Inheritance: Part Four
“It’s alright!” whispered a deep voice into her ear. “It’s me, Theo.”
The paw lifted up off her mouth. Mabelle gasped for a moment as she sat still, the leaves hissing as the winds rushed through the trees and the rain continued to pound down upon the shabby roof. She turned around to see a tall, dark shadow a few feet away from her, hunched as it shuffled around in the dark tree house, and she had to remind herself that she was not in danger from it. It was Theo.
“Your family isn’t far behind,” he insisted quietly, his feet softly thudding as he snuck over to the door. His head was bobbing up and down as he walked with his knees bent. “Come on. The ambassador’s waiting near the river.”
Unable to swallow past the lump in her throat, she picked herself up and got into a crouching position so she could pick up her sack. She walked over to him, her head barely an inch from the ceiling. He himself was kneeling down and fumbling for the latch to the trapdoor that she had just crawled up through. Every moment that he tried grasping it seemed like an eternity as she waited, especially with the threat of her relatives looming on the horizon, but after a few harried, tense moments there was a clunking noise, and the door creaked as he lifted it up. He climbed down to where the floor was at his waist, and in the limited light she could see him lifting up a finger to his mouth, silently telling her to keep her silence as he beckoned with his other.
They climbed out of the tree, and it alarmed Mabelle to hear shouting voices in the distance, a few of them belonging to people that she’d trusted, people that—while she hadn’t received the most pleasant treatment from—she hadn’t expected to turn on her like this, much like her supposed relations she’d been living with. The leaves and needles beneath their feet crinkled and crunched while they quickly headed through the bushes and trees, hunched over and trying to make themselves as unnoticeable as possible.
Shadows flickered frighteningly as they snuck through the underbrush, giving the atmosphere a slightly nightmarish and unrealistic feel. Half of her half expected that she would wake up at any moment to find herself drooling on the kitchen counter with an unfinished dish in her plan. However, her other half knew it was ridiculous. There was no way she could imagine fear like this, which made her heart hurt and breathing hard.
She was convinced that it wouldn’t work. Life wasn’t like it was for the characters in the tales she had enjoyed from the bards, or in the odd novel she managed to get her hands on here. She felt, in her heart, that she was going to be caught, and brought back to the inn to await her fate, most likely consigned to the basement and imprisoned there, where there were no windows. Tears pricked in the corners of her eyes, and at that moment she wished she were anywhere else but here, or be anyone else. For a split second she wished that she had never overheard her aunt and uncle’s conversation, but she quickly discarded that. Her life was more important than living in naivety for the last month she would’ve had left to live.
A Whoot hooted from somewhere to her left, and she jumped, nearly crashing into a few ferns and a small, skeleton-like old tree. To her surprise, Theo whipped around and caught her, managing to grab her sprained wrist. Mabelle gasped, a small cry of pain escaping her mouth.
“What was that?”
“I heard something this way!”
Theo muttered something unintelligible, and he let go of her arm to grasp it her other one near the elbow before tugging her even harsher than he had in the inn. This time her feet were moving faster than they ever had before, pounding against the dirt and moss. They were going at such a pace that she was going to trip up somewhere, because her friend was too close for her to see anything in front of them in time for her to dodge it. For all she knew, he was coming up to a root that was sticking up out of the ground, waiting to trip her up.
She stumbled several times, and it seemed forever for the sound of rushing waters to reach her ears. Her wrist was throbbing with pain so intense that it distracted her fairly well, and while slight sense of relief trickled into her body at the knowledge they were almost safe, there was no erasing the anxiety that she felt. Theo released her as the soft earthy ground faded into hard rock, and he cast his eyes around, searching for Ambassador Borano.
Mabelle looked up, and the sight completely took her breath away. It was amazing how clear the stars were out here, in the wilderness, and altogether too easy to forget that they were running for their lives, and what would happen if they failed. While she wasn’t exactly certain that she was going to find herself free, the stars gave her hope, and she knew she couldn’t stop herself from trying. The Ixi tore her gaze away, and locked it onto the shadow Lupe, who had climbed onto a nearby shelf of rock.
“Over here!” shouted a voice that was far too close.
She froze. Here it was, the instant that they would fail. Her jaw slackened, and breath came through her mouth in quick short gasps, and she felt the urge to curl up in despair. Somehow it didn’t translate to her limbs, except for her to bring her good hand to her mouth, and take a few involuntary steps forward.
“Mabelle!” said Theo from several yards away. He waved at her to beckon her forward, and she ran over to him as fast as she could, her panic giving speed to her feet.
“They’re practically here!” she said, her forehead creasing in the middle as her eyebrows came together with worry.
“Duck down then, silly girl!” said a gruff voice, and the big Kyrii who’d initially rejected her story huffed as he put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her down. They were crouching behind a large piece of overhanging stone that concealed them from sight, as long as nobody came to close to the water’s edge. Several shouts filled the air and the sound of scuffling feet shortly followed. Mabelle bit her lip as she steadied herself to keep from crying out, and cradled her wrist in her lap, trying desperately to ignore the steady throbbing that demanded quite a large part of her attention.
She looked to her left and was alarmed to see Theo with a long, silvery blade in his left hand, appearing very deadly as he glanced to his left and right. The image seemed to defy ever memory she had of an intelligent, but innocent Lupe. Was he really willing to fight—and possibly to kill—these pets if it meant that she could escape? The thought scared her, but if anything it helped her to keep in mind how serious their situation was.
How did he learn to use it, anyway?
Her heart pounded, and her mind froze to the point where the main thing she could concentrate on was fear, which translated into her thoughts. Was her skirt peeking out from behind their hiding place? Had she stuffed everything back into her sack? She felt as if she was about ready to bolt, but there was something about the hand on her shoulder that kept her still.
“Where did she go?” asked her uncle, bellowing to the other pets that were helping him. “I thought you said she came this way!”
“She did!” stated somebody else angrily. “Unless she wanted to save you all the trouble and jump into the river, she must be hiding somewhere around here.”
“Just shut up and find the girl!” screeched the aunt in her shrill, ear-piercing voice. “The more you two yabber about it, the more time she has to run off.”
The two voices grumbled, and scuffling noises reached their ears as boots scraped across granite. Mabelle cringed, and flattened her back against the wall as hard as she could. A sharp, painful jolt raced through her chest when she heard somebody cry out.
“Greer, you dumb Xweetok! It’s raining! The rocks are slick!”
The two pets started to argue as they walked around, coming closer and closer every moment. Theo’s grip around his sword tightened, and Mabelle drew in a shaky breath. Were they going to have to move a little bit to avoid being sighted? That sounded incredibly risky, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to try it.
There were a few times where they became close enough to cause her companions to shift a little, as if they were ready to fight, but they never ventured in front of where they hid. Eventually her aunt squawked at the pets trailing around to move on down, because ‘obviously’, Mabelle wasn’t hiding here. It wasn’t until a long while later, however, that her companions were even willing to venture out of their den.
Theo didn’t slide his sword back into his sheath, even as he crawled up onto the top of the outcropping rock, as if he half expected the others to come dashing back for a fight. His hair was a complete mess, trailing down his face and half out of the tie he had pulled it back with. Mabelle pulled some of her wet hair back as she followed the ambassador out, and she looked around cautiously.
“Are they gone?” she asked, her voice quavering more than she expected.
“It looks like it,” said Theo, lowering the tip of his sword toward the ground.
“Well, if they do come back, we know what we’re going to do,” said the Ambassador, his mustache twitching.
To be continued...