War Heart

"Now wait a second," Alex grumbles still half asleep. Dylan stops speaking so Alex can continue.
"I missed the first part. So there are all these girls and they are trying to do what exactly?" He questions. I sigh, it pays to pay attention.
"There are only 4 girls, Nala the red headed bandit, Kara the fighter, black hair comes from Kilren where there are orange dyes, Ali the sword expert who was Dylan's best friend and Bella the leader with the unique ability to order people things and they have to do it. The four of them are trying to defeat Riley and his mutants because he somehow built a mind control system," I sum up for him. He takes in the information and slowly nods.
"So the red head, the fighter, the sword expert and the leader are going up against a vampire with a wicked talent to cause trouble," Alex shortens my summary. I frown at him.


19. Chapter 14 (Bella)

I wake groggily to find Nala and Kara sword fighting. Sighing I stand slowly and my head pounds with a dull ache. I know it's not as bad as it could be but still. I realize that we've wasted almost half the day. The sun is at its fullest already and we only have a days head start. I walk to where the two are fighting and put my hands on my hips.
"What are you doing?" I ask. I roll my eyes at the two. They look like they're hugging not fighting. Nala turns to me. 
"We were testing the theory that I could beat Kara in a sword fight," she explains taking her eyes off Kara.
"Rule number one of fighting, never stop unless your opponent surrenders," I lecture as Kara trips her and points her sword at Nala.
"Rule number two, just because you win one part of the battle doesn't mean you have an advantage," I add. Nala grabs the tip of the sword and shoves it into Kara's chest. Kara stumbles back and loses her grip on her sword.
"Rule number three, fighting over useless theories is never a good idea because you'll both end up losing," I end. I draw my sword and flick Nala's out of her hands. I catch the sword and point one sword at each girl. Kara raises her hands in defeat but Nala refuses.
"That's not really rule number three," Nala accuses. She's right, it's not. I look to the trees and notice Dylan leaning against one with a smile on his face. I press my lips together hiding my smile. He nods slowly and I take a deep breath, suddenly the pain in my head is gone.
"Rule number three, know when to surrender," I correct as I hand Nala's sword back to her. She scowls and rips the sword out of my hand. She turns and storms off.
"You forgot rule number four," Ali tells me confidently. I rack my brain for the answer, knowing she's right.
"Right, rule number four, just because the person surrenders doesn't mean the battle's over," I remember just as Nala comes back.
"You think you know so much," Nala retorts as she walks past me. I struggle to withhold my comment. I let her brush past me angrily and keep my head held high.
"I'll be back," I say to no one in particular. Taking a deep breath I calmly walk toward the bright blond haired man smiling at me. He opens his mouth to speak but I beat him to it.
"What are you doing here?" I growl under my breath. He raises an eyebrow at me.
"Nice to see you too," he jokes but I barely hear him. 
"I ordered you away, how did you come back?" I ask and for the first time in my life I feel weak. He broke my confidence. He takes in my mood and a frown appears on his lips.
"Aye, maybe I found a chink in your armor and twisted some emotions but I can promise you that I'm the only one that can do it," he reassures me but I close my eyes trying to pull myself back together. A hand rests on my shoulder and I open my eyes to find the man staring worriedly at me.
"I didn't realize you'd be upset. I can leave, if that's what you really want," he suggests quietly and my hearts warms for a second.
"Why do you keep coming back?" I ask curiously and he smiles slightly. My shoulder throbs and my head aches but none of that compares to what hits me. A feeling, so intense it just about knocks me over. An emotion from him, one he probably sent to me, that sucks the air out of me. One that makes my heart beat louder in sync with the pounding of my heart. The emotion hits me so hard it penetrates my walls from both the inside and the outside. I realize, the emotion is not only his but also, mine. I back away from him, I refuse. Nope, I refuse to let that be mine. I will never have that. Liking someone is like have a disease. It plagues you. True he can outsmart me and can beat me at almost anything but that, I realize, is why I like him. He watches me, unsure of how I'll react. My heart beats uncontrollably in my chest and I turn away from him.
"No, no I can't, I won't," I stutter backing away like he's poison  but he makes no move to come closer.
"But you do," he grasps the reality of my predicament. I try to banish the overwhelming feeling that's suffocating me and dragging me into it's lair of horrid surrender. I push the feeling out of my heart trying to send it away but it pushes back harder, liking where it is. That's the problem, my heart welcomes the feeling accepting it as its own but my head, on the other hand, wants rid of it. Dylan takes a deep breath in and suddenly my chest opens. My lungs are clear, my eyesight is fine, and I'm back to normal. I find a smirk on his lips.
"You seemed to be struggling," he tells me simply and I swallow my pain. 
"You did that?" I question breathlessly. He shrugs his shoulders like it's no big deal and I tilt my head up. A smile grows on my lips and I open my mouth to speak but his hand covers it quickly. My guard goes up faster than you can say sword fight. His expression is distant for a second before he comes back to the present. His eyes widen and he looks at me.
"You need to go, now," he shouts. I confusedly walk toward our camp slowly.
"Faster!" Dylan growls as he grabs my hand and drags me the rest of the way. Luckily he didn't grab my injured arm but races across the distance quickly.
"What is your problem," I snap him, yanking my arm out of his grasp. 
"They're coming," Dylan panics and he starts packing up our things.
"What is he doing here?" Kara asks with disdain in her voice as she picks up her sword.
"I have a name, for one, and two, one of Riley's armies are coming," Dylan explains quickly as he loads the horses. I frown, so much for a full day.
"Wait, you know Riley?" Nala questions as she straps her arrows to her back and calls her horse over.
"Everyone does, he terrorizes the towns with his half human half animal creatures," Dylan continues as he scatters the remains of the fire.
"Mutants," I add with realization as he slides a satchel over my shoulders carefully.
"I thought they only stuck to their territories?" Ali asks as she puts her hands on her hips.
"They do but Riley can bring them out," Nala tells her. Dylan herds  Kara and Ali to their horses. 
"How do you know so much about him?" he inquires as he helps them onto their horses. Nala and I share a glance and she nods.
"We're kind of, going to stop him...destroy him," I proclaim cautiously. Dylan gives Nala boost onto her horse before stopping in front of me.
"I'll catch up, don't worry, I'm not afraid of a few snakes," he says with his usual smirk on his lips. I shake my head at him and roll my eyes. I understand what he's doing. He's sacrificing himself for the rest of us. That's...unheard of.
"You're too cocky for your own good," I sigh and he smiles turning away and jogging off toward the mutants. I mount my stallion and ride away leaving him in the dust.
"If we ride hard we can get to the mountain quicker then the mutants," Nala says to me but I shake my head no. Honestly I don't want to leave Dylan to fend for himself. I may refuse to like him but he has the potential to be a valuable person to this group.
"I don't want to get to far without Dylan," I tell her simply leaving out the part about him maybe joining our group. 
"But," Kara protests trailing off. I know she's talking about our conversation in which she convinced me to get rid of him but after the little trick he pulled earlier I think I'll keep him in my sights.
"He could be valuable," I state vaguely as we canter along. Suddenly an ear splitting cry fills the air.
"Is that-" Kara starts but I've already switched directions faster than lightning.
"Stay here," I order as I urge my horse faster. I don't want any of them to get hurt. My plan is basically to run in grab Dylan and run back. I can see figures moving in the distance. They resemble snakes although they have the legs of a human. I see another figure among them, fighting for his life. As I get closer I notice one of Dylan's arms hangs limply by his side. I slow my horse to a stop and jump off into the mass of Mutants. I land with a thud beside Dylan.
"What are you doing here?"he asks, panting heavily with exhaustion. He swings his sword lightly but yet with a certain strength.
"Saving your life idiot!" I exclaim shoving him over to my horse while fending off any close mutants. I hold off the mutants while he climbs on. He walks my horse to the edge of the battlefield while I fight off any mutants near me.
"Come on!" He shouts over the clashing swords. I run towards him pushing myself as fast as I can go, the Mutants on my heels.
"Go!" I order not bothering to see if he tries to question it. He urges Storm Runner into a slow canter just as I reach the side of my horse. Letting go of my  horse's mane Dylan lowers his good arm down and pulls me up onto the back of my horse. He lets Storm Runner run full speed in the direction of the others who are still cantering along.
"Nice horse you got here," he comments over the wind. I duck behind his back trying to hide from the wind but that results in me being off balanced. I frantically grab Dylan's shirt and pull myself against his back to stay on.
"His name is Storm Runner," I tell him trying to hide the fact that my cheeks are red and I'm clutching Dylan tightly.
"Named for his speed?" He guesses and I nod into his shirt. I loosen my grip slightly and let the wind run through me. I let it fill my lungs with hope and speed. It's thrilling. That is, until I realize of Dylan's left arm is still limp.
"What happened to your arm?" I ask cautiously distracting myself.
"One of the Mutants got lucky," he tells me jokingly.  I turn  his arm and to look at the cut. Blood oozes out and it seems really deep.
"I think you're just lucky to have an arm," I retort taking a piece of cloth out of my pocket. I carefully wrap the cloth tightly around his wound. Dylan holds his breath while slowing Storm Runner up. We're catching up to the others quickly and they've almost reached the base of the mountain.
"Nala will have to take a look at this," I tell him not giving him a chance to argue. He doesn't say anything and I'm glad. I look back the way we came to find that the mutants are trudging slower then slow after us.
"That's the red head right?" He questions snapping me out of my thoughts. I nod, and before we reach them I dismount as Storm Runner canters slowly. Nala turns and laughs.
"Yeah, my hair's red, deal with it," she retorts and I roll my eyes at her. My mind is spinning and my shoulder aches again from the hard riding. Something about what happened strikes me as odd though.
"Can you take a look at his wound?" I ask Nala quietly and she frowns at me, refusing to move. I raise my eyebrows at her knowing the message I'm sending her. I'm asking if she's questioning me. If I need to order it. She glares.
"I guess," Nala sighs as she walks over to Dylan who cringes as he dismounts from my horse. Nala slowly unwraps the cloth shaking her head at the wound. She pulls out 2 needles and a string from one of her pockets.
"Your not going to stick those needles in my wound are you?" Dylan interrogates and he tries to pull his arm out of her grip.
"No, I'm going to snap them in half and eat them," Nala replies sarcastically as she starts stitching up his wound. He flinches every once and a while but doesn't complain.
"Why would you do that!" I lecture him as I let Storm Runner go with the other horses. Judging by the confused looks I get I assume they have no clue what I'm talking about.
"What?" Dylan asks. Confusion and pain are written on his face.
"You stayed behind. That was dumb, we could of helped you," I clear up for him. He sighs and lowers his head.
"Any chance you could make this hurt more?" He mutters to Nala and she laughs. I growl under my breath at them.
"Trying to drone her out?" Nala smiles at me as I try to continue. He nods slightly.
"Ow!" He says, surprised. He looks over at his arm and notices a needle poking into his wound. Nala scowls and I smile at the two.
"Hold still, I'm almost done," she retorts with her usual attitude. I am frustrated because no one is paying attention to me.
"Would you all just listen to me!" I order. Ali and Kara walk over and Nala and Dylan turn their heads toward me.
"Those Mutants are still alive. Riley brought them here so he's got to be nearby which means..." I trail waiting for someone to fill in. 
"Which means your still going to talk?" Nala asks half heartedly. I shake my head.
"He's going to send more Mutants after us?" Kara guesses and once again I shake my head.
"No, which means he left the mountain pass unguarded," Dylan realizes and I throw my arms out in a wide gesture.
"Bingo! At least one of us is smart."
"So we should go," he infers as Nala finishes up his wound. Ali grabs her horse's reins getting ready to mount.
"The base of the mountain is only a a half day's worth of riding away. We should get there by dark and before the mutants catch up," I inform them. Kara nods in agreement and grabs her black mare.
"Who's he going to ride?" Ali questions pointing to Dylan. The way she says his name makes me believe that something happened. They must know each other. The thought sends butterflies through my stomach and the feeling is so foreign to me that I have swallow my shock. There is no way. This is not happening to me. I feel like I'm dying or something.
"Yeah your horse can't carry you both the whole way," Nala comments bringing me out of my thoughts.
"I'll walk," Dylan interrupts me. Irritated, I cock my head to the side and frown at him.
"No you won't," I argue with him. This is absolutely ridiculous! Why in Rayn am I arguing with him? I could end this now. So why don't I?
"Then what do you suggest?" He interrogates in an alpha tone. Realization strikes, he's playing off my emotions.
"We'll ride together until Storm Runner gets tired and then I'll pair up with Kara's horse until she gets tired," I explain letting the power enter my voice. He frowns and looks helpless for a second. Like he's flailing in something.
"Dynamite?" Kara protests. At the sound of her name the black mare raises her head.
"Fine, then we'll use Nala's horse," I add but Nala glares at me.
"You can't use Red Willow!" She complains as she gives her tall red stallion a pat on the neck.
"You can use Annie," Ali offers leading her sweet tempered cream mare over. I sigh in relief. I can feel Dylan pulling at my emotions and I give him a warning glance.
"Thanks," I smile as I rub Annie's brown tipped ears. I turn to my own horse and whistle for him to come over with the others. Dynamite pins her ears back and bares her teeth as Storm Runner walks past. Storm Runner holds his head high showing he's in charge. He brakes into a trot as he nears me and passes me entirely. I watch as he canters into the woods. I raise my hands disbelief and shake my head.
"Your horse seems to think he's in charge," Dylan smiles and I glare at him. I am not in the mood for his teasing.
"If only I could order him to come back," I sigh as I walk in the direction he headed. I really don't want to go into the woods and risk having the mutants catch up. I figure Storm Runner can run fast enough to catch up.
"I'll catch up!" I call back as I sprint after my horse.
"I've heard that before," Nala shouts after me as she mounts. I roll my eyes.
"Come on," Kara signals letting Dynamite take the lead. Ali and Dylan double up and they head off toward the mountain without me. I reach the woods and frown. I frustratedly draw my sword and cut branches out of the way. I can barely see in the dim light. A neigh of distress echoes throughout the area making me pause.
"Storm Runner?" I shout. Another neigh rings out. I squint, a ray of sunlight pierces through the tree tops and shines on a spot that has particularly dense undergrowth. I cut through the plants until I can see Storm Runner's golden coat shine through. He tosses his elegant head in greeting as I struggle to him.
"Come here boy," I soothe as I reach him. I grab his mane to  keep myself from falling but Storm Runner won't come closer. He tries to lift his back legs but I notice he's stuck. I give him a reassuring pat and bend down to cut him free. I pick up the plants but realize they aren't plants. They are ropes. Someone or something tied Storm Runner down. Storm Runner stomps his hoof impatiently.
"Hold on," I tell him as I follow the rope deeper into the undergrowth.
The rope seems to go on forever and soon I give up and head back. I put my sword away and pull out a dagger instead. Quickly and quietly I cut rope after rope. Storm Runner shifts uneasily. A harsh cry echoes throughout the underbrush. I freeze for a second pinning the source of the noise to be behind us and Storm Runner starts to shake. His eyes roll back until I can see the whites of his eyes. I finish cutting the rope just as another shriek rings out. It sounds closer then the first one and Storm Runner begins to walk away, his nostrils flaring. The underbrush shakes and a bolt fear shoots through me motivating me quickly. I jump onto Storm Runner's back and grab his mane. He sprints off not waiting for my command. The undergrowth explodes and a cloaked figure runs after us. The only thing that can be seen  through the blackness of the hood is it's red  eyes that gleam in the darkness. With lightning speed it catches up even though Storm Runner sprints. The figure jumps and lands on Storm Runner's back. It unsheathes its long pointed nails and digs them into his rump. He screams in terror and starts to buck wildly. I clench his mane tightly as he tries to throw his opponent off. I pull a dagger from my boot and turn but my hand turn to lead as I notice it has pointed fangs. Suddenly Storm Runner rears.
"No!" I call as I fall into the clutches of the beast. It catches me and I peer into its face as I grip the dagger. It is an enemy, it must be defeated. There is nothing where it's face should be, only gleaming white teeth that look displaced in the otherwise black figure. It licks its lips loudly as it grabs my dagger. It slides it back into my boot and smiles. My gaze hardens and I growl at it. I refuse to give it the satisfaction of feeling fear. I banish my fear within seconds and the beast's smile disappears.
"I don't drink human blood...often," it hisses in my ear. It smiles again revealing 2 more sets of fangs. I flinch as it lowers its black head to my shoulder.

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