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A Life Again

Chapter 4 Taylan Present World: Airus

Soldiers, around ten of them, appear from around the last building on the edge of town, from behind the solar bike shop. One calls out in our language saying, "Stop!" I look at my sisters and Jodis. I can see it in their eyes, and we are all in sync the horses know and go.

The soldiers are on foot and are outmatched by us as we gallop off. We all know where to go, and Mother is by herself, and hopefully, Sid may show up on his own. We need to get to her before anyone else does. We gallop all the way back to Newlyn's former home, emerging from the forest to the field that we need to cross before arriving at the walls to the home my family has been given to watch over.

Ashlea is in the lead with her horse, pulls back on her reins, causing the animal to rear up. Ashlea stays on like it is nothing and turns the horse around so that she is now facing us. We manage to stop our horses in time." Go!" She yells and kicks her horse into a gallop through and passed us. I couldn't see what she saw, but trust that whatever it was it is best to listen. We retreat into the forest. The tension in the air is thick, the horses know, they are on edge, but we continue up a trail that is hardly used.

It is a mess with plenty of fallen brush and branches to deal with on the path. Our horses' feet make the only tracks on this trail. It has been a long time since this trail was used. Up into the mountain, we climb. The horses are still giving us their best effort and the sweat is thickening on their chest and legs, white and thick like they had been lathered up in soap.

Jodis is the first to dismount and walk her horse. She explains, "I can't push her any further with my weight and deal with this overgrowth at the same time." She is right, the horses are starting to stumble, and the overgrowth is thick. We all hop off our animals and continue to lead them. The trail is becoming rocky and the further we move the less it looks like a trail.

Ashlea says, "I know there is a lake with a couple of cottages just over the peak. I remember seeing it a while back when Soolena and I flew around the entire island."

A little worried, Saydira asks, "How can you be sure that this is the right trail?"

Ashlea replies, "It has to be, this is the only one that I know of that hasn't been explored."

I ask Ashlea, "Back at Newlyn's home what was it that you saw?"

"An army, not Queen Rosaleen's; the few flags that I saw were Red and Yellow, I didn't recognize them."

Jodis interrupts, "That is the Prince from across the sea, Prince Dainer's army."

I blurt out, "Prince Dainer? This is the first that I have heard of this prince."

Ashlea adds, "Does Rosaleen know who this prince is?"

Jodis answers, "She most certainly does."

Saydira asks, "Jodis, why do you say it like that?"

Jodis smiles, "The prince has visited Thresolon before, Rosaleen knows him."

I say to Jodis, "Neither, Rosaleen, Soolena or Izavelle has ever mentioned his name to us."

Jodis speaks, "Why would they? After it was all said and done Rosaleen declined his proposal."

I shrug, "I guess you have a point, but it's just if he was a threat you would think that she would at least say something."

Jodis glances sideways, "Maybe it's not him that is the threat."

Ashlea's instincts are right and the incline levels off and the forest opens to a lake. We stop momentarily to let the horses drink at the water's edge and cool off. In the distance at a farther end of the lake, are the two cabins, standing side by side and appear to be just off a small bay.

Saydira is studying the landscape and suggests, "I rather not continue on that trail if we don't need to, there is too much overgrowth and the insects are terrible. I think we can make it by maneuvering the shore and besides I think the horses have had enough."

Ashlea answers, "That will be best for everyone."

I ask, "Ashlea, besides the soldiers did you see any signs of Sid or Mom before you turned us around?"

"No, I only saw the soldiers and knew that it was all wrong."

Jodis coaches trying to get Ashlea to recollect more, "Think about it, maybe you saw a glimpse of them? You saw everything."

"Jodis, stop with it, I saw soldiers that is all, and they were on the shore and all over Newlyn's property. I didn't see Mom or Sid and I doubt that she was able to get out of there before they arrived."

Nobody says anything for a moment not even Jodis who is in the habit of saying things with such certainty. I think that even for Jodis, with whatever it is that is going on is that she knows some but not everything. There is no way of knowing these ambushers complete agenda. All we can do is hope that Mom and Sid are treated well. I know that with whatever is going on chances are that Sid ended up being scooped up in town.

The horses have finished drinking and we have washed off the buildup of sweat that accumulated from the journey off ourselves and our animals. We walk our horses towards these two cottages that are about ten minutes from us by foot. I wonder whose cottages they belong to; they don't seem to be frequented much since the journey up to them is now overgrown with vegetation. It would be nice to have some flying suits in times like these but unfortunately, we must go about this without an advantage.

The first cottage we come up to is a two-floor structure. It's a little white building with a black roof and red balcony the basement is accessible only by the outside. There is a tiny sandy beach and we decide that it's best to tie the horses to the support beams of the balcony and investigate.

Saydira says, "There are the steps to the door just over here." She starts to walk up a small hill, through a gate and then up ten or so steps to the door of the cottage. Ashlea follows and the two of them start to look for a way in without doing too much damage to the structure by trying to force doors and windows open. I stay back with Jodis and the horses.

I ask, "Do you think we are safe here?"

Jodis contemplates, slowly stepping back and forth, as though soothing herself, arms crossed and looking everywhere else but at me, "We are not far enough away. We may be safe for a day or two but that's all I give it before we need to move on."

"Jodis, what would you have us do?"

Her cheeks flush. She gives me a sideways glance, "If it were just me, I would journey across the ocean to the Prince's lands. I feel that those are his soldiers and they don't tend to look for people like us on their own soil."

Frustrated, I reply, "That is not an option, we have no flying suits, the town is taken over and we have no access to the ships."

Before Jodis replies to me, Saydira peeks over the railing, "We picked the lock."

I answer, "That's great we will be right up." I say to Jodis, "We can talk options with the girls in a bit." Jodis nods and we walk up to investigate this cottage.

It's a nice little place with a living area, indoor plumbing, four tiny bedrooms, just big enough to fit a bed into each of them and it has a kitchen. The first thing we check for is food. Whoever's cottage this is they stocked their cupboards full of preserves so that is one less chore for us to do and apart from the air being a little musty it's a nice place to bunker down for a day or two to think this through and move on if we need.

I say, "This is a nice little place, it's hard to believe that these cottages are up here and in such good shape considering how long it looks to have been unoccupied."

Ashlea says, "It was good that Soolena had taken me on those flights without that I would have never known."

Saydira asks, "Do you think we are being followed, should we perhaps make camp in the forest before using the cottage?"

Ashlea answers, "I am sure that they didn't see us."

I remind her, "The ones in town did."

Ashlea shakes her head and answers, "Yes, but the only thing they know is that we headed in the direction of Newlyn's property they never caught up to us and the ones at Newlyn's home I am sure that they didn't see us."

Jodis repeats again, "We should be safe for a day or two. When the two groups of soldiers regroup, they will realize that we are not found. They will get curious and come looking, we won't be hard to find."

I ask, "What does everyone want to do?"

Saydira gives her opinion, "The horses need a good rest, and so do we. This place has it all."

Ashlea chirps in, "I agree, and we could do an inventory and take some things that may be of use once we are on the move."

I answer, "I think that's probably our best move, Jodis what are your thoughts?" She agrees to the plan with a simple nod and bow of her brown eyes.

"It is settled we stay for the night." Ashlea continues, "Okay then, I am going to take care of the horses, get them settled for the night, Taylan could you help?"


Jodis adds, "I can work on the inventory."

Saydira leans over to Jodis and offers, "I'll help you."

Keeping busy is good; it keeps my mind off things and besides its all work that needs to be done anyway. Ashlea and I take a walk down the steps and around the corner to where the horses are and to where the doors are to the basement. It's a walkout basement, meaning that from the water it looks like a two-floor structure, but when you walk around the back and up a hill, it is only the second floor that is above ground, and the basement is underground. Ashlea takes only a few moments to pick the lock and we are in. Off to the left there is a work bench, fully equipped with tools and to the right, there is open space for the horses.

It isn't a barn, but it's enough room to get the horses out of sight and sheltered for the night. Ashlea's first instinct is to check out the tools, immediately she picks up a small ax, rope, there is a carving knife and a fishing tackle box, and she starts to make a small pile. I start looking for some more rope. I need to section off the right side so that the horses don't start walking around the workbench area. This cottage seems fully equipped and it's not long before I uncover the desired rope and section off this basement.

One by one I bring the horses in, remove their saddles and Ashlea joins me to help me clean them off. We find a couple of pails and fill them with lake water, it will have to do for the night and Ashlea and I take a wheelbarrow and some garden shears and cut back the cottage's lawn so that the horses have a snack for the night. It is dark by the time we get in, but we are warmly met to a wood stove burning, to heat our well-worked bodies and to serve to warm up food and take the damp feeling out of the air. Saydira and Ashlea seemed to have found the switches to power up this self-sufficient little cottage.

Ashlea looks out the balcony window that overlooks the lake, I am not sure what she is looking for because I can see that it is black out there, she says, "We are the only spot of light on this lake." She says as though surprised.

I ask, "Were you expecting to see other cottages lit up?"

She answers with a yawn, "Um, I am not sure, we have never been alone, like this, everywhere we have been there has been at the least a neighbor, or a town or something." She answers with a shrug.

Jodis says, "We aren't that far away."

Ashlea agrees, "That is true."

For the evening's entertainment or distraction, not sure which is a better word to describe it; we go over Ashlea and Saydira's inventory lists and decide what to take and leave, and then retire for the night. I settle on a top bunk in one of the tiny bedrooms. There is a small window and even with it closed, I can still hear the little waves that the wind is causing on the lake.

This is a nice little place and I don't thinkthat I have ever seen a lake like this. The lake breeze is like the oceans, theonly thing is that it is not nearly as strong, and the air is missing the saltysmell that the ocean breeze brings with it. I find a comfortable spot on thisfoam bed, there is a slight musty smell, not like mold but that scent that's inthe material when it hasn't been used in a long time, that old smell. It's notunpleasant or anything but somehow it feels comforting because it tells me theowners of this place are likely not going to arrive to find us using their cottage.Maybe I will leave a note to explain why we had to break into their cottage anduse their things, it's a small island and I am sure that we do know the owners.The thought leaves me restless and I turn over to re-adjust and close my eyesfor the night.