Marked for Eradication
by Leona Rigger
|part 3 of 4|
Allunai inadvertently saves a Jerinn from the Regal Guard but soon discovers that she and the member of an outlaw species have more in common than they have differences...
After a day, they came to a road that led to Nakkin’s town, and for five days they traveled quietly along it. Showa listened for travelers, and they hid whenever one approached. The Jerinn’s right leg improved, so she could place more weight on it while her left still dangled uselessly. When Allunai thought they were close to town, they left the road and turned northeast.
“I hear humans,” Showa hissed.
“We must be near Nakkin’s plantation,” Allunai said. They spotted a wheat field in between the trees. People waded through the grain on the far side of the field.
“How you find human with marks?” Showa asked.
They ducked behind a tree when they reached the field’s edge. “Nakkin’s outside all the time to make sure his servants don’t slack off,” Allunai said. “I should be able to find him.” While Showa stayed behind the tree, Allunai crept along the forest border toward the servants. Nakkin, a portly, bald man, stood on the opposite corner of the field.
Allunai seized the air particles near Nakkin and blasted them at him, causing his shirt to billow. His face full of surprise, he looked around. Allunai pitched more air at him, and he backed toward the forest, looking frantically for the source of the attacks.
“Nakkin!” Allunai called and placed her hand over her markings.
He swung around, and she stood.
“Allunai?” Nakkin said. “What are you doing here? Are you hiding?”
Allunai motioned him toward her. “I need to talk to you.”
Nakkin moved toward her, constantly looking around for his assailant. “I think the servants’ kids are playing pranks on me again. Did you happen to see them?”
“Sorry, that was me. I was trying to get your attention.”
Nakkin peered at her. “But I was being hit from my other side. How did you hit me from over there?”
“I’ve learned some magician tricks since I last saw you. That’s one of them. What do you think?”
The nobleman glanced at the field. “I’m impressed. I have no idea how you did that. Why are you in the bushes? Come with me. We’ll go to the house and have a drink.”
“I can’t. No one can see me.”
Nakkin approached Allunai. “How come?”
Allunai lowered her hand.
“A married man accused me of wanting to sleep with him, but he’s lying. I didn’t do anything.” Allunai thought it wasn’t wise to say it was Ulin since the two were old friends. “They convicted me of being a whore. He also said I was a witch to make me look more evil. You believe me, right?”
“Yes, I know you. You’re no whore.”
“I need your help. Is there any way you can get me a pardon?”
Allunai knelt. “Please, Wonus’s after me. You’re the only one who can save me.”
Nakkin folded his arms. “Allunai, I’d love to help you, but I don’t know if I can. I have to present the high court with a good reason why they should pardon you. Is there anyway to prove your innocence or have you done anything very noteworthy?”
Allunai frowned. “No, I don’t have anything like that. But, Nakkin, you’re a well respected man. If you vouch for my character before the court, I’m sure it will convince them.”
Nakkin gazed at the sky. “I don’t know if that’ll be enough.”
“Please try and talk to them. I know I’m asking you for a huge favor, which is why I’ve got something for you.”
The official leaned closer. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve a Jerinn who was sent as a spy to the capital to see if the emperor plans to attack the Jerinns, but she got lost. I tricked her into thinking that I’d guide her back home. If I give her to you, it’d look like you captured her. Just think of how the emperor would reward you.”
Nakkin’s eyebrow peaked. “You really have a Jerinn?”
Allunai nodded. “She’s injured, so it won’t be hard to catch her.”
Nakkin smiled. “All right, you give me that Jerinn, and I’ll try to get that pardon. But I’m very busy right now. It’ll be a while before I can go to the capital. And I can’t risk keeping you here until I can go. You’re a marked woman.”
She stood. “I understand. I don’t want to pose any risk to you. I plan to go somewhere south where I’ll be safe from Wonus. I can check back periodically.”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
“Would you mind loaning me a horse, so I can get there faster?” Allunai asked. “Do you have any broken down horses you wouldn’t mind getting rid of? You know I’d take good care of it.”
“Of course, a pardon and a horse are well worth a Jerinn. We need to make it look like I captured the Jerinn by my own hand. It’d look strange if I showed up at the capital without a good explanation of how I got a Jerinn.”
“Do you have anything in mind?”
“I do. Bring the Jerinn to the sign on the edge of town tomorrow morning. I’ll come with soldiers, but I’ll tell them they’ll be escorting me to a nearby village. When I come up to you, say you’re a peasant who saw a Jerinn in the forest. I’ll send the soldiers to capture the Jerinn, and then I’ll give you one of the pack horses during the commotion. Slip away before the soldiers come back, and then we’ll be good.”
Allunai bowed. “That’s an excellent plan. No wonder the emperor picked you to represent this area.”
The official laughed. “Allunai, you don’t need to grovel. Now get out of here before someone sees you.”
“Thank you very much.” Allunai sneaked back to the Jerinn.
“Where horse?” Showa asked as they hiked away from the plantation.
“He’ll meet us by the road tomorrow with one,” Allunai said.
“Hard convince him give horse? Wonus kill one who help criminal.”
“No, we’re good friends. I doubt anyone will find out about him helping me. It should only take a minute.”
They went to the main road that led into town and spent the night in the bushes.
* * *
Something sharp poked Allunai in the waist. She blinked awake and looked up to see Showa jabbing a claw at her. Allunai twisted away from the Jerinn.
“You deserve poison,” Showa said. “But I not poison now. I hear horses. It might human.”
Allunai glanced up at the sun and determined it was around the eighth hour. She got to her feet and did her best to neaten her hair and wipe the dirt off her face. “Stay here while I talk to Nakkin.”
“What you think I do?” Showa said.
While Showa limped behind a tree stump, Allunai went to the road and spotted Nakkin and five armored Regal Guards on horseback. She hunched over and trembled in an effort to look terrified. Nakkin raised his arm, and the soldiers stopped.
“Something’s wrong,” Nakkin said. “Let me talk to her. You men might intimidate her.” He rode toward Allunai while the soldiers remained behind. “What’s wrong, young lady?”
“Behind the stump,” Allunai whispered.
“The horse’s around the bend,” Nakkin pointed further up the road where it curved sharply and disappeared behind a cluster of maples. He wheeled his horse around and returned to the Regal Guards. “Men, she thinks she saw a Jerinn in a bush. She wants you to go see if it is.”
Showa stumbled out from behind the stump and staggered into the forest, her arms compensating for her bad leg.
“A Jerinn!” a Regal Guard shouted. Three soldiers slapped their mounts and charged up the road. With her hand over her markings, Allunai backed away as the men passed her.
“We’ll get that monster, miss,” a soldier said.
“Thank you,” Allunai said as she hurried past Nakkin and the remaining two Regal Guards, pretending to scratch her scarred cheek. “Good-bye. I shouldn’t stay here.”
“Allunai!” Nakkin called.
She halted and swung around.
One soldier rode past her, spun his horse around, blocking the road, and drew his sword.
“What’s going on?” Allunai demanded.
“I’m arresting a criminal,” the nobleman replied.
Allunai paled. “How could you!”
“How could you?” Nakkin snapped. “I heard about the traitor who released a Jerinn. I was stunned when I realized it was you. The Regal Guards want payback for what you did to those two soldiers.”
Allunai formed a vacuum around the nearest horse’s head. The mount thrashed its head and veered to the side. Allunai bolted into the forest during the distraction.
“Hey!” the two Regal Guards yelled and took off.
Allunai hurled air particles at the ground, sending up a wave of leaves and twigs. Gasping, the soldiers yanked on the reins. The horses screamed and reared. Allunai rammed more air into the mounts’ rear legs. The horses fell, slamming the soldiers into the dirt with a loud clank, legs thrashing the air.
Allunai ran and didn’t slow until she no longer saw them.
She leaned against a trunk and let herself sink to the ground. What have I done? I’m an idiot. How could I have believed him?
A shrill wail echoed across the forest. Allunai scrambled to her feet. She’d betrayed Showa for nothing. Showa might wish that every human die a slow, agonizing death, but Allunai wasn’t going to let a betrayer have the Jerinn.
Allunai ran toward the howl and spotted the three Regal Guards around a tree that held Showa.
“Leave, vermin!” Showa snapped.
“Your hide’s going to be nailed to our castle door,” one soldier shouted and unstrapped a short spear from his saddlebags.
Showa howled again, but it faded after only a few seconds.
She’s getting tired, Allunai realized. She must be out of venom too or else she’d be firing it at them. But what can I do? I can’t choke all the soldiers at the same time. She picked up several stones. She tossed one in the air and hit it with a blast of air, sending it flying several yards away. She pitched another rock toward the men and struck it with an even stronger blast of air. The stone raced toward the soldiers but bounced off a tree.
The men turned toward the tree. “What was that?” one asked.
“Could it be another Jerinn?” the second said.
“If there were more Jerinns, they’d have helped this one to get away from that marked woman,” the first said.
Allunai threw three stones and sent them speeding at the soldiers, but only one struck a horse in the hindleg. The horse neighed. The other two horses shied away from the tree, ears back.
“One of you two go find out who’s shooting at us,” the third ordered.
Allunai drilled air at ground and lifted up a wall of leaves and sticks.
“It must be a forest demon!” the second said as debris rained on him.
“How do you fight a forest demon?” the third called.
Even though her head throbbed, Allunai shifted the air in various directions to mold the swirling mass into a cylindrical shape. Two arms emerged, claws forming on their ends.
“Run!” the first shouted, and they fled.
Allunai heaved her sculpture forward and let it fall on the soldiers. Her knees caved as her thoughts released the air particles.
Showa watched the Regal Guards for a minute and then began to descend the tree.
Allunai rolled onto all fours and crawled away from the scene. Once she was out of sight of the tree, she got to her feet and ran toward the road, hoping that Showa was too cautious to come out in the open.
After she reached the road, she headed toward town, keeping to the side in case she had to dive into the brush. She came to a fork in the road and took the new path, which circled wide around the town.
She heard the crumpling of leaves and ducked behind a shrub. She looked down the road and spotted Showa racing up it, her four arms replacing her left leg. Judging by the glare in the Jerinn’s eyes, Allunai knew she wasn’t hidden.
Allunai sprang from her hiding place and bolted. After running for so long, it didn’t take long for exhaustion to overcome her. Showa closed in. Allunai attempted to fire a blast of air at the Jerinn, but her head still hurt from earlier and her thoughts refused to leave her mind. Showa scrambled onto Allunai’s back and swiped her tail into Allunai’s knees, which buckled, and Allunai landed on her back.
“Wretched animal!” Showa yelled. She rushed onto Allunai’s chest and clawed her repeatedly across her face and chest.
Allunai did her best to shield herself with her arms, but Showa had no trouble finding her targets. The Jerinn clamped her jaws onto Allunai’s shoulder. Allunai screamed and reached over to pry Showa off. With her face open, Showa punched Allunai again and again. The Jerinn grabbed Allunai’s jaw and slammed her head into the ground, pinning it.
“You deserve death!” Showa spat.
Allunai relaxed, knowing the Jerinn could easily slice her windpipe. She tried to open her eyes, but they were full of blood. “You’re right, you’re right.”
“How dare you betray me! How dare you!”
Copyright © 2008 by Leona Rigger