Before the Island: The Hunt

Welcome to song post number two!

This post’s song is Cursum Perficio by Enya that you can listen to here. If it weren’t for this song, I don’t think the scene after the second page break would have happened in Treomynd. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you, once you finish reading, of course.

***

Aurora finished gathering her few possessions into a small satchel bag that fit nicely over her shoulder. It was the same bag she used to carry her mistress’s jewelry box to Christopher the day they met. She sat back in her cot and sighed. That day was only a few months ago, but it seemed like a decade. Her right hand clutched the wooden sun necklace Christopher made; her most valuable possession. Her dreaded wedding to Wolsey was tomorrow, and this was the last night she was going to escape the castle to see Christopher and MoonStone. The three of them were finally ready to start a new life in the forest together. They decided to meet at their usual spot in the forest clearing, and journey to MoonStone’s master, where they would marry and take refuge until Christopher could build a decent home. Once that was accomplished, they would visit Christopher’s estate to rescue his mother and siblings from his alcoholic father.

Despite her being sad to leave the only home she had, Aurora’s stomach fluttered with excitement. The idea of living in the forest with Christopher and MoonStone made her giddy, and there were so many new people to meet! She would have plenty of extra company with her soon to be mother and siblings-in-law, and MoonStone promised to introduce her to his own mate, and his master of course. “I hope they like me,” she thought. “I’ve never been excited to meet people!” She sighed again and looked around the room. Her three other ladies maids were sound asleep on their cots. She got up and walked over to the window that was cracked open.  The summer night breeze caressed her face like an old friend. She perched on the window sill to leap out onto the walkway below.

“Don’t look back,” she whispered.

Heavy footsteps ran through the hallway just outside of her dormitory, accompanied by  loud, gruff voices. Aurora froze in the windowsill. They came closer and closer, until she could hear the knob on the door start to jiggle. Panic jump-started her heart, and she leapt from the window just before she heard the door fly open. The male voices combined with the terrified shrieks of her ladies maids made her legs kick into overdrive, and she sprinted for the nearest door to the staircase down. Just when she put her hand on the door, it was blown open by a group of about 20 men running through in full armor. Aurora was thrown back behind the door against the castle wall so hard that the back of her head throbbed and the wind was knocked out of her lungs. Once the stream of soldiers stopped, she scurried around the door and ran inside before it could shut again. She ran down the stone staircase as quickly as she could while recovering her breath. At the bottom she managed to find the designated window that she had always used as a launchpad to land in a wheelbarrow full of soft hay down below. She coughed and sputtered in relief and propped open the glass window. There seemed to be no major trouble outside at the moment, but the wheelbarrow was gone! It was about a 10 foot drop without the soft landing.

“Help! Help! We’re under siege!” Aurora heard the cook’s calls from the kitchen a little ways down the hallway.

“Quiet old man!” came a rough voice. Footsteps thundered down the hallway toward Aurora. It sounded like another group of men that would come through any second. Aurora lost all hesitation and flung herself from the window onto the soil below. It was somewhat soft, and was a tremendous help with cushioning her fall. She landed with a grunt and backed up against the castle wall while the soldiers passed through. The men’s footsteps sounded like rocks raining above her, and she was able to hear random shrieks and cries for help throughout the castle. “What’s happening?” she thought. “Why are we under attack? I thought we had no enemies!” She sat in confusion for a moment and checked over her thin body. Other than a few bruises, her legs felt fine, and there seemed to be no damage done to the back of her head. She sat there for another moment to make sure her breathing had steadied. “I can only hope that Christopher made it safe too. He should have just missed it.” She picked herself up, threw her satchel over her shoulder, and tried her best to ignore the pleas coming from the castle as she ran to the edge of the forest.

The outline of her father’s hut loomed in the corner of her eye when she reached the forest. A small part of her wanted to see if he was alright. “I can’t go there! It could ruin everything!” she told herself. She hovered there for a moment, and decided against her better judgement to check if he was alright. She scuttled along the edge of the forest until she arrived at his doorstep. The fabric hung in front of the door fluttered in the breeze.

“Father? Father, are you alright? I think our estate is under attack!” No answer. “Father?” Aurora pulled back the fabric, and a musty smell wafted up to her nose. She poked her head inside, and saw that no one had lived in the hut for weeks. The fire pit in the ground was a dry, black mess, and there was no sign of food or clothes anywhere. The pile of straw and rags that made her father’s bed was a mass of rotting fibers. All that remained was a thick layer of dust on the walls, and the smell of decaying wood. Aurora stood in the doorway confused, until the sound of screams from the castle brought her back to reality. She ran from the scene and dove into the forest.

MoonStone could tell she was in a state when he found her.

“What happened? Is everything alright?” His dark eyes looked concerned.

“The castle in my estate is under attack,” she said. Her body felt like it was ready to give out now that she was safe with the Guardian. “I managed to escape just in time. Where’s Christopher? Is he in the clearing?”

“Yes, he’s been waiting,” MoonStone nodded. “Climb on and try to relax. You don’t ever have to go back there.” He knelt down, and gazed off at nothing while Aurora agreed and climbed on.

“Is everything alright with you, MoonStone? Did I upset you?” He shook his head and looked back at her.

“No, it’s not you. I’ve been having this feeling of dread all day. I can usually sense when something evil is in the forest, but I can’t put my hoof on it. I can’t feel a presence, but I feel this sense of darkness, like something gnawing on the back of my mane.” He stood up and started off on a brisk trot. “The sooner we get the two of you to my master, the better.”

***

Christopher smiled when he saw Aurora and MoonStone burst through the trees. He was laying against a tree trunk with his own satchel over his right shoulder.

“You’re safe!” Aurora exclaimed while she practically flew off of MoonStone’s back. She threw herself onto him in an embrace and pulled him up to stand in front of her.

“Of course I am,” said Christopher. His face was a light shade of pink, and he blinked a few times before recovering himself. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“You didn’t see the siege start?”

“What siege? I’ve been sitting here for half an hour.”

“Oh dear,” Aurora took his hands and caressed them between her palms. “Just as I was escaping the castle, there were soldiers storming the inside. I barely made it out in time. It looks like our estate will be taken over by morning.” Christopher’s hands slipped from her grip while his eyes grew wide.

“Oh no,” he walked away from her with his right hand on his hip and his left running through his wavy hair. “I have to go back and make sure Eric is alive. He’s probably fighting to the death right now!” Aurora walked over to him and grabbed his shoulders.

“We can’t go back,” she said.

“I have to! He’s the one who truly raised me! How can I leave him like this? I can’t abandon him!” He struggled to break from her grip.

“You’re not abandoning him!” Aurora shook his shoulders. “Neither of us knew this siege was happening. If anything, I’m sure Eric would want you safe.” Christopher slumped while he let his head drop on Aurora’s shoulder. “This is what he would want for you,” she whispered. “He’s a tough man, I’m sure he’ll make it out alive.” She lifted his head off her shoulder and gave him a comforting kiss. They lingered for a moment, letting time stop around them.

MoonStone had been pacing around the edge of the clearing while they spoke, shaking his silky mane every few steps.

“Something’s coming,” said the Guardian. “I can’t figure out what it is or where it’s headed. We need to go to my master, now!” He trotted up to the couple. “Both of you climb on my back.”

MoonStone started to kneel on his front legs when they heard a loud high-pitched wail a little ways off. The Guardian stood upright and looked around.

“Stay close to me,” he whispered. Christopher and Aurora stood next to his left flank with Aurora sandwiched between them. They turned in a slow circle, looking for something to come from the trees. The wailing grew louder while another cry joined in, followed by more and more, until it sounded like a herd of banshees were closing in on them.

“What’s making those sounds?” Aurora whispered.

“I don’t know,” said MoonStone. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. Just stay close to me and stay alert.” Aurora nodded and held her breath. She could feel her body tense up in anticipation. She grabbed Christopher’s hand and squeezed it tight.

The wailing continued for another moment or two, until MoonStone started at something and lowered his horn in a challenge. Aurora glanced over his shoulder to see what looked like a tall mass of black smoke that writhed and moved in the rough shape of a human. She gasped and hugged Christopher close, who also gasped at the sight of the thing. The smoky being let out a loud wail like a signal, and other beings materialized through the trees, lining the edges of the forest clearing with wispy black smoke. The trio of friends continued to turn in a circle with MoonStone ready to attack. The smoky enemies hovered in place for a moment, wailing for something to happen.

A particularly big smoky being came forward from the line, and hovered about 10 feet in front of them. The smoke at the being’s feet began to compact and work its way up, gradually forming the body of a middle-aged man. When the man’s face became visible, Aurora let out a shriek and nearly fainted. It was Barnama, dressed in a fine cloak all in black. The other beings slowly compacted to form other men that neither Aurora nor Christopher had seen in the village. They appeared to have never taken a bath in their lives, and their clothes were reduced rags that hung about their frail bodies. A montage of weapons were in their hands, ranging from knifes to spears to swords. But the most terrifying of all was their faces. Any trace of happiness was worn away to permanent scowls of hatred that looked primeval in the moonlight. They didn’t move forward, and snarled at each other like hungry wolves waiting on the alpha’s command.

“Who are you? Why have you come for us?” shouted MoonStone. Barnama didn’t answer, and waited for Aurora to gain her composure.

“Father?” she whispered.

“Yes,” said Barnama. “But you are no child of mine! You have betrayed me! First you decide to go against my orders and run off with that scum of a man you hold, then you find the richest treasure on Earth, and keep it from me? You should have told me about your Guardian, so I could use it for what it’s truly worth!” Christopher held her close while Barnama spoke, with his left hand poised above a small dagger on his belt. His grip was tight, and Aurora could see anger building in his face.

“The Guardian is not meant for the selfish use of humans!” shouted Christopher. “Now leave us, we don’t want to fight you!” Barnama’s minions burst into cackles of laughter that gave Aurora goosebumps. The widower himself laughed so hard that he had to bend forward to rest his hands on his knees.

“Don’t back down,” whispered MoonStone to Christopher and Aurora. “One little sign of weakness can cost you everything.”

“Oh, oh you poor lowlife of a man!” said Barnama. The hunting party was still laughing, and Barnama looked at them with annoyance. He held up his right hand for silence, and they immediately stopped their cackling. It was so silent that Aurora heard her heart race. “Do you think that we came here to introduce ourselves? To have a nice little talk and share some rhubarb cake?” The men began to snicker, but Barnama commanded silence once more. “Oh no, we came for the greatest hunting prize, the horn of the Guardian!”

“No!” shouted Aurora. “I won’t let you! MoonStone is the only true friend I have! He’s not meant to be killed for your own benefit!”

“Get away from that Guardian, or I’ll kill you too!” shouted Barnama.

“I won’t!” She stepped out from between MoonStone and Christopher and stood in front of them with her arms outstretched. “I love them more than anything, even if it means I have to die for them.” Barnama smirked and took a few steps forward.

“Well then, it seems like you haven’t learned from our little talk a while ago. So I will teach you myself!” He broke into a run toward her and turned into a smokey form again, flying above the grass. He materialized in front of her and swung his right arm in a circular motion over his head and into Aurora’s stomach. The girl went flying across the clearing and landed with a loud thump between two minions. She hit her head on a tree trunk and slumped to the ground unconscious.

“Aurora!” yelled Christopher. He and MoonStone ran toward her, but the minions flew into a tight circle around MoonStone, while Barnama appeared in front of Christopher, ready to fight with the stone black knife in his hand. Christopher pulled out his own dagger, and Barnama lunged at him with the knife aimed at his throat. Christopher managed to dodge the blow just in time, and plunged his dagger into Barnama’s right shoulder as he flew by. To the man’s horror, Barnama’s shoulder tuned into black smoke and his knife passed clean through. The smoke felt icy cold against his skin. Christopher quickly drew back his arm, and Barnama saw his chance to attack with full force. Christopher managed to block every stab and punch, with each one pushing him back a few steps. Barnama managed to knock Christopher’s dagger out of his hand that made him lose his footing and stagger backwards. He tripped over a tree root and fell flat on his back. Barnama was on him in an instant, and he raised his knife to plunge into Christopher’s racing heart.

Aurora awoke to the shouts of the minions and a throbbing pain in her head. She tried to open her eyes, but her vision was blurry. After a few moments of blinking she finally managed to see the scene of commotion, and what she saw made her scream and jump to her feet. She saw the hunting party in a close circle around MoonStone jabbing at him with their weapons. His coat was speckled with stab wounds and crimson blood, the fire in his eyes ablaze. He jabbed with his horn and punched with his hooves, but the hunters turned into nothingness. He was fighting things that seemed to be nothing, but was slowly dying before her eyes. Christopher was lying on the ground with Barnama on top of him, knife raised to kill.

“Father! Stop, please!” she yelled. One of the minions heard her pleas and left the circle to hold her against the tree trunk while she struggled to break free. Barnama plunged the black knife into Christopher’s heart, and he lurched forward gasping for breath. He slowly laid his head back on the ground, eyes wide open and unmoving; the eyes of a dead man.

“Christopher!!” Aurora cried out to him while tears ran down her face. Barnama got up to move his attention onto MoonStone. The Guardian was weakening; he staggered back and forth while the hunters played with him with their weapons. They were waiting for Barnama to deal the final blow. The widower watched the group in silence, waiting for a chance to join in. One of the hunters jabbed his spear in MoonStone’s face, and he reared up to dodge it. Barnama saw his chance and threw his knife across the clearing at the creature’s heart. It turned into a sharp form of black nothingness as it flew, and materialized in his chest when it struck home. MoonStone whinnied in pain and fell backwards onto the forest floor. The hunters flung themselves on top of him like vultures. Barnama laughed and flew on top of the hunting frenzy.

The hunter that was holding Aurora back forgot about her when MoonStone fell, and he flew into the mob. Aurora knelt on the forest floor with her hands outstretched to her friends. Her whole body was shaking, and her face was soaking wet with tears.

“Christopher, MoonStone, I’m so sorry,” she whispered. She tried to walk toward Christopher’s body near the mob of hunters, but it started to disintegrate like sand blown away in the desert wind. A moment later, it was completely gone. MoonStone’s body had disappeared too, and the hunters looked at each other in confusion. All that had remained was MoonStone’s horn, which Barnama took and immediately attached to his belt.

All was silent for a moment while the hunters stared at each other in shock, but one by one, they began to laugh. Their mission was accomplished. Aurora couldn’t stand to hear their victorious laughs, so she ran for her life into the forest without a single care as to where she was going.

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s