#NaNoWriMo 2013 Chapter 6
Lena felt her heart racing, keeping her back pressed tightly to the tree. If they simply moved in either direction and she was not fast enough they would see her beyond the tree. The tree was not thick and luckily her dark hair and brown dress blended enough she looked more like a tree from behind than a princess.
Adare was across the path, hidden amongst the tall grass that had grown wildly through the summer. She hated him being so far away as the two barbarians walked down the path, taking their time as they moved. It as almost as if they could sense Lena was near. When Adare had noticed them, had heard them coming down the path, they had been moving quickly. Before the two could separate and hide the barbarians had slowed and began searching more diligently.
Lena had been less afraid in the castle when they had been attacking. At least then she knew there was a fight, she knew that she would be found. She had been scared, but not nearly this heart-poundingly frightened. Perhaps it was the slow wait. The attack simply a step away.
Adare did not want to leave bodies behind, that much Lena knew. It would alert someone to their direction. There was the possibility that someone on their side would find it, that no one would be alerted and no one would care beyond the fact that two of the barbarians were dead, but it wasn’t a chance they were willing to take.
The barbarians stepped off the path and walked towards the area Lena was standing. If they came too much closer they would see her. She squeezed her eyes shut and palmed the dagger that was hidden in her sleeve. She tried to control her breathing and remember everything that Adare had taught her over the years when fighting hand-to-hand. He said he believed in her, but she knew that she would likely be overpowered. She was small and they were large. No matter the training she had in protecting herself she would never ben an excellent fighter, it was not in her genetics.
She had accepted that, but today she wished it was not true. She would have one chance to drop them, and there were two to her one. She would have to pray to the gods that Adare would make it to her on time to keep her from being murdered.
Adare made enough commotion on the other side that the barbarians stopped before they truly saw her. They turned and looked to the knight who was now standing in the middle of the tall grass, hands on hips. “Hey there,” he said casually.
The barbarians exchanged looks before turning to Adare. “We have no qualms with you and no need to attack,” one of them said. “We simply need the princess you have behind the tree here and we’ll be on our way.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that,” Adare said. “You see, she’s my responsibility and I do have qualms with you trying to take her. I will allow you to walk away. If you take a screaming princess with you then you are bound to attract more attention than you want and someone else will stop you, even if you think you could take me down here. You’ll never make it back to the castle with just the two of you to take her.”
“That’s why there is more than just two of us,” one of the barbarians called.
That was why they had slowed. They had been sure. Two other barbarians stood from the fields, better concealed than either Adare or Lena had been. One of them stood practically in Lena’s face with a grin that read he had simply been waiting for her to move.
Lena inhaled a deep breath and knew what to do. He had not been watching her closely enough. She had the advantage over this one and she was going to take it. She slashed out, catching him in the thigh, enough to debilitate him as he had not been expecting the razor sharp edge to dig in so deeply. He went down crying out and Lena took off into the fields.
One of the barbarians called out, but Adare was fast. Out in the open Adare was faster, stronger, and had the advantage. Adare could not have fought off three of them in close quarters, that was their strength. Adare’s long sword, even with his shorter reach, was made for fighting in the fields. It had been one he had been trained in.
He didn’t want to have to kill these men, but in no way would he allow them to take the escaping Lena.
“Stand down,” Adare called out to them as he felled the first man. The two barbarians refused, if by pride or over-confidence. Adare nodded his head and went to war against their blades. This was not a fight where five moves would simply take out these men. They were strong, they were well skilled, and one false step would cost Adare his life. But he had something more important to fight for.
As the three men fell he trudged over to the fallen barbarian still grasping at his chest and gasping for air. Lena had struck him deeper than she probably knew, puncturing his lung in one quick swipe. Her fear alone had her working deeper and quicker than she ever had in practice.
“Why are you attacking us?” Adare asked of the dying man.
“We’d like to know the same thing,” the man gasped.
“I couldn’t let you kill her.” It was not in answer to the barbarian’s question. The barbarian knew it, but it was all Adare had to offer. The man made no sense to Adare. They had never attacked the barbarians. It was a dying man spouting nonsense.
“There is no way to save you,” Adare said. “Even if I had the best medical equipment, she punctured your lung. You are living off of nothing more than your will right now.”
The barbarian nodded his head and leaned back agaisnt the grass. “You taught her well.”
Adare took his sword and moved it to the man’s throat. In one thrust he took the man out of this world and offered him to Libitina, Goddess of the Dead. Adare whispered a small prayer for all four of them before he sheathed his sword and began charging in the direction that Lena went.
If he had taught her anything she would be zig-zagging through the field. She would find cover, stopping to see who was following and in what direction before she moved again. It wouldn’t be a speedy process, but she had certainly had enough time that it would be tough to find her.
Tough, at least, if he had not been the one who had trained her since she was under his care. Before he had ever been knighted.
It took longer than he expected, but he found her, standing again behind a tree, watching him come. He didn’t know when she realized it was him coming for her, but he suspected it had been longer than just this last tree. He crossed his arms against his chest, though inside he might have been smiling. She was in good enough spirits if she thought she could play games.
“I am assuming we are no longer going in that direction?” she asked, stepping from around the tree and playing with the brown borrowed skirt.
Adare looked her over and said, “We have to. We are sticking to the plan. We are just taking the longer way in that direction.”
Lena nodded and said, “I miss the horses.”
“They would have been too obvious.”
Adare would concede that. They might have beaten the barbarians completely if they had used the horses, but at the same time, since two had been ahead of them, waiting, they might have been caught and attacked sooner. It was harder to be watchful from a horse.
“Forgive me?” he asked.
Lena looked over his bloodied clothes and took a deep breath. She allowed herself one moment to mourn death, as she mourned all death, and then she nodded her head. “Can we find something to eat soon? I’m starving.”
“That’s a good princess,” Adare chided.
She smirked and followed where he led.