s command.
Ardan grabbed Derryth’s reins, making the big brown horse follow close behind him. Derryth belonged to Isobel’s father. Her mother had bought the horse for him as a birthday gift some years before, and her father had been so proud to ride him. She was glad he wasn’t being left behind, and if anyone should be allowed to ride him it would be Greagoir. Isobel brought her mind back on track; urging Eira to follow close behind them. She signaled for Maeve and Meara to come out ahead of her. The twins cuddling close to Yoirn as he trotted towards Ardan and the stallions. Before leaving the stables, she tied a rope to a little pony’s halter and led him from his stall.
“Let’s go, Ardan.” She called to him. “Straight for the gates and towards the river.” Off they went, galloping towards the castle gates, towards their escape from the battle inside the walls of their home.
The pounding of hooves against the stone courtyard brought the attention of enemy attackers. They yelled with distaste as the group made their way out the gates and towards the field. Arrows rained down on them, but good for them, they were bad archers. From what she could see, none of the arrows hit their mark. Running with all of their might, the horses made it the small distance across the field to the trees. Instead of following the path, Ardan led them straight through the forest. They had all grown up in this place, riding their horses, and knew the trees well enough not to get caught by low hanging branches. Behind them they could hear agitated horses neighing, refusing to enter the trees, and their riders shouting after the group as they disappeared into the green.
~ ☼ ~
Thanks for reading! ♥
Seriously, let me know what you think!
Photo Credit: Here!