Here’s the next chapter! I wanted to begin by giving you an update on what’s happening in my life. I’m still trying to find a literary agent for a finished novel in a series I’ve been working on for about seven years now. The statistics now stand at 78 queries sent, 30 replies, and one very beautiful, exciting request for part of the manuscript (a “maybe”) that hasn’t gotten back to me yet. The majority of agents don’t respond. They’re very busy, and get an insane amount of requests, but I’ve learned to appreciate the “no”s, even when it’s clearly just a form letter.
Also, I start student teaching this week, and begin taking classes for a teaching credential program next week! By the grace of God I somehow passed the Social Science CSET on my first attempt, so at least that is over and done with. I’m in the calm before the storm, expecting to be incredibly busy for the next nine months, but I’m excited and peaceful about it.
Still, sometimes Peregrin Took’s words in Return of the King come to mind: “I don’t want to be in a battle, but being on the edge of one I can’t avoid is worse.”
Consider this a fair warning that, though I shall make every effort to keep posting regularly, between classes, student teaching, planning lessons, and the rest of life, there may be times when I have to skip a week or post late.
Without further ado, here’s chapter seven (and a link to previous chapters)!
He was cold. The ropes that bound him to the splintering tree trunk, which dug into his back, were a little too tight to allow him to slide down and sit. His feet were growing numb—a relief after aching from standing for hours. The rope binding his wrists was too tight, cutting off his circulation and rubbing his skin raw. The shallow stab wound in his abdomen throbbed. He already had a pulsing pain on his face from what was certain to be a black eye, and was maybe even a broken nose.
The worst part was, he should have seen it coming. Before an arrow split the limb next to Princess Noemi’s head, he should have known there were bandits nearby. His father had trained him better than that. Garrin quietly cursed his inattentiveness. Protecting the Princess was his first and greatest duty. Garrin would never forgive himself for failing at his first real opportunity to keep her safe.
“Garrin, language,” Princess Noemi frowned at him. She was tied to the same tree as he was, so Garrin had to crane his neck to see her. Her puffy cheek, still red from where one of the bandits had punched her, made him feel even worse.
Unfortunately, her reprimand caught the attention of their captors. “Oi,” one of the stinky, rag-clothed vagabonds left the fire and stalked toward them. Bits of stew, remnants of the bandits’ supper, clung to his beard. Garrin’s stomach rumbled greedily.
“Watcha saying, then?” the foul rodent demanded. He leered at the Princess.
Garrin sneered, “I said you’re a bunch of filthy beggars, and you’re gonna regret this.”
It had the desired effect. The bandit turned his attention from Princess Noemi. “That right?” he smirked. Garrin saw his first punch coming, but he was powerless to block it.
Trace gasped and the Princess cried out. Their pleas for mercy only riled the man up more.
Several hits later, the bandit seemed satisfied. “That’s right,” he said. “See and that’ll teach you to keep quiet.”
“Please, sir,” Princess Noemi begged. Garrin didn’t have to look at her to know her face was wet with tears. “At least take care of our friend’s wounds, or let one of us tend to him.”
The bandit waved a hand in dismissal. “Lass, we tied up the worst of it. Any more n’ it’d be a waste of our supplies. Don’t want to do that, not till we’ve decided what to do with ye.”
Garrin squinted at Verrell through his swollen eyes. The young man was the only one of their company not tied to a tree. With a couple serious knife wounds and an arrow still sticking out of his shoulder, Verrell was barely conscious. He provided no threat of escape. Garrin knew that, unless they tended to him, Verrell had few days left to live.
The Princess would know that, too, and she would protest, drawing the vagabond’s malice on her. Garrin spoke up before she could. “Then at least give the girls some food,” he bargained.
The man snorted. “T’ain’t likely. Did you hear that?” he asked his companions. “The gent wants us to feed them.” He rejoined the others at the fire amidst their raucous laughter.
Gathering clouds brought nightfall on soon, but they also brought cold. Garrin could feel the Princess shivering through the rope that tied them together. The bandits settled down to sleep and neglected the fire, so even its distant warmth diminished. At least they were no longer under scrutiny—their captors didn’t even leave a man on watch.
The fire crackled down to a weak flicker. Garrin listened carefully for any movement among the sleeping men. He had just decided it was safe to whisper when the pressure on the rope changed and a hand clapped over his mouth.
Garrin’s heart started racing. He tensed to fight, though he still couldn’t move. Then through the dim light he just barely made out Sir Lamarr’s face. Firelight glinted off metal. The rope fell away. In a whisper barely loud enough to hear, Sir Lamarr said, “You get the Princess, I’ll get the others.” Then he was gone.
Garrin flexed his stiff muscles. The wound in his stomach stung anew. He ignored it, rounding the tree to half-support, half-carry Princess Noemi in the direction of the horses.
She was in no condition to ride on her own. Garrin tied her horse to his on a loose lead and helped the Princess onto his horse. Nearby, Sir Lamarr was lashing Verrell into a saddle. While he worked, Garrin slipped the bandits’ horses free from their tethers and sent them trotting away. He preferred to avoid mounted pursuit.
After a few unsuccessful tries, Garrin climbed onto his horse behind Princess Noemi. Sir Lamarr did the same with Trace. With as much stealth as possible, they rode away.
At a safe distance from the bandits, Garrin asked the knight, “How did you get free?”
Sir Lamarr’s voice came through the gloom of night. “Trace and I held our breath and hunched our shoulders while they tied us up. It left just enough slack to slip out, and they hadn’t bothered removing the hunting knife I keep hidden in the bottom of my boot.”
Stupid knight, to think of something so simple. It was just another reason for Garrin to be annoyed with him.
They rode until the sky lightened enough to see their surroundings, then they stopped in a sheltered copse. Trace fetched water from a nearby pond. Sir Lamarr started a fire and cooked a bird that he shot with an arrow. Meanwhile, Princess Noemi and Garrin finally cared for Verrell’s wounds. The wounds were deep and the arrow should have been removed long ago, but there was no sign of infection and no damage to larger blood vessels. Verrell’s condition seemed hopeful, if only he would wake.
Just as Princess Noemi tied the last clean bandage in place, the Chief Advisor’s son groaned. Garrin laughed in relief. His friend would live.
Verrell peeled his eyes open. “What can you possibly find funny?” he slurred.
“You gave us a scare, Verrell,” he answered. “But sadly you’ll live to annoy us all for many more days.”
“Sorry to disappoint,” Verrel said. His words slid together, but Garrin had never been happier to hear him speak.
After a quick meal, they resumed their journey. Princess Noemi chewed her cheek and hugged her body. “Do you think I might ride with you again?” she asked Garrin.
He looked carefully at her. “Are you okay?” he asked. “Tell me what ails you.”
“You shouldn’t order a princess,” she tried to tease, but the weariness of her delivery made the jest fall flat.
“Princess,” Garrin prompted.
She ducked her head. “It’s just…I’m tired and sore. I’m afraid I’ll fall off my horse or fall asleep while riding.”
In answer, he touched her elbow. “Climb on.”
He still hurt all over and was more tired than he’d ever been, but riding with the Princess, seeing Verrell alert again, and enjoying the triumph of their escape, Garrin felt uncommonly happy. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but something about these unusual circumstances felt right in a way that living idly in the castle hadn’t.
Then the clouds opened and began to pour out rain, and the ground turned into a river, and Garrin’s happiness disappeared.
Thanks for reading! Please like and leave a message or review! Knowing people are interested in this story is what keeps me going :)
I hope you have a wonderful week.