Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 8. Adrianna and Donovan have just been separated from their mentors.
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“We always get the boring jobs,” Adrianna heard a soldier complain as he and his companion marched through the forest. They were near the waterfall, but Adrianna was pretty sure that was a coincidence.
“Maybe if you whined less and watched more,” the other man sniped. “We’re supposed to be making sure no one is trying to sneak off.”
“Shhhh,” Donovan whispered, motioning for Adrianna to stay hidden. This was the third pairing of soldiers they’d seen since leaving Kalbraith. Unlike their fellows, who were dressed in metal armor, these were in fire hardened leather.
“Do you think you can open the waterfall door before they notice us?”
Chewing on her lower lip, Adrianna shrugged, “I don’t know. I’ve never done it before. Have you?”
Donovan shook his head. “No. But I saw how it works.”
“Me, too. Maybe if we try it together? Like we did with the mud?”
“Alright,” Donovan pointed to a large clump of bushes near the base of the waterfall that the soldiers seemed to be ignoring, “Let’s try from there.”
Bent low, Adrianna followed Donovan through the undergrowth, careful to make as little noise as possible. With the soldiers’ backs to them, Adrianna crouched in the bushes with Donovan and took his hands. Slowly she let her magic intertwine with his and directed it at the waterfall.
Holding their hands towards it they whispered, “We are Golden Ones, and we seek the road to Darvinen.”
The air shimmered for a moment, rippling with latent magic before stilling once again.
Drawing in a long breath, Adrianna tried to calm the pounding of her heart. “Try again?” she whispered.
Repeating the process, Adrianna drew more deeply upon her magic and that of the waterfall, pouring every ounce of her will into opening the door, feeling Donovan doing the same.
Again the air shimmered, but it felt like the waterfall was pushing against them, refusing to be harnessed by them.
“Come on,” Donovan urged, crushing Adrianna’s fingers, “Open up.”
Adrianna jumped as the shout rang through the forest, and felt Donovan start as well.
“Run!” Donovan yelled, dragging Adrianna to her feet as the soldiers started towards them, one lifting a horn and giving it a hard blow. The sound echoed through the forest.
They dashed through the trees, the soldiers hot on their heels. Adrianna’s heart pounded in her chest, the roar of it filling her ears. It would be a miracle if they survived this. So intent was she on the men chasing them, she nearly missed the soldier who stepped out of the forest ahead of them. He planted his legs wide, bracing himself as he raised a long, sharp sword before him.
Without thinking, Adrianna raised a hand before her and called the wind, channeling it into one narrow burst. All the power of a hurricane flew at the soldier, hitting him in the chest and sending him sprawling to the ground.
Donovan leapt over the fallen man as she darted around him, and he snatched the sword from where it had fallen. Turning, he reached his hand back out to her. “Come on!”
Grabbing her skirt up again, Adrianna took his hand and dashed through the forest at his side. As they burst out of the trees into a large clearing, Donovan hurled the sword into the air. It fell hidden in the thigh-high grass. At the far end of the clearing the earth dropped away over the edge of the bluffs.
“We’ve got them now!” one of the soldiers shouted as more ran into the clearing from the forest on the far side.
“Do you think we can climb down somewhere?” she asked, her eyes darting wildly around.
“Maybe,” Donovan yelled, turning them towards the cliff.
Adrianna screamed as an arrow whizzed past, barely missing her. She dodged wildly to the side, nearly knocking Donovan off his feet.
“Damn,” Donovan swore, hauling Adrianna along more forcefully than before.
“Stop them,” he shouted at her, “Don’t let those arrows touch us.”
“What? How?” Adrianna cried as Donovan dug in and ran faster, dragging her with him.
“How should I know?” He yelled at her, “You’re the good magician. Just stop them!”
Stop an arrow, stop an arrow… how the heck could anyone stop an arrow. Stand in front of it chimed the unhelpful part of her brain. She screeched as another arrow flew past her, embedding itself in the earth. Think, Adrianna, think. A wall! Just like Donovan had once joked about and Teresa had worked so hard to teach her.
“Look,” Donovan pointed. There was a small footpath that disappeared over the edge of the precipice. “I think we can get down there.”
She nodded, barely listening as she groped for the magic within her, struggling against the fear and panic as she searched for the smallest bit of calm from where she could call the wind and shape it to suit her needs.
“Please,” she whispered, releasing her call to Taneris. “Please shield us.”
The wind came, as it always did, and Adrianna would have sighed with relief if she hadn’t been running for her life. As Donovan propelled her across the field, Adrianna called for the air to thicken and harden into an immovable mass. She felt the magic ripple through her and almost immediately felt it go wrong. Her fingers were being forced from Donovan’s grip as the air solidified between them. “No!” she shouted, trying to force the wall to reform behind her, but it was too late. She was being pushed backwards by the wall, away from Donovan and towards the soldiers she ran from.
“What’s happening,” Donovan shouted, trying to reach through the solid wall of air to grab her.
“The wall, I did it wrong,” Adrianna shouted back, pounding against the air, trying to get through. She watched Donovan run right, then left, searching for a way around it.
She whipped her head around as someone shouted behind her. The soldiers were charging across the clearing towards her. She had to run.
“Go!” she shouted, “I’ll find another way down. They won’t be able to follow you.”
“No!” Donovan yelled, but it was too late. She was already sprinting north, tacking closer to the cliff. Glancing behind her, she saw Donovan disappear over the edge, a cloud of dust the only sign of his passing.
She didn’t dare call a wall again and risk trapping herself in the clearing with the soldiers, but the wind would help her. It always had.
A blustery gust joined her and they raced across the field together. Adrianna leapt a small ditch and dashed into the trees once again, barely avoiding the outstretched arms of a soldier. Her only hope was the possibility of finding another way down the cliff.
Though her lungs burned and pain shot up her legs with each stride, Adrianna continued to push herself to the limits of her endurance. Nothing else would save her.
She found the cliffs edge again when she heard the soldiers charge into the grove after her. Halting long enough to search for Donovan, she found him already running along the river below, following her progress along the cliff. The wind joined her again as she ducked between a pair of trees, urging her to greater speed. Her feet barely touched the forest floor as she flew over the ground on invisible wings.
Adrianna splashed through a small stream, sending drops of water spraying into the air around her. Glancing behind her, searching for the soldiers, she went tumbling to the ground as her skirt caught on a fallen log. Dazed and bruised she lay there for a moment, the frantic pounding of her heart confirming she still lived.
“There she is.”
Scrambling to her feet she fought her way forward again. Three arrows flew past her, embedding themselves deeply into the dirt.
Taneris help me, she prayed, struggling onward. She slipped and slid dangerously on the damp, uneven ground, but remained on her feet. A crash behind her suggested at least one of the soldiers hadn’t been so lucky.
Just as she thought she couldn’t run another step, she saw it: the edge of the cliff looming before her. She could see the river over the edge, and as another arrow lodged itself deeply in a tree beside her, she knew she had no choice. Adrianna didn’t slow as she rushed the precipice. Ten steps from the edge, she thought, five steps. Two steps. Jump!
Adrianna leapt into the air, stretching her arms wide, feeling for a moment as though she was flying on the air. Her heart soared and she laughed with delight as she began to fall, the wind rushing past her, grabbing at her clothes and hair. What freedom!
She heard the soldiers skid to a halt at the top of the cliff, but she was beyond their reach now. She was safe.
A hail of arrows streaked past and one ripped into her shoulder, embedding itself deeply in her muscle. She screamed as the pain tore through her, but the sound pierced the air for only a moment before she crashed into the river, sinking into its depths.