I rushed to the house and bolted through the door. Colleen was in the kitchen wrapping food and other supplies that we would need. I ran to my room and hurriedly began to pack, grabbing clothes, money, and other valuables such as my dagger and my bow. After packing my essentials, I ran into Colleen’s room, grabbed her bag (which she had already packed) and threw both bags onto the floor of the living room. Struck with the thought of transportation, I sprinted to the village stables, where I managed to quickly talk the stable master into selling me a large brown horse at a much lower value than it was worth. I prided myself for my bargaining skills; I had once gotten a satchel for three pennies when it was at least worth two silver coins. I grabbed the bridle and led it over to the house. Once again, I had a divine revelation and remember we would need saddle bags. So I once again ran over to the stables and purchased some saddlebags and ran back to the house. I began loading our supplies onto the horse. Colleen came out holding the final satchel; I lifted her up, and then climbed on in front of her. We started to ride.
that moment, the full force of our current situation struck me. We were leaving Win willow, and we probably would not return for a very long time--that is, if we ever did return. A well-known farmer who lived here once insulted a soldier; the next morning he was found hung on a tree just outside the village. If we stayed, we would die. But before we left, there was a few more stops I needed to make. I rode through the town and round the shops, buying this and that. I was getting food, blankets, and water sacks for the journey. One last thought struck me and we rode to the Archery shop; it was dark and quiet inside. I jumped off the horse.
“I’ll be right back”, I assured Colleen, walked to the back to the secret door and slipped inside. Feeling my way around in the darkness, I made my way over to the arrow rack. I grabbed three quivers, some extra string, and an arm guard. I took one last look at the shop; I was going to miss this place
“Thank you, my old friend”, I whispered to the darkness. "This can be my month's pay.” Walking out, I threw the quivers over my shoulder, and then climbed back onto the horse. We took off at a gallop, all the houses and shops rushing past us. I had only been outside the city a few times, but I had forgotten what a beautiful sight it was. The trees ran along the path to the gate out of Win willow. There were flowers everywhere, and the grass was lush and green. Birds were chirping in the air and everything seemed at peace. I knew I couldn’t admire the view; we needed to leave town, and quickly. Getting a head start, however small, on Meldon would mean the difference between life and death. I slapped the horse’s backside and we ran ahead. I couldn’t go to fast, as the supplies would be rattled, and I didn’t feel like losing any water. The trees all smelled of sap, the wind was in my hair, and bugs were whizzing by. It felt good to be riding again. I hadn’t been on a horse in a long time, not since the tournaments. I shuttered and focused on the path. After about five minutes, I saw the main gate up ahead. I was about to bring the horse into view, when I stopped short. There were guards patrolling the walls, and one blocking the gate.
“Son of a Jackal!” I cursed under my breath and pulled the horse over to the side. I grabbed my bow and a quiver of arrows. “Stay here until I come back.” I whispered to Colleen. She nodded and I crept into the trees. Sneaking up to the wall, I flattened myself against it. Peeking over the side, I saw that the two guards on the wall were seated, and therefore hardly visible, while the one on the ground stood grumbling.
“Hey Floyd! When do I get to join in?” The guard on the ground complained as he looked up at his friends. “It’s awfully dull down here.”
“After this hand Jim!” a guard on the wall shouted back. "It won’t take long, Jerry is about to lose this month’s wage!" Floyd laughed and went back to his game. Jim sighed and sat down on a tree stump. He lit a pipe and started puffing on it, and I realized this was my opportunity to strike. I jumped out and knocked him over the head with my bow before he had a chance to see me. He fell to the ground and lay there without moving. I knelt down and turned him over to make sure he wasn’t faking. One down, two to go. I thought as I pushed the guard over again. Then a cry came suddenly from up above, and Floyd laughed with joy.
“Take that Jerry!” he said, "It's your turn to go down. Hey Jim! You can come up now.” He was silent for a moment “Jim?” he called a second time. Jim was unable to respond, as he was currently knocked out cold and drooling on the floor. Suddenly, I heard footsteps on the stairs.
“Crab nuggets!” I said to myself, my eyes searching desperately for a means of escape. While I couldn’t go out from under the cover of the arch, I couldn’t very well just stand and wait for them to capture me either. Then my eyes drifted to the gate. It was shut, leaving a perfect hiding place on the top. I grabbed the bars and started to climb. I reached the top of the gate just as the guards were walking out of the door that lead to the top of the wall. Noticing Jim, one rushed to help, while the other stepped out to have a look around. Seeing a golden opportunity, I drew my dagger and let go of the bars. I fell towards the guard and brought the butt of my dagger down on the crown of his head. There was a loud crack, and then the guard gave a cry and crumpled to the floor. The last guard spun around. Seeing me with his two unconscious companions, he drew his sword and charged. I threw my dagger to distract him. When he ducked to dodge it, I knocked the sword out of his hands, and then smashed his head into the side of the wall.
Feeling quite pleased with myself, I retrieved my dagger and walked through the door. I came up on the top of the wall. It was a big wall, about ten feet high. I looked around for the wheel to raise the gate, and saw it at the far end of the wall. I started to walk over to it, but, when passing the table, happened to recognize the game that Floyd and Jerry had been playing. It happened to be a game that I was quite good at playing. There were lots of different names for this game, but the main one was Crickfin. And they were playing the two player way. I grabbed one hand and put the seven in the right place. That will give one of them an advantage I thought. Then I remembered we were facing imminent death, so I quickly threw the cards down and turned the wheel to pull open the gate. I bolted down the stairs and ran to Colleen. Jumping behind her on the horse, I snapped the reins and we darted under the gate just as the guards began to recover.
After ten minutes of galloping, I slowed the horse down to a walk and continued on slowly from there.
“Killian," Colleen said in a scared tone, "what are we going to do now?”
“Don’t worry Colleen, I’ll tell you when we camp tonight.” We were halfway down the road that led to Fellon ford when night fell. Going a little ways off the road, I started a fire. I pulled out the sleeping rolls, and laid them out next to each other. I got out some bread and meat from my satchel, making a small dinner. Then we sat down on the makeshift beds and faced each other.
“So, now that we have a moment to talk, I’ll tell you what we are going to do.” I said pulling out a map from my satchel. “We are making our way to Fellon Ford; they are letting in refuges who have escaped from Meldon.”
“Are you sure?” Colleen asked “what if it is not true?”
“Then I’m going to have to make it true,” I said. "It’s the best option we have.” We sat there silently for a second when I noticed that Colleen had begun quietly crying. I held out my arms and she fell into them.
“It’s all my fault that we had to leave," she said between sobs.
“No it’s not!” I said, rubbing her back soothingly. "There was nothing you could have done. There were three of them against you. It was impossible odds."
“Not for you” she said and started sobbing again. I realized she was right; I had taken the guards out with relative ease. Keeping these thoughts to myself, I tried to comfort her. We sat there in the same position until she fell asleep. I gently picked her up and laid her down on her sleeping roll, covering her with the blankets. Lying down on my bed, I slowly drifted off to sleep.
I awoke the next morning and rolled out of my blankets. I was very drowsy, and smacked myself to pull my senses together. I lay down with my hand under me, trying to get a kink out of my back that had appeared overnight. I painfully realized how long it had been since I had camped out. I light a fire and started cooking some breakfast. It was clam in the air, the birds were singing. I tried to push the thoughts of what we would do when we got to Fellon Ford to the back of my mind. I was afraid. Afraid of not getting there, afraid of what might happen when we did get there, and afraid that I would fail Colleen. She had come to depend on me for just about everything. I sighed and looked at her, lying peacefully asleep. I knew we had to go, but she needed some rest. I waited until about 9:00, and felt like I couldn’t wait any longer. I walk over to her and gently shook her awake.
“Hey, Coleen? Come on, it is time to get up, breakfast is getting cold.” She grumbled and dragged herself out of bed. It was silent as we munched on our food, both of us trying to avoid talking about what was going to be ahead. After breakfast, I packed the horse and we were on our way at about 10:30. The trees didn’t last for much longer. They suddenly stopped and opened into a large field of tall grass. I didn’t like the idea of traveling in open land, but it was clear that was our only option. That is, if we didn’t go through the Dewlong. I shuttered and looked over a ridge at the massive jungle in the distance. Many people had tried to venture into the marshes, but none succeeded. That is, if they did succeed, they didn’t come back to let us know. The marshes were said to be filled with terrible creatures. But it was all speculation, because once again, no one had ever come back. There had been a man on his way to Win Willow, This being before Meldon had dominated the game board, who claimed to have seen a unicorn and had shot at it. He missed and in turn since he tried to kill the unicorn, the unicorn told him to bring him tree sap to polish his horn. It was comical at first, but in the end, with all the drinking and all, the man had been tied up and sent to Meldon to be put in a mad house. We continued down the path. I tried to look like I was happy, even though I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Got off and walked for a time, to give the horse a rest. I stared blankly at the ground, trying to avoid stepping on rocks. The horse plodded along, bearing Colleen and the heat of the sun on his back. Maybe I should give the horse a name and stop calling him “horse” I thought to myself. I was trying to think of a name for the massive brown creature, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
A patrol of soldiers was walking down toward us through the fields. I switched myself to alert mode and cursed myself for being ill observant. The soldiers were clad in red, with a large bundle of wheat painted on their shields and breastplates. “Farmlands” I muttered to myself. I scanned the fields for some sort of cover. But as stated, they were fields, not forests. A few bushes were all that was in sight, and the grass was not tall enough to hide them. I looked back in the direction of the woods, but they were hardly in sight and with two passengers, our horse had no chance of out running the Soldiers horses.
“Hey, you!” A gruff voice cried, and I turned see the Soldiers charging at us. I pulled myself onto the horse and started charging back towards the woods. I was racking my brains to think of a way to slow them down. But Colleen didn’t know how to ride, and I couldn’t use my bow and steer at the same time. Suddenly, the horse cried out and I found myself on the ground.
I shook off the shock and stood up. The horse had been shot with an arrow in the flank, and was now sprawled out on the ground. Colleen was lying a bit to the side not moving. I ran over to her and made sure she was still breathing. Her chest was going slowly up and down, and I sighed with relief. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the soldiers were closing fast. I ran to the horse and grabbed my bow. There were seven of them, and one of me, but fighting was now the only option I had. I threw on my quiver and drew an arrow. They were about a hundred yards away. I pulled back, and let my arrow fly. It met it’s mark in one of the soldiers shoulders, and he fell screaming to the ground. I drew again and shot, but this one did not meet as much luck as the first, it embedded itself in one of their shield, and then they were upon us. I ducked under one of their swords and drew my dagger, stabbing the horse in the throat. It collapsed and flattened the man riding him. I turned and was knocked onto my back by a shield in the face. I spat out some blood and rolled back onto my feet. They started to circle me, so I threw my dagger at one of the riders and jumped onto his horse. I pulled an arrow out of my quiver and stuck it into the back of the man’s neck. Blood spurted out and I threw him off. I shot another arrow into another rider’s back, and he slumped over. I felt fairly good about myself, when my horse stepped into a hole and I fell with the horse crashing on top of me.
I was dazed, my vision blurry. I shook it off and managed to wiggle my legs out from under the horse. I stood with my head spinning. My head cleared and I looked around. The last soldier was gone. I sighed and looked around. The horses from the fight, that were still standing, were scattered over the field. Then, just on the ridge of one of the hills, I spotted the last rider. I squinted and saw something shaking and fighting the soldier as he road. I sick feeling filled the pit of my stomach and I turned to where Colleen was laying. There was nothing but outline of her in the grass. I jerked my head back over my shoulder, and saw the soldier riding over the hill into the sunset.