Community Stories. Get Inspired, Get Underlined

Crest of Thorns

By @

Chapter 4: Sara

I gaze up at a stone ceiling, with wooden beams holding it up for support. My head is spinning, and I don’t know which hand is my left and which one is my right. I rub my head and wince. There’s a bump on at the back of it, and I don’t know what it’s from. I sit up dizzily, taking in my surroundings, although it is hard to focus. The world is lopsided to me.

           I almost miss the young man standing at the doorway, gray cloak wrapped around him. A crest with a rose is stitched on the chest part of the fabric. I know what that symbol is. It is the crest of Valian.

           My mouth hangs open, but no words leave me. I stare until it gets too awkward.

           The guy looks up at me, his hazel eyes sparkling with disgust for the smallest of seconds before it curtly turns to merriment.

           “Hello,” the guy greets. He stands in the shadows, so when he steps forward into a patch of sunlight, I can study him better.

           He has dark brown hair and tanned skin. He is wide and muscled, but also carries himself with the pride of a warrior. At his right is a sheathed sword, and on the other side is a long whip. My eyes widen.

           “You’re not going to whip me, are you?” I ask fearfully.

           The guy chuckles. “No. I don’t think I could waste my energy on a frail girl like you.”

           I gawk at him and his insults and tell him off at once. “You’re rude, did you know that? I don’t think I want to be around you,” I shoot back, my emotions tumbling.

           He holds up his hands in defense. “Woah, woah, sorry. Didn’t mean to insult you. Like the great scholar Jarinik said, ‘beginnings are only the end of a story.’”

           I **** my head. Who does this guy think he is? “Jarinik never said that, though he did say, ‘only when one opens their heart to adventure can the greatest gift in life be obtained.’”

           The guy shakes his head. “When leader Rai picked you up from that village, I understood why he would want…”

           The rest of his words are meaningless when my mind wanders to memory. The screams of the villagers. Vicky’s spell. My parents. The prison.

           I lunge out of the bed, my energy restored. The only things that hurt are the cut on my shoulder and the bump on my head. Other than that, I’m completely oblivious to the pain.

           I stagger up from the carpeted floor, my head pounding. I come face to face with the tan guy, and I try my best withering glare.

           “Where. Is. Vicky.” I say slowly, my voice barely audible. The guy looks down on me, clearly unimpressed.

           “Oh, you remember now, do you? Well, let’s say we know where she is, and that she’s alive.”

           I grab tan guy’s cloak, but that is a mistake. He is much more powerful than me, and he is a warrior. He has a whip at his side, of all things! But my feelings are so controlling that I grip the cloak even tighter.

           “Tell me where my parents are too! And where’s Vicky? Is she out of prison?” I spare a glance out of the window. The outside is bustling with people from every corner of Edinsmore. I see the Tribesfolk from the south, who are the most superstitious people in Edinsmore, apart from the Sarigons that fish along the sea. I’m so awestruck that the guy takes advantage of my hesitation, sweeping me off my feet.

           “Hey! What are you doing!” I shriek as he tosses me on the bed. I get back up, teeth bared. Typically I’d never be this confident, but I need to know where my best friend and parents are. Where the Silver Knights took the villagers.

           The guy doesn’t answer me and instead starts to leave. Over his shoulder, he says, “there’s clothes on the bedstand. Your spectacles are with them too. Try the clothes on, okay?” And with that he slams the door.

           I sigh, a twinge of pain and guilt making me shake. My hands are trembling, and I will them to stop. Calm down, I tell myself. You are safe. At least, you are for now.

           I look back out the window, getting a faint idea of where I might be. This has to be Valian, because of the leaders who had been in the prison before. Or had that been a dream? And only one city in Edinsmore has this diverse of a community. This has to be Valian, the hidden city in the Dawnfall Woods. Valian, with their army of cowards.

           The city that I, Saranida of Kel, had always wished to explore.

           I walk over to the window and close the curtains, getting ready to change. Even if I don’t know what’s going on right now, I better act as if I do. Maybe I’ll be able to understand what they want from me afterwards.

           I start getting the dark green dress on. It’s nice and light for the Sun Season, which has just started. I scan the room for any accessories I can borrow. There’s nothing really here except a bow with arrows, a strangely large mirror, two more Valian cloaks, and another bedstand. There’s no books in sight. I supress a snort. No wonder that guy is so foolish.

           Before I go to look in the mirror, I put on my spectacles. For some reason, my sight becomes even more blurry when they’re on, so I take them off and leave them in the room.

           I go button on a gray cloak, examining the crest in the mirror. The rose seems even more feminine now that it’s up close, and I would think the crest is in honour of the Rose Maiden. I shake my head in disbelief, prying it off. Soon enough, the cloak is just like any other.

           I also take the bow and arrows with me, in case of emergency. It’s not like I know how to shoot an arrow though.

           “There,” I murmur to myself, glancing in the mirror one last time. My smooth brown hair seems as if it has another silver streak in it. I grimace. My hair has been changing since I was six. My parents had never understood why, and the other villagers had called me and abnormality. At least I had never been feared like Vicky had…

           The dream. The memory. I wince, thinking of the dream in the prison. I have had dreams like that before, but much more vivid. That dream was as clear as the night sky.

           When I leave the dwelling, fear makes my heartbeat spiral out of control. The streets of Valian had looked much nicer from the inside of the home instead of the outside. I shrink away from the street, almost getting hit by a merchant’s cart. People call and shout around me, and I almost don’t notice when the guy from before snatches my wrist and starts pulling me through the streets.

           “Hey, girl! Move along!” Someone yells in my ear, resulting in a flinch from me.

           “Git outta da way!” Another bulky man snarls from beside me.

           “Hey…hey, where are you taking me?” I break out of my daze and pull away from him.

           The guy sighs impatiently, drawing back into an alley. I follow quickly, not wanting to spend more time than necessary in the streets.

           The guy begins his explanation. “I’m sorry about the first greeting. Here, let’s start over. Hey, my name’s Nicholas.” Nicholas sticks out his hand. I shake it cautiously.

           “Saranida. What’s your family name? If I may ask, that is.”

           Nicholas shakes his head. “I don’t have one. I used to live with the Tribesfolk, but I changed my name when I moved here. I’m one of the lieutenants of Valian’s army. I come with a request from Zarridah, third leader of Valian.”

           “What would she want from me?” I say more to myself than Nicholas. Nicholas chuckles, his pearly white teeth flashing in the shadows.

           “Good question. One that even the smartest person could never answer,” Nicholas leans against the side of a brick wall, while the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

           “Stop with the smart remarks,” I snap sharply. Nicholas stops laughing immediately.

           “Sorry,” he mutters. “We better get going to the Fortress anyway.”

           My brows furrow. “The Fortress? What’s that?”

           Nicholas leads me out of the alley. The sunlight washes over me, and I savor it’s heat once again. But then guilt pierces me, and the enjoyment of the moment vanishes. I wish my parents were here with me.

           I bite my lip to keep it from trembling, listening to Nicholas’ explanation on the Fortress.

           “Look over there, at that castle-like building,” Nicholas points to a massive stone building with archers positioned around it. It doesn’t look very far away, but it doesn’t look near either. I nod, all the while considering why they would have archers here. I thought that people loyal to the monarchy couldn’t come here? The Dawnfall Woods is a magical place, enchanted by a rebellious Marked, or Necroca. That’s why king’s knights couldn’t attack and lay siege to Valian.

           “Okay.” I turn to Nicholas. “Before we get off track and I forget what’s going on, why am I out of prison?”

           Nicholas groans. “Your questions will be clarified later. Zari and the other leaders will answer them. Right now, you can ask any questions except about why you are here.”

           “Where’s Vicky?” I ask a little too saucily.

           Nicholas rolls his eyes. “Why don’t we play a little game? It’s called, ‘keep your mouth shut and you will live.’ How’s that?”

           “Sounds…” stupid “…good.”

           Nicholas starts off, and I stick close to him. Stone houses with muddy straw roofs border the street while carts of merchants are scattered throughout the path. Tribesfolk from the southern plains push past me, while Valian citizens wear their gray cloaks with the crest of the rose. I see the odd Necroca amongst the people, and they have the easiest way to get around; people avoid them. I try not to act like the others do around the witches. It’s hard, though. The dream of my memory makes me shudder.

           About a yard away lies the stone Fortress, casting a shadow over the city. I feel like a mouse next to a cat’s paw walking nearer to it.

           “So Nicholas…” I attempt a conversation with the warrior. “What was your name before you changed it?”

           Nicholas casts a sideways glance at me but doesn’t respond. I don’t press on the question.

           “I wonder why the Tribesfolk don’t use family names,” I muse out loud. Nicholas snorts.

           “We don’t-they don’t follow the monarchy’s traditions.” Nicholas motions forward after correcting himself, dodging a large dog as it rushes down the street. It’s barks make me jump, and I can’t help letting out shrieks as I run away from it. Nicholas breaks into laughs, the Fortress shadow leaning even closer towards us.

           “What a wimp…” Nicholas examines the look on my face before shutting up. “Please, call me Nick,” he mumbles under my withering glare.

           I sigh, waving him off. “It’s fine. I guess I can be a little scared from time to time.”

           “Or more cowardly,” Nicholas mutters under his breath. I choose not to listen.

           I fumble to hold my bracelet, reminding myself to stay vigilant. I must find my way. I will save you, Mother, Father, I set my jaw, taking long, meaningful strides.

           Until then, my family, I will do what I can to help you.

           Our pace quickens, the Fortress gates entering my sightline. My eyes widen in amazement. The Fortress gates look just like something from my fathers legends of knights. Legends from the time when the lost kingdom Narador had been our peaceful ally and our own kingdom had nobles scattered throughout the land. Now, our king hides in his palace, surrounded by three cities full of rich, snobbish knights, nobles, and scholars.

           I resist the urge to spit on the ground. It’s not ladylike, I remind myself as the stone-and-wood gates slowly open, with warriors standing guard at each side. Nicholas gestures at them before they relax. One has curly red hair, and his eyes widen at the sight of us. He strides forward, a sword hanging at his side.

           “My lady,” he says awkwardly to me. “The name is-is Rai, and I am of the Henar family . I am one of the leaders of Valian. Elden is the eldest of both Zari and I, and I have heard of your arrival. I am grateful to be of service.” Rai bows low to me. I straighten my shoulders, supressing the expression of surprise that tries to form on my face.

           “I am Sara of the Nida family. I hail from the Village Kel.” And I’m not embarrassed by it. “May I ask where you hail from?”

           Rai stiffens. “Uh—”

           “Let’s go, fancy face,” Nicholas grumbles, taking my arm and yanking me away. Suddenly there’s a flash of red, and Rai’s jade green eyes glower at Nicholas.

           “She’s with me now, you little rat,” his growl is low and threatening.

           Nicholas shuffles his feet, staring at the ground. “What’s with you, Rai? Do you want me to tell Elden of your behavior? You could lose your position as leader, you know.” Nicholas raises an eyebrow.

           Rai’s defensive posture drops. “Fine. I’m going to the Battle Chamber now. You can meet me there.” He walks towards the Fortress, head hanging.

           “What was that about?” I wonder aloud.

           “Nothing,” Nick mutters, trudging through the Fortress gates. “Nothing at all.”

           I wonder what’s wrong with those two… my curiosity trails off at what I see inside the Fortress walls.

           Warriors in gray Valian cloaks spar with each other on the tracts of grass. Each one wears the Valian crest. There’s people of all ages. There’s a young boy, probably around thirteen years old, who fights with a staff against a girl. The girl wears strange clothing that I have never seen before, and they nod to me before continuing with the fight.

           Nicholas leads me to the castle-looking place in the middle of the fortress. It is made of stone like the walls of the Fortress, and I feel like I’m next to a mountain walking up to it. It’s the place where the Valian leaders stay, no doubt. My jaw drops as I study the flags attached to the castle, whipping in the wind.

           “Zari is the leader of all this?” I gape in disbelief while brushing a stand of hair from my face.

           “Not all of it. Battle planning, yes, but Raihenar and Eldenick also help lead the city. Rai does most of the battle too, and I’d say Elden organizes the city more.” Nicholas brushes a twig off his dark gray cloak, winking at me. “I am not much of a leader, but Zari makes me feel like I am.”

           I ignore that comment as we walk past six more warriors standing guard. I feel their eyes on my back as I walk past them, my fists clenching tightly.

           “Why so many guards inside the Fortress?” I step into the stone fort cagily. Nicholas notices my rigor and laughs quietly.

           “They watch you, wary that you are a spy. You, of all people, a spy!” Nick chuckles, but it fades under my frown. He sighs. “We just had one infiltrate the city. Actually, it wasn’t a spy. An assassin named—”

           “An assassin?” I play with my bracelet nervously. Nicholas nods, guiding me into a smaller hall. Not many people seem to dwell in the castle.

           “Yeah. He works for us now. Paid him better than those rich Outer City snobs did,” Nicholas grunts, swerving into a different hall, and for the first time I notice another sword at his side.

           “Oh,” I mumble, the hairs on the back of my neck rising. “That’s…good.” I position my bow and arrows so I can get to them easily.

           “Anyway, I really couldn’t see a person like you being a spy. Don’t know why they’re so suspicious,” Nicholas continues, leading to my confidence dwindling a bit.

           I run through the Cardic Scriptures as we walk briskly around the twisting halls, taking my mind off Nicholas’s comment. I know I wouldn’t make a good warrior or hero. It is fine with me…kind of. I just feel alone, being someone who would cower in battle instead of standing up and fighting. I don’t need more proof that I am boring.

           “Ugh…” Nicholas groans, pacing left and right now. “This castle is like a maze.”

           “You need help? I can find the way,” I offer immediately. Nicholas shakes his head.

           “I’ve got this,” he snaps. I sigh.

           That’s when a cold presence fills the hall, filling me with fear.

           “Nicholas, I’ll take it from here.”

Join the conversation

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry
Post a comment
0 Likes 0 Comments
Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

Become a Book Nerd

When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.