Anneh

In the shadows cast by war, two unlikely characters meet and slowly develop feelings for each other. But as both are hiding their true identities, can this really be called love? And will it survive when the two young men each realise who the other really is?

I woke in unfamiliar territory, to the altogether too familiar sting of scars erupting in agony as I sat upright. It took a moment for my head to clear and take in my surroundings. I was lying in a tent of some sort, covered in a rough woollen blanket that was already beginning to make my legs itch...or perhaps my injuries were healing? No, it was too soon. Even the earliest wounds were too deep to heal so quickly.

I glanced down at my arms and found them covered in bandages. Peeking underneath, I could tell that someone had made an effort to treat the larger wounds and clean up the others. It was only then that I allowed myself to relax and believe that I was free. A wave of gratitude towards my unknown rescuers swept over me.  Most of my other injuries seemed to have been left alone, particularly the ones on my back. Perhaps they were untreatable. It would not have surprised me. Voices from outside the tent interrupted my thoughts.

“Is he awake yet?”

“I don’t believe so, but you can visit him if you must.” The woman sounded exasperated. “It isn’t as though I can stop you.”

“True.” It took me a moment to realise that the other voice belonged to a young boy whose voice had not yet broken. His head, covered in a mop of red hair, poked through the opening to the tent before I even had a chance to react. He, on the other hand, had ample time. “Woah!” he yelled, instinctively pulling away. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know that you were awake!”

He looked so young and startled, like a rabbit caught in headlights, that I nearly laughed. Instead, I raised an eyebrow at him, glad that someone had had the decency to clothe me after my rescue. “Do you normally creep up on people when they’re sleeping?”

“No!” His face quickly grew as red as his hair. “I was just...checking to see if you were OK.  You were sleeping for a long time.”

“How long?” I asked. Not that it mattered - I’d lost all track of time during my imprisonment anyway - I was just curious.

The boy paused for a moment, clearly thinking. “Three or four days. No, wait...Four. It must have been, because I found you on the same day that we stormed the castle.” He nodded, as if to assure himself of his own logic.

I glanced over at his attire - a brown travelling cloak and a hint of patched garments underneath. I found it difficult to believe that my rescuer was as common as he appeared. This was not to say that I believed peasants incapable of attempting such a rescue...but I had already begun to question why this boy was travelling with a small retinue of soldiers capable of bringing down Tanis Castle by themselves. “Might I know the name of my rescuer?” I asked, half joking.

“Rurik,” he replied. The pause before he answered told me I was right to assume he was hiding something other than just his name. “And yours?”

“Finn,” I said, giving the first name that came to mind. If he wasn’t prepared to trust me with his name, I saw no reason to trust him with mine. Besides, it seemed like a wise decision to hide my identity among these strangers. They had rescued me, certainly, but for all I knew, they might use me just like Elbeth had done. The scars across my arms ached beneath their bandages. It was only a matter of time before the mental scars affected me too, before the betrayal sunk in and I realised that I had nothing left.

The End

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