Hunted - a collaborative chain story
A collaborative chain story for anyone to take part in. Please see the post below this one for the background to this and use that post to comment on this story as I want to keep the flow of the narrative uninterrupted throughout. Rules are:
- Be true to what others have written before; you just can't dismiss something because it doesn't fit where you thought things were going.
- Leave two posts between your last post and your next one to allow others to play.
His ears strained as he crouched amongst the undergrowth, listening for sounds of pursuit in the darkness of the woods. Distant voices echoed through the trees as he struggled to tell which direction they were coming from, whether they were heading towards him or moving away. He could hear one voice, louder than the others, barking orders to the men that had been chasing him but the words were indistinct as they carried through the cold night air.ReplyDelete
He clutched the package he was carrying tight to his chest as he waited for a sign to guide him. Maybe he should just leave it here and be done with it. Once they had it back surely they would forget about him. Was it really worth risking his life just to get it to her? True, the money he had been promised would clear his debts, lift him from his poverty, but what good was money when all you would be wearing was a corpse's shroud?
He breathed deeply, clearing his mind as he made his decision, one that he hoped would keep his head acquainted with his neck. As he broke from his cover he prayed to the gods that he would live to see another day.
Horses joined the fray. The ground quaked with the ferocity of their hooves. His heart beat with a promise to explode. In his arms the package squirmed.ReplyDelete
"Hush, oh, hush" he murmured, less soothingly than was required, as he immediately realised when a part-smothered cry emanated. Too late to stand considering options. There was now only one.ReplyDelete
A chorus of shouts and excited whinnies from behind confirmed his fears. Snugging the blanket into the crook of an arm as securely as he could, Jack used his free hand to keep the thrashing branches out of his eyes as he charged forward with renewed determination. He cut away from the path, where the undergrowth began to thicken and every step threatened to trap his feet in ground vines and the scattered duff of a hundred years. As tiring as it was to blaze through the bush in this fashion, it would be much harder to follow him, and nearly impossible for men on horseback. On and on he charged.ReplyDelete
Some minutes passed, and Jack realized the ground was sloping. He must be nearing the river. The baby was fussing again, but with the pounding of his feet, and the yelling of the men behind, silence was no longer a worry. If he could reach the river though…
The trees broke into clearing. Before he touched the sunshine of open air he caught a sound, rather, he noticed no sound. The charging had ceased. The clamoring of horses and bellowing of men had drifted to a nervous silence. The entire forest held its breath; no bird warbled, no cricket chirped. The living seemed to wait. Nothing. Nothing. From the green screams ripped open the trees. Only a few feet from Duncan and the infant the villains called for each other. ""Capt...ahhhh, ga...no no no," the closest soldier was screaming. They were all screaming, the soldiers had become a chorus of death rattles. In their suffering they did not pursue Duncan and his charge. The bloody screams faded into the songs of the forest. He peered into the brush and could see that one soldier was hanging from the highest limb of an old alder; his body freckled with holes, tree limbs impaling him. Duncan looked into the rough blankets, the baby made a small noise and gave Duncan a glance. "You, you...oh but it is you," he said.ReplyDelete
And seeing in the baby features echoes of her mother, his resolution was reinforced: whatever it took he would deliver this child.ReplyDelete
Not for the money but for the ... well, 'glory' sounded pretentious but he was inspired to think he could be the man who saved the future line of this most revered family.
A horse was what he needed, a whole and hearty horse, and then a helping of good luck. He was certainly due it.
He crept through the undergrowth with the baby cradled into his chest. If he could find a horse then that was all for the good, if not then he would double back for the river as he had intended originally.ReplyDelete
He tried to ignore the birds above him pecking at the hanging corpse. The blood dripping from his body was slowing, the majority of his fluids drained now.
"Don't look pretty one, don't look."
The soldiers had hacked back the errant branches and brambles which he had fought through before making his movements easier this time.
"This is wrong," he said to himself. "What am I doing? Just turn round, them soldiers screamed for a reason...."
He stopped mid-thought as his brain tried to take in the scene in front of him. Cast around the trees were more soldiers, or what was left of them, their bodies ripped apart by something inhuman. Limbs hung from branches, torsos lay on top of each other like some macabre log pile, lifeless eyes stared at him from all angles from faces frozen in fear.
"For all that is holy, what have you gotten yourself into Jack Duncan, what on God's green earth?"
The babe girl, not knowing the war she was born into, chirped and warbled an infant's song as if to answer. With this child's breath he knew his answer. "Even if just a child you are worthy of saving. If your grace is as full as the priests believe," Duncan trailed the baby's warm cheek with his rough finger and let his heart go silent.ReplyDelete
And in that silence Duncan heard a stirring, a rustling, beyond the far side of the terrible gore and flesh-decorated glade. Heard a tearing and then, oh glory then the unmistakable scrape of teeth, grass-chomping teeth. Covering the babes eye’s with his fingers, she would likely not understand but he did not want memories to later re-emerge, he skirted the edge and beyond it found what he had hoped to find - a large and whole and healthy stallion.ReplyDelete
Breathing a sigh of relief he softly approached it; it raised its head and calmly waited. Praise be it was still harnessed, and he reached for the reins.
‘By whose permission do you attempt to steal my horse?’
Duncan turned to face the voice, excuses and explanations for the baby and the carnage already forming in his mind, only to find himself staring down the shimmering blade of a Litherian sabre.ReplyDelete
The silver steel was held unwaveringly mere millimetres from his chin by the slender feminine hand of a figure dressed in a uniform of crimson and black. Through the haze given off by the sword, Duncan could only see their features indistinctly, but they had a sense of androgyny which both fascinated and repelled him. The eyes seemed to glow golden within pale skin, as if reflecting the light like those of a cat.
Duncan knew immediately what this apparition was. He had only heard descriptions of the Gilden cavalry officers in stories from the last war told by his father, but here was one in the flesh and it seemed even more beautiful and terrible then he had ever dreamt.
With a quick motion, the curved blade tapped him briefly under the chin and broke Duncan's revery as he jumped at the sudden chill against his skin, as if he'd been touched by an icicle form the deepest of winters.
'I asked you a question, whelp,' the sexless voice inquired again in its oddly lisping accent, and none too kindly. "Why do you try to steal my horse, and what kind of desperate fool brings a babe-in-arms into this forest on a Furys' Moon?'