It’s Friday! Yea! That means that as promised I have done some writing based on the prompt that I posted on Monday.
What I have I learned this week? Well first, that as I said a week or so ago, I am a lot more busy than I was when I was running GreatHites. Second that I am out of practice. When I sat down to write I found myself struggling to get the words out. I am going to have to work on that.
Isabella. This is the first 3500 words or so of a short story about a girl (young woman) who is “called” into service. When I started the story, which is normally the case, I was not sure where I was going, which I think shows itself pretty well in the opening paragraphs. This is my first dabbling into fiction that could possibly be called religious. It was not the intent when I started but I think that didn’t go too badly, hopefully it is not too over bearing. We will have to see what happens when I finish the story. The story is by no way complete, but I did promise that I would post something. This is still the first draft, I will work on getting a cleaner product to you in the future. I have really just started getting into the prompt, but I am hoping you can see where it is going.
So with out further delay:
It was late when she made it to the camp. Late enough that she had to be care that the sentries didn’t mistake her for an enemy soldier or a spy and try to capture her. That would have been an ending to a day that ever seemed to even worse.
She was used hard days. She had seen a string of them for nearly a year now, but this day had been among the worst. The only real blessing had been the rain. The funny thing was that when she woke to the dripping on her face she didn’t think of it that way, but it had been the only way that she had been able to elude the enemy most of the day.
Three days of hard slogging up out of the rain forests to the side of the mountain. Three days of dodging every shadow, every movement, every sound. Three days of sleeping, or trying to sleep with one eye open, in holes buried in who knows what to keep out of site of the seekers. She knew that she needed to talk to whoever was in charge of this camp so they would give her a place to stay and maybe even give her a man or two to act as guards, but all she wanted to do was sleep.
“The General will see you now miss.” came the voice of the soldier that had walked her back here.
“Thank you.” He held the tent flap open for her and stepped back.
“You will have to wait here.” He said to Walter.
“It is ok Ma’am I will go see if I can find us something to eat at one of the fires.”
“Alright. Don’t go too far.”
“Of course not.” He said and wandered off toward the nearest camp file.
As soon as she stepped in the tent the flap closed behind her, and she felt the first warmth that she had felt all day. As soon as her eyes adjusted to the light, she found it’s source. in the center of the back room of the tent was a clean burning fire that produced a good amount of heat without creating too much smoke.
At least they had figured out how to not smoke themselves in their own tents.
“What do you want?” a gruff voice came from a couch near the back of the tent.
“Sir, I am…” She started but he cut her off.
“The Guard told me you are Isabella Augusta. What do you want?”
“I am looking for a place to sleep and a little food. We have been traveling for days and just need some shelter, and maybe once we have rested some advice.”
“You are on that damn fooled quest aren’t you?”
“I suppose you could call it that.”
“Well I can give you some advice now. Give it up.”
“If you know who I am then you know that I can’t”
“I know nothing of the sort,” He shot back.
“Claudius.” I deep rich voice came from behind her.
“Yes, General.” Claudius said raising from the couch.
“Give his girl want she asks for, and a couple of guards to watch over her. If she has been through half what her man has told me they deserve it.”
“We can talk tomorrow.” He said turning to her. “When you wake ask for me, I will make sure the men posted at your tent will know that you are to come see me in the morning. I will also make sure that they have some food for you and your man brought to you shortly. I am afraid that we don’t have much, we are on our way back home, and don’t have much in the way of supplies beyond camp food.”
“You are very generous. Thank you.”
“Until tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow.” She turned and left the tent. She was not sure that she trusted either of them but she didn’t have much of a choice. At least for the moment it appeared that she would be allowed to sleep, and she needed that more than anything else at the moment.
She found Walter standing outside the tent as she left, he gave her a questioning look but she said nothing to him.
They escorts lead them to an empty tent, and stopped at the entrance.
“This is you tent. You will find what you need inside. Thadeus,” He indicated the shorter man with a nod of his head, “Will bring some food and drink in a couple of minutes.”
“If there is anything you need. I am Gerald and this, as I said is Thadeus. The General said we are to give you whatever you want.”
“Thank you again. I don’t know about Walter, but right now a little bit of food and sleep is all I need.”
With that Thadeus left to get them some food, and Isabella and Walter were left alone in the tent. There was already a brazier burning with the same clean burning fuel that she had seen in the General’s tent. The back of the tent was separated into two room by a hanging drape and in each room as a couch, and straw stuff mattress with wool blankets.
Without saying a word they both stripped off their cloaks and stood close to the fire to get the first real warmth they had felt since leaving the rain forest three days ago. Thadeus came a few minutes later and left them a basket with two pieces of meat, some hard bread and a small flask of wine. All of which they consumed quickly.
“Lady.” Walter said when the last of the wine was gone and she was just beginning to feel like the clothes might just be dry enough to sleep in.
“Do you think we can trust them?”
“I don’t know Walter, but right now I don’t see that we have a choice.”
“They were close today. Just before sundown, I could hear them even if I could not seem them.”
“I know Walter. I could too.”
“What do we do tomorrow. If they know we are here.”
“Unless there are a lot of them, there is no way they will try to enter the camp, it is too well guarded. Tomorrow, we will have to get advice on which way to go from here. The General said they were going home, maybe we can even travel with them for a while. But, for tonight we sleep. They would not dare do anything to harm an Augustus in their camp. It would bring the wrath of their Emperor on them.”
“I just don’t”
“Trust them, I know. Neither do I, but they will at least let us rest, and we can deal with the rest of it tomorrow.”
“Alright then lady you rest I will keep watch.”
“No,” She said with more venom than she had intended. “You will rest too. If we have to leave this camp tomorrow, I will need you well rested. They may not be trustworthy, but they will let us rest for the time being. Take advantage of it.”
“Yes, Lady.” With that, they retreated to their own sides of the divider.
She lay down on the mattress and tried to listen to make sure that he he was actually going to go to sleep, but her weariness overtook her and she was soon asleep as well.
Isabella woke with a start. She didn’t know what had made the noise, but there had been a noise. Now she stood on her mattress her knife drawn heart pounding wildly. She looked around the tent for any sign of what had made the noise that had woken her, but saw nothing. When there was nothing more after a few moments she slipped the knife back into it’s sheath, and started toward the front of the tent.
It was obvious that she had slept far longer than intended because it was now full daylight, and more worrisome than that Walter was gone. Isabella looked around for a sign of a struggle but there was none. It is possible that they came and got him while he was sleeping. Maybe she had been wrong to let them both sleep. Maybe Walter had been right and it was not even safe to sleep here.
All thoughts stopped when she hear someone move just outside the tent flap. In an instant her knife was out again, and she stood ready. There was low conversation that she could not understand. As she listened, she debated trying to get back over to her side of the tent and getting her sword.
Before she could move the decision was made for her. The tent flap opened and someone came in. In the darkness of the tent, the open flap blinded her for a second. The only good thing, she thought, was that who ever it was would need a moment to adjust to the darkness as well and she was not were she was supposed to be.
“Isabella?” came a hoarse whisper.
“Walter. You scared me.”
“What are you doing over there?”
“Looking for you.”
“I am sorry if I startled you. I had, um business to attend to.”
“I understand. Don’t worry about it.”
“I thought you said it was safe here.” He said gesturing to her still drawn kinfe.
“Yes, well when I woke up and you were gone, I started to doubt myself.” The words were out before she knew what she had really said, but as soon as she had said them she knew it had been a mistake.
“Are you sure my lady?”
“I am sure that we are safe here for the moment yes.”
“But you said that you started to doubt. Do you doubt other things as well?”
“No.” it was best to just put an end to this now. “Doubt was the wrong word Walter. I was worried that something might have happened. Something, a loud noise or something woke me. When that happened I thought maybe we had been attacked. Have faith.”
“Of course.” He said more quietly than she would have liked. “Come, they brought us some more food, and then we should probably go see the general.”
“Right.” They sat on the ground and ate the cold meat, nuts and water that had been brought to them, and then quickly dressed in their traveling clothes.
In minutes Isabella stood in the general’s tent with the General and Claudius.
“Did you sleep well.” The General asked.
“Yes, My lord thank you for providing us with the food and shelter.”
“You are most welcome. You carry the sign of the Augusta.”
“The you champion their cause?”
“Alone?” Claudius asked interrupting for the first time.
“It is a lonely cause my lord.” She was beginning to wonder why they had brought her here. Was it to question her loyalty to the Augustine cause? Or did they plan to try to turn her against her mission.
“How long have you been out here?”
“Only this year my lord.”
“Only one year?” He looked at her doubtfully. “My men said they tracked you through the evening said that you fended off three of the seekers, and managed to avoid detection by at least nine others.”
“Yes, General. We have been pursued relentlessly since we left the rainforest below three days ago. We had hoped to make it to your camp a day ago, but a line of seekers set up before us, and we were forced to backtrack for ten miles through the hills. As it was we were still attacked twice during the night.”
“You mean you were found and had to run.” Claudius said.
“No, I mean they attacked us and we were able to fend them off.”
“I am an Augustin.” What did they mean how?
There was a long silence while the two of them exchanged a glance. She was not sure what passed between them, but it did not look good.
There was a shuffling of the tent flap and a man came in behind her.
“Excuse me general, the report you requested?” The man was smaller than most she had seen in the camp. He was dressed head to toe in black, like she was, but unlike any Augustin she had ever seen he kept his hair cut close to his head like the soldiers, and he looked older than the rest of them. Most of the Augustian’s she had ever met were young, with the exception of her teachers.
As in answer to her unspoken questions the general spoke. “Anthony was a Augustin before he joined our cause. He has discovered the that he has a better life expantancy as a scout for us that he ever did as an Augustian.”
“I hope that you don’t think that you are going to convince to me quit my cause.”
“I would never think of it. Anthony is here of his own free will. And much to your benefit.”
“To my benefit?”
“Yes, Anthony, your report.”
“Yes sir. There are three groups of seekers around the camp. Two of them are large enough to challenge our guard and come into the camp.”
Claudius and the General both looked to Isabella.
“That many? Who are you?” Claudius asked accusingly.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“We have seen dozens of Augustians over the years, none of them have had three groups of seekers after them. Let alone even one that was capable to challenging our guard and you have three of them following you.” He stood up and came around the table. “Who are you.”
“I am Isabella. I joined the order when I was 12, as soon as my parents would let me. I have always known this is what I was going to do. As I child I didn’t understand about the seekers, that they really were.” She trailed off.
“You joined the Augstains?” The General asked.
“You were not chosen?”
“No, well I felt like I had always been chosen. As long as I could remember I knew this is what I would do I always assumed that I had been chosen when I was born.”
“I see.” The General also stood up and walked over to her. He knelt down before her so he could look into her eyes.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
She didn’t answer.
“Isabella where are you going? I can’t help you unless you tell me.”
Still she did not answer.
“Forget it Marcus, she will not tell you.” Claudius said stomping back to his couch. “She is as stubborn as the rest of them. Just because this time it is a girl makes no difference.”
The General ignored him and continued to stare into her eyes.
“Isabella, I left the order because Marcus here helped me complete my mission. He believes like we do. He will not hurt you. He wants to help you.”
Isabella brook her eye contact with Marcus and looked to Anthony. He had completed his mission and left. He had not been taken up to heaven, or gone back to teach at the monastery. Instead he had left, and joined this man. She didn’t know if she should be appalled or amazed.
“How old are you Isabella?” She was so deep in thought that she was not sure who had asked the question.
“Eighteen,” no one replied.
None this made any sense to her. She had never questioned what she should do. She always knew where she was to go and what she was to do. She had just waited until she had been old enough to be trained, and when she had been trained she was given the task that she always knew she would have. She was to deliver the bread to the shrine to complete it. She had never doubted this. She had never doubted that she would be able to complete her mission. Not until last week. But she had thought that it was because of the hard work, the sleepless nights the constant running. The relentless seekers. She was just tired she had told herself. She just needed to get to a military camp that could protect her and let her rest of a day, perhaps two and then she would she would be able to complete the mission. But now she didn’t know.
Finally Marcus stood up. But he did not walk back to his couch. Instead he gestured to Anthony.
Anthony moved around in front of her, and pulled out a blade from under his cloak. She knew under normal circumstances she would be able to disarm anyone, but he had been as Agustin, he had been trained liker her. But in the instant she saw the glint of metal she mentally prepared herself and relaxed her stance, and prepared herself for the attack.
But it never came. She watched his eyes. Knew that he was dangerous, but also knew that he was not going to attack her. She was not sure how she knew this but somehow she did.
“Do you understand what the seekers are Isabella?” His question sounded kind, even gentle but there was still no mistaking that this man was hard.
“They are here to stop the mission of the Augustians.”
“Not what they are here for what are they?”
“I” for the first time in her life she was not sure about the answer about her mission. “I don’t know.”
“I understand.” He looked to the general. “With your permission I would like to talk with her a moment alone.”
“Still afraid that we will find out your secrets.”
“Come General, let’s leave them to talk.” Marcus said leading the general out of the tent.
When he was sure that they had gone Anthony spoke again
“Isabella, do you know what they are?”
“No she admitted.”
“They are demons.”
“But they look human.”
“That they do, but if you ever get close enough to look at them, and I pray that you don’t, you will see that they are not human. Not anymore at least. I don’t know how it happens or why but they are demons now.”
“But what do they want?”
“You know the answer to that girl, if you are who you say you are.”
“The object for the shrine?”
“Somehow I thought you were smarter than that.”
“Then what do they want?”
“Right,” He got down on his knees in front of her. “Do you know why there are so few of us that ever come back?”
She started the shake her head but she knew the answer. She knew it was because the seekers, these demons had been able to capture them.
“We have lost so many relics, so many good men and women to them.”
“But I don’t understand, how?”
“Temptation. That is what demons do.”
“They don’t kill them?”
“I don’t know but I do know that temptation is how it starts. What I do know that once the seekers catch up to one of us, the augustinian does not come back.”
Isabella stood looking at the man before her? Was he too a demon. Was he telling her the truth. Could he be tempting her? She felt stupid.
The old man was telling her things that she had learned the first day at the academy but somehow after being out here for a few weeks she had forgotten.
Is that all that it took? Would she be tempted to quit just as easily? Would she give into the demons in the same way? She shook her head and wiped at the tears that she didn’t realized had started to fall.
“Isabella, are you listening to me?”
“They don’t come back, because they are tempted, they fall. They don’t become demons themselves, that is not possible, but they let the demons in. They are possessed. Or at least their bodies are.”
Neither of them said anything for a while. And Isabella felt the world closing in on her. Her whole life, she had felt like this is what she had been called to do. And this was who it was going to end. She would be tempted and fall. A demon would take over her body and she would hunt for others to corrupt.
She remember the day when she told her mother about her calling how she had cried. She remembered thinking how selfish her mother was being. Why couldn’t she be happy for her. She was after all talking about a calling to serve God.