4: Black, White & CrimsonMature

Against Oliana’s wishes, the sun rose over the peaks and hastened her final hours as chief.  She remembered the soldier’s words, that the army would arrive before noon.  The house was still and quiet, soundless save for the occasional coo of a mourning dove outside.  She dressed quickly and quietly as to not wake Roth, who must have still been asleep.  It had snowed overnight, and Oliana could tell that it would be a cold day, so she grabbed her dark green hooded cloak.  

This gave her an idea.  She entered the room in the house where all the family weapons were stored.  She took from a small case a dagger which used to belong to her mother.  Just in case something goes wrong, she thought.  She strapped the handle to her belt and fastened the clip on her cloak.  Completely hidden.

------

After having waited an hour in the biting wind that wailed through the mountain pass, Oliana heard thundering hooves yet again.  She had been trying to rest, propping her head on Dechar's back, but had had no luck in stopping the racing of her heart.  The snow on the ground had dampened her cloak, but Oliana's racing heart was keeping her quite warm.

“Maybe Roth was right.  Maybe I am selfish.  Here I am, surrendering my people to a cruel kingdom, and I haven’t even told them what’s going to happen to them," her voice cracked.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you, Oli,” Dechar said.  "Most of the time, you are selfish.  But in this case, you’re doing the best you can.  You’re doing the right thing.  There’s no need to get everyone upset about something they won’t be able to stop, anyway.  Causing a row could be dangerous.”  Dechar nudged her hand with his nose.  “I’ll be right here the whole time.  It’ll be quick and easy.”

A stygian smear appeared in the alabaster wasteland that was Ravenquill Moor.  In a moment, the black army was upon them.  To Oliana's wonderment, the army contained not only men but large, corpulent grey-skinned creatures with underbites.  One look at their blackened eyes revealed a slow whit.  Trolls, thought Oliana.  They wore coal-colored spaulders on their shoulders but left their large bellies exposed.  Some of them wielded clubs, others great axes.  The humans in their company were few in number, all of them atop black steeds and armed with bows and arrows.

One of the men addressed Oliana.  His voice was deep and slow coming from his pitch helmet.  “I am the general in charge of claiming this valley for his majesty the king.  I have no time for children.  Where is the chief?”

“She stands before you,” Dechar interjected, annoyed that they should question his master’s authority.

The general’s gaze shifted to the greywolf.

“That is quite the companion you have, young lady.  A very rare specimen, indeed.”

Suddenly, a small object came soaring through the air, landing by one of the horses’ feet off to the side.  It was an arrow.

As soon as the general saw it, he cried out, “Who is there?  Who dare defy the king?”

Another arrow flew in, this one being deflected promptly by one of the men’s shields.

“Show yourself, you coward!” the general’s voice boomed and echoed.  His men became uneasy.

Moments passed in widespread confusion.  A horrifying idea crept into Oliana’s head.  Had Roth’s longbow been missing from the weapons room this morning?

The cautious army was abruptly startled by the flapping of a moorhen’s wings.  The general saw the bird rise out of the bushes at the moor’s edge, then heard a young boy’s shriek in response.  He could see movement in the brush.

“There!  There he is!” the general motioned to an archer in his company.  “End this nonsense.”

Roth!  Oliana thought. “No!  Roth, run!  RUN!” she screamed.  She had never been so terrified in all her life.

A small frame rose and took off deeper into the undergrowth.

The black-clad archer took careful aim and traced Roth’s path before releasing.  The moment of time the arrow spent in the air was a small eternity for Oliana as she held her breath.  The company saw the boy fall, and a faint cry came after.  

"NO!"  Oliana, void of all her wits, sprinted to her brother’s side.  The archer drew another arrow, but the general motioned for him to stop.  “We are to bring the chief back alive, even if the one we wanted is dead.  And this wolf... I know the king has been looking for one such as him.”

When she finally reached Roth, Oliana saw where the arrow had struck his back.  She ripped off the end and turned his body over so that she could see his face.  It was very pale, save for the bright red stream of blood spurting from his mouth.  He was trying to speak.

“That’s alright, Roth.  That’s alright,” she said, stroking his head.  Between a mess of tears and gasps, she said, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

The choking ceased and Oliana could see that Roth’s eyes had gone blank, relaxed and unseeking.  She lifted her head up, cradling his body, a silent scream coming from her stopped up throat.

Trying to catch her breath, she looked back for Dechar.  Three trolls and two men were pinning him to the ground, then tying him down to restrain him.  A cavalryman was charging over to Oliana to seize her.  “We can’t have you getting the village in a bad mood, now can we?” his smile revealed rotten teeth.  “You and your furry friend will just have to come with us.”

The End

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