Isabella Ch. 02bymasked_maiden©
After their first meeting Rafa came to Isabella's place every other day; He watched over Isabella and even helped her by hunting for her. His knowledge of the forest made it easy to find the prey. It was also easy for him to take aim with his bow as he kept pace with the deer that he hunted; his long horse legs covered the same long strides. As Rafa spent more time with Isabella he started to wonder about her. There seemed to be an aurora around her, it felt as if there was magic in the air around her. He could feel it in the air the same way he had felt it when the Elves had placed the protective stones around the village. That thought brought the elves to mind; he had avoided them every time they came to the village. His tribe had been allies with the elves since before Rafa's grandfather was even born but the thin elegant grace that they moved with made him uneasy especially since he had seen them in battle. They had come and helped his tribe the last time the Werewolves attacked. He had made it one of his life missions to never cross an elf. But he still noticed them when they came to visit his king.
Rafa and Isabella had made a small lean-to against a large boulder with some branches and vines so they could be together without having to be in the house which made Rafa feel boxed in. Rafa had covered it with vines so that it blended in with the surrounding forest. Rafa had noticed that Isabella had made a crude mark on the rock that made one of the inside walls. Rafa also had the feeling that he had seen the mark somewhere before, but couldn't remember where. As they went inside for their supper Rafa held aside the vines letting Isabella slip inside first. She showed her appreciation by running her hand over the long hair that hung down between his front legs to hide his genitals. He smiled and followed her inside the lean-to. He turned and laid down so he could hold her to him as they ate and watched the sunset. Rafa had gotten use to the peace and quiet that always surrounded Isabella. Isabella had raised her hand to fill his mind with another of her wonderful visions.
Then Rafa straightened up and gently held her by the wrists. Isabella knew from his body language that he had heard something that was out of the ordinary. So she moved out of his arms quietly and moved to the side letting him have a clearer view through the vines. Soon ten men on horseback came into view. Rafa had his hand on the hilt of his sword ready to draw it, if he needed to. The uniforms the men were wearing were faded and in rags. The stench of stale sweat and beer coming off of them was over powering and made Isabella nauseas. They stopped as the leader turned his mount to speak to his men. Isabella saw his face and moved farther into the shadows causing Rafa to give her a questionable look. He was taken aback by the pure fear that showed on her face. He looked back at the men.
A man as wide as he was tall was the first to speak out. "How much farther?" he whined.
"Just a few more minutes and we'll be there." Their leader snapped at him
"Then why are we stopping now? Especially if this girl is as special as you say she is." Said a thin man from the back; this man had the look of someone calculating his chances.
"I just wanted to remind you all, she is a treasure and like any other treasure she is well protected. She can't speak but she has been given many other talents. She is the daughter of a king and the king will make us all rich when we return her from her kidnappers. Also remember that two of the best warriors of our time took her 15 years ago, they will not just hand her over. They might have aged but I doubt that they have forgotten how to fight."
"I just hope she's worth all the trouble we've had so far and are supposedly going to have getting her out of there."
"Why are you grumbling? I've paid you each a small fortune to get her and the king will give you more. That's all there is to say, so it's time to move out."
The men continued on, Rafa looked back at Isabella. She quickly touched his temple. She showed a picture of the older couple.
"You want to go and help them?"
She nodded her head and started to walk out of the lean-to. Rafa got up and grabbed her by the waist.
"I'll go, and you stay here and wait where it is safe. I know it will make you sad, but I could move on if they died, if I lost you I'd die too."
She smiled, leaned up and kissed him goodbye, her eyes were a dark brown with worry. Rafa looked behind him once, just to make sure she was well hidden. He then raced though the forest and up the hill. By the time he got to the cottage the attack was well underway. Rafa charged though the door that had been ripped off of its leather hinges. Rafa was momentarily amazed at the old couple. He had thought them frail but now he could see that, while yes they had aged and obviously had been sick lately, they were strong and their fighting was so fast they almost looked like two blurs of light. It was as if Rafa had seen their fighting style before but he wasn't able to think about that as he cut down three of the men before they even knew he was there. The man that Isabella had taken care of took notice of Rafa but was too busy fighting two of the men to take any action against him. When a third tried to attack the old man from behind, Rafa took action. Rafa quickly threw his dagger at the man. The old man turned just in time to see the man fall to the floor with the dagger sticking out of his chest. He looked over at Rafa and nodded acknowledging that he understood that Rafa was on his side.
The old man then quickly pointed behind Rafa before he was attacked again. One of the men had gotten behind Rafa and was about to put a blade through his chest, but before Rafa could even move the man was knocked to the side as Isabella charged into him. It caused his sword to go off mark and just cut along Rafa's side. Rafa quickly sliced the man's chest open. As his body fell he knocked over a stand of candles into the curtains, setting the dried logs of the house ablaze. Rafa looked to make sure Isabella was ok but was startled as his eyes meet hers; they were a cold burning black fury that scared him. With the fire climbing the wall behind her she looked like an avenging angel. The old man was instantly next to Rafa, throwing a blanket over Isabella.
"Here take her," the old man said kissing her on the forehead, "Keep her safe from them. Since you're hurt you'll have to be careful not to come in contact with her skin until you are in a safe place. You'll understand later. Now get out of here. We'll keep them occupied."
Rafa quickly and carefully picked Isabella up as he ran full speed out of the cottage. He was going to take her back to his tribe then he'd bring others to help once she was safe. He had just passed into the woods when an arrow whistled past him. Unfortunately, the next arrow, shot by the leader as he raced his horse alongside Rafa, found its mark in Rafa's side causing him to slowdown. The leader jumped off his horse in front of Rafa. Rafa set Isabella to the side, and as he did the leader slashed at him with a dagger. It cut across his chest but it wasn't deep. Rafa tried to draw his sword only to have a fiery feeling explode in his chest from the cut.
"Feeling that burn horse boy? That's poison; I have the antidote and it's all yours if you hand her over. After all she's nothing to you." "Never!" Rafa groaned as he tried to clear his head of the pain.
The man lunged at Rafa only to be brought short as Isabella shoved Rafa's sword into his chest. She pulled it back out and with both hands on the hilt swung it, sending the man's head rolling into the woods. She then readjusted the blanket over her head and shoulders, leaning into Rafa as he leaned on her for support, they slowly moved farther into the forest. They finally stopped when Isabella found a place between the stream and a boulder where Rafa could rest. Rafa fell to the ground with none of his usual grace. His breathing was ragged and had a rattling that worried Isabella. Even in the weak moonlight she could see that he had a pale and fevered look to him. His veins were starting to show like rivers in a delta, but they were an unnatural black color. She knew there was little she could do but she knew she needed to slow the poison. She started to look for plants to help him when she heard hooves moving thought the forest. In her fear she grabbed Rafa's sword again and placed herself between the sound and Rafa. She just about sighed with relief when seven Centaurs came through the forest. The moonlight showed that three of them had similar features as Rafa, although they were all older than him.
Toni, one of the newly arrived centaurs, looked past Isabella to Rafa then back to her as he let out a roar that scared her. He then charged at her thinking that she had hurt Rafa. When she sidestepped him she brought the sword up. It cut his arm as he ran by. She quickly dropped the sword and grabbed onto his arm. Toni immediately tried to pull away from the burning of her hand that was on his arm, but he found that it was as if her hand was fussed to him. Soon the burning cooled and a clam came over him. She removed her hand and stepped back once again putting herself between Him and Rafa. She bent her one knee slightly and held her hands slightly away from her sides with her palms up. Trying to show them that she meant no harm, but that she wasn't going to leave Rafa either. Toni looked for the cut on his arm, but it wasn't there. He looked at her again and saw the cut forming on her arm. She very slowly and hesitantly reached up to a branch above her, as soon as she touched it there was a loud snap as it broke away from the tree. Toni reached over and picked it up. The break was so clean it was as if it was made by a sword. He looked back to her in wonder.
He noticed that her breathing was slightly faster and that her eyes had a tired look about them. She locked eyes with him and reached out to him with her palm up. He stepped closer; she reached up to his temple. She quickly showed him the events of the night. When she broke the connection he clearly saw how tired she had become.
"She was trying to defend him. She means us no harm."
"She is a sorcerer, she can't be trusted. I say we kill her for what she has obviously done to Rafa," said a centaur who was staring at Rafa as if he was the only thing in the world.
"No we'll tie her up. We'll take her with us." A centaur that was standing slightly in front of the others said.
When Toni started to say something his objections were cut off.
"Once Rafa is awake we will ask him. If he doesn't awaken then there is no need for her and she will be executed as guilty. You two tie Rafa up between you so we can get him back, perhaps Nat will know how to save him. You run ahead so Nat will know that we are coming. Sebastián you stay by my side so we may talk."
"Yes Juan Carlos."
Toni leaned forward and grabbed Isabella's hands. "I'm sorry about this." He chuckled slightly as she just smiled back at him. "By the way my name is Antonio but everyone calls me Toni." He then helped her get on his back so she could ride him back. She notice that the centaur that was walking with the leader, Juan Carlos, kept giving Toni a glair for helping her out, she placed the palm of one of her hands on Toni's cheek and showed him the centaur's glair. "Oh him, the one on Rafa's right? That is his father Sebastián. I can understand him being mad at you; he will accept you after Rafa is better. The one in front of them is our king Juan Carlos. He can be ruthless when it comes to protecting the tribe, but he is fair when it comes to trials so if your innocent don't be afraid." Toni moved nervously as a thought came to him. "But if you are guilty this is the only promise I can make to you and keep" Toni looked over his shoulder at Isabella so she could see that it hurt him to say what he felt he had to say. "If you are found guilty I will ask to be the one to execute you. I promise I will make it a quick and painless death; there are others in our tribe that would drag out your death for days." At this Isabella looked at Sebastián and knew who Toni meant. "I know it is a poor repayment for healing me but it is all I can do." She just put her tied hands on his shoulder and gently squeezed it to show him that she understood that he was trying to be kind. The centaurs made quick time in getting back to the tribe.
Isabella caught a glimpse of the medicine woman. Nat was standing outside of her long house waiting for them but, before she could even feel any relief at seeing her old friend, Sebastián who was the one who had wanted to kill her shoved Isabella off of Toni. As Isabella hit the cold hard ground he spoke to Toni. "You disgrace yourself Toni by letting the woman who murdered your nephew ride on you!" "I don't think she murdered him and besides I thought you wanted to get here fast. How fast would we have gotten here with her stumbling around in the woods trying to sit when she hurt her feet?" Sebastián could see that there was wisdom in what Toni had said so he quit fighting with Toni and shoved Isabella back down as she had gotten to her knees and was trying to stand up. He dragged her by her hair into a side hut. He tied her to the pole that stood in the center of it. She whimpered at his ruff handling. He grabbed her hair and slammed her head back against the pole.
"If my son dies so do you." He left and heard him call two centaurs over to watch the hut.
She hung her head in a moment of hopelessness. She saw a woman enter the hut carrying a pail of water. Isabella was relieved at the thought of a drink that she felt hopeful for a moment. Until the woman dumped the cold water over Isabella "Why should you be comfortable as my son dies." with that the woman left too. Isabella shivered as she watched the woman head out of the hut. She wanted to sit and cry at the injustice of her treatment and her fear at losing Rafa. But she couldn't let herself give into those feelings; she had to get free to get to Rafa.
First she tried to untie the knots but they were too well tied for her to even understand them. So she focused on the small cut she had on her arm from when she healed Toni. She had purposely had kept part of the cut left her arm in case she needed the energy that healing the cut would produce. She focused hard as she forced the energy from the cut to the ropes. As they gave way she stumbled into the mud. She started smearing it on her face and arms so that her pale skin in the bright moon light wouldn't give her away. She walked quietly out the door of the hut. Her two guards where young, and had foolishly positioned themselves a good foot from the door and were deeply engrossed in a game of some kind. She quickly went around the side of the hut and moved behind the next longhouse.
There was a thick wool blanket hanging on a cloths line allowing the excess dye to drain from it. She grabbed it and placed it over her head and shoulders to look more like she belonged to this village. She moved back to the front of the longhouses. She hesitated as she saw the two guards look in her direction, but they just went back to playing their game. She moved as quickly as she dared to, but if she ran they would know something was up. She recognized Nat's hut and pushed aside the leather flap that served as a door in the village. She was sure that she had found the right house even, from behind she recognized Toni amongst the group of centaurs. When their impatient shifting caused a gap, Isabella saw Rafa. The two centaurs that had half carried half dragged Rafa were trying to lay him down gently but his stiff legs made it hard. He ended up in an uncomfortable looking heap. They placed his head on a chair and had his shoulders leaning against it to try and ease the difficulties he was having with his breathing. Isabella's heart sank at how terrible he looked. His skin was now a fearful looking grayish-blue. She took two quick steps before she stopped herself. She instead moved along the wall hoping to catch Nat's eye. Nat was in a heated argument with the leader of the centaurs.
"I can't do anything for him. I'm sorry. Do you think I'm enjoying watching him die?"
"I just can't understand you saved the young colt Ryan from the poison berries last summer. And me from that fever the year before surely this can't be worse than those berries?" Juan Carlos pleaded.
"I told you, Apolo helped me then. And for the poison berries we had a little extra help." A guilty look washed over Nat's face.
"What do you mean by 'extra help'!? You know no strangers are allowed in the village!"
"Apolo brought her. I don't know what she did, all I know is we left her alone in here and when she knocked for us to come in he was better; she looked terrible and refused to let us touch her. Apolo lead her to the poison berry bush, and when she turned back around she looked better, but tired and the bush was dead. Apolo then took her back to where ever he got her. You know, Apolo and I would never break that law but it was needed to save a life. Apolo also said that she would become a member anyway so it didn't matter if she knew of us."
"Fine, then where is Apolo? We'll help him get her again."
"Apolo said something was coming and he needed a quieter place to contemplate the stars. I have no idea where he is. I love him and I refuse to make him answer to me every time he leaves. You know that. Besides you know it is against the law to try and restrain the tribe's star seer. And before you ask I have no idea where she is. I wish I did."
At this point Isabella picked up a spoon from Nat's now cold dinner and tapped it hard against the table. When everyone looked several things happened at once. Nat's face went from complete hopelessness to unbridled joy. Rafa's father drew his sword and reared up going for the attack of the woman who had killed his son. Nat quickly moved between Isabella and him.
"You can't kill her Sebastián."
"I have every right to kill her! She's the one who did this to my son. She's an escaped prisoner, by law she can be killed on sight."
"She didn't kill your son. You will if you kill her though. Juan Carlos, this is the girl who we were just talking about. Grant her a reprieve till we can sort this all out. I can't believe that she hurt him."
"Ok, if she can save him we'll put her on trial. If he dies so does she."
"Fine," Sebastián spat. "But I will not watch as my son dies at her hand." He stomped out of the longhouse.
Isabella rubbed some of the mud off of her fingers and pressed them against Nat's face.
"Toni, Isabella trusts you. She wants you to stay but wants everyone else to leave. Well at least to step outside."
"I'm sorry Nat. I think we should all stay," Juan Carlos said.
Isabella sighed but nodded.
"She understands. No Isabella, that plant isn't used in healing I just like the Wandering Jude's colors, why?" There was a moment of silence and Isabella continued to show Nat what she needed.
"Ok, let's get started." Nat walked over to a pail of water in the corner. She poured some into a bowl and as almost a second though poured two cups. Isabella quickly went over to the table and draped the blanket over the chair so she could wash her hands in the bowl.
"Sorry it's so cold." But everyone in the room could see that Isabella's moves were speeding up as she kept shooting looks over at Rafa as if she was panicking. Nat cut two long vines off of the plant and put them in one of the cups of water. Isabella looked at her uncertainly.
"So I can plant a new one in case we need it again," Nat replied.
Isabella nodded as she walked over to the hanging plant. She pulled it down and started to wrap one of the vines around her right hand making loop over loop. When she seemed satisfied she touched Nat's face again.