There was a loud scream from the hallway—a woman was yelling, who sounded suspiciously like Sasha Famini herself. Following that was a loud ring of steel and several people shouting. The door nearly exploded open,
and a wounded Officer Nash, clutching his left arm, staggered into the room. His silver sword hung loosely out of his scabbard.
“Nash!” Sesily cried, running over to him. “What’s happening up there?”
“General Maxwell . . . ” Nash coughed up thick red liquid. “He broke Sasha out of jail, and almost everyone in the village just went on a frenzied rage . . . ”
“Nash, you’re going to be alright. Come on, we can climb out the window and escape into the forest,” Sesily looked at him in fear. He was bleeding significantly. Laura, still standing by the bed, slipped the box into a pocket on the inner of her dress. The puffy fabric of her purple attire hid it well. It was unnoticeable.
“Yes . . . you’re right. I must help you escape . . . ” Officer Nash struggled to his feet, and he fixed the sword that was nearly tipping out of its case. Laura jogged up to the window and opened the simple wooden shutters.
Never before had she appreciated being on the bottom level as much as she did today. Laura climbed out first, following her was Sesily Dearborn, and after her the wounded Officer Nash.
“We need to hurry. Kirkland, Newman, Franklin, they’re all already dead . . . ” Sesily’s blood ran cold. Out of the six soldiers who were left untouched by Sasha’s demonic powers, only three were left, and one was badly wounded.
The trio ran at high speed to the forests not far away, slowing down their pace once they made it in.
“Don’t worry about tracks,” Officer Nash said as they quickly moved their way through the woodland. “Nobody in the village can follow them for their lives.” He smiled and winced; the pain obviously bothering him.
Laura, who was walking in front of the group, suddenly stopped. “This won’t do. You won’t be able to go on much longer bleeding like that,” Laura said. “There’s a river just ahead of us. Take off that armor and
wash yourself off while I bandage that.” Laura and Nash waded out into the shallow river while Sesily sat on a
rock nearby. She doubted the guards would come into the forest, at least not instantly, until they thoroughly searched the mansion for her, for Laura, and for the box.
“Laura! The box! We left it!” Sesily screamed, filled with paranoia.
Laura shook her head as she ripped a long piece of fabric off her dress and tied it around the deep gash on Nash’s arm. “I have it,” Laura called back.
Sesily calmed slightly, wondering where Laura learned all of these medical skills she was implementing and why she carried first-aid materials and herbs on her. She supposed it was because of her doctor training.
“You should probably keep your armor off and just wear the clothes underneath,” Laura said. “You’ll be less noisy, you’ll move faster, and you won’t be an instantly identifying beacon to anyone that sees us. The crest on your armor is unlike any other.”
This was true. The crest on the armor worn by the people of Sesily’s village, Eres, was very distinctive. The emblem consisted of a simple circle with a large X cutting through it. It was untraditional in the way that it had
nothing to do with their village. It was almost like a target on his back. Nash dressed himself in his commoner clothing, which had remained dry out of the water, and they were ready to move on. Laura dismissed her
soaking dress. They crossed an old, rickety, wooden bridge and made their way into a more dense forest. Laura still led, with Nash in the rear. Sesily was in the middle of them both.
“If we continually head west, we’d arrive in the vicinity of Trall, but that’s probably where Sasha is expecting us to go. Instead we go a little bit more to the north and we can get to my friend Karsh’s cottage. He lives fairly close to Moore, only about half a day’s march away.”
Sesily found this to be rather strange. “Shouldn’t we at least warn the people in Trall about an advancing she-witch with an army of possessed people?”
Laura shook her head as she stepped over a fallen oak. “That shouldn’t be necessary. Trall’s military force is far mightier than that of the Eres. Plus, they don’t have half a population of controlled beings attacking them from
Sesily nodded, agreeing with Laura. She supposed that Trall would be fine; Sasha wouldn’t dare attack it.
Officer Nash staged a reply. “Trall has many skilled warriors. I am from there. I am sure that even in a situation like the one in Eres, they would avail.”
Sesily’s heart sank as realization fully seeped in. Eres was finished. Everyone there she had known was gone, either dead or possessed, even her father, although not biological. She pulled herself together. Both Nash and Laura knew people there, after all. They were being brave and trying not to look at the past. They were moving forward, so should she.
“How far away from Trall are we, anyway?” Sesily asked quizzically.
“From here? About three hours as the crow flies,” Laura said.
“As the crow flies?” Sesily asked.
“Oh, right, you barely know what a tree is,” Laura said mockingly to Sesily, who was in a forest for the first time in her life. “As the crow flies means in a straight direction, meaning if we walked directly there with nothing in
our way, we would make it in three hours. Actually getting there, though, since we’re in a forest, it might take about four.”
Sesily nodded, her knowledge of the wilderness expanding yet again.
“So what kind of trees are these?” Sesily asked.
“The ones around us are oak. You can tell by the acorns on them and on the ground. They taste pretty good, actually, here, have one.” Laura, while walking, slyly scooped one up off the floor and shook it by her ear.
Satisfied, she handed it to Sesily.
Sesily held it for a few moments and then tried to break it open, with no avail. “I think mine’s broken,” Sesily said. “It won’t open.”
“You really are hopeless, huh?” Laura said playfully, professionally hopping over a small fissure in the ground.
“Let me try,” came Officer Nash’s deep, baritone voice. He merely took it in his hand and crushed it like it was a piece of paper. “Here, eat,” he said dully.
They stopped walking as Sesily took the nut from Nash’s outstretched hand. She chewed it for a moment. “Wow, this is delicious,” she said.
“Especially when you haven’t eaten for a few days, then they’re rapture,” Laura called, several meters ahead of Sesily and Nash now. Sesily jogged a bit to catch up, but Nash simply picked up his walking pace, slowly reaching the two girls.
“Hey, Laura, not all these trees have acorns on them, and they look kind of different, too,” Sesily said, looking upward at the thick canopy of trees.
“Those are maples. No fruits on those ones, though.”
Sesily nodded as a strange spinning object caught her eye. She picked it up off the forest floor, looking at it more closely. It was a very strange thing, with papery wings and two seed-like things inside.
“Say, what are these?” Sesily asked. Laura turned to look at what she meant. “Those are called samaras. They’re maple seeds,” Laura explained. “Say Nash, you’re awfully quiet. Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Nash replied sullenly.
“Can I eat these?” Sesily asked.
“I wouldn’t,” Laura answered blissfully.
Along the way, they all ate several more acorns, and Sesily saw many more samaras (which she happily tossed into the air to watch them all spin down around her). At around noon, they took a break from their trek.
Laura sat down, wishing they had brought some provisions with them. “I doubt Sasha would have sent any villagers into the woods to look for us,” she advised. Officer Nash nodded. “Indeed, I find myself that Sasha is not a very good leader. She would simply pour over the entire village. I doubt she would have even considered
we left, and when she does she’ll go straight to Trall.”
Sesily frowned. “You guys don’t give her enough credit. I’ve lived with her for over a year and she’s a lot more intelligent than she puts on. Even though she didn’t handle the situation in town that well, that doesn’t mean
she thought over every possibility.”
Laura agreed with Sesily on some points, but not entirely. After all, she knew Sasha too. “She doesn’t know about Karsh, though. So as long as we go there we’ll be safe.” Sesily picked up a fallen acorn and split it on the tree she was leaning against. She slipped the nut into her mouth. Officer Nash followed a similar act, for he was finding himself dreadfully hungry. The pain in his arm had died down, thanks to Laura, and his dizziness had finally gone away. Laura wordlessly checked the wound. A bit had bled through the purple fabric from her dress, which bound it. She tore yet another strip of the silken dress, which she would never have been able to afford, had Albert, Sesily’s father, not given it to her. She replaced the bloody rag with the new one. Thankfully, the bleeding had for the most part halted.
“So . . . how did you get that wound?” Sesily asked, “And the blood you coughed up . . . ”
Officer Nash stared into the green woodlands as he politely said “It was right after I arrived at the prison. I bowed to General Maxwell and a moment later his blade passed through my arm. He had been aiming for my head but he seemed to have missed. The blood was from when they roughed me up before I escaped.”
“I figured that’s what happened,” Laura explained. “There are not many blades that could cut through armor like that so easily. It was done by a powerful, magic weapon, like the one General Maxwell is said to have in
“Except that this wasn’t General Maxwell,” Sesily intervened. “General Maxwell is in Moore right about now.”
“That was General Maxwell,” came Officer Nash. “I have met him before, even fought with him once. I am certain, it was him.”
“Do you honestly think that Sasha possessed him, too?” Sesily exclaimed. “And why would Justin send a letter saying he was meeting General Maxwell, then?”
“Perhaps this Justin person is the one meeting the fake,” Nash said. Sesily was struck by a sudden jolt of realization. Laura’s eyes widened too, considering the possibility.
“Or he could have simply been misinformed,” Laura quickly added, seeing pain in Sesily’s eyes yet again that day. Sesily remained quiet, thinking about the painful truth Nash had so carelessly spewed out.
“So, Officer Nash,” Laura inquired. “What is your full name, anyway?”
“My surname is Prince,” he replied almost emotionlessly. Laura nodded.
“I knew a Prince once. Have you ever heard of a Kenneth Prince?”
“My brother,” he said. “He died two years ago, against a jewel thief known only as Vivian.”
“I’m so sorry. He was an acquaintance of my parents, although I didn't know him well. . . ”
“A great man, although I never really knew him, either.” Nash stared off into space like he usually did.
“So I take it you don’t know much else about this jewel thief, Vivian?” Laura asked.
“Only what I’ve heard. She’s very notorious, especially in the Locust City area. She’s taken a habit to robbing the casinos there almost daily.”
Sesily thought about Locust City for a moment. She had heard so many stories about it so frequently, and she instantly came up with a thought. “Where is Locust City, anyway?”
“Locust City is up in the northern province, quite a bit away from here,” Laura told her.
“Yes. My brother was a guard there, after he left Eres.”
“He used to sneak me food when I was living on the streets,” Laura said sadly. “I’ll never forget him. Without him I might not be here now.”
“What kind of person would dedicate their life to stealing from others for profit?” Sesily intervened.
“A murderer. A coward. A thief,” Nash said the words coldly, as if he were filled with hatred.
Laura saw the anger boiling inside of Nash. She rose up from the hard ground, brushing some dirt off her torn violet dress. “Let’s continue. We have a long way to go.”