If you missed the first blog with the prologue, you can check it out first: http://brian-beam.blogspot.com/2012/08/remnants-of-past.html
“Why her?” Korin questioned angrily, ducking to avoid a low hanging branch only to rise up to meet another across his face as they raced their horses through the forest. The small scratches covering his face and arms were beginning to fray his nerves.
Kris turned to look back at his twin brother and gave out a throaty laugh. “Come on bro, how could I pass up a chance with her?” Kris turned back around just in time to veer his horse left of a thick branch.
“Was it really worth all this trouble?” Korin was trying his hardest to dodge through the trees with little luck. He couldn’t quite understand how his brother could be enjoying the experience so much.
“Where’s your sense of adventure? Besides, a little excitement will be good for ya’!” Kris pushed his horse harder until the horse was at full speed. Korin followed suit, although wary about how long the horses could keep such a pace.
Korin stole a glance behind him to check for the pursuing guards. He couldn’t see the guards, but he could still hear the hoof beats of several horses on dry leaves in the distance. They were still close. They wouldn’t give up until the brothers were taken into custody. “Sorry if I’m not exactly happy about being chased from the only home I’ve ever known for reasons that I don’t even understand yet,” he muttered sarcastically. Korin shifted his gaze back in front of him, meeting with several more branches.
The twins were of average height with raven black hair just long enough to drape over their eyes. Their twenty-three years of age seemed less in their young looking, slightly tanned, clean shaven faces. The only difference in the twins’ natural appearance was their eyes. Korin’s were as blue as the sea while Kris’ were as green as the forest that they raced their horses through.
Another small branch slapped into Korin’s face. “I’ve had enough of this!” Blood from the new scratch above Korin’s eye streamed down past his azure eyes. “I refuse to have these back-wit farmers hunt us down like this! I’ll take hawk, you take finch!”
“Why do you always….” Korin cut off his brother’s protest by passing him the reins to his horse and grabbing a tree branch above himself, nimbly climbing to a sturdier branch higher up and assuming a crouching position among the spring green leaves. Korin’s long sleeved green shirt and his tan pants were perfect camouflage, even if unintentionally.
Kris led the two horses onward while Korin waited patiently in the tree. After a few moments, the guards came into view. Four muscular men wearing the black uniforms of the City Guard and one in a sleeveless uniform, his red cape billowing behind him and a sword at his hip quickly followed the trail of the brothers on their own sturdy horses. Korin spotted one who trailed slightly behind the others. His thoughts suddenly shifted back to the childhood years when his father had taught them the “hawk and finch” for just such a situation. Having been a member of King Agmon’s royal army of the kingdom of Calthair, their father, Tammar, had learned many attack procedures such as the “hawk and finch.”
The “hawk and finch” was a military tactic that concentrated on loners in battle. By taking out these loners, one could systematically reduce an attacker’s force, and cause confusion among them in the process. Their father had told them of various accounts of how invaluable the procedure had been in situations dealing with small numbers such as the group that chased them now.
As the first four guards passed under Korin, not even noticing his presence on the tree branch above them, he remained motionless and quiet as the fifth guard approached behind them. As soon as the trailing guard crossed under the branch, Korin quickly dropped down onto the guard’s horse, knocking the guard off in the process. The guard landed with a loud thud and a grunt on the ground. The four guards ahead of him turned their heads to see Korin as he swung one leg over the horse and veered it off in a different direction into the forest as the stunned man on the ground reached out hopelessly as if he could stop him. At the command of the head guard, two of the men turned their horses to chase Korin as he and the other guard continued their pursuit of the other brother.
Unsure how to feel about his new rider, the gray horse Korin had acquired put up some resistance to Korin’s attempts to control it. Still, Korin maneuvered it sloppily through the trees while keeping it running strong. As Korin interweaved through the forest, he kept his bearings in mind; always knowing which way was which and where Kris would be. Looking back over his shoulder he could barely see the guards who couldn’t drive their horses around trees as easily as he could.
Finally he came upon a hill and he pressed the horse even harder up to the top. When he topped the hill and went halfway down, he brought the horse to a halt and looked back, not seeing the guards quite yet. As Korin dismounted the horse, he took the reins, hastily tied the horse to a low tree branch, and ran off in yet another direction. Korin stopped running long enough to slip a fist sized rock off the ground into his pocket and continued to run until he found a tree with low, sturdy branches. He quickly stripped off his dark green shirt and hung it from a branch in clear view for anyone with a good eye to see. After his initial attack on the first guard, he was sure they’d be checking the trees. Korin took the rock from the cloak and ran off to hide behind another tree.
Less than a minute later, the guards finally came to the top of the hill, clearly unused to chasing anyone through a forest. Their lack of knowledge of the forest will be their downfall this day, Korin thought to himself.
The guards stopped at the abandoned horse, quickly surveying the area around them. One of the men pointed in the direction they had been chasing him, sending the other man off the same way they’d been going. The first man then turned towards the direction where Korin hid in silence.
The one who approached Korin’s hiding spot began speeding at first but slowed as he began to see the green of Korin’s shirt in the tree. The guard was dressed in the black uniform of the City Guard with a silver crest holding a black cape that only hung halfway down his back. Full capes were reserved for only the head Guard.
Smiling as if he had outsmarted him, the guard gently brought his horse to a halt and then slowly reached down and unhooked a crossbow from the horse’s saddle. Still making slow movements like they’d be less conspicuous if Korin had been watching from the tree, he slowly aimed it toward the shirt and the arrow was shot true, right into the center of the shirt. The guard laughed to himself and began trotting his horse over to the tree. At the base of the tree, the guard continued to chuckle until he noticed that the shirt just swayed in the wind on a branch, not on Korin. The guard’s smiling face took on a look of fear as he noticed the trap and he spun his horse around just in time to see the rock as it struck his head and knocked him unconscious to the ground sending the horse fleeing in terror off into the forest.
Korin sped over to the guard and crouched beside him, placing one hand on the guard’s chest and one under his nose to check for breath. Once he was convinced that the guard was just unconscious, he sped back up the tree and yanked away the arrow that pinned his shirt to the tree. Korin dropped back to the ground, buttoning his shirt as he sped over to the horse that he had tied to the low branch. He could barely notice the arrow hole in his shirt and it was nothing that a few stitches couldn’t fix anyway.
After untying the frightened horse and setting it free, he took one last look towards where the other guard had been sent and saw no sign of his returning yet. Once the guard did get back, he’d be more concerned with helping the man Korin dropped with the rock than trying to capture Korin.
“Well, that’s three down,” Korin muttered to himself. Korin spun around and sped off to where Kris would be waiting, hopefully alone and having outsmarted the other two guards.
* * * *
As soon as Korin leapt into the tree, Kris kicked his horse in the sides with both feet while securely holding the reins of Korin’s horse to bring them to full speed. Kris weaved his way through the trees, keeping a special notice to keep Korin’s horse as close to his own as possible.
Kris stole a quick glance behind him to see the head Guard and his lackey gaining ground on him. “Damn it Korin, you did a good job luring the others away, but now you’re going to get me killed.” Kris let loose the reins of Korin’s horse allowing it to run free from the pursuit. Gripping his own horse’s reins tighter, he leaned down and kicked his horse into full gallop. “By the god Loranis, I will not be captured on this day!”
The trees became a blur and the only sound was the rush of wind blowing past him as he pushed his horse harder and harder, yet every time he looked back, the two guards were still pushing forward just as much as he. “Come on, Telis, you can get us through this,” he reassured the horse as he ducked even lower to miss a dangling branch.
After several minutes of darting through the trees, Kris quickly took one more glance behind him to only see an empty forest. “Whoa!” Kris commanded the horse, pulling the reins and bringing Telis to a halt. Kris perked his head up and listened to the world around him. “Ha ha, we lost them,” he chuckled. “I don’t think Korin’s going to be too happy about us losing his horse though. We better let you rest a minute. You’ve done a fine job today,” Kris told his horse.
Kris stepped out of the saddle and jumped to the ground and surveyed the forest, seeing no sign of the guards. Kris sighed to himself as he brushed off the leaves that had stuck to his white shirt. “I just hope Korin’s having the same luck we ha….” Before he could finish, Kris felt a bola wrap around his legs, dropping him down to the ground, scaring Telis and sending her fleeing into the woods. “Oof! What is this?” he demanded. Kris looked up to see one of the guards.
“This is me getting promoted,” the black clad guard laughed. “Guess I’s lucked out. I went after your brother and ended up findin’ you. The mayor’s going to be mighty happy with me.” The guard broke into a big smile, flaunting a mouth with more than one missing tooth.
Kris narrowed his eyes angrily at his gap-toothed capturer. “Oh great, I get to be caught by this ill-bred idiot.”
Kris narrowed his eyes angrily at his gap-toothed capturer. “Oh great, I get to be caught by this ill-bred idiot.”
The sound of hoof beats drew closer and announced the other two guards catching up to Kris. After they came to a halt, the leader of the guard dismounted and walked with a sense of pride towards Kris, his black cloak billowing in the wind. The man was tall and muscular with long earthen brown hair pulled back into a ponytail behind him. He had a sharp-featured handsomeness in his face, with gray, seemingly emotionless eyes that betrayed his middle years age. His black uniform was sleeveless with a long red lined cape connected by a golden, sun shaped crest.
“Well look at what we’ve got here. I’ve been wanting to take you down for so long, Krisalin Karell.” Dismounting his black horse, the man gave a closed smile, void of humor, and then spit off to the side. “The mayor of Huransburg’s not so happy with you and now we get to take you back for a nice public flogging. Huransburg is not the place for people like you!”
Kris brought himself up on his hands and glared coldly at the guard with his emerald eyes. “Menar, nothing would give me more pleasure than to rip out your throat right now….” A swift kick to his jaw ended Kris’ sentence. Kris arched back and collapsed to the ground again. Kris rolled onto his side and wiped the blood from his mouth, returning his glare to Menar, the head Guard, giving a slight smile. “Suppose you’re just jealous.” Menar walked around Kris and then kicked him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of Kris and initiating a series of rapid breaths from the fallen man who now clutched his arms to his stomach.
“Jealous? Ha! I could have a woman like that if I wanted.” Menar knelt down beside Kris and lifted Kris’ chin with a finger. “And I wouldn’t even have to use force like some people I know,” he mocked, dropping Kris’ head down to the ground. Kris looked up at Menar with a scowl. “Anyway, looks like I’m going to get quite a reward for catching the biggest criminal in Huransburg.”
The lower ranked guard who was on foot turned his eyes from the man in pain on the ground to Menar. “No, I caught him and I’s gonna be the one ta’ take him to Gregar. I’s was chasin’ after the other one and ended up seein’ this un’ comin’ up so I ditched my horse and hid. I’s the one that found him fair and square!”
Menar rose from Kris slowly and placed his hand on the sword hanging from his belt. “Oh, I see. You want to take my place. You, an uneducated, dirty, ugly excuse for a human being. I’m higher than you, and Gregar knows this. This is why I’m the Captain of his Guard and you’re nothing more than a peasant!”
Kris burst into laughter that sounded more like coughing as he still struggled to regain his breath. “You act as if you’re the Captain of the King’s guard!”
Another kick to Kris’ stomach ended Kris’ comments. Menar’s face twisted into anger. “I may not be, but I should be!” Menar turned back to the other guard and drew his sword. “But until the day I do rise to that rank, I can’t be bothered with this country folk trash!”
The unarmored guard tried to grab the dagger he kept in his belt, but Menar fluidly spun around and slashed his sword across the man’s neck before the man could even pull it out. The body slumped over Kris, blood spilling onto his long-sleeved, white shirt.
Menar wiped his sword across the forest floor and sheathed it again, looking back at the guard still on horseback. “Not a word of this is to be spoken to anyone, or you’ll be the next to feel my blade.” The other guard swallowed and nodded his head, too scared to talk back to Menar. Smiling, Menar turned his attention back to Kris. “Looks like you’re going to have murder added to your charges. Tsk, tsk. Looks like we may just have an execution on our hands, you…” Menar was cut off by a grunt and turned to see his other guard fall from his horse. Before he could even act, he spun to a sound behind him only to be greeted by a thick tree branch to his face. Menar dropped to the ground, unconscious.
Kris rolled himself out from under the dead guard to find himself staring at Korin propping himself up on the tree branch like it was a walking stick. “What took you so long Korin?” Kris sat up and began undoing the bola around his legs.
“I swear, your cockiness is going to be the end of you. You should never have dropped your guard like this,” Korin lectured. Before he could berate his brother anymore, bile began to rise in his throat at seeing the dead guard and the pool of blood below him. Korin drew his attention from the body to the sky, choking back the vomit. Neither brother had ever seen such a gruesome sight before. Nausea swept through Korin as he realized that looking away from the body didn’t erase the image from his mind.
Kris pushed himself to his feet slowly, the pain in his stomach keeping him from moving too quickly at that moment. His face had paled and his eyes widened as he looked down and really took in what had happened for the first time. The movement in his throat as he swallowed showed that Kris was having the same battle with keeping the contents of his stomach at bay.
Turning to Korin, his ashen face took on a sheepish look. “Well, I guess you’ve saved me this one time, but we have more pressing matters. I lost the horses.”
Korin sighed with resignation. “We’ll just have to hurry up and find a town or something and hopefully someone kind enough to put us up for a night on what little money we have on us. Geeron should be close if we can find the road.”
Kris looked up at his brother disbelievingly. “What do you mean? Everything we had was on those horses: food, money, and clothes. I mean, look at me! I’m covered in blood and you expect us to just be able to waltz into some town, offer a couple of coppers and be able to get a room and food for the night? They’re going to think we’re a couple of bloody murderers!”
“Well, it wouldn’t be down to this if you hadn’t dropped your guard and lost both horses! I’d have thought dad’s teachings would have had more meaning to you!” Korin looked into Kris’ eyes and could see the pain from what he had said. “I’m sorry, Kris. I know that you loved dad as much as I did, but you know I’m right about what we must do.”
Kris just nodded solemnly and then glanced down at the unconscious guards. “What about them? I wouldn’t mind finishing off Menar,” he muttered with a scowl. As soon as the words had left his throat, he immediately regretted it, remembering the dead guard.
“They’ll be out for a time yet. Let’s just make haste and find the road to Geeron. Besides, you have some explaining to do about this whole situation on the way there.”
Again, Kris nodded his agreement and looked back up at his twin. “We better start off then,” he began, pulling off his blood soaked cloak, dropping it to the ground, “before these guards wake up and I really do end up killing Menar.”