Possess Me Ch. 17bytitania123©
Here is the epilogue you have all been waiting for. Now, as a warning, this isn't a true epilogue, which I think of as typically only a few pages in summative form that gives the reader an idea of how certain things worked out after the story. Instead, I was inspired by a few new characters and basically wrote a chapter in their lives, as well as Brynna and Malik and all in his castle. Hopefully, it is satisfying, and not too frustrating.
Thank you again for your continued encouragement! As always, comments and votes are most welcome.
Since this is in a new category, I will reiterate to newcomers that this is the end of a story, so you may wish to read the other chapters first. Be fair-warned!
Her blue eyes focused unblinking on his fingers as they worked to bend the rod into a bow, attaching the taut string to the other end. The wood groaning in protest, she squinted in nervous anticipation, fearful that the staff he had painstakingly whittled would snap under the force he applied to it. Her breath held as he pulled just...a little...more.
"There!" he exclaimed triumphantly as the loop slid past the end of the bow and fell securely into the notches he cut there.
Her face immediately lit, her eyes shining in enthusiasm and pride. She watched with barely contained excitement as he pulled the string back and let it 'thoing' back into place, humming sharply as it did so.
"You did it, Holt!"
"I told you, miss, my pa taught me well."
"And the arrows?" she giggled.
"In my quiver, here," he said, pointing to the parcel attached to his back. "Had to make them special 'cause my bow is too small for pa's arrows. Hope they fly true," he mumbled, as if to himself.
"They will, I am sure of it," she encouraged, her faith in him evident in the shining of her deep blue eyes set in her pretty pale face with the pinked cheeks. Her breath was a white cloud as she smiled at him.
Holt breathed some moments before looking around. The bailey was covered in the first snow of the year, and slow and fat flakes drifted about them from the dark gray sky, and no one was about the empty yard to instruct them. He turned back to her, "Shall we, then?" a sly grin on his lips.
She bit her red lips, eyes widening at his offer. "Really? You'll take me hunting?"
"'Course. Now, minding that you don't go and scare the game."
"I won't. I promise. I shall be as quiet as a mouse stealing crumbs from the cat," she whispered in example.
He turned from her then and nodded in his direction as he went. Dressed in their warm, wool clothing, they trudged through the snow that was only deep enough to cover their toes. They walked through the large gate in the great wall and headed towards the darkened woods.
Their feet found slightly easier passage as the snow hadn't fallen as deeply in the woods, the ground there having been protected by the many tangled limbs high above.
Holt, ever ready, had his newly made bow in hand, an arrow nocked and ready to loose. "Holt, have you ever gotten game before?"
"Yes, rabbits many times, but my bow wasn't strong enough to kill the deer. Pa had to finish it off as it ran."
"You father is a good hunter," she commented, trying to praise him any way she could.
"Yes, he's the best, my pa."
"Yes, but I'm certain one day you shall be ever the best. I know it."
Holt puffed up a little larger at her words, but gave a shrug, as if to answer that was yet to be determined by fate and he had no say in it.
They travelled into the forest, the massive gray castle eventually blotted out by the dark trees. Now buried in the weald as they were, heading for signs of their prey, the two breathed in delicate anticipation, allowing the soft sounds of snowflakes hitting the trees above to be the only sounds around them.
"Look, miss, and it is about time," he commented at the paw prints in the mud and snow.
"Tracks, where?" she asked, coming to stand next to him, searching over the ground for what his trained eyes saw. "Where?" she asked again when she could not see them.
"There," he whispered, pointing out the faint indentions.
"Are you sure? Maybe they're just...I don't know," she said with a side tilt of her head, a frown of thoughtfulness bending her lips down.
"Yes, trust me."
"If you say so. So what is it, then?"
"'Pears to be rabbit, and a big one, at that." He looked up and scanned the brush they were nearing. He turned back to her and held a finger over his lips to communicate the need for silence. She nodded in acquiescence and followed as quietly as possible behind him, looking eagerly for their kill.
When they at last reached the bramble he thought the rabbit to be hiding in, Holt drew his arrow back, the sound of the taut string rubbing the wood of his bow. His stance widened and steadied, his eyes piercing through the bush. Slowly and carefully, he lifted a foot and rustled the brush with it. A lightly brown-colored rabbit darted from its hiding, cutting frantically away from the intruder.
Helena did not even see the arrow as he loosed it without hesitation on the fleeing hare. She heard a squeak from the animal just before Holt bolted over the bush and leapt towards it where it lay hiding on the other side of a small mound of dirt and snow. Her eyes trained upon him, desperate to see. He bent down and quickly pulled up the dead rabbit, the arrow sticking through its chest.
She tensed up, both in glee at his prowess and a surprising revulsion at seeing the dead animal. She knew if she touched it that it would still be warm, though its heart no longer beat. Her smile faltered when she looked at its eyes, open and peering, but she knew, not seeing. She wanted Holt to save her from the sudden uncomfortable sadness she felt, but as she looked at him, seeing his pride in his work, she knew she could not ask him to comfort her against his own actions. Helena returned his smile, trying not to cry for the poor rabbit.
He approached her, his kill held high, his smile bright and enthusiastic. She could tell he wanted more than her smile in return. "Y-you did well. I was very much impressed with your skill. Your aim, and I dare say, your arrow, was true, just as I told you it would be," she congratulated her friend.
"You really think so?" he asked, an almost embarrassed blush coming to his cheeks.
"Yes, of course. One day, you will be the best huntsman, I know." There was a moment of pause, neither knowing what could or should be said. She broached their shared silence. "Do you intend to hunt more, or shall we return?"
"Well..." he said, a deeper blush creeping over his cheeks.
After his pause, she prodded him. "Well, what?"
"It's only...I wanted to show you my bow."
She looked at him, waiting for him to explain. "Well, you could have shown it to me back at the keep. Why did-" but then she understood, he had to show her, not only the bow he was able to craft, but that he was able to use it competently. "So, does that mean we can return, now that I've seen how well you can use it?" she asked gently.
His mouth was twisted as he tried to hide his smile, but his dancing eyes betrayed his modest pride. He nodded quickly, and together, they turned and headed in the direction they came.
"Shall you like to learn?" he asked after a time.
"Learn? To hunt or make a bow?" she asked, smiling.
"To hunt, of course. Though, if you would like, I can teach you to make a bow, too. But I don't think you would enjoy it. Takes too much quiet time."
"But if you can do it, then I can do it."
"That's not really true," he gently rebuffed.
"Why not?" she asked, slightly offended.
"Well, because I'm a boy. I'm stronger and faster, and probably smarter, too. I understand the importance of hard work, whereas you..." he said, hiding his smile at his joke.
Helena stopped immediately, her hands on her hips. "Take that back. That's not true, and you know it. I can do anything you can. I'm just as smart, even though I'm a girl."
Holt would not give up his joke so easily. He twisted his head in an uncertain tilt. "I'm not so sure. Look at how much better I am at reading than you, and your mama began teaching you a whole year before pa said she could teach me, too. A whole year, and I'm already better."
"You're also a year older."
"But reading isn't the only thing. I bet you couldn't even survive a day outside your nice, warm castle. Whereas I could live here in the woods long as I want."
"No you couldn't. You'd be afraid of the dark."
"Am not. 'Sides, even if I was, I can always kill anything and protect myself. You can't even make a bow."
"You couldn't kill that deer, and it didn't mean you no harm."
"Yeah, well, I'm also a better rider than you. Even your own pa says how good I am," he puffed proudly.
"Yeah, but you've been riding a lot longer. Mama wouldn't let me ride until my last birthday. That isn't really fair.
"Fair or not-" their banter stopped when a sound echoed through the empty spaces of the trees. Their eyes were wide as their brains tried to make sense of what their ears had registered.
"Holt," she whispered with her white cloud breath, "what was that?"
"I...I don't know." He swallowed, his eyes scanning between the trunks of the trees. "Probably just a bird, or a rabbit dodging into its hole."
At the mention of the rabbit, Helena's eyes drifted down to his kill. He had removed the arrow, and blood poured out of both sides of the wound. She watched it drip, drip, drip onto the white ground. Her eyes slowly trailed back the along the red drippings that marked the path they had taken. And then she froze, stunned by springing fear.
"H-h-holt," she barely managed to breathe out.
He turned at her fearful cry to see two dark wolves step into view some twenty or thirty yards away. They were sniffing the ground, following the trail of blood that ended at the two children's feet.
"Miss," he breathed in return.
The two predators looked up and spied the boy and girl, their shoulders hunching in menace as they began stalking towards them.
"Miss, when I tell you to...run. Understand? Run back as fast as you can to the castle."
"B-but, I'm not certain of the way," she said, her voice filling with tears.
"It's just straight ahead. Just go straight, we're almost there, another five minutes or so."
"Mmm..wh-what about you?" her voice quivered.
"I'll be right behind you, even if you can't see me. So don't stop for me, understand? Don't stop, just keep going. Got that? Now, get ready," he said, mustering all the courage he had, his focus homing in on the two stalking beasts. He lifted the rabbit, their eyes trained upon it, and as he went to toss it at them, he shouted, "Run!" while reaching back for a bow from his quiver.
His unpracticed hands shook as they fumbled for the feeling of feathers. Grasping, he plucked at them, but grabbed too many, causing several to spill onto the ground. The wolves leapt forward for the carcass, tearing at it with their teeth. But the one that lost out, quickly returned back to their previous target.
Holt finally readied an arrow, nocking it to the string, pulling back and letting it fly. Unfortunately, the arrow curved down and hit the ground at the wolf's feet. It jumped, only for a second, but sniffing and knowing the arrow was nothing, turned its gaze back to the young lad. Its growl had begun, rumbling into the cold air.
Holt managed a second arrow and loosed it, this time, hitting the creature in its shoulder. Though it was wounded, the first wolf finished the rabbit and turned its attention to him as well. Holt knew he could last no longer and turned and ran.
Helena was disappearing into the woods in front of him, and for a split second he thought he should go another direction so as not to lead the wolves to her. But then she shrieked out in fear, and though she was no longer in his sight, he darted through the cold forest towards her.
His name was on her lips as a third wolf jumped into the path, headed straight for her. She turned sharply to her right, scrambling away from the new attacker. She was calling for Holt, afraid the animals would get her, but equally afraid they had already gotten him. And then she saw it.
A fallen tree with its massive trunk broken down, angling to the ground. Without a second thought, she scampered up it, the leather soles of her shoes slipping on the damp bark. She managed to elevate herself above the ground, but slipped painfully to her knees when the animal at her heels managed to bite the hem of her skirt and pull her back. Thankfully, the material gave way, shredding in the slobbering mouth of the wild beast. She scurried quickly out of reach, panting in relief and fatigue.
She managed to climb onto a large, strong limb of an adjacent tree and sat back attempting to catch her breath. The wolf circled below her, its snarl rising in animosity at her, sending ripples of chills up and down her spine. She looked about and saw a little limb. Pulling on it until it snapped, she chucked it down, aiming to hit the wolf. Though she was successful, it did little to deter the beast from her.
On its hind legs, its front paws stretched for her, scratching cruelly into the bark, the grating sound sending chills into her terrified soul. Occasionally, it jumped, snapping its ferocious teeth at her. And then it whimpered as it fell to its side. It lifted its head, meaning to stand once more, but fell in a great jolt upon the ground as a second arrow pierced its chest, whimpering sadly at its wounds. And then Holt ran up the fallen tree just as Helena had.
"Holt!" she cried in great relief. "I was so afraid they had eaten you! How could you have left me! You made me run by myself!" she cried out, tears streaming down her terror-stricken face.
"Shshsh," he tried to soothe, as he too settled on the branch. He placed an arm around her so she could cry into his shoulder. And then she heard more growls.
"Did you not kill them?"
"I tried," he said, his breath panting from his run.
Helena looked down fearfully at the two wolves circling about. One had an arrow sticking from a front shoulder. The other, a larger, darker one, was leaping up at them, snapping its teeth.
"Shoot it! Shoot them!" she shrieked fearfully at him.
"I can't. I don't have any more arrows," he replied miserably.
"What? What are we going to do?"
He held her tighter, violently shaking his head. Why hadn't he listened to his father? His dad had told him, though he had refused to believe, there were wolves in the forest and it was dangerous for him to go by himself, even if he could use a bow and arrow. But he had wanted to show her, had wanted to impress her and see her eyes light up for him.
"I don't know," he said at last. And then he heard her strangled cry.
"What are we going to do?" she cried despondently.
He couldn't allow her to be so defeated. "We will wait. They will soon grow bored with us and they'll leave. They won't stay long. And then I can climb down and get my arrows out of that one there. We'll be safe. And besides, my pa will come. When we're not back for our lessons, or for our suppers, they'll know, and they'll come for us. My pa will come for us." But his words did not stop her tears.
He held her even more tightly, feeling her slight frame shiver in his arms. He attempted to soothe her, to quiet her distress, and eventually, whether from his attempts or her own fatigue, Helena stopped crying and simply leaned into him, all the while, the beasts circled below.
They did not seem content with simply leaving, and though they could not reach the children, stayed as the winter night darkened and evening settled upon them. Helena heard Holt's stomach growl, and she chuckled.
"Your stomach's growl is almost as fierce as theirs," she whispered with a melancholy smile in her voice.
He gave a sad smile, too, before answering. "I bet I could eat just as much, too." She laughed at that.
"I miss your mother's food," she whispered. "She said she would make me a tart tonight, as it was the first snow. Cherries, I think she said. Will your father come for us?"
He nodded emphatically, "And your's, too. And he'll be right mad, too, I wager."
"Don't worry," she said quietly, tiredness setting in, "I won't let him do anything to you." Her eyes closed in drowsiness when his arms tightened about her.
"Thank you," he whispered, watching the black figures below them disappear into the dark of the night. He knew they were still down there, could hear their breathing and occasionally see their luminescent eyes glow.
My pa will come for us. Pa will come, he thought to himself as his own tired eyes began closing. And for a moment, peace and rest found him, and held him securely against the dark and evil things. And then his eyes shot open. His reaction startled her, and she, too, stirred awake.
"What is it, Holt?"
"Our pa's. They'll come for us, but they won't just find us, the wolves are still here. The wolves...they'll attack them."
Helena, though she could not see Holt's face, bit her lip and looked pleadingly at him. "Then what? What can we do?"
Something sounded in the distance. They paused, their ears strung tight to hear the sound once more. In the quiet they strained themselves, even their breaths holding.
And then they heard them. They were distant still yet, and the direction from which they came was unknowable. But Holt recognized his father's voice, calling his name, calling her name. And then there was his voice. Lord Blackwood yelling into the darkness for his daughter.
A glow was forming from their right, but the many trees swallowed it up. The wolves, Holt could hear, were beginning to stir, begin to rise at the sound, or perhaps smell of something new.
"Pa!" Holt shouted. "Pa, wait, wolves! Pa! There are wolves here!" he called loudly in warning.
"Holt!" Brom shouted back, the light from his torch growing stronger as he wove through the trees towards them.
"Wolves, Pa, wolves!"
Below them on the cold ground, the two wolves, now fully roused were torn between their treed prey and the sound of newcomers. And then Holt spied the flame of the torches and could see the golden outline of three men riding toward them. From his vantage point, he could see them dismount and fidget in the bushes between them and the children. And then the torches seemed to multiply from two to three, then five.
Slowly, the men crept forward, the wolves now very curious and becoming more illuminated by the growing light. Suddenly, a torch was flung forward, landing near the base of the tree the children sat in, lighting a small area. The wolves naturally dodged away, but circled back, not yet afraid enough to relinquish their quarry.
Another branch with an end burning brightly fell to the ground, hemming the wolves between the two lights, now effectively radiating enough glow to see the two prowling creatures. Only the sound of thin rope tauting against wood served as warning before arrows rained down upon them, filling their hides with holes.
Helena hid her face tightly into Holt's shoulder, trying to squeeze out the sound of the murderous thuds the arrows made from impacting their would-be attackers. When the dead animals were riddled well, the three men rushed forward.
"Daddy?" she called, tears rising in her voice. She turned from her protector to peer down in the glowing darkness. She saw the familiar figure of her father rush below them, looking up at her.
Malik was unable to reach his daughter, but watched her scramble off the limb, her feet searching for the trunk of fallen tree beside them. Quickly, he went to steady her feet until she was able to scramble a few steps down. She reached forward, falling into her father's arms, crying fully in relief at the fear so close behind her.