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  • Writer's pictureFiona Hamilton

Chapter 9: Bandits!

The two of them woke up shivering and damp. The storm had passed and the rising sun was peeking through the remaining clouds. They were exhausted but they had managed to get through the night. Slowly getting up, they looked around at the devastation caused by the storm. Many of the trees had fallen or broken and the grasslands had been turned into a marsh. In time the area would probably return to it’s normal state, but for now it had become a soaked version of itself. Jen couldn’t imagine what damage it had done inside the hedge and she worried that she may never find out.

“What are we going to do? How am I going to get home?” Jen said warily, “The tunnel is collapsed, I am pretty sure we have broken the law anyway, quintech montaryil Hoyand…” She trailed off.

“And Xio and Xia! They were out here during the storm, I hope they’re okay.” Rienna added on, “We should look for them, we’ll at least be safer together.”

Jen agreed with Rienna but she also felt a little bit of irritation towards Rienna. Rufdand wasn’t her home, she didn’t worry about the houses that may have been destroyed. She only seemed to care about finding her cats and leaving Rufdand behind. “We should also keep the lookout for entrances back into Rufdand, okay?” She said to Rienna, trying to keep her voice light.

“Okay. The first time I got in I climbed a tree, but most of them are fallen now or too slippery to climb.” Rienna said.

“Indeed. You should know, by the way, that the flowers on the hedge are what made you fall. You should avoid them in the future.” Jen warned Rienna.

“I guess that explains some things… thank you for telling me.” Rienna added on.

The duo walked cautiously across the wetlands, following the hedge closely and calling Xio and Xia’s names. Soon though they realized that they hadn’t eaten any breakfast and were in fact quite hungry. Jen didn’t have any food, but fortunately Rienna had the bag that Jen had given her, and although it was soaked the fruit was fine and most everything else was edible.

After a quick break to eat food they continued onward their journey northward along the wall. It was a very dull journey. There was no good scenery, their feet were soaked, and all they could do was just trudge along looking for a couple of magic cats. Jen was seriously doubting her decision to sneak Rienna out through the tunnel or at all.

Luck was on their side though. Xio and Xia had been looking for ways through the wall when the storm hit and had taken shelter inside the hedge, which the cats had discovered was somewhat hallow on the inside and also rather spacious, at least for cats.

As the girls passed this particular spot in the wall they heard a sudden meow coming from the wall. A cat jumped out through what looked to be a very small hole and meowed again.

“Xia!” Rienna exclaimed, stopping in her tracks, “I’m so glad we found you! …Where’s Xio?”

“I here!” Xio responded, climbing out of the hole and tumbling to the ground, “You not on other side of wall no more! And there are one more human?” He staged the last statement like a question.

“Yes! This is Jen, she is from inside the wall. The king in Rufdand, the place in the wall, wanted the crystal so I had to run away. Jen helped me and got caught out here because of the storm.” Rienna shivered. Her excitement in finding her cats was no longer keeping her warm, and after the long amount of walking will cold and wet, she wasn’t quite looking that healthy.

Jen wasn’t either. Her nose was stuffy and red and her eyes were puffed up, causing her vision to be stunted. She sniffed warily and said, “Hi. You must be Xio. I did not know that a cat could talk.”

“Is my magic. My mom has the magic of the wind. Her magic really made the storm easier. We didn’t even get much rained on!” Xio said, excited as a kitten could be at meeting a new person, “Now storm gone and Rienna found we can continue our adventure!”

“Yes… well first we have to get Jen back home, okay?” Rienna told Xio, “She needs to get back inside the wall. Remember the last time you took someone on a ‘one day’ journey? We got stuck out here, that’s what happened. We need to focus on getting her back, then we can continue our ‘adventure’.” She sounded rather annoyed about what apparently was supposed to be a one day trip.

So she does somewhat understand my predicament. Although it’s not like she had to worry about houses being destroyed inside her kingdom… Jen thought to herself in her own language. “Yes. Thank you.” She said aloud.

“Yes, yes. Okay. But we not find any way in since you climb tree. And tree all fall or short.” Xio said in response, somewhat rolling his eyes, “How ‘bout we go along big plant wall like you were. Maybe we find something?”

“Yes, that works.” Rienna said.

Their journey continuing along the wall went much faster than before. Xia would blow debris out of the way and cleared a path in front of them. The ground was still soggy but at least they didn’t have to go around trees or step over branches. However, they searched without success.

As they turned a corner of the wall they saw trees and mountains ahead of them. “Those are the Mountains of Trivante.” Jen said. She tried to recall the story behind the name, “I think that they are named after a dragon that used to live there preying off of goats. It is interesting because the dragon lived in that tall mountain there, Mona Kafdrill, which is named after the person who killed the dragon.”

“That’s strange. How long ago was this?” Rienna asked.

“I do not know. Thousands of years ago when Rufdand was not called Rufdand and was merely a city under the rule of the Sovereign.” Jen hesitated at the end. She remembered that Rienna called the Crystal Sorceress Sovereign Jenni.

“The Sovereign?” Rienna asked.

“He was the ruler of one of the large kingdoms of that time, they were called countries. He is very dead at this point, but he ruled over this section of the continent with cruelty and power. This was before the time of the dragon, but we do remember the basic truths of that time…”

“Well aren’t you a privileged little brat?” A scratchy voice said from behind them. Jen didn’t even have time to turn around, before a sack was tossed over her and Rienna’s heads. “You’re one of those Ruffians aren’t you?” The voice said while tying her hands behind her back with a rope.

“We are not called Ruffians. We are called Rufdians.” Jen said through the sack.

“Nah. That sounds stupid. I don’t care what all of you Ruffians say. Ya are Ruffians to me not matter what you say.” Another voice said in response to Jen, “Now come along, we’re going to take ya to a nice little camp where I’m sure you’ll find yourself some nice little friends.”

“Ruffian is an actual word, not a title for a group of people.” Rienna cut in.

“I don’t think so. I haven’t heard it used like that.” The first voice said, sounding uncertain.

 “Shut it, I don’t want to listen to your bickering for this entire trip, you’re here to capture Rufdians, not argue about what words mean what, it doesn’t matter.” Another voice cut in, sounding somewhat more sophisticated and in charge than the first two. The other two stopped talking and they continued leading Rienna and Jen in silence.

Jen couldn’t see anything, but she obsessionally heard mournful yowling and angry hisses coming from somewhere next to her followed by annoyed yells directed toward the noise, suggesting that the two cats of Rienna’s had also been captured and were being brought along with them.

It didn’t take them long to get to the camp that the kidnappers had mentioned, maybe twenty minutes. However, it felt like eternity to Jen. Being blindfolded while walking through a flooded grassland was not fun whatsoever. Once they did reach the camp though, the blindfolds were removed and they were lead into a small cabin.

Now that she could see, Jen realized the dramatic difference between the clothes of the kidnappers and their leader. The people that had covered their heads and lead them through the wetlands wore worn, dirty clothes and a slab of thick leather hung over their shoulders and in front of their chest and back. The leader, however, had plate armor and a fancy metal helmet atop his head. On the helmet was a purple feather as well as a purple circle painted in front. There was another circle on his breastplate. Jen was familiar with the symbol of Vieryen. She had always found it kind of stupid and meant the person wearing it was full of themselves, rich, and a jerk. Now, knowing Rienna’s story, it seemed like all of those things but also kind of sad.

In the simple cabin, Jen and Rienna were sat down across from a man on an armchair. He wore a purple lined noble’s outfit with a purple circle on the breast pocket; He was also a servant of the Crystal Sorceress. The “crystal soldier” as Rufdands called them, stood beside the armchair and turned to the other men, “Bring the cats to the Houndmaster, tell him I’ll talk to him about the cats later. Meet me in the tavern room for your payment.”

“Yah, okay, Hurrandas.” One said almost rolling his eyes.

“It’s ‘Yes, Sir’ to you scoundrels. You have no authority here.” Hurrandas answered.

“You’ve changed ‘Andas. Yah used to be cool.” The other kidnapper said.

The man across from Jen and Rienna cut in, “And I don’t care about this conversation. Save it for when you don’t have to torture me with your presence. Sergeant Hurrandas, stay here. You two, leave.”

“Yas, Sir!” The two said at once. They then turned and quickly left the room with Xio and Xia who were in a large bird cage, mewing sadly.

The man in purple looked back at Jen and Rienna and said in Jen’s language, “Anyways, welcome to camp V4. You’ve come at a good time, your peers are on break and will be able to show you around. How old are each of you?”

“I don’t under-” Rienna started to say, but Jen stopped her and whispered in her ear.

“It may not be wise to let him know you are from Vieryen.” She said into Rienna’s ear. She turned her head to the man in the chair, “Hello. I am Jen. I am fifteen years old. My sister here is ten. Why is the camp called V4?”

“It does not matter. After the day is over you will go to C15 and C10. In bunks, let’s see…” He looked down at a paper in his hands and scanned through it. “You will be in bunk 14 in C15 and your sister will be in bunk 23 in C10. Yes, I believe that will work.”

Hurrandas narrowed his eyes at Rienna and Jen, “Here, I will lead you to the common grounds. Break ends in ten minutes.” He said, watching Jen carefully.

“He will bring you to the common grounds. You will meet your peers and then in ten minutes you will get to work. Follow him now.” The noble said in translation into Jen’s language, unaware that they knew the language Hurrandas had spoken.

Hurrandas walked over to Jen and Rienna and waited for them to stand up. He then led them out the door and along a short dirt path to a wooden fence. Two guards dressed similarly to Hurrandas stood up from a table and opened the gate for them tiredly. They were then lead to a open area with wooden flooring.

Hurrandas turned to them, “This is your new home. Get used to it. Work starts in nine minutes.” He then turned and left back through the gate.

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