It's a bit later than expected, but here is a chapter from Alara's Curse. I hope you enjoy it.
They took their time, moving around the villages this time. Not wanting to come head to head with anyone that might want to turn her into Talia. Declan would be taking Landon back through the front gates of the palace. The identical faces of the two would no doubt put to rest the claim that Alara had Landon murdered. Surely, the people wouldn’t believe the false account that she’d been responsible for the king’s illness and subsequent death. If he’d passed by now. Once the accusations had been cleared up, Alara could return to the palace. Though she had no intention of becoming the queen regent, or queen mother.
The fact that Declan seemed so unwelcome to the idea that she, not Talia was his mother, had hurt her. It’s not as if she knew how to be a mother to an almost fully grown man, being slightly his elder, since the curse left her as an awkward nineteen-year-old girl. The boys themselves we just recently sixteen. She couldn’t be anyone’s mother. Maybe she would find a life for herself away from court. Away from the throne. Something she had dreamed of doing her entire life. That is, until she fell in love with her intended.
Tomas had been a hot-tempered teen. And an even angrier man as his father continued to reign over his every decision. Being in his presence made Alara nervous at first. As time went on, she was able to witness the gentle side of him as well. That’s the side she had loved. The side she still loved. The man she would forever mourn.
As they descended the rock hill Alara had been injured on, she was thankful for the fact that her thighs were firmly pressed against the sides of the mare. Feeling more secure than before, she pushed the animal to move swiftly down the embankment. She’d finally remembered how the two of them used to move together. They were both fearless and brave. The protests from behind her, told her they only thought she was reckless, or fragile. Just as Tomas first thought when they rode together. When she reached the bottom, she let Queenie prance in circles. She looked uphill. Landon had descended from his hose and was leading it on foot. Scarlett rode with Cedric, having arrived on foot. Her eyes were squeezed so tightly, it looked as if she were in pain.
“Fear of heights, Lady Ilael?” Alara called up to her.
“No, majesty. A fear of falling on rocks.” She yelled back. Her eyes still squeezed so tightly the rest of her face was scrunched.
“Oh, been there.” Alara had to laugh despite herself. The memory of the journey up the rocks made her wince and she thought better of the smile she still harbored. She calmed the mare and continued forward only a few feet. A racked in the distance made her stop in her tracks. Queenie bucked backward, and Alara made quick work of calming the animal. She leaned forward and rubbed a hand from the top of the animal’s head down her mane. “Shh, now girl. We don’t want trouble with them.”
“Well, then you’d be too late.” A grim looking man walked out from behind a tree. He looked as if he’d been rolling around in a pig pen for much of his life. The skin on his face looked as if it were falling off. Dirt caked in the folds, and fell out a little when he spoke. “What do we have here? A pretty little girl and her horse. Did you wander to far from home little one?”
“No, I am heading back home.” She made sure she sounded docile, and tepid. Nothing like a queen. Hoping above all odds he wouldn’t notice the men riding down the hill, she tapped her horse with her heel, making a show to take off.
The man lunged at her and grabbed the reigns from her hand. “Oh, no. I don’t think you’ll be getting very far. You seem to be bloodied all over.” She looked down at her dress, then to her leg where he placed the tip of his finger. “Seems this isn’t the first trouble you’ve found today.” His finger trailed from her knee and started going north to the shortened hem of her dress.
A hand grabbed the man by the throat and pulled him backwards. He was thrown from his feet and landed on his backside next to the tree he’d been hiding behind. “It seems you’ve found some trouble of your own, I reckon.” Cedric spoke low, so as not to take on the attention of the people off in the distance.
“So, you are good for something.” Declan moved next to Cedric. Scarlett looked pale, but was adjusting to being on foot again.
Landon stood beside Alara watching on as his brother tried to take charge of the situation. When Declan moved toward the man, Cedric put up his hand to stop him. “No need to do anything. We should just go. We don’t need to attract any more attention.” He said, then added. “Highness.”
“Right.” Declan agreed with the guard. Then looking towards the man on the ground, “Your lucky were in a bit of a hurry. Or you may have very well lost your head this day.”
The man didn’t move, didn’t advert his eyes. He lay there looking at the prince and Cedric wide eyed. Then without prompt he started laughing at the two. “What is so funny?” Cedric asked, placing the point of his sword at the man’s neck, just under his chin. He’d moved so fast Alara hadn’t even known he possessed skill enough to accomplish it. She hadn’t even seen him remove the weapon from its scabbard.
When the man next spoke the air around him filled with a noxious smell. He slithered his words as if her were a snake. “You better run princey.” He looked back at Alara who hadn’t dismounted. “They’re looking for that one. No price for a livin queen traitor either. They want her head on a spike n delivered to the palace.”
“Who?” Declan stepped forward.
“Oh, you know. Just your mother. She says that little red head killed the king, and her own child.” He hissed. Laying in the ground it looked as if he’d been derived from it. His clothes and skin were the same color green as a rotting sewer. Dirt and mud stained the cracks in his hands. His nails were brown, and the few teeth he did have were cracked and broken.
“We need to go.” Cedric pulled on Declan’s cloak, but he didn’t budge. Instead he pulled his sword from is sheath and pushed it to the man’s chest. Alara wished she could see his face. She wondered what had changed in him to spark such behavior. He lifted the man’s chin with his blade. Making him look up at his face. At that moment Alara swore she was staring at Tomas.
“She is not my mother.” He turned to point at Alara with hissword. The motion made her swallow hard. Her eyes turned frightful for just a moment. “She is my mother,” he stated, not taking his eyes off the man. “And that is my brother.” The sword moved to point at Landon, then went back down to the man’s chest. “So, your wrong.” He growled under his breath and turned abruptly from the man. His sword held up to slide back where it belonged.
Cedric copied the prince and mounted his horse. “My Lady?” He held out his hand and pulled Scarlett on the mount to sit behind him.
Landon mounted the horse behind his brother. They needed to move quickly before they were noticed by the large group of men cajoling around in the woods. Walking wouldn’t get them away quickly. He looked about as unnerved as Scarlett had riding down the hill. Alara realized he probably never even rode a horse before.
Alara tried not to think of all the firsts Landon was having. She tried to keep her breathing even and her horse slow and steady as they got closer to the horde. Further inspection told her they were all the same kind of men like the one that had stopped her. Which meant leaving him alive, left him able to tell the rest they were there. She looked behind her to Cedric and Scarlett. Then rubbed her heels on the mare and flicked the reigns, making the animal speed up a bit to get next to her son.
He looked at her with a scowl and she pointed at the group, hoping he would see what she had. To her amazement, he moved his hand high above his head so Cedric could see him, and nodded to her. They moved in unison. Speeding their animals to a slow run, as to keep from making as much noise as possible. Had the ground been covered with dried leaves, they might not have accomplished such a feat. However, just as they thought they were going to be able to get by without attention drawn on them, the man they’d left to his own devices must have gotten to his friends.
Hollering came from behind them and they put caution to the wind and speed the animals to the point of breaking. Quickly they had men closing in all around them. Spears were thrown, narrowly missing them. Swords were waved over head as they gained on them.
Alara took a chance to glance behind her to make sure Cedric was close by. She almost missed the spear that was meant for her horse’s chest. She pulled back on the reigns and knead her boots into Queenie, who jumped up and over the spear as it lunged into the soft ground beneath them.
“Pay attention.” Declan yelled at her.
Scarlett had one arm squeezed around Cedric and the other plucked a spear from the air. She slashed at the men as they got too close. She managed to take one down with a jab to the throat, but lost the spear.
Alara was tempted to pull the sword she carried free of the scabbard. She knew she wouldn’t be able to hold it with one hand, since her muscles were still strengthening. So, she decided not to, letting the rest defend her. She focused on riding.
“Alara, look out.” Cedric called from behind her as a man on a beast she’s never seen before reached out and grabbed her by her hair. Her arms flew back to the hand that held her releasing her hold on her mount. The hands released her, but it was too late. She fell from her horse to the ground.
Declan heard the scream come from her as she fell and rounded his horse. He pulled his sword from his belt and Scarlett jumped backward off the animal she rode with Cedric. She produced a blade from inside her red cloak, twirling it like a baton. She worked the large metal blade as if it were an extension of herself.
Declan dropped to the ground and ran to Alara. Crouching down to draw her up by her arm, he held his sword up. Metal hit metal and he tried to push back with the weight of his body. He had no choice but to let go of Alara so he could fight his attacker. Scarlett walked towards them. She swung her blade back and forth in front of her like a propeller. With each swing of her arm the metal glowed. First it was just close to the hilt, then it spread bright and true all the way down to the tip. It was curved like a sickle in the middle, but wider with etchings of words and a picture of a wolf in the blade. Her eyes looked as if they glowed yellow as she swiped her blade at one of the men. Slicing his abdomen open, his entrails spilled out over the ground before the man had a chance to fall.
Alara flinched at the sight. She forgot herself, until Cedric reached down for her. He tucked her under one arm while his sword stabbed at the flesh of another man who’d tried to get to her. Landon came to stand on the other side of her. He too brandished a sword. It was long and sleek. The hilt completely black, with a single red ruby rested in the handle, in the shape of a teardrop. The metal was dark as coal, but when Landon swung it the blade pulsed red. It was a sword Alara remembered from her stolen life.
Alara regained herself for a moment placing two fingers in her mouth and blew hard. The whistle did the job, turning the horses around, and to a halt. She shrugged Cedric off her and drew her own weapon. A family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. She’d found it hanging in her room when she’d woken. Someone had taken special care to make sure the metal didn’t tarnish. It looked as good as it had when her father handed it to her on her wedding day.
The hilt was made with a special metal forged in the fires of Ikrith, by the eldest sorcerer in the land, Iren. The four emeralds were cut into squares and placed together to form a king’s cross. Diamonds lined the hilt where it met blade. The etchings ran down, much as Scarlett’s, but there was no wolf. Just flame. And when she brandished the blade in front of her attackers she thought she saw them hesitate.
“You know who I am?” she watched as the three of them nodded.
The largest one stepped forward. “I’d care a little more about it, if I thought you knew how to use that thing, little girl.”
“Well, then I guess it’s time I remembered my lessons.” She held it with two hands, still not sure of her strength. The men laughed at her for it and lunged.
She side stepped the first one as he came forward using his weight and height as a weapon alone. She swung the blade up with both hands. She missed and the weight of the sword sent her to the ground.
“Are you out of your mind?” Declan asked while fighting off two of the men. His sword lay on the ground several feet away.
The man barreled past Alara when she bent with the weight of her weapon. She picked it up again and turned on her heel. The other two were content to stop attacking and stand laughing at her back. She let the tip of the blade rest on the ground. Holding it with one hand.
“Come on, little girl. Pick up your bat.” The man goaded her, his voice deep and gargled.
She raised her shoulders. Squared her feet and remembered what her father told her. When he lunged for her again she lifted her blade from the ground and swung with all the strength she had in her. The blade flamed red like her hair and sliced his head from his shoulders. She spun around, the hem of her dress lifted with the cool air that engulfed her as she moved, her blade still aflame, and swung at the two behind her. They were so stunned; she relieved them of their heads before they attempted to move.
She placed her other hand on the hilt and swung the blade to the left the right, twisting the flame in front of her into a figure eight. Declan, sword back in his hand moved his back up to Alara’s. She looked back at him and he gave her a nod. Landon made his way to them, a large grin plastered on his face.
“Great work. Think you can do it again?” He pushed his shoulder against hers.
“Bring it.” She said looking at Cedric who’d snapped a man’s neck, and gave her a wink of his eye.
Scarlett was making her way to the horses. Her blue blade glowing as she sliced into a man who jumped from a tree. She severed his body before he made it to the ground. Blood covered her red cloak, but blended in.
“To the horses.” Declan yelled before they had a chance to get attacked again.
The four of them turned and followed Scarlett who’d had all the horses by the reigns. Cedric jumped up on Queenie and pulled Alara in front of him. Scarlett rode behind Declan, and Landon alone. Alara looked over Cedric’s arm to Landon. He had a gash across his face. Declan had several scrapes, and a spear sized puncture wound in his shoulder. She couldn’t properly look at Cedric to know if he were hurt, or Scarlett, but for the most part they all seemed ok. For that she was grateful.