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Lowenna part 17 (Chapter 19 & 20)
By
rbo

Lowenna part 17 (Chapter 19 & 20)

Lowenna has left Penbirth on a dangerous quest, what will she and the others face on this journy

Chapter 19 IN TRAINING

Kia had taken over the lead of the party. There was only one possible track they could have taken with a wagon, and it was the same road Lowenna had walked to Penbirth on.

Lowenna was holding onto the reigns of her horse very tightly, as she had found riding was not as easy as she had first thought. On the first corner, she had nearly fallen off, and now was trying to be extra careful.

As they passed the hill with the tower that Lowenna had seen on the way to Penbirth, she shouted to Kia, trying to get his attention. “What’s is that tower in the field?” But he didn't answer.

Rique and Ryna, who were sharing a horse, pulled alongside Lowenna. “That is the old lookout tower and keep. Long before Penbirth was established, there was a fierce battle around here. I believe an army tried to take it, but even with Dragons and Orcs they couldn’t get through the defences. It’s said it took an evil, powerful Lowenna to pierce the wall and let the invaders in, and even then the battle raged on for many moons. A squad of orcs and goblins lived there for a while, but it’s abandoned now.” Rique shouted making sure Lowenna could understand her even at the pace they were riding.

The group of eight rode on until they reached the fork in the road. Lowenna was thinking about the rider in the rusty old armour, with his face covered in mud. Kia jumped off his horse and spent a few moments looking at the track and grass verges, and then he looked at the sky. “Which way do you think they went Rique?” he asked. Marchel growled and shook his head, as to show annoyance at the question that Kia obviously knew the answer.

Rique dismounted and looked at the path and grass much like her father. "A large party headed east recently, not much has headed towards the jungle for a while.”

“Very good Rique. Although the wagon has very recognisable tracks, even in this dry mud,” he stated pointing at some wide grooves in the mud. I would say the wagon is very heavy and when I saw it, only four horses were pulling it, so they won’t be able to travel that fast or far, compared to us. If they keep to the track and we can stay on their trail, we should be able to catch them in a couple of moons.” Kia looked a little smug when he said this. Obviously he was enjoying using skills that he hadn’t used in awhile.

“We head that way,” Kia shouted pointed in the direction the wagon had traveled, “till we hit the river Tyne. We can rest the horses there. They more than likely did the same, possibly swapped the horses on the wagon. That’s what I would have done.”

“They are not you,” Marchel interjected, allowing everyone to see how annoyed he was. “There’s no guarantee they stopped.”

“Unless they went off the road and followed the river that is the only place for a sun’s ride to get fresh water. They would have stopped,” Kia replied sounding very sure.

Marchel nodded slowly, “You know this area well, then Kia.”

“Yes I do,” Kia replied.

“It wasn’t a question, just an observation,” Marchel replied before he reared his horse up and heading along the path Kia had pointed down at a gallop. Kia looked a little hurt, but he and Rique remounted their horses and rode off after Marchel.

Grilk, however, came alongside Lowenna, “he no trust us,” he said quietly to her pointing down the track where Marchel had headed.

“I don’t trust him either Grilk,” Lowenna replied, before following the others down the dusty track.

The party rode at a good pace and travelling a good distance. “We will rest at the river, ride the horses hard,” Kia had shouted which everyone had done. Lowenna was hoping the river wasn’t too far away, as the ride wasn't very comfortable. It was obvious she had not done a lot of riding, so she was very glad when she saw the bridge that spanned the river ahead.

“Stop at the river and rest” Kia shouted, “I’m riding on ahead to find the trail.”

As soon as the horse stopped, Lowenna dismounted, all be it slightly undignified. She stretched her legs and back, and then took one of the water pouches and had a long drink.

It was quite a nice view here. The bridge was old but solid looking spanning a wide slow flowing river and on both sides. There were several fields, all separated by little stone walls, and a large boulder in the open area just down river, and some large trees and flowers on the other side of the bank.

“Not used to riding Lowenna?” Marchel asked smugly. Although Lowenna couldn’t see much of his face she knew, he was smiling.

“It’s been a while,” Lowenna replied coldly while stretching again. Unlike the sword skills and the magic, how to ride a horse had not come to Lowenna. She had been watching the others, trying to learn how. She had deduced at the gate that pulling one side of the reins made the horse turn, and pulling both made it slow and stop, but the rest had just been, hold on for your life.

She imagined how it would have looked to Krakett and everyone else if she had fallen off the horse when she had started the journey.

Marchel took the reins of her horse and led it and the other horses to the river for a well-deserved drink. Grilk tied the warg up to a tree so it could also drink but could not get away, as the rest of the party gathered around Lowenna.

“So what do we do now?” Vorn asked.

Lowenna looked around, “eat and rest for a bit,” she replied, suddenly feeling hungry.

“And train,” Grilk added as he joined the party. “You four youngins eat fast, grab swords and shields and meet me by the large rock. He pointed to the boulder, before trudging off towards it.

Vorn and Reath ran to their horses to grab the many weapons they had chosen before they had set off, looking excited. Rique waited for her brother to leave as well, before facing Lowenna. She looked a little scared. “I’ve never used a sword before,” she admitted. Lowenna had already worked that out, because of the way her hands shook when she was holding the knife Lowenna had given her.

“That is why you have to learn to defend yourself, which was part of the deal with you coming with us,” Lowenna replied, remembering how scared she had been before she realised she could fight. “Now go, eat and practise, both Grilk and I think you will do fine. Everyone needs to practise.”

Rique nodded, she turned and followed Ryna, to the horses to get some food and her sword.

Lowenna looked around again, there was an old dead tree in one of the fields, so she jumped over the small wall and headed towards it. With her back to the others, Lowenna tapped her crystal, to summon the fire as she had in the garden. Pausing for a moment, Lowenna allowed the fire to dance on her hand as she watched. She looked at the tree then the fire and tried to throw the fire as if it was a stone, but as it left her hand it fizzled out.

Lowenna tapped her crystal again and this time while still looking at the tree pushed her hand towards it, like she was pushing something aside. The fire shot from her hand exploding as it hit the tree, which burst into flames. Lowenna just stood there with a surprised look on her face, watching the tree burn. She couldn’t believe how powerful that little fire was.

“I hope the raiders aren’t too close,” Marchel called to her, as he vaulted over the wall to join her. “Else you may have just told them we were coming. Or was that your intention?”

“I err…” Lowenna pauses “I wasn’t expecting the spell to work so well.” She replied, looking again at the burning tree.

Marchel threw Lowenna a look that made her feel uncomfortable. She didn’t exactly know what it meant, but she knew he wasn’t pleased. “So either you don’t know what you magical limits are, or you’re lying to me,” Marchel said not taking his eyes off her.

“I am not lying to you! I was practising and some of my magic’s is not, err… perfected,” she replied, trying to explain without telling Marchel she really didn’t know anything about her magic.

“Perhaps we should test that,” Marchel said, with a hint of hostility in his voice, before jumping away from Lowenna. It was an impressive jump, more than Lowenna thought possible, as he cleared over half the field, and while in the air he had drawn his sword and placed the gauntlet on. “You ready Lowenna,” he shouted, before turning on the spot and launching a blue, electrical, magic orb from his gauntlet.

Lowenna saw it coming and jumped to the left to avoid it, but the orb changed direction and still headed for her. Just moments before it hit her, Lowenna jumped back to the right and the ball passed her only just missing her. “It’s not that easy Marchel shouted. Lowenna turned her head and then ducked just in time as the orb flew over where she had just been standing.

Lowenna tapped her crystal and pushed her hand towards the orb, the fire shot from her hand shattering the orb into dust.

“Woo hoo.” Rique shouted, “go Lowenna.”

Lowenna turned her head to see all the others some behind the wall, and some sitting on it watching her. She threw them a quick smile, before refocusing on Marchel, but he had already launched three more Magical orbs, they were all heading towards Lowenna at different angles.

Lowenna jumped back and squeezed her crystal. A thought stirred in her mind. It was like she knew exactly what to do. Clapping her hands, she sent the fire out in many directions before, in a sweeping motion, pushed her hands out to the sides. Suddenly the fire spread to form a large spinning disk of pink flames. The orbs splintering into nothingness as each one hit it. Lowenna then brought her hands to her chest and pushed the fire wheel, much as she had pushed the fire at the tree. As soon as her hands touched the fire, it shot away from her straight at Marchel, who dived to the ground as the flaming wheel flew past him.

“I suppose you think that’s funny,” He shouted at Lowenna, as he got to his feet, Grilk and the others were cheering with approval, but Lowenna didn’t take her eyes off Marchel. Was he trying to kill her or just gage what she could do? After a few moments of staring, Marchel threw his gauntlet to the ground, and removed a short metal staff with pointed ends, from his belt. He glared at the crowd of onlookers, “No more magic,” he shouted as he slammed the staff into the ground.

Lowenna felt it, as the staff struck the earth. It was like a cold shudder went through her entire body, stifling the flames in her hand. Marchel had drawn his sword and was running very quickly at Lowenna. She drew her dagger to defend herself and jumped backwards, but Marchel was already on her, he was too fast. She blocked the sword with her arm-guard then her dagger, but Marchel brought his knee up into her gut, partly winding her, she hadn’t expected that he was faster than her.

Lowenna swiped the dagger at him, as she tried to recover her breath, but he blocked it with ease. Then he grabbed her wrist and slamming it into his knee forcing Lowenna to drop her blade, but this time he had left himself exposed. Lowenna ignoring the pain smashed her arm-guard into his face and then brought her knee up into his side, which left him off balance. She followed that with a low sweeping kick toppling Marchel over onto his back. Marchel had caught her dagger, and without warning launched it at Lowenna forcing her to jump back blocking the throw with her guard.

Marchel Jumped to his feet but did not move. “You are an adequate fighter Lowenna. It’s been an age since someone put me on my back.” Lowenna was breathing heavy, now that the breath had returned to her body, she had realised, as she blocked the dagger, that it had not meant to kill her. It had not been thrown hard enough, which was good as if it had been much faster Lowenna wasn’t sure she would have been able to block it.

“Good practise,” Lowenna replied as she picked up her dagger, but then she had a thought, “How did you turn the magic off?”

“I didn’t,” Marchel replied, “just a spell to cool the air and stifle the fire.”

Lowenna nodded at him. He had tricked her and he had attacked so quickly she hadn’t, had time to think.

Marchel had gone to get his staff and gauntlet while Lowenna made her way up to the others.

“Wow,” Rique and Ryna said almost at the same time.

“That was awesome," Vorn added.

“Good fight but Marchel had the upper hand if the fight had continued,” Kia added.

“I know, I had some more moves but wasn’t expecting him to be so fast. The lawmen live up to their reputation.” Lowenna smiled and stretched her back. She, of course, didn't know if lawmen had a reputation, but it seemed a good thing to say at the time.

“Wenna you’re bleeding,” Rique suddenly stated, pointing at Lowenna’s arm. The blood was running down Lowenna’s arm, from under her arm-guard. She removed the guard, to see that the edge was sharp and had caused a small but deep gash.

Grilk looked at the cut. “Give guard to me, me fix,” he said, and Lowenna tossed the guard to him. She then stroked her crystal with her middle finger, sliding it down to the point and then placed her hand over the wound, when she removed her hand the cut was gone.

Lowenna suddenly looked up to see everyone looking at her arm,

“Wow,” Ryna said again.

“How?!” Kia added.

“You’re a healer?!” Rique stated.

“Err, I suppose I am,” Lowenna admitted, although she hadn’t even thought about it. She had just stroked her pink crystal and placed her hand on the cut as if it was the natural thing to do. Lowenna looked down at her arm again. She couldn’t remember ever doing it before, but she had just known what to do. Just like she had known how to fight, how she had blinded Malaki, and how she had created the fire wheel. It was like all the knowledge was in her head, but she couldn’t access it. She was just getting snippets of it when she needed it, but the important stuff, who she was, who her family were, where she came from, it was all just out of reach.

Grilk nodded and started back toward the boulder, to continue the practice. Lowenna noticed he was still slightly limping, from the injuries he had obtained from the fire. “Grilk wait,” she called, as she quickly went over to him. “I want to try something, I’m not sure it is going to work.” She stroked her crystal just like she had done before healing her arm, but this time placed her hand on Grilk’s leg. Lowenna’s hand glowed pink and a pale aura shone around it. Grilk stood very still for a few moments, before grabbing Lowenna’s hand and moving it away.

“Me no trust magic,” Grilk said quietly to Lowenna and started to walk away from her, but after just a few steps he stopped walking. Grilk tapped the bandage on his thigh, then grabbed it and ripped it off his leg, revelling a nasty greenish brown scar. Grilk poked it and tapped it, “It no hurt no more!” Grilk said in his normal loud voice. Lowenna smiled and stroked her crystal again and this time placed it on Grilk’s bandaged arm. Grilk did not resist or complain. “It tickles," he said giggling, as Lowenna’s hand glowed. When the pink light faded, Grilk ripped off the bandage on his arm. There were still bad scars, but Lowenna could see Grilk was really happy and in a lot less pain. “Thank you Wenna,” Grilk waved his arms around then gave a big stretch, “PRACTISE!” He shouted, picking up his axe and walking towards the boulder.

“Thank you, Lowenna,” Rique said with a touch of sarcasm. She didn’t look pleased, but Ryna, Vorn and Reath all ran past Lowenna to re-grab their weapons, to start their training with Grilk.

“So how long will we be here?” Marchel asked Kia, as Lowenna wandered over to the pair to listen.

“A short while longer. I found the trail and they are heading towards The Dark Peek Mountains. Unless they change direction, I would say they are heading to the Crescent moon canyon or one of the caves near there. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere really to rest or get water for the horses from here until we get to the river Nort.” There was a pause before he continued, “that’s roughly a sun and moon's ride away

“Hmm,” Marchel turned to Lowenna “I agree unless they do something unexpected they should head towards the mountains and crescent Moon canyon is a logical choice to rest and hide.”

“You know the area ahead,” Kia said with a smile on his face.

“I hunted several dangerous bandits who hid in the canyon,” Marchel replied.

“That was not a question,” Kia stated as he walked off to help Grilk.

Lowenna sat on a small stone wall and watch the others practising for a while. Reath and Vorn were arguing with Grilk while Ryna had definitely improved. Rique was still struggling with the sword, but her skill with the small crossbow was really getting good, and she was getting fast and accurate.

“The twins have no patience. They think that because they can hold a sword they can use them.” Marchel said, as he suddenly appeared surprising Lowenna.

“What do you think of the others?” Lowenna asked hoping for an honest answer.

“The orc is old, but still a good warrior and he is showing remarkable patience trying to show the twins how to fight. Not a trait orcs are known for.” Marchel looked over at the others, “The tracker knows the area well and is an excellent shot with his bow. He’s not bad with a sword either. His son is too young, but can shoot straight, with some practice, could become a good swordsman and his daughter,” Marchel paused, before continuing, “she doesn’t really bring anything to the group. Although she is learning and is getting better with that cross bolt you gave her, but there is nothing she can do which her dad or brother can’t do better.”

“Cross bolt?” Lowenna asked.

“The small crossbow,” Marchel replied.

Lowenna nodded before continuing, “Well I think she is improving and the more archers we have, the more cover we get. Can I count on you and your skills to help save the children?”

Marchel didn’t answer right away, Lowenna was wondering if he was deciding right now. “Our little sparring session showed me you do have skills, and I believe if the children are alive, we have a chance of rescuing them, but I will not follow you to my death. If I don’t agree with what you are planning, I won’t help.” Marchel replied, looking Lowenna directly in her eyes.

“Very well Marchel, let us hope that we can come up with a plan which we can both agree on,” she replied, not breaking the eye contact. The mood had gone more serious again and even slightly frosty.

“That would be wise, but not a given I’m afraid,” Marchel said before refocusing his gaze on the others. “The boy is really improving his father must be a good teacher.” Lowenna looked back at Kia and Ryna, they were both showing good sword skills, and even Rique was getting better. A smile formed on Lowenna’s face as thoughts of success ran through her mind. She turned to continue her talk with Marchel, but again he had left silently without making a sound.

Chapter 20 SHOW ME RESPECT

The sun was starting to set, and Zarkar was not happy. The suns travel had been long, hot and slow and the river Nort was still a ways off. He cursed the speed of travel, but that was not why he was angry. He had sent Dumar back to Penbirth to find out what had happened to Troy, and Lucius.

It was inconceivable that anyone could have killed either of them or that they had been captured. Yet neither of them had made the rendezvous in Penbirth, nor caught up with the party on the road.

Dumar had returned with bad news, not only was Troy dead and there was no sign of Lucius, and to make matters worse a small party was following them, to take back what he had stolen from the settlement. Did they know what he had taken?

Zarkar had left a small group of warriors and Benwa, his final, most powerful and loyal follower, behind to kill the party. He knew Benwa would not fail, yet there was a feeling of doubt, for the first time, in the back of his mind.

The raid had cost him more than he had expected. His man inside had not informed him that there was any chance of resistance. He had said, "Do enough damage, and kill enough people and it would take them too long, to organise a possible rescue or recovery party and the Lords would be unlikely to risk anyone of worth." So the fact there was a party following so soon meant, Zarkar was going to have words with his inside man, once they had reached the canyon.

Zarkar moved next to the caged prisoners. Most were looking at him, keeping their distance. They were afraid of him, "as they should be," Zarkar thought to himself.

Zarkar looked at the prisoners. One wasn’t looking at him. One had not shown much fear. A boy probably the oldest of the group. He was leaning against the bars, not looking at Zarkar, and had openly defied him. "He should show me more respect," Zarkar thought. The tattoos on his hand started to glow with a purple light, and his cape whirled up around him.

The cape changed shape, growing strands like long tendrils. Zarkar smiled as he flexed his fingers. They flowed quickly through the bars grabbing the boy’s arms and legs and before he knew what was happening, Zarkar clenched his fist and jerked his hand back towards his chest. The bound boy was pulled into the bars, forcing him to cry out in pain. The final band suddenly wrapped itself around the boy’s neck and started to squeeze. The other prisoners looked terrified as they saw their friend, being tortured and strangled.

Eryn grabbed the others pulling them in tight and covered the youngest captives eye's, “Don’t look,” she said, but could not take her own advice. She saw her friend being lifted off the floor by the tendrils, which were wrapped around his limbs and neck.

“Tell me your name boy,” Zarkar ordered.

“Samuel,” the lad managed to say, his face now purple as the lack of oxygen was taking effect.

“Goodbye Samuel,” Zarkar said with an evil grin on his face as he clenched his fist again.

The others screamed as Samuel was pulled through the bars, his bones snapping as he was ripped through the gaps in the cage. “Don’t look!” Eryn repeated and for the first time she closed her eyes, and lowered her head, so she could not see what was going to happen next.

Samuel was still alive. Zarkar smiled as his cape held the boy’s broken body in arms reach. He could hear the gasps for breath as Samuel tried to breath. He looked into the boy’s eyes, seeing pain and fear. "Now he respects me," Zarkar thought, as he placed his hand on the boy’s chest. A pale purple light shone from under Samuel’s skin, Zarkar pulled is hand back slowly and the pale light came out of Samuel's body, like a mist. It hovered over Samuels dying body, before entering Zarkar through his mouth. “Thank you,” he whispered before slamming his clenched fist into his other hand. Samuel’s head was suddenly ripped from his body, his blood splattering the floor. Zarkar opened his hand and threw it to the side, his cape responded by tossing the lifeless body into the long grass on the side of the road.

The kill had been too easy, but Zarkar had enjoyed the cries and screams from the other children. He also had needed the energy of another young soul. This would restore his power until his sacrifice, where he would absorb a child's entire essence. Zarkar closed his eyes for a moment, as he felt the new energy flowing through his body. He knew none of the prisoners would disrespect him again.

Dumar suddenly appeared beside him, on another horse, “Was that really necessary?” he asked.

“Not really, but the life force will help restore my power." Zarkar breathed slowly as the energy he had obtained from Samuel merged with his own.

Dumar was silent. He knew Zarkar was going to speak again. "The raid as a whole was a success, but it cost me, two loyal followers. One is dead and the other is missing."

"Would you like me to go back, try to find what happened to Lucius?" Dumar asked hoping this would keep Zarkar calm.

"No!" Zarkar replied trying to stay in control of his rage, but his tattoos were glowing again.

"What would you like me to do my lord?" Dumar asked hoping Zarkar had orders for him which would put distance between him and Zarkar.

Zarkar smiled, “Go, make sure whoever is following us go through the pass and watch them die by Benwa’s hands." Dumar nodded and vanished like he had never been there, leaving Zarkar with his murderous thoughts and the head of his last victim. “Your death was quick. The others will not be so lucky,” he said just loud enough so that the other children could hear. The young prisoners huddled together, crying, trying not to think about what had just happened. 

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © 2015 by Robert Stevens All Rights Reserved

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