An altered version of the ending scene of 'The Burning Bridge' as well as an altered scene from 'The Icebound Land.'
I watched Will and Evanlyn across the weak bridge. Will took cover behind some rocks and fired as many arrows as he could at their attackers. Evanlyn was trying hard to relight the fire on the left side of the bridge. The Skandians were grouped several yards away from Will's position and were struggling to counter attack Will's arrows.
I took one step out onto the bridge, ready to run over and help my friends. Unfortunately, Horace was quick enough to grab my arm and stop me from going any further. I swung to face the boy with a deep glare.
"Horace, let go of me!" I snapped, squirming from his grip. His grip was like iron and he shook his head.
"You can't go out there." He said.
"I can and I will! I have to help them!" I spat and tried to twist away once more. It was hopeless for the apprentice warrior's grip was tight around her forearm. Horace yanked me away to stop me from struggling.
"Let go!" I nearly screamed. I punched Horace in the gut and he let go a puff of air. His hand slipped from my wrist and I quickly ran across the bridge. I didn't even think about how fragile the bridge was or that half of the bridge was on fire. The flames licked at my bare skin. I winced at the minor burns as I ran across the rickety bridge. When I reached the other side I jumped and landed beside Evanlyn. I sat up abruptly when I heard the snapping of the cables. I turned to Evanlyn.
"You have to get across!" I said. She shook her head, her eyes wide.
"The fire isn't lit." I opened my mouth to tell her that I would take care of it when the cables on the right side of the bridge snapped completely and half the bridge fell. I cursed quietly and then turned to Will still defending himself against the Skandians.
"Get the thing on fire." I snapped. Evanlyn nodded and I ran toward Will. When I got to the cover of another rock, a few meters away from Will, I looked at the other cliff where I could barely see the figure of Horace hiding out. I waved my arm telling him to go on.
"Tell Halt!" I shouted. Horace nodded and then ran off. Will glanced at me and nodded. I unslung my bow and nocked an arrow. Drawing back and shooting all in one second the arrow whistled out of my hand and hit my target. A cry of pain told me that I got it good and I already had an arrow nocked and the string of my bow drawn back when I heard it. I glanced at Will and I immediately knew he was faster than me, and his aiming was completely accurate. I quickly pushed aside the thought and focused on killing the Skandians.
Evanlyn crawled to Will's side and I glanced back and saw that the other side of the bridge was now alight. I turned back and tried reaching for another arrow. I cursed when I felt that there was now only one left. How could I have used up my arrows so quickly and carelessly?! Gilan usually scolded me about how I didn't care for my arrows the way I should. I tended to be more careless when using and packing my arrows. It really sickened me when I knew my mentor was right and I was wrong. I nocked the arrow and let out a deep breath. Quickly looking over the rock at the Skandians, I then slid back against the cover of the rock. I drew back the string and was about to let go.
Unfortunately, I heard a thump beside me and I jumped when something fell over. When I jumped I lost my aim and let go of the string. I watched helplessly as the arrow flew terribly off course and fell down the cliff into the dark abyss. My last arrow…wasted. I turned to see what had distracted me and I saw that Will was knocked out. My heart stopped for a few seconds as I stared at the unconscious body lying helpless on the ground. Evanlyn scrambled for Will's bow and arrows in a panicked manner as the Skandians swarmed around us. I fought as one of the large Skandians grabbed me and threw me over their shoulder like a sack. I kicked and screamed. Evanlyn fought as well, but Will just hung limp on the Skandian's shoulder.
I suddenly stopped fighting when I heard one enormous snap. I watched as the rest of the bridge fell into the crack in the earth. It was engulfed in darkness as the rest of the rickety bridge was lost. I didn't fight any longer as the Skandians carried us away. I felt myself smiling, for now the plans of Morgarath have been foiled.
Gilan watched his old mentor ride off. He closed his eyes, the pains in his chest overwhelming him. He turned away and looked at Sadie on her horse beside him. She was crying and watching the Ranger ride off into the unknown under banishment. Gilan laid a hand on her shoulder telling her that Halt would be okay and kicked Blaze into action. The small horse, rather sorrowfully, turned away from Halt and padded away. Gilan didn't hear hoof beats behind him, telling him that Sadie was following. He stopped Blaze and turned in his saddle.
"Come on Sadie." He said softly. The dark haired girl turned her horse toward him and walked to his side in an automatic like movement. Gilan waited for her before riding on. They were silent and Gilan didn't say anything as Sadie tried desperately to stifle her sobs. He glanced at her stopped his horse, stopping hers as well and wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. She then let her sobs out, crying gently into the Ranger's shoulder. He did nothing to stop her.
"What are we going to do now?" She asked. Gilan didn't reply immediately. He pulled back and looked into Sadie's eyes. He brushed the hair out of her face and dried her wet cheeks. Smiling sadly he sighed.
"We'll do what Halt says. We take care of things here and pray that Halt finds Will and Princess Cassandra." He tried to smile encouragingly at her. She nodded and then wiped her eyes with her sleeve and turned back to the road ahead of her. Gilan did the same. They rode on silently. Every now and then Gilan would glance back to where Halt had disappeared. He couldn't help but wonder how his own apprentice was coping. It pained him that he wouldn't be the one to help Nerida. He wanted desperately to get her out of Skandia and punish whoever took her, Will, and the Princess away. But, as Halt said before, he needed to stay here and take care of the business in Araluen. Sadie did too. Gilan took a deep breath and hoped that the Ranger apprentices and the Princess were okay.
I pushed open the gate. Evanlyn was right behind me. The cold winter of Skandia was biting us all. The freezing weather was the worst torture as a slave in the Skandian houses. My weary bones ached and the winds of Skandia stung my face. I made a sour face at Evanlyn, and she agreed by making a similar expression. We both hated the Skandian weather in winter.
Erak's plan to get Will and us out of slavery was a good one. I still couldn't believe that the Skandian that kidnapped us in the first place is now saving us from freezing and working to death. Along our arms, Evanlyn and I had marks of beating and the way we walked showed how exhausted we were.
Erak told us to get Will out of the stables and head up to the mountains. There was a pony waiting for us and that would help us get the drug intoxicated Will up the snowy path. In the pack were some food, some clothing materials that would keep us warm, and some warmweed that had taken the mind of Will. We were to gradually lessen the amount of warmweed that Will would take and then hopefully his addiction to the drug would drift away and he would snap back to his normal self. I prayed that, that part of the plan would go smoothly, and Will would come back to reality. When Erak told me that my brother was in a sleep like state made me want to punish whoever gave him the stupid drug.
The heavy snow softening our footsteps, Evanlyn and I snuck to the stables where the outdoor slaves stayed. The biting wind was getting unbearable when we finally reached the stables. The darkness was thick but I could see with the dim moonlight from the outside. Boys, young and old, were all curled up on the ground sleeping in the chilly night. Back indoors, the indoor slaves had it easy. They had the warmth of a fireplace and even blankets. Yet here were slave boys sleeping on the freezing ground in the freezing outdoors with no fireplace and little blankets. My anger grew for the Skandians who did this to these people. The men who did this to us.
Evanlyn began picking her way through the piles of boys strewn on the floor. She clutched the bag of coins trying to keep it from jingling gently in the quiet stables. I held the knife close to my chest, as if it would protect me from all the dangers of the world. Evanlyn then crouched beside a still figure. She glanced back at me and nodded. Immediately, I was at Will's side. I sucked in to cold air to stop the tears from overwhelming me. My throat tight I held Will's face in my hands as he struggled to a sort of sitting position.
"Will?" I whispered in shock. His tired gaze wasn't focused. His lips were blue and his skin pale. The clothes he had on were worn and torn in some places. Dirt, blood, and frost marked his skin and I felt his icy cold skin under my fingers. I quickly wrapped my arms around him hoping to quickly warm him up. He did nothing in response which made my heart ache even more.
"We're going to get you out of here Will. Everything's going to be okay." Evanlyn said softly to the dazed tired figure. Will didn't nod or show any signs of acknowledgement. I grabbed his arm and helped him to his feet. Holding him close to keep him somewhat warm we began to tread over the sleeping slaves. Unfortunately, a sharp voice stopped us from going too far.
"Where do you think you guys are going?" I looked up at a tall slave boy. He looked in better shape than the other boys sleeping on the hard ground. He has some decent clothes on and looked pretty well fed. I forced myself to not surge forward and strangle him.
"We're taking him away." Evanlyn said calmly. She held up the small bag of coins, lightly jingling it which made the slave perk up slightly.
"And you didn't see any of what happened tonight." She said arching an eyebrow. Once again, I admired the calmness in the young girl's voice. In such a situation she was perfectly relaxed and calm about where she was. Me, I tended to be a little more…sensitive in a hard position.
The slave boy smirked slightly, nodding, and grabbing the bag. He opened it and examined the insides with much interest. He then hid it behind his back and gazed at us with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes.
"I think I will stay silent if I had a little more. Pay up." He said pointing to Evanlyn. The girl glared and glanced at me quickly as if signaling that it was my turn to negotiate. I let go of Will for a second and then lunged forward. The boy was suddenly breathing heavily with the knife poking his gut and a fierce looking girl gripping the collar of his shirt. I sunk the knife deeper into his flesh gently without piercing the skin.
"You could keep your mouth shut with the amount you have." I hissed. He gulped and nodded quickly and I let go of him.
"Wise choice." I murmured, pointing the knife toward him. He quickly shuffled away and disappeared in the back of the stables. Evanlyn was holding Will and began to lead him outside, with me following behind them in case the slave boy decided to open his mouth. Will did nothing to stop her from leading him to freedom.
Written by: Nerida Treaty