~ ~ # Chapter 5 #~ ~

(PoV: Arryn)

 

“… So we wouldn’t need to risk many lives, and therefore we could be saving lives,” I finished.

 

The General impatiently tapped his fingers on the table. “Who are you going to bring?”

 

“Well, uh, I thought maybe the oldest, most trained trainees?”

 

“Hmm. Take Rebecca, Huran, Adara, and Arkan with you. Leave in five hours. Dismissed.”

 

I was stunned, but I rose, bowed my head, and scuttled out to collect the named trainees.

 

#-#-#-#

 

All four stood in front of me, waiting.

 

I began, “We’re going to search most of the other parts of Ayama, to see if there are any sympathetic creatures that could help us.”

 

Adara tilted her head, her inquisitive eyes shining thoughtfully. “What if they don’t want to help?”

 

“We’ll convince them.” I wished I was as confident as I sounded. I was afraid of what we might have found.

 

Rebecca came right up to me, so close that I shifted uncomfortably. She leaned further and hissed, “We’ll see, dead girl. I’ll come along.”

 

I stiffened and she stepped back, seemingly satisfied.

 

Arkan started in his slow voice, “There is one thing that the teachers do not tell us.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“Why the war began.”

 

I gaped. “Uhh… Why do you ask?”

 

“Because whatever we might find might ask why we fight. We need a valid and honest explanation.”

 

I racked my memory for the teachings. “Well, um. The war started because a strange race of creatures somehow ended up between us and the others. They were completely obedient. In the old days, the ruler of us wanted them, and the ruler of the others did too. From there on, the war has raged.”

 

“But why continue fighting if that race is long gone?”

 

Just that moment, Lutuma passed by, saving me.

 

“Because, Arkan, we do not back down, for we are strong, intelligent, and compassionate. Meanings count, and we have proof that the enemy planned on mistreating the new-ones. Does that answer your question?”

 

Arkan nodded, and was silent. However, Adara shook her head almost imperceptibly at Lutuma.

 

“Right,” I continued, “We’ll leave in three hours. Pack your things and say goodbye to your family. Tell them I promise you will come back, if I do not.” I shuddered.

 

They’re like little kids, I observed to Saire.

 

Although, the others will enjoy being their companions.

 

They’re ready?

 

The children or the others?

 

Both, I guess.

 

Then both are ready.

 

I trudged to the fifth door and pressed my hand against my head. What are we doing?

 

Helping.

 

I laid out the contents of my pack.

 

  • Five Pieces of Paper
  • Five Pencils
  • Three Weeks Worth of Food
  • Two Bedrolls
  • Five Spare Changes of Clothes

 

I sighed and re-counted them.

 

  • Five Pieces of Paper
  • Five Pencils
  • Three Weeks Worth of Food
  • Two Bedrolls
  • Five Spare Changes of Clothes

 

Huh. I shoved my stuff inside the pack and laid against the door, staring at the carved marbled stone of the ceiling. I began to anxiously count the small stars engraved in the rock.

 

#-#-#-#

 

Five-hundred-eighty-two… Five-hundred-eighty-three… Footsteps. I lifted my head to see two anxious people in armor, and two confident people in armor. I could tell from how they were standing.

 

I pushed myself up. “Good, you’re all here.”

 

Rebecca rolled her eyes, her helmet tucked under her arm. “Course we are, unless we’re dead, like you.”

 

I raised an eyebrow but remained silent, only opening the door to the barren yet beautiful landscape. All of them murmured noises of amazement. I breathed in the smoky air and led them outside.

 

Adara began to prance ahead, despite the heavy armor and pack that must have weighed her down.

 

Now.

 

“Stop!” I called to Adara,  and everyone halted.

 

What will it be?

 

Whatever they are best suited to.

 

I knelt, touching the ground, and signaled for the others to do the same.

 

Come, creatures of old, and meet your new companions.

 

Footsteps, again. I glanced up, and rose to meet Saire. A lynx padded up to Huran, who had her head up. She gasped with delight as she blinked.

 

A young doe scuttled up to Adara, touching her bent head with it’s soft muzzle. Adara gazed up, gaping.

 

A large horse started towards me. I flinched, but turned as it pushed past me to Rebecca, who was trembling.

 

I couldn’t see Arkan’s pair until it scuttled between my feet. A ferret. I smiled and bent to stroke its fur as it passed.

 

I waited for them to rise, one at a time, as they met their new dearest friends.

 

Darkeye thanks you for bringing young ones with such potential. Saire tilted her head towards the ferret.

 

Arkan rose first, Darkeye positioned on his shoulder. He demanded, “Did you know this would happen?”

 

“Yes. It happens to all that go outside the main building.”

 

Adara stood slowly, her arm wrapped around the doe’s neck, soon followed by Rebecca, who swung her legs over the horse’s back and was already riding her. Huran was sitting normally, the lynx curled up on her lap, it’s small tail twitching with what I hoped was approval.

 

“Time to go.”

 

Huran looked up, shocked. “We’re leaving them behind?”

 

“No, they’re coming with us.”

 

She reluctantly got to her feet, the lynx standing. She whispered, just loud enough for me to catch her words, “C’mon, let’s go, Fang.”

 

I smiled, and observed them. Pure power on Fang, and the horse has power and speed, Darkeye and the deer are fast too.

 

Rebecca and the horse charged forward together, the girl’s shoulders hunched against the wind. Saire barked and chased after them, loping at their speed.

 

She shouted with her mind, Younglings, stop! I shuddered.

 

The horse slowed to a trot, then turned around. She was small, and far away. I waited for the dust to trail behind them, towards us. It did.

 

“Rebecca! Don’t go off like that again.”

 

“We were testing speeds.”

 

I was about to retort, ‘Do that when we need it,’ but a plume of dust and something black flickering in the wind caught my attention. I walked to the horse.

 

What’s your name?

 

Blanca.

 

Blanca, may I ride you over there? I pointed to the dust.

 

Very well.

 

“What are you doing? Why are you riding Blanca?”

 

“I need to get over there. I’ll be back soon.” I clambered onto Blanca’s back and hugged her neck, marveling at the silky white mane.

 

Go.

 

“Hey, wait! Don’t go!”

 

Blanca charged forward. Wind whipped my hair back as I squinted against the breeze. The plume of dust in the distance grew closer. I managed to make out a black-feathered bird flying above the source of the dust.

 

The dust-thing came towards us. A black cloak fluttered in the air. “You! Over here!”

 

The dust abruptly stopped. A woman stood there, dark, stringy hair held back by a band, brown eyes surrounded by black, and a warrior dress. A somewhat familiar sword hung from her belt, and her eyes were confident.

“Yes?”

 

“Who are you?”

 

She opened her mouth, “Ra–” she faltered, “Ratarnah.”

 

“Why are you around the main building?”

“I wanted to help.”

She spoke in short, clipped sentences, like Rabana usually did. In fact, her name reminded me of my sister. Her eyes were also the same, although she did have darker hair.

 

“Who are you…?”

 

“I already said,” she snapped, “Ratarnah.”

 

The words sounded alien from her mouth. Her hair lifted from a stray wind, and I caught sight of a lighter red under her dark hair.


“Rabana!”

She flinched. “Arryn, I don’t want you to go. I want to help in my own way. We won’t have to go begging for help.”

 

“We need help. Besides, Adara, Arkan, Huran, and Rebecca are already paired.”

 

“Then…” She hesitated, “I’m coming too.”

 

“No, you’re needed here.”

“No, I’m coming!” She stormed past me, swinging herself onto Blanca. “You?”

 

“Mind getting rid of some of your… decoration first?” I took off my pack and started to take out some spare clothes.

 

“No. I’m staying like this.”

 

I sighed and followed her onto the white mare’s back. “Rabana… Why?”

 

She turned around on Blanca and bit her lip. “I wanted to help in a way no one would recognize me.”

 

We can go back now.

 

Blanca galloped back, and no one said another word.