Caelum was beginning to think that riding out of the capital and blindly galloping into the forest was not one of his better ideas. He knew that his horse was of a breed that could outrun all of his guards and on that thought he just wanted to get away. That’s how he found himself wandering through a forest that was much more dark than he had anticipated without the slightest clue as to where he was. At least his injury from earlier had stopped bleeding and his ribs had gone to no more than a dull ache at this point. Caelum couldn’t understand why those people had attacked him, did that realize who he was? He had been so careful when he snuck out of the palace.
His horse came to a halt and perked his ears to the right. Caelum also looked to the right and his eyes widened. There were yellow eyes, and they were coming towards them. Caelum yanked the reins to the left and dug his heels into the horse’s side, but the encouragement was hardly needed as they took off through the dark trees.
Leah dumped her supplies onto the ground in the small cave that she had deemed her home and slumped onto her bed. You wouldn’t think that walking around town and back would be exhausting, but she found herself more tired than she had been in weeks. Leah kicked off her boots and rolled over on the bed, it was close to sunset anyway, and sleep would be fine. As soon as she closed her eyes a screech echoed through the forest. Her eyes shot open. Yurdk. And it sounded like a large group. What were they doing that caused them to be so loud at this time in the evening? They only hunted during the daytime because their vision was god-awful.
Leah hurried to take her dress off, thankful that she had kept pants on under it, and put on her overcoat. She tugged her mask over her head to lie around her neck for now and grabbed her cloak on the way out of her room. She snatched her bow and quiver as well as her two short swords. It sounded as though there were a lot of them and she figured that she might need the extra help of her swords tonight. Grabbing her small bag and strapping it to her belt to hang at her hips she was out of the cave and headed towards the screeches of the yurdk at a sprint.
Caelum pushed his horse to go faster, but the creatures almost had them surrounded. He wondered how fast these things were able to run if they could catch up to his horse with such ease. The shrieks that they made grated on his ears. He ducked under a branch, but struggled to stay on his horse when it came to an abrupt halt.
“Oh, this is not good my friend.” Caelum mumbled under his breath to his horse when he realized that they had become surrounded. His sword had been put on the saddle by the guards and he had to remember to thank Gabriel if he came out of this alive. The more he squinted in the dark the more pairs of eyes that he saw. There had to be at least twenty or thirty of these mangled creatures around him in the clearing. As they approached him he was able to see what they truly looked like and was astonished that he had never heard of such creatures before when they lived so close to his home. Their skin was varying shades of brown and their faces were misshapen, their clothes were torn and hung off of them in strange places, and their yellow eyes glinted in the darkness. Caelum pulled his sword from its sheath and dismounted. He had never been able to fight well on horseback anyway. He held his sword up and prepared for the fight to begin.
Leah rushed through the trees and ducked under wayward branches. She knew this forest well, but everything was more dangerous as the light left. Leah knew that she was getting close and climbed a nearby tree in the hopes of a better look at things. Jumping from tree to tree she came upon a clearing that had at least twenty or so of the yurdk. Normally they travelled in groups of five to ten at the most. This many in one spot was almost unheard of unless you were near one of their settlements if you could call it that. Leah couldn’t say that she was particularly surprised to find the nobleman from earlier in the middle of a skirmish in the clearing. The way he had galloped out of the capital and into the forest hadn’t given her a second thought earlier, but she supposed that those guards hadn’t been able to find him when they went after him. She sighed to herself. Was she to get him out of all of his fights today? He certainly had a knack for picking the wrong ones. She pulled her mask over her mouth and nose and got out her bow just as she had the night before. Leah knocked an arrow, slowed her breathing, counted her heartbeats, exhaled, and let the arrow fly. The arrow had barely hit its target when the fighting ceased and all of the yurdk ignored the man they had just been fighting. Leah’s eyes widened. There is no way that they could have planned this. She shot another arrow and found one shot in her direction by one of the yurdk. They could shoot arrows now?! Just her luck. Leah scoffed at her luck and pulled her hood over her head. Fine, if they wanted to fight head on then they could fight head on. Leah removed her swords from their sheaths and leapt off of the branch that she had been sitting on. She didn’t even waste time before she was moving.
Caelum was now beyond confused. The fighting came to a complete stop, an arrow flew out of nowhere, and now there was a fighting shadow? Was he missing something? He kept his sword up and at the ready, but none of the creatures seemed interested in him anymore. They only cared about this warrior in black. Caelum watched the warrior move, it was like watching water traverse around a rock. Their fighting style was so fluid and smooth that he couldn’t look away. He was brought back to reality when one of the creatures knocked the sword out of his hands and shoved him to the ground. He grabbed his sword just in time to impale his attacker and decided to help the other warrior in his fight.
Of the two, Leah knew that she was a better fighter by far, but she can’t say that she didn’t appreciate his help in the fight. She didn’t know if she could even take down all of the yurdk without help. In the back of her mind she registered that there were arrows flying around, but if she kept moving she knew that the odds of getting hit were slim and pushed it out of her immediate thoughts. Block, slash, duck and kick, another one down, and thirteen to go. Don’t slow down. This is a sprint. Another arrow just missed. The guy is about to be attacked from behind. Slash behind the knees and then impale. Twelve to go. The dance continued for another few minutes in the same way until the man cried out. Leah snapped her eyes up and found that he had been shot with an arrow in his shoulder. Just great. She shoved away the yurdk that was about to bear down on her and stabbed one of her swords into it. Her free hand grabbed a knife from her belt and it flew towards the archer, hitting its mark. A blow to her side knocked her off balance, but she rolled away from the hit and took in her numbers. Only four more to go. Leah picked up the pace. She knew that she was getting tired and needed to finish this fight before she got to that point. She turned and was met with mud in her eyes. Wiping frantically at her eyes she dropped her right sword and swung with her left sword and feeling the contact that was made. Three to go. She closed her eyes and calmed her mind down. She had been trained the fight without her eyes, she could do this. Just listen. She heard a footstep to her right. Dropping to the ground she swung a leg out and stabbed down, making contact again. A cry to her left, she swung with strength behind the sword and her arm shuddered with the impact. She felt a sting at her side and found the last yurdk. She grabbed his weapon that had cut her side and pulled it into her blade. Once Leah heard him hit the ground and heard nothing else she wiped her eyes with a corner of her cloak to get the mud out. She blinked a few times for her blurry vision to focus and looked around for more yurdk. Leah didn’t see any and walked over to retrieve her other sword using a corner of her cloak to clean the blade before slipping it back into its sheath under her cloak. A nicker caused her head to snap up and see a horse walk into the clearing. Oh yeah. She had almost forgotten about the man. Double-checking her mask she walked over to the frightened horse with an outstretched hand and patted its neck.
“Hey boy. I’m surprised that you didn’t run off and go home.” Leah muttered to the horse while checking him for any major cuts or scrapes.
“His name is Zephyr.” Leah barely glanced back at the voice. She didn’t want any noble to see her face if she could help it.
“It’s a nice name.” She said in a lower voice, hoping to keep her gender ambiguous.
“Thank you for your help. Are you the shadow warrior that everyone talks about in town? You certainly have an impressive set of skills. Where did you learn to fight like that? Why do you live here?” during his questions, that she had no intention to answer, he got up and she remembered that he had gotten shot during the fight, “What were those things anyway?”
“They’re called yurdk.” She said as she took the reins of the horse and led it over to him, motioning for him to get on. He looked at her with a frown.
“Why do you wear that hood and mask? How do I know that I can trust you?” He asked her. She rolled her eyes under her hood and began to walk off. She wanted him out of her forest.