|The Clear Trap
Author: luckynamegame PM
Constance Whitherton doesn't like being tricked. So when the hated rebels of her town devise a plan to kick her out, she's out for revenge. Too bad revenge comes at a higher cost than she first expected. Now revenge comes second to merely staying alive.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 26 - Words: 47,722 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 11-13-12 - Published: 11-10-11 - Status: Complete - id: 2969130
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I could've sworn I heard a whistle.
I looked up from the endless stretch of downed wheat field in front of me, and realized once again how exhausted and small I was in comparison to everything.
In front of me in the distance were the railroad tracks belonging to the saltwater train and mountains that stretched back through my peripherals.
The huge bowl of mountains kept me in the valley of Crystalis.
I took in a deep breath of September air, feeling the lining of my lungs tickle with the chill. Just another day, just another back pain.
The saltwater train let out a whooshing gust of saltwater steam as it worked its way through the winding rail tracks. It disappeared for a moment behind a rock pile, only to be visible the next moment. The saltwater steam clouds dispersed and vanished into the sunset-colored sky around it.
The scythe in my hand suddenly felt twice as heavy as it had three hours ago when I had come out into the field to start my work shift. I glanced down at the instrument, manipulated rusted metal secured by a carved, worn wooden handle. My hand was red and raw from holding it so long, but I let that thought run out of my mind. Just two more hours, and I'd be able to go inside and have some supper.
As I bent down again, however, a whistle sounded again. I knew I had heard it this time for sure—the sound lingered distinctively in the huge basin of rock.
I knew that whistle sound, which was what startled me most. It was the sound of a delivery truck returning for the next load of wheat. But what was strange was that it was really early.
Two hours early.
Something was up, so I stretched my muscles into a standing position once more, casting my gaze through the whole field like a heavy fog. Sure enough, off the rock-lined road that seemed to head straight into the ground, a rickety delivery truck was making its way down the mountain. It was east of the saltwater train tracks, so I turned my head to the left to watch the truck slowly lower itself to the ground like an old drunk walking down a hill.
The whistle blew again, several short trills that announced a very eager delivery team. I could see them clearly as the truck grew closer and closer to our little camp, where several other workers had gathered to watch the early truck.
Five heads bobbed in the wooden-edged bed of the truck, swaying back and forth to the truck's movements. I could hear them laughing and hollering as the truck approached.
"Constance! Hey, Constance, come check this out!" I heard from someone in the camp call out. I looked over at them, confused by the calling of my name.
Still, the amusing truck arrival was a nice break from my hard labor, so I approached the camp. I bent down once more to set my scythe down and joined several others lined in a half circle, awaiting the truck.
"What are they doing?" I asked an older woman dressed in a stained apron that was standing a few feet away from me.
She looked over at me and smirked. "Does it really matter? Gives us a break…let 'em come on white ponies for all I care."
"I heard the truck's full of Clearheads this time!" Someone else in the small crowd said.
Clearheads? That'd be ridiculous. Clearheads were the rebellious idiots of the town that were usually seen throwing a huge fuss on a soapbox. They didn't get anywhere near the delivery trucks—we made sure of that. If they were to get hold of a delivery truck that ran into Dese, we'd be in trouble.
The woman in the stained apron put her knuckles on her thick hips and leaned to the side to peer around me. "Hey, Bart! Are there Clearheads on the truck?"
"Are you kidding me?" A man approaching the camp from a good half mile away yelled. "There better not be!"
"Everyone's talking Clearheads—if there is, you need to take care of it!" She hollered back at him. Her lips fell back into a snarl when she spoke; it seemed as if she yelled a lot. I didn't recognize her from town, so I was assuming she worked somewhere else often, perhaps the mill.
A man wearing a tawny hat laughed at the comment and shook his head side to side. "Clearheads to Dese—great firelies, I hope that's a joke."
Dese is the huge city that lies right outside our town of Crystalis. Crystalis supplies Dese with food every day.
All of Crystalis doesn't quite like Dese, but we keep our silence because they pay us for food, and being a farming town, we desperately need that. We get along pretty well with the steady income from Dese, but that doesn't mean Crystalis is a paradise dream come true. Neither is Dese.
The Clearheads are the most strongly opposed to Dese and their strong hold they have on our village with food. They say—from what I've heard from their soapbox speeches—that Dese is going to be the destruction of the town. Clearheads rant more than they actually say something of value, so it's hard to really understand why they hate Dese so much.
The truck finally made it down the rock path to solid ground, letting a huge cloud of dust swarm and rise above it to signify its descent. The sputtering of the steam engine was audible from the half mile away that the truck was.
"They're going a lot faster than usual." The walking man, Bart, said as soon as he arrived at the little camp.
Well, it was more of a tent and table than a camp, but we digressed.
"Maybe someone's injured." The stained apron woman mused. Her snarling face set into a deep frown, exaggerated by deep lines riddled throughout her face.
Bart shook his head. "They wouldn't be laughing so loudly if someone was hurt—actually, they'd be driving a lot faster."
The frowning woman opened her lined mouth to speak, but was cut off by a deep shudder from the steam truck.
"That's strange," Bart said, scowling as his eyes followed the truck's bed full of people. I mimicked his gaze, trying to see what was so strange.
"Two of them are wearing odd hats…those are hats, aren't they?"
I trained my eyes to follow the heads bobbing in the rising red dust clouds, but it was getting harder and harder to see with all the dust. I gave up after a minute, as the truck was coming closer to our camp with every passing second.
By the time that Bart was about to say something else, the delivery truck came to a screeching halt, followed by heavy hisses of steam.
As soon as the truck's steam settled enough for it to be safe to walk around it, two men from the bed of the truck hopped the wooden fence and landed thickly in the red dirt.
"You two wouldn't happen to be Clearheads, would you?" Bart asked the two as they came towards us. He asked in a joking manner, by their expressions were definitely not what he had expected.
The one on the right, a blonde, beamed. "Why yes, yes we are!"
Workers all around the camp groaned in exasperation or anger.
"You've got to be kidding!" Someone snarled.
Bart gave the two a crazed, astonished look. "What in Lyon's name are you two doing in the delivery truck to Dese? Tell me you didn't do anything stupid!"
As if response, there was a series of loud noises coming from the bed of the truck, some of them the sound of metal on wood.
The two held their hands on their hips proudly, raising their chins as if they'd done a good deed. My chest tightened at the sight—this must surely be bad.
"We've finally found a way to retaliate at Dese!" The Clearhead to the right announced.
"Retaliate? Retaliate to what?" Bart demanded, anger rising in his voice. He was an older man, probably around his mid forties, with a thin frame and weathered, wiry muscles lining his limbs. The salt-and-pepper stubble on his chin shone in the setting sun, giving the illusion that he was talking much faster than he actually was.
"Their constant abuse of Crystalis!" The Clearhead to the left replied easily. "Their declining pay for our crops has left us no choice but to retaliate and take matters into our own hands."
Bart's jaw twitched in what I could only describe as raw anger. He shot his worn eyes around the rest of the camp to assure that he wasn't the only furious one. He wasn't.
"What did you do, exactly?" The apron-adorned woman's frown deepened.
As if by cue, there was a muffled scream, and then a third man from the bed of the truck approached us with something thrown over his shoulder.
He must've been a Clearhead as well, because what I saw over his shoulder made my chest tighten to the point where I thought I'd fall to pieces.
There was a girl slung over his shoulders, her head secured tightly with a burlap sack; her hands were tied behind her back, and she was thrashing. Kidnapped.
"Oh my Lyon." I gasped, thrusting both my hands to my jaw to stop my bones from falling apart. "You—you kidnapped a Dese girl?"
The girl thrashed harder at that, clearly kicking the third burly man in the shoulder with her heels. She was definitely from Dese; her expensive metal-lined shoes and long pink dress were signs of her wealth.
The burly Clearhead winced slightly at her kicks, but when he tightened his grip around her rib cage, she seemed to fall limp into what I hoped wasn't death.
"Two, actually!" The left Clearhead announced. "Just for ransom—the city of Dese needs to understand what they're doing to our village!"
"You're insane!" Bart snapped, his anger so prominent that he was slightly shaking in fury. His furious words led spit to fall to the ground like a snarling dog. "You can't go kidnapping people just because you're upset with Dese! You Clearheads are a rotten bunch who are ruining our good name—fix this before you ruin Crystalis for good!"
All three of the Clearheads laughed at Bart's demand. They shared a look amongst themselves, clearly unscathed by anger.
"Why fix what isn't broken?" One of the Clearheads asked. I was sickened by them being there now, with the sight of that poor girl limp at a Clearhead's shoulder. I couldn't begin to imagine her pain and panic. "The Clearheads will liberate Crystalis—you are two narrow-minded to see it, old man."
Bart glared at him with his curved, bulging eyes before spitting at their feet. "I'm calling the Bullets on the lot of you. Get those two back to Dese where they belong, before something happens that can't be undone!"
I wanted to run back to the town right then, to get the Bullets myself. The Bullets were the town guard force, a small division from the country army. They were definitely not a force to be underestimated. The Bullets and Clearheads were definite enemies in Crystalis, but the Clearheads hadn't done anything too reckless to be put in serious trouble—at least not up until now. But their kidnapping two Dese citizens—especially a girl who seemed to be around my age, a few years from womanhood—would be enough for the Bullets to deal with them as a serious threat to Crystalis and Dese. Quite frankly, I wanted the Clearheads out of Crystalis as much as anyone else, but it had been a severe disliking for years. Now it was a never ending hatred that seemed to bury into my very bones. I wanted them gone, and I would get rid of them myself if I had to.
One of the Clearheads returned to the truck and picked up the second Dese victim. It was another girl—who looked more like a woman than a girl—and like the first girl, she was limp over the Clearhead's shoulder. I hoped to Lyon they weren't dead, but it didn't make sense for them to be dead. The Clearheads would get no ransom out of it, which would make the whole kidnapping useless.
"Relax, old man," One of the disgusting Clearheads smiled in a snarling, fox-like manner. He made me wish I had my scythe in hand. "We're not going to hurt them. We'll send a ransom note out tomorrow with the first delivery truck and wait for the money to roll in."
By just looking at him, I was sure Bart was going to explode at any moment. The way his thin limbs shook as if he was being faced by a thick wind, the way his face was as red as fire itself, the way his jaw twitched with words he wouldn't say—it all led me to believe that the man would burst right then and there. I found myself leaning away from him slightly in anticipation of Bart's self-destruction. Somehow, Bart managed to calm down long enough to spit out, "And you think it'll be that easy? That they'll just pay the ransom and we'll all be done with the whole lot? You've got a lot to learn, boy—and you're going to learn the hard way, by Lyon. I'll make sure you dig your own blasted grave!"
He threw down the apron he was wearing into the red ground and stormed off towards Crystalis. I couldn't see the town from here, but it was there, locked away somewhere safe to our west, lost in mazes of tall rock.
This is last year's NaNoWriMo. This year I'm writing the sequel to this one. It's a little harder to seperate chapters as it doesn't follow my normal formatting. I hope you enjoy it! This whole story-writing and revising-took about 25 days.