Horsemen

The horsemen are coming. They always come. Now we can hear them, the galloping monsters thundering through wasted lands and out of the forest.

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7. Fianna

Jewels glistened behind the bushes, watching me as I steadily moved away, trying to show them I was friendly. A low growl hummed. I gulped and took a long breath. I felt my way with my feet, not daring to turn my back on their claws and fangs dipped red with blood. At least, that’s what I imagined them to look like. One braved the clearing, stepping out of the camouflage and tiptoed towards me, keeping its back low against the ground.

That was a bad sign. I couldn’t out run them; I couldn’t fight back and hope to win. But I would fight for my life. That was my right in the game of the hunted.

It didn’t leap and tear through the air towards my throat; it just carried on laying low, as if waiting for an order. I looked behind him, the others were doing the same, filtering out until they would surround me. Instinct kicked in as I dived away from the closing circle, my heart thundering, louder than any sound from the silent wolves. I started to sprint, the only option left as I desperately tore through the living garden, over grown, underused.

I lost count of how many times I fell and picked myself back up, pushing forwards to safety, constantly wondering how far behind they were, how long till I faced my death. It was a while before I noticed.  It seemed so normal, I couldn’t have known. I plunged to my knees; sweet coated my skin and dripped onto the grass. Fatigue forced me to stop as the adrelane cascaded out of my body.

They weren’t following me. The blasted hounds didn’t give chase. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. Now I was lost for no reason, no X’s marked my way back home to the place I had grown up in, lived and breathed for so many years.

Maybe when I found her, I thought, we could go somewhere else. There wasn’t anywhere else as such. But we could live in the forest. Make a house from whatever I found lying around. I could hunt, plant, sew… Whatever needed doing I would do. But what life is that?

I stopped thinking and collapsed onto the ground, falling into a deep sleep.

 

 

  *   *   *

          

“You’re an idiot, that’s what”

“Who else have we seen wondering around here? It’s better than anything you’ve brought.”

“I brought food you scumbag.”

“I ain’t no scumbag.”

“Both of you shut up.”

“But he...”

“I don’t care.”

Voices floated around me as I blinked my eyes open. My body ached, a low thudding inside me.

“That’s right, shut your trap.” A gruff voice sneered.

I furrowed my eyebrows, trying to get the sounds out of my head.

“She’s awake.” A smoother tone stated. I felt a presence next to me, and I finally realised the voices weren’t coming from my mind. “What’s your name?” He asked.

I turned round, wiping the dirt from my face using the sleeve of my, just as unclean, shirt. The man kneeling down had floppy blond hair, cutting down into a sharp fringe that reached his nose. The others stood behind him, one short and fat, the other tall and lanky, like two opposites, taunting each other. The fat one wore layers of clothes and had things hanging from his body, from little trinkets to long swords, he was a human suitcase.

“Fianna.” I spoke with as much confidence I could muster. I must have looked as if I’d been dragged through a bush backwards. Well, I sort of had. “And you?”

“We’re the Bandits of Purple forest.” The small one squeaked, pride shining in his face.

“Purple Forest?” I asked the one in front of me. He didn’t smile, but his blue eyes shone with humour. He was really quite handsome, I found my eyes lingering at his mouth. I quickly looked up, hoping he didn’t notice this mud covered girl even thinking about that. If he did, he didn’t show it.

“I’m Glastenen. The tall one’s Talan, the other’s Lugh. What’s a pretty thing like you doing so far from home?” His tone wasn’t patronizing, but I found myself getting to my feet.

“You would think I was looking for a bath.” I joked, trying to turn the spotlight from my journey. They shot each other a look.

“We might be able to help you with that.” Glastenen started. “Our base is only a little while away.”

A bath. They were actually offering me a bath. I eyed them suspiciously, knowing not to trust a stranger’s word, but temptation drew me with them. Glastenen offered me his hand. I noticed his poise, the straight back, the elegant stretch of his arm, was all too perfect to be manors of the woods. Even so, I took it, dirtying it, but he carried on, well mannered, ignoring my state.

“We should be able to feed you to, if Lugh hasn’t eaten it all.” Glastenen joked, teasing his friend.

In response my tummy grumbled, echoing around the forest. Tearing my hand from his, I looked away, embarrassed.

“I haven’t eaten for a while.” He grinned, then stalked ahead of the group, leading us away.

       *  *  *

His faced almost glowed, nothing like Kennis had ever seen before.  Black hair twisted around his strong jaw, contrasting with the strange whiteness of his eyes. Not that she was anyone to speak, her dark violet ones seemed just as rare.

He smiled at her from across the room as he caught her eye. Blushing, she looked down, noticing others gazing jealously at them. The stranger didn’t let her get away, he slowly stood, calling a waiter towards him and taking two classes from their tray. With all the confidence in the world, he strolled over, enjoying the looks and attention from the room. Not keeping his eyes off Kennis, he pulled a chair next to her own.

“A glass for your name.” He purred, his mouth next to her ear.

“Kennis.” She squeaked, her timid nature shouting at her to hide. He stroked her hand before lifting it, guiding it towards the wine. “Yours?”

“Marrek. Like it? Or just what you see?”

A giggle passed through her lips and she stifled it with a sip of her wine. Bitterness filled her mouth before burning the back of her throat. It was rather strong stuff. He gazed at her as she did so, smiling teasingly at her reaction.

“What does it means?”

“Something you don’t want to know… Beautiful. Possibly one day you will learn the importance of names. Maybe I could teach you?” He added, raising his perfect eyebrow.

 

 *  *  *

 

Talan climbed up an oak with ease, his tall frame having no trouble to reach the difficult clauses of the puzzle. He disappeared from view, leaving us staring into the plush green leaves of spring.

After a while, he shouted something inaudible down and the two others bent to pick up a rope from under the forest floor. I gasped at it happened, I hadn’t even realised it was there, it seemed so obvious now. I made a mental note as they started to pull, heaving something forwards.

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