The Unknown Betrayal - Update

BY: Matthew E. Greenwood

Many thanks to: Joshua Duncan and Becca Duncan for their wonderful help!
7-2-2006 2-19-08 AM_0037

The Unknown Betrayal

No sooner had I lost my mother than I became a slave. My long years of captivity kept my hopes of freedom low and worthless to me. How could I escape when all my brothers who had tried had tried failed time and time again? The gate was as like a demon, which could watch all day and all night, knowing before-hand if you would attempt. The very last man who had tried had been caught before he had the chance to even make a dash for his freedom. Day after day the guards made sure we knew that no one could escape. They brought vicious dogs, which would much rather have you dead than alive, to show you just how seemingly stupid it would be to try to escape. However, we all wanted to escape, dead or alive. That was when my closest friend, James, offered me an opportunity I could not resist. His great-grandfather, who had had no money to free James thirteen years ago was going to break him out. As foolish as it sounded to us, we were ready to try to escape. Work here was bone breaking, shoveling dirt and sand from one spot to the next. Our backs were lined with scars from the ends of the guards’ whips.

That night marked both our lives. It was the night we would either escape or face certain death.

“Matthias,” My closest friend, James, whispered. “It is almost sunset.”

I looked up into the bright red clouds. “Yeah, where did you say he was going to break us out from again?” I asked.

He seemed to be disappointed that we were still trapped and did not answer. I followed his gaze to where he watched, longingly.

“Stop staring!” I whispered more intently, anxious. “If you stare the wall will know!”

Sighing, James returned to looking down at the ground. “Sorry Matthias, you might be right. I’m getting second thoughts,” he said, sitting cross-legged.

I joined him, very close to the roaring fire. The fire was the only thing keeping us alive through the night during the winter. Around the fire were shacks that kept the snow off the ground, when it did snow. Every once in awhile the fire would crackle and James would look up in excitement, only to grow more anxious. Then something occurred that hadn’t in a very long time. The forest started to sing out with incredible force. I looked at James, wondering if this was his great-grandfather at work, but he looked back in confusion. Perhaps, I thought, he didn’t notice the forest.

Then, swift as a lion chasing its prey, came a crack from the wall. A huge section was blown to pieces. Guards sprang into action, holding up their long swords that gleamed in the remaining sunlight. Two horses paraded from the wall straight for our fire. James smiled for perhaps the first time since I had met him so long ago, and stood up. His great-grandfather brought the horse to his side and helped him up onto it. James looked at me, but chose to say nothing. They both galloped away, without me. Tears ran down my cheeks; it was then that I decided to make my final escape. As if invisible, I ran past the guards who now held back the escaping prisoners. I looked towards the town, and saw a brigade of men coming my way on their steeds. The town was no longer a safe route.

Turning to my only escape route, I plummeted headlong into the forest. Though the trees were dense I seemed to be able to pass through them with incredible ease. I ran until my legs gave way to the strain. It was then that I lost my footing and dropped like a rock to the ground, my head smashing into a fallen tree. A burning sensation coursed throughout my neck, and then the blackness engulfed me.

Much later, it seemed, did I waken. My head throbbed with pain and felt moist as if I had been sweating. My muscles ached as I turned my body around to face the clear blue sky of the morning. I wiped the sweat away with my hand, and then noticed that it was not sweat but blood that I had wiped away. The burning increased and a deep desire to sleep washed over me. I remained awake, but barley able to hold my head up. The forest seemed oddly quiet now, as if listening to my every breath. Animals would stop and stare at me before they passed on, all leaving me in the same direction. When the sun had risen fully, and my frost-bitten skin had started to warm again, I followed where the animals had walked off to, my every desire hoping for some water to satisfy my thirst.

I followed the deer tracks through the forest, which lead me straight to a large river. My body trembled and shook as I got on my hands and knees, bending as low as I could to drink. The forest seemed to grow in sound, chirping birds flew near me. A wolf in the distance howled, as if the moon had been full. I looked in the water, and two fish, larger than full loaves of bread seemed to be staring up at me. I had no time to think before I jumped in after them, hoping with all my heart that I would catch one. I was no match, though, for the frigid water. As my upper torso mixed with the water, a quick spike of cold knocked the wind out of me. My body writhed with the sudden coldness and I locked up. In fear and with the urge to survive I opened my eyes and bolted upwards but was not tall enough to reach the top of the water. Something in my body told me to flap my arms like a bird, and run like I was on tiptoe. Miraculously I seemed to be able to break the surface of the water and breathe. However, another pure shock of icy water stunned my legs and I was swept under by the current.

My eyes opened. I thought this was it. I saw a gleaming light and I knew I must be inches from meeting my maker in heaven. This would be paradise at last! However, the light seemed to pass under me. My heart wrenched in fear. If I missed the light would I be banished to hell? With whatever strength I had left, I did everything in my power to go back to the light. I wanted heaven, eternal paradise! The current, I thought, was Satan pushing me back, wanting my soul to eat and burn in his body. My head spun and my chest began to spasm, I wanted to breathe in, but water surrounded my mouth. Just as I wanted to give up, I was within reaching distance of the light! With every ounce of strength left in my body I reached out and grabbed the light, closing my eyes.

A terrible realization came to me as I noticed it was only a stone. My lungs felt unbearably heavy, as if a large man had sat on my chest. I had no strength left to do anything. I wanted to see the sky for the very last time, to watch how beautifully the clouds had formed. Feeling foolish, I clenched onto the stone that I thought would save my life. My vision blurred and my head burned even worse now. I felt, as my body gave way to my command, branches that held me down in the water. A memory popped into my head of my mother’s smile, then darkness.

The memory of my mother seemed to stick into my thoughts. She moved, but only slightly back and forth. I remember looking up at her and I felt happy. Her finger looked huge and nuzzled my stomach. I giggled and felt my arms and legs moving up and down, side to side. But then, the door smashed open, revealing a large figure who I had not remembered before. They spoke, but their words were unrecognizable. I burst out into tears and screamed uncontrollably. My view changed to over her shoulder. I still cried, but felt a couple of soft pats on my back. Feeling comfortable I stopped. She started to sing a very familiar song, one that made me want to sleep. My vision, as clear as it was, slowly faded inwards, until all I saw or heard was her song.

I slowly came too. A warm feeling had come over my body. Cracks and pops resounded in the near area.

“Matthias! I thought… well… I thought you might be dead!” a familiar voice said.

I raised my head from the soft pillow that had been comforting my head. A large piece of cloth had been tied around my head. Opening my burning eyes I looked at James, who was fully dressed in the finest clothes.

“When I heard you had escaped I came looking for you in the forest. My conscience, guilty, I did not stop searching for you, even after nightfall. I am so sorry, brother, for leaving you behind!” James cried aloud.

I coughed, trying to speak. My throat was sore and felt as if it had been sanded on with the toughest sandpaper.

“Do not talk, I had to pump the water out of your lungs. You had swallowed quite a bit of it! Let it heal, and dry out.” James said, his tone unchanged.

My vision was very blurry, in fact I could barley pick out James from the trees. I sat back again, resting my head that felt numb, and yawned.

“Matthias, I need to report to my grandfather, will you be alright?” James asked quickly.

I tried to piece words together, but without a doubt I knew that he was already mounting his horse.

“I’ll be back tomorrow, I promise!” James said, and I heard a swat resonate from his position. The horses’ hooves kicked the ground and I felt the rhythm die down as he paraded off into the unknown. I sat there, thinking not only of my pain but also of the one memory that had stuck in my head. My mother had been very beautiful; I didn’t know why she had been killed. I knew nothing of my father, not even a spec of my memory showed him in it. I thought perhaps he had been enlisted in the army and had no time to see me.

Then it occurred to me. I was still clenching the stone that I had found at the very bottom of the river. The stone that deceived me into believing I was going to heaven. My eyelids spread open and I once again raised my neck. The fire seemed to be a haze of red that dashed up and down. Angrily I threw the stone into the fire, or best I could. I heard a couple taps as it bounced around on the various pieces of wood that had been set up to create the blazing fire. Again the picture of my mother appeared, this time stronger and clearer than ever. As she held me up on her shoulder and patted my back, I heard again the song she had sang. Silently I mumbled it to myself. My throat was in no condition to sing at her level, or at any level to be specific. The words came out as if they were an ordinary simple sentence. As I finished, the forest exploded with sound.

From the biggest predator to the smallest pray, all the creatures in the forest sang in rhythm a melody unlike any other. The melody was soft and smooth, a melody that seemed to make all else fade away. The fire, as blurry as it was, danced to the rhythm. Inside the fire, shone a brighter light than any other. The fire was sizzling, as if someone had put water on it, yet the flames stood high and tall. Then, as the melody increased, so did the flames. The flames started to create a humanistic figure, a female. The forest drowned out my thoughts entirely as the sound got more intense to the point where I could feel my skin vibrating. It was as if every animal was standing around me, shouting whatever sound it was making straight into my ears. The image of this female grew stronger and stronger until the image and the fire flashed and died, and the forest itself died in sound. A buzzing sound stuck in my head, irritating me. I noticed just then that the figure had stayed put. The figure moved, frightening me. I tried to stand up but my body was drained as if I had just run for my life. I breathed quickly, fearing the worst. A hand touched my head, and a soothing relaxation came over me. I was not able to think, speak, or control any of my body. I just stared endlessly up into the sky.

The hand was removed, and a female voice broke the silence.

“Rest, friend,” she said, softly. “You are safe now.”

I tried to stay awake, but as the time progressed my eyelids began to bare the weight of the day’s trials. Slowly I fell asleep, knowing full well that whatever had appeared out of the fire was right at my side.

As I started to awaken, a deep fear sprang to life within my heart. I had witnessed a girl appear out of the fire, fire that would burn your skin if you dared to touch it. I acted as if I were asleep, but peered around through a crack in my eyelids. As my eyes fell upon the rekindled fire, I saw the woman’s back. She had tattered clothing that had resembled a very fine, very tight, green dress. Her strait dirty blond hair stretched to the middle of her back. My heart dulled a little and a wave of courage overwhelmed me. Opening my eyes, I sat upright to view her and the fire.

“Hello?” I said boldly.

She spun around surprised with a look of horror. “W-where am I?” She said, her dashing green eyes glaring at me.

“In the forest, I don’t know which one…” I sighed.

She wore a look of complete confusion, her eyes darted from me to the wildlife which seemed to be more quiet than ever.

“Are you a warrior?” she asked, her eyes wandering to my arms.

“No…” I paused, “I was to be a slave for all my life.”

She looked slightly appalled. “Slave?” she asked, “We… We fought for freedom, we won that battle! Why have we slaves?” Her voice cracked.

The forest grew louder, and a look of terror griped her face.

“Who did you serve?” she asked, her every breath more intense.

“No one really knows his name besides the higher chain of command. Most of us are told what to do and they do not accept questions.” I paused to think of anything I knew of this king whom had enslaved me. Then it came to me. “He is a very fat man who has riches beyond any man’s wildest dreams! He is the keeper of the most sacred and valuable stones, Elf Stones.”

Her eyes closed and her knees bent. Her body came rushing down to the ground, tears built up in her eyes until they came tumbling down. Her hands gently wiped away her tears and for a brief moment there was only the sound of the fire dashing about inside the circle of rocks.

“How…?” She asked aloud.

Several minutes passed before she regained her composure herself and sat back. Her soft face wore a completely devastated look, as if she had just lost a close friend. Confusion struck me; there had been slaves now for a couple thousand years. How could she have fought against slavery? As I peered into her beautiful face, I noticed that her ears were longer than usual. Her body, though skinny, looked very strong.

The fire… how had she appeared in the fire? Then I remembered, I had chucked the stone into the fire! Was this some kind of enchantment? She must have noticed my confusion because she smiled at me. Her teeth were as brightly white as the snow that layered some of the forest ground. The smile intrigued me.

She stood again. “Who are you?” she asked, walking closer to me.

“I’m Matthias,” I paused for a few seconds as she got closer to me, “Who are you?”

“My name is Maria.” She said a few feet from my side.

I was tempted to stand up, but laid there on the soft pillow. She bent down on her knee and placed her hand upon my chest.

“I’m going to try to mend your wounds, this might hurt a little,” she said, her eyes glowing slightly.

She squinted and her green eyes glowed fiercer. That was when I noticed a trickle of pain in my chest. A couple seconds later the pain had grown immensely, but my body would not allow me to move. The glow of her eyes seemed to travel down her neck, to her arm, and finally down through my chest. As soon as the glow strengthened the pain stopped, though I could feel my bones popping back into place, and my skin stretching over my gashes.

The glow dimmed quickly. Her eyes relaxed and looked at mine. “That will be good enough until we can find someone who can really heal you. I am without much training,” Maria said, lifting her hand from my chest.

My body felt renewed in certain areas but in others I was still hurting, just not as much. I could not stop staring into Maria’s green eyes. I could not for a moment grasp what had just occurred. What was she and where was she from? She looked from my face to the ground, as if she had made a poor decision.

Quickly I smiled, “Thank you.”

She stood, holding a hand out for me. “Do you know where the nearest town is?” she asked as she heaved me up to my feet.

“Well, kind of. If we get to the river all we need to do is travel north until we find the footpath and travel east. They will be looking for me though. If I go back…” I paused, feeling disappointed. “If I go back, they will kill me.”

She smiled as the forest started to chirp. “The forest thinks differently.”

I looked at her, and simply nodded my head. I took nearby gravel and snow to put out the fire. After I had done so, a chill ran over my body. I was cold! I looked at her, though, and noticed she had no protection either. I looked around at the surroundings and saw the pillow that I had been propped on.

Tearing a hole through the top I handed it to Maria who laughed. “I am not cold, in fact I am quite used to this weather. You need it,” she said, and would not accept it even after I tried to force her to grab it.

The empty pillow provided some slight warmth, but would not last long in this weather. I waved for Maria to follow me and we traveled through the forest on a deer path. Soon we found the river and started heading north. Maria insisted on being in front. I was curious but not enough to ask why she insisted. The sun seemed to set itself behind the clouds today, creating winds that chilled my spine. My face burnt as if it was on fire, but I knew full well that it was colder than ice. We trudged onwards, not stopping for water or food. As the sky seemed to darken a little we found the path leading into town, though we were a long ways from it. We traveled east for some time, then she finally decided to stop. She plopped down on the side of the road, and patted the ground next to her.

I sat next to her, but kept my distance. She sighed and moved towards me, then rapped her arm around my waist. “If we keep together we will be warmer.”

Feeling warmer I squeezed in against her. My muscles ached and my stomach writhed. I hadn’t eaten anything in a long time.

Maria and I sat there, as if frozen to the spot. I was waiting for Maria to tell me what we were doing, but she stayed silent. It was an hour or two before she stood up.

We should get going," she said and helped me up.

Both of us stayed silent for quite some time, until at last the road lead to a familiar object.

"The wall..." I whispered, hoping it couldn't see me.

Maria looked at the wall, and then to me. She understood exactly what I meant. "Don't worry, I promise you will never have to go in there again." She paused for a moment. "Can you trust me Matthias?"

I paused to think. Why did she ask me if I could trust her? I, after all, had not questioned her up to this point. I looked into her beautiful face, and nodded approvingly.

"I'll be back as soon as I can with some food and clothing. We can't walk you past the gate with those cloths!" Maria said.

I looked at Maria and at what she was wearing. How was she any better off than I was? She sprinted off towards the wall, leaving me to myself.

I attempted to entertain myself by throwing rocks as far as I could. Soon that got boring and I laid back into the tree line. I stared up into the wide deep blue of the sky. The tree branches created more bizarre looking paintings in the sky than did the clouds. As time moved, so did the clouds and their patterns. Soon the sun touched the tip of the tree line and the clouds turned red as blood.

I was worried now. I had no idea what I would do if she didn't happen to come back, and if she did, what worth am I to her? Her beauty swept my thoughts away when she was near. It was the very passion of wanting to know her that had kept me going along this far. Other than James, no other person had given me any sort of chance at friendship. I wanted to be apart of her life.

Though I had been a slave all my life, there had been female slaves among us men. The females did not appreciate me as a someone, even when I would take their full load for them! I was nothing more than just another person in the prison.

The moon rose softly upwards into the sky. It wasn't long after that, that the Crickets started to chirp. Every once and awhile an owl would coo or a wolf would howl. My eyes started to strain with the weight of the day. It had been exhausting waiting for Maria. Soon time itself stopped and all that had once been on my mind ceased to be.

A loud hum woke me up. The hum strengthened until it became a string of words, "Matthias, wake up!"

I opened my eyes and Maria stood there looking down at me. She was wearing a large coat and thick pants that made her look fat, and in her hands were another coat and pants. As I stood up she handed me the jacket and pants, which weighed a considerable amount. Quickly I put them on, and instantly felt my skin start to warm up. I smiled at Maria, and she smiled back. She waved her hand at me, asking me to follow her. I did so, happy to know that she had come back. We walked eastward to town, it was right as we were about to pass the slave pins when a guard with a noticeable face stopped me and Maria.

"Hey, you! Do I know you from somewhere?" the man asked, his gaze searching out my face.

I looked down towards the ground, trying to avoid his eye's, "No sir, I don't know what your talking about" I said.

"Sir," Maria said, "Do you know who I am?"

The man looked puzzled, "Uhh..."

"I am your lord's wife! Do you not recognize me?" Maria whispered angrily.

The guard looked stunned as if he had been stricken, "If you..." he began, but Maria cut him off swiftly.

"I will hear no more of this matter!" she said sharply.

The man seemed to be locked up for words to say, so with his hand he gestured us away. We got quite a bit away when Maria stopped.

"I'm sorry I took so long. I have found us a place to stay though, the elf is a very old friend of mine who has been guarding quite a few elf stones. He may be able to aide us," she said smiling.

I smiled at her, "Thanks for the cloths." I managed to say.

"For a human you are extremely shy!" she giggled.

I didn't know what to say. "I'm sorry." I replied, dropping my head down.

"No, don't be sorry Matthias!" she paused and lifted my chin up. "It is good to be shy."

She pushed softly on my back, wishing me to march on with her, and I did so. The town was visible in the near distance, fire trails lit by the sun lead up far into the sky. The night had been awfully cold and I was amazed that I had lived through it. The closer we got the the town, the louder the sounds got. Soon we arrived at the front gate and two fully armored guards with long spears walked over to us. Their plate mail suits both had an emblem on the front of it that looked like a (to be designed later!)

"What is your business?" One of the guards asked.

Maria smiled up at the left one, "Don't you remember me?"

The guard at once nodded and they both returned back to their spots. Maria and I walked forward past the guards and into town. My heart raced and my head burned as if it was on fire. I had never before been into a town a free man. Never had I been equal with anyone but my fellow worker! This was different, and hard to fathom. Maria lead me north west of town to a medium sized house with a shack next to it. The building was surrounded by a metal gate that wore a sign. I could not read what it said, but it had a skull on it meaning something about death. She unlatched the gate and we entered the front yard of the house. It was a large and very old wooden house that had vines crawling up its sides. It's once marvelous stone patio was in ruin. The door, however, was new and contained a hefty lock on the front of it. Maria stepped up onto the porch and knocked on the door. Nothing stirred inside, but Maria stayed still in front of the door.

"Who is it?" an old voice yelled out suddenly.

Maria smiled, "It's me, Maria," she replied back.

A huge thud emitted from the door as the lock spun around. An old man, obviously in his dieing years stared at me. He was slouched over on a staff that only reached waist high on him. "Is this him?" he asked Maria.

"Yeah," Maria paused. "This is the hero."

"Hero?" I asked, "what do you mean by hero?"

"Matthias, my stone could have been lost forever in the river. I was doomed if you had not escaped from the encampment and fallen into the water!" Maria said, smiling ever more.

"But I didn't fall into the water... I dove in after two large fish that I thought were staring up at me." I said, quietly.7-2-2006 2-34-37 AM_0087

She smiled, "Then fate had you run into my stone. Amazing isn't it?" she said.

"Yes, indeed. Come in children, come in!" The man said.

More will come as soon as my time frees up a bit! Thanks for reading!

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