This is chapter two of a novel written by my student – Katherine H. You can read chapter one HERE.
“Sire, the report from the negotiations is here,” the fat commander said.
“Not good, I suppose, Commander,” sighed the King
“That’s not for me to say, your majesty.”
“Leave me, Commander.”
“Yes, Sire.”the commander turned and left.
“No… NO! We can’t have war!” A disparaging note flooded the king’s voice.
“How far is it to the next town?” Jasmine asked.
“Ten miles, give or take a few,” said Lord Cindly.
“When’s lunch?” That was the Senly boy, John.
“Kids,” the lord muttered. Then in a louder voice, “Now.”
Both 13-year-olds gave a start.
John was the first to speak, “You mean we eat now?”
“Yes, we eat now.” Lord Cindly sounded exasperated as he swung down from the saddle.
That’s when the bandits hit.
They were a ragtag bunch. There were only twenty, but that was enough. The bandits surrounded them. They advanced in a ragged line.
The lord and his four men shoved John and Jasmine in to the middle of the circle. Best in their town or not, they were still children and to be protected.
Jasmine pulled out the copy of the Knives of Despair she had. Her whole body seemed to be on fire. As adrenaline coursed through her veins she saw everything clearer. Like how John was trembling with fear and sweat was breaking out on his forehead, how the wind blowing at her back. The man in front of Jasmine fell from his horse, and with a cry Jasmine urged her horse forward into the gap.Dropping her Knives, she yanked a well balanced sword from its scabbard. The lead bandit grinned at her with rotting teeth. Jasmine smiled pleasantly back. A bandit nearly fell of his seat in surprise. The lead bandit’s smile simply grew when he saw. With one hand on the rains he urged the horse forward and slashed at Jasmine in a clumsy stroke. Jasmine nearly laughed at his attempt,she swung her sword up and brought it neatly into his head. Then his secound called out the signal to retreat. The second he did, Jasmine realized she had killed the man.
The clearing was a mess. Life blood was spilt on the ground like summer rain. Three men had died during the bandit attack and Lord Cindly was badly wounded. Jasmine was staring at the bodies that lay under cloths.
John came up to her and said softly, “It’s terrible, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is,” Jasmine whispered.
John spoke quietly. “Bandits killed my parents and now the people trying to protect us. Jasmine, I…,” he hesitated, “I wish you weren’t here. I wish that you didn’t have to see what these lowborn curs did.”
Jasmine started to sob.“Oh John, please don’t tell anyone. Please don’t.”
“Jasmine, I will never tell anyone you cried over a bandit’s death. I promise,” he soothed.
“But, I killed him, John! I killed him! I didn’t even think about it.”
“He would have killed you without a thought about you later. Be happy it hurt you. It means that you still have a heart.”
They had just started to leave when Lord Cindly cried out. He was to be slung behind a horse and move out that way, but he would have to endure the jostling of the road.
“This won’t work! My leg will kill me.”
“M’Lord we have to move out,” said one of the men.
“I can’t move like this,” Lord Cindly snapped, “my feet dragging in the dirt and a stabbed leg sending daggers of pain up my leg with every bump!”
Everyone dismounted and wandered off and began to talk. Jasmine and John wandered to the edge of camp.
“John, we have to leave this place, but how?” Jasmine wondered.
“There… are herbs that numb wounds,” John replied, “If we could find them and lengthen the stretcher maybe we could leave.”.
“Oh! John, that’s a good idea!”
John had just finished explaining his idea to the Captain. John’s idea was a good one, so John and one of the men left to try to find the plant that would numb Lord Cindly’s wound. When he came back they had enough for three days. Then they mounted and rode out.
The next town they came to was bigger than Jasmine’s town, and her town was small enough to have no name. This town was called Heathmore, and not on Captain McCourt’s map.
“Cappy McCourt, town ahead,” said the forward scout.
“Lieutenant Clayton, thank you for the report. How far away?”
Lieutenant Clayton thought a moment before saying,“One mile, give or take, sir.”
“Good,” then raising his voice he shouted, “WE PRESS ON!”
“My lords and lady, I wish you welcome to Heathmore,” gushed the leader of the town.
He completely ignored Lord Cindly and kept bowing. When Captain McCourt finally was able to say something he pointed out Lord Cindly.
“Oh…Oh dear, Captain, what happened?” the leader of the town, asked.
“Sir, we happened upon bandits while riding for here,” McCourt said.
“Captain, he needs the town healer!” The sagna cried.
“Yes, so go get him.”
“Lord Cindly its good to see you awake and walking” Captain Mc Court boomed.
“Captain, it is good to walk.”
“M’ lord while you were… asleep a message came for you.”
“From whom?” the lord demanded.
“The king m’lord.”
“Give it to me.”
“My Lord, what does the message say,” Jasmine asked Lord Cindly for the hundredth time.
“Fine,I’ll tell you,” the lord snapped, “It says that When you get all the best of the thirteen year olds in my fief I am to choose the best and conscript the rest into the army.”
“My Lord, I am sorry for pestering you so much. Please forgive me,” Jasmine said with icy calm, but the lord could see fear in her eyes.
Jasmine fled before the lord could reply, running to find John whom it was becoming quickly apparent was one of the only ones she could trust.
“John, the message that Lord Cindly got…it says that when all of us are gathered up to conscript except the best into the army, !” Jasmine burst as soon as they were away from the camp.
“Oh, Jasmine,” John soothed her, “I don’t believe that Lord Cindly could basicly send hundreds of innocent children to their deaths.”
“He was so angry; he looked like I spoiled some wonderful surprise for us.”
“He’s coming,” Jasmine said, fleeing the clearing.
“John, have you seen Jasmine? I’m afraid I gave her a fright.” Lord Cindly sighed.
“No Sir, I haven’t seen her. What could scare her so much that she would run away?” John asked.
“John, the letter that I received was from the king. It said that when I found the best of you, I’m…” Lord Cindly hesitated. “I’m to conscript all the rest into the army. They will be sent to the front of the battle lines after basic training.”
When Lord Cindly left to look for Jasmine, John walk the way Jasmine had went.
“Jasmine,” he called out, “Come back!”
“I’m here, John,” she replied. “Do you think he’s going to send us to the front lines.?”
“I- I don’t know,” John stuttered.
“John, let’s leave, please!”
“It seems we have to,” John muttered.
“Lets get our things now,” Jasmine declared.
Jasmine would have dashed into the clearing if John didn’t grab her arm,“Jasmine, everything needs to seem normal!”
“Oh! John you’re right. I would’ve given us away!” Jasmine moaned.
“Now, let’s go.”
They strolled to their respective tents, lightly talking. They saw Lieutenant McFredric leaning against Jasmines tent talking, a little too lightly, to Captain McCourt giving a false laugh once and a while.
“Hello, Lieutenant, Captain.”John said.
“Hello, John, Jasmine. How are you?” Captain McCourt called.
“We are fine Captain, and you?”Jasmine’s voice was flat and emotionless.
“I’m fine, Jasmine. Jasmine, John, can we talk in private? Please?” Lieutenant Clayton said.
“Yes, in my tent,” Jasmine said carefully.
“Thank you, Jasmine.” the captain said, his voice filled with relief.
When they were all in the tent the Lieutenant turned and made sure that the tent flap was securely tied.
Then he turned to them and said, “Jasmine, John, you need to get out of here, with the others. The king only wants one thirteen year old in the country. Anyone that has tried to change his mind has been beheaded for treason. We will get all of you out but you need to convince the others to follow you out of the camp.”
“How?” John and Jasmine said at the same time.
“That is up to you to. We don’t know,” Captain McCourt.
“We will, if we can.” John said pulling the flap open.
The Captain and Lieutenant walked out. Then, John walked out, letting the flap fall.
[Stay tuned for chapter three coming next week]