She took a few quick steps away. The best idea was to outrun him. If she could climb aboard Airlia again, then they would be able to escape before anything pulled them back again. But Airlia was so high. It didn’t seem like she would be able to land and take off again.
Her legs ran in sluggish movements. She had to keep going. Even though her strength was gone, her fear kept her going. If she stayed, she would be killed. Or worse, Richard would be killed because of her.
Running now, Katie thought quickly. She didn’t have much of a choice. She would order Airlia to fly her friends to safety. Besides, they were the ones who had come to help her. They had put themselves in more danger than anyone she had ever known to.
Glancing up, she could see that Airlia was still in the same place. Richard hadn’t been able to get her to go down. Katie had hoped that he wouldn’t have been able to do so. Airlia only listened to her.
“Airlia, take them to the forest of the satyrs!” she shouted. She watched as the griffin did as she told. Richard was screaming for the griffin to go back. A moment later and they vanished in the trees up ahead.
“Catch her!” Zarha screamed from behind her.
Quick footsteps from behind her told her that Lord Zarha and his trooped were in pursuit. He was going to chase her down. If only she could use her powers in a more effective way.
“Wait!” a voice shouted from behind her.
Looking over her shoulder as she ran, Katie saw a familiar face. It was the one she had seen while in her cell. He had been walking with two other guards when he saw her. He had stumbled and nearly fell. The guards had hit him.
In the light, Katie thought he was a handsome man. He had short black hair and bright gray eyes. He wore simple brown traveling clothes, as she had seen him in earlier. He wore black traveling boots. He had a pack on his back and a sword at his hip.
Katie ran, not even slowing down. The man was running alongside her. He didn’t appear to be winded. Katie wondered how he had escaped the prison.
“I know a quick way out of here!” he shouted at her. Katie nodded to show that she was listening. “There!” He was pointing at a gap in a bunch of trees ahead. They had made it to the edge of the Forest of Satyrs.
She dived right into the forest. The man stumbled in behind her.
“Get them!” came a roar from behind them. Lord Zarha was screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Quickly!” the man shouted to her. Katie didn’t need to be told twice. The guards would be upon them in minutes.
Katie ran past many trees and bushed. She stumbled while trying to run up a small hill. It surprised her to feel the man’s hand on her back, steadying her as she regained her feet. He reached over and grabbed her hand.
He started pulling her forward. He was a much quicker runner than she. He swerved past a large tree. They ran quickly through the thin trees. A minute later, they entered a part of the forest that had trees only a few feet apart.
As they went to run through a pair of trees, Katie felt a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach. More feeling it than seeing it, Katie yanked the man to the side. An arrow zipped past and struck the tree where his head had been a moment ago.
He looked at her with wide eyes, but didn’t say anything. More arrows followed the first. She pulled him away from any that got too close. She could feel where the arrows were coming.
Another arrow shot out and struck the ground right next to them. Katie was breathing so hard she thought her lungs were going to burst. A strong gust of wind swept through the forest.
Then suddenly Katie and the man’s feet were pulled out from beneath them. They both crashed to the ground with grunts of pain and surprise. The man jump up and started to pull Katie to her feet.
A laughing reached Katie’s ears.
“You didn’t make it very far, did you?” Zarha asked from behind. The man and Katie both spun around to see Zarha standing twenty feet from them, a terrible smile on his lips.
“Go,” the man next to Katie whispered to her.
“No, she is not going anywhere,” Zarha said, taking a step forward. “Ahh, you are the knight we captured this morning, aren’t you?”
The man kept quiet. Katie could see him slowly pulling his sword free. Katie felt frustrated that she didn’t have a weapon anymore. She must have lost the weapon Richard and Brianna had given her.
“I think I’ll just kill you and be done with it. You won’t be my problem anymore,” Zarha said, taking several steps forward.
Zarha let out a battle shout as he came at the man at a run. The man shoved Katie back and she stumbled to the ground. Zarha yanked out a sword as he ran. The man pulled out his own sword in a quick flash.
The two sword clanged together and sparks flew through the air. It looked like Zarha was slightly stronger. He shoved his sword against his opponents. Katie could see that the man was struggling.
Katie looked around desperately. She had to help. Her eyes swept the ground for some kind of weapon. THERE! A small dagger, much like the one Katie had before, sat on the ground on the other side of Zarha. Maybe Zarha had dropped it.
Shuffling around the two fighting, Katie moved over to the dagger. She grabbed it just as she heard a fist against skin. She looked back at the fighting pair to see the man drop like stones. Zarha shifted his gaze to Katie.
He smiled and took a step towards her. Katie held the dagger behind her back, preparing herself.
“You see? You can’t win against me. Not even a knight from Serdio can beat me,” Zarha said, grinning. He came closer.
“You are wrong,” Katie whispered.
“Yeah? Well, you can’t defend yourself with your magic. Nearly all of your strength is gone. You can’t do anything against me now,” Zarha said, taking one more step forward. Now he was standing right in front of her.
“I don’t need magic to beat you,” she said, gripping the dagger tightly. The man behind Zarha was slowly getting to his feet. He looked over at Zarha and Katie.
The man picked up his sword and took off at a run towards Zarha. Spinning quickly, Zarha brought up his own sword and blocked the knight’s attack.
Katie brought the dagger up and dug it into Zarha’s skin as far as she could. Unfortunately, it didn’t go into his back, as she had wanted it to. Zarha had been moving still and the dagger sunk into his left arm instead.
Zarha howled in pain and spun towards Katie. The dagger was ripped from her grasp. Zarha backhanded her so hard that she saw little flashes of light. She felt her back slam into the ground.
“Get up!” the man shouted at her. Katie opened her eyes and blinked several times to clear her vision. Zarha was swinging his sword at the man. The man parried a few times, but was being pushed around.
Katie pulled herself up. Even though she was tired beyond reason, she brought her arms up and cleared her mind in the same instant.
“Fire!” she shrieked. Once again, Zarha screamed. His whole left arm lit up and the smell of burning flesh reached Katie’s nose. She tried not to gag as the man grabbed her hand and they took off running again.
For the moment, Zarha was distracted. The man carefully put his sword back in the sheath as they ran.
The man pulled Katie towards a path. She resisted. They would be too open in the path. The man tugged her arm again. She reluctantly went along with him.
Instead of staying on the path, as Katie had thought he would, he ran across it to another part of the forest. A minute later and they had left the path behind. They could hear men behind them crashing through the bushed.
“Get the girl!” Zarha was screaming.
A large tree came into view. The man pulled her around it and then pushed her against it. They stopped moving, breathing hard. He lowered her to the ground and whispered in her ear.
“Do not make a sound. They will run past us without even knowing we are here,” he whispered so quietly that she had to strain to hear him. Katie nodded that she understood. She felt herself shaking with fear. Would Zarha be able to find them here?
Soldiers, all dress in the same red uniform, charged past them. They didn’t even bother looking around the trees or to even look back. They all ran forward; they didn’t realize that their game were suddenly behind them.
When the last few were a goodly distance away, the man pulled Katie to her feet. He was breathing hard, but not nearly as hard as she was. He raised her arms over her head.
“Take a deep breath like this,” he whispered. Katie did as he said. The air burned its way into her lungs, but at least she was able to breath.
“Who are you?” she asked between gasps of breath. His breathing had slowed a bit.
“My name is Ridley,” he said. “Take another deep breath.” Katie did so. This time, the air came in a little easier and it didn’t hurt as much. He released her arms and she let them drop at her sides.
“You escaped from the prison?” she asked him. She was still puffing, but not as bad.
“Yes,” he said.
“That would be a question I might ask you,” he said. He grabbed her hand and started to pull her away from the tree. She followed without any strain.
“I was rescued,” Katie replied.
“I guess this story will have to wait,” Ridley said. “We have to get away from here before Zarha finds us again.” Katie nodded. “I don’t think we will survive another encounter with him.”
He pulled her forward again. He didn’t pull her into a run, but he did make her jog a little. Katie wondered if he knew where he was going, but decided to save her breath.
“Your name?” he asked.
“Katie,” she said. He nodded.
“Katie, do you know what they would do to you if you were caught again?” He asked her. She shook her head.
“They would probably do terrible things to you. I don’t know exactly, but they probably would torture you until you tell them everything they want,” he said. Katie looked at him. He released her hand and stopped. He lifted his shirt and showed her a large cut and a bunch of burns and bruises on his stomach.
“They did this to me,” he said.
“Why? Why were you captured?” she asked him.
“Because they wanted me to tell them everything the Queen has planned,” he said. He grabbed her hand again and started pulling her forward. “I am a Knight from the Seal.”
The Seal? The means that he worked for the Queen herself.
Katie bent forward to bow, but Ridley grabbed her shoulders to prevent her from doing so. “None of that,” he said.
He was silent as he pulled her through the forest. It suddenly dawned on her that they were heading out of the forest and towards Serdio.
“Wait!” she shouted. He threw his hand over her mouth and pulled her to the ground. Katie struggled against him, but he held her silent. He leaned over to her.
“Be very quiet,” he whispered in her ear. He was pointing. Katie followed it to see the soldiers not far off. They were listening carefully for something.
Katie stopped struggling and fell limp against him. She listened, hoping they hadn’t heard her shout. She thanked the gods that they were lying in tall grass. She looked up at Ridley. He was watching the soldiers.
After a few minutes, he slowly rose to his feet, bring her up with him. Katie looked around. The soldiers were nowhere to be seen. Katie let out a sigh of relief. Ridley grabbed her hand again and started pulling her with him.
“Wait,” she said, this time quietly. He stopped and looked at her with a questioning gaze. “I have friends here, in the forest. They helped me escape. We have to find them.”
“Where are they, do you know?” he asked her. Katie shook her head.
“I only know that they are in this forest. They’re probably looking for me right now,” she said. Ridley nodded, looking around. The sun was starting its decent down the sky.
“We won’t be able to find them,” he said. “We’ll have to hope to come across them somewhere in here. This forest is huge. We may have to stay the night here and find them in the morning.”
Katie nodded. Ridley pulled her into a jog. She followed, not sure exactly where they were going. She simply followed his pulls. She looked around the forest, hoping to see Richard or Brianna running around. They were probably worried about her.
An arrow flew over their heads. Both she and Ridley looked back to see many soldiers running at them. Ridley grabbed her hand tightly and ran forward. Katie ran alongside him, fearing to loose him in the rush.
Ridley turned sharply, nearly causing her to fall. She touched a hand to the ground and pushed herself up again. Ridley kept running.
Another arrow shot at them. Katie released his hand and shoved him to the side. The arrow, she knew, had been flying at him. It struck to a tree a few feet in front of them.
“Keep running!” Ridley shouted to her. She could hear footsteps behind her. She suddenly couldn’t hear Ridley’s to the side. She strained to see where he went, but only saw trees and bushes all over.
“Get the girl!” came a shout. Katie didn’t even look back. She ran as fast as she could possible run.
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