Warrior’s Bride (PT 29)

Chapter Twenty Nine

Cadell glared at the man before him, his body stiffening with the mention of his sister, before his eyes flit briefly to Tialla. She stood to the side, fighting in vain with one of Garel’s men, her aqua eyes filled with fear, not for herself but for him, as she tried to get to him.
Swallowing, he managed a small smile to her, before his look once more turned to the man he despised, his eyes now full of hatred. “You fight women Garel. Only a coward does that.” Letting his eyes move around the assembled warriors he growled out, “If you are any kind of warrior, then you will behave like one”, his look now focussing back onto Garel. “I challenge you for leadership of your realm and your armies.”
Garel barked out a laugh, though from her vantage point, even Tialla could see the way the other warriors shifted uncomfortably, their eyes narrowing at his refusal of the direct challenge. He however, only glowered at Cadell, his words spat out with distaste. “You do not have the right to challenge me Cadell. You are nothing but a commoner, and a traitorous one at that. Only royalty have the right to challenge a leader.” Turning, his features contorted into a snarl. “Hold him. Like all traitorous dogs. He will die at the end of my sword.”
Wordlessly, Cadell was grabbed by two warriors, his arms held securely, though he offered no resistance. Tialla screamed as Garel unsheathed a large sword, he stepping closer to where Cadell stood, he seeming at peace with his fate as he stood proudly, the thought of death something that seemed not to affect him. As the brutal warlord lifted his sword, Cadell turned to look at Tialla, the smallest of smiles on his lips as he mouthed ‘I love you’ to her, she feeling the tears slide down her face, pain ripping through her. Without him she would rather die herself.
Just as all seemed lost, Garel swinging the sword back to deliver the final blow, the two men holding Carell jerked forward, both falling to the ground dead, arrows in both their necks. All eyes flew to the man now marching towards them, his features solemn, the cross-bow in his hands held high as his eyes scoured the men for any sign of another ready to fight.
Garel staggered back a few steps, his mouth slack in disbelief, as he saw who was moving towards him before his lips pulled back in a snarl. “Zandria!”, the word filled with hatred and contempt.
Zandria stopped as he drew level with Cadell, his head bowing slightly, an equal hardness in his eyes. “Greetings father. I assure you I feel the same.”
Cadell groaned, his head turning slightly. “I thought I gave you an order”, his voice hard as Zandria beside him chuckled softly, his head nodding.
“Indeed you did my friend. And I believe that order was to do what was best for Tialla.” His lips quirked as his look flit briefly to the princess “However, a certain handmaiden, who is as stubborn as any mule I have ever met, persuaded me that what was best for her princess was to ensure that she remained with the man she loved”, he giving Cadell a humorous look. “She also informed me that whoever Tialla came out of this jungle with would be the man she married, and who would then control her lands and have Harbin as an ally.” Now his look became more sombre. “So, I decided that the little handmaiden might have a point.”
Beside him, Cadell groaned, the truth sinking in as he nodded, his hand moving ready to grab one of the many weapons he wore. “Well, I might not like our odds Zandria. But at least we will go down fighting. Though if one of us could take down your father, that would be much appreciated.”
Now Zandria chuckled again, his hand stalling his friend. “I believe there may be another way.”
Before Cadell could say anything, Zandria took a step forward, his voice raised so all could hear. “You may not have accepted Cadell’s challenge. But I am your son, and as such, royalty. Therefore, I challenge you to a fight to the death. The winner will take control of all.” His eyes fixed solemnly on his father. “Or are you too much of a coward old man?”
By now Garel seemed to have recovered from his shock at seeing his son, he pulling himself to his full, imposing height, his cruel mouth curving into a sneer as he guffawed loudly. “You! You dare to challenge me. You are a weak runt”, his eyes shining with expectancy. “I will take great pleasure in putting you down”, his look turning to Cadell, “Before I destroy this one.”
Tialla, sensing her chance, kicked the warrior holding her, the man releasing her as he cursed loudly, she taking off at a run to throw herself into Cadell’s arms. The warrior’s however, seemed to have momentarily lost interest in both Tialla and Cadell as they moved to form a circle around father and son. Cadell held her firmly to him, his mouth kissing the top of her head as he whispered words of love to her, before both grew silent along with the rest of the assembled group, though Tialla was aware as he slowly pulled a sword out and held it at his side.
She like all others, turned her attention to the men now at the centre of the circle. She clung to Cadel as Garel pulled out another sword, the two weapons glinting in the sun as Zandria did the same. Her eyes flipped between the two, her stomach diving as she took in the difference. Garel was a monster of a man, Zandria, while tall and muscular tiny compared to him. Swallowing she knew this was a David and Goliath moment, she praying that the kindly Zandria could win.

{Next installment 12th Dec}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 28)

Chapter Twenty Eight

Cadell gave Zandria a sombre look, the other man already looking around the area for any further traps. As Zandria gave a curt nod, a sign that there were no more, Cadell ran into the hidden passageway leading to the cave, his watchful eyes looking out for any further traps, but he sure there would be none. The rock would be too hard to plant them.
Moving into the cave that had been their home for the week, he pulled up short seeing the signs everywhere of a fight. The dishes and even the animals he had made for her were strewn everywhere, the cave upturned. His look flew to Zandria’s, he not aware of the desperation and helplessness in his own, his friend looking around keenly. Spotting something, Zandria moved to where a knife, the very tip of it covered in blood, lay, a sheet of paper under it.
Lifting the sheet, his brows furrowed as he read the words, his look rising to meet that of Cadell. “It’s my father’s handwriting.” His words were spoken slowly as Cadell turned to him, his eyes filled with horror.
“What does he say?”
Nadia sniffed softly, fear making her eyes flit between the two warriors. “W… Who is your father?”, she finally managed, Zandria’s eyes closing softly with dread as he turned to face the handmaiden.
“I would have told you Nadia, but it is not something I have ever been proud of.”
“What did Garel say?!” This time Cadell’s words were full of urgent demand as Nadia gasped.
Her hands covered her mouth in horror as she whispered, “Garel is your father?”
Zandria’s jaw tightened as he gave the smallest of nods before looking once more at the paper, his voice sombre.

To the scum sucking traitor Cadell

I hold your princess, and will keep her alive until the setting of the sun. After that I will not guarantee or even care about her safety. However, I am sure that she will provide some fun for my men during the night if you do not show up. If you do not wish this, then you will appear at the great clearing before the setting of the sun, where I will trade her life for yours.

Garel

Cadell was already heading out of the cave as Zandria grabbed him, his features beseeching. “You cannot believe him. You know that Cadell. He will do with her what he wants, and he will still kill her. You cannot walk into his trap.”
Pausing Cadell stared back at him. “Zandria, you are like a brother to me, and you are every bit as good a leader as I.” Briefly, his eyes slid to Nadia. “I need to at least try to save her. You must understand how I feel.”
Zandria’s eyes closed as he nodded, before once more gripping his arm. “But there must be another way.”
Shaking his head, Cadell gave a sad smile. “With me dead he will not kill her. With her under his control, so too is her kingdom – and Harbin’s.” Now, his hand gripped Zandria’s arm. “They will have to move her back to the city. Get our army and set a trap of your own. It is her only real chance my friend. Promise me you will do what is best for Tialla.”
Zandria nodded, he releasing his friend, Cadell moving swiftly from the cave in his quest to save Tialla.
It took him less than an hour to reach the great clearing, Cadell moving slowly around the area, carefully watching what was going on. Tialla was bound and tied to a post in the middle of the clearing, Garel’s men leering at her as she stood silently, her head raised proudly. For a second, he was reminded of doing something very similar to her on the day they first met, she as regal then as she was now.
He watched the sun, wanting to give Zandria as much time as possible to get help, he knowing that he had to wait to the last minute before showing himself. His eyes scoured the site looking for any sign of Garel, finally seeing the brutal warlord.
For a second he considered using his bow to bring down the evil man, he fighting the urge, knowing that it would only result in the quick execution of Tialla. While Garel was cruel, without mercy and a killer, he was also smart. He would have ensured that if anything happened to him, then Tialla’s would have been the next death, he also knowing that Cadell would know this. For now he just had to bide his time.
With the sun now low in the sky, Garel moved to the post holding Tialla, a short sword in his hands. Raising it, he brought it down onto the ropes securing her. Free, she instantly tried to flee, he grabbing her arm in a cruel vise grip and dragged her back, his arms pinning her small body to him as he jeered at her.
Tialla however continued to fight, though it was like watching a mouse battle with a cat, he and his men laughing at her attempts. Looking into the sky, his free hand rose, the men around him growing silent.
Now Garel’s eyes flit around the trees on the border of the clearing, his voice raised. “I know you are there. Come out Cadell. I will count to three and then I will slit her throat and let you watch her bleed out.” Again his eyes moved around, Cadel taking a deep breath. It seemed that time was up.
“One.” The booming voice of Garel filled the sky, birds taking flight at the suddenness of it.
“Two.”
Cadel stepped into the clearing, his hands raised, his look fixing with that of Garel.
Pushing Tialla into the arms of one of his men, he strode forward, stopping a few feet from the other warrior, his eyes flashing with a triumphant gleam. “Women always were your downfall Cadell. You think I did not see your face the day your sister killed herself?”, his features contorting with contempt. “You are weak.”

next installment {29th Nov}

Warrior’s Bride (PT 27)

Chapter Twenty Seven

Garel loomed over the crumpled woman, her long hair fanned around her, his lips curving into a large smile. “Well I doubt that she will be bringing Cadell now, but I have no doubt he will be coming for her anyway.”
Kneeling, his hands flipped her over, his look taking in every perfect inch of her. “Oh yes, she will make a good queen”, an expectant light making his cold dead eyes almost glow. “I am going to enjoy breaking this one. She will fight for a long, long time.”
Standing, he flicked a look to the other warrior, contempt in the glare he threw at the man still bent in pain. “Bring her”, his snapped words making the other warrior stumble to his feet. A curt grunt was the only response as he scooped up the small woman, throwing her unceremoniously over his shoulder, her hair flowing down his back, the golden tresses swaying as the two moved from the cave.
Cadell moved cautiously around the perimeter of the meeting area. He knew he was early, but better to be early and prepared than walk into a trap. His eyes missed nothing as he took up a position he was sure gave him the best vantage point.
For an hour he waited, not moving an inch, even the animals around seeming to forget he was there as deer moved closer. The snapping of twigs had his eyes darting to the sound, though he remained still. Breaking through the heavy undergrowth to the clearing, Zandria and the Lady Nadia came into view. His lips twitched at the sight of Tialla’s friend. He knew that Zandria would have tried to come alone, not wanting to put the other woman in peril, he only imagining what kind of resistance he must have met if she was there. Seemed that the women in Leando in general were headstrong.
Once more his thoughts returned to Tialla, lightness filling him. How had he ever gotten so lucky as to deserve a woman like her? He held down the chuckle as the memory of his talk with Harbin flashed through his head. He had to admit the older warrior was right. He never thought he could feel the way he did about another human being, but he loved Tialla with everything in him and she would make him the perfect partner in life.
The sound of a Jibbit bird brought a smile to his lips. Zandria’s signal that all was well was their secret, he knowing that the other man would never betray it. Standing, he silently moved into the clearing watching the other two, their backs to him. Pausing, his brows furrowed in surprise as Zandria’s arm rose, his hand resting gently on Nadia’s shoulder, the woman covering his hand with hers in a tender motion. Seemed that he was not the only one to have found love in the region, his lips curving into a smile. Zandria certainly could do a great deal worse than with the woman who had been prepared to die for her queen.
Taking another step closer, Zandria spun around, his small crossbow in one hand, the weapon pointed at his heart. Stopping, Cadell smiled, his hands raised in a motion of surrender as he grinned. “You have not lost your touch my friend.”
Letting the weapon fall to his side Zandria laughed back, the two men moving forward as they embraced, both clapping the others back in greeting. Pulling back, Zandria’s handsome face was filled with fun. “So how was your holiday?”
Shaking his head, he could not help the large smile which filled his features. “One of the best. Thinking of making it a yearly thing”, his look sliding to Nadia, devilment in his tone. “And yourself Zandria, how was your week?”
He could see the way his friend’s eyes softened as they turned once more to the lady-in-waiting, his response warm. “It was also good my friend.”
Stepping forward, the two covered the distance to the woman watching them both warily, her eyes scanning the area, obviously looking for her mistress. Bowing slightly as they came to a halt, Cadell smiled gently, he seeing the wary look from the stunning woman. “Lady Nadia. As always it is a pleasure to see you. Tialla will be very pleased to see you also.”
At the mention of her mistress’s name, Nadia seemed to relax a little, though her look still flicked behind him. “I hope that you are well Lord Cadell. Where is my lady?”
Grinning, his hand opened in a gesture to follow him. “She insisted that we join her for food before we begin our journey back. She is preparing lunch, a feast I believe”, he adding more gently, “I did not want her coming with me, until I was sure that things were safe.”
He could see the approval in both Zandria and Nadia, before the woman chuckled, “The princess is cooking?”, her voice a little teasing. “I was sure that my lady could hunt, but I was not so sure of her cooking prowess”, her head lifting with pride. “But then again, she could master any skill. She is proficient in anything she turns her hand to.”
Nodding, Cadell began to lead the two back to their hideout. As they walked, he drilled Zandria for any news of Garel, both men aware that the evil warlord was notorious for using spies to gather information about his enemies. Cadell was sure that he would have discovered that they had seized Leando and that he planned to marry the princess.
Hearing that there had been no activity, or any sign of the man’s armies moving had been a surprise. Despite the fact that it would be suicide to take on both his armies and Harbin’s, he had expected some kind of retaliation – something, he uneasy at the lack of movement from the man.
Reaching the waterfall, he led the two to the small pathway leading behind the curtain of water. Not seeing Tialla, Cadell could not help the way his lips curved. She must be waiting for them inside, his steps quickening, he gasping in surprise as Zandria grabbed his arm, pulling him back just in time before the arrow, triggered by the small thread on the ground embedded itself in the tree to his side.
Fear thudded into Cadell – they had been discovered, and Tialla had been alone.
Zandria pointed to the ground, Nadia already dragged behind him for safety. Looking down he could see the two sets of large footprints, one set much heavier as they moved away from the secret cave. Tialla, where was Tialla! Panic squeezed his stomach, that feeling of helplessness making it hard to breathe. He had to find her and find her fast.

next installment {15th Nov}