From the Blacktop Mountains of Jadere

Okay, I had deleted this, but I'm putting it back up again, and I will make changes. I hope you enjoy! And please, PLEASE give me as much constructive feedback as you can. That means if you see anything you don't like, or seems weird, or is incorrect, you tell me. I will not take it the wrong way, I promise. I just REALLY want to get better, because there's always room for improvement. And if you like something, tell me what it is you liked. It'd be helpful to me. Thank you so much!
Love, Asyah

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 (I will make changes to it...soon. In the meantime, I added two short paragraphs. Enjoy?)

"Run!"

That was the last thing I heard before everything became a blur. I had been standing, frozen in fear, until that scratchy voice had yelled out the single word, and it spurred me into action. I’m not sure, but I think I looked back to see the eyes of the dying old man watching me through half-closed lids.

I remember being only partly conscious of the puddles of blood I slipped on, the arrows that flew by my head but never hit me, the dead bodies I ran over, the pieces of flashing metal around me that could only be swords. I ran blindly, thinking that any moment my head would be severed from my body, but nobody bothered to hurt a harmless little girl who was running away from the fighting.

Soon, without meaning to, I reached the Bendig Woods, and I sent a silent prayer of thanks to the heavens and ran on, weaving myself through the trees, not stopping. Well, I was going nonstop until I ran into a boulder. I fell back, landing on my bum, and just sat there, dazed.

I shook myself and let out a long breath. Only then did I start gasping for air and realize there was a stitch in my side. I looked down at myself and finally noticed the blood and grime all over my dress, and the many new rips and holes it had acquired. Those weren’t surprising, really – they were expected. But what did surprise me was the long (but thankfully shallow enough) gash that ran from my shoulder down my left side, along the length of my ribs. It hadn’t hurt until I saw it, and now I groaned at the pain. I had nothing at all with me except the clothes I was wearing, the knife in my boot, and the few coins I owned in a hidden pocket in my dress. Along with nothing useful to me at the moment, I also lacked knowledge of medicine and plants, so I couldn’t doctor myself. All I could do was rip some cloth from the hem of my already short dress and use it as a temporary bandage.

As I wrapped the cloth along the wound, I pondered over what to do. Raiders from Badeim, the country north of ours, Jadere, had attacked my village. We were a small village in the Blacktop Mountains, which was the border of the two countries. We had always feared attack from them, because villages in the Blacktop areas were raided every so often, and they did not recover well. So going back there was not an option.

I had no food or water, so I could possibly continue west to the River of Rangarr. After that, I could head down south to Marbor City. Many people went there from the villages to get jobs and to live there, and I had heard it was a very busy city. I had nowhere else to go, so I could try to see if I could do something. I’d probably only get to be a maid, seeing as I lacked talent in anything. The only thing I could do that you could say I had talent in was reading, because most women didn’t know how to read. Neither did most men, for that matter. But my father, before he died, had taught me, and I was pretty good at it. Of course, it was a skill, not a talent, but I had it. Still, I didn’t think it would help me get a job. I hated the idea of being a maid, but it wasn’t like I could do anything else. I decided to settle for that route.

The pain was not too bad, and I decided to go on walking. The sun was setting, and I figured out which way was west from looking up at the sky from the occasional clearings. Before long it was dark, and I couldn’t see a thing, amid the trees as I was. I leaned against an oak and slumped down. I had no food, water, or shelter, and I was exhausted by now. Somehow I had managed to force myself up, but now I felt I had no strength. I felt my eyelids droop, and realized I’d fall asleep if I sat any longer. I couldn’t just sleep on the ground like this – it wasn’t safe at all. I groaned as I drowsily climbed up the oak and sat at a fork in the branches. Before I knew it, I was fast asleep.
~~~
I woke up as the sun mercilessly hit my face through the tree branches. I tried sitting up and stretching, but immediately stopped as I had to bite back a scream. I was sore all over. My wound hurt more than ever and my stomach was killing me from lack of food. My throat felt dry and disgusting, and I would have whimpered had it been possible. But I was too hurt all over even to do that. I was in a terrible condition and I didn’t want to move, but I had no choice. If I stayed up here, I would inevitably get worse. Of course, if I exerted myself, I’d get worse too, but if I reached the Rangarr I would have a chance of getting better and maybe not dying.

The climb down the oak was painful and hard, and I gritted my teeth and bit my tongue so I wouldn’t scare every creature within miles. I had almost made it – I had only one meter left – but then I fell. I didn’t even have the energy to scream, and I lay on the ground, a pile of limp skin and bones. Somehow in my mind I talked myself into getting up, and miraculously, I didn’t fall, though my knees felt weak.

I spotted a squirrel a few feet ahead of me. I tried to quietly retrieve my knife from my boot, but in my state that wasn’t possible. I fell with a soft thud, and the creature scurried away. I cursed under my breath. If I couldn’t even get my knife quietly, how was I going to hunt anything?

I saw another squirrel, but before I could even get up my stomach started to complain loudly at the sight of potential food, and when the squirrel ran off I groaned. I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere like this. I was also pretty sure my injury wasn’t faring well with all my falling and lack of cleaning. I’d probably die here from starvation and disease.

I sighed. There was no way I could fight this. I would die doing nothing, I thought, unable to fend for myself. "Pathetic," I whispered to myself. Really, it was more of an incoherent murmur. As soon as the word left my lips, my vision started to darken. And then my mind was swallowed by a sea of black.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I woke up, but I didn’t open my eyes. I didn’t know why I was awake. I wanted to go back to my sweet, dreamless sleep. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t go back. I was awake, and as I accepted the fact I noticed a beautiful smell. It was the smell of broth and a fire – I could hear the fire crackling. I realized that under my back was a soft cushion, and my head was resting on a pillow. That wasn’t right. The last thing I remembered before I had blacked out was that I was on the forest floor, unable to catch an idiotic squirrel.

I finally blinked my eyes open, and found I was in a camp. Next to me sat a young man who was watching the fire. I squinted as I tried to see him better. There was something familiar about him, but I couldn’t place it…

“Lacuna! You’re awake!” he exclaimed as his face broke out into a smile of relief.

“Is… is it you, Miro?” I asked.

“Well, who else could I be?” he said with a laugh. “Not many people outside the village know your name.”

I wanted to slap myself. How could I not recognize my own cousin? Yes, I hadn’t seen him in ten years, but he was my only family left. I tried getting up, but Miro firmly pushed me back down.

“Don’t get up. You’re not fully healed yet,” he said.

“How long have I been out?” I asked.

“A day. What were you doing out in the forest like that anyway? What happened to you?”

“There was… a raid. From Badiem, yesterday morning. I just woke up and I heard shouts and they were there. Iwota – Iwota was dying. He told me to run, so I did. I don’t think many people are left. And the village is probably in ruins by now. And – and Iwota’s dead,” I repeated, unable to mask the tremble in my voice.

Miro just stared at me, dumbstruck. “Iwota’s… dead?” he finally choked out.

I had to force back the tears in my own eyes. I hadn’t had time to think about what had happened that day because I was too busy thinking about how to stay alive. But now that I was telling Miro, I finally realized exactly what had happened. “I… I don’t think he’s alive, Miro,” I said. “When he told me to run, he was dying. He was on the ground, and I think his stomach had been stabbed. There’s no way. I’m… I’m sorry.”

Iwota had been Miro’s mentor. Soon after Miro had left the village for Marbor City, my family had died, leaving me with nothing – no home, no money, absolutely nothing. Iwota had taken care of me since, and had given me the dagger I now carried with me wherever I went. He was like a grandfather, and that day I hadn’t given it much thought, but now I was sure I could have helped him. If only I hadn’t been struck by fear and stood there like an idiot, I could have defended Iwota. It was more likely than not my fault that he had died. He should have been the one running to safety, not me. He had protected me all those years and the last chance I had to pay him back I had missed. I had nobody to blame but myself.

As the heavy thought slowly sunk in, I burst into tears. Normally, I would have hated myself for crying, but heavens knew Iwota deserved at least that. He was dead. And it was my fault. He was dead. And it was my fault. I kept repeating it in my head. Iwota is dead. And it’s my fault. It’s all my fault.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up to see Miro’s tearful face looking down at me with sadness. He didn’t say anything, and we sat in silence with our tears.

After the crying was finished, and during the inevitable awkward moments that followed, we did not speak to each other. He silently handed me a bowl of broth and I, propped up with pillows behind my back, ate. As soon as I finished, I closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, it was morning.

Miro gave me food and tended to my injuries, and I fell asleep. This continued in a cycle, and I wasn’t sure if I was getting any better. However, I didn’t think about it much, because I rarely stayed awake. I ate and slept, and that was how it went for a while. For some reason, I felt exhausted the entire time. Once, before I closed my eyes and fell asleep, I asked about it, and he answered with something about the medicine he was giving me. I didn’t really think about it, because, of course, I fell asleep.

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