Finally, the long-awaited (long-awaited by me, at least, if anyone) part two of A Single Arrow!
If you haven’t read chapter 1, or even if you have — it was posted in early February — click here to read it first so that you know what’s going on. It’s not too long, and it’s more interesting than a summary. But I understand that you probably didn’t come here to go down a rabbit hole of links, so here is a summary of part 1.
Click to read a summary of Chapter 1.
Teya Redstone is the royal executioner/assassin for the medieval fantasy country of Tharland. She loves drawing and was raised with her older brother, Rian, by a maid named Emme.
Rian committed a crime that is unclear in Chapter 1, and has been sentenced to execution. But that means Teya faces the choice of executing her brother… or being executed herself for a job badly done.
During the execution, Rian chooses to be executed by bow and arrow, an unpopular choice among criminals. Teya has been driven to near insanity with the decision, but finally releases the bowstring. But she misses by inches at the same time that Emme runs in and tries to convince the council (this country’s version of a royal family) to spare Teya the burden of executing her brother. Her argument fails, and she and Rian are sent to the dungeon. Teya is confined to her small bedroom, where she stays up late into the night and makes an escape plan.
Now for Chapter 2.
The pale moon loomed over the silent castle like every night. But this wasn’t like every night.
This night, Teya thought, might be the most important night of my life.
Teya’s deep black hair grazed the floor as she snagged her bag from under the bed and slid her drawing supplies inside. Looking around at what little more she had in her room, she decided not to bring her blanket, though she felt she’d regret it.
Teya crept to the dining hall of the council. Luckily, it was not far from her room. The table looked as long as all of Tharland. A red tablecloth lined with a floral white edge was draped over it, and three grand chairs stood on each side. Teya examined the scraps on the table colorfully lit up by the monstrous stained-glass windows. There wasn’t much, but she put small bits of bread in her bag. She stuffed a handful of rice in her mouth and gasped. It was the best rice she had ever eaten. Seasoned to perfection, while any seasoning was rare for her. Before she could eat more, she heard a nervous voice from behind her.
Teya whirled around, mouth full, and sighed in relief when she saw who it was. “Remmon…”
“Teya, what are you doing here?”
She decided to tell him the truth. The two had been friends since childhood, although they didn’t see each other much anymore since he worked at night. She knew Remmon had fallen for her long ago because he did a terrible job of hiding it. Teya explained what had happened that day. “I’m going to run away with Emme and Rian. But you can’t tell anyone.”
Remmon froze. Clearly, he wasn’t used to secret-keeping. “Okay.”
“Wait,” Remmon ran into the kitchen next door and came back with more loaves of bread than Teya could count and a bag of fruits and vegetables, which he pushed into her arms. Then, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag of money.
“You don’t have to do this,” said Teya..
There was no point in arguing — Teya did need the supplies. She thanked him again, hugged him, leaned back against the door behind her, and hurried to the dungeon.
Emme lay on the stone floor, asleep, and Rian sat awake again. His expression didn’t change when he saw his sister. “Congratulations,” he said. “Now you’ve got two people thrown in here.”
Teya ignored the frustration simmering in her and asked him if he knew how to pick a lock.
Rian scoffed. “Of course. How do you think I broke out the first time?” This “first time” was news to Teya, but she didn’t ask. “This time, though, they gave me nothing I can use as a pick.”
Teya pulled a pen from her bag and handed it to him. “And what if I don’t want to leave?” he asked.
She couldn’t stand him. “Well, we are leaving. Now get yourself out of there.”
He scoffed again snapped off the back of the pen, and stuck it in the lock. Eventually, it snapped and the door swung open.
Teya pretended not to be impressed. “Now do Emme’s.”
At the sound of Emme’s lock opening, she darted upright. “Rian! What are you doing?”
“Saving your life.” Teya cut in.
Teya could tell Emme was going to protest, but knew there was no better option. “Where will we go?”
“Eparia,” Teya and her brother whispered in unison.
Emme gasped quietly. “Eparia?”
“Yes… what is wrong?”
“Nothing.” Emme toed the door, making a clanging sound.
“Let’s get a cart. You must be silent,” said Teya. Emme wasn’t good at this.
They stealthed down the hallway in the shadows and managed to go unnoticed After what seemed like an eternity, they made it to their exit.
It was a garage of sorts, with twelve carts as tall as Teya’s chest, a few torches, grains, and other basic supplies inside each. A large wooden lever was perched on the wall next to a portcullis. “When I open this, we have to run.”
“Yes,” Emme whispered, her hands quaking as she grabbed a cart.
“One… two… three.” Teya pulled the lever down and the portcullis clanked open. The sound was loud enough to awaken at least someone, and they would for sure be caught by the nighttime servants.
They sprinted down the grassy hill, pushing the cart in front of them. Voices clamored behind them. “There!” someone said. Teya looked back and there, in the front, dashing toward them with a torch, was Remmon.
No, he can’t have broken the promise, Teya thought, but she had to believe it. “Go, go!” But Remmon was faster than the three of them with the cart.
“Remmon! You promised me you wouldn’t tell anyone!”
Remmon shook his head, panting as he caught up to them. “You don’t understand. I brought this for you.” He held up a longbow and a quiver of arrows and threw them in the moving cart. “I’m coming with you.”
“What!?” Teya didn’t know Remmon liked her that much. “Remmon, you can’t ruin your life like this! Go back!”
“Stop talking and go faster!” Rian roared. He was right — more guards were gaining on them.
“They saw me,” Remmon explained, rushed. “If I go back now, they will kill me. Please, Teya. I want a new life.”
Teya didn’t have much time to think about it, but she didn’t want him to die. “Okay, okay, just run!”
Four people pushing picked up their speed. After they cut into a forest, the guards gave up. Through the trees, Teya could see the torches stopping and walking back to the castle.
“We did it,” said Emme in disbelief.
Rian smiled. “Yes, we escaped. And now we never have to go back there again.”
Teya felt bad for being pessimistic. “They’re probably organizing a hunt right now. It will never be over.”
“Never…” Remmon repeated quietly, processing it all.
That made Teya remember he was there. She stood up and threw a stick at him, not wanting to hurt him badly. “Remmon, why! Why did you come? You just ruined your own life, and I am fine without you!”
His eyes narrowed. He always got defensive when he was hurt. “Well, I’m not fine without you.”
Teya sighed. That was the most Remmon thing he could say. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that. I was just angry.”
“We need to keep moving. We are not even off the castle grounds yet,” said Rian.
Since the castle was at the northernmost part of Tharland, it only took a few hours to walk to the border. No one spoke, so the noise was startling when Teya heard a voice ordering them to stop.
The man looked twice as big as her. A soft, inquisitive face hid behind a tough moustache and bushy brown eyebrows. “Who are you?” he asked in a voice Teya thought fit him perfectly.
Rian interrupted Teya, somehow believing he could do a better job. “We are townspeople in need of a new life. May I ask who you are?”
The man grunted. “My name is not important. I guard the border of Eparia. Only let in the right people.” He gestured toward the cart. “If you’re townspeople, how do you have all that?”
“Excuse me, sir,” Rian said, completely into the act. Teya rolled her eyes. “Just because we are townspeople who do not have as high a job as you does not mean we are peasants. In fact, I have quite a good job.”
“What is it?”
“I am a… an assassin. For the castle.”
The man raised his caterpillar-like eyebrows. “An assassin?”
“Yes, sir. And this is our story.” The man opened his mouth to interrupt, but Rian was quicker. “My little sister here — she is the one who wanted Eparia to win the war. She thought that our kingdom could use a loss. That the council had taken too many wins, and they deserved to know what losing feels like. She’s the one who gave you Tharland’s battle plans. And then I was told to execute her. But I was too kind and I just couldn’t do it, so we, our mother, and our… cousin here ran away. And we want to live in Eparia because we like it better.”
Despite Teya’s fury for him switching the roles, she couldn’t believe how convincing Rian had made that sound. “Er… okay. Do you have any identification?” asked the border guard.
Rian swallowed. His eyes shimmered with tears. “No… but please, just give us a chance… we truly want to be here. Remember my story? We are on your side.”
Obviously conflicted, the man turned to some other guards to consult. Teya couldn’t hear what was happening, but it seemed like the deal was no identification, no passage. They hadn’t finished discussing when a tall figure walked toward the group.
This other guard, adorned in full armor unlike the rest, was the first female one Teya had seen. “Let them through,” her metallic voice echoed inside her helm.
“Who are you?” a guard asked.
“The new recruit.” She removed her helmet and swung her arm around it. She looked maybe twenty years older than Teya. “Haven’t you heard?”
“Yes, but… a girl?”
She turned to Teya. “You and your group may go.” Teya smiled at the fact that she assumed her to be the leader of them.
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Rian. The other border guards grumbled.
The four pulled their cart across the border and scuttled away until the guards were out of sight, not wanting them to change their minds. The woods continued, and the cart had to snake around thick trees, making it take longer than Teya had hoped.
“Hello,” someone said abruptly. Everyone jumped. A woman perched in a tree above them. She jumped down as if it was an everyday thing to see and extended her hand. “I’m Marisa.”
“Teya…” She shook her hand, then recognized her. “You’re the border guard! The one who let us through!”
Marisa smiled. “I’m not actually a border guard. I’m a forest girl.”
“A… forest girl?” said Remmon.
Emme, who had been quiet, crossed her arms. “I do not trust her.”
“Why not?” asked Marisa
“I don’t know… something tells me you are no good.”
“We have just met her!” Teya exclaimed in exasperation. “Give her a chance! She let us through, and we would not be here if it wasn’t for her. How can she be no good?”
“I agree with Teya,” Remmon added.
“Fine.” Emme gave Marisa an angry look, and Teya wanted to slap some sense into her. Emme could be so ignorant.
The next hours were uneventful. The group wove through the seemingly-endless forest. Since the large cart had room, they rotated breaks. Emme lay on the wood, Rian and Marisa pushed, and Teya and Remmon walked behind them.
Without turning her head, Teya asked, “Why did you come?”
Remmon hesitated and said softly, “Because I don’t have anyone else to love.” Teya didn’t respond.
Later, they all sat cross-legged and Emme distributed food. “This is almost less than I got in the dungeon,” Rian muttered.
“We do not like it either. Now shut up and eat.” Teya had heard enough complaints from the brother she’d saved the life of. She did also try to kill him, but those were unique circumstances.
As she chewed her chunk of bread, Teya glanced at the spotless periwinkle sky. “A whole day has gone by so quickly.”
“A whole day as fugitives,” said Remmon.
Marisa stood up and began flailing her arms around.
“I told you she was crazy,” Emme mumbled, but then she did the same.
And then Teya felt it. An enormous crowd of nearly-microscopic insects swarmed around them. “Ow!” she said as they pricked her skin.
When it went on for a full minute, they pulled the cart away from the bugs. Finally, they emerged from the cloud and stopped when they were far away. The insects had left everyone, including her, spotted with tiny pink dots all over. They stung and itched so badly that Teya couldn’t move. It felt like needles were poking her everywhere.
Before she could complain about it, Teya cried, “The food! We left the food!” She watched the others’ faces as they realized she was right. They’d run so far that they wouldn’t be able to find the food, let alone get through the bugs again. “Ugh!” she kicked a pebble so hard her toe hurt. She wanted to aim it at someone, but it was no one’s fault.
They continued walking, stiff, miserable, hungry, and out of food, until finally they found some good news. “Look!” Remmon sprinted through a few trees and dove into a small pond. The rest did the same, and the cool water engulfing her irritated skin was the best feeling Teya had ever experienced.
Once the pain and itching had simmered away in the water and they had all had a drink, Teya told them that they should keep going. “We will find civilization soon enough if we keep moving forward.”
They reluctantly dripped out of the water and went back to pushing the cart. It was Teya’s turn to ride, and she was grateful for the break. When her hand landed on it, she remembered she had her bow. She hoped she wouldn’t have to use it, but at least she had more than a single arrow this time.
Seeing she was eyeing it, Rian said, “Teya, I bet you cannot hit that tree with an arrow from in the cart.”
“I don’t think I can either,” Teya replied, glad her brother was being decent toward her for once. She set an arrow on the bow and blocked the memories it brought.
“I bet you can,” said Remmon. Teya smiled and drew back the bowstring for the second time that week.
The arrow flew past her fist and crashed into the thick leaves and branches of the tree. Remmon cheered at the same time that Rian said, “I meant, hit the trunk!”
Teya laughed, feeling like a child again. Then she noticed that a deep purple liquid dripped from the tree.
“Wait, stop the cart,” said Teya, but they were already walking toward it. Remmon stuck his hand in the tree and pulled out a large, round fruit.
Emme and Marisa came to see what they had found. Teya’s arrow stuck halfway into the fruit, which spewed out juice from inside its hard shell.
Teya grabbed it and hacked a hole into the top with the arrow. “Careful—” Remmon began, but she was already gulping juice.
“It’s so sweet!” she gasped. “Try it!”
They spent the next ten minutes passing around the giant purple fruit until Marisa had tipped out the last drops. “Ahh.” She spun the shell in her hands.
Emme started to say something, but the conversation faded when they saw Marisa’s expression. She stared at the bottom of the fruit’s shell, mouth hanging open. A puny white plant grew from the bottom shaped like a six-pointed star. “This…” she breathed. “…is a death bulb.”
Upon hearing the name, Remmon spit out the mouthful he was about to swallow. “A death bulb?”
Marisa looked up, pale, and said what they all hoped she wouldn’t. “We’re going to die.”
P.S. Happy Pride Month! 🏳️🌈