Status: once upon a time, there was a co-write...

Broken Illusion


Two weeks of traipsing through forests and over rocky hills and Kira was starting to think there was no end to her kingdom. She had no real idea of where Maksim and the other dwarves were taking her, Maksim was pushing her to the limits with her magical abilities, and Thane was pushing her just as hard with his fencing lessons. Every time he reminded her that she had asked for his help she wanted to knock his teeth out. He was infuriatingly smug but an effective teacher. Which only served to annoy her more. As the weather was prone to do in Mirador, the pleasant spring they'd been enjoying so far on the journey turned abruptly to winter.

Kira awoke to find the ground covered in snow. It stuck to her eyelashes as she stepped out of the tent Maksim had given her. Shivering, she retrieved her heavy cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. She found a sort of twisted irony in the fact that Lucretia had forced her to be a servant in her own castle; it had made Kira able to endure harsh weather and demanding physical tasks. Scrubbing walls, shaking dust out of tapestries, and pruning trees and hedges was not the work of a princess, but it made her strong. Perhaps even strong enough to defeat her stepmother, though Kira still had her doubts about that.

"We'll need to make it through that pass before nightfall," Thane said, emerging from his own tent and standing beside her. "Otherwise we'll get snowed in."

They gathered their supplies quickly and ate breakfast on the road. They had to pass through a thick copse of trees before they would reach the pass through the mountains, and the further they walked the more uneasy Kira became. Despite the dusting of snow falling from the sky there should have been signs of life here. There were none. The forest was eerily quiet and still. Finally a lone raven circled down from above the trees, fluttering in front of her face. There was an ominous warning in its mournful caws.

"We shouldn't go this way," Kira called after the others. "We should go back and circle around."

"That will take way too long," Thane said without even breaking stride. "We won't be able to make it through the pass before this turns into a snow storm."

"So we'll lose a day," Kira said, scanning the trees nervously.

"We don't have a day to lose," Maksim said. Kira huffed in exasperation. Here she was supposed to be the savior of the whole kingdom and they wouldn't even listen to her. She opened her mouth to continue arguing but a slow, ominous cracking noise filled the air and the words died in her throat. The ground beneath their feet started to tremble, sending the dwarves stumbling into each other. The trees to their right splintered as they were ripped from their roots by a massive ogre. It was at least twelve feet tall, with a sharply protruding lower jaw filled with blunted teeth. It carried a huge club in its hand. It lumbered to a halt and stared down at them, nose twitching.

"What do we do?" Kira whispered.

"Run," Thane replied. The five of them bolted as the ogre let out a grunt and started after them. Leit stumbled and Kira pulled him to safety just before the ogre's foot smashed down on top of him. They ran for the mountain pass at the edge of the wood, trees uprooting and crashing to the ground all around them.

"I told you we should have gone back!" Kira shouted as she dodged broken branches.

"Don't gloat, highness, it's unbecoming," Thane replied. Kira could see the end of the tree line up ahead, but it still seemed miles away. The ogre's foot hit the ground right next to her, sending her somersaulting through the air with the impact. She felt blood trickle down her forehead. Thane appeared above her, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet. They broke free of the woods, and Thane steered her toward a small opening in the rocky mountainside. He shoved her inside and dove in after her, the dwarves piling inside and falling on top of the two of them just before the ogre's club smashed against the ground. Small bits of rock rained down around them from the ceiling. Thane pulled her farther into the cave.

"It'll grow bored eventually and go away," he said. "Ogres don't have very long attention spans."

"Here now princess, let me have a look at that cut on your head." Maksim scooted forward and brushed Kira's hair away from the wound.

"Mm. Worse than I expected, but not life threatening." He rummaged in his bag and pulled out gauze, needle and thread, and a small bundle of herbs. He cleaned the blood off her face and told her to chew the herbs. They tasted vaguely like mint.

"They'll help with pain," he explained. He set to work stitching up the gash on her temple. "I suppose we should have listened to you," he said sheepishly. "I'm not a very good guardian, with my charge sitting here bleeding from an avoidable injury."

Kira smiled slightly, wincing as the needle poked her. Thane watched Maksim work with an unreadable expression. By the time Maksim finished, the ogre had finally grown bored just as Thane said and lumbered away. The five of them crawled cautiously out of the cave. They had to kick gathering snow out of their way.

"Well we've lost some time," Thane said. "So we'll need to move fast before the pass is completely full of snow."

Kira pulled her cloak tighter around her shoulders. The snow was falling in thick white flakes and the chill was sinking into her bones. She felt like there was someone watching her. Like Lucretia was closing in. She shoved the thought from her mind as Thane led the way into the mountains.