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Prologue to Unnamed Novel
She had lost track of her steps. Each sharp tap of her foot hitting the
cobblestones sounded impossibly loud against the silence, ringing in her ears.
The only other sound she could hear was faint and distant, the sound of many
other feet growing rapidly and steadily closer. She struggled under his weight,
struck by the oddly irrelevant thought that he was astonishingly heavy for such
a thin fellow.
“Hold on just a little longer, Aera,” she gasped out. Red flashed by her eyes as
she briefly glanced at the dark red patches of blood on her white linen shirt.
Its texture and warmth were familiar to her, but her heart beat faster at the
thought that it was his blood. She hoped silently that the panic rising inside
her throat would urge her to run faster, but she was already panting for breath.
They were older, more experienced swordsmen, and they were unhindered. It was
only a matter of time.
Her eyes hurriedly scanned the intricate wall of doors and windows. Where was
it? It had to be so close now. She sickened at a new thought. What if she had
passed it? What if they would be too close to go back? She paused in the
streets, looking back; then, sure that the door was still ahead of her, she
began running again, as fast as her feet could carry her, forcefully oblivious
to the burning ache in her chest. She had practiced for this since she could
walk. She wouldn’t let their hands touch him, not after all the years of work…
“Aera,” she said breathlessly, “we’re almost there.” Maybe he would believe that
which she was most unsure of. “I know you’ve been through worse than this, so
It was a fiery and sudden pain, and before she could scream out in surprise she
knew what had happened. Her foot twisted sharply upon hitting the raised stone.
She threw her hands out instinctively to catch herself. Aera collapsed limply on
the ground beside her, his own feet now tangled in her legs.
“Help us, someone!” she yelled as loudly as she could. Her concern for pain was
lost in desperation. She continued screaming hoarsely, until she had no voice
left. Now what? she thought furiously. A sudden burst of bitter anger washed
through her, giving her enough energy to lift herself up, then bring Aera to his
knees, balancing her weight on her good ankle. She would drag him to safety if
she had to. She began to pull heavily on his arms. Streaks of straight black
hair fell into his face; his unconscious head rested on his chest, closed eyes
“If you were only awake,” she mouthed despairingly. The sweat that covered her
hands made it difficult to keep them from slipping every time she tried to pull
him. She gritted her teeth, breathing loudly. “Just… a little further now.”
“That’s them! There they are!”
She froze, afraid to look up. Her hands began to shake incontrollably. Aera’s
hands fell from her grasp and he collapsed gently against her side. She felt
hot, salty tears begin to pool in her eyes, blurring her vision, perhaps for the
better. She forced herself to turn her eyes upward, tears spilling out onto her
already sweated-drenched cheeks.
The brash light of the afternoon sun outlined the dark forms of the Makoran
swordsmen. They began slowly walking towards her. Without pausing to think, she
threw herself in front of Aera’s, body moving instinctively into a fighting
stance. Her hand felt frantically for the knife hidden beneath her jacket. She
felt it and kept her hand there. Breathing silently now, she tried to calm
herself. Her hands ceased shaking and she stood without moving, wordlessly
eyeing the swordsmen through slitted eyes.
“Try to touch him,” she said, clipping her words with quiet ferocity, “and more
than one of you will die.”
“Step out of the way and you won’t be harmed,” a dark-haired swordsman said
“Blood is valuable to you; you should try to keep most of it,” she answered
through clenched teeth, closing her fingers around the danger.
“Take your hand off the knife,” the leader said, more sharply now.
She tightened her fingers. “I can still kill… three of you.”
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