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Lowenna part 3 (chapter 4)
By
rbo

Lowenna part 3 (chapter 4)

A young woman awakens in a strange land with no memory of who she is.

CHAPTER 4 THE LONG ROAD AHEAD

The young woman awoke to the noise of birds singing. The storm had passed and the sun was rising. She got up quickly, put on the cape she had been lying on and headed out of the wagon.

She took a few deep breaths before moving on. Clearing the stale smell from her scenes. She brushed the dust from her cape, drunk the last of the water in her flask, and set off quickly, following the dirt road away from the jungle. Hoping that the brisk walk would settle her stomach.

She was also hoping, that she would be in a proper bed next moon time. She had decided that sleeping on the floor was something she didn't like to do, and even though she couldn't remember her past, she was sure sleeping on the floor was not part of it.

It was a pleasant day so far, but there were still some ominous black clouds in the sky above. She looked around as she followed the muddy track. On both sides, there were green fields, which stretched as far as her eyes could see. The grass glistening, still wet from the rain and the fields were divided only by little stone hedges and a few trees.

After a while, the track branched into two. Both looked very similar. Both tracks obviously headed somewhere, but how far and where? That was the problem the red haired woman faced now. She hoped she had made the right decision leaving the wreck and beach behind her, not that the creatures had given her much choice.

She looked down each path in turn, trying to decide which one to take when she suddenly saw something far in the distance. It was a rider on a horse, trotting along one of the tracks. She headed off towards the rider quickly, and the choice was made which road to take.

It took a little time for her to reach the rider. Partly, because he wasn’t riding very fast and partly, because the woman was still stiff and tired from sleeping on the floor of a wagon.

“Excuse me, how far to the town?" She asked, looking up at the rider. He was wearing a dull armour chest plate and a smart cape. His hair was gray and there was a little stubble on his chin. "At least he is human!" the young woman thought. There were three leather flasks and a saddlebag on the old grey horse he was riding. “Excuse me,” she repeated, but the rider didn’t reply.

As he passed her, she shouted, “I need to know how far to the next town!” After what had happened since awakening on the beach two sun’s ago, she wanted to find civilisation. The rider gave her a quick glance, before returning his gaze back to the road ahead, acting that she hadn't spoken to him.

She moved quickly, to get back in front of the rider, positioning herself right in his path with her arms spread wide. “STOP!” She shouted. The rider dug his heels into the side of the horse, making it rear up. She had to back away, so the horse’s hooves didn’t hit her as they came down. Now she was getting irritated and more than a little upset, “Just tell me how far to town, please,” she begged.

The rider drew his sword and looked at the green-eyed woman who was in his way, “Leave me be!” He growled, with a voice that was deep and regal. His horse reared up again as it received a command from its master, this time catching her unaware.

As the young woman hit the ground, she rolled to the left, so the horse’s hooves missed her as they landed. As she stood, she raised her sword and pointed it at the rider. “It would be a shame to spill blood for a simple question. From where do you ride? How far away is it?" The tone had changed. Before it had been a distressed young woman who needed help, and now it was a proud, strong woman who was going to get what she wanted.

The rider took a half-hearted swipe with his sword, but the young woman parried it. She then took a step forward and grabbed his wrist so that he couldn’t take another swing. “Unhand me,” he growled, “or I will run you through.”

"At least he is speaking to me now," the woman thought, as she dropped her sword to the ground, still holding onto the rider’s wrist. With one swift movement, she drew her sharp curved dagger from under her cape and cut the strap that held the saddle to the horse. She held onto the rider's wrist, as the horse took another step forward, causing him to fall very awkwardly to the dirt track. “Now, how far to the nearest town?" she repeated once more, now standing on the riders sword, which was pinning his hand to the ground.

“Over the next few hills,” he finally blurted out, while trying not to show that he was in pain.

“Now that wasn’t too hard,” she said, as removed her foot from the rider's sword. “I am in need of some water. I'm sure you will share a little with me," She added.

She took one of the flasks, from the horse, which had come to a stop only a few steps away, much to the displeasure of the rider.

The rider let out a fierce battle cry, as he jumped up and charged at the woman with red hair, his sword pointing straight at her. But with a spin and a low sweep of her leg, the old rider ended up face down in the mud, his sword sliding across the track. “I will leave you to your business sir,” she said sarcastically, as she turned and started the long walk to town. She left the rider sitting in the road with mud on his face, looking rather foolish.

The walk was pleasant enough, a little hilly, but the views were nice. There were several large fields separated by little walls, wildflowers growing in the hedges. There was a large hill with a stone monument or tower in one of the fields, but she wasn’t really in the mood for sightseeing.

Keeping a brisk pace, she was hoping to make the town before moon fall, but by the middle of the sun, she wished she had taken the riders horse. Her bare feet were really hurting now, and it was starting to rain again. She shuddered, hoping the town wasn’t too much further.

The Light had faded due to the dark clouds. It felt like she had been walking forever. The rain was now pouring down, and although the cape was waterproof, it didn't fit that well, so wasn't keeping all of the rain off her unclothed skin.

She kept walking, hoping to be there soon. But was now shivering and her sore, feet were covered in wet sticky mud. “What else can I do?” She muttered to herself while looking for any kind of shelter from the rain, but there was none.

She had admitted to herself a while ago, that she shouldn’t have taken the word of the rider. He had obviously understated, the distance to the town. “A few hills,” she said to herself as she trembled under her cape. She was exhausted and didn’t want to walk anymore. Pausing for a moment, she held and gazed into her pink crystal. It glowed pink in the fading light. “Just keep going, you will be there soon,” she said to it with a smile.

She just had to keep going, forcing one muddy foot in front of another. The monotony of another hill, one of many she had crossed over. But when as she finally reached the top, a beautiful sight met her. In the distance, there were lights. The town was finally in sight.

It was almost pitch black apart from the little lights in the distance, as the rain lashed down. The red haired woman started to run down the hill, more in anticipation than with belief she would be there soon. But it was too dark, her foot slipped. Then as she tried to recover, she tripped over a loose stone and tumbled down the steep decline.

She was hurt. Her leg and her arm were in pain. A tear rolled down her cheek, but it was lost to the wetness of her skin. She tried to stand, but her body didn’t want to. She screamed out loud in frustration and pain. To be in sight of the town and not able to make it was heartbreaking.

The young woman grabbed her crystal again, this time in desperation. “Help me!” She begged, and suddenly, there was a beautiful and warming flash of pink light. She forced herself to stand. Although still in pain, it was more bearable now. “Thank you,” she whispered, as she looked at the road ahead. Amazingly everything had a slight pink outline. She could see. It was beautiful. “Thank you!” She repeated with real gratitude in her heart. The pink stone pulsed with a faint light before it returned to its natural state. It had given her another gift, the ability to see in the dark.

The pink stone had first saved her from the reptilian creature, healed her wounds, and now had given her the strength and means to make it to the town Putting one foot in front of another, she continued down the long track, which she had started down in the early sun.

“One more hill,” she said out loud, as she started on the last incline. The settlement was large and was extremely high up, built on a flat plateau embedded nearly half way up the side of the mountain. There was a steady steep track that zigzagged up to a tall heavily fortified wall. Only now did the red haired woman worry how she would get into the settlement? And would they be friendly, or even human for that matter?

It felt like it took forever to reach the gate. The pink glow of the world around her faded back to nothingness, as there was lamp by the gate, which provided enough light to see. She paused for a moment, before banging on the door as loudly as possible, until a guard opened a small hatch so he could see who had disturbed him. “Who goes there?" he snapped angrily as if someone had bothered him for no good reason.

The young woman looked through the hatch. She was cold and there was a slight tremble in her voice. “I am a survivor from a shipwreck, from the coast, and I seek only shelter and a warm meal." This was the story she was sticking to. In her mind, it made sense, but she had decided not to mention the reptilian creatures.

“The coast is a long way from here,” the guard stated, still sounding angry.

“This is my third moon since I awoke on a beach, over that way.” She pointed in a rough direction from where she came from. “I have seen no one except a rider, who told me this settlement was here.” She had decided to leave out the fact she had left him sitting in the road face covered in mud as well.

“What do you want here?" The guard asked.

"What a stupid question," she thought she shivered in the rain. “I need shelter and food,” she replied, trying not to sound angry.

“No are you here for an important reason or is it by mere chance you are here?”

“I am trying to find out some…” she regretted saying that as soon as it left her lips. “Yes, I’m here by chance. I should only be here a few moons.”

The guard narrowed his eyes slightly, as he pondered the answer the woman had given him. “A few moons for what?" He asked.

“I won’t cause any trouble, I just need food and shelter.”

The guard smiled through the hatch. “Yes, of course, you won’t be any trouble,” he said with a hint of sarcasm, making her feel a little uncomfortable.

There was a moment's silence, as she composed herself. “All I want is to come in out of the rain and get something to eat and a good moons sleep.”

“We are not letting anyone in at this time,” the guard stated and slammed the hatch shut. She couldn’t believe it! She had travelled a long way, in the rain, for this? A rumble of thunder crashed around her, as she banged on the gate again, and again. After a moment of continuous banging the hatch reopened, “I told you…”

“Wait, I can pay,” The young woman said, desperation in her voice. She put her hand in her shoulder bag and found the large purse with gems and gold. She removed one of the gemstones, a very large ruby. Even in the pale light for the lamp, it seemed to glow a deep red. She held it up to the hatch, so the guard could see.

There was a scrambling behind the gate, and a hand shot out of the hatch grabbing the gemstone. It disappeared back inside, as soon as the gem was tightly in the man’s grasp and then the hatch slammed shut again.

The young woman waited for a few moments but was starting to get an uneasy feeling. “Let me in!” She shouted, as she again banged on the gate, but still no sound came from the other side. She kicked the gate so hard, it hurt her foot, and she cursed out loud hoping for a moment in pain. Why had she thought getting to town would help her?

She leant back against the wall and allowed herself to slide down to the muddy wet ground. She felt so alone as she looked up into the sky, the rain running down her face.

Suddenly there was a click that sounded like a lock being undone. A small door to the left of the large gate, which the woman hadn't noticed, slowly opened. A short man walked out into the rain and looked at her. He was wearing a shiny uniform, black boots and a large peaked hat to keep some of the rain off himself. “I have been sent outside for a break by my supervisor with the instructions to say that no one is allowed through this door." He looked at the green-eyed woman and winked. “No swords or other weapons may enter the settlement,” pointing at the sword she was carrying. “I’m going to walk to that tree over there now.”

Standing up, and composing herself, she quickly walked over to the short guard, “Wait!” She shouted, stopping the man, who only came up to her shoulder. Up this close, even in the poor light, she could see he was middle-aged, and not too pleased to be sent outside in the rain, but he also had a kind smile and exceptionally bright blue eyes. “Why did you open the door and not your superior," she asked.

“If you break a law or cause any trouble, he can say he didn’t let you in,” the short guard replied.

“And what of you, will you be all right?”

“I was ordered to come out here and take a break. It is very unlikely I will be asked about you as I am only a low-ranking soldier of the gate.” He glanced down as he said this avoiding eye contact. She could tell there was a touch of bitterness in his voice.

She paused for a moment before putting her hand back into her bag. She pulled out a small gold nugget and gave it to the short guard. “For all of your help,” she said kindly smiling at the man.

The guard’s bright blue eyes opened wide. He couldn’t take them off the small gold nugget. “I cannot accept that my lady. It is worth more than I would earn in many seasons."

The young woman wondered how long a season was, but decided not to ask. “It will help you and your family?”

“Yes, very much so!” the guard said. He looked at her with so much gratitude that she felt embarrassed.

“Then take it, and thank you," the young woman said, as she stuck her sword into the wet muddy ground, in compliance with the no weapon remark made by the guard. She was thinking that she should have left it in the jungle, but she kept her dagger hidden and slipped inside of the door.

The short guard suddenly grabbed her cape. For a moment the woman thought she was in trouble but he was smiling. “There will be a room available at Vlad’s inn. It down the street, second turning on the left, round the bend. It's the biggest building there and the lights will be on. It close to the large fountain. Tell them Kia of the gate sent you. The landlord is a friend of mine. His name is…”

“Vlad?" The young woman said, interrupting Kia, smiling back at the short guard.

“Uh, yes,” Kia said slowly. “He’s an honourable man and he helped me when I came to Penbirth. You must go now, my break will soon be over”

“Thank you,” she said, as she turned and ran down the street. She felt a little happier now she was inside the settlement. Even though the rain was still pouring. She was already imagining a hot bath and a warm comfy bed but another flash of lightning crossed the sky, reminding her she wasn't quite there yet.

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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