Welcome to the kingdom of Ciraloth, where the peasants are happy, the royals are wealthy, and murder is what keeps the kingdom running. But of course, nobody knows that last bit.
Morgaine is an average girl, eighteen years old and living in the town of Vale. She leads an ordinary life, and expects a predictable, but pleasant future ahead of her. But when her mother falls deathly ill, her life starts to spiral out of control. In a desperate attempt to save her mother, Morgaine travels to the Kerrador Forest, a place of mystery and enchantment, in the hopes of finding a mythical flower that supposedly cures all sickness. But what; or more, who, she finds there will change her life forever. Dark secrets about the kingdom will become unveiled, revenge will be sought, blood and death will rule, and in midst of it all, Morgaine will have to choose a side and fight in a battle which will define the very future of herself and her country.
**Rated T for Violence/Blood and/or Suggestive Material (but nothing super bad don't worry)
I do in fact, own this story and everything in it. :D Yay! So don't steal please.
My eyes snapped open and I sat up, fear overwhelming my mind. I tried to remember why I had been so afraid, but the horrifying dream had already faded, leaving me only with a sense of foreboding that I couldn't shake off. I sighed, letting my muscles relax as my heart rate slowed down. The dreams had been plaguing me all week, each night getting worse and worse, yet I could never remember anything from them. I glanced over at my brothers. Drake, the tallest, but not the oldest, was breathing slowly, and he mumbled something in his sleep. Wolfe was snoring like a bear, his blanket tangled around his limbs. And Caine-
I threw my tattered blanket off of me and scrambled to my feet. Where was Caine? His bed was empty. I placed my hand on the mattress. It was cold, so he must have gotten up a while ago. "Caine!" I hissed under my breath, looking around the room. "Caine, I swear, if you're planning on jumping out at me, you are going to deeply regret it!" I tiptoed across the room, careful not to wake up Drake and Wolfe, then padded silently into the main room of the old house. "Caine, I'm serious!" I growled, "It's not funny."
Suddenly there was a creak as someone stepped onto the front porch outside. I froze, staring at the door, my mind racing. It could just be Caine, but then again, it might not be. It could very well be one of the king's soldiers. That would explain Caine's disappearance. My heart flew to my throat. What if they had Caine? Grabbing a crude dagger off one of the tables, I silently crept across the room. The wood groaned under my feet, and I gritted my teeth, praying the man outside wouldn't hear me. I took another careful step forwards, but suddenly Wolfe's pet cat, Ginger, leaped down from one of the counters. Surprised by her sudden appearance, I yelled and lost my careful balance on one leg. Waving my arms frantically, I stayed mid-fall for a split second, but a moment later crashed onto the ground with a noise so loud it could wake the dead. I heard a yell from outside.
"Someone's in the cabin!"
"You idiot cat!" I screamed at Ginger. She gave me a wry smile and leaped out of the way as I lunged at her. "I should skin you and use you as a scarf!"
"Soldiers! Run!" Wolfe burst out of the bedroom, screaming, and bolted towards the door. His light blue eyes were wild with fear.
"Wait!" I blocked his path and he crashed into me. I heard a sharp crack and my chest burned with pain. Great, a broken rib. Just what I needed! Wolfe stumbled backwards, still half-asleep and in a total panic. Ignoring him as he started to blabber incomprehensibly, I turned to Drake, who had sprung out of bed after Wolfe, his brown hair in a mess atop his head.
"Where's Caine?" he demanded, "Are there soldiers outside?"
"I don't know about Caine, but I think there are soldiers," I grimaced, clutching my chest.
"Wait, Caine is missing?" Wolfe said. His eyes were wide and filled with fear.
"We have to find him! He could be being held captive by the soldiers," Drake said, slipping on a dark brown cloak.
"Ok, here's the plan. We'll split up, Drake, you go into the forest. I'll head towards the village. And Wolfe-" I paused, racking my brain for the safest, least likely place the soldiers would have gone, "Head towards the river."
"And the soldiers?" Wolfe asked.
"Do whatever it takes to keep yourselves alive," I said, placing a polearm in Wolfe's hands, "Even if it means killing them." I handed Drake a belt of knives and he looked up at me doubtfully.
"Robin, I don't know if I can kill someone," Drake said, his amber-yellow eyes filled with fear.
"If it's a choice between your life and theirs, don't hesitate," I said confidently, "We need you Drake." Drake nodded, but I could still see a trace of doubt in his eyes. I grabbed a my bow and quiver. "Ready?" I said, turning back to my brothers. They nodded, then all three of us rushed out the door and melted into the night. Ever since we had escaped I knew it would come to this. The king wanted to see us all dead, and he wouldn't rest until each of us had been murdered. I felt a surge of anger and let it propel me to run faster. I had stolen every knife I could reach, carved weapons out of branches, even robbed my old friends. I had forced my brothers to practice every day. We hadn't been properly trained with the weapons, but we had learned how to use them in a brutal, savage manner that was effective and unpredictable. I clutched my bow tighter and forced my feet to move faster even though my chest screamed with pain. It was then that I came to the sickening but satisfying realization.
I couldn't wait to see the king's soldiers die.
I kicked a rock fiercely into the water as it bubbled down the hillside. It wasn't fair. Of course Robin had sent me to the river. I was the youngest, the weakest; best to keep me out of harm's way. Who on earth would come here? It was in the opposite direction of the kingdom, there was little cover, and lots of branches and leaves on the ground that would create noise if stepped on. What I wanted, more than anything though, was revenge. The king had hurt my family. He had forced us into this terrifying world where we were constantly running and never safe. And why? All because we were a little different from the rest. Because we had powers that made us strong, maybe even strong enough to stand up to him one day. So yes, in his eyes, we needed to be killed.
Turning around, I threw my polearm at a nearby tree, hitting the trunk dead center. I wanted to kill his soldiers, every last one. Then he would feel weak. Vulnerable. I yanked the polearm out of the tree, raging at the unfairness of the whole situation. That stupid king should die, and I wanted to be the one to kill him. I sighed. I could imagine Drake's reaction to my angry, violent thoughts.
"Violence doesn't solve problems Wolfe," I said, mocking Drake's voice, "It only creates more. Killing the king will only earn you enemies Wolfe."
"Well letting the wretched king live won't solve anything either," I grumbled, pointing my polearm at a nearby squirrel threateningly.
My thoughts were interrupted as I heard rustling from across the river. I lowered my polearm, and the squirrel chattered at me angrily before scuttling off into another tree. Indistinctly I heard a few voices. Slipping across the river, I pressed ahead, listening carefully as the voices got louder. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but one of them definitely belonged to Caine. Well then, I thought, smiling crookedly, Looks like I'm in for some excitement tonight after all.
Shifting through the leaves, I looked for any sign of soldiers passing through the forest. The night was still and tense. Something bad was going to happen before sunrise. The animals had sensed it and were lying low and quiet, being careful to stay out of harms way when whatever it was struck. Even the crickets were silent, making the forest seem eerie.
Despite the tension in the air, I smiled to myself. Six months ago, when we first ran away to escape the king, I wouldn't have noticed the silence of the animals, the ominous forewarning of danger. I would have run happily through the forest, paying no heed to the strange atmosphere. Back then all of us had been naive to things like that. But after living and breathing the forest for six long months, we had learned how to go through the woods silently and listen for signs of trouble.
Suddenly my pride melted away and was replaced by anger. We had been naive to more than just how to live in the forest safely. We had been too blind to see the truth about ourselves. About our parents. I didn't blame my brothers for not realizing it sooner; they had talents, true, but none of them had ever been the brightest. But me; I was the brains of the bunch. I had studied long and hard during my time in the kingdom, when I had access to books of all sorts. I had learned about folklore, legend, science, philosophy, flora, fauna and much much more. I should have realized it sooner. All the signs of our real identity had come and gone, and I had remained perfectly oblivious. Maybe if I could have found out sooner, maybe if we could have ran away sooner…
"Oh just stop it," I muttered to myself, kicking a rock, "No use fantasizing about what could have been."
I heard a wolf howl and internally I shuddered. Wolves and bears were one of the few enemies we had out here when there weren't soldiers around. They were big, ferocious, and deadly. We had all agreed that it was important that we avoid them at all costs.
The wolf howl sounded again, and this time I paused, listening to the tone of the howl. Something wasn't natural about the howl. It wasn't low enough or deep enough. From the other side of the forest, another howl broke out in response.
"Wait a minute…" I murmured, turning toward the noise and narrowing my eyes. A third 'wolf' howled from a different spot, and that's when I realized that they weren't wolves; they were people using a realistic wolf howl as a signal. The first 'wolf' howled again, and the noise was louder and closer. Gasping, I pulled out a knife and stood stock still for a moment, staring into the bushes. They rustled, and a man in a large white cloak with the kingdom's emblem stamped on the front stepped out, looking at me in surprise.
I turned around and bolted away as fast as my legs could carry me.
I whipped around, my heart beating wildly as I heard my name being screamed from the direction of the river. I felt a sickening feeling. Wolfe had gone to the river.
I snatched up an arrow I had used to shoot down a bird and dashed towards Wolfe's voice, my ribs on fire. I gritted my teeth, trying to block out the pain. My ribs would have to wait; Wolfe needed me, right now. Although the way he was bawling, everyone in the forest would hear him. So much for a surprise attack.
Suddenly I heard the thump of footsteps and Drake materialized out of the trees to my right, quickly matching my stride and running next to me.
"Drake?" I said in confusion.
"Soldiers-came after-me." He gasped in between breaths, "Three-of them."
"Did you hear Wolfe?" I asked.
"Yes," Drake panted, pushing himself to go faster.
Suddenly Wolfe's screams were cut short by a short scream, then silence. Dear God, please don't let this be happening, I thought to myself, Please spare Wolfe. He's so young-
Suddenly a familiar figure burst through the trees. His blue eyes were wild with grief and fear, and his brown hair was mangled and messy. Mud caked his shirt and tears were rimming his eyes.
"Caine! Where the heck have you been? Do you have any idea how freaking worried we were?" I screamed, grabbing his shoulders.
"Wolfe-" Caine said, his shoulders heaving with a sob, "He's, he's-"
"He's what?" I screamed, clutching his shoulders tighter.
"He's dead," Caine coughed out, the tears sliding down his cheeks.
I stumbled back, the world suddenly becoming a haze of blurry colors and distant voices. "No," I said, "It's not true."
"The soldiers-they had me, and Wolfe-" Caine started to explain, but I turned to him, my eyes alight with fury.
"It's not true!" I screamed, "You're lying!"
"Robin, listen to me, why would I lie about something like this?" Caine said angrily. Shaking my head, I raced towards the river, leaving my brothers behind. It's not true. I'll find Wolfe and he'll be fine. It will be fine. I pushed myself to go faster and I stared ahead, ignoring my brothers as they yelled for me to come back. I couldn't lose my little brother. We had worked so hard to keep each other safe. We couldn't fail now.
"Robin, he's dead!" Caine screamed, "It's no use!"
I burst through the bushes and stopped dead in my tracks. I was in a small clearing lined with holly bushes filled with red berries. A few trees cast shadows onto the ground, and the last rays of the sun poked through the branches, making the clearing seem alluring and peaceful. In the center a body was splayed out on the ground. Wolfe. His head was tilted upwards, towards the sky, and his blank, lifeless eyes stared at the clouds. His hair was caked with mud, and blood soaked his shirt. His bloodstained polearm lay on the ground next to him, his hand still gripping onto it tightly, even in death.
"No," I said, closing my eyes and putting my head in my hands. It wasn't real. When I reopened my eyes he would not be lying on the ground, staring up lifelessly. He would be alive and well, and he'd smile that goofy smile and run a hand through his sunset-orange hair and laugh because he had survived against all odds. I felt a sob rising inside my chest and I pushed it back down. Not real. Not real. But I didn't dare to open my eyes, because maybe it was real, and maybe he would still be dead when I opened them.
"His death wasn't in vain," I heard Caine's voice but tried to shut it out, "He died protecting me from the soldiers." For a mere half a moment, I felt myself grow angry. Why was Caine so important that Wolfe had to die for him? Immediately I felt guilt set in. What am I thinking? I would have done the same thing.
I opened my eyes and felt my stomach twist as I once again saw Wolfe lying on the ground, empty and completely dead. It was real, it was all real and there was nothing I could do to bring him back. I hated feeling so helpless. I could protect my brothers from anything- but once they were gone, there was nothing left to do.
"We should probably keep moving," Drake said quietly, "The soldiers are bound to come back." Quickly I whipped around, my anger rekindled.
"We are NOT leaving him here for the crows to pick at!" I yelled in fury.
"Oh, so do you want to join Wolfe? Then feel free to sit here for another hour!" Drake snapped back, obviously on the verge of breaking down, but still trying to remain in control of his emotions.
"Drake is right Robin, we don't have any time to waste," Caine said in a serious tone.
"You guys are sick!" I screamed. I stared at Caine and he stared back, neither of our gazes wavering. I could feel energy pulsing through my veins as I stared him down, my gaze intense with fury. Finally he broke away.
"Come on Drake," he said. Drake cast a quick glance at me before they both walked off into the forest, disappearing in the brush. Biting back insults, I began to gather branches from around the clearing and piling them onto Wolfe.
"I'm sorry," I said regretfully, "But I don't have time to bury you. At least the buzzards won't come to pick at your bones."
As I placed the final branch on him, I paused. Something gleamed from inside his bloodied shirt pocket. I paused, then slowly reached forwards and pulled it out. It was a necklace. The golden chain was delicate and beautiful, and pendant was shaped like a wolf's head. I stared at it as it rested in the palm of my hand and slowly stroked it with my thumb. I'll keep it. To remember Wolfe.
I slipped the necklace into my pocket, then held up a piece of flint and a piece of steel above Wolfe's coffin of branches. Gritting my teeth to hold back tears, I quickly scratched the flint across the steel, causing sparks to erupt from it and land on the branches. Quickly they caught and began to feed the flame as it grew larger. I kneeled beside Wolfe as he burned and pulled out the pendant from my pocket and clutched it tightly. Now I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt them slip down my face as the flames licked at my skin.
I never forgave myself for his death. And I never forgot.