Vengeance Hath No Fury
« Chapter 1 »
Cedric’s heart raced as he ran along the tree-lined cliffs. Glancing behind him as the air burnt his lungs he tripped and fell. Cursing, he scrambled back to his feet. If he could reach the end of the forest, he could call for help but his pursuer closed the gap. With the edge of the forest in sight, Cedric pushed harder, his heartbeat all but pounding out of his chest.
His pursuer was close and with a large bound, he dived and knocked Cedric to the forest floor. Spinning Cedric around, his attacker snarled, “Where is it? Give it to me.”
“I–I don’t have it,” Cedric stuttered.
Trevin’s face twisted in anger. “I want that document, where is it?”
“I don’t have it I swear.”
Hauling Cedric to his feet, Trevin backed him up to the edge of the cliff. Leaning him over the drop, he snarled, “Tell me who has the document or I swear I will kill you?”
Cedric had no wish to die. Afraid, he stuttered, “I–I gave it to a courier.”
“Bartomayo, that’s all I know.”
“And where is this Bartomayo?”
“I’m not sure.”
“He could be in the Town of Wolf.”
Trevin patted Cedric on the cheek. “See, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” Grinning, Trevin released his hold on his victim. Screaming, Cedric flailed his arms and legs as he hurtled toward the ground, seconds later, he lay twisted and silent on the rocks below. Turning, Trevin smiled as he walked away.
Auzara laughed as she raced down the forest path. Streamlining herself, she urged her horse, Storm, to race even faster. Glancing behind her, she smiled.
Orion, her ex-partner’s younger brother had challenged her to a race. He’d just finished training a Palaso horse for his uncle and wanted to test out his speed. He’d bet Auzara one gold coin that the horse could outrun and jump Storm but he could see his gold coin slipping from his grasp as Auzara surged on ahead.
Grinning, Orion took a detour through the forest, cursing, Auzara did the same.
When Orion drew level with her Auzara laughed. She decided two could play at that game and bursting out of the trees, she veered right across an open field instead of re-joining the path. Orion followed, but as they neared a hedgerow, his eyes widened.
Auzara had no such trepidation and as Orion closed the gap, she whispered in Storm’s ear, “Come on boy you can do it.”
Orion gritted his teeth as the hedge, the height of which he had never jumped before, loomed into view. Auzara spared him only a quick glance as Storm launched himself skyward. Landing, she continued down the road and laughed.
Orion made the jump, but as his Palaso horse faltered on his landing, he lurched forward almost dismounting from his saddle. Holding on for dear life, he raced after Auzara. The finishing line for the race was a corral at the opposite end of Orion’s village and as people jumped out of the way, Auzara and Orion charged down the central street, each riding like the devil was chasing them.
With the corral now in sight, Auzara smiled, but as Auzara and Orion skidded to a halt, they sent mud and debris flying into the air. Orion’s older brother Topek and his new lady friend were in the firing line. Startled, the young woman jumped back, tripping she fell into a puddle created by an earlier storm. When the debris settled Auzara and Orion saw two furious people glaring up at them.
Topek, Orion’s older brother and ex-partner to Auzara, found himself covered head to foot in mud. In a rage, Topek’s friend smacked her hands in the puddle sending splashes of mud into the air.
Topek had a fiery temper and when he saw Orion stifling a chuckle, he dragged him out of his saddle and slapped him up the back of the head.
“Ouch!” Orion exclaimed.
“Apologise!” Topek ordered as he pointed down at his new lady friend covered in mud.
When Orion’s apology was not forthcoming, Topek marched him across to the bewildered young woman, ordering, “I said apologise, now!”
“Okay fine, so I’m sorry.” When Orion glanced up at Auzara, she rolled her eyes, which made him laugh.
Grabbing Orion by the scruff of his neck, Topek marched him toward a water trough. Dunking his head in the water, he held him under until he struggled to resurface.
Worried that Topek would drown his brother, Auzara dropped out of her saddle. Grabbing Topek’s arm, she ordered, “Topek leave him alone. We didn’t do it on purpose we were just having a friendly race that’s all.”
Shrugging Auzara’s hand away, Topek lifted Orion so he could take a breath. When he sucked in a mouthful of air, Topek dunked him again. “No, he needs to learn respect.”
Auzara had a temper to match Topek’s and angry, she warned, “Topek, let him go or you will have me to deal with.”
Releasing his brother, Topek turned his attention onto Auzara. She’d seen that look in his eyes before and backed away. Grabbing her, Topek threw her over his shoulder. When she objected, he threw her into the trough.
“Then the next time you are out having a friendly race with my brother look where you are going.”
Auzara cursed as she surfaced in the trough.
Turning around, Topek walked back to his lady friend. Brushing mud off her clothes Loretta vowed some kind of revenge.
Climbing out of the trough as Orion laughed at her, Auzara jested, “Well, at least we don’t need a bath today.”
Orion shook his wet hair like a dog drying out its fur.
Auzara laughed and holding out her palm, she said, “I think you owe me a coin for winning the race.”
“Damn it, I was sure I had you this time,” Orion chided.
“There’s only one Storm and you forget that Dakoda trained him.”
“One day Auzara, one day I will train a horse that can beat Storm in a race.”
“One day, but not today,” Kameko laughed.
When Talenka, Orion’s uncle sauntered over, he remarked, “I see you’ve just met Topek’s new lady friend.”
“You could say that although I doubt she’ll forget us in a hurry,” Auzara jested.
“I just witnessed the altercation you had so I fear you may be right. Maybe it would be wise to avoid Topek for a few days, well, at least until he’s calmed down,” Talenka said with a wry smile.
“It was an accident, I swear,” Orion defended.
“Maybe it was, but next time I suggest you choose a less populated area to finish the race.”
“Talenka is right, I should have known better,” Auzara conceded.
Stroking the horse Orion had trained for him, Talenka complimented, “You’ve done well with Blaze, Orion. A little more training and he will be an excellent horse, you’ll see.”
Orion smiled for his uncle’s praise meant a lot to him.
Auzara ruffled Orion’s hair. “I hate to admit it Talenka but your nephew here is getting a little too good. I fear he’s already nipping at my heels.”
Orion beamed again.
Flicking Orion’s coin off the edge of her finger, Auzara suggested, “Here, buy Topek’s friend some flowers as an apology.”
Orion caught it mid-air and grinned. “Thanks.” Laughing, he ran back into the village.
Auzara walked with Talenka. “I think Orion has come on leaps and bounds as a horse trainer. You’ve taught him well.”
“He has. He listens well and has a passion for the job a rare trait in one so young. I would have liked Topek to have shared the same passion, but alas he is not interested.”
With a sideways glance, Auzara teased, “He appears to be more interested in that girl.”
Talenka chuckled. “He is, but I doubt Loretta Baron-Moncrieff is the right girl for him.”
“Loretta Baron-Moncrieff, now that’s a mouthful. But why do you say that?”
“I can’t put my finger on it, but something about that girl seems… shall we say a little off.”
“Something in my gut is telling me she is hiding something.”
“Well unfortunately Topek does not possess your intuition for choosing the right friends. He will not realise something is wrong until it is too late.”
Talenka favoured Auzara. It had been his hope she would one day marry Topek, but true to form, he’d spoilt his chances with his overbearing attitude. “Oh I don’t know, he chose you once.”
“Yes and we all know how that ended,” Auzara teased.
“Topek does not listen to me as much as I would like. He is headstrong and impulsive, always has been even as a young boy.”
“I suspect that is why we always fought so much when we were together. We were like two stags locking antlers.”
Auzara and Topek used to be partners, but his controlling ways had ended their relationship. He did not like her travelling around nor did he like it when other men spoke to her or found her attractive. They argued most when Auzara travelled to other kingdoms. She liked the freedom to come and go as she pleased, but Topek liked her where he could see her, by his side. Auzara found Topek attractive, still did, but his overprotective ways had placed a wedge between them, especially after she had met a Calliston Warrior from the Kingdom of Oberon.
Reaching his cabin, Talenka sighed. “Knowing Topek as I do the young lady will only be a dalliance. He has not been serious about anyone since you.”
“I know the breakup was hard on him, but it was for the best,” Auzara said as she watched Topek chatting to his mud-covered friend. “So where does his new lady friend come from?”
“The Kingdom of Orca. She told Topek that she is visiting an old friend of her father’s in the Town of Wolf. She came here with two male friends. I think she called them Trevin and Clayton. Her father is wealthy and would not allow her to visit Palaso without escorts.”
“Has Topek met any of her relatives?”
“Not that I’m aware of, no.”
“They’ve only been here a week or two and already they’ve stirred up trouble in Wolf.”
“A friend of mine told me he saw them spoiling for fights in the Silver Birch Inn where they are lodging.”
Auzara nodded. “Hmm, I think I might just pay the town a visit. See what I can find out.”
“It might not hurt but do not let Topek see you nosing around,” Talenka cautioned.
“Don’t worry, I can handle Topek. And I can handle the girl.”
“Oh I can see that,” Talenka said with a wry smile. “So tell me, how are you keeping these days?”
“Oh, I’m fine.”
“I know that look Auzara,” Talenka teased. “You’re getting itchy feet I can tell.”
Auzara laughed. “Okay so I admit it, I have been a little bored of late.”
“Then maybe you should pay your brothers a visit in Oberon.”
“I think you’re right, a change of scenery might do me good. I haven’t seen them in a while.”
“Do they still live near the City of Caddoan?”
“Yes, in a village called Broon. It’s only a few miles from the main city. Mother complains they do not visit her as much as they should and she’s right. I might take a trip there to remind them to come home once in a while.”
“Yes, well, you never know what mischief they’ve been up to in your absence.”
“That’s what they all say about me,” Auzara jested. Hugging Talenka, Auzara headed back to Storm.
Before Auzara could swing up into her saddle, a hand yanked her back down. Spinning her around, a hand swung at her face but Auzara blocked it. Twisting the offending hand up her attackers back, Auzara warned, “Hit me and I’ll hit back.”
Loretta struggled. “Ouch, let go of me!”
Auzara pushed Loretta away from her. “Listen, I have no quarrel with you and if this is over what happened earlier, then I promise you it was an accident and for that I apologise.”
The crazy harpy’s eyes narrowed with ominous intent and Auzara just knew this fight was not over.
“I’ll see you pay for what you have done!” Loretta snarled. “Topek likes me not you so keep away from him.”
“Lady, and I use the term loosely, I have no intention of going anywhere near him. He’s all yours and I hope you’ll both be happy together because trust me, you deserve each other,” Auzara rebuffed.
“You’re just jealous.”
Loretta’s temper rose to boiling point at Auzara’s mockery as she launched another attack on her.
Grabbing both of Loretta’s wrists as she tried to claw at her face, Auzara warned, “Lady, you need to calm down! I have no intention of fighting with you.”
Glancing over Auzara’s shoulder, Loretta saw Topek heading toward them. He’d heard the commotion and was now coming over to see what was wrong. Intent on revenge, Loretta clawed her own nails down her throat and cried out.
Running over, Topek yanked Auzara away, demanding, “What’s going on?”
Loretta gripped her throat and winced. Sobbing, she lied, “I was just walking by and she attacked me for no reason.”
It shocked Topek to see blood when he removed Loretta’s hand from her throat. “What have you done?”
“Nothing, she did that to herself, Auzara protested.”
Walking Loretta back to his cabin, Topek warned, “You’re treading on thin ice Auzara, stay away from her or you will have me to deal with.”
Loretta glanced over her shoulder, stuck her tongue out and smiled.
Auzara narrowed her eyes at the blatant goad. Controlling her urge to throttle the lying witch, she swung up into her saddle. Heading back to the Village of Eagle, she vowed to return to the Town of Wolf to see what she could uncover about the girl. Talenka was right, something was not right about her. She was trouble and the sooner Auzara proved it to everyone the better.
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