If anybody is interested, here is the next chapter of my story. I hope people will read it! It is kind of long, sorry, so I hope you can stick with it. Oh, and am I allowed to double post in this thread?
CHAPTER THREE – COINCIDENCE
Leah caught up to Wila and drew her into the cover of the forest. Wila stumbled after her, dizzy from the spinning. She lurched into one of the large, thick tree trunks. ‘What were you thinking?’ Leah exclaimed quietly to Wila, once she had regained her senses.
Wila cackled gleefully, a frequent sound to escape her mouth, and tapped her nose knowingly.
Leah let out her pent-up breath and leaned against a tree. ‘I can’t believe you...did...that...’ she gazed into the depths of the dark forest, envisaging Lucas’ face in her mind...Wila rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers in front of Leah’s face. ‘Oiy. What are we supposed to be doing, again?’
Leah’s clouded eyes suddenly focused and she stopped day dreaming about Lucas. ‘Oh,’ She shook her head to concentrate. ‘Right.’
She stepped away from the tree and walked into the forest, delicately stepping over bony tree roots along the way. ‘Come on then.’
Wila glanced over her shoulder out through the cover of the trees to see the empty field behind them, and arched an eyebrow, making a frightening imitation of Sera’s common and most exertive expression; until she grinned evilly for some reason and followed Leah.
Footsteps stomped on the forest floor, while much lighter ones fell behind it, barely stirring up the leaf litter; announcing Wila and Leah’s presence to the wildlife.
Leah gently swung her almost-full bag as she walked, thinking of how quickly they had gathered the plants that Ms Grae would need. Suddenly, in the small process of ducking her head under a low-hanging, leafy branch, she caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye. A bright spot of colour and slight movement through the trees. Glancing at Wila walking ahead, Leah silently sneaked off the path, following the attraction.
Meanwhile, Wila gazed up at the towering trees around her. ‘I wonder what would happen if I jumped off the top of one of them?’ she mused, once again considering methods of flying.
Expecting and not receiving some slightly worried answer about how ‘dangerous’ that would be, Wila turned. To glare at a rabbit sitting on its haunches behind her. ‘Ah, great,’ Wila muttered, scaring off the extremely bold animal.
Leah crept forward as silently as she could, coming up behind a smooth-barked tree on the edge of a small clearing. She carefully peered past the rough trunk into the dirt-floored glade, gazing at the clump of pretty flowers situated almost at the edge of the space, and, more importantly, the two figures within.
Leah leant her cheek against the cool trunk she pressed against, half hidden in shadow, or at least she hoped she was. She watched as the two figures rested companionably next to each other, one human, one not.
Lucas. Why did she feel so attracted to him, when she had barely even spoken to him, and she knew next to nothing about him?
She wondered what her father would think...– best not to go there.
There was something about Lucas...It was similar to other strangers that Leah occasionally saw in Corridor. It was as though he had something else always on his mind, something stopping him from enjoying life to its full potential. As though he wasn’t used to the peacefulness of the small village.
Leah compared him to the few people that she saw pass through her home; small, ragged families, or haggard old men, often sporting old and concealed wounds. And she had it. The source of all the misery and pain that she so rarely saw evidence of, the world outside the veiled valley of Corridor, was Malan. Of course. Even his name brought a feeling of cruelty wherever it was spoken.
She observed Lucas lovingly petting Rylo on his head, running his hand through the long fur. Leah imagined caressing that soft-looking hand...
‘Gaaa - !’ Leah let out a small shriek as a hand descended upon her shoulder, then slammed her own hands over her mouth as she saw Lucas sit up - and look right at her. But, thankfully, he didn’t see her, and wearily settled back down again. Leah turned around furiously to see Wila, doubled over with her hands covering her mouth, trying unsuccessfully to stifle bursts of laughter. Leah glared at her until she subsided into occasional giggles.
‘You should have seen your face!’ she sniggered.
‘Can you see my face now?’ Leah demanded in a whisper, glowering at her tormentor with her hands on her hips.
Wila just cracked up laughing again, tears trickling out of her scrunched up eyes.
Leah sighed, her face losing its frown. ‘It’s not that funny.’ she surrendered.
‘Oh, yes it is...’ Wila giggled, her face red.
‘Well, funny or not, I need that flower in there,’ Leah pointed surreptitiously to the bunch of flowers in the clearing. At a swift glance you could almost mistake them for a small lick of flames isolated by the expansion of long green grass around them.
‘What are you waiting for, then?’ Wila asked, slyly.
‘Well – I – can you get them for me?’ Leah pleaded.
‘Phh, no,’ Wila grinned evilly and shoved Leah forward, out of the cover of the trees and into the open clearing. ‘Oops,’ she smirked.
Leah stumbled forwards and froze as Lucas turned to look at her. Oh, sticks. Wila! Leah thought, and then: He’s looking at me! Those eyes...so brown...
‘I thought I-,’ Lucas began suspiciously, but Leah quickly stopped her betraying thoughts, put on a dazzling smile and hurriedly explained. ‘I-I was just collecting some plants and I noticed this rare flower here,’ Leah brandished her almost-full bag at the flower clump in the clearing, ‘so I came to grab it – but coincidentally you were here too - sorry to disturb you!’ she rushed to the said flowers and bent down to pick a few. She carefully chose and put safely away in her bag the smallest, most nondescript ones, leaving the big, lively, and full blooming ones behind to be admired by anyone else lucky enough to find them. Leah marvelled at the luscious petals, the bright orange colour mixing with the deep red, as though it was shimmering, and her eyes were drawn right into it...
Rylo snuffled and Leah opened her eyes, head snapping up, remembering where she was. Lucas’ marvellous eyes were watching her, and she thought that she saw a glint of something hiding in their depths before he diverted his gaze.
Leah swiftly straightened, her cheeks pink. She flicked her braided hair back over her shoulder, looking at Lucas. As she made to hurry past him, back into the shelter of the shady trees, he suddenly spoke.
‘You like flowers?’ he was still looking away from her, staring at the flowers she had just been bending over. Leah wondered what he was thinking. She thought he seemed a bit...on edge, as though there was something he wanted to say, but couldn’t.
‘Yes,’ Leah said hesitantly. ‘I think they are beautiful, the way they light up even the most gloomy places.’ she waited for him to say something else, whatever he was thinking, maybe, but he didn’t. Leah stood there awkwardly while Lucas was silent, until she decided he wasn’t going to say anything more and stepped forward again to leave. But as she passed by him, close enough to touch, he murmured something.
Leah stopped in surprise and stared at him, her heart quickening. He looked at her then, his eyes solemn, until he smiled at the expression on her face, as though no one had ever told her that she was beautiful before.
Wila and Leah were heading back to the village. Leah had been quiet since seeing Lucas again and Wila wondered why. Come to think of it, it was pretty coincidental that they had run into him twice in the morning...and they didn’t even know who he was, exactly...Although, Wila got the impression that he knew more than he was letting on.
Meanwhile, Leah was deep in thought also. Who was he, really? She couldn’t stop thinking about Lucas. His name was like a sweet taste in her mouth. And what was he really doing there? He was here on a mission and Leah hoped she would find out eventually. It must be something important; otherwise he wouldn’t be so secretive about it. But why would he tell you anyway? A voice in her head quietly queried.
She was so absorbed in her thoughts that it took a few minutes for her to notice two things. One, the people around her were quickly fleeing and taking refuge in any place as far away from the street as possible; and two, the thunder of hoof beats was steadily growing louder and louder by the second. This could only mean one thing. Soldiers.
Wila glanced at Leah in fear. She stopped dead and quickly backed away from the path of the oncoming horses, trying to make herself as inconspicuous as possible. Leah followed her to duck behind a clump of trees situated beside a small, dirty house.
But before she reached the safe cover, she saw something which made her stop dead again, her long braid whipping into her face. Her heart leapt in horror as she looked upon a young child playing in the dirt. In the middle of the street. The child seemed oblivious to the world around him...and his imminent death.
‘Come on!’ Wila cried. Leah glanced back to Wila, who was beckoning frantically to her from behind a tree, her grey eyes wide with fright.
Leah looked to the end of the street, and saw a nightmarish picture. A group of about a dozen soldiers on horses, galloping towards her and getting closer by the second. Clouds of dust rose around them, kicked up by their horses’ hooves.
There was no hope of the child surviving while still in the path of the soldiers. They would never stop. She had seen it happen before, and had been forced to stand by and do nothing as innocent villagers were knocked down, rage and horror broiling inside her. They would heedlessly run down anything in their path, including an innocent, helpless, young child.
All this was processed in a few short seconds. Without much thought to her own welfare, Leah ran forward. ‘Leah!’ Wila screamed.
The little boy looked up curiously as Leah ran to him. She quickly knelt down and grabbed him, gathering him into her arms. He yelped in protest, but Leah just held him tighter and ran as fast as she could away from the street.
Unfortunately, the side of the street that she was closest to was the side opposite to where Wila was. But that didn’t matter. She had saved the little boy crying in her arms.
Collapsing onto the ground, Leah caught a glimpse of Wila’s face staring at her in relief from across the street, a second before the group of dusty soldiers bolted across her vision, obscuring her view of the other side.
Looking up and brushing her hair out of her eyes, she watched them ride past. When one of them glanced down at her disdainfully, she quickly averted her eyes, worry for the child overcoming her anger at Malan’s cruel and malign soldiers.
She released her tight hold on the boy, checking that he was all right. He had sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes which were red from crying. His face was red also, tears streaking a path through the dirt.
She gently pushed the hair away from his face and wiped his tears away, crooning softly to him. His crying subsided to sniffling and Leah looked up to see Wila hurriedly striding across the street towards her. She stood, her arms around the child once again, and took a step forward to meet Wila.
But, before she could move very far, she felt a hand descend on her arm, holding her back. She turned around in alarm, thinking that one of the soldiers had noticed her after all and come back to punish her.
‘Leah,’ Lucas said, his brown eyes concerned. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Oh. I’m fine,’ Leah answered, flustered and thinking of where they had last left off, as Wila rushed up to them.
‘Leah! What were you thinking?’ Wila scolded, echoing the words spoken by Leah previously, although in a far more dramatic situation. ‘You could’ve gotten yourself killed!’
Leah turned away from Lucas, momentarily forgetting him, to face Wila. ‘What, and instead I could’ve left him to be killed?’ she responded, nodding to the boy in her arms.
‘He’s just a child! And an orphan no less, by the look of him,’ Wila squinted at the little boy in scrutiny.
‘Exactly! He’s just a child.’ Leah enunciated slowly. ‘So he couldn’t save himself, and I didn’t see anyone else rushing to do it for him! Don’t ever think that age, or social status, makes a person less important, less worthy of life.’
There was an awkward pause, Wila looking decidedly ashamed of herself, until Lucas spoke.
‘Sound advice, I say,’ he mused, looking thoughtfully at Leah. Wila looked at him, startled, as though only just noticing that he was there.
‘Well. What a coincidence, running into you again,’ she commented suspiciously.
‘Small world,’ Lucas observed, now looking around them distractedly. ‘Uh, who exactly is this little guy?’
‘Good question,’ Leah answered uncertainly.
‘I told you, he’s an orphan,’ Wila claimed, long-sufferingly.
‘And how do you - ,’ Leah started, but at that moment a dirty girl ran up to them, panting slightly.
‘What are you doing with Asher!?’ the slight girl demanded, her hands on her hips haughtily, scraggly hair covering her face.
‘Uh...Who are you?’ Wila asked, slightly taken aback.
‘None of your business! Give him back!’
‘I’m not sure - ,’ Leah began.
‘We’re not giving him back until you tell us who you are,’ Lucas said calmly.
‘Yes,’ Leah finished, nodding in agreement.
The girl puffed out impatiently and crossed her arms over her chest.
Leah carefully knelt down in front of the girl, setting Asher, as he had been called, onto her knees. ‘How about you tell us your name,’ she suggested, once their eyes were level.
The girl glared mutinously at her but obliged. ‘Lotti,’ she muttered reluctantly.
Asher played with Leah’s braided hair thrown over her shoulder and gurgled in delight. He had seemingly forgotten his previous terror and was content to sit in Leah’s arms.
‘Well, Lotti, are you and Asher orphans?’ Leah asked patiently, ignoring Lotti’s reluctance to reveal anything.
‘Yes,’ she suddenly burst out impatiently, before covering her mouth in horror.
‘Oops,’ Wila said for her, grinning smugly. Lucas tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile.
‘I think you had better take us to your home, little orphan,’ he said.