Olivia and Oliver Part 1
The King of Falmund was furious. It had been three months since Captain Olem led a company of stone hunters north across the Isofar border and abruptly disappeared. King Joram had no doubt the simple-minded peasants would ascribe the disappearance to the so-called "stonebound", people who could supposedly hear a mystical voice and perform miraculous deeds. In fact, the streets were already abuzz with the rumor that Captain Olem's company was wiped out by a group of these Stonebound. It was all nonsense and superstition but these rumors were a very real threat to the stability of the kingdom. Stamping out those who would call themselves stonebound was the reason King Joram had commissioned Captain Olem's stone hunters in the first place. For them to fail so spectacularly was inexcusable. King Joram glanced over to the captain of his royal guard and nodded. An example would have to be made.
Olivia had been following a deer path for most of the afternoon before the setting sun forced her turn back home. With her father gone these last three months, Olivia took it upon herself to help out at home any way she could. Bringing home a deer would have gone a long way towards making Olivia feel like she was DOING something. She couldn't stand the idea of carrying on as if nothing were the matter when her father and his whole company were missing. Rather than face the truth Olivia chose to fancy herself a hunter while her brother Oliver chose to bury himself in books at the library. Their mother put up a stoic front, but Olivia knew that on the inside she was just as worried as everyone else.
As Olivia crept through the underbrush making her way back to the main road that would lead her home, she heard a large group of people approaching further down the road. As they neared she saw they were soldiers. Perhaps they had news of her father? Something made Olivia refrain from calling out to them and she paused to observe them from the brush. Something was wrong. Most soldiers made easy conversation or bantered back and forth as they marched, but these men were silent and tense. And why would they be traveling when it was nearly nightfall? As they passed by her hiding spot she could see they were fully armed and armored. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
Olivia crept back along the deer path until the soldiers disappeared from view. As soon as they were out of earshot Olivia exploded into a sprint only slowing when she had to weave through tangled vines or duck branches. She had to reach her home before the soldiers. An eternity later Olivia burst from the woods behind her house startling her mother Eleanor, who was busy preparing the meal with their servant Mirabelle.
"Soldiers! coming this way," Olivia panted. "I think the king sent them here to kill us! Where is Oliver?"
Her mother set the food aside and rinsed her hands off in a large washing basin before she replied, "Oliver is still at the library in town. Where are these soldiers?"
"No more than a few minutes behind me," replied Olivia. "We have to go now!" She grabbed her mother and Mirabelle and began pulling them towards the woods.
"Wait, child! I'm in no condition to outrun soldiers through the forest. The best I can do is try to reason with them. Wait here," commanded Eleanor as she entered the house. A few moments later she re-emerged carrying a sheathed sword. "This is your father's. I want you to take it. You and Mirabelle must go find Oliver and escape the city. Hurry now."
Mirabelle spoke up, "My lady, I am no more able to outrun soldiers through the forest than you. I beg you to let me stay by your side, for I would not abandon you in this hour."
"Then I would stay with you also," said Olivia. "Perhaps we can fight them off with this," she said, slowly pulling her father's sword from its scabbard.
"Don't be a fool girl!" her mother scolded. "These are trained soldiers. They would simply kill all of us. Then who would take care of your brother? He has no idea what is happening."
Just then they heard a gruff voice call out from the front of the house. The soldiers had arrived. "Go, Olivia," whispered her mother, pushing her towards the forest. "Take care of Oliver and go with my love." Eleanor straightened up and marched towards the front of the house hand in hand with Mirabelle.
Olivia clutched the sword to her chest as she watched them turn the corner and disappear around the house. She stood staring at the spot she had last seen her mother until she came to her senses and turned to creep back into the forest. Just as she entered the trees she heard the same rough voice cut across the distance. She couldn't make out the exact words, but she couldn't risk staying to listen. Her mother had made her sacrifice and now it was up to Olivia to save her brother.
The last slivers of daylight had been extinguished and Olivia had to carefully pick her way through the darkened forest. Her heart was racing and she constantly expected to hear the sounds of pursuit crashing through the forest behind her. After about ten minutes she felt a glimmer of hope that she had escaped any immediate danger. She risked a glance backward and her heart leaped into her throat. There was a soft red glow barely visible through the distant trees. The soldiers had set fire to their house.