Anticipation tingled across her skin. Her eyes darted across the courtyard and through the shadows. Seeing no one, she slinked down the steps and edged her way around the perimeter, keeping to the shadows. She was nearing what she thought was a gate when a guard stepped out of an alcove and surprised her. Reflexes took over and her staff whacked the man on his crown. He slumped to the ground without a sound and air rushed out of her lungs in a sigh of relief.
She rushed through the remaining shadows and reached for the handle of the gate she’d found. The lodestone started to beat, as if it had its own heart, and when she looked down it was shining with clear blue light. The subtle scent of wind and frankincense tickled her nose. She twirled, baring her sword and striking out with her staff. She was shocked when the dark figure that had walked up behind her grabbed the staff midway through the strike and wrenched it out of her hand. Her eyes widened, and she moved the saber in between her and the man as her last line of defense.
“I don’t want to hurt you, just let me go and nobody else has to get hurt.”
“I can’t let you leave.”
She recognized the deep timber of his voice. The man moved and she swung her saber. She was shocked when he parried the blow with her staff. She swung again, and once more he deflected the attack with her staff. Growling, she lunged forward again, raining a blur of sword blows upon him. The man was silent as he dodged or parried each attack with ease. Sweat gathered on her brow and she could feel the tug of freedom behind her, on the other side of the door. The man rained a barrage of blows down on her, and she had to rush to deflect each swing of the staff.
A sob hiccupped in her throat as she realized she couldn’t win. This was no bandit or shepherd boy trying to steal her herd. She was fighting a seasoned warrior who had no intentions of letting her escape. Reality sunk in and she flung herself at the man in one last desperate attempt. He surprised her by taking a step forward, bypassing her sabre and grabbing her by the arm.
His hand wrapped around her upper arm like a vice. Tears sprung unbidden to her eyes and sobs wracked her body.
“Please, just let me go, I can’t live here anymore. I can’t breathe inside these walls.”
“Come with me.”
“No. You can’t make me.” She struggled against the man, trying to wrench her arm from his grasp. His grip tightened and the pain was great enough to make her drop her saber. He pulled her across the courtyard but she dug her heels in and threw her weight back. The man grunted, picked up her saber and staff in one hand, then threw her over his shoulder with his other hand.
She lost her breath when her stomach landed on his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around the back of her knees and she could feel the blood rush to her head as her hair swung in time with his steps. Once she had her breath back she renewed her fight. She balled her hands into fists and started pounding on the man’s back.
“I can’t live in here. I’m dying. They’re suffocating me.” Her words came out in wails. To her surprise the man set her down heavily and grabbed her by the shoulders. He gave her a shake and his grey eyes flashed at her in the dark.
“Look, I am trying to help you, but you just need to be patient.”
“Help me? Nobody wants to help me. They have all convinced themselves that I am out to ruin them. I just want to go home.”
© 2019 J.B. Wagner. All Rights Reserved.