Rachel T., in a comment for my last post, requested a link to the first chapter of my book. I thought it might be easier to just post it again. (Make sure you tell me if you get tired of me posting this!) It's been edited from the last time, so you who have read it before might see some improvements or changes. Please feel free to critique or comment!
Trembling, Elisabeth pulled her blanket over her head, trying to block out the noises of soldiers barking out orders, women screaming, and infants wailing. Her mother hugged her close as another cry erupted. She pressed her hands over her ears, willing for it all to stop. Angry tears streamed down her face. Why? she thought, why our village?
Enemies from the East, the Galamians, wanted to own more land. They attacked the closest important village, Tiam, which was her own town. Tiam was located in Malave, a country well known for their rich, fertile lands and rolling green hills. The lush plant life was coveted by many nations, one of the main ones being Galamia.
Their adversary now tore through her beloved, community taking captives and looting homes. Elisabeth’s father, General Dralton, had bravely led an infantry of all of the males from as young as ten to the oldest of able men in a final and desperate attempt to stop the Galamian forces. Somehow, they had failed for now the Galamians tore through Tiam with no mercy.
She heard a tremendous crash as the soldiers smashed into the cottage next to their own. Elisabeth sneaked a peek at her mother. She was moving her lips in silent prayer. Fearing that the littlest thing would betray their location, Elisabeth dared not to move a muscle.
When they had hid in a secret room hidden behind a shelf, her mother had dug a hole for their most precious possessions. There was a sword, bow and arrows, a smooth stone, and some food in case they did evade the soldiers. She looked at her mother, and took in the hope and bravery from the woman she looked up to.
Elisabeth ran her fingers along some of the firewood that always seemed to be in the hidden room, and wondered if being captured by the Galamian soldiers was worse than dying by their sword.
SMASH! Elisabeth flinched and curled up into a ball. She held her breath as she heard them scour their house. The soldiers started talking and Elisabeth could hear more clearly the hate and greed in their loud voices. Suddenly, she felt a little tickling on her nose. Plugging it desperately, she hoped it would stop what was sure to happen. Elisabeth gasped for air, which brought a stern look from her mother, but she could not hold it back!
“ACHOO!” Her sneeze echoed in the room, and her mother’s eyes grew wide. She shoved Elisabeth against one of the walls.
With expert precision, she built a pile of logs around Elisabeth to hide her, and slid in front of the door to await the dark knights. Elisabeth held tightly to a chain around her neck and hoped the knights didn’t hear anything.
Yet, to her dismay, they were soon tapping on the wall as if listening for a hollow sound. The knocking came closer and closer. Elisabeth wanted to fade away. She wanted to melt into the ground and exist no longer.
The next moment they swung the door open and seized her mother. She grunted and struggled at first, but then fell limp in their arms, like a game bird caught in the powerful jaws of a hound.
“Looks like she will make a tidy sum at the market, eh boys? Smart, yet easy to find!”
They hastily bound Elisabeth’s mother with chains and led her away. Elisabeth was shocked. They did not see her! She leaned harder against the wall, trying her best to disappear. Her body quaked, as did her broken heart.
She heard cheering as a gravelly voice shouted, “Victory is ours, men! This is the final house! May this triumph please the king! Take whatever things you desire! Eat everything you want! As a sacrifice to our great god, we shall burn this house as offering for our victories! May there be many more!”
The shouting and cheering increased. Elisabeth knew she would have to get out of her house. NOW. She knocked the wood over and grabbed the shovel her mother used to bury the valuables. She rammed it against the wall. After several hasty tries, the old wood soon gave way.
Her momentum caused her to collapse on the cobblestone with a loud smack. Her palms stung, but she ignored it. Her hair, wet with her nervous sweat, whipped her face and neck as if blaming her for being a coward instead of saving her mother. Soldiers yelled at her, and she could hear the rapid clanging of armor.
She would have to make a run for it. Turning toward Mt. Keapstok, she sprinted to her favorite hiding place. It was the only place that seemed safe now.
A harsh voice yelled, “Get her, men! I do not care if she is alive or dead! Just get her!”
A woman’s voice cried out, “Elisabeth! Run! Never look back! Do not forget th-”
Elisabeth’s throat burned as she imagined the coarse material of a gag. Would the harsh Galamians strangle her mother?
“Mother!” Elisabeth screamed, but she could not turn back now.
The men ran behind Elisabeth, set on capturing her. For once, Elisabeth was glad she was the fastest female runner in Tiam. She was the errand girl, so she had a lot of practice. Elisabeth grunted and tried to make her strides longer and get into a rhythm, but she was too terrified. You are going to be caught, her mind blared.
There was a low grunt and a quick swiped at Elisabeth’s long hair; fear urged her on. She ran through woods, bitter that what had once seemed like a peaceful place now was like a cold stranger. She started running up the steep mountain path, hoping they would not follow. Elisabeth hopped from safe spot to safe spot like a rabbit expertly evading a pack of starving wolves.
Soon, she reached a level path that seemed heavenly than it had ever been to her. In her mind’s eye, she pictured the steep incline she had just surmounted. Her chest burned as if someone had emptied the sun’s heat into her lungs. Just in case someone would follow, she continued running, swerved left, and ducked into the hidden cavern. Minutes later, a man ran past. His heavy breaths drowned out all of her thoughts. The loud clomp of his footsteps faded away.
Catching her breath, she sighed and bent over.
A metallic noise reverberated through her cave like a snake ready to attack, sending shivers up her spine.
What could it be? Curiosity overcame her fear as she crept over to where the sound came from.
She whispered, “Hello? Who is there?”
It felt strange after being silent all day.
She felt a tingling on her throat, and then pain. She started to scream, but a something slapped over her mouth. Her fingers flew behind her, desperately groping for something, anything, steady.
“Who are you, girl, friend or foe?” a voice snarled in her ear.
Elisabeth wriggled free and pressed herself against one of the walls. Blood rushed through her ears, and she almost felt as if her heart had traveled up to her throat.
A person stepped out of the darkness, still holding the object, a huge sword, to her throat. He looked dirty and very tired. Elisabeth decided not to question him since she had no weapons. Slowly, she stepped aside to avoid the sword’s blade and spoke softly, “I am a friend, I-I promise I mean no harm! My name is Elisabeth and I live in Tiam, and, oh, please don’t kill me!”
The sword pointed in her direction again and pressed in harder, stinging her throat. Elisabeth blinked back tears of pain.
“I won’t,” he growled, slightly withdrawing his weapon. The sword withdrew from her neck. Elisabeth crumpled onto the ground in relief.
“At least not yet. Now, why are you here?” he demanded.
“Please, lower your voice!” Elisabeth cast a quick glance at the entrance of the cave. “I’ve had enough of running away today!”
“Answer my question! Why are you here?” he said, making his voice louder. He jabbed the sword in her direction.
“This is my cave,” she replied sharply. “I should be the one asking you who you are, and why are you here.”
“You speak with false bravery. I see that you have no weapon. Answer me!”
“I am here because those barbarians, the Galamians, have just ruined my life, and I don’t care if you kill me. I might as well be dead!” Even to herself, Elisabeth’s voice sounded thick with an emotion that even she couldn’t decipher.
The boy cleared his throat and spoke, but the sword still stayed inches from her skin.
“I am Lucas.” he sighed and rubbed his with his free hand temple, “I will not kill you, and I would suggest you leave for your own safety, but-” He lowered his sword and a flicker of interest shone in his eyes. “do you perhaps have any food?”
Elisabeth told him no, and he frowned. His clothes were worn, but and material of the garment, though faded, had fancy designs. He was probably the fifteen or sixteen-year-old son of a nobleman. She wondered why he had such a strange accent. Did all men of nobility speak like that?
“I do have food in my house, but I am not sure if the knights left yet,” she said uncertainly, rubbing her neck and wincing.
Looking to the entrance of the cave, she bit her lip and backed away. Maybe it was a bad idea to tell him about the food. He could be a thief. A dangerous thief with a sword.
As if he sensed her uneasiness, he said, “Good. I have been starving for a long time now! Tis hard to live on berries and nuts! I was just about to try dirt soup.”
Elisabeth couldn’t help but laugh, though nervously. “I will let you have some bread if you hunt for game and pick berries and nuts.” She plugged her nose. “And it wouldn’t be so bad if you could clean yourself up.”
He agreed, practically drooling over her mention of having food, but Elisabeth told him that they would have to wait a while. He groaned, but sat down in a dark corner and left Elisabeth alone with her thoughts. She sighed and leaned her head against the wall, glad to have a little bit of lightheartedness at the possibility of surviving. She still shivered as she thought of his sturdy-looking sword, and finally found a rock big enough to do some damage, just in case something happened.
Later, they both trudged toward the village. Elisabeth looked over the edge of a mountain pass. In the distance, she could see a tiny herd of her people being led to slavery. Oblivious that Elisabeth had stopped, Lucas walked away with a lively step and his chin in the air. She followed him, but sadly glanced back at the group of people moving towards Galamia.
“I promise to find you someday, Mother,” she whispered.
When they finally reached the ruined village, Elisabeth prepared herself for the fact that house would now be a pile of burned rubble. All her memories would now be ashes being blown away in the wind. Not even her family was there, being somewhere either dead or as good as dead.
“What happened here?” Lucas asked when they arrived.
Elisabeth sadly told him all that had happened to her once beautiful city. She told him of the hidden room, her fear of being found, and how they were discovered.
At her mentioning of her untimely sneeze, Lucas squinted at her. “Did that really take place? I’ve read several stories of something like that happening, you know. Mostly in fairy tales and fables.”
Elisabeth pressed her lips together. “What would I gain by lying to you? A sword through my head? Some kind of silly satisfaction? Besides, my mother paid the consequence for what I did. I should have been the one taken.”
Mentioning her mother’s sacrifice brought tears to her eyes. Why hadn’t she gone instead of her?
Lucas shrugged and continued.
At first, she held her agony in, but soon she started sobbing. Everything she had known was gone. She couldn’t trust anything or anyone.
Lucas jumped back suddenly as if she were a poisonous snake, which made her cry even harder. She felt so dirty, ugly, and alone.
He fidgeted and glanced around as if looking for someone to help her.
“Are you hurt?”
“No,” Elisabeth managed to reply.
“Tis okay Elisabeth, I am sure one day you can find her,” he said, nervously.
Sniffling and wiping the tears from her face, she nodded her thanks, and they made their way to the houses. Elisabeth wrung her hands and wiped a few remaining tears from her face.
She first went to her house. Lucas went off to the other houses to see if they had food. Elisabeth doubted they did. All the soldiers would have taken it. As he disappeared over one of the knolls, Elisabeth still wondered about his exotic-looking clothes. No man of boy in Tiam had such expensive clothing!
She stepped over fallen, smoldering wood and stood at the place where she believed the items were concealed. Elisabeth took the shovel she had used earlier and dug until her arms ached. She soon found a red blanket. In it, all the treasures were buried. She took them out, one by one, and looked at them, gently stoking each item with her fingertips. It was all she had left.
The sword sheath was hooked onto her kirtle. The bread was put aside. Perhaps there is enough for two or three weeks?
Lucas soon returned with a few jars of jam, two wooden spoons, three bowls, a stew pot, cloth with needles and thread, and some more blankets.
Elisabeth gave him half of a loaf of bread. He ate ravenously, like a starved wolf. Elisabeth decided that description fit him well. With his torn clothes, long, ragged blonde hair, and hungry blue eyes he looked like a wild animal, but his appearance was a big contrast from how he acted.
He whipped out a napkin from a fold in his clothes and patted his mouth with the strip of cloth. Elisabeth tried not to gawk, but she was amazed at how her suspicion of his status as a rich person was confirmed in a small way.
Lucas glanced up and squinted at her. “What is wrong with you? Do I have something on my face?”
He reached out for another loaf, but she slapped his hand.
“No more bread for you until we find some meat or herbs,” she chided.
His hand immediately withdrew to his side, where an empty scabbard was.
Elisabeth’s eyes widened, but she said nothing about his actions, knowing she was the one in peril, even if she was the one with a weapon.
“This bread will go splendidly with stew, you know, and I intend to save some for that purpose.” Elisabeth was skilled in making delicious dishes. Her mother had worked as a head castle cook before she had married Elisabeth’s father. Naturally, Elisabeth had learned a lot from her.
“So, tell me more about yourself.” she said, “Who is your family?”
Lucas stopped chewing his food and seemed uncomfortable.
“Well, there is not much to say. I have a family, though, but they live far away.” He wouldn’t meet her gaze, and his fingers twitched as he wolfed down remaining bits of bread.
Elisabeth looked at him skeptically, and he quickly stood up and looked back to the woods, as if it was a refuge. “I suppose that I should go out and try to find some meat and herbs.”
Elisabeth stopped him.
“Have you any weapons to hunt?” she asked.
Lucas shook his head.
She handed him the bow and arrows from her red blanket sack. “Then take these. I trust you shall return them?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
He nodded and agreed to meet her in the cave.
As soon as Lucas left, she looked around her village alone with her thoughts, remembering the people who had once occupied the houses, now silent mounds of debris.
Old Man Gluhderhum had lived in a run down hut at the end of their town. He was quite strange, but he had always been kind to her mother. She had never told her why the elderly gentleman enjoyed their company, but Elisabeth suspected that the two had known each other since her mother was a child. Was he going to be able to stand the long trek to Galamia?
There was also the chalet of the Randot family. The mother had just had baby! Were they okay? Their father had left with her father to try to fend off the Galamians.
Father. She hoped he had somehow survived. She did not usually see him. As the general, he was expected to be away from his home very often. He had been away more lately because of the disappearance of Jared.
Jared had been ten years older than she was. Starting to climb up the ladder of success as a knight, he had suddenly disappeared in action. Her dear older brother would have been twenty-four now if he were alive. When her father had come back with the news of his disappearance, she felt as if a part of her was gone. Whenever Jared came home, he would always swing a giggling Elisabeth onto his back. Once, he had given her a little heart shaped necklace. Elisabeth’s mind drifted to that wonderful day, where the sun was brighter and her family was happy.
She could still hear her mother scolding that it was too luxurious for a little girl like her.
Jared had said, “Come now, mother! Dizzy Lizzy is a big girl now! She is accountable! She also needs something to remind her of her very generous brother!”
He turned to her, “Am I correct, Dizzy?”
Jared had always called her Dizzy Lizzy; it was one of quite a few pet names for her. Elisabeth had nodded as solemnly as a judge and then had hugged him when her mother had turned to go inside.
She had noticed, and her mother had laughed and allowed him to present her with the necklace. She fingered the cool metal and smiled as she remembered him putting it around her neck, making sure he didn’t pull on any of her long hair.
“Oh, Jared,” she whispered, “You would have known what to do!”
It was pointless wishing for him. He could not come rushing in riding his trusty mare and swoop her up to take her to their mother like the hero she knew he was.
Sensible, be sensible, Elisabeth! Her mother’s words echoed in her ears. It felt as if her mother always thought that the future was a haggard-looking creature, cackling as it dangled a gold key above. Her mother had always pushed Elisabeth in everything, including keeping her overactive imagination inactive and acting like the sensible woman her mother dreamed for her to be.
Her feet slowed on the stone path and she sighed, plucking a sprig of leaves from a nearby tree. The leaves were green with purple veins and red tips. The Elisabethian tree, which she had been named after because of her violet eyes. She touched the tip of the leaf and jumped at the little shock it gave off. Only the fireproof varieties of the tree could produce the zapping sensation that this one did.
“We are so alike, aren’t we?” Elisabeth patted its sturdy trunk. “We both have a fiery streak in us, and we both withstood the firestorm.”
Her stomach rumbled like the earthquakes that occasionally hit Tiam.
Thinking about Lucas’s strange behavior, Elisabeth muttered, “I wish I had learned how to use that thing. Then I wouldn’t be at a stranger’s mercy for some food…”
Elisabeth went in all of the houses selecting various bits and pieces of what they would need. Surprisingly, the soldiers had not been feeling too covetous of their things. I suppose that is to be anticipated, she mused dryly, the Galamians do not want to lay a hand on the” poisonous” Malavite property.
She paused to pick up a little doll from a table in a house. It was the doll of a little girl Seriti who was only six years old, and was Elisabeth’s little friend. When Seriti’s parents had gone off to the market or some other place, Elisabeth had been in charge of taking care of her, though it seemed as if they were just friends having a good time.
Elisabeth sighed in mourning and tucked it in the pouch of her kirtle.
Soon, her red blanket was crammed with all kinds of supplies.
I suppose I should head back to the cave and wait for Lucas.
Who was he, anyway? He had seemed very uncomfortable when she asked him who he was.
Hopefully, time would tell.
The sun disappeared like a swift gazelle, fleeing to the comforts of the coziness of the darkness. Elisabeth’s favorite time of day was the night, when she could watch the stars, dream as much as she wanted, and let the pressures of the day drain into her subconscious mind. Though this night was no different, she wished she owned a flint. Being blind was not fun.
Besides, a fire would be heavenly for her cold fingers and toes, and they could not cook without a fire! Maybe Lucas owned one. Most boys around his age were trusted, though warily, with flints. However, to make a fire, she would need tinder and wood, which she hadn’t been smart enough to get.
Sighing, she picked up the material Lucas had found and stroked its fine fabric. Maybe she could make some decent clothing for Lucas. Elisabeth had found two dresses about her size in the village. They belonged to her best friend, Mardianna, who had violet eyes just like Elisabeth. Many confused them as fraternal twins, or at least sisters. Their eyes were a murky violet that looked like a combination of violet, light blue, and a cloudy grey, but when they were angry or happy, their eyes shone like twin stars. Unlike Elisabeth’s silky mouse brown hair, Mardianna had curly flaxen tresses. She had been an exceptional singer. Her voice could sound like a haunting wolf’s howl and the chirp of a songbird at the same time.
Elisabeth, however, sounded like a drowned screeching cat, and made up for her lack of vocal capability by bowing on her resanapth, a beautiful stringed instrument that sang like an angel. She could also play other instruments with such talent that she could make the people of her town cry at times.
The other girls on their street had taunted Mardianna and Elisabeth because of their unique eyes. Most girls from Malave had blue eyes or green ones. Elisabeth and Mardianna were told they were ugly, strange, and that they would never be accepted. Mardianna and Elisabeth bore each other’s burdens and became like sisters. Elisabeth was resolute to find and rescue Mardi, as she nicknamed her, and her own mother.
Elisabeth spoke softly; quoting one of her mother’s many sayings. “People, and the love they share, are who make a home, not the structure itself.” She looked at the floor of the cave and kicked a stone, trying to prevent her voice from sounding astringent. “Home is so very far away…”
Lucas was astonished at the precision of the arrows. He had never been very good at archery. Give him a sword, though, and you had better watch your back. He tossed up a berry from a bush he had found and caught it in his mouth, celebrating his triumphant hunting trip. Savoring the burst of the tangy flavor, Lucas tightened his grip on the amazing bow. He had already caught a rabbit. Poor creature, he thought, it was so beautiful. But what did he care? Though he did hate shooting creatures, that bread had been a prime goal.
Now, if only he could find his way home. The way that girl, what was her name?
Elisabeth. The way she had talked about the Galamians was filled with hatred and revenge. It was quite passionate and strange for a dainty-looking girl like her, so Lucas decided to stay on her good side. He hoped she was a good cook. Not eating a well-prepared meal for a week really does things to a man, and it made even hardened bread look heavenly. Maybe he could just snag a meal then leave her by herself. Lucas sighed and shook his head.
As a knight, it was not good to leave a distressed damsel defenseless. Nevertheless, he had to find his way back home! The country surrounding him looked very unfamiliar. Even if he was not allowed back home, he could at least be somewhere that was familiar. Maybe she can show me how to get back home, he thought.
Just ahead of him was a gushing waterfall. It was about twenty meters tall! The sound of it was like that of the cheers from a throng. He took a step back to drink in the beauty of the magnificent natural wonder. Snap! A sharp pain shot up his left leg.
“No!” he yelped.
A metal trap of some sort had sprung on his ankle. He desperately tried to eradicate it from his bleeding foot. Unfortunately, even his trained strength couldn’t unlock the snare, and the sight of his blood was nauseating. How could he get the trap off? Red liquid pooled around him. Help me, he thought, yet was too weak to bring the words to his lips.
Elisabeth was arranging her things when she saw the little glow from the back of the cave. What could it be, she thought. She did not have any lamps because the soldiers had taken all of the lanterns from the village. She turned to the second cave behind the primary cave that was to be her own “room”. Her red blanket was glowing!
She threw aside the cloth.
“Augh!” The light was blinding. Soon, her eyes adjusted, and she saw that the stone tablet was the culprit. Just as quickly as it had lit up, it dimmed, and a map appeared on it. It showed a drawing of all of Tiam. A little pulsing remaining light stayed. It was near Opniul Falls right next to the Realhorse Forest. What could it mean? Slowly, words appeared under the tablet. It said, “Help Him.”
“Help him? Who? Lucas?” she asked, “What is happening?”
Something crimson seeped through the tablet filling in the word etchings. She examined it closely. It was….What? Could it be? It was blood! Nearly dropping the tablet in surprise, she took her sword and ran outside with both hands around its smooth surface.
“Guide me, tablet,” she whispered.
Bewildered, she went out into the forest. What could be wrong? Was he dead? Or maybe he was stealing her bow and arrows? No, the tablet would have said “Catch Him,” or “Stop Him.” Why was the tablet etching things on itself anyways?
Come to think of it, why was she going out to help him anyway? He was a stranger! A mysterious, harsh stranger, at that! A quiet voice echoed in her head. He is a human being, just like you, and he is in need of help.
It was getting darker outside quickly. How would she able to see as soon as the sun set?
“I wish I had some light,” she muttered.
The tablet started lighting up as if it was a lantern. Elisabeth blinked in surprise. Jared had once told her that the weapons were incredible, but she had not thought that the tablet was this incredible! They had once been presented to her great-great grandfather by the king when all of the land had been in unity. She tightened her grip on the tablet and searched frantically for Lucas.
She was near the Realhorse Forest; she could tell by the horse-shaped rock that had always been on the outskirts of the forest. Where was he? She walked to the waterfall and spotted something on the ground behind some tall plants. There he was!
“Lucas! Can you hear me?”
She looked at his leg. It was surrounded by blood.
She lifted up his head. It was pale and cold. His sandy hair was stringy and plastered to his head.
She crawled to his legs and almost cried out in dismay when she saw that an animal trap was crushing his ankle. Gingerly, she felt around until she found the button. It sprung open. The snare that had crushed Lucas’s ankle yet had also acted as a tourniquet, released its prey. Blood started pouring out, covering her hands.
“No! Oh no, what do I do now?” she cried.
Carefully, she lifted his foot and wrapped up his ankle in her torn apron. It was useless. His breathing was shallow and weak. She picked up the tablet. The map had changed to an illustration of her sword. She lifted up the sword. “This cannot help any!” she cried.
Frustrated, she set it on Lucas’s foot.
“What can I do?”
Something whined behind her, and she spun around and reached her arm behind her for the sword to attack. A small dog was behind her with a fearful expression. His ears were laid back and he was whimpering.
“Come here, little man. Everything is fine.” She paused and glanced back at Lucas “I hope.” It limped over to her.
“Oh no!” she cooed,” Are you hurt? Oh, come here, I am not going hurt you!”
A bright flash lit up the grass.
“Lucas?” She turned around.
He was on the grass looking around with wide eyes.
“A-are you an angel?” he asked.
Elisabeth laughed. His eyes must have not cleared up yet.
“No, silly goose! Just me. What happened?” she asked.
Lucas shook his head as if shaking away the confusion in his brain and shrugged, looking annoyed at her calling him a “silly goose”.
“I was just about to ask you the same thing.”
Elisabeth gasped. “All of the blood! It’s gone!”
They stayed silent for several minutes, each mulling over their own thoughts.
“Who is the little scamp?” Lucas asked, pointing his chin toward the bundle of fur cowering against Elisabeth.
Elisabeth told him about the poor dog.
Lucas sat up and reached his arms towards Elisabeth. “Hand him to me, I might be able to see what is wrong.”
She lifted up the puppy and passed it to him, and he quickly examined him with care.
“There’s a scrape was on his paw, see?”
Elisabeth gasped and petted the puppy. “Poor little thing!”
Lucas ripped a portion of his shirt and wrapped it around the dog’s foot. This reminded Elisabeth that she needed to sew some clothes for him and maybe a new apron for herself. Lucas set the dog on the grass. The pup gingerly placed his hurt paw on the ground and walked over to Elisabeth. With his tiny pink tongue, he covered her hand with slobbery kisses. She picked him up and kissed his black button nose.
“I think I would be correct to say he likes you!”
They wondered about what to name him. Elisabeth liked the name Patches, but Lucas said it was too common.
“How about we name him Baby?” she asked.
Lucas rolled his eyes. How terribly girly and childish, he thought. However, the puppy did look like a baby; not only did it have adorable black eyes; it also was being cradled like a baby in her arms. Elisabeth looked over at Lucas and scowled, reminding him of a tutor he had once had who never smiled.
“By the look on your face, it is easy to conclude you hate the name.” She tapped her chin and handed the animal to him, her features softening into a gentle smile.
“I believe you should name him. After all, he is a boy.”
She got up, picked up her sword and looked down at him, her eyes sparkling even in the dim light.
Lucas rubbed the puppy’s round belly and smiled as it looked up at him with big, trusting eyes.
“I do not know what to call him. Give me some time, and I will think of a suitable name. Nothing childish or terribly sentimental.”
“Very funny,” Elisabeth sniffed, and took off.
He got up and followed Elisabeth out of the forest. Her slender form was weaving between the trees like a ghost, a very strange ghost. She held a stone that was glowing as if it was a torch. He looked at his leg. It was as if he had never hurt his ankle.
What had happened? Was the girl some kind of witch? She did have unusual eyes. Lucas tried to think of any time he had read about mysterious folk, but he could come up with nothing to fit the girl.
“Hurry up, sluggard!” she called.
Lucas shouted back, “You try walking fast while holding a delicate creature!” He picked up his pace and the puppy growled in discomfort. “I know what I shall name you, pup. Someday, you will be as strong as a wolf and as brave as a lion.” The animal yawned and fell asleep, satisfied with Lucas’s slowed steps. “You will also be the knight I never was.”
Elisabeth slowed to let Lucas catch up to her.
“I came up with a name for him,” he whispered.
“And what, may I ask, have you christened the little one?” she asked with mock importance.
“Shhhh! Do not wake him! I named him Knight.”
Elisabeth looked puzzled. “Why on earth would you name a white and tan dog Night? If he was black, however, that would surely be-”
Lucas interrupted, “I said Knight with a “k”!”
Elisabeth looked amused. “I presume you have many expectations for the little man.” She laughed, tossed her hair, and hurried ahead.
Lucas sighed. Girls, why did they never understand?
“You had better bet your silly tablet that I do!”
Her only response was laughter at his weak retort.
Lucas looked up to the sky and shook his head, wondering why he had met this strange girl. However, he was glad she had the tablet. It was quite dark when they reached the cave.
“Why did you not light a fire?” he asked.
Elisabeth put her hands on her hips and snorted. “In case you have not noticed, I am a girl. Only boys are allowed to own flints in Tiam.”
She sighed and shook her head.
Boys, why are they not capable of being more aware of their surroundings? Lucas stepped outside and took a deep breath, as if taking in the cool night air; he was going to gather tinder and rocks for the fire.
“Do not step in any leaf piles! It is most likely that they will contain a trap! I am in no mood to try to find you again!” she yelled.
“Thank you for reminding me, Oh wise one!” he answered sarcastically.
“You should be thankful I rescued your ungrateful skin!” she hollered back. “He is a thorn in the flesh if you ask me, Knighty,” she huffed.
“I heard that!” he yelled.
“Just be glad that you can still hear!” she countered.
Lucas did not answer. He was probably out of hearing range, or he thought what she had said was not worth responding to. She sat down next to Knight. “He acts so much like Jared did, that silly goose. I wish you could have met my brother, Nighty-Knight,” she sighed.
It was a full moon and it reminded her of one of the last days she had with Jared. The fireflies had flown everywhere as they sat on a hammock. Jared had captured several of the little creatures in a jar and had used it as a soft illuminator for them. She smiled as she remembered him holding her hand… “You know how mother and father always talk about the Prince of Peace and religious things? They told us how to have eternal life and told us of a Savior, who loved me, you, and all humanity enough to die, for us! He suffered a cruel agonizing death to give us a way, a way to Heaven. He was a perfect person, The King’s own Son!”
Elisabeth had nodded with her mouth slowly curling down into a frown. “No king is perfect, brother.”
“Dizzy, you know very well that the King is not of this world. He is the King of Kings!” Jared had taken a deep breath and continued, “Well, I pledged my allegiance to The King and have asked him to pardon my many trespasses. It was so incredible that he paid a horrible price for each of us, caring for you and me before we were born! He was dead for three long days, but then he rose from the dead! Is that not amazing? My friends and I talked about it before we went out to the battlefield, and I accepted Him as my King and Lord. It all wasn’t real to me, until I was out in the battlefield. I hope that one day, you shall accept Him.”
Elisabeth had laughed at him mockingly. Now, she regretted it. He had such a love in his eyes. Elisabeth wanted to learn more, maybe get to know the Prince of Peace personally, to know Him as Jared did.
Her mother and father had believed the Savior and had trusted Him with all their hearts since they were children. They prayed often together and soon Jared had joined them regularly. Elisabeth had resisted, saying that a supernatural being was just a fantasy. Was she wrong all this time?
“Please, help me,” she whispered.
Nothing changed. No huge light from the sky, an angel appearing, or some huge miracle occurring. Angrily, she kicked the wall of the cave, which brought a shower of pebbles to pelt her head and shoulders.
“Ow!” she grumbled and crossed her arms. It just wasn’t fair.
Her mother and father had always spoken of the King’s goodness. Yet why had the King let her mother and brother be taken from her? Why did He leave her alone and uncertain about the future?
“Prince of Peace, if You really exist, please give me someone to help me find my family. I do not want to be an orphan.” she held back tears and curled up with Knight to wait for Lucas to return. “I don’t want to be alone.” Not a thing moved, and for the first time of the day, there was peace. Beautiful, blessed silenced filled the cave, but not her mind.
The cries of people being captured screamed in her mind. People in shackles, stretched across in a somber procession begged her to free them. She held a ring of keys in her hand. No matter how hard she tried, she could not move to help them. Finally, she asked, screamed for help. Strong arms lifted her up and took her to the people. She tried her key on the first person, but it did not work! The same result came for the other ones. Slowly, she turned around, desperate for help. The strong arms that had been carrying her belonged to a man, but she couldn’t make out his features. Some kind of brilliant aura surrounded him, and it wasn’t just light. She felt peace and love.
He held out a key, the key in his hand. Elisabeth hesitated, not knowing how to react.
“Come dear child,” he said gently, “Take the key and free your people. You must trust and obey.”
Elisabeth nodded and with a trembling hand, took the key. Once she took the key, courage strengthened her. She bent down to unlock a person’s chains. It fit!
“Elisabeth, wake up! Knight is missing! Wake up!”
Elisabeth pried her eyes open. What a strange dream! Soon, Lucas’s words hit her.
“Knight? Is he not here?” she looked around with wide eyes. Her brain immediately set to work planning a search and rescue.
Lucas stood in the middle of the room holding Knight. He smirked at her.
“Works every time.”
“Argh! You-you pig brain! You scared me to death! Do not dare try anything like that again! Why are you so mean? I-”
“Are you finished yet?” he asked impatiently.
“It would most benefit you if you kept your mouth shut. Do you want to be bereft of bread or not?” she retorted.
Lucas immediately straightened up. “Fine, fine.”
She inwardly clapped. Finally! A way to make Lucas to do my bidding! She couldn’t help but grin, and Lucas suddenly drew back, with a suspicious look on his face.
“I’m going fetch some water from the stream near the waterfall. I shall be back as soon as I can.” she said lightly. “You start a fire and keep an eye on Knight.”
“And how do you plan to do that?” he asked “It’s pitch black outside!”
Elisabeth held up the tablet. “I shall use this!” she said. She leaned over the tablet.
“Light,” she whispered.
The tablet started glowing again. Lucas’s eyes enlarged. “How do you do that? Some kind of dark magic?” he sputtered.
“No, not magic.” Elisabeth smiled and headed out into the dark.
Even she did not know how it happened, but was sure it was not some kind of magic. Ever since she was a little girl, Elisabeth could tell that the traveling circuses with all-knowing magicians could not be authentic super-humans. Often, her eyes caught things other people missed, so she could see most of their slight of hands.
Squinting at the tablet, Elisabeth wondered if the power of the tablet had anything to with a tiny inscription. “Crestor a’hil Namathen.”
What could it mean?
Lucas took several fist-sized rocks and arranged them in a ring where the fire would be. A little problem he had developed from wandering alone was talking to himself, and now that Elisabeth was gone, it was back.
“Great. The girl has found a point to toy with me. Why is she so devious? And why does she talk so superiorly?”
He set the last rock and nodded, satisfied.
“Well, I suppose she is not too bad. She did save my life.” He spun a twig in a circle, and frowned. “But maybe she just wanted someone to protect her from those murderous knights of hers?”
Lucas arranged the wood and tinder. “I suppose that’s good enough,” he mused.
In only two tries, his trusty flint started a fire. Light flickered across the walls of the cave. With the illumination, he could scout out the cavern.
The grotto he was in was made of a reddish rock with brown stripes in it, and the natural room was shaped like a rounded diamond. The merry fire was a bit off right of the heart of the cave. He saw that there was a crack at the very back. If he were not looking closely, he would not have seen it. Taking a log from the fire to act as a torch, he walked to the break and slipped in. There was Elisabeth’s red blanket with all the objects inside, including the bread. Lucas shook his head, trying to shake off the temptation whispering in his ear to take just one bite. The compartment was an exact circle about the size for two men to squeeze in. There were drawings all over the ramparts. Whoever drew them was a very good artist. He saw a picture of a young girl with a young man about his age. He saw a huge dog, knights, a family, and three young men on magnificent snorting Arabian stallions. There was also detailed sketch of a necklace. It was in the shape of a heart with flower and vine carvings across the left side. He examined the picture of the family. The girl being held in the arms of the young man looked very familiar.
“What are you doing in here?” a female voice demanded.
Lucas turned around. Elisabeth was standing in front of him with fury written all across her face.
"I was just looking around the cave, and I saw this nook. Who drew those pictures?” he asked.
Elisabeth’s striking violet eyes glanced at the pictures.
“Tis of no concern to you.” she said coldly as she shoved him out.
Why was she so mad? He turned to speak to her. He saw a glimmer in her eye, and was startled when he saw that a tear slipped down her pale cheek.
“What is wrong? Did I do something wrong?” he said softly to himself. Elisabeth heard him and quietly answered, “My brother and I drew most of those pictures together before he disappeared in battle. He was the only person other than my best friend who really understood me. My father was a general and expected my brother to someday be a commanding officer as valiant as himself...” she trailed off as she wiped her sleeve across her eyes. “My brother detested killing people. He often resented my father, and they were bitter enemies. They also did not agree on religion. One day when they were preparing for battle, my brother accepted the Prince of Peace as his Savior, someone who was one with The King and yet also a man.”
“My whole family sensed his change. He was helpful to my mother, reconciled with my father, and he was more loving toward me. Many townsfolk started calling him Helpful Harry, though Harry is not his name.”
She sighed then continued, “Soon he was off again fighting the Galamians. My father came back all alone. My brother had disappeared. He might have been killed, knocked unconscious, or been taken captive. No one knows. My father and my mother are now gone. If I do not find them, I will be an orphan.” She looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “I do not have a clue about what to do next. My mother is somewhere in Galamia trudging towards slavery. I do not know where my father or brother is. They might as well be dead, and I have no idea why I am telling you this, other than I have no other option.” She looked down at her hands and was silent.
Lucas thought for a moment and said, “What about that tablet of yours? Can it not help you? Just ask it to tell you where your family is and what happened to them!”
“I tried.” Elisabeth told him that she had when she was getting water. However, the tablet remained still. No light, no map, and no pictures.
Lucas hesitated. He knew that the capital of Galamia had a huge black market of slave auctioning, but he had no idea how to get there! Maybe the tablet would help. He thought for a minute. Why should he even help this girl? She was nothing of his concern. Yet, she had saved him from certain death. He was nothing of her concern, and she had helped him even if she did not know who he was.
“I can help you, but I do not know how to get there. Your mother has probably been taken to Galamia’s capital, Marquetta. It is known for its slave trade. I cannot promise that anything will be safe, but I can do my best to keep us away from danger. I will try to help you find your mother. If I do, I ask that I may use your tablet to help guide me to my home. Afterwards, of course,” he said.
Elisabeth smiled at him gratefully, but she looked as if there was still doubt in her heart.
“What if we do not?” she asked meekly.
Lucas turned to her, trying to make his voice sound louder and more in control. “If we do not, I shall not return to my family. I will do my best to track down someone who is of your family.” He turned around, walked to the fire, and stared into the flames as if the person was in there. “If that also fails, I will take you somewhere safe. I will not let anything happen to you, just as you did not let anything happen to me. Is that a deal?” he asked, turning to face her.
Elisabeth nodded, and though she said nothing, the gratefulness in her eyes spoke volumes.
She then cooked a flavorsome meal for them, and they both ate until they were full. Elisabeth even cooked some meat separately for Knight. Later, by the light of the tablet, Elisabeth and Lucas walked back to the village to return some of the supplies they would not be able to use during their trip. Elisabeth wrapped up in her blankets in her little cave, and Lucas with Knight slept near the entrance of the cave, close to the waning fire.
Smiles formed on their weary faces as they both dreamed of the glorious adventure ahead of them. Little did they know that the journey ahead of them would be more exciting and dangerous then they ever would have imagined.