An Unfortunate Adventure! #freewritemadness: Day Eight

Day Eight of #nanowrimo and #freewritemadness is upon us!

I didn’t think that I would get much done today. I fell asleep at 10pm and woke up at 3am thanks to the usual ruckus of Australian parrots not realising it’s still DARK so SHUSH!!!!! Couldn’t get back to sleep, and by the time I stumbled out of bed… my brain was completely zombified. By lunchtime though, I started to feel a bit better and was able to start my intermittent writing.

Finished with a few minutes to spare! I like to finish my day’s writing by 8pm so I have an hour of peace and quiet to just relax in before bedtime. Turns out, at the moment, I’m spending that hour of peace and quiet here on Steemit! Haha.

Today’s prompt was – irritation – I had a few ideas, but the word “irritation” just wouldn’t show up as I wrote. Finally managed to insert an “irritated” near the end. Hooray. Haha.

The wordcount for today is – 2155
Total wordcount so far is – 16237

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CHAPTER EIGHT

“Over this way, miss.”

Katéa followed Draven through the grass, that dream-like feeling encompassing her once more as the long green blades drew her into their soft embrace, almost like a shroud of tranquillity. It was a welcome feeling. Now that they had left Glouweln and the libido-inducing pixie dust far behind them, she felt normal again —and embarrassed. Deep within her recurring imagination, Draven leant towards her to wipe the pixie’s essence from her face, and smiled that wide grin, his deep brown eyes agleam with his humour. He had known exactly what was happening. At least he was the honourable sort who hadn’t taken advantage of the situation… or had he, in his own way? Deliberately antagonising her emotions by drawing in close and tightening the belt around her waist, his hand lingering for an overly long moment before he at last wiped the offending substance from her nose. She smiled through her burning cheeks. The rogue.

With each step that she took, the bow banged against her back and the quiver against her thigh. Were they supposed to be this unstable and bouncy? This was exactly why had never owned a handbag. Dangling uncomfortable things; pockets were superior. Every dress she owned had pockets, as did every pair of pants. Except for that one pair that had fake pockets sewn into it. Seriously. Whatever idiot fashion designer would sew on fake pockets? It was ludicrous. She shook her head. Pockets were wonderful, but probably weren’t good for carrying arrows.

Good grief. Was she actually doing this? Hunting… with a bow. The only ‘hunting’ she had ever done was back when she was a kid. She had tried tying a rope to a stick and raising up a box, hoping beyond hope that she could lure a wild bird into her trap. She never managed to coax one in. And a bow! She had never used a bow in her entire life. Well, apart from those plastic ones that used suction caps as arrows. Those were fantastic. She had shot one of those square into the centre of her cousin’s forehead… it was a moment she would never forget. It had been brilliant. This would undoubtedly be a lot different.

A swath of broken trees lay ahead, as jagged black spires beyond the tall grass. Most were toppled over, whilst others had split in half with jags stabbing down to their base, and the remains of the largest tree —dead in the centre of the heap— had hundreds of holes and marks embedded deep into the wood.

“Here we are, miss. Good practice spot.”

“So I see… you can call me ‘Katéa’, you know. Or ‘Kat’.”

He smiled but did not respond; instead, he walked around the fringe of the broken trees and inspected the ground and the various shrubs that grew from the decaying stumps. What was he looking for? She moistened her lips, suddenly feeling nervous —she was entirely out of her depth. This was almost as awkward that time when she had been a stupid fourteen year old, going on her very first date. Bradley had been someone she had admired from afar but had never spoken to, until a mutual acquaintance shoved the unlikely pair together in a show of supposed ‘friendship’. The date had been silent and awkward; they had nothing to talk about and couldn’t even look at each other; surely she had outgrown such foolishness. She was a damned adult now!

Draven finished his inspection and returned to her, raising his crossbow slightly and nodding at the bow. “I will assume you’ve handled neither this nor that before.” She shook her head, and he sighed. “My apologies, I was too hasty; that bow will be useless in untrained hands. You take the arbalest, miss. It’s easy. You just crank the string back, pop the bolt in, pull the lever. It takes half a minute to load properly, but a child could do it.”

What the hell? Katéa stared incredulously, forgetting her awkwardness and ignoring the fact that he had once more refused to say her name. “It takes half a minute? How the fuck is that supposed to help if something’s running at me at two thousand fucking miles a second?”

“You have quite the tongue. You’re really not like other women, are you?”

These cultural differences were going to get her into trouble… as usual. This was just like back home. She averted her eyes and mumbled, “I’m sorry to have offended you.” —a line she had said many times before.

He swapped weapons with her and offered a small smile. “You didn’t. It’s refreshing seeing such honesty from the fairer sex.”

She snorted; they were a bunch of masked harpies sometimes, weren’t they? But, ‘refreshing’? “Refreshing? Tell that to the people back home.”

“Do you… miss them?”

He had turned his back to her, making a show of rummaging through his quiver, retrieving bolts and inspecting them before returning them to their housing. The question was casual, but his tone was overly careful, and she bit at her lip as her family burst into mind, followed by Sarah. “Yes,” she said before hurriedly continuing, “But, at the same time… I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I feel free here… I can be me.”

“You can be you? Who are you if you’re not already who you are?”

How could she possibly explain it all to someone who lived this simplistic life, unbound by the binds and chains of the ‘modern world’ looming over them? It had taken great effort for her to finally learn how to think before she spoke, lest she offended anyone; how to wear a mask lest her very being offended anyone; how irritating it was just to step outside some days; how if she actually went outside she would be dressed as flawless as could be… her nails, hair, makeup, clothing, it was all perfect; how it was so much easier to deal with other people in her online life, never having to actually see them and their judgemental eyes. She had worn the mask of perfection for so long, showcasing it to the world via various social media accounts… she swallowed. Her throat was getting sticky. She cleared it with a small cough and instead of trying to explain it all to someone who couldn’t possibly understand, she simply returned Draven’s own words to him. “Not all is ever as it appears, sir. Surely you know this.”

He chuckled, his hand closing over hers as he handed her a bolt. “Indeed, miss… Katéa.”

Her heart beat a little faster as he finally deigned to speak her name, at the warmth his hand had imparted to hers, and she looked away before her face began to burn again. Had she passed some sort of test and was now worthy of having a name instead of being a mere ‘miss’? He had seemed very careful when he had asked if she missed her own people… was his change based on her answer? He had clearly been sussing something out, that was for sure, but what was it?

He moved behind her and leaned over her shoulder, taking her arms and manoeuvring them into position just as a cheesy guy would show a girl how to play pool. She didn’t mind though; it felt nice, and she had to force herself to not just lean back into his arms. She was supposed to be learning something, damn it! The crossbow weighed heavy in her hands. The wood was engraved in an ornate designed that reminded her of how Nessie carved her wand, and it looked as though it were created with love and particular care, and had not just been bought from someone who impersonally made the things for a living. It also seemed very old; a family heirloom, perhaps? She shivered. His breath was warm against her neck as he quietly directed her, “You need to crank the string back. Yes, good. Now place the bolt in the groove… hold it like this with both hands, raise it up, steady… face it down, just a smidge… aim for the tree…” He stepped away from her. “Pull the lever.”

Thunk.

“I did it! I hit the tree!”

“It’s not quite as easy hitting a wild boar,” he smirked.

Right… they were hunting; not flirting with one another via the medium of archery. Was all this emotion in her head? Was she going crazy? Maybe she had discovered the crazy train long ago and was now taking the express to insanity. She was in a fucking fairy tale, after all.

“You won’t need to anyway,” he shrugged. “I’m here. But this skill will be a useful one. Fur, bones, teeth, skin, meat, even the tails, tongues, and eyeballs are used in brews and potions… the whole beast is of use to many people. An average boar will yield at least ten coins. Sometimes twenty.” He handed her another bolt. “Try again, without my help.”

She sighed, cranked back the string as far as she could, placed the new bolt on the groove, and prepared to shoot the stupid tree when flapping wings resounded loud above. The horrible black sphere bird was back —it was going to tear out her entrails just as in her dream! She whipped her head up, and accidentally pulled the lever. There was nothing in the darkening skies, but an inhuman shriek echoed through the black remains of the dead trees as the bolt pierced something unseen.

Draven paled, grabbed the crossbow out of her hands, and whispered, “Get back to the grass.”

There was no time to ask questions; if he was worried, obviously something was amiss. Katéa whipped around and ran back to the long green grasses, cursing the quiver banging against her leg. She ducked low and peered through the blades —where did he go? Draven appeared beside her and she near leapt higher than the stalks. He motioned for her to be silent, and prepared the crossbow.

Within a metre of where they just were, a giant wombat creature —with a head larger than the one stuck to the parlour’s wall— burst out from the blackened trees. A bolt was sticking out of its knee, and it was huffing and puffing angrier than her mother that night dad smashed through the window drunk, because he didn’t want to wake anyone up with a knock at the door. Its hot breaths snuffled through its nose and into the air in steamy white clouds, and it released another banshee-like wail as it ran back and forth across the dirt, as though it was daring them to come out and fight like men.

Its eyes locked onto hers through the grass. She slowly started to wiggle backwards. Draven aimed the crossbow. Its fur bristled and it charged. The bolt flew through the air, as though in slow motion, flapping wings descended, and she shrank up against Draven as that damned ten storey bird flew down and grabbed the wombat with its talons with a nonchalant ease, and flew off into the distance with the wombat screaming into the night. Thunk. The bolt landed in the tree.

That creature was there —she had heard it! She shuddered, and rested her head against Draven’s chest. His heartbeat was soothing, calming…

“That the thing you saw in the cave?”

“Mm-hmm,” she mumbled, not wanting to move.

“We need to get back to Glouweln.”

He sounded both irritated and concerned, and hurriedly climbed to his feet, pulling her up with him.

“In the middle of a pixie-dust orgy?”

“Fuck.” He tightened his grip on her wrist and made a beeline for the distant cabin, visible only by the well-lit windows. “They’re not all drugged out of their minds, and Nessie should have cleansed her garden by now. We can’t stay out here. Not at night. Not now that Serenithyl has awoken.”

Serenithyl.

That name hissed out of the bird’s beak and into her thoughts like the slow hiss of steam escaping the kettle and she shivered. Was it her fault that it had awoken? No, surely it was awake before it flapped its wings at her and pushed her down into the spider caverns. Someone else had to have awoken it… but —the necklace still weighed down her pocket— perhaps she had made it stronger. Maybe Nessie knew what to do with the necklace. She seemed wise and magical.

The wing-beats of a hundred monstrous creatures flew through the air just as they reached the stairs. Draven whipped open the door and pushed her inside, and shut the door behind him, but not before one of the grotesque monkey-men leered at her with teeth as large as her head just as the wood blocked it from sight.

What the hell had she unleashed?

(An Unfortunate Adventure header made by me! Courtesy of an image from Pixabay, and images from Vidar Nordli-Mathisen, Johny Goerend, Alan Labisch, Erol Ahmed on Unsplash!)