29 Days of October

This is a story that is kinda dedicated to my friend Kaiti Braun. I thought of the idea one day, then a while later came back to it, and wrote this bit. It's really stiff and formal, and although I want it to be like that a little bit, this is too much. But it's only in the first stages, so it's going to get edited. I'd love for you people to edit it for me too. This is a writing blog after all, not just a reading blog.

I stood before my captains in silence. My mouth stayed shut because I had nothing to say. In these past few months I had been away from the search, fighting. I felt like that was my place to be, in battle with my soldiers. Even though the search was for my own brother, I did not feel a link to him anymore. The certainty that he was alive now had faded from my mind. He could be dead, he could be changed. The latter was even worse. For if he'd been taken to our enemies side, and his mind converted to their dark thinking, whether by his will or not, how could we ever change him back?

But I couldn't think on that now. My concentration needed to be on finding him. At a glance from my first advisor, I found my voice to speak the important words to my faithful captains.

"Friends, you have been ever loyal to me and to this land. In this harsh time, I have needed your loyalty and wisdom even more. We have searched for our hope but with no success. Now I must go myself to seek my brother out if our land is ever to be green again.

"Alfdan, I leave this war in your hands. You must be the one to lead our brave soldiers into battle with strong words. Lead them true. Lead them well."

My speech was short, but all of my soldiers knew how pressed I was for time, and even better, they knew what I wanted say. I smiled sadly, gripping the handle of my sword with a cold hand tensed for my parting from friends. As Alfdan uncovered the portal, both hands mechanically reached out to receive the strong grips of my captains. Each of them gave me a small smile, blessing me with silent embraces. The moment had arrived and I needed to leave. What would I face on my desperate quest?

Even the oldest campaigner could not answer that question, for this war had changed everything, and all manner of evils now fills the places where I would search for our savior. Evils that could not be spoken of without shuddering and whispers. My feet walked with reluctant steps to the portal doorway. I turned back once more, feeling incredibly afraid, but as I gazed over their expectant, reassuring faces, I felt again sure of myself. This a task I could not, must not fail, and I would not.

I stepped through the grey curtain of mist, cold burning on my skin. My eyes peered forward, looking for my guide, but nothing came into my sight. Everything, whatever was out there, was shrouded in grey, but just for a moment; in another a sharp pain ran down my spine and all became darkness.

As consciousness returned to me, my body became aware of rough stones underneath. In a reflexive motion, my left hand slid down to that same hip, checking for my sword. In another moment I felt the smooth malachite pommel and leather grip. I forced my eyelids open, squinting immediately at the glare of noon sunlight. I'd forgotten that time ran differently here, an hour after time at home. Although, that would not make it nearly so late already, I must have been unconscious for at least three hours.

"I didn't think you would be out so long." Instantly I jerked upright, my right hand reached up to draw the dagger I kept sheathed at my back, but another hand closed on my elbow, followed by a weathered face. The voice had not been deep, but textured, and I had placed it to a man of middling age. Instead, the person before me could only be a few years older than myself.

His hand released me when I tugged away, and he sat before me on the dirt. My mind had started to work, but I could gather no sense of any other presence in the immediate area besides ourselves. I had never been so alone in such a great expanse. Surrounding us on three sides, shale and dirt spread out to the horizon line. Through the mist that floated lightly in the air, I thought I could make out the shapes of mountains far off, but I was not sure. Behind me lay the remains of a forest, I knew from scouts, and the portal attached to two tall trees.

"I'm Terrin. Your first advisor picked out the best for you. Though, I don't know why I should be pulled away from my other duties to go on this suicide mission."

"Your duty now is to me. This mission is more important that anything else." I wasn't sure why I felt angry at him, perhaps it was his apparent careless attitude. However, I could not afford to give into feelings. I never could.

"You know who I am, and you know what we're doing. Can we start immediately?"

"Of course, your highness."

The use of my title rankled me, though I was used to hearing it, I did not think he needed to be so formal when it was just the two of us, trekking through mist and constant danger. "You don't have to call me that," I offered to his back as we walked away from the woods into the dessert. "We are going to be partners now, are we not? Titles don't matter here."

I could almost feel his smirk. "You're right, they don't, your highness. But it wouldn't do for me to forget who you are, would it? You are the official leader of this mission."

Scowling, I caught up and stalked by his side, sending a small glare in his direction. "Maybe so, but you are the one who will be keeping me alive. I know almost nothing of this place."

"Nice of you to admit it."

"What is wrong with you? Are you so angry to be chosen for the mission that will save our land?" I was already wishing myself back at home, where I could fight something seen, not hidden beneath a tracker's cloak and bow. Here we were, not even fifteen minutes into our journey and we had since exchanged angry words. At least, I had given him some. He had been careful not to actually speak with any sort of disrespectful tone to his voice. My cheeks crimsoned as I thought of the reproof Alfdan would have bestowed upon me. Terrin was already answering me.

"I'm not angry, highness. But surely you don't think we are actually going to succeed in our quest. Your brother has been gone three years. I hold little hope that we will find him in time. Our land is likely doomed already; I am resigned to that fact as are many who live here." His voice was calm and collected, though I thought I saw another smirk hovering around his mouth.

I had intended to make an apology, but his words cut into me as steel in battle never had. My desperate hope that we would indeed find my brother was slim and wavering perhaps, but I still believed he was alive. I could not resign to the likely fact that our land would be desolate forever. Hope had kept me alive these past years, and I would not abandon it now.

Any words that had been in my mouth now fled; instead, my apologizing expression vanished. While we trudged in silence as desolate as the land around us, I thought about how the rest of our journey would be, now that Terrin and I had gotten off to such a rocky start. It wasn't behavior I usually stooped to. After all, I am a royal princess the Tereca House. I am to rule when I come of age. That age is only a few months away, but I fear I shall never see nineteen if I do not find my brother. And how could I rule without him?

The sun hung low in the sky when we finally reached Terrin's camp. A few other trackers and rangers sat around a fire pit in the ground. They watched me as I came into the circle of firelight, studying me. Most likely they'd never seen me, if so, certainly not as a soldier. I wore my leather vest, strong boots and arm guards. My pants also were made from leather, though of a softer kind, but everything was dark brown, where the trackers' leather wear was all dyed black. I did not like black, and had not even worn in it mourning for my parents.

Instead, I kept to my usual dress of medium greens and browns, sometimes even purple. But I did not wear any of it now. Nor did I wear any metal armor. Alfdan had urged me, but I did not like the way its weight slowed me down. However, after my side was injured with the rough spherical bullets, he had a special mail shirt made for me from ciris, a metal-like mineral that is very light when beaten fine, but holds just as strong as steel. My faithful first advisor had packed it with my things, not allowing any arguments. I won't wear it.

Terrin immediately crouched down to murmur with his fellows, but I declined to join them. I was even more out of place here than with Terrin alone. Slowly, I sat upon the ground, back up against a boulder and unbuckled the sheath from my belt. Drawing out my sword, I watched the flames glimmer on the blade. But I wasn't tired, and soon my jittery muscles pushed me to rise up.

My eyes were quite accustomed to seeing well in the dark, so I moved away from the circle a little. I practiced with my sword and daggers every night I wasn't exhausted. The long blade was drawn out of its scabbard on my back and stuck into the dust. This regimen was in a way relaxing to me, soothing, comforting. My arms and legs moved on their own, pacing, turning or swinging.

So caught up in my dance-like state, I did not notice one of the rangers nearing me until his blade flashed by my head and our swords crossed each other in the air. At once I settled into a crouching stance, the handle of my own sword balanced in both hands, arms raised. My face became like stone as I waited to see what my opponent would do next.

"It's dangerous even to stray this far from the fire, highness." This man was older, his voice gruffer, like the stones that littered the ground. "But since we are all alert to you now, how about a duel? Who taught you swordsmanship? How good do you consider yourself?"

I had uncoiled my muscles and lowered my sword, but I kept my eyes on his as I answered his questions. "I was taught by Arros, but trained with Ryne. I consider myself to be competent and I will gladly duel you. I'm sure you could teach me something." Perhaps I did think myself more than competent, but I meant to be polite first, and control my anger from now on.

We took stances and saluted each other without another word. I saw Terrin from the corner of my eye, but paid him no attention. All of my focus bent upon the ranger's eyes. Two seconds of utter silence then-- CLANG!

I do not know how it happened. My body twisted, my arms swung and my feel stepped rapidly from side to side, forwards and back. Joyous energy poured into my fighting. Across from me, or beside or behind me, the ranger's grin matched the one on my own face. He was good. But not nearly as good as I.

Only a trick, just a trick, and his sword flew from his hands, leaving him panting before me on his knees, my sword point held wavering at his throat. Another five long seconds stretched out, but I couldn't move. I had not fought with someone who didn't want to kill me in a long time. Finally my arms dropped; I blinked as exhaustion seemed to overcome me. Strange, I could go on for hours before needing rest in a fight, but here my knees were buckling, my sword falling from my shaking hands.

In another moment Terrin and the other ranger had their arms on mine, helping me over to lay nearer the fire. "Why can't I stand?" I asked groggily.

"Because Alfdan put something in the wine you drank this morning. You didn't sleep last night, and you hadn't slept a whole day before that. You were supposed to wake sooner after exiting the portal, then start sleeping in the early evening. But he was right, you have a strong body. You keep fighting." Terrin's voice held a note of admiration, but I was too confused to acknowledge the compliment. My head fell onto his arms as sleep claimed me.

Cool mist on my face awakened me the next morning. I rubbed my eyes, and shifted on the bed of blankets while peering round the campsite. Ashes from last night's fire sat scattered on the ground, camouflaged in the grey dirt. Sitting up, I looked around for the others. All the rangers had gone, only Terrin remained. Perching on a boulder, he regarded me with dark, piercing brown eyes.

"Morning." He got up to rummage in one of our packs. I rolled up my bedding while he pulled out bread and dried apples. "We'll eat on the way. I want to be gone from here before the sun shows."

Strapping my bundles together, I hoisted them onto my back before clipping my sword on again. "Does the sun show itself here? I thought clouds always covered the sky."

Terrin gave me a lazy half-grin. "It comes up and goes down just the same as at home, princess, it just doesn't shine through those clouds. But there is a difference between night and day." His eyes rolled slightly in his head, and I wasn't sure if whether I wanted to laugh or smack him. I opted for a breathy chuckle, keeping my eyes down so he wouldn't see the sadness in them.

I accepted the food Terrin held out to me and we started to walk. In front of us, dusty fog seemed to go on continuously, but my ranger stepped with purpose and sure feet, so I knew we headed in the right direction. Soon I would learn to distinguish south from north, morning from afternoon. Terrin would teach me. I just hoped he wouldn't look so smug the whole time.


  1. I'm really curious as to how I inspired this! One thing--I'm not sure if this was intentional (to surprise us), but I thought she was a chap until the sentence "After all, I am a royal princess" :P


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