Standing in a short formation stood six or seven centaurs. They had the torso of a male and the lower body of a horse. They each looked much stronger than Richard or Ridley. They were bare-chested and had long hair.
They had different colored hair. They also had equally different weapons in their hands. Some held bows and arrows while others held long swords and cutlasses. They stood far away, imposing and fearless. Richard pulled free his sword.
“Get the arrow out of her!” Ridley shouted over his shoulder.
Katie reached up to grab it and pull it out herself, but was shocked with stunning pain. She lay flat again, wishing the pain would vanish. When it reduced a bit, she went to try again, but was nearly blinded with the pain again.
Ridley was leaning over her. His eyes searched hers for a moment, then he grasped the arrow. Katie tried not to move, but flinched at the pain anyways. Ridley didn’t back off. He tugged at the arrow and pulled it free from her arm.
Katie screamed in pain. It burned terribly as the air rushed into her wound. The moment the arrow was free, she threw her hand over the wound and clamped it shut. Brianna was standing next to her looking at Ridley with a shocked glare. Ridley turned to stand in front of Katie.
“Are you okay?” she asked Katie.
“I think so,” Katie whispered. It hurt less now that the arrow was out of her arm. She sat up and looked down her arm. It was covered in blood. She reached for Brianna’s hand when it was offered to her.
She and Brianna stood next to the men. The centaurs were starring them down. Katie found it strange that they were in this forest. At least they hadn’t run into satyrs. Katie pulled free her sword. She held it in her uninjured hand.
Richard glanced at her. She didn’t even bother looking at him. She looked at Ridley, who was tense. She leaned over to whisper to him.
“What should we do?” she asked him.
“Run,” Ridley said. “We can’t fight them. Our only chance is to outrun them.”
“And how are we suppose to do that?” she asked him. Her hand was covered in blood. Ridley looked down at it for a moment.
“Not sure,” he murmured. He reached into a pouch at his waist and pulled a long strip of cloth from it. He knelt down next to her and started tying it to her wound. She grimaced when he pulled it tight, but said nothing.
“Together?” she asked him.
“Yes. It would be unwise for us to separate. They would just pick us off one at a time,” Ridley replied. Katie nodded.
“Were you listening?” she asked the others. They nodded.
“Ready?” Ridley asked. Richard grabbed Brianna’s hand and reached over to grab Katie’s hand. Ridley seized her hand. “Now!” he shouted.
Richard’s hand slipped from her fingers as they started running. Ridley held tightly to her hand. He pulled her around a tree. Katie could see Richard and Brianna running not far from them.
Behind them came the sound of hooves. The centaurs were taking pursuit. They were fast runners and Katie knew that in no time at all, they would be upon them. She pushed herself to go faster, but her muscles were too tired. Her wound made her feel sick. She had to keep going.
An arrow flew past her. Once again, she hadn’t sensed it coming. Luckily, it wasn’t a very good shot. It flew past her and Ridley. Katie looked around, hoping to see Richard close by.
The wound on her arm burned with every swing on her arms. She was happy that Ridley wasn’t holding the hand of that arm. He was holding the other hand, which was covered in her own blood.
Another arrow shot past them. Maybe the centaurs had some kind of magic that prevented her from being able to sense the arrows. It could be a bad thing, she thought.
“Hurry!” Ridley shouted. Katie held tightly to his hand, but he was running to quick. The blood on her hands was causing her hand to slip. She tried to run faster, but stumbled, instead, over a lump in the ground.
Ridley slowed enough for her to regain her feet. He held her hand tightly, but it wasn’t working well for her. Her feet wouldn’t move fast enough for her. She was breathing hard and stumbling around again.
An arrow shot at her feet. The centaurs were probably trying to trip her. If they took her down, Katie wondered, would Ridley stop to help her? Or would he keep running?
Her hand slipped free of his grip. A moment later and an arrow grazed her injured arm. Crying in pain, she kept running. Ridley slowed again and was reaching for her hand.
And then they were suddenly free of trees. The darkness that was taking over was thick here. Richard and Brianna were close, still running. Ridley looked over and smiled.
“We are free of them! They can’t leave the forest, I’m sure,” he shouted. “Run for a little while, then we can stop!” Katie nodded.
They continued to run, but not as fast as before. Her lungs burned for air. Flat ground met her feet. It was the Plains of Serdio. Katie had been on the far side of this place, closer to her village.
It took her a minute to realize that the centaurs weren’t chasing them anymore. Ridley slowed, pulling her back with him. She stopped all together and lowered herself to the ground. Ridley sat down next to her.
“Are you okay?” he asked her. She nodded. “You held up pretty good. Here, let me retie your wound.” He came closer and untied the cloth around her arm. It was already a deep crimson color and soaked with her blood.
“Where are the others?” he asked her. Katie’s gaze darted around. Richard and Brianna were nowhere to be seen.
“We’ll make camp a little ways up,” Ridley said. The sun was gone now. “Maybe they will come across us later.”
“Or maybe they are still being chased,” Katie said, frantically looking around.
“Come,” Ridley said, standing. Katie didn’t move. Her breathing was harsh and her eyes watered with every pant. “We must go.” He reached down and lightly lifted her to her feet.
He grabbed her hand and pulled her along. They walked further east of the forest. There were a few trees everywhere, but not thick like from where they had just come from.
They walked on for a few minutes. Katie pulled her hand from his, but walked beside him. She scanned the surrounding area, hoping to see Richard or Brianna. It scared her that they had suddenly vanished. They were suddenly surrounded by trees again.
“Where are we?” Katie asked. “I thought we were in the Plains.”
“Yes, this forest splits and the plains runs through it. We really don’t have a long ways to go to get out of the forest. But it’s best to stop for the night,” Ridley answered. They walked on for a few more minutes.
“Let’s camp here,” Ridley said as they entered a little clearing. Katie nodded. Ridley pulled his pack off his back and rummaged through it.
“How did you manage to keep your pack?” she asked him.
“I knew where they put my stuff,” Ridley answered. He pulled out a few strips of cloth and a small bottle. “I went back for it before I escaped.”
“How did you get out of there without being caught?” she asked him.
“I have my secrets,” Ridley winced. He gestured for her to stand by him. When she did so, he pulled her to the ground and sat next to her. He carefully untied the cloth around her wound on her arm. “Sorry,” he whispered when she flinched.
After gently wiping the wound clear of her blood, he applied a strong smelling ointment out of the bottle he had pulled from his pack. It smelt like cinnamon and mint blended together. He tightly pulled the cloth around the wound and tied it.
“Thank you,” she whispered as he stood. The ointment soothed the wound. She could almost feel it healing.
“Don’t mention it,” he said.
He replaced everything back in his pack as Katie sat quietly by herself. “Here,” Ridley said and tossed her a blanket he had pulled from his pack.
“But you will be cold,” Katie said.
“I have another. You should get some rest. I’ll guard the area and keep an eye out for your friends,” he said. He pulled another blanket from his pack and placed it on the ground next to her and sat down on it.
Katie laid her head down on the soft grass. She pulled the blanket open and wrapped it around herself. In a few sort minutes, she wondered off to sleep as darkness took the area.
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