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Only One Way

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          When a girl, Audra, is stolen from her home, she is thrust into a world of another dimension. A crazed, dying king has desperatly gotten hold of her to force her into the job of protecting his young son, who is soon to be king after he dies. What Audra doesn't know is the reason behing the king forcing his son to seize power of all Nefaria. It's deeper then just a thirst for power. It's his past that has thrown him in the direction of abusing his people, and desperetly seeking to control them. When Audra turns eighteen, the king has a special gift for her, a gift that will make her stronger to protect his son. But before Audra knows it, she is seeking an escape route. She suddenly wakes up covered in snow, drenched in blood, no longer in the king's castle, but in the forest, next to the Nefarian village. When they take her in, she has no memories of her past. She can't even remember how she got there. Her life is drasticly changed. Now that she is no longer enslaved in the king's castle she realizes what she truly wants to do. She wants to help her newly found people. But now that the king has died of old age along with illness, his son has finally taken over. With him taking over his father's same ruling style and habbits, there is no doubt in Audra's mind that this king must go down. But the thing is, he can only die one way. Knives, arrows, or swords can't harm him. And now it's Audra's job to find out the one way to kill the king.

(A short story in progress)

Read newest version here::

9,488 words:: 

The house was quiet, dark, and filled with a faint chill from the outside snow. All was asleep except the wondering eyes of a ghastly strange man, outside, looking for one specific window. His shoes barely pierced the powdered white grass with any sound at all as he suddenly stops.

He sees the pink window that he has never before seen in person. Only drawn out on maps for practice routines. But this was in fact, no practice. His slinky fingers protruding from his thin palm, grasps the window seal and with an oddly shaped tool, he pries it open. The silence of the house is lightly broken by the squeaking of the dark brown floorboards as his shoes hit the floor and begin to work their way to a dimly lit bed.

The bed is a small bed, a toddler bed. White, lined with pink frilly lace. In the bed lay a child. Dressed in a thin multicolored t-shirt, and a cute pink pair of night shorts. She sleeps clutching a tiny teddy bear whose left ear bares a purple ribbon. He looks around the room.

He sees a children’s book laid out over a rocking chair. He sees a ribbon dangling from the closet door, saying “Daddy’s number one girl.” He looks and sees a pink Barbie house, with toys scattered throughout the squared out rooms. ‘This girl is just a child’ he thinks. His heart almost breaks. She deserves a normal childhood. He almost leaves, wondering what his boss would do when he finds out the mission was failed. Almost. But almost could not stop him.

His long fingers wrap around the child’s arm as her eyes suddenly open. A piercing shriek fills the room and leaks through the girl’s unopened door. Mother and father’s eyes open. Both jolt up from their beds without grabbing slippers or a robe, or even turning on a light. Their feet race across the floor, through the kitchen, down the hall…

The man turns his head as his ears pick up the sound of frantic parents. His legs fold over the open window like a deadly spider crawling creepily through a house. With kicking child in hand he races back down the path that he came from.

The mother and father are too late. They look around an empty room and they do not see their precious baby girl. The mother falls as her legs give out and the father catches her in his bewildered grasp. They weep together. Though they can’t see her, they can hear her. Her faint scream wakens all the neighbors. They race outside. They see only footprints in the snow. They begin to run franticly after their child.

The ghastly man looks behind him without stopping. The girl is biting the man’s arm. He yanks her off of him. He grasps tightly around her wrist.

The little girl looks around her. She is in the woods. Dark violent shadows seem to taunt her and stream around her waist. She still holds her teddy bear.”There’s no time for toys, girl.” He pries the bear from her tiny clutching knuckles. He tosses it to the snow.

He closes his eyes and takes in a deeply exaggerated breath. Starting from his elbow his veins start to bulge and something orange starts to glow and twist through his veins, making its way to his forearm and gravitating to his palm. He stands clutching the four year old girl with his left hand and holding his right arm in an “L” shape, in running position.

He first thrusts back his elbow, and then strikes forward his arm. The glowing light that gathered at his palm has now been thrown into a jet black shadow. The girl falls to her knees. Her brown curls sparkle and her intense blue eyes widen at the sight of this immortal happening. The man yanks her up.

He looks at her in disgust as he jerks the girl, as well as himself, into the now opened portal formed by the light. Before she was fully inside she looks behind her. She sees the teddy bear, the white crispy snow, and the evergreen trees. Then she hears her mother. She is calling her name. Her voice gets softer and cloudier as milliseconds tick by.


Her mother’s voice was the last thing she ever heard that was on the opposite side of that portal.


The man walks up to the king of Nefaria, sitting at his thrown. A seven year old boy stands at his left side and in a near room the king’s nine year old boy plays with his toys. “I see you completed the task.”

The king glances down at the frightened child. The girl is gnawing at the man’s arm, fighting, kicking, anything that might help her break from the man’s crippling clutch. But all he does is laugh. “Typical human things this girl does. Kicking cannot harm one like me.”

The girl scrunches up her face. She spits on the shoes of the man. “I can call the cops you know. I know 911.”

The king of Nefaria and the man exchange laughs. The king speaks. “Cops? You want cops? Well if you want them I can bring them. But in Nefaria, they work for me. So I don’t see how this would bring you any good.” He glares at the child. “I brought you here for a purpose, and trust me girl, you better fulfill what task lay ahead of you.”

The silent boy standing next to the king of Nefaria now begins to speak. “It’s a shame you know.” He begins to walk towards the child. Then glances up towards the King. “Your son’s curse. Anyone will start a war to try and find out how to break it.”

The king slams his fist down on the arm of his thrown. He starts to shout at the boy. “You don’t think I know that, Nathanial? That’s why I brought you and this child here. To protect my son. But  if for any reason my son caves into the town people, or gets killed, you and this child will take over rule.”

The king gets up from his chair and walks down the four steps onto the even ground where the man and girl stands. “Get up, girl, and tell me your name.”

The girl shakily gets up from her knees. Without looking up from the floor she talks. “I want to go home.”

The king utters out a stressed laugh. “Don’t be ungrateful now. If you think about it, I actually helped you. You’re too young to understand now, but in the next years, you will. I’ll try to put it into simple words for your little brain to understand.” The king began to pace back and forth, searching for correct words.

“You and Nathanial are going to get a gift, an extremely powerful gift, when both of you turn eighteen. You see, this gift will help protect my son, the future king, from getting hurt. Since, well, He can only die one way. He can’t get hurt by swords, or arrows, or any weapons. We have already tried them all.”

The king released a twisted laugh from his lips and continued to speak. “No one knows how he can die. No one. Not even me. That’s why you must protect him. If I was a nice king,”

The king bent down, until he was eye level with the girl, and pinched her cheeks.

“Then so many people wouldn’t have already tried to kill me and my son. That’s why you have to protect my son, don’t you see? Now girl, tell me your name.”

The king glared at the girl as if looking into her very soul. She shyly spoke up. “Gracelynn.”

The king smiled and patted Gracelynn on the head. “Not anymore it’s not.”

He beamed with a smile smacked on his face and he galloped into the castled kitchen. Before he turned to go in, he looked over at Gracelynn. “From now on it’s Audra.” He slanted his head as if pondering the name. “Yes. It will suit you, once…you get the gift.” After that, Audra never saw much of the king.



Only One Way


Audra has been having headaches but she does not know why. Every night she has nightmares, nightmares that are so vividly played out in her mind that they seem real.

~                                                                                        ~

She is breathing heavily. She looks behind her to see if anyone is chasing her. She stops, she sees a window. She has no time. She runs, her legs feel like cinder blocks that are dragging behind her. She looks down through the window, its six stories up.

Her ears pick up feet stamping across the hall. She jumps. The chilled air flys across her face as she hears guards trying to snatch her loose clothes flying around her body. She hits the floor. She hears the guards chattering for a brief second. They begin to talk as they exchange ghastly looks. “She’s dead.”

            ~                                                                                        ~

A shriek is heard that leaks all around the trees and into the ears of the Nefarians sleeping in their homes.

“Audra, wake up. Wake up, Audra, its okay, I’m here.” Audra jerks up from under her covers and sees the intense eyes of Telian staring straight back into hers. “I’m not dead. I’m here.” Audra’s unstable voice fiddles across Telian’s ears. “You had the dream again?” Telian asks.

‘Yes. I had the dream again.” Audra no longer stares into Telian’s eyes, but through them, as if she’s stuck inside her nightmare. Audra falls over to her side and clutches Telian’s thin long sleeved shirt. She rests her head on his shoulder. “I can’t shake the dream. It just won’t go away. It’s pounded into my brain. What does it mean? Where did it come from?”

Her voice was demanding and staggering as she spoke. Her brain raced for past memories. But there was simply none to be found. She always tried desperately to grasp even a tiny little portion of a memory drifting by, but the thing was, there were no memories drifting by. The only memories she had were that of the past three weeks.


All that before those weeks seemed to evaporate into the chilled and icey sky, floating violently away from Audra’s self-being. She didn’t understand. She tried to piece together why she had no memory of anything in the past. She was eighteen, and she could not remember her childhood.

One thing she did remember was the spine chilling voice of a woman. The woman’s voice was like nails against a chalk board. The woman was scared, shrieking and fumbling with her words. The woman was calling out a name, seemed to be calling out for Audra herself. “Gracelynn…Gracelynn!” It called out, and faded as milliseconds ticked by. Audra didn’t understand, but for some reason she believed the woman was calling out for her, even when the names didn’t match up.

She also remembers being picked up from the powdery grass next to faelight springs. She was injured. And she didn’t know why. When they found her, they kept asking her why she was covered in blood and why she was so badly injured. But she couldn’t remember. She felt like she just jumped through a window that was six stories high. But that was when she joined Faelight of Nefaria. When they found her, half dead, covered in snow beside their village. The Nefarian people became her home, and Telian, her best friend. Telian is twenty-two. He has an oddly dark tan for living in such a cold place. The sun is so shy that it is rarely ever seen peeking up over the evergreen trees.

 Telian speaks in such a way that his voice alone can call the sun out from hiding. His voice dips in deep tones, and high, loud laughter. He is tall and thin, but bares such strong muscles that he once lifted an five foot boulder that had fallen and blocked the path to faelight springs.

His walk is a confident one, but not a gloating one. He walks in long lengthy strides and his shoulders sway along with the slight, cold winds. His eyes, an intense green with splatters of golden brown along the outer edges of his pupils. His eyes always seem to be on Audra. He is protective over her. But that’s not the only reason his eyes can’t seem to turn away.

Audra is beautiful, although she has a very fair complexion, her skin is baby doll perfect. Not a blemish, nor one bruise, lines her skin. Her smile radiates with perfection every time Telian walks by her. Her hair is not straight, but yet, not curly. It seems to be stuck in-between, rising this way, twisting that way, curving around her face in such a way that it compliments her high cheek bones.

The Nefarians think that the two have potential to fall in love. But neither seems to notice how the other adores them.

“I just don’t understand.” Her voice stiffens as she glares into Telian’s eyes. “You’re blessed with the ability to have millions of memories, while I’m stuck with less than a hundred of them.” Telian tried to feel Audra’s pain, but he couldn’t fathom the idea of having such few memories. Instead of saying words he just clung around Audra, holding her tight in his arms.

They both sit in each other’s embrace. Telian sitting criss-cross in front Audra as she, her knees folded up to her chest, leans against Telian with his arms wrapped around her. ”I want to go to the castle.”  Telian’s muscles suddenly become tense. He releases Audra and takes her chin is his hand, turning her eyes to look at him.

“What did you say?” His voice is panicked. He just stares at Audra.

“I’m no use to you here. I don’t belong here.” As much as Telian wanted to deny it, he couldn’t, because he knew it was true.  She didn’t belong here. She was different. Telian scanned his eyes at the presence of Audra. Her eyes were blue. Her hair was golden brown and wavy like the wind twisting in the trees. Her smile was like no other. It was perfect. Her skin bore no bruises or any imperfection.


She was like no other Nefarian. All Nefarians had green eyes and blonde hair. None had brown hair, or anything in-between. Their skin was filled with cuts and bruises from the labor of the days. He had to face it. Audra was different. No one knew why, but she just was.

“I don’t want to let you go. It’s too dangerous.” Telian wanted to force some sense into Audra. He wanted to kick and whine and plead her to stay, but he knew better than that. He was too mature for such childish behaviors. But still, a piece of him wanted to fight for her. Audra was her own person though, and had the right to make her own decisions.

“I know it’s dangerous, Telian. But this is important. If I don’t even belong in this place, then the least I can do is fight for the people of Nefaria and prove that I should be here.” Audra had a brave soul, and was always up for a fight. “The king is going to harm everyone here. No one knows why he wants so much control. But that’s the way it has always been. And for some reason, the king is different from every previous king.”

Telian looked away. He did not look into Audra eyes. He didn’t want to face that fact. He hated that he couldn’t even defend any of the people if the king ever decided to strike. Because the king, in fact, was different.

Audra gently drew Telian’s face up towards her, so he was forced to look at her. She got close to his face and stared into his golden eyes. “He can only be killed one way.”

Her voice was trying to be strong, and show bravery, but Telian knew her well and could tell she was afraid.

Afraid that she could not figure out what one way he can die. Afraid that she will let her people down. She was afraid because killing the king was not going to be easy, and getting him to trust her was going to be even more difficult. She was even more afraid of the rumor that had been spread around, even before she was part of Nefaria.

There was a rumor of a biotic man. This rumor started because of a frantic man running through the woods, running through the twirling pathways, trying to escape this so called machine. He fell upon Faelight, and told of his adventure. He said he tried to murder the king.

He took only a dagger with him, hoping that the dagger was the one thing that would kill the king. He said he saw the king sipping red wine at his royal table. The king’s back was facing towards him, so he decided it was time to plunge the dagger through his heart.

He began to run at the king, and when he got to him, he dug the dagger through his back, on his left side, and through his heart. The king did not have an ounce of fear in his eyes as he turned around, and stared at the man who was trying to murder him. He crookedly smiled, and grasped the dagger with both hands.

He screamed as he jerked the dagger from his heart. He simply dropped it onto the floor, and watched his blood splatter on his shoes. “Nathanial.” The king said. And those were the only words called to summon the machine. He said that at first glance he looked human. But all you had to do to find out that he was not human, was look into his eyes.

They hadn’t had a soul. They had no emotion, no thought, and no shiny glare. They were just a solid and dark blue. His face held no thoughts. His stance showed no thinking of what to do next, all he seemed to be program to do, was kill. Just when he thought the inhuman machine could be no more inhuman, his arm began to glow.

It held a blue power of some sort that lit up his forearm and gravitated to the center of his palm. And then he blasted a frightening blast, straight from his hand.

This is what scared Audra the most. Even though she tried to believe it was just a rumor, some part of her secretly believed it was true.

“I’ll leave in a week. To gain strength and rest so I will be ready.” Audra released herself from Telian’s clutch and excused herself from her single room. The homes in Faelight were made from leather and branches, and anything sturdy enough to be made into a single square with a door.

The homes were not big in Faelight. Most were warrior homes; single roomed homes for one single person. The other third of homes were filled with the town’s people of Faelight; the Nefarian’s. They either had two or three rooms, depending on how many kids the couple had. Other than that, they were single rooms for either single persons, or one couple who had no kids.

Sometimes, Audra wonders what the other villages are like in Nefaria. She lives in the Faelight village, it is quite big and covered in powdery snow. Other parts are just forests, springs, and hunting grounds. But since the world of Nefaria is huge and vast,  the villages are very spread out. Usually no other Nefarians from other villages makes contact with each other. Audra walks around the pathways in Faelight, just taking time to think. She walks past people of familiar faces and waves a graceful hand in their direction. She walks past the Faelight cooking grounds and eating stations, the warrior training grounds, and hospital sections. She walks past all the clutter of the village, away from the pathway, and into the forest. She seats herself on the grounds of a flat rock dusted with dirt and twisted in leafy vines.

She has a plan building in her head. She isn’t exactly sure of how it is going to work, but it has to. She only has one chance. Her plan seems simple in her own mind, but in reality, it is going to be much harder. Her plan is to gain the trust of the king. She will fancy him, and offer her service to him.

She will act like the reason she will be coming to the castle is because she feels she doesn’t belong with the Nefarian’s. Which is partly true. She will act innocent and kind. And never disobey the king. Once she gains his trust, and he sees her as a loyal servant and right hand man, she will wonder the castle. She will look for any clues that will help her kill the king.

Audra knows it is going to be difficult, and it is risky. But she has already made up her mind. She is going to murder the king.


            The past three days have been hard for Audra. She hasn’t told anyone of her plan except for Telian. She felt guilty for not telling Laiyta. After all, she has been like a mother to her. She never once left Audra’s side until she fully healed. Even though the severe gash in her shoulder healed only one day after the Nefarians had found her from wherever she had been before that, she still felt ill for several days afterwards. Laiyta took care of her and made soups and medicine from the leaves of the forest.

Through that experience she and Audra had become close. And even though Audra did want to admit she had a soft side, she truly did. She admired Laiyta and her graceful, motherly behavior towards her. Audra just couldn’t hold it in anymore. She had to tell Laiyta.

Audra wonders through the village, turning this way, that way, looking to the left and right. She can’t find Laiyta anywhere. Her heavy leather shoes thrusts themselves all around the leaves as she begins to walk faster looking for Laiyta. “Laiyta! Laiyta!”

She adjusts her head forward and suddenly runs into Telian. She looks down to the tattered floor. “Oh, sorry. I was just looking for Laiyta. Have you seen her anywhere? I can’t seem to find her.” Audra’s eyes peeks above Telian’s shoulders and peer around the forest. She wonders where she has gone. Has she gone hunting?

Did she go to the springs to get fresh water? Well, yes that’s probably it. After all, the village was in need of more water. Telian wraps his hands around Audra’s shoulder and guides her to a chair. Once they are both sitting, he still has his hands wrapped around her, looking at her like he had a terrible secret to tell.

Telian sits there looking at Audra and the way she gracefully stares back. She smiles at him and bops him on the shoulder with her fist. “What is it, Telian? You’re sort of freaking me out ya know.” She giggles hesitantly as they sit in silence for a moment. “Gosh, I love that smile.” Says Telian as he nudges her chin. He suddenly gets quiet and stares at the floor. He looks up at Audra once again.

Audra could hear him hoarsely swallow as he is trying to talk to her. “Um, you know Laiyta. She’s a brave little lady.” He smiles a small, quaint smile. “She uh- um.” He shakes his head in frustration because he just can’t say it out loud. Most everyone knows about it by now, but never once have they said it out loud.

He moves closer to her, wraps his arms around her, as she rests her head on his chest, and his head on top of hers. He stares blankly into the thin air, as if recalling a memory. “You must be a light sleeper, huh?” He coughs out a weak laugh, trying to make it as less painful as possible for Audra.

“I guess so,” says Audra softly. “Why?”

“Well” begins Telian. “Laiyta- she um-“ He swallows harshly. “She went out last night. Into the castle.” Audra’s laid back and relaxed body suddenly jumps up out from under Telian’s grasp. “No,” says Audra. “Why? Why did she do that?” Audra is franticly looking around her, her hands are trembling.

Telian softly continues, but can’t look Audra in the eyes. It would be too painful. “She was trying to find answers. Answers that would help us kill the king.” Audra stands there as Telian stands up and meets her eyes. She is violently shaking her head. Her teared up eyes meet Telian’s. Telian puts his hand softly on her shoulder. She yanks away from him.

“She went in, and she found a book. It was labeled ‘Ο ένας τρόπος’ She found it four stories beneath the castle. Under endless tunnels and doors and secret pathways. Before she could take it, or even open it to the first page, she suddenly met eyes with-“ Telian’s voice is shaking and cracking. He pauses for a moment and continues. “-the machine.”

“No Telian! No!” Audra’s voice is filled with anger, rage, and sadness. And regret. If she told Laiyta of her plan sooner, maybe she wouldn’t have gone in because she would have known that Audra would be going in there instead, to find answers. “Telian, don’t say it’s true, Telian. Please. I don’t want to hear the words. Please!”

Audra’s bare hands are clutching onto Telian’s chest. They are digging into him, grasping him, making red marks through his thin shirt. Her eyes struggle to meet Telian’s as her shuddering voice manages to speak. “Tell me it’s not true. Tell me! She was… was… the only mother I ever knew.”  Her eyes are red, and her cheeks salty from the thick tears streaming from her crying eyes.

Telian’s face twists into a saddened disgruntled look. He looks over at a warrior, as if queuing him to speak, because he can barely speak any longer. “I’m sorry Audra. She was very dear to all of us. She- I- I was with her when she passed. We went in together. I ran before the machine had time recharge for another blast.”

“She was blasted?!” Audra’s wobbling legs finally give out as her body crumbles into Telian’s arms. Her sobbing echoes into the dimly lit trees as Telian carries her into her home.

            He sits her onto her bed. He kisses her forehead. “I’m sorry.” Her cheerless eyes cranks over to Telian. “Sorry? Is that all you have to say? This is your fault!” Telian’s comforting face, curls into a surprised and baffled expression. “My fault? How is this my fault?”

Her saddened face suddenly becomes a raging mad one. She takes her hands and puts them on his chest and shoves him backwards. She points her finger at Telian and angrily begins to speak. “You. You’re a warrior! You weren’t there to protect her. I bet you didn’t even care that she was going did you? You just let her go! She was so innocent and sweet, she wasn’t built for warrior missions! And you just let her go!”

“Let her go?! Let her go?! You think I would have just LET HER GO?! You need to come back to reality, Audra, because you must be dazed from the situation. She was going to go by herself, but I risked my life so I could go in and try to protect her! She was being brave. She wanted to do something that would help this village, this world, from being destroyed by a maniac king. She was tired of us sitting on our butts not doing anything about it, SO SHE WENT AND DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT!” Telian is out of breath by the time he stops yelling. Audra’s eyes are red and her chin is quivering. She stares blankly up at Telian who is huffing in and out form all his screaming. Telian never screams like that. Especially not at a girl. They stand staring at each other. Audra’s hand are still dangled from Telian’s shirt as he stood, clutching on to it, twisting it around her fist. Her shaking features turn into quiet sobs, and she pushes him away. Telian immediately realizes his mistake.

Audra excuses herself from the argument, and starts to walk away. “Audra, wait.” Telian reaches out his arm to try and pull her back, but her slender arms escape his grip. He begins to walk after her, but it only makes her walk turn into a run. She runs away from Telian. She shouldn’t have yelled. But he shouldn’t have either. I guess the two owed apologies cancel each other out. Because she knew an apology was not going to be made anytime soon. She runs to the Gathering Gates on the west side of the village. There are only four gates that lead out of the nefarian village, and that was the Gathering Gates, the Hunting Gates, the Hospital Gates, and the Main Entrance Gates. They are only opened at certain hours of the day, and luckily for her, the gathering gates are opened right now. They are always opened at seven in the morning, because that is when the assigned gatherers go out and look for food, and return at nine. One warrior always goes with them, to protect them from any wild animals.

So she runs, and when she sees those gates, it is like freedom from the world. Temporary freedom, because she knows she has to return. The gate guard, named Naiti, sees Audra desperately running out of the gates, but doesn’t think twice about it.  

Even though her eyes are watching the trails she passes, her mind is racing with thoughts. Her best friend is dead. That word just didn’t seem to seep in. How could someone so full of life and love, just suddenly be gone? Just cease to exist in one simple instant? Her heart refused to believe the fact. She rushed into the hushed woods. She never laid foot outside of the gathering paths before, but she just had to get away from the world. She collapses to the floor. Her head bends down to the earth and she lies on the dirt, crying. Her salty tears mix into the dirt, creating mud upon her face. Her breath is exasperated. Her lungs fill with air and release, but every breath she takes feels like a dagger stabbing her beneath her ribs. May as well be one there anyways. Or through her heart. The pain would feel the same as the pain from her best friend’s death. She lays there on the unbeaten path of nefaria. She clenches her fist together and pounds them into the ground. Her fists create pot holes in the mud created by her tears. She digs her nails into the earth, scratching away at its free nature, and feels the grainy texture in between them. She compresses her face to the ground and releases a murderous scream, then continues to pound her fists. Then she lies, still. Very still. If a passer-by saw her, they would probably think she was dead. Her body lay limp and splattered with mud. She sits and thinks about her friend for many hours. Once she decides to stop acting like a child, she drags her legs up and stands. She stares into the trees of the forest and becomes envious of them. “Why are you so free?” She asks them. “You get to sit in the suns light everyday and feel warmth upon your leaves, while I have to plan for the fight of a lifetime.” Her face scrunches into a loathsome expression. She spits at the base of a tree. “I loathe you!” She shrieks. She begins to break down in cut off sobs. “You never have to deal with deaths! You last forever, you barely have to see anyone die. You last for decades and decades while I stand here today and suffer!”  She removes an axe tied down to her belt and runs towards the forest like a deranged dog. She chucks the axe, and retrieves it again. She slashes her way through bushes and vines, her hands are rough now, from grasping it so tightly through the day. She spends hours hacking away at the forest. Jealousy of its freedom and a mixture of emotions bring this effect on her. She is crying the whole time, unable to retain her hate. And sadness. She suddenly feels a strong hand gently touch her shoulder. She tilts her head upward, and sees Telian from the corner of her eyes. She immediately falls to the floor, axe still in hand. The forest around her looks like a hurricane just swept through. She lifts her trembling hands to stare at them. They have blood dripping from the sides, and bruises already forming.

“I take it that you’re not okay,” Says Telian. Audra shakes her head. Telian reaches around her, trying to lift her from her knees. She jerks backwards, refusing his help, and falls to lay her back against a tree. She wipes her sweaty face with her sleeve. “Leave me here.” She says. “I’d rather stay here, then to go back to the village without Laiyta.” She adjusts her eyes toward Telian. “Listen okay?” Says Telian. “You have been gone for hours. It’s nearly three in the day. I was worried about you. I thought you were dead. Everyone said that they haven’t seen you since the gathering gates opened.” Telian extends his arm out for Audra to grab hold of to help herself up. But she doesn’t budge. Telian’s face grows stern. “Audra, get up. Stop acting like a child. I know she’s gone, but no one can do anything about that now. People die Audra! It’s the circle of life! It happens to us all eventually. So get up.” She still doesn’t move. She just stares at the dirt. “Get up.” Shrieks Telian. You could see the difficulty in Audra’s throat as it tries to swallow her saliva. “Do you know how I feel, Telian? Do you? You’ve never lost anyone, so you wouldn’t ever know how I feel!” This is enough to set Telian off again. He stares intensely into Audra’s eyes. You can see his jaw muscles as he clenches his teeth together. “You think-“ It seems difficult for him to speak. “That I haven’t lost anyone?” He raises his finger and points it at Audra. “How dare you assume that I haven’t felt what you are feeling. Just because I know how to hold my feelings when they need to be held, doesn’t mean I‘ve never felt the same ache in your heart that you’re feeling right now.” He lowers his head, and covers his mouth with his hand as choked out cries escape from his heated lips. “I had a sister. She was beautiful. She had perfect green eyes, and gorgeous blonde hair. She was my angel. I would do anything to protect her.” His eyes flicker with moist tears as he stares blankly into space as he recalls his memories. “She wanted to go hunting with me one day. My mom and dad decided that it would be a good idea, so she could learn to protect herself. You never know what surprises are going to be in the woods- So I took her to an easy hunting ground. Where there were usually only small animals, like squirrels and rabbits. So I showed her how to hold a bow and arrow. She was a natural at shooting them. She was so graceful, and precious. She wanted to go for a long kill; she saw a white rabbit in the far distance. And wow, she could sure shoot. She hit that thing that it was nobody’s business. I was so proud of her. I told her to stay put while I ran out to grab her kill. She smiled at me and hugged me so tightly and said okay. She was so happy. It all happened so quickly, I shouldn’t have left her-“ I grab Telian’s hand as he continues. I found myself drenched in tears before he even finished. “I ran out there a pretty far distance away from her, back farther in the forest to retrieve the rabbit she killed. She was out of view when I crouched down to pick it up; Trees blocked my view of her. I heard a shriek. Then I heard the shooting of an arrow, and the sound of the pressured string on the bow sling back. I heard a monstrous sound, like a lion gnawing on raw meat. I ran as quickly as my feet could take me. And then I saw her, and a beast snarling over her shoulder. The beast had devilish eyes, and it was skinny, but even in its skinniness you could see the sheer power of its muscles moving back and forth. That Beast. That beast was horrific, blood drenched its coat, and that was all it took. I slung myself toward the horror, and wacked it in its torso. I shoved my knife into its heart.” Telian acts as if he doesn’t want to say anymore, so I speak up. “You don’t have to tell me anymore, it’s okay. I understa-“ But Telian continues; waving his hands in front of him, and positioning them as if holding his sister in his arms. His hands shake out of fear and regret. He begins to cry. I can barely understand him through his sobbing. “I then I looked down at her. Her hair was red from blood. Not one blonde thread shone through. Her flesh was ripped apart; I could barely recognize her- My sweet girl, my sister… I got up, and repeatedly stabbed the beast. I didn’t care if it was already dead. I shouldn’t have killed it right away, I should have left it to suffer.” Telian just sits there after that. Hazed and haunted by the memory. I lean into his shoulder and he embraces me with his usual warmth. But his hug is sloppier, not as bright as usual. I brush away the hair from his face as tears stroll down my cheek like they have lived there forever; like my cheeks were their permanent home now. We sit there, crying together. Being sad together…regretting life together. “I’m sorry for screaming at you, Audra. I shouldn’t have acted-.” I hush his mouth and provoke them from uttering another word. “Hush, you don’t have to be sorry. It was my fault.” We both sit in each other’s embrace. Telian’s chin is resting on my head as mine was on his chest, listening to his heart beat and unsteadied pounding of his breathing in and out. “ I love you, Telian.”

“I love you too, Audra.”

Audra’s heart is like a revving engine pounding inside her chest. She knows he is just be friendly. But her heart secretly yearns for his love.

The day has gone by extremely fast. Telian missed his duty as a warrior to meet at the Hunting Gates like he is supposed to every day at 4p.m. All the warriors are supposed to kill game for dinner for Faelight. Audra and Telian walk back to Faelight together, hand in hand. Audra’s fingers explore every ridge of Telian’s rough hands. Making note of how unique his fingerprints are. And also the grey stains of dirt; the effect of hard labor. When they reach the Gathering Gates they both release their grasps from each other. “Ready to eat?” Telian says. Audra just nods her head. It has been a rough day. She doesn’t feel like talking to anyone right now. Telian and Audra creep into the wooden benches next to the long tables like they have been in Faelight the whole time; like they have never vanished into the woods, into a world away from their own, just being alone…together.  Naiti sounds the bell, letting the Nefarian’s know that dinner is about to be served. Audra sees Lavender rush to her seat, and her gorgeous mother also, named Sahara, who whips her head in Audra’s direction and gives her a concerned smile.

Most everyone knows that Audra has been out. They just don’t know where she has been. They don’t know the things that Audra and Telian have been through. They don’t know that Audra’s tears rolled down her face for hours and seeped into the earth, creating new mud for the plants to grow in. They don’t know the violent way that Telian’s sister died. They don’t know that Telian, a strong warrior on the outside, has a heart of glass in which any moment can shatter into a million pieces and release a waterfall of secrets that he keeps folded inside him. To everyone else, Audra and Telian are just two people, a gatherer and a hunter, holding on to a mysterious, clueless love.

Audra hopelessly shoves back a forced smile in Sahara’s direction. Audra is hungry now that she has cried out most of her energy. She sits next to Telian, grasping on to his arm. When the food comes around to their table, Audra nearly tips out of her seat trying to get a whiff of it. Today’s dinner is wild turkey with a mixed berry sauce. On the side is smashed yams and dry carrots. And, like usual, a cup of water. On special occasions the gatherers whip together a special drink for the village. They gather as many fruits as possible and juice them, creating a sweet drink that twists together in your mouth, adding a joyous flavor to your taste buds.

Audra looks over at Telian staring at his food with drooped puppy dog eyes, waiting for the rest of the village to receive their food so he can dig in. Audra doesn’t blame him. She is as eager as he is. Naiti rings the bell again, signaling that everyone has gotten their food. Audra and Telian dig in. Devouring their food like starved hyenas. An hour later almost everyone is finished. The smaller kids have gotten distracted and ran off into the village, skipping and playing; not aware of how important and precious every crumb of food is to the adults and teens. Their parents finish off their kids meals, and the sun begins to set. Naiti rings the bell again, signaling clean up time. Usually the female elders clean up the eating area, so everyone clears out into the main open area in the middle of the village. This is usually where everyone spends their down time. Audra sees Kaid wondering around by himself and when he passes her, she grabs a hold of his thick burlap sleeve. She gives him a quick smile.

Kaid is another warrior, and also quite handsome. He’s more muscular then Telian, and has a stronger jaw line then him too. His hair is more of a golden blonde than a yellow blonde. His eyes are an intense green like Telian’s, but they aren’t quite as beautiful. His grin is perfectly crooked. The left corner of his mouth raises slightly more then his right as he talks and smiles, making him a unique and interesting person to talk with.

Kaid jerks back to see who is tugging on his sleeve. When he turns and sees that it is Audra, his lips raise in a delighted, slightly lopsided smile. He is nearly hopping with joy when his lips finally release words. “Audra, I haven’t seen you in forever! Where have you been?” He immediately wraps her in his arms, and with his monstrously large muscles, he gathers her up in a swooping hug, swinging her in a circle above the ground. Audra grips onto him tightly, not because of the air that swirls around her, threatening to whip her out of his arms, but because she wants to. She wants to feel the warmth of someone new. Someone who isn’t tangled up in her and his own problems. Kaid’s eyes glance over at Telian, who is jealously looking over at the two of them. Kaid feels the jealously in the air, but he couldn’t care less. Audra stares at the ground, letting an honest smile slip from her lips. “I’ve been around. But I haven’t seen you since I first came here.” Kaid was the first one to catch a meal for her, to strengthen her up. Kaid’s smile is still paved across his face. His eyes still dart over at Telian, who pretends not to notice the flirtatious smile radiating off of Audra’s face. He just soaks in the rays of jealousy, like a dog soaking in rays of sun. He adores it actually, the attention from Audra and the harsh stares of Telian. He lightly wraps his hands on Audra’s shoulders, nudging toward her like an abandoned puppy dog desperate for attention. His face is close to Audra’s as he leans in to her ears and lowers his giddy voice to a whisper. “We need to see more of each other.” He says. “We should sneak out tomorrow and I can show you how a real man hunts.” Kaid backs away and gives Audra a wink as he walks away, beginning to talk with some other warriors.

Telian rushes over to Audra, trying not to look too bewildered and jealous. He puts his arm around Audra as she tries to hide her smile. “What did he say to you?” He and Audra walk slowly together, side by side, like two best friends should always be. “Oh, he was just saying hi.” Telian doubts the words escaping her lips. “Anything else?” Asks Telian. “Um, He just says he wants to hang out.” Telian lets go of Audra and they both stop walking. Telian stands guarded, his arms crossed in front of him. Audra smiles, knowing what is bothering Telian so much. She knows that Telian doesn’t want to loose her. Of course he’s not going to loose her. She likes Telian, he’s sweet and handsome. And always there for her. But Kaid. Kaid is handsome in a prince charming way. An obvious, bold kind of way. His words melt her very soul.

“What, Telian? What is it?” Telian slouches in a glum kind of way. A sort of pathetic way, almost knowing that if Audra fell in love with Kaid then he would have no chance at all.

“I don’t like him, Audra. Not one teensy bit.” Audra smiles a pathetic smile, sort of embarrassed that Telian could tell that they were flirting with each other. “He’s not for you. He’s too into himself, too….too… not me.” Telian stares at the ground and then darts his eyes up at Audra. Audra is shocked. They both kind of knew they liked each other. But not once have they dared themselves to admit it. She stands staring into Telian’s gleaming eyes, as the sun’s last drops of rays fade and smear into the horizon. She’s blushing madly, and her heart feels like it is going to explode. And then, it does. When Telian leans in and kisses her forehead. He has done it before, but this time it means something.  Her heart explodes into bursts of fireworks and confetti and leaks out streams of glee. Just when things couldn’t get more complicated, Telian refuses to let Kaid have Audra and plows an anchor deep into her heart, through her lungs, and holds on to it for dear life; saying: “I’m never going to let you go.”

The sun drips out its last rays of light and is replaced by the moon. Everyone in the village lays asleep in their huts, as quiet as a filled up graveyard. Audra’s eyes glimmer from the moon light as she grabs a homemade bow and arrow from atop her shelf. She steps outside and stands in the middle of the open air, waiting for Kaid. A soft hand presses down on her shoulder from behind. Her moist lips curve up into a smile and she swiftly turns around. Kaid stands with a spear and another homemade bow and arrow in his hand. He looks like a warrior now, with all his gadgets and knives strapped down to his chest and side. His hand gently sweeps Audra’s arm until it reaches her hand. Kaid pulls at her slender arm. ‘Let’s go.” They begin to run towards the hunting gates. Kaid glances back at her and gives her a breath taking smile. Once they reach the gates Kaid begins to unload his gear and chucks it over the tall fence. He inserts his foot in a crack, and skillfully crawls up the gate. He turns his head downwards at Audra. “I’ll be back for you, don’t worry.” He gives her a wink and another huge smile. Once he reaches the top he places both his legs on the other side of the fence and calls for Audra. “Come up now, you can do it.” He waves at her, encouraging her to climb. She has to do it. She doesn’t want to look like a wimp in front of Kaid. She begins her climb, and five seconds in, her left foot slips. Her face flushes red, but she continues. She reaches the top where Kaid is waiting and he takes her arms. “You got it. Now just swing your legs over.”

Audra does just that. Now they are both standing at the top, peering down at the ground on the other side. Kaid’s mind seems like it’s stuck as he tries to figure out how to get himself down, along with Audra at the same time. “Okay, look. We’re going to go one step at a time, okay? I’ll be holding on to you the whole time, so don’t worry about falling. I got you.” He wraps his arms around Audra’s waste as his other arm grasps the fence and his feet are digging into the crevices. Audra stands there like a scared dog, hands and feet not moving, only holding on to the fence like it’s her life line. “I got you,” Says Kaid, recognizing her fear. “I’m going to move my foot down now, you do the same. Along with your hands, okay? On the count of three,” He’s talking to Audra like she’s a child, but in a way, it’s kind of cute. “One- Two- Three,” He moves his foot down and is now further away from Audra then what she feels is a comfortable distance away. Without glancing down she moves her foot. She accidently smashes Kaid’s foot, releasing his grip on the fence. Thank God they were still at the very top, or else Kaid would have had nothing to hold onto once his feet were off of a grip. He’s dangling from the top of the fence, clenching onto it with both his hands. The same with Audra, they just dangle in silence, not knowing what to do next. As if God heard both their thoughts, both of their hands slip from the fence and they’re both free falling from the very tippy top of that death fence.

When they both expect to land and end up with a broken arm or leg, they both tumble to a stop, with nothing but a couple of scrapes. They’re both tangled up in each other arms, Audra landing on Kaid’s chest, and they both begin to laugh. Kaid wiggles free of Audra and hoists her up, still both of them laughing uncontrollably. He grabs his gear, and put it on, and leans towards Audra. He brushes his finger over her eyebrow. “You’re bleeding.” Audra traces his fingers over the gash. “I’ll be fine.” They begin to laugh again. He’s inches away from her and puts his finger over Audra’s lips, “Shh, you’ll wake everyone up.” He says this with a smile though, still laughing some himself. When the laughing stops, Kaid still stands with his finger over her lips, both of them just staring at each other with huge sweet grins. Audra, suddenly aware from the closeness and warmth of Kaid, jerks back. “How about that hunting now?” She adjusts the strap on her shoulder from her bow and arrows. “Lead the way.” She waves her arm out to the forest, queuing him to move.  “Don’t mind if I do.” Kaid says as his leather boots thud in front of Audra in a haunting way. She follows him.

Kaid suddenly stops after about fifteen minutes of walking. “Get down.” He says, grabbing Audra’s arm and yanking her down into a bush next to him. “What do you see?” Whispers Audra. Audra is a great hunter; she can see animals from miles away. But now, she doesn’t see a thing. Kaid grabs an arrow and loads it into his bow. His muscular arms slings back the string. His elbow is yanked back past his shoulder, hovering in front of Audra’s face. In an instant it is released and the arrow is flying through the air like a hover craft. Just as fast as it was released, a thud is heard and a high pitched yelp spirals through the humid wind.  Kaid is up, running past the trees as his short golden hair wisps quickly past Audra’s face. From the bush, Audra can see Kaid crouching down and picking up his kill. He throws it over his shoulder, and walks back to Audra. It’s a deer. Not a fully matured deer, but not a baby either. Audra can’t help but be impressed. She stands up as Kaid lays it on the ground. He grins and shrugs his shoulder as he raises his eyebrows and talks. “Not bad, huh?”

“Not bad? That was amazing? How did you even know it was there? I didn’t see anything or hear anything, and you just swoop in and kill it like that,” Audra stops being so frantic and giddy and stares at Kaid. “You’re amazing,” She whispers. Kaid smiles at the ground. “You’re so cute.” He says. He walks over towards Audra and sweeps away the hair from her face. He stares at her lips, with his hand still cupped around her face, then back up at her eyes. Their foreheads are touching and they lean into each other’s embrace. Audra gently grabs his wrist and removes it from her face, and starts to lean away from him. “Look, Kaid. I need to tell you something.”

Kaid backs away from Audra. His confidence sort of slips away and he begins to slump the same pathetic way that Telian did. “It’s Telian isn’t it?” Audra looks at her feet, like she always does when she’s nervous or doesn’t know what to say. “Sort of.”

“I knew it, Audra. This is what I was afraid of.  What does he have that I don’t?” Audra didn’t expect him to ask that. If anything, Telian should be asking that question about Kaid. “It’s not that, Kaid. It’s just that-“

“What is it, Audra? What else could it possibly be?”  

“I’m- I’m leaving in a couple days,”

“What? You’re leaving? Leaving to where? Another village?”

“No. It’s more complicated than that.”

“Then what is it? Tell me.”

She stares at her feet again. “I’m going to the castle.”

Kaid stands in disbelief, his eyebrows lowered in concern. “No, Audra. You can’t go in there.”

His voice cracks and his usual gloating self slips away and turns into someone who actually has emotions and cares about other people. He grasps onto Audra’s shoulders.

“Why would you go in there? It’s too dangerous.”  He pulls her into a warming hug. And they stand like that for what seems like forever.

“I’m so out of place, Kaid. I just want to do something that’s worth a lot; that actually means something.”

“What are you talking about? Why are you going in there, Audra?” Kaid’s voice is frantic now. Audra can feel his heart thumping, as quick as a mouse’s, against her ear as it lies softly on his chest. Her hands clench around Kaid’s back, grasping his rough burlap shirt. Her voice turns into a low whisper. Her heart races as fast as a motorbike’s engine just thinking about doing what she is about to say. She let’s go of Kaid and raises her hand around his chin, lifting it up so she can see his eyes. She slowly lifts her gaze to meet his. “I’m going to kill the king.”

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