This is the fifth chapter of my book The Broken Tournament, to catch up with the story so far you can read the first installment, the prelude here.
Part 2 – Road to Taltree
I woke up early and saw Rick asleep, I had listened to him talk about the tracking dogs and it really didn’t sound nice, I had to wake him up so we could move as fast as possible. The dogs were the only things that worried me. The terror of the looming threat would have prevented me sleeping if me and Rick hadn’t walked for a stupidly large amount of time at night.
Far worse than the brutal conditions of the slave room was the lie of the whole village. Being treated like that after spending my whole life living there is difficult to handle, while everyone but a key few people lived on in blissful ignorance. I didn’t know whether I would have preferred to live on never knowing, or live rough knowing the truth. It didn’t matter now anyway, if I didn’t move quickly things were going to become pretty difficult. I have no idea when they check for prisoners, but the fact that they didn’t find us shows that it’s probably in the morning breakfast. They would start hunting for us today.
At first we had intentions of walking the whole night but eventually it got out of hand. Rick lied on the floor exhausted, saying he couldn’t go on much longer. Then I took a break as well and sat down. Next thing I knew it was the next day. I crawled over to Rick who was breathing loudly as he slept. He never snored but his deep sleep breathing was basically the same thing. It was pointless to get mad at each other; we were all in the same boat anyway so it was pointless to get mad over things out of his control. I had learned to turn his breathing into something relaxing instead of annoying. The fact that he was sleeping was something that made me happy enough to put up and relax to it. Sure it was weird but much better than the alternative which was getting very frustrated. I of course would never tell him.
The figure sleeping in front of me was haggard, malnourished and disgustingly thin. I had never seen anyone look so restless in sleep.
“Wake up Rick!” His one eye opened and closed. Making the contrast between his disgusting mess of a left eye even greater and it was difficult to look at. He can’t help it but it’s creepy.
Even though all memory of him had vanished from my mind I felt like I had a lifetime bond with him after everything we’d been through together. It was strange, and maybe imaginary, but I could imagine him back in Withwood like he was really there. He was healthy and well, it was nice to think about.
Last night we’d gathered some maps from the container on the way to find, whatever was going on…wherever we wanted to go. Now that it was morning I could see mountains in the distance as shown on the map, from what I could tell the nearest town, Canden was right on a road and there was nothing else but a huge forest in its way. It might be a good start to head over there and see if there was anything we could do. It was hard to believe that there was a whole world outside of Withwood village, being so isolated for so long had made the rest of the world feel fake. This new world was so much bigger that there was likely to be a good option for us. Maybe we could find ourselves a situation even better than Withwood, whatever it was it was going to be better than being a slave.
Despite not being confident at all, it was for the best to put on a show of confidence for Rick. I realised that Rick never actually woke up or had quickly returned to sleep. “RICK!” he awoke with a nervous start and looked at me for a few seconds.
“Kil” He said.
“You ready to head off now?” I thought we may as well continue walking; there was no way the dogs weren’t after us by now anyway. Every time advantage would be necessary until we were sure of our escape.
“Yeah, I’ve not got anything to bring” For some reason Rick had taken more than one map which was strange, only one of us really needed to navigate. Despite all that it still took us a few minutes to set up and get going but once we did we were ready to run.
Rick got tired a lot more easily than I did, which was understandable just from visually looking at him. We were both starting to get hungry and couldn’t find anything. The fastest route to Canden would be through Glenmore forest, maybe retreating to Canden would be far enough to get away.
As I got closer I saw that what I thought was a small gathering of trees in front of a huge mountain range was in reality a massive gaping forest. It was colossal, and not just dense but tall as well. It was the monster we were going to traipse through to make our escape.
I was so fixated on the forest that Rick’s observation startled me.
“Look over there, isn’t that a person?” I froze and my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my body. Had they actually found us? I had a look where he was pointing and the person was charging towards us. They didn’t have any dogs but a force of terror shook through my core and I was immobile, too terrified to move.
“What do we do?” Rick asked me, panicking. I had no idea; somehow I must have looked more composed than I felt. I decided not to answer him for the moment. From a distance where the strangers face was still a blur I heard a should
“llr” I couldn’t make it out properly, but it didn’t sound threatening. It took all my effort to force myself to say something to him.
“Just stand. We outnumber him.” I said to Rick trying not to shake. The figure got closer and we could immediately tell that she posed no threat at all, and we began to feel stupid. She was simply a lost traveller who needed help and a lot of it.
“Help me!” She cried out as she appeared before us panting, desperately out of breath.
“Hey, um what’s wrong?” I said as I approached trying to calm her down. Her hair was a shoulder length mix of brown and red and her clothes were torn and unsuitable for travelling. It was worrying to see that this depressed mess of a traveller looked better equipped than we were.
“I’m hungry! Do you have any food?” I did think about food but neither me or Rick mentioned it since we hoped it would sort itself out.
“Sorry no.” Rick said nervously, he was clearly on edge because he could still feel a sense of danger.
“Surely you do!” She cried out desperately as if we were hiding something from her.
“We honestly don’t” I said “it’s the truth”
“No, how could you have got this far without food?” She said accusingly.
“The same way you got here without food…” She seemed defeated at the last moment but I saw that she had a lot of stuff with her in her bag, it looked useful. Maybe she had some things that we could ask of her. I didn’t want to take anything from this poor woman though, maybe if she was going to the same place we could help each other out on the way.
“Where are you going?” I asked casually.
“I want to get to Canden and then I’m going to go up to Taltree.”I suppose that if you were in the middle of nowhere there was only really one location you could want to go too, I had never heard of Taltree though, maybe there was a huge tree in Canden she wanted to climb. She looked little bit older than both me and Rick yet growing up in Withwood allowed us to learn things she might not have done, so maybe we could be useful for each other and find some common ground.
“Well we’re going to the same place, we also know how to get food.” I paused for a moment of hesitation, nothing bad would happen if she didn’t want too but I still would have felt hurt “so do you want to come with us? We can help you get food later.” Upon hearing the news she made a wide smile, walking around hopeless for a very long time changes people. I knew that we both smelled and Rick was unpleasant to look at for more than a second. I’d obviously got used to it but there was no getting around that we both looked like slaves and stank, so I was just thankful she was prepared to put up with us.
As we continued I found that she was an interesting person to walk with and had lots of interesting stories that she could just remember easily. It seemed like her whole life story up until that moment had been crazy.
It seemed like a lot of her problems were to do with a substance called alcohol, even though it caused problems for her she still drank it for no reason at all. Alcohol seemed to have the ability to make people keep coming back to it even if they didn’t want too, I of course wasn’t sure how much to believe. While all my suffering had taken place after I failed the trying, her suffering had taken place for her entire life to the point where everyone in her village hated her so much that she needed to leave. Besides that the other thing she talked about was a tournament.
Withwood was never the centre of the world, now it was great to realise I was never alone at all and there was more to life than just getting accepted to the village and doing farm work all day. When I heard her stories and what was promised in more grown up life I couldn’t help but feel a little excitement.
Withwood village was actually in a country called Sevren, a place where a king controlled all of the towns and villages and made rules for people to follow. He was basically Jak but if he had governed a much larger amount of people over a much bigger area.
I also learned about Kova who neighboured Sevren and was a little bit bigger, Evren which was all the way in the east and many other smaller islands that had far more people in them than Withwood ever had.
Even though Sevren was meant to have a king we were in a time period where the king of Sevren died and his successor was still to be chosen through a fighting tournament, she was going to compete in that tournament! It was amazing to think that someone I just met by chance in a field could become the future ruler of, well, nearly everything.
Her name sounded a lot different to the standard village names, Maron, it was so simple yet sounded so nice.
After a lot of talking we arrived at Glenmore forest, which had trees fifty times my body height, which was amazing to see! We entered the forest and continued through the path, after walking for several hours a large furry animal was looking at us very intently. It was like a brown horse but with a less straight face, a much smaller body, extremely small legs and a huge lump of fat as its body instead of something slender and thin like a horse.
“Bear” Maron said with a quiver. Suddenly an idea formed in my head, we could eat this animal, she called it a bear right? The bear had a lot of meat on it, not to mention thick fur which could be put to many other purposes. But was it dangerous?
“Should we eat it?” I asked calmly.
“Are you mad?” Maron looked at me as if I was the stupidest person in the world, it might be true but the look really hurt me. She turned back to the bear but it had already used our momentary confusion to launch an attack going straight for me.
I tried to resist and push the bear back but it succeeded in forcing me to the ground. Adrenaline started rushing through my system and I became angry. What right does this brainless creature have to eat me? It was all I could do to keep its head off of mine, it massively hurt my hands but that was minor compared to protecting my head.
Maron took her knife out and plunged it deep into the bears back. It groaned. This gave me a moment to jump up and push it to the ground before it had a chance to attack again. Maron utilised this and stabbed it in the back twice before it made a move to bite me again. The bear wasn’t done and thrashed out at Maron, she dodged and stabbed it again, this time in the face. Blood spurted out and covered her dagger, she forced it in harder for good riddance and the bear flopped to the ground, this was what death looked like. It was nothing spectacular like I would have expected but just a sad permanent sleep.
Rick had been standing there the whole time. I could have been mad that he didn’t help but I was just glad he was ok. With the bear already dead wedecided to eat it, why wouldn’t you? So we set up camp for the night.
Worried about the dogs we smeared bear blood and guts over ourselves to prevent our smells and made way to prepare cooking the bear. We couldn’t smell any worse anyway and Maron asked no questions.
At Withwood we learned a lot about survival because you had too basically. Once all of our firewood was gathered we set forth to making a fire which was just a lot of rubbing sticks together until something happened. It took me a lot longer than normal but we got there eventually. The bear was huge so once the fire was set up correctly we cut off pieces of it and cooked it on sticks, leaving them to cook by sticking them into the earth where we were. The huge pillar of smoke surrounded us but it contributed to hiding our scent from the dogs so it was something we would just have to deal with. Once we’d cut everything we could off the bear we tried to separate its skin so that we could sleep without waking up as cold as we were yesterday.
Despite everything the day had actually been pretty good. I’d made a new friend and we were in happy possession of more bear meat than we could possibly want to eat. We set up shelters out of trees and bushes, using the tree branches for the main structures with bushes and smaller branches at the side, providing a nice resting place since the ground was fairly even. I gave the skin of the bear to Rick because he seemed to need it more, and Maron obviously wouldn’t want a blood and guts covered bear skin.
I remarked that provided we were able to get tools like Marons we’d be able to live quite well for ourselves here. This bear meat would last us three days at the minimum! We settled down for the night and all of us were able to sleep calmly, unaware of the terror that would befall us the next day.
So Maron joins Kil and Rick and almost all the main characters have assembled! I hope you enjoy how the trio develops as they enter the most ominous forest in the whole of the Sunflower kingdoms! Also I hope you like seeing the world from a different persons perspective because the next chapter is the only other chapter besides the prologue where it’s not narrated by a main character!
All feedback is appreciated but criticism more so, if you have any suggestions or things you thought could have been improved you are actively helping me create a better work by pointing things out to me! So thank you! I had excellent feedback last time so thank you! You’re continued support is what is going to make this project great! Grammar error are probably the most helpful at this point because you don’t know how the story is meant to fit together yet!
I feel like getting these out quickly is important since I think the gap was so big last time that it was difficult to keep up with things. I’ve scheduled enough of the ADB that I can take time out to get all of this written up for a while! So hopefully I can update this enough that you actually feel an investment to read and don’t forget everything!