Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chapter Four

Here we see that indeed Amara has people in her life who try to put her first, but she martyrs herself feeling deserving of the Queens Sting. Is her reasoning sound or should she have taken advantage of the offers given?

In Dreams The Solitary Road A Serial Novella By S.I. Hayes

Copyright: 2013 Shannon I Hayes 

CHAPTER 4


      “Wake up! Damn it Amara, it’s a nightmare!”
     Amara’s body flailed in Maggie’s hands, as she was shaken awake. Still screaming, Amara tore herself out of her friends grip and shot up to her feet.
     “Where?” She looked out of a port window realizing that they were in the air, and that Maggie had the wheel of the flyer tied to keep their course. “What happened?” She doubled over, a sharp itching pain filling her right arm. Lifting her long white sleeve, she could see the outline of the Queens stinger in her arm; the insertion point was red and swollen.
     “You were having a nightmare, not that I blame you.” Maggie pulled her light blonde hair back into a ponytail. “Listen, I'm really sorry, that accident...”
      “It wasn't an accident.”
      “Well I'm not going to argue that with you. You know me well enough to know that.”
Maggie was the eldest daughter of the Elder Margaret; she was responsible for the Trialade shipments and as a result no longer lived on the Isle, she kept away from its politics, so long as it meant she didn’t have to go back. Before taking the shipping job, she and Amara had been good friends, and Maggie usually made a point of seeing her when she was on Isle.
      “Where are you taking me, Maggie?”
    “Sun’s Circle, there’s no way I'm dropping you off in the middle of nowhere, with just a pack of provisions and unfletched arrow heads, that total B.S. You’re gonna stay with me, till your years up, they’ll never know the difference, it’s not like anybody has ever really seen you there.”
      “This isn't about my being comfortable.” Amara huffed, feeling weight on her lower body. “What the!”
Maggie turned her head back as Amara felt down her hips and crotch. “Oh, yeah, they said to give you this key, apparently they worry about your habit of passing out, didn't want anything unfortunate to happen to you.”
      “So they slapped a chastity belt on me?”
      “You would have liked the alternative less; at least you can painlessly undo that.”

****

      Once Amara had settled into the passenger chair of Maggie’s flyer, she explained that she knew that what she did was wrong. That although she truly appreciated the offer to spend her exile in comfort, she deserved the punishment that was coming to her. For more reasons than she cared to explain. Maggie tried to argue, but Amara was adamant.
       This was not after all her first time off the Isle, eight years prior, she had gone, like many of the women of De’Corlen, it was her opportunity to see the world beyond and decide if she wanted to become a part of it, or if she wished to stay true to her purpose and become High Priestess. She was tempted, people and places were often beautiful, but in the end, she went home. This time among her things, she found a map, which was supposed to keep her on track and away from places, which would be dangerous. When Maggie asked her where she wanted to be dropped off, Amara closed her eyes and picked a place at random. The place was a mountainous region with drawings of monstrous faces. In Amara’s opinion, it was the perfect place to find oblivion.

****

      Perfect, as the flyer closed in on her northern area of choice, darkness was once again falling, and the landscape changed from luscious tropical green to the ruddy auburn of early winter. They had crossed into a region near the Braithorian Mountains, a place neither of them had ever been. According to Maggie’s charts, this was the country of Lysinedria, it was sparsely populated, but at least it wasn't exactly the middle of nowhere. She left Amara in the port town of Andestin, but not before giving her several hundred coins to be sure that she could afford a place to stay as well as her shipping route for the next three months, in case Amara needed anything, including an escape route back to a tropical paradise.
      At the end of the docks, Amara found the only thing she would need, a map of the town, showing where Inns were located, and food could be found. This was a typical fishing town, and as the night rolled in the trawlers and other boats were coming to dock for the night, unloading their hauls. At the first Inn, she could find, she found above the check in desk, another sign:

Forms of Payment.
Coin, Trade, Work or Flesh.
We prefer Flesh.
The Management.

      Amara immediately turned tail and exited, in this case the first choice is not always best. Exhausted, she found another, where her coins were happily taken; she paid for three days and disappeared into the room.
After a few days of exploring the town, she found that her short list of skills would do her little good. The town was not in need of another seamstress, and everyone did their own hunting, so her proficiency with a bow was unhelpful. If she wanted to stay here there was little work to be found that did not require her to take her clothes off, and she knew nothing of boats, so she picked up and moved along. This was not the place for her.
      Following a days walking she noticed the clouds, their shape and plume signaling to her that clearer days were to be soon behind her. She would have to pick up the pace, in hopes of reaching the next town if she wanted to get out of the weather. Luck was not on her side, for as she ventured through the forest the temperature dropped and the first flakes of snow began to fall. She pushed onward, through the thickets and found herself at the highest point of a hill. In the distance some three or more hours walk, she could see fires. Their flickering on the blankets of snow like stars on the night sky. If she could manage to get down the hill safely, and the snow did not fall any harder, she was sure she could seek refuge among those fires even if she had to pay. So drawing in a chilled breath, she secured her pack, pulled her blue-green cloak hood down, and followed the edge of the hill, hoping to find a spot where it sloped down at a better grade.

****

      Walking the hill took more than two hours, now she would have to circle back, if she was going to keep her intended destination, the snow fell in large heavy flakes, and the wind pushed against her. This was only the second time in her life that she had ever experienced weather harder than a hot shower, De’ Corlen was in a tropical environment, and although prone to the occasional heavy rain, it never saw temperatures below sixty-four degrees. Kenrik had been more temperate, but the size of the metropolis and the high mountains kept most heavy weathers at bay. Here she should have been freezing, but this was not the case. Perhaps it was her driving ambition to reach those fires, which now seemed to tease her through the white out, falling and rising as she moved through the limb chilling slosh. Over the sound of the wind gusts and the echoes in her ears of her own heavy breath, she could hear howls. The sounds seemed to come from all around her, but with the snow in her eyes, she could not see their source. She pushed on, her mind racing, she would not be fodder for animals of this strange, and arctic world, in which she had put herself. This was not to be her end. Or maybe it was her secret hope, that she would simply succumb, that she would be reunited with her family. Whatever the reason, she would not lay down and let it come, she would at least try to survive. Drawing her sword she stopped, waited, the howls died away, and then came the snarls, from the back left, and right, she could hear the animals as they closed in on her. They had been following her for sometime, only now as she was beginning to slow from the height of the snow did they reveal themselves.
     Amara stood her ground; using her sword to help her level an area around her. There was no time to start a fire, and even if there had been, everything was too wet from the snow. She tried to summon up the flames as she had on the Isle, but nothing happened. Her sword was heavy in her hands and the pulsating of the stinger in her arm was going to slow her down. The wound, she realized, suddenly, it must have been what alerted them to her; why else would they have bothered. She could see them now, as they hunkered down, long lean, grey bodies, with tails wagging back and forth, as they watched her with stops and starts. They formed a semi-circle in front of her, snapping their powerful jaws, some snarled, as Amara tried to catch her footing in the ever-deepening snow. Her mind raced, not knowing how the animals would attack.
     On the Isle, there were no predatory creatures that hunted in packs. She had only the stories told by others who had experienced such problems to work with. Two came dashing low, teeth bared, but Amara managed to fall backward, so only her cloak tail was grabbed, instantly she kicked and screamed at the animals, causing the pair to startle, even as the other two closed in. Her sword swung violently, catching one of them broadside, not making the cut, but still causing the animal much distress. They backed off. With clenched teeth and eyes she flailed, the ground around her being cut by the sword, the snow evaporating as a ring of fire surrounded her. She could hear yelping over the roar of the white-hot flames. She opened her eyes to find that she stood upon scorched earth, as she watched what was left of the pack fleeing in a quick retreat.
      Heart racing, her knees gave out, her body burned from the inside, just as it had when she decimated the hives. As the fire burned around her, she shoved her hands into the warm earth, as though by instinct. As the burning in her body ebbed, she recited her charm, and slowly drifted into the black solace of forgotten dreams.

****

     Morning came, the snow had stopped sometime during the night, and for that, Amara was thankful. The nights ordeal, although plenty frightful, did manage to solve one of her larger problems. Food. She had managed to procure some light rations before leaving Andestin, but they were not the most ideal, but the charred body of one of the beasts was an opportunity she could not waste. Lean meat she supposed would be hard to come by, for some time, and it appeared that the fires she had been following in the darkness were now gone. The attack and snow, left her turned around, in the vastly mountainous valley, and she could now only hope that she was continuing in the right direction.
     As the sun shone at its highest, she came upon the remnants of a large camp. Here there was the sign of several fires and a clearing of space for shelters. This was all that remained of what she had hoped was a settlement where she could rest. She stopped for a time, made a meal, and then pushed on, following the trail left behind by whomever it was that had camped to wait out the storm. Noticing that the tracks were of some large animal, she could only assume the group used for travel, as she spied no tracks left by man or woman.
    After a time Amara came to another cliff side, still on the trail of the missing campers, she had not stopped, hoping to put herself closer to the troop, hoping that they would break for camp at some point allowing her to catch up. It was no use; they seemed to be phantoms, for although she could follow the tracks easily, she could not see a source, even from the top of the cliff. The tracks followed down into what seemed to be a treacherous passage. The only thing that was obvious to her was that they were heading somewhere; she could only hope that it would be close, as she heaved a heavy sigh and continued down the path into the belly of the cliffs. 

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