“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”
Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.
Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…
…a story that will lead the nine into peril.
Chapter 2 – A Fall
Anditor darted through the woods, the quiver full of arrows bouncing on his back and the bow in his hand. He was careful to hold the bow high so that he didn’t trip on it as he dodged obstacles in the dense woods. If he stayed on his feet, his brothers would not catch him. He was no match for them in size, but he was fast and had the keenest eyes of the bunch. He leaped over the exposed roots and fallen limbs nimbly, maintaining his pace. The Great River was just over the next ridge. If he could get past the ridge and down the hill, he could hide in the thick vegetation along the river bed. They would never find him. He glanced over his shoulder, bumping his nose on Trindon’s bowstring. He could just see Mennu and Trindon darting through the trees behind him. He could hear every one of Trindon’s curses. Too out of breath to laugh, he grinned. Serves them right for not taking me, he thought.
He dodged several more trees and then jumped over the top of the ridge. His feet slipped in the loose leaves of autumn, and he landed on his back. The quiver landed to his side, the strap pulling hard against his arm. He slid, faster and faster in that position down the steep embankment. He gripped the bow tightly to his chest and winced in pain. Hard bumps in the ground and rocks pummeled his back as he fell. Dirt flew up into his eyes and burned. He closed them tightly. He kept his body stiff and slid – down, down, down – until he finally landed in a thick mass of prairie grass where the bank flattened.
He lay motionless, hidden in the grass, afraid to move. He could hear his brothers’ voices coming from the woods above. He chuckled. It hurt. He chuckled again. He moved his arm, gently untangling it from the quiver strap. There was a large gash in his shirt, and his shoulder was bleeding. His back burned, but he could move all his limbs. He clutched the quiver of arrows across his chest with the bow and rested for a few minutes, closing his eyes. His brothers’ voices faded.
“I will kill you!” Trindon shouted from a distance.
That was the last thing he heard from them. He chuckled again and winced in pain. His whole body ached. He rolled onto his side and listened for a few minutes more. Once he was certain they had gone, he sat up and looked around. He could just see over the tall grass. The river, broad and deep in these lands, flowed some fifty paces away. He glanced up and down. There was no one in sight.
Anditor stood to have a better look. Down river led to the bog cities of men where the Great River emptied into the Undulan Sea. He glanced up river. The river flowed straight for about two miles and then took broad bends as it cut through the thickest sections of the Trividian Forest. That was the direction he needed to go. Once he got to the bends, he could follow the river several miles north to a tributary that would lead him through the woods and close to Shrevdon, his village. Even if it got dark, the lad was confident that he could find his way home. This was the farthest south that he had ever been, but he knew the forest to the north well. He would recognize the landscape once he hiked that way.
He tossed the quiver over his shoulder and lifted the bow, then he approached the river, where the grasses were low enough that his seven-year-old legs could walk over them easily. The shadows grew long. It was evening. It would be late at night when he arrived home, provided he didn’t get lost on the way. Anditor was not worried about that. He hoped it would be late. His brothers would be sleeping, and he could work with his grandfather early the next day. The other boys wouldn’t mess with him then. By the time Trindon found an opening to freely pummel him, Anditor figured his brother would have something else to be angry about, most likely something stupid his sisters did.
Anditor continued. His shoulder bled, and he was sore all over. He was hungry, thirsty and tired. Yet he hummed as he walked, moving agilely through the grass. His only companion was a turtle that jumped off a dead log into the river as soon as it spotted him. He glanced up the ridge several times, and he paused and looked behind him. This was a wild and unpopulated land, the space between the villages of hunters in the north woods and the bog cities of men to the south. The bears of the Trividian Forest made their home in this desolate place. They were huge and fierce. Trindon’s bow was too big for him to use and wouldn’t have much impact on one of those, even if he could shoot it.
The slope to the river slowly flattened, and the tress of the forest encroached its banks. He was nearing the first bend. The grasses continued to thin and become shorter, and he was now stepping over masses of roots exposed from the river’s often flooding waters. He continued without stopping, silent now, breathing heavily. He knew he wouldn’t reach the tributary before dark. He guessed that he had an hour left of dusk, and he had several miles to walk before he reached that spot. As soon as he rounded the river’s curve, he froze.
In front of him was a long, slender, black ship, anchored in the deep waters in the middle of the river. The ugly, strange ship was facing south, toward the Undulan Sea. A few men walked along its deck. They were large, hairy and unkempt. They reminded him of nasty tales of pirates his grandfather told on stormy nights to scare he and his siblings. Pirates were folk of the ocean. The Trividian Forest, his home, was days away from those waters. The Great River was a passage for cargo barges and small fishing boats, not ships. He ducked behind a tree and watched.
Aside from the men on the deck, he saw no motion. He watched both shores. It was quiet. One of the men on the deck was watching the shore to the north of him. A thick grove of river birch and poplars with some freshly fallen trees in its midst stood twenty paces ahead of Anditor. It provided cover. The man on the ship watched intently up shore. Anditor knew that meant there was someone or something ahead. That was the direction he needed to travel to get home.
He inched toward the grove, pausing often and watching the ship for any change. It was getting dark. He decided to hide until whoever was approaching from the north passed. At the edge of the grove, he got down on his belly and slithered under a gap between the sandy ground and the fallen limbs. He clawed his way toward the largest fallen log. He could see a safe spot covered with branches that had an area large enough for him to climb under and hide. He pushed and pulled his way through, catching the bow several times and finally snapping its string. He couldn’t pull it free. He tried and tried. It held fast to something behind him, like a snagged fishing line. He tried to back up. The quiver caught. He couldn’t back any farther. He sighed and let go of the bow. Trindon would kill him.
He slid forward through the sand, and dug his way under the branches. It was good cover and provided a clear view of the ship, but he was closer to it than he had intended to be. He could see the men clearly from a gap between the sand and the fallen log, even as the evening’s shadows were growing long. The men were huge, dressed in rough, loose and tattered clothes. They were armed with long swords and daggers. Anditor was afraid. He didn’t move. He barely breathed.
Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords
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All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff