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The light wind blew my own scent away from the prey, my arrow - ready, pulled and still - waited for the right moment to shoot. It wasn't that cold today, luckily, so there was a lot more prey to choose from, and it meant that I didn't have to wear anything heavy. I could be silent and free.
Above the trees the early morning sun shined brightly, causing the sky to be a pearl white.
Down in the valley where I live, there was a small forest. It covered no more than five square miles, all the prey was trapped by the valley sides so it was perfect for my hunting practice. In my village I was known to be the best arrow shot, and second best sling-shot - second only to my best friend's brother. This meant that it was my job to hunt for my family, every morning I would travel the short distance to the forest.
I tended to catch more than necessary, which meant that after every morning's hunt I would go down to the local market to trade the extra meat for luxuries, like spices, herbs and flavourings.
Today, I just happened to have a large bull elk right in front of me, it still hadn't noticed me. It was busy drinking from the little spring at the bottom of the valley, suddenly it looked up, so I took my chance and released my arrow. The feathers on my arrow spun twice before hitting the elk in the neck perfectly, cutting off its air. It didn't take long for it to fall. I rushed quietly to it, removing my arrow before it got stuck. This elk was in a good condition, not too much fat or too little meat, its fur could also be used.
I put my arrow away, leaving my sling-shot on the string on my neck so it could be used easily if there was danger. My bow fit perfectly on my shoulder, the string sitting just on top of the strap of my bag so it didn't rub. I slung the elk's carcass onto my shoulder, it was heavy but it didn't slow me at all.
The trees slowly cleared away bringing me into the village, and into reality. The small chalky white, stone buildings cluttered together, only opening out to the market square. It wasn't much of a market square as it was just a few covered tables, but still, it was different for a village this small to even have a market. The market was busy today, so I wouldn't have a problem selling my earlier catches. I found a shaded spot and set up my rug, and I laid out the baby wild hog, squirrels, and fish that I had caught before spotting the elk.
Just as I had finished setting up, a familiar voice greeted me.
"Good Morning Ciara," the heart breakingly beautiful girl beamed.
"As to you Linda, anything taking your fancy?" I replied, Linda always bought something from me, and today I was had a particularly good days hunting.
"Can I take two fish and a squirrel please?" asked Linda, eyeing my collection.
"Sure, do you want to choose which ones you want, or shall I?" I guessed.
"No, no, you can," she said, shaking her head.
I chose for her and passed them over. She took them and put them into her rather expensive looking leather bag. Linda came from the manor house, her father was the village leader, so money was not a problem for them.
"How much for that?" She went on to ask.
"Six Quartza, please." I smiled. She passed over the small gems.
"See you tomorrow," she waved and walked off.
It took me about an hour to sell all that I had wanted to, I packed up what I had left and headed over to the traders from the village to the west. I had been told to buy salt and oregano. These were luxuries to many of the villagers, so I couldn't buy much. It cost about half of the Quartza that I had made selling the meat, leaving the rest for me.
I walked home with the elk slung across my shoulder, and my Quartza and herbs packed away in my bag safely. When I reached home I put the elk straight into a cooled storage space so that it wouldn't go off in the midday heat. I put the salt and oregano into our little herb store in the kitchen, and I put the two left over fish into one of the food drawers.
I headed over to my room, that I shared with Jonelle, who also helped out at home. I put my Quartza into my drawer, locked it, and I hung my bow on the side of the bed. My arrows fit into the gap under my bed, only I knew where they were. I left my sling-shot around my neck and went outside to find out what I had to do next.
"Good morning, Ciara." My boss and guardian, Selwyn, greeted me.
"Good morning to you to." I smiled.
"Good catch this morning?"
"Best for a while, there's an elk in storage"
"Ok, can you go help Jonelle with the milking please." It wasn't a question, just a polite order.
"Sure." I loved my work, it was my life. I started to walk towards the barn.
"Oh and Ciara," I turned and smiled, "Ceryni said he wanted to practise sling, archery and fights with you later."
"Thanks." I called happily as I turned again.
Yes!! I loved practises with Ceryni, because it actually took some brain power to beat him. Of course, there was no chance that I could beat him at sling-shot unless he let me win. I was getting better every time that I practised though. I might eventually get better at it than him.
I just about skipped over to the barn, and went to find Jonelle. Her brown wavy hair, hung to her waist. She sang quietly as she worked, the song wasn't something I recognized so she probably wrote it herself, if she wasn't so shy she would probably be off performing for the royalty in the big city. Yet, here she was, milking cows like me, she could do much better.
I sighed, I could probably do better too, if I knew where I came from. I was found up in the dark mountains - that's what my name means, dark and mountain range. - so I have no idea where I come from. The villagers say I was found just across from the border of the other side when I was seven, no memories, no name and no past. I was placed under the care of the local head farmer, Selwyn, he had looked after me and trained me as a farm hand.
I went off one night, taking the old bow and arrow with me, I had never used it before - not even once - and I came home the next morning, with a large catch. From then on I was the one who caught the meat and went hunting.When I turned 14, I was given a new bow, and it brought me luck. It was the one possession that I cared for. I cherished it and loved it like it had life, it brought me life. Hunting was the time when I could just get away and use my senses and not my mind.
Then there was the rest of my life, farming, cleaning and fight training by day, reading and singing by night. I was happy with my life, it wasn't perfect but it didn't need to be. I had a secret income, that could get me somewhere if I left, but I was happy milking cows.
"Hey Jonelle." I grabbed a stool and found the next cow.
"Morning," she almost sang.
"It's a nice song, I haven't heard it before." I smiled.
"You were listening to me?" I nodded, "Oh...ok...well...I wrote it last night."
"It's really good." I smiled.
"Um, thanks," she smiled back nervously.
We worked, and chatted a bit, we ended up singing about cows because we had nothing better to do. It didn't take long to finish milking the cows, and I knew that Ceryni would be wanting to train soon, so we went off to find some food. Ending up just having some bread and soup, because there wasn't any need to have anything fancy.
Ceryni came in whilst we were eating our food, and sat down at the table, I grabbed him a bowl of soup and some bread. He smiled at me.
"Thanks," he said, diving into the soup.
Jonelle went back to being nervous as she always did around guys. She quickly finished her food and went off to find something else to do.
I also finished, but waited for Ceryni to finish so we could go train. I rolled my eyes at him when he picked up his bowl to drink the last of the soup. Boys! He put his bowl to the side and then looked at me.
I motioned for him to wait and I rushed up stairs to grab my bow and arrows, slung them on my back and rushed back down again, he was still standing by the table.
"Ready to be beaten at everything?" I said, beckoning to the door.
"Everything but sling-shot," he replied.
"We'll have to see about that," I challenged.
I walked out the door and started running, I could hear him following me.
"Where are we training today?" I shouted over my back. Slowing down a little so he could catch up. "Over the hill and far away?"
He laughed, and caught up with me.
"It is over the hill, but it's not far away," he beamed.
"Show me the way..." I laughed.
We continued to run for a few minutes, we ended up in a small valley filled with late blooming flowers, there were a few trees and a small hut. The hut was locked, but Ceryni had a key so he opened it up and brought out two archery targets. He placed them one hundred feet from the shed.
"Which one do you want?" He asked, showing the options.
"The left" I said, taking my spot.
He ran back into the shed and got out his bow and arrows. He then took his spot behind the right target.
"Hit the bullseye each time and I'll give you a ride back, don't hit the bullseye everytime then you give me a ride back, first arrow each is a wind test," he challenged.
"You're on" I smiled, pulling back my first arrow, letting it fly straight into the bullseye. I giggled. No wind, this will be easy. I looked at where his arrow had landed, his wasn't on the bullseye.
I carried on hitting the bullseye with all my arrows, he didn't. I was laughing by the time I was on my last arrow. I watched him take his last shot first.
"If I get this arrow to land on top of the arrow right in the middle one, will you pay for 2 new arrows for me?" I asked, smiling. Although this wasn't something I had practised doing in a while, I still knew how to do it.
"Sure," he smirked.
I set up the last arrow, concentrating on the middle of the target. I took my time pulling the string back, the arrow was ready.
"Ready?" I asked smirking, yet still keeping my eyes locked on the target.
"Ready," he said from somewhere to the side of me.
I released my arrow and watched as it traveled the distance to the target. I heard the noise as it hit the middle arrow - splitting it right down the middle -, I didn't even need to look at the target, I knew it had worked when it left the bow, I felt it. I turned to look at him smirking.
He sighed handing over twenty Quartza. I laughed at his astonished face.
"What is it about you?" he asked sarcastically.
"Not sure, I'm just a hot shot I guess." I laughed.
"Where did you learn to do that?" I rolled my eyes at him.
"You know that I didn't learn how to do it, I just can, I wish I knew where I learned it from, but you've known me as long as I've known myself, so it just happens, alright?" I didn't mean to get annoyed at him, I just did.
"Ciara, you're special you know that." he whispered.
"Special means different, I hate being different," I felt like storming off, but I had nowhere to go.
"I know, I know, but that can't be helped," he said, and I sighed.
"I just wish... I wish I knew who I was," and with that I walked over to take my arrows from the target, putting them back into their container as I went. Ceryni did the same, I looked at him from the corner of my eye, he was watching me.
I finished collecting my arrows leaving the split one and the one that split it till last. Just looking at it made me smile. I pulled it out, leaving the two arrows joined together.
"Present." I said as I passed the arrows over to Ceryni.
He looked at it, fascinated, he ran his large hands over the crack.
"Straight down the middle," he whispered.
"Keep it," I giggled.
He rolled his eyes, but put it in with his arrows. We practised with our sling-shots, he was still slightly better at it than me, but only just. We were about to start fight practise. This was the one that he got annoyed at, because he got beaten by a girl a lot of the time.
We were stood about a meter away from each other, staring at each other. He lunged at me but I dodged neatly out the way. He didn't fall, so we were stood facing each other again. This time I lunged at him, he started stepping to the side but didn't make it all the way across, I caught his side knocking him to the floor, I fell on top of him pinning him to the ground, I looked up at his face, and laughed, he looked as if he was annoyed.
I looked quickly at him, he took my moment of distraction as an advantage and pushed me over, so he was pinning me down. He laughed once, and I pushed up at his chest and scooted back so we were both on the floor but facing each other.
I got up quickly, as he did. He lunged again, but I cartwheeled out the way, before flipping over and facing him again, I had a huge smug grin on my face. I rolled forward knocking his legs out but catching him before his head could smack the ground. he grabbed onto my shirt rolling back on top of me. I started laughing, trying to shove me out the way but he was still on top of me. I knew how to fight him but that would involve hurting him, and probably myself as well, so i just laughed.
He rolled us over one more time so that we were in a deeper patch of soft grass. He had my hands above my head, we must have looked really funny. He smiled at me, looking victorious. I really could have hit him then, because he knew very well that I could have beaten him very easily but I didn't because it would hurt him a lot.
"I win!" he said smugly
"Well played, but I let you win, and you know it," I giggled.
"Yeah right," he smiled at me.
He let go of one of my hands and put it on the side of my face, I gasped and shut my eyes, just feeling, he had never got close to me before. His thumb rubbed light circles on my cheek, my heart beat like crazy. I squeezed my eyes tightly, trying to get me to pretend that I wasn't there.
"Ciara, open your eyes," whispered Ceryni.
It took a moment to control my heart, before I relaxed and slowly opened my eyes, he was looking down at me, smiling. I lost control of my emotions again, and clasped by eyelids shut. My head was spinning, he slowly moved his hand over my face, gently caressing my eyelids. I should have stopped him but I couldn't bring myself to, My arms were frozen anyway.
I was being screamed at from the inside yelling 'not right, not right, NOT RIGHT' but I was locked in the position. His hand froze back on my cheek. I sighed, and opened my eyes. I was scared, for the first time in my life something had scared me, normal people get scared by spiders or the dark, I was scared and it was because of love. I'm sure it was obvious to anyone else, I should have seen it myself. I probably did see it but just overlooked it.
I stared up into his eyes, relaxing, my heart slowly started returning to a more natural and more human pace. I smiled, not caring that my insides were still still yelling at me, and he smiled back. There was a look of hope in his eyes but also of worry. His muddy copper eyes shined in the afternoon sun.
He started to rub circles in my cheek and I sighed, staring into his eyes.
"You're perfect, you know that Ciara, I don't care what anyone else says," he murmured quietly. The words were like gold dust, they shouldn't exist but they did "and I'm sorry, but... I love you."
"Why are you sorry?" I asked quietly.
"Because, I know you, and I know it's not what you are like," he said, staring at me.
"I don't care, or at least I don't think I do," I smiled.
"Can I promise you something then?"
"Do you love me?"
I thought about it for a second, before pushing him off of me and moving to sit down on the grass facing away from him. My eyes filled with tears and I let them overwhelm me, I heard him come over and sit down facing me. I was scared again, making the choice between what my heart wanted me to say, and what my head wanted me to say. Then it clicked, I didn't need to follow my head because that was what I had been taught to do, my heart I had always had, even before I was seven, so I knew what to do, I knew what I had to do.
"Yeah... yeah I love you," I cried.
He pulled me into his lap, and held me whilst I cried. For once I felt like a teenager should do, it felt nice to not be strong, I felt safe in Ceryni's arms even though I was stronger than him. I felt like a normal girl, like someone from the city. He kissed the top of my head, making me smile through the tears.
The crying stopped, eventually. I turned in his lap so I was facing him.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"There's nothing for you to be sorry about," he said, putting his hands on my cheeks, keeping my eyes locked on his, "nothing at all."
He leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine.
This new emotion, love, was stronger than I had read about, it sent shock waves through my body. The shock waves were nice and welcomed by my body. Natural feelings took over and my head shut up for once. His kiss sent the biggest shock wave of all, it moved as if my muscle was no more than air and my bones just the thinnest piece of paper. Yet, it was so comfortable, so peaceful in its movement that I never wanted it to end.
But it did end, he pulled away slowly, opening his eyes and smiling. The love in his eyes was obvious and I'm sure it showed in my eyes too. We matched perfectly. Two fighters, fighting for something we didn't know or could control.
I looked towards the sun, just thinking about love, about how strong it was. About how, out of all the emotions, it can change you so instantly. Like hate, it takes a while, you can't just hate someone without knowing them at all. I guess love isn't instant, you have to like them first, but that can happen without you knowing it.
I turned back around in his lap, and hid under his chin. It was the one time when being short actually helped. I felt comfortable, at home in his arms, I felt as if I was somewhere I could finally fit in. It felt like I could finally know who I was in his arms.
I heard him sigh.
"We need to go, right?" I asked sadly.
"Afraid so," he whispered into my ear.
I sighed, but got up off his lap, and jumped up. I turned around and offered him my hand, he smiled and took it, pulling himself up, but he didn't let go once he had stood up. We walked over to the shed were my arrows were. He didn't bring anything with him, so he was free.
"Do you remember the challenge you made?" I asked smugly.
"Course I do," he rolled his eyes.
I put my bow and arrows over my shoulder and got up onto his back. He set off running towards the farm. Being so short meant that I was light, so Ceryni could still run back. When we got close to the house he set me down, and we walked next to each other.
"What are we going to do about them?" I asked, looking at him.
"I don't know, what do you want to tell them?" he questioned.
"Well, Clara and Jonelle will find out anyway, and when Clara finds out it will be round school in no time at all, you can bet on that," I sighed.
"Still, I think it's best if we don't tell my dad just yet, he's having a hard time since my mother passed away, and i don't think this will help at all," he looked sadly at me.
"Let us see if we can keep your sister quiet then," I smiled softly.
The whole village would find out in no time at all. That's the problem with my best friend and Ceryni's twin sister, Clara, she does nothing but gossip. Gossip, Gossip, Gossip all day, and night.
Yet, we still loved her. She was more like a sister to me than a friend, I had known her as long as I could remember, she was there when they found me when I was seven, she was the one who named me Ciara.
We walked back into the farm side by side, both heading off towards the kitchen to find food, we would be eating the fish tonight because they don't last long. I had never been a good cook, so I wasn't given that job. We reached the kitchen, everyone was there, sitting down at the table.
"Who won the bet this time?" Selwyn Laughed.
"She did...again," Ceryni mumbled, pointing at me.
I laughed, and rolled my eyes.
"Although, he did beat me at sling-shot, but not by much," I said, making him smile.
Clara still hadn't said anything, she must have noticed something between Ceryni and I, or she didn't have anything to say which wasn't normal for her. So my guess is the first option.
"I'm just going to put my bow away, I wont be long," I said, before rushing up to my room.
I got up to my room and shut the door behind me, even from my gentle touch it slammed. Oops! I thought to myself. I put my bow and arrows away in their usual places. I was about to put my Quartza away when I heard the door open so I looked up pushing the bag that Ceryni had given me behind my back.
I sighed when it was Clara who walked through the door, she obviously did notice something. Her strawberry blonde hair, hung dead straight to her waist, and her copper eyes, which were exactly the same colour as her brothers, shined even in the musky light of my room.
"So..." she began.
"Yes?" I asked, wanting to get this over and done with.
"What is going on between you and my brother?" she asked impatiently.
Dammit, damn, damn, damn, damn! How do I start, I knew she would push for information whatever I said, this would get complicated.
"Um...so...why can't you just ask him?" I asked nervously, trying to keep my temper under control.
"I already did," she smiled at me. I sighed, this was a battle I wasn't going to win.
"Ok...what did he tell you?" I inquired.
"He said that he loved you," oh dear, "and that you-"
"I don't want to know," I interrupted.
"-but I've known that he loved you for ages," she smiled.
I rolled my eyes, I loved him too. She could see that, an emotion as strong as love is obvious, to anyone. Like between Linda and her boyfriend.
"Well there isn't much for me to say," I shrugged.
"Ok then," she suddenly got an evil glint in her eye, that would be the plan to tell everyone.
"And if this is round the whole school by tomorrow I will kill you, and you and I both know that I could very easily kill you," I threatened.
"Fine, but we should go back downstairs," she looked defeated, but it would be round school by tomorrow anyway.
"Sure." I smiled, she walked out the door and closed it behind her.
I sighed, thanking the heavens for letting Clara go to Ceryni first, he was better at talking than I was. I'm shy until it comes to a fight, where it all becomes child play.
I quickly put away my Quartza and went back down stairs. I walked to the book shelf picking out something new so that I wouldn't have to make conversation. It was an old book, the pages were yellowed and the binding coming loose. It looked like a good read. I could hear the quiet conversations coming from the Kitchen.
I entered the Kitchen, expecting the conversation to just carry on as I sat back down, and everyone went quiet, I gulped and took my seat. Keeping my eyes on the book. A few moments passed before conversation started again, I noticed it was Ceryni who started talking. I mentally thanked him and carried on reading.
The book turned out to be really good. So I didn't even notice what everyone was talking about, I quite often did this, hiding in my own little world. So when I had to put the book down, because we were eating, I didn't expect the conversation to be about me so I just listened pretending to be concentrating on eating.
"- she was crying and I didn't know what to do... there was no trace of someone living, but I saw something," Selwyn said, I was intrigued, I hadn't heard this story before, or at least this part of it.
"Go on..." It was Clara who spoke that time.
"I don't think that story is right for the dinner table," the rough male voice of one of the farm hands spoke. This made me annoyed because there was something I didn't know about, and by the sounds of it, it was something bad.
After that we ate in silence, my head was drawn to the fact that Selwyn said something and not someone, and I didn't know what that meant. It could mean that it was someone that was so damaged and torn apart that they no longer looked human, it could mean that it was an animal or it could be something worse.
I put my dish in by the sink, and sat on the small sofa next to the old fireplace, I took my book with me. It was warm and comfy by the fire so my head had no way to wonder. I found myself in the world of the book, my heart beat raced when the main character's did, and i smiled when they smiled.
"What you reading?" Ceryni's voice made me jump. I looked up from the book and sighed, he rolled his eyes and sat on the sofa next to me. There was only space for two people on the sofa, so it felt cozy and comfortable.
"It's called 'a whisper and a Knight's tale', and it's really good," I smiled, saying the name of the book in an elegant upper-class tone. He laughed. He pulled me into his lap, and wrapped his arms around me.
"But..." I asked panicked.
"It's alright, they know," he said, rubbing circles on my hand.
"Who?" I questioned, although the answer was obvious.
"My sister," he grumbled, chuckling.
"And they don't care?" I was puzzled, they should care.
"Well my father is a little annoyed but there isn't much he can do," he kissed the top of my head.
We chatted, and read, and then chatted some more. He was distracting whilst reading though, trying to read more like. He kept reading it quietly into my ear, except he was reading a different bit to the part I was reading so I got confused and gave up.
It soon got dark anyway so we headed up to our rooms, I lay on top of my bed, thinking about the day, from the window in my room I could see all the way across to the mountains, the moon lit the view enough to make out the peaks. Suddenly I saw a tiny orange dot on the horizon, which must have been a flame. Something was coming, and I had the strangest of feelings that it was coming for me.