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The Valley of Humanity – Part 17

June 16, 2016

They climbed the steadily rising ground through the trees, moving up the side of the slope from Corren Wood. The rain smashed into the canopy above, masking most of the other sounds around them; and with any luck, thought Kele, their own noise. They followed a muddy trail that wound through firs and disappeared behind the shrubs and stumps and fallen trees that covered the ground. They kept low, as Drala had told them, and Kele kept an eye on their surroundings in case anyone had followed them to shore. It wasn’t long before firs became entangled with the giant Corren trees, and eventually were swallowed by the towering wood. Drala stopped in her tracks, then signalled Kele and Drath to do the same. They waited. After a short while Drala started moving forwards – she quickly held up a hand to stop the other two from following her – and disappeared amongst the bushes. Kele and Drath looked at each other quizzically.

Drala crept through the soaking woods. It was darker now and grey clouds hovered beyond the dark green roof above. Water from the rain dripped down the branches of the humongous trees and in turn, scattered onto the green littered floor; it was calming and eerie all at the same time. How did I get caught up in this mess? Drala questioned internally as she expertly climbed over a half-buried tree root. It was slimy and pieces of bark stuck to her hands as she crawled over the top and jumped down the other side, landing in a crouched position. She took a look at her new surroundings. It was an area where she knew there would be hunters ready to ambush them, and sneaking Kele and Drath through here without running into someone was going to prove difficult. She had been hesitant about Drath joining them, thought he would slow her down, but leaving Kele on his own in the wilderness would have been an incredibly dangerous thing to do. So far Drath had proven trustworthy and useful. Kele has a good sense of who to trust, but I wish I could tell him the truth... She shook the thoughts from her mind, reminding herself of where she was and the tasks ahead. She heard noises suddenly through the pattering of the rain. She kept low and took out her crossbow, it was ready and loaded. She checked her blade; it would easily unsheathe in the heat of a moment. The sounds – a rustle of leaves, the feint crunch of dying plants crushed underfoot – were getting closer and she counted at least three around her. Drala readied herself; fighting two was difficult enough, she knew missing the first shot was not an option. There was the matter however, of whether or not these ‘stealthy’ beings were the enemy or not, and she contemplated if she should try to negotiate should the need arise. It was when she took a step forwards that without warning her surroundings suddenly burst to life, three figures jumped into view; one had sprung from behind a tree directly in front of her, crossbow drawn, aimed at her head. The other two had jumped up from behind bushes either side of the female about five paces away; weapons held ready by everyone. The hunter’s faces were cold and tinged with caution. ‘Where is he Drala?!’ the one with the crossbow spoke. She recognised him. Hyde he was called, one of the eastern outpost guards who occasionally worked as a lookout on one of the tower huts. Drala felt a sudden burst of anger, ‘Why’d you side with him, what did he promise you, Hyde? Quite pathetic really, hunting down a boy, only a few years past a cub,’ she said. Hyde’s face remained blank, like the others. ‘I won’t ask you again, Drala, you’re… you were one of the most respected of us. If you give him up now you won’t be considered a traitor.’ Drala took a long deep breath, glanced at the hunters on either side of her, then looked hard and coldly into Hyde’s eyes. ‘As far as I’m concerned Hyde, you and these idiots are the traitors,’ she said, and with unmatched speed she raised her crossbow and pulled the trigger.

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