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Wyanet, Kalista and I slid down the small hill we hid behind. We ran off into the woods, wary of where our feet landed. A heavy angry silence chased us through the trees. We didn’t stop until Kalista collapsed from exhaustion and the shadow of night concealed us. We had witnessed a woman kill herself to escape torture at the hands of Goblins and we were all shaken by it.
“Let’s make camp here for the night.” I wheezed. I had doubled over and struggled to breathe. “We should be far enough away.”
Kalista forced herself into a sitting position against a tree clutching her side. “No…” Her chest heaved as she tried to suck in air. “Fire…” Kalista coughed, nearly falling over. “There might be more nearby.”
Wyanet had shed her rucksack and stood ready for an attack. Her shoulders bobbed as she tried to get control of her breath. She had her back to us, her rawhide shield strapped to her left arm, and she pointed her spear at the gaps between the trees.
“Wyanet?” I stated.
“Humph?” She grunted in response.
“We need to figure out what we are going to do,” I replied.
“We help those people, and kill all of the Goblins.” Wyanet returned.
“Damn it, woman!” Kalista exclaimed. “We’re not going to get attacked. Now sit your ass down so that you two can figure out how to get past those gobelins.”
Wyanet scowled at Kalista. She sat down, folded her legs, and set her spear and shield at her side. “You speak like you are not going to help.” Wyanet accused.
Kalista waved her hand like she was brushing away a fly. “Our deal was for me to show you where the cave entrance was, not to fight Blarg and his brood. I showed you where the cave is, now I’ll continue on my hunt.”
“You know that bugbear?” I inquired as I sat down beside Wyanet.
Kalista snapped back, “Yes, I know him.”
“How?” Wyanet snarled.
Kalista crossed her arms and tried to lean back further into the tree. “He was one of the three bugbears that Clas ran off when we settled here. We killed the eldest brother, but Blarg and his younger brother Clarg escaped with a handful of Goblins. I followed them for a few days but they weren’t a threat.”
I replied, “That was more than a handful of Goblins.”
Kalista spread her arms and shouted in exasperation. “I don’t know!” She caught her mistake and lowered her voice. “They must have taken over another tribe or something.”
“It looked like they were preparing for a war. If we do not stop them many more people will be killed, or worse.” Wyanet stated.
“Wy is right. We may not be able to kill them all, but we can try to slow them down for a while.” I added.
“No.” Wyanet declared. “We will kill all of them.”
Kalista fell silent and watched us bicker.
“There are too many of them for the fi…” I faked a cough, “three of us to take out alone. Remember why we came out here in the first place. We can’t help those kids if we are dead.”
Wyanet stared at me and waited for me to continue.
“What’s your plan, Willow Twig?” Kalista asked, cutting the tension.
“Now you want to help?” Wyanet sneered.
“I might help ” Kalista responded as she crossed her legs. “Or I might be gone before you two wake up. I don’t know yet.”
Wyanet gave Kalista a glare that could freeze water. “If you leave, when those Goblins start to kill everyone in your village, every one of those deaths will be your fault.”
“Enough!” I demanded. “This isn’t going to get us anywhere.” Both of the women fell silent. “Kalista, we still need your help. I don’t know if we’ll be able to get past them without it.”
“Alright Willow Twig, I’ll hear you out.”
“Okay,” I relaxed a bit, “first, we’ll have to free the prisoners. If we’re lucky, some of them will be able to fight which will make everything a little easier. While I’m doing that, Wyanet, you will go through the entrance of the gully and create a distraction. Kalista, you’ll sit on the hill where we were today and support Wyanet. After the prisoners get away, Wy and I will enter the cave. Then you get to go do whatever you like, Kalista.”
Wyanet nodded in approval.
“Sounds solid.” Kalista remarked, “When do we strike?”
“Just before twilight. Most of them should still be asleep then.” I replied.
“We need to sleep then. I’ll take first watch.” Wyanet stated.
“I’ll take second,” I added.
Kalista pulled a grey wool blanket out of her pack and wrapped it around her. “That gives me plenty of time to sleep.” Kalista held up the blanket with her left hand. “The nights still get cold, and it’ll be worse without a fire.” She said to me.
“She’s right,” Wyanet offered. “we should share body heat.”
I looked at both of them and reluctantly sat down beside Kalista. I removed my sword and placed it within reach. Kalista had already done the same with her sabre and hand crossbow. I grabbed a corner of the blanket and wrapped it around my shoulder. Kalista wrapped her arms around my torso and brought her half of the blanket around completing our wool cocoon. Kalista used my chest as her pillow. She smelled faintly of rose water with hints of leather and sweat. I forced my mind to wander to less intimate places as I drifted off to sleep.
Wyanet woke me up a few hours later. Kalista was still fast asleep and snoring softly. She was warm and my body didn’t want to get up.
“It is your turn to take watch,” Wyanet whispered as she gently shook me.
My eyes snapped open. We were still surrounded by darkness and I could smell rain in the distance. “Anything happen?” I asked, dislodging myself from Kalista.
Kalista groaned and mumbled something before settling back in.
“I heard some howling about an hour ago, but it was far away,” Wyanet answered. She took my place and slid in close behind Kalista, wrapping the blanket around them.
“Wolves?” I pressed. I slid my sword into its customary place.
“I do not think so, they sounded larger.”
I frowned in the darkness. “Okay, get some sleep.”
Wyanet laid her head down and fell asleep. I turned my back on the sleeping women and studied my immediate surroundings. Kalista and Wyanet slept between the exposed roots of an ancient yew tree. A mix of oak, ash, maple and poplar trees surrounded our hasty camp. One of the maple trees nearby had a branch that stood nine feet above the forest floor. I took a deep breath and sprinted on my toes toward the tree. I launched myself at the tree branch.
The branch was slick with moisture, but I kept my grip. I used the rest of my momentum and twisted my body around until I got my feet back under me on the branch. I scaled the tree another ten feet and found a spot where several branches connected to the trunk and I could sit in a decent level of comfort. I nestled into my perch and watched as my companions slept.
Nothing happened during my watch. Clouds rolled in and blocked out the stars, and occasionally I would hear an owl or fox screech. I woke Kalista up after a couple of hours and told her the same things Wyanet had told me. I switched places with Kalista pressing my chest to Wyanet’s back and wrapped the blanket around us. Wyanet was cooler than Kalista, and smelled of earth.
“Keep us safe,” I whispered too quietly for Kalista to hear. A small determined grunt came from behind me, and I slipped back to sleep.
Wyanet woke me up hours later. It was still dark, and the clouds I had watched move in now spit a fine misty rain at us. I was already soaked. I sat up and pulled on my hood. It didn’t help. I looked around the camp and only saw Wyanet. “Where’s Kalista?” I inquired.
“I do not know,” Wyanet replied. “She was gone when I woke up. She took her supplies with her.”
I wiped the rain from my face, “Fantastic.”
“We should go,” Wyanet replied. “The rain is on our side.”
I shrugged off the sodden blanket and tried to wring it out as best I could before rolling it back up with a length of cord. “We’ll need to stick together and hope nothing goes wrong.” I secured the blanket on my back. Wyanet made sure her pack was tight, and we set off through the forest towards the Goblin camp at a slow jog.
The story will continue, May 2nd
Written by: Sweeney
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