Droplets of water dropped down from the tree leaves as she limped her way through the jungle, she walked down the narrow path that only her trained eyes could see the subtle signs left by tribesmen to help guide the travelers back to their homes. Dense thick trees surrounded Kiera, branches brushing against her, leaving scratch marks all over her body with each step. Her body was raw with exhaustion and her stomach wound oozed more blood with each stride. If it weren’t for the earlier rain, the trail of blood would have led the enemies right to her. Her sword sheathed but her hand never left the handle, her eyes constantly searching and scanning the area for any threat, she was prepared to fight any animal or human.
Birds chirped happily, oblivious to the state she was in. They suddenly flew away, disturbed by the roar of a tiger nearby and the scream of its prey. The sounds of her surroundings didn’t faze her, even when the muddy path seemed endless. Kiera kept walking, but dizzy with exhaustion and blood loss she failed to hear the swoosh of the arrow as it flew and pierced her right shoulder.
Kiera fell to the ground with the impact, but quickly moved to act. She screamed in agony as she broke the arrow then pulled it out of her flesh, and swiftly moved to stand, but it was too late. She was already facing the archer; he had jumped down the tree he hid in, and stood in front of her with a knotted arrow that’s ready to fly. Kiera froze, the only sounds were of her heavy breathing as her assailant stood calmly and quietly in front of her. His eyes were the only thing she could see and they were unreadable, but she knew enough that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. She knew with her stomach wound and her newly acquired one, she won’t be able to fight off the archer. Her only option was to get him close enough to just touch him with her ring, one prick and the poison would kill him instantly. All she had to do was avoid his flying arrows and get close enough. As she gritted her teeth to bear the pain and prepared to move, the archer’s eyes fell on the tiger shaped amulet hanging on her right forearm, his eyes widened in recognition, yet he didn’t drop his bow and arrow.
“Did you succeed?” he gruffly asked.
She stayed silent, trying to buy time; if he was a betrayer of their cause, her answer could lead to her death.
“Who are you? And which tribe do you belong to?” she asked instead.
“I think it would be wise if you answered my simple question, warrior.” He said, “I wish you no harm, but you shall not pass untill I get my answer.”
He gestured with his eyes to Kiera’s wounded shoulder and said, “I don’t miss, this was merely a warning shot”
Angry at his ways, “I will answer nothing; unless I know who you are and what tribe you belong too.”
The archer quirked an eyebrow in surprise, she was in no place or state to negotiate yet here she was: stoic in the face of death. He was impressed and he inclined his head in respect, which was not what she expected.
“I’m Kahlil son of Ghashis of the Tiger Tribe.” He finally answered.
She recognized both names, and he could sense it, and he carefully slid down his bow and arrow.
“Did you succeed, warrior?” he asked again.
Kiera stared at him as she forced her body to relax, “No, I didn’t.”
She knew the penalty, if she failed then she must be killed. Her body screamed in agony as she dropped to her knees. He was the son of the tribe’s chief and he can deliver the message to his father and warn their people.
“I know the penalty, and I ask you for only one thing before you execute me.” She begged, “I want you to deliver a message to Chief Ghashis.”
Kahlil’s eyes were cold, but he nodded his consent. He dropped his bow to the ground and unsheathed his sword as he walked towards her, “Relay your message, warrior.”
“The emperor knew of the attacks!” she blurted out in anger and relief, “It was he who sanctioned it, the slaughter of our elders, children and women was sanctioned by him. He wishes to end our existence. “
Kahlil stared at her in shock, “It cannot be, why would he kill his own people? His own blood?!”
Kiera flinched in pain as she moved her left hand to touch her amulet with both her index and middle finger, “I swear it on my life and on everything I hold dear. The emperor told us himself, before he ordered our deaths, it was a trap. There will be no support from him, our only choice is to find allies among our own people and tribes and create our own united army.”
Kiera took a deep shuddering breath and bowed her head in prayer, as she readied her soul and body for the deathly blow. Kahlil stood frozen, angry at the state of his country and what his emperor had become. It didn’t take him long to make a decision, Kahlil sheathed his sword and pulled Kiera to her feet, “Let’s go, you must meet father.”
He bent to pick his bow and arrow; she looked at him in shock, this was not the way of their people.
“What are you doing?” she asked
Ignoring her question, “The tribe is a one day walk from here, but in your state it will take us two days. I shall take you to a safe area for you to rest, I’ll hurry to the tribe to deliver the news and find you a mage to heal your wounds. Till then the healing salve I carry, will lessen your pain and keep infections away.”
“I have failed my mission, you must kill me or shame will follow me!” Kiera exclaimed.
The archer pulled down the cloth covering his face, fierce determination set in, “You’ve not failed us, warrior. It is the emperor who has done so. We are going to war and we need every warrior we can find. There’s no time for this, let’s move.”
Unable to reply, and her body screaming for rest and peace, Kiera finally let exhaustion takeover and let Kahlil lead the way. She was content and baffled with the results; her mission to inform the emperor of the massacres occurring was a failure, since he was the main cause of those attacks, but her personal mission of warning the tribe of his betrayal was a success, her fellow warriors’ lives were not lost for nothing. She sent a simple prayer for their souls, thanking them for their sacrifice and hoping they had found peace.