ARROWS UPON US
I awoke to the sounds of rustling. Springing to my feet, I loaded an arrow into my bow, pulled back its string and aimed.
“I almost shot you through the heart!” I barked with irritation at Mecca, who stood beside a jittery Millessa, as he rearranged items in her side pack.
“I’ve grown used to you pointing deadly weapons at me,” he replied with a snort. “You haven’t harmed me yet.” He had pulled a large green apple from Millessa’s side pouch and fed it to her before reaching back in and grabbing another.
I let loose my arrow, piercing the apple dead center, ripping it from his thick fingers and pinning it against the tree which we took shelter underneath.
“Hey,” Mecca protested as Fraydorn whinnied with glee. Fraydorn always enjoyed it when I taunted and tortured Mecca. “That was my breakfast…and what are you laughing at, horse face?”
The large golden-
Fraydorn was the strongest and most exceptional steed in the Cadieux family line, bred for endurance. Millessa was my usual steed and the bravest of them all, despite what her brother may claim. She had fought many a troll, wolverine and dragon in battle with me defending the castle. For this journey, I had chosen to ride Fraydorn instead, simply because of my elven company. Mecca and Fraydorn didn’t exactly get along.
Their squabble had begun a few years ago during battle, when Fraydorn claimed Mecca…well, how did he explain it?
“The elf deadened my senses with his bottom bomb,” Fraydorn recalled with his sister as Mecca roared with laughter at her side. Millessa joined him for a moment until her brother shot her a stern look. The uptight steed huffed with offense.
“I told you I had just eaten a spicy mushroom when those darn trolls attacked. All that bouncing around…it got me stirred up on the inside. You shouldn’t have been jumping around so much Fraydorn,” Mecca could barely finish his sentence as he laughed harder with each passing moment.
“You blame me? I heard you ate them on purpose, Elf!” Fraydorn scolded.
“How was I to know those darn beasts would attack? Besides, Grace fed them to me.” Mecca pointed in my direction to pass the blame, his eyes wide, tight lipped and attempting not to explode into laughter.
“I did not!” I shouted in defense. “Those mushrooms were on the table for my stew. I hadn’t even cooked them yet.”
“Oh, really?” Fraydorn moved closer to my friend, attempting to intimidate Mecca.
“That’s why his gas was so potent, Fraydorn. He ate them fresh.”
“As I recall Mecca, you shoved about four large mushrooms in your mouth as we dashed out to battle. You said something about blowing up a few trolls with a ‘riot of explosion’”
Everyone wailed, except Fraydorn; he was far too uptight for potty humor. Mecca did much of what he did to irritate Fraydorn…and me for that matter. At least this time his nonsense was directed upon someone else.
The sun had begun to set and we needed to move. Night time was the best chance for us to travel without being noticed by the terrors of Mistasia.
We were approximately one night’s ride from the Outer Realm now. Our journey had been uneventful, which made me edgy. Mecca, as usual, had found a way to relax my tension, even if for only a few moments.
I led us from the cluster of Blue Elm trees that had served as our protection throughout the past day and into the vast open space between us and the Outer Realm. Being Elf gave me an advantage in these wild lands. I could see quite clearly even in the dark. My keen ears also allowed me to hear any enemies that might be attempting to sneak up on us…I just needed to remain focused.
However, my mind began to race, eyes searching the area for any movement that could provide signs that someone was out there. A pressure gathered between my eyes. My instincts were at the verge of cracking under the strain. I was worried about our safety but fearful of what we just might find when we reached the Deadly Spray Forest. Would we really find King Stephan and his wife, Delia? Would they really be alive, trapped in the forest?
Grace! A voice shouted in my head, startling me awake from my dream. What is that? Mecca’s voice sounded unusually surprised.
Ahead of us, in the darkness, colors swirled in the sky. It cast shadows over the silhouetted image of the Outer Realm. We were almost there, yet after these past few days of hard travel, I had the sudden urge to turn around and head back to Cadieux Castle.
Grace, what in Mistasia is that?
I have no idea. I replied keeping the conversation between us Elves.
The wind pushed hard against my face flinging my hood back, exposing me ears to the harsh cold. Snow lifted from the ground, swept skyward by the winds. Fraydorn struggled against the powerful gusts.
We slowly approached the village along the Red River. The slender-
Where did this snowfall come from? Mecca groaned as he rode up beside me.
“It’s not snowing, Mecca. The snow is being pulled skyward by whatever that is above the village.” I stared blankly at the violently swirling lines of blue, green and yellow light.
The wind suddenly stopped. All sounds vanished like a void. A stiff pressure filled my ears. Mecca’s too, I could tell as he covered them with his hands. The colorful light flashed toward the ground and exploded tearing apart a series of small buildings. Fraydorn knelt down bracing for the sonic boom. It swept in from the village knocking Millessa back tossing Mecca to the snow.
I dismounted and rushed to Mecca’s aid. My ears numbed from the blast, it took a moment to understand the noise coming from my friend, but I should have known…he was laughing.
“I’m fine,” he chuckled. “Help me up.”
Our horses had moved behind us allowing a full view of the village smoldering. Flames danced atop the blackened remains of the buildings that had just stood there moments earlier. The colorful storm above had mysteriously vanished too.
Dread filled my body. Fear began to invade my mind with full force. Every part of me body ached. I desperately wanted to turn and leave but was too embarrassed to admit it. I am Grace Tallon, Elven Warrior and Guardian to the Queen. That is what I said to myself attempting to reassure my mind.
“What was that, Grace?” Fraydorn asked.
I shook my head. I had no response.
“It wasn’t a storm of nature. That’s for darn sure.” Mecca brushed snow from his woolen coat.
My heart thumped hard in my head. I was regretting coming on the quest and we hadn’t even made it to our initial destination yet.
A familiar sound rang out in my wind-
“I’m not going in there unprepared,” Mecca announced.
“That sounds unfair. I can’t hold a sword,” Fraydorn whined.
“Just use your tongue.”
I pulled my sword free and gripped the hilt tightly in my cold fingers. “Mecca!” I barked.
“Shut it!” I moved ahead, trudging one foot at a time through the thickening snow. The top layer was fresh and powdery, yet below it was crusty and hardened. Snow was past my knees in areas and quickly rising near my hips. Travel had become increasingly difficult.
We entered the village of the Outer Realm with great apprehension. Lit by the bright moonlight from above and the smoldering flames where much of the village once stood. A few small buildings remained, but those too had cracked and scorched walls.
A rustling noise emerged from a badly burnt building to my right. A rush of wind hit my face; it carried a familiar sound…an arrow. I swung my blade deflecting the arrow just enough that it only grazed my shoulder, tearing through my jacket. Standing in the doorway was a figure. A glint of light sparkled from the tip of another arrow pointed directly at me. Two ferocious eyes gazed upon me.
“Show yourself!” I commanded.
It let loose another arrow.
Mecca cut it in half before it could reach me. The arrows pieces dove into the snow at my feet.
“By order of the queen’s guards…show yourself! Now!” Mecca barked.
I reached for my bow and arrow and aimed at the shadowed figure. I watched as it slowly emerged from the building into the moonlight. It wore a hood to cover its face.
“I will not warn you again. Show yourself!” I shouted with my arrow pointed at it.
The figure reached up and removed its hood.