Chapter Seven: Selected Survival - Part Two

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 Tauren had seen the ocean once, long before, hunting down Carmenton valley.

   What he saw as he emerged from under the pine forest’s last trees reminded him of the ocean. Only instead of water, there was grass, instead of waves, there were hills, and instead of rocky shore, there was forest.

   He sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, it was an amazing sight.

   I’m a long way from home, he thought to himself.

    Detrick rode forward next to him and gazed out at the rolling plains going off into the distant mountains to the east and into the horizon to the west and south.

   “I never seem to tire of looking at this.” He said slowly.

    Tauren nodded silently.

    “I don’t know why, but the plains always seemed . . . so safe, so peaceful, and so perfect.” He seemed in a trance.” I remember living by the Great Plains when I was little, before we moved to the city and ocean and mountains. They weren’t like this; they were flat, so perfectly flat, filled with this short, soft grass. I never got tired of them . . .”

    Tauren nodded, he felt as if he knew what he was talking about. Already he felt like there were no enemies out here. That they had nothing to fear now. . .

   ”We should keep moving.” He said finally, after a short silence, glancing back at the forest, for the first time feeling that . . . feeling that he wanted to leave it behind.

    Detrick glanced back with him and his peaceful expression disappeared.” Yeah, we should.”

    Together they headed out into the plains, trying to go around the hills instead of over them, so as to avoid cliffs and rock heaps that would be difficult if not impossible to navigate with the horses.

   They were only a hundred yards away from the forest when Detrick gave a surprised cry behind Tauren and yelled.” RUN! Halavardes, right behind us”

    Tauren didn’t glance back or even hesitate; he spurred T’hune forward, and leaned low over the saddle tore forward between the hills, only glancing back once.

    What he saw chilled his blood, a couple yards behind him was Detrick. Stretched low over his heavy black charger, riding just as hard as he was. But behind Detrick, streaming out of the forest was an entire squad of Halavardes, if not more.

    At least fifteen men in gleaming coats, riding massive battle horses, black cloaks streaming out behind them, screaming indecipherable war cries. Three or four of them carried crossbows, two had lances, and the rest had drawn swords.

    And it only took them a few minutes of frantic riding between the boulders strewn about the hills to find that they were better mounted as well, for they started to gain.

   Slowly at first, then with increasing speed as the rocks became thicker, slowing Tauren and Detrick down.

    The instant Tauren had seen them he had pulled his bow off of his saddle, hooked one end in a stirrup, strung it, and loaded it in a matter of seconds, but on T’hunes jolting back there was no way that he would be able to get a decent shot.

     This wasn’t good, thought Tauren to himself as the Halavardes continued to get closer, their hard, savage faces now visible under hawk-like helmets.

    Suddenly they hit a stretch of smooth ground running along the side of a stream between two rocky hillsides, and instantly T’hune and Detricks horse seemed to double their speed, flying forward faster and faster, while, once the Halavardes hit the same strip of ground, they barely seemed to change speed at all.

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