When Erica, age 17, gets into deep trouble with the kingdoms guards, she tries to get out in some of the most crazy ways. Unexpected twists and turns, along with a guy who can't seem to leave her alone (oh la la!), Erica finds that it takes courage to do something on your own, but even more to trust someone to come along with you.
Chapter 1: Adrenaline Burst
I can feel it. They're coming for me. Their souls radiate cold chills that rattle my spine and freeze my bones.
I'm hunched over in my pathetic shelter, hiding from fear of being caught. The wind howls in protest, whipping my tangled hair away from my face. I sniff the air. The slightest, rusty scent of blood tinges the air. It's been nearly half an hour. Is it safe? I cautiously climb to my stiff legs and peer around. I step forward. "You don't stand a chance in the wild." Mum's gentle, squeaky voice rings in my ears as pad along the outline of the forest. Do I run into the trees, where the hiding places are plenty but the risk of being caught is terrifyingly high or stay in my small clearing, where I can see them as they can easily see me? My fire spits a wisp of smoke that snakes into the air and disappears into the night sky. The stars shimmer, reflecting off the cool, crystal clear water in the nearby pond. I sigh and trudge into my pitiful shelter. The wind slaps the wood viscously, causing it to groan. A hound that's been doused in blood bursts from the trees. I watch as moaning howls rip through the night air and the dog responds, letting loose its own moaning howl. Oh no. I clamber to my feet and its head swings around, its amber eyes fixing with mine. A malicious twinkle sparks in its narrowed eyes and it lunges. "Over here!" A mans voice bellows, the sound echoing throughout the forest. My brain fuzzes over so my only idea is to run. I dart to the side, away from the dog, and into the trees. There's a brief moment where all is silent then a whole pack of the hounds crash through the trees, chasing after me. A small army of men rampage behind, waving torches and pitchforks. I consider screaming, and then it hits me. How lonely I am. I have no one that would give a second thought to helping me. Mum's been taken away. I blink away salty tears and lean into the wind. It tosses stray leaves against me, mini obstacles that I don't give a second thought to. Those guards. They'll hunt me down no matter what it takes. I feel a surge of anger and and speed up, the sounds of the hollers and barks growing faint. I stumble forward into another clearing and inhale sharply.
Chapter 2: Plan Unplanned For
I soak in the scenery that would be gorgeous if the sun was out. The grass is a lush shade of sparkling jade and the weeping willows that dip their droopy branches bow royally to my bare feet. Cherry blossom trees rich with flowers send a raining of petals that graze my shoulders. A narrow marshy river winds into the forest and reeds grow along side, eagerly prodding the water with their leaves, causing never ending ripples. I hug a weeping willows trunk and scooch upwards. I balance on the highest stable branch and hold my breath. Everything is hushed. I peer through the waterfall of leaves just in time to see a a blur of dark, sleek fur fly from the trees. It's a single hound that's sped ahead. It bounds over and snarls at my tree. They'll be here any minute. The sound of their shouts swells in my ears as they near. I snap off a branch from my tree. The dog gives another guttural growl and barks. "Over here, boys!" I hear a man not far in the distance roars. "Hey boy!" I've caught the dogs attention and he leaps up on his hind legs. No longer vicious after seeing that I'm clutching a stick, his long pink tongue lolls out of the side of his mouth. I throw the stick as the men emerge from the trees. All the hounds spot it and dart after and the men, thinking that the hounds caught my scent, hurry to catch up. Once they've disappeared into the thick foliage, I scramble down the tree and head back to my shelter in the small clearing. I dash from the trees into the clearing. The wind has died down from a loud howling to a soft whistle and the sun inches up into the sky, bathing the clouds in orange and pink hues. Wrong clearing. I hear a bark somewhere nearby and whip around. Nothing. I'm shaking my head and padding around, wondering where to go, when a rock flies from the forest and bang, hits the side of my head. "Ow!" I place my hand on my forehead. Scarlet blood laces through my fingers and coats the palm of my hand. I feel woozy as I stumble around, then, everything goes black.
Chapter 3: The Awakening
My eyes flutter open. I shift uncomfortably, then my eyes widen and I jump to my feet. The cement floor is webbed over with cracks and a lumpy cot rests in the corner. I rub my head and pain shoots through my aching limbs. I recall collapsing after a rock flew from the blue and smacked into the side of my skull and my eyes widen. "You're certainly lucky that I found you before they did." A bulky man pushes through the door way and lifts his mug of beer to show that be acknowledges me. "Who are you?" I step back cautiously, squinting at him. "I don't mean you any harm." He claims, wandering over to the cot. He pats it gently as if its his pet. "I...don't know what's going on." I admit softly, rubbing my arms as goosebumps from the morning chillies that seep through the window pop up. He glances up and I'm struck by his charming looks. He has deeply tanned, smooth skin, and bright aqua eyes that gleam. He's really toned, but not in a showy, veins-bulging sort of way. He smiles and his teeth are completely white. Dimples carve into the corners of his full lips and I can't help but grin back. "Hi." I say shyly. "Hi?" He raises an eyebrow, "I'm Derik. You, uh, want something to eat?" "Uh..." My stomach rumbles in response, "yeah, that'd be great." He walks over to me and grabs my hand. Electricity zips up my arm and i shiver. "To the kitchen." He announces as he leads me into a room slightly nicer than the last with scratched wooden flooring and a beat up table with two chairs on either side made of metal. I sit down in one as he layers bacon onto the pan. It sizzles and pops eagerly as it darkens to a nice shade of brown. "How many?" He asks, flipping the bacon. "Uhhh...3?" I decide, twiddling my thumbs. He hands me a plate and slumps into the chair across from me. "What's your name?" He scratches his head and scarfs down a piece of bacon. "I don't even KNOW you..." I point out. I pick up a greasy strip and nibble at the corner. "Just making small talk." He heaves a sigh and downs another strip of bacon. Juice from it dribbles down his chin and he wipes it away. "Erica." I mumble through a mouthful of bacon. "Erica? I like that." He grins and he gets up. After scrubbing his plate with soapy water at the sink he shoves it into a cabinet. "Wanna go into town?" He smirks. "The guards will catch me!" My eyes widen. "Exactly! You seem like one for adventure." He wiggles his eyebrows and I laugh. "Alright, lets go."
Chapter 4: Naughty to the Haughty
I wrap the deep crimson cloak around me tighter and tug my hood over my head. "Follow me." He grabs my arm and tingles rush through me again. I peer over the tip of the loose fabric to see a bustling scene with marketers and con artists yelling deals and towns folk admiring what they have to sell. "You seen 'er?" My thoughts are interrupted my a gravely voice. The grip on my arm tightens and I realize that this is a warning. "Sir, I'm really busy." I gulp. Whoever it is thrusts a paper in my face with me drawn detail for detail on the front. I swallow again. "Excuse me?" I squeak. "Have you or have you not seen her?" He insists. "Uh, nope. Never." I lie. My mouth goes dry. "Well if you do, contact us." He hands me the paper which I slip inside of my cloak. "Will do." I choke out.
"That was to close." Derik pulls me closer. "What do we do?" I hiss, "leave?" "Yeesh, watch it." He shrugs of my rude tone, "lets stay. It'll be fine, I think." "You think." I roll my eyes. Once again, he shrugs. "Sorry." I mumble, "lets visit that stand." We shuffle over over. Exotic fruits overflow woven baskets and juice samples froth to the brim in their tiny cups. I gladly snatch up a sample and down it in a gulp. "That's good stuff!" I exclaim, reaching for another. "Erica..." Derik warns, tightening his grip again. "Pssshhhh, I'm fine." I try to convince him, but my voice is burbly and woozy. "Erica, those are PACKED with alcohol!" He smacks my hand. "So?" I snap, gulping down a forth. "I have the right to refuse service!" The cranky, shriveled old woman behind the counter waggled her pruny finger in my face. "So?" I repeat. "So, you're banned!" She declares in her scratchy voice. "Fine." I 'accidentally' bump over a basket of fruits. "Now you'll pay!" She bellows. Derik groans and yanks me away.
We dash along, weaving through the rotting wood stands. My hood flies off and gasps emit from the crowd. Derik tries to put it back on but it's to late. "It's not what it looks like." I blather. "Get heeer!" The old woman lunges at me and knocks me over. I roll over and shove her off me. "Don't." I snarl, "don't you dare." She grins, her crooked teeth mocking me. "RAWWWR!" I growl as I tackle her. "Omigosh, it must be her!" Someone gapes, "she's attacking a frail old woman!" Derik tugs me off her and we flee from the marketplace.
"You are in SO much trouble!" He informs me. I slouch in my chair and my lower lip trembles. "Don't do this." He says peevishly. "Derik..." I sniffle, and I allow a single tear to slip down my cheek, "it tasted so good." "Laaame excu" he falters, "I can't stay mad at you." "I really am sorry." I admit. "Good." He musses my hair. "Well," I bolt up, spotting a few prowling guards outside, "I had better set off. You know, on the lam." "Maybe I could come." He suggests. "No. I work alone." I scowl, then my face softens, "sorry, it's just..." "No, no. Don't let me stop you." We hug quickly and I hurry out the back door.
The guards snap around and glare at the sky and oak grove. When they glance away at a squirrel scampering by, I slip into the tiny group of trees. Making sure to remain in the shadows, I slink stealthily into a tiny, dreary clearing with mud for a pond and dead trees. I huff and search desperately for a hiding spot, because I hear men tearing through the forest. I hear a low, rumbly snarl and whip around. It wasn't men that I heard...
Chapter 5: are you a man or a mouse?! Or neither?!
The bear slowly rises to its hind legs and roars so viciously that I cringe. I snake around it and dash for the nearest tree, darting up the trunk. It bellows and leaps forward, digging its sharp, silver claws into the trunk. Before it can get even close to me, I pull out my bow and load an arrow from my quiver onto it. It bares it's pearly teeth and snarls menacingly, as if daring me to release the arrow. I smile smugly and release it.