Chapter 9:

The First Night

Tales Of The Chosen "Heroes"

It had been several hours since the group had begun to move towards Esterwood, the sun had now set. Constantly on guard and taking detours in order to avoid any potential run-ins with the chaos. Shawn personally thought they were moving slower then they should. Though everyone else may say otherwise.Bookmark here

For the rest, having to travel through dense foliage with a looming threat of death hidden behind the leaves found this long march rather exhausting. There was new layer of gloom that seemed to blanket the entire group as exhaustion had begun to take its toll.Bookmark here

Shawn and Rose were ahead of the group a by number of meters, scouting the front. Lawrence and the other more able bodies had been placed along the flanks and back, with everyone else in the middle. So far, they hadn’t run into any danger they couldn’t avoid.Bookmark here

“We’ve been walking for a while, haven’t we?” Rose asked Shawn.Bookmark here

“Eh, yeah it’s been like seven or eight hours.” Shawn said.Bookmark here

“I think we should take break.”Bookmark here

“I would prefer to be closer to the city.”Bookmark here

“And how much farther do you think everyone else can go?” Rose’s helmet indicated towards the rest of the group. Whom many looked like they could collapse on their feet.Bookmark here

Oh right. That. Shawn thought, quickly looking around. “Not a safe place to set up camp.”Bookmark here

“Well, we could find a place. Stop let them rest, maybe get some food for them if possible.”Bookmark here

“You want a fire right now?”Bookmark here

“If we can afford to. It’s a big forest and we won’t need a big smoking fire. Now are you going to stop, or will you keep trudging forward?” Rose questioned.Bookmark here

Shawn gave a scoff before relenting, “How are we going to find a place?”Bookmark here

“Go look around, I’ll inform the group.”Bookmark here

“Right, right.” Shawn said as he began to wander away from Rose who had now stopped moving. As he was moving away, he could hear Rose address everyone with new instructions. She’s a natural born leader, eh? He thought as he began to search.Bookmark here

The sun was reaching the end of its twilight and last glows of its rays streaked through the trees casting low shadows everywhere. Well, at least there’s some light. He thought as he navigated through the brush.Bookmark here

Shawn tried his best to navigate through the uneven floor and avoid any cobwebs or branches that threatened to smack his face. All the while keeping a lookout for any attackers. He moved closer towards more even and clearer areas. Eventually he found himself in front of a cave with a small clearing.Bookmark here

Shawn stared at it in surprised. Huh, this is only like five minutes away… lucky, I guess. Well, as long as the cave is suitable that is. Unfortunately, with the mouth of the cave facing away from the sun he couldn’t see what the contents of the cave entailed.Bookmark here

Shawn dug through his satchel and pulled out a small lantern, lighting it, he entered the cave. Inside Shawn was surprised to find it empty. The floors while dusty were dry and flat, the roof seemed stable and clear of any critters. The was enough space for everyone people to fit into.Bookmark here

Really lucky. Shawn thought. This area was barely five minutes away from the main group. Giving the area a look through he saw no vermin in the place, it was clear.Bookmark here

He got up and moved back towards the rest of the group. There he saw that everyone had sat down trying to rest their aching legs. Rose turned to face him upon hearing his return.Bookmark here

“Found a place?”Bookmark here

“Yeah, a small area with a cave, looks safe enough to rest.”Bookmark here

“Lead the way then.”Bookmark here

“Right.” As Shawn began to retrace his steps he thought. Since when did I become a tour guide? He gave a small shake of his head as he reflected on the fact that for some reason, he was now protecting a bunch of strangers from the hordes of chaos worshippers.Bookmark here

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Shawn stood at the edge of the trees, spending half his time looking at the woods the other half looking at those huddled around two small fire pits outside of the cave. Shawn was growing annoyed over the fact that they were still here.Bookmark here

Lawrence approached him, “What’s with the long face?”Bookmark here

“Shut up.”Bookmark here

Lawrence gave small laugh, “Growing impatient I see.”Bookmark here

“We should be moving.”Bookmark here

“Everyone’s a bit too exhausted to do so at the moment I think. Besides, it doesn’t seem like we’ll run into any chaos soon.” Lawrence assured Shawn.Bookmark here

“What makes you say that?”Bookmark here

“I doubt after a day of raiding they would have much energy or really care about stragglers. Besides by now the soldiers are probably searching the area now.” Lawrence said.Bookmark here

“What makes you so sure?”Bookmark here

“You know how much the government hates having their things taken.”Bookmark here

Shawn gave small shrug of agreement.Bookmark here

“Besides right now rest is important. Water isn’t an issue, but food on the other hand.” Lawrence gestured at the lack of supplies.Bookmark here

“We have provisions.”Bookmark here

“Enough for everyone?”Bookmark here

“People can go with a day without eating.” Shawn said.Bookmark here

“But, it would be better if they didn’t.” Rose’s voice arose from behind Shawn, who in turn swiveled around in blinding speed.Bookmark here

“How?!”Bookmark here

“What?” Rose asked innocently.Bookmark here

“… What do you want.” Shawn simply asked.Bookmark here

“I’m going hunting. Want to join?” Rose asked.Bookmark here

“What about watching over everyone?”Bookmark here

“Well, like your friend Lawrence said. Unlikely for enemies to be searching for us, so we should take this time to properly rest. Besides, the others can stand guard for a bit.” She said looking over to Lawrence.Bookmark here

“That’s fine.” He said with a shrug.Bookmark here

Directing her question back to Shawn she asked again, “Want to join?”Bookmark here

Shawn looked over at Lawrence who simply shrugged and said, “It would be nice if people didn’t go hungry.”Bookmark here

Shawn gave a sigh, “Alright, getting bored standing around anyways.”Bookmark here

“Follow me.” She said as she began to head back into the forest.Bookmark here

Shawn taking one more glance over Lawrence who gave a supporting smile and began to follow Rose.Bookmark here

As they travelled for a few minutes Rose suddenly stopped, “Oh yeah, I almost forgot, you’ll probably need this.” She said as she unclasped her short recurve bow and handed it over to Shawn. “You will probably need this.”Bookmark here

Shawn raised an eyebrow in surprise, “Quite the gift.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t say you can keep it; you just wouldn’t be very useful for hunting if you don’t have a way to catch anything. Here, take this quiver.”Bookmark here

As Shawn grabbed the objects he asked, “Why do you have two bows and two quivers?”Bookmark here

“I always travel with two, it just feels right.” She said nonchalantly.Bookmark here

“Right.” Shawn said as he tested out the draw of the bow. Finding it to be surprisingly taught. “Damn, its got some draw weight.”Bookmark here

“That’s the lighter one.” She said.Bookmark here

Shawn looked at her wondering what exactly this armoured figure in front of him is, before deciding to dwell on it later.Bookmark here

“Alright, should we split up?” He asked.Bookmark here

Rose shook her head, “We’ve got some decent moonlight, but it’s still pretty dark. You’ll have trouble seeing without a proper light source and a fire could scare animals away. Safer for us to stick together.”Bookmark here

“And you can see better in the dark?”Bookmark here

“Yes, lots of practice.”Bookmark here

“… Sure, why not.”Bookmark here

With that conversation they crept through the forest having the moonlight help light their way. Rose studied the ground, stared around the surroundings, taking note of any disturbance or tracks. She knows what she’s doing at least. Shawn thought. Rose slowed to stop and raised her hand to signal to Shawn.Bookmark here

She pointed somewhere in front of her. Shawn squinted through the darkness trying to figure out what she’s seen. The light glow of the moon allowed him to pick out a shape of a creature. A porcupine. It’s white quills allowing it to stick out as it foraged around the ground. She really does have good eyes. He thought. Quite the distance away too. Bookmark here

“Alright, go ahead.” She whispered to him.Bookmark here

Shawn on one knee was about to pull back his bow. He found the bow far more difficult to draw while on a knee. Before he could pull it back, he heard Rose whisper again.Bookmark here

“Have both knees be on the ground. This is hunting not a fight; you can go onto both knees. You’ll sway less, you’re not used to this bow.”Bookmark here

Shawn decided to follow her instruction. Having both his knees touching the ground he raised up his bow and notched an arrow and had it pointed at the large rodent in front. As he pulled back the string, he noted just how much strength it took. This has more drawing weight then some military issued bows. He thought, it made him ponder just what exactly was underneath all that armour. Though her advice definitely helped. I would not be this still right now. He mused as he let the arrow loose.Bookmark here

The arrow whistled through the air passing through the shrubs and trees and struck true into the head of the porcupine.Bookmark here

“Good job.”Bookmark here

“Thanks.” Shawn replied as he got up and approached the porcupine. As he approached the animal he heard another arrow whisp through the air and suddenly from a tree branch fell a bird.Bookmark here

Turning he saw Rose had loosed her own arrow and had shot down a bird perched up a tree. He couldn’t even see where the bird was perched. Those are some eyes.Bookmark here

“You going help me clean these? Or are you just going to show off?” Shawn asked annoyed.Bookmark here

“Coming, coming.”Bookmark here

Rose walked up and grabbed the fallen fowl and walked over to Shawn.Bookmark here

“You know, despite all my time hunting grouse I’m still not sure when the best time it is to pluck them.” Rose mused.Bookmark here

“Well, we also got a porcupine to clean. So may as well clean them now.” Shawn said as he got up and pulled out his lantern and started to wander of.Bookmark here

“Where are you going?”Bookmark here

“Foraging.”Bookmark here

“I can help.”Bookmark here

“Nah, you focus on the animals. We wouldn’t have got them if it wasn’t for you.” He said as he disappeared into the trees.Bookmark here

As he left, he could hear a small dissatisfied, “Hmph.”Bookmark here

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As people finished their meals and the remains were being disposed of people began to head into the cave for rest. Shawn sat at the moth of the cave looking at the dying embers of one of the pit fires. Guess we’re staying here for the night. He thought as he watched people pass him and head into the cave. Why am I here in the first place? I don’t even know what I’m going to do. His thoughts were interrupted by Lawrence.Bookmark here

“You going to head in for the night?” He asked Shawn.Bookmark here

“No. I’m going to keep watch.”Bookmark here

“You sure? You haven’t slept in a few days.” He asked Shawn in concern.Bookmark here

“I’m fine.” Shawn said adamantly.Bookmark here

“Alright, make sure to wake me in a few hours to change shifts.” Lawrence said simply giving him a reassuring pat on the shoulder as he entered the cave.Bookmark here

As Lawrence left, Shawn began to go into a deep thought. But before he could form any thoughts Rose’s voice appeared on his side.Bookmark here

“You sure you don’t need to take a break?”Bookmark here

Turning to his right he saw that Rose had sat down on the other side cave opening.Bookmark here

“What are you doing here?”Bookmark here

“Taking watch, easier with two people.”Bookmark here

Shawn suppressed the urge to talk back and remained silent and stared of into the trees. He was about to zone out again when Rose once more interrupted his thoughts.Bookmark here

“So, you’re not from Acrary are you?”Bookmark here

“What’s with the question.”Bookmark here

“Just trying to pass some time.”Bookmark here

Shawn turned to look at Rose, who’s helmet faceplate turned to meet him.Bookmark here

“A bit of personal question to be asked by a stranger.”Bookmark here

“Well, we know each others’ names and we are going through a life-or-death situation together. I wouldn’t say we’re total strangers. We have to at least trust each other.” She said raising her armoured pauldrons up and down in a shrug. Bookmark here

“That only means to trust each other in getting to the city, not about personal life.” Shawn said turning away from her.Bookmark here

“I suppose. But is it that important for people not to know your home country?” She asked tilting her head to the side.Bookmark here

“Does where I come from really matter?” He asked back turning to face her again.Bookmark here

She paused for a moment and stared at him in silence before turning to face the front, “I suppose it really doesn’t. I’m sorry. I just thought talking would be less boring.”Bookmark here

“Talking to you, I would rather be bored.” He said shifting his gaze to the trees. Rose gave no reply.Bookmark here

Silence fell between them. The sound of the light breeze and the occasional rustling of those sleeping inside of the cave filled the empty air. Shawn simply let the ambience permeate for a few moments as he watched the leaves gently rustle.Bookmark here

“So… where are you from.” Shawn suddenly asked.Bookmark here

“Huh?” Rose said in surprise, turning her head to face him again.Bookmark here

“I’m trying to pass some time. If you tell me, I’ll tell you.” He said plainly. “It would be rather boring to do nothing.”Bookmark here

“Thought talking to me was worse then being bored.”Bookmark here

“Changed my mind.”Bookmark here

“… Okay.” She said slowly. “I’m from southeast Acrary. Place with lots of forests. I travelled a bit across the country and that lead me here. You?”Bookmark here

“I was born on the eastern country Pīng Sǔ. But came from Nobelia.”Bookmark here

“Travelled quite a bit already then.”Bookmark here

“I guess.”Bookmark here

Rose rested her arms onto her knees and asked, “Shawn isn’t exactly a Ping Su name, is it?”Bookmark here

“No, I changed it a bit to make it more pronounceable here.”Bookmark here

“I’m guessing right now you would rather be back their or in Nobelia then here right now.” She reasoned.Bookmark here

“Honestly, this situation right now? I’ve had worse times.” Shawn said while resting his hands behind his head.Bookmark here

“Not sure if that’s a thing to be proud of.”Bookmark here

“Probably not.”Bookmark here

The two continued to converse here and there throughout the night. Simply waiting for the time pass and the sun to rise. Waiting to see what happens the next day.Bookmark here

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