I wrote a few chapters of the First Story a while ago... I've got about three chapters, but they're unedited and need a bit of fixing up.
Anyway, I'll post the first chapter here just to see what you think. It's called Adastra.
The girl crouched amongst the verdant undergrowth of the forest, trying to burrow down beneath the leaves. Eyes wide with fear, she peered into the growing darkness of her surroundings. Moonlight reflected off the high stone walls of the Compound, illuminating the cruel barbed wire with a ghostly light.
Perhaps they haven’t even noticed that I’m gone, she thought with a spark of hope. But she knew that any moment now the guards would be strolling down the long, dark isles, banging on doors and hauling unlucky inmates out for questioning. Any moment now, a guard would rattle her door, ready to escort her to the Inquisitors, and find her gone.
The girl breathed deeply, trying to gather herself for another sprint. She had to get as far away from here as possible. Maybe, just maybe, if she could lose herself in the forest, she might survive...
A twig snapped behind her and she whipped around, unable to control her shaking. Was someone there?! Had they found her…?
A shadow moved in the darkness, and the girl’s breath caught in her chest. Out of the dim light hopped a little robin bird. She almost laughed with relief, but caution kept her silent. The robin cocked its head and regarded her thoughtfully, before taking a cautious step forward. Enchanted, she reached out a hand towards it. It seemed strangely familiar, although she could not remember seeing a bird on the Outside.
Startled, the bird ruffled its feathers and took off, hopping into a nearby tree.
Disappointed, she glanced back at the Compound, and her heart went cold.
In the distance she could see ghostly lights the colour of ice and fire darting about, as though dancing. Lyulf. As she watched, the Lyulf paused, the lights suddenly freezing. A long, keening note filled the air, sending her into spasms of icy fear. They had found her scent.
For a moment she was frozen, but fear was quickly replaced by panic. Scrambling to her feet, she ran.
Muscles unused to exercise screamed in protest, but she forced herself onwards. If she stumbled, she would fall. If she fell, she would die.
She could sense their taint on the air. They were gaining on her. If they caught her, all was lost. No one had ever seen a Lyulf up close – they said to see one was to see your own death. She shuddered as their chilling shrieks filled the air. The Lyulf, creations of the Inquisitors, were bred for one purpose – to hunt, and to kill. The girl could sense the wrongness of them – they seemed to poison everything they touched.
She cursed her stupidity in deciding to rest. She had been sure that the Inquisitors would raise an alarm, that she would be warned once they discovered her escape. But of course, they had not. They would not want other prisoners to know that someone had achieved the impossible – escaped from the Compound. Most likely they would say she had died under questioning. Not that anyone would even notice that she was gone. Well, one person would… If he survived, that was. And no one could survive the Inquisitors if they wanted you dead.
She shook her head roughly to dispel the downward spiral of her thoughts. There would be time to think of that later. Later, once she was free. After all, it was no use wasting Nathaniel’s sacrifice by agonising over his death. She had to stop dithering.
Pushing her way through the undergrowth, she forced her leaden legs into a stumbling sprint. She didn’t know how much further she could run. But if she stopped, the Lyulf were waiting for her. Stifling a sob, she pushed herself on.
Branches whipped her face and scratched her bare arms and legs. Suddenly the world jolted and spun as her foot caught on a tree root and she was sent sprawling to the ground.
For a moment she closed her eyes, breathing in the earthy smell of the undergrowth gratefully. All seemed to grow dark around her. The cries of the Lyulf faded into the background, and her icy fear was replaced by a numbing calm. The wind was like a gentle caress on her face… It felt better than she had ever imagined - Outside.
The chilling cries of the Lyulf woke her from her stupor. Cursing herself, she climbed unsteadily to her feet and stumbled on.
Suddenly she stopped dead as nausea washed over her, making her gag. A Lyulf. It was close... so close that she could almost taste its taint. Panic gripped her. What should she do? She stumbled backwards until her back brushed up against the rough wood of a tree.
Out of the darkness, there was something moving... All she could see were dots of blue and red light, but they were slowly morphing, moving to form the outline of a huge, towering beast. A terrible stench assaulted her senses. She clamped her hands over her nose and mouth, but it could not block out the smell of rotting, wasted flesh.
The creature drew in a long, rattling breath. Slowly, it advanced upon her – its limbs jerking in an unnatural motion. The girl felt an overwhelming sense of disgust as the taint of the creature surrounded her, making her want to hurl. Eyes pierced her out of the darkness, burning her with a silver and blue flame. Her heart stopped. Her breath stopped. Her mind stopped.
Out of the corner of her eye, something fluttered, swooped…
Then her knees gave way, and the darkness rose up to meet her…
* * *
Savannah scowled as she stalked through the trees. “Stupid, arrogant, big-headed nobles…” she muttered under her breath, stamping down on a twig as though it had mortally offended her. “Always - ” she kicked some leaves into the air – “thinking of no one but themselves…”
“Savannah,” Tullan warned quietly. “He’ll hear you coming from a mile away.”
“And so what if he does?! He goes and runs off without us – not telling us where he was going, whether he was in danger, nothing! And now we have to rush to the rescue, as usual. It’s just so typical.”
“Master Cade doesn’t need rescuing, and you know that. He’ll be very angry with me when he finds out I told you he’d gone.”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Oh, please. Would you stop bowing to his every whim?! He’s bad enough as it is – there’s no need to encourage him. And besides, he doesn’t know how to take care of himself.”
“And I suppose you’re just dying to show him how?” Cas piped up from behind her.
She spun about, a slight blush suffusing her cheeks. She told herself it was because of anger. “Sh- Shut up!”
Tullan sighed slightly, his face and voice impassive as usual. “I have sworn to serve Master Cade, Savannah. That means trusting him to know what is best.”
“No, it means protecting him from himself!”
“Er – sorry to interrupt…” a sweet, girlish voice spoke from somewhere above their heads. “But you guys are making so much noise that I could hear you from all the way out front.” Suddenly a girl dropped down from nowhere, swinging agilely down from the branches of a tree. Her shoulder-length white-blonde hair made a halo around her pixie-like face, and her cheeks were flushed slightly with the effort of climbing.
“Ferne,” Savannah greeted her curtly.
“Savannah,” she replied, barely acknowledging her before turning her head. “Now, are we going to find Cade, or are we going to stand here and argue?”
“Remind me why you’re here again?” Savannah asked wearily.
“Because you’ve got no hope of tracking Cade without me, and because I’ve got my own bone to pick with him. That, and Cas invited me.”
“Oh, now I remember,” Savannah muttered darkly, turning to glare at Cas.
He grinned and shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, she’s a good tracker.”
“Better than you?”
“No one’s better than me.”
Ferne snorted derisively. “You guys better move it. If he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be found – not even by me.” She sauntered up to a nearby tree, and with a flash of swinging legs, she was gone.
“Come on,” Cas sighed. “She’s right, you know. We shouldn’t have come.”
Savannah glared around at all of them. “And you’re just going to give up? Because of something she said? Great.” She marched forward, shaking her head. “Just great.”
Cade listened to their argument, smiling to himself. Ferne was right – they wouldn’t be able to find him. Not unless he showed himself.
He weighed up his options – on the one hand, it was annoying that they had come to ‘save’ him, as Savannah had put it. He should remind them of their manners. On the other hand, he would love to see the looks on their faces if he suddenly appeared before them. And then he could tell them off for rushing into a situation that they knew nothing about.
Cade found it interesting that Tullan had run and told Savannah where he had gone off to. He hadn’t expected that – he would have to be more careful from now on. You couldn’t trust anyone.
With a smile, he listened to their petty bickering. He may as well put them out of their misery.
“Really,” he admonished gently, stepping out and leaning casually against the tree trunk, “I could hear you from a mile away. I honestly thought I’d taught you better than that.”
Their expressions were just as amusing as he had imagined. Savannah in particular stared at him in open-mouthed surprise, mingled with anger. The others didn’t look quite as surprised, but definitely disgruntled. The only face that didn’t change was Tullan’s. As usual, nothing seemed to faze the ex-soldier.
They all seemed to be left speechless. Perhaps he had given them too much of a shock?
“So…” he said with a small smile, “what brings you to the woods this evening?”
“We - ” Savannah began, then swallowed. “We came to find you. You left without saying anything…”
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. “Now why would I have done that?”
There was a drawn-out silence as they all glanced at each other uneasily.
“… Because you don’t want us to follow you,” Savannah finally answered resignedly.
Cade’s smile didn’t slip for a moment. “I would have thought you’d get the hint.”
Savannah crossed her arms and scowled at him, seemingly unable to think of anything to say.
Cade sighed. “Well, as long as you’re here… you may as well stay.”
The group noticeably relaxed.
Cade turned about and began making his way deeper into the forest. After a moment, the others followed behind him.
“Make sure you don’t make too much noise,” Cade called. “I don’t want to be discovered. There’s a Witch that lives near here, so don’t disturb her or she might get cranky.”
“Great,” Savannah muttered under her breath. “Wouldn’t want to ruin her afternoon nap, would we?”
Cas strode next to her easily, his eyes scanning the forest for signs of movement. “What are we doing here, Cade?” he asked casually.
“I’m looking for something,” Cade replied cryptically.
Savannah glanced at Cas meaningfully. Cade had been ‘looking for something’ for years, and as far as they knew, he had never come close to finding it. Still, they didn’t say anything. They just followed after Cade, silently on guard in case anything should happen.
Out of the shadows cast by the towering trees, something moved…
This is only the first half of the first chapter, but I thought it was too long to post it all. And the second half is a bit confusing, as well.
I know that I've used the name Lyulf in my other story. :P I originally came up with the name Lyulf for this story. But when I was writing the Carnival, I needed a name for a creature and I didn't want to come up with a new name. (I take ages to come up with names. :P ). So I decided just to call the creature a Lyulf temporarily, and I would change it later.