A/N: Well, I'm back again! It seems as though I have defeated writer's block with regards to this story, if only for a little while. Thank you to Saxongirl345 and SilverLight05 for reviewing. Once again, it has been a while since I've written a KA fic, so I hope I'm not too rusty! I know it has been forever since I've updated, so I hope you all enjoy this one! xx IFHD
t t t
"I know, Lufian, I am doing my best."
"Where has Leofric gone? I really like hunting with him, too." The child Woad laughed gleefully at his memories, placing a hand upon his mouth. "He makes funny noises, like this!" Enunciating a sound mimicking a cross between a dying bird and a frightened ass, little Lufian jumped, hopped and skipped around, thrashing his hands about wildly in the air.
Lourdes raised a critical eyebrow as she observed her little brother jump to and fro, kicking fallen branches aside and randomly snatching at hanging leaves. Shaking her head disapprovingly, she placed her palm over her face and groaned. Thank goodness she had no recollection of Leofric ever making such a sound or act in such a manner whilst hunting, for if he did, she would have been certain that he had gone mad!
After a few moments of Lufian's horrid display of…whatever it may have been…Lourdes ruffled his already tangled, dark-brown hair, placing an index finger to her lips in a motion for him to be quiet. "Shh, Lufian!" she began in a hissed whisper, nodding her head behind them. "Do you want dinner? Because after…that…you've probably scared every creature away from this part of the woods!"
Lufian puffed up his chest in pride, placing his hands upon his hips for good measure. "I have not!" Alertly scanning their surroundings like a ravenous wolf in order to prove his point to his older sister, he then gleefully exclaimed, "I think I see a rabbit!" before heedlessly bolting after the creature.
"Lufian, do not run from me!" Lourdes called after him worriedly, treading his path in an instant. "You might get hurt!"
As if on cue, the sound of pounding hooves came roaring from the distance, coming closer by the second. With eyes wide, Lourdes darted after Lufian, pushing numerous leaves and branches from her path. Regardless of the rugged terrain, her legs moved fluidly, automatically even, and she swiftly careened through the thick forest as the young boy came closer and closer in sight. "Lufian!" she called out continuously, the rider only a few seconds away and having no idea that a boy was going to cross his path. Finding Lufian stopped right in the middle of the path, Lourdes cried out, seeing that the young lad's feet were firmly nailed to the ground, his face filled with utter fright. As Lourdes reached her brother and yanked his little body out of the path, the rider immediately halted his horse, the steed standing upon its hind legs in nervousness. Out of breath, Lourdes peered upwards at the rider, slightly fearing for their safety. To her relief, though, she recognized him as one of Merlin's commanders.
"My sincerest apologies." He quickly said as he attempted to calm his neighing horse. "Milady, I have grave news for Merlin. Where can I find him?"
Lourdes blinked repeatedly, still somewhat in shock at what could've been a disaster. Embracing her brother in comfort, she croaked out, "Over there by the next bend, just up the river. He currently holds Council with Leofric and the others."
"Thank you, milady." With a nod, the Woad began to steer his horse around the two. As an afterthought, he looked back at them, and in a cryptic manner, said, "Prepare for the worst, milady, for we have more to worry about now than Romans or Sarmatian knights."
With that indeterminate statement, the rider bolted from behind them, the hooves of his horse becoming more and more distant. As he disappeared into the horizon, Lufian suddenly burst into tears. Bringing her attention back to the younger Woad, Lourdes tried her best to soothe him, attempting to calm her own nerves in the process.
The young Woad simply wailed, "That man scared the rabbit away! I was this close to catching it, sister!"
Breathing out in relief and feeling a smile tugging upon her lips, Lourdes kissed his forehead lightly, standing upright. "Come on, Lufian. I must know what the rider meant by what he said."
Without a word of protest, Lufian took one last sob and gave Lourdes a nod of acquiesce. Running as fast as their two feet could carry them, the two made their way towards the Council meeting. Now faintly hearing the crackling of fire and the many hushed voices, Lourdes momentarily stopped to catch her breath, placing her hand upon Lufian's mouth as she pressed her back upon a large oak tree. Slowly peering from the side of the trunk, she caught sight of the rider that they had met earlier standing in the middle of the circle of Woads. Without a word, he stabbed a large knife into the wet earth.
Merlin examined him in slight confusion, and then observed the blade, which he had plucked curiously from the ground. Staring at the numerous engravings, he turned his attention back to the Woadian scout, expecting an explanation.
"Saxon," he informed his countrymen simply, still catching his breath from riding so quickly.
Merlin's eyes grew wide at the news, his grip tightening on the dagger. "How many?"
As Merlin's face shot with disbelief, Lourdes felt her breathing become laboured, the thought of a massive Saxon incursion weighing heavily upon her heart. How could the Woads possibly defend themselves from enemies attacking from all sides? Would they even have enough men to do so after so many years of struggle and bloodshed?
"Our forces are strong." She heard Leofric state with much conviction, breaking the tense silence that hung in the air. He stood as unyielding pride coursed through his veins, his expression that of utter determination. "We have retained most of our land when the Angles were completely conquered. We have defended our borders from the Romans when they have outnumbered us ten to one." His expression hardened, straightening his back and tilting his chin upwards. "Do not forget the reason that they built Hadrian's Wall all those years ago: so that these bastardly cowards can hide behind it from our wrath!"
A chorus of mighty cheers erupted from the circle of men. Leofric gave a nod of approval at this reaction, eyes landing on Merlin, who kept silent. For a few moments, Merlin considered Leofirc's speech, finding himself inspired and momentarily comforted by his words. Gripping his staff tightly, the Woad leader stood, arms outstretched to his sides. "Commanders! Gather your men. Make ready your weapons. We will defend this country until each of us has fallen." He was met with agreeing responses as he continued, "If there is one thing we can do, it is protect our home, our lands and our people. Make ready the traps upon the northern and southern entrances of the woods. Whoever dares enter our territory will receive our special greetings."
t t t
The threat of a thunderstorm loomed menacingly above them. Upon the heavens hung dark, heavy clouds, positioned to cover the entire forest. Without warning, claps of lightning zigzagged through the angered, velvet skies, touching the sodden earth for a mere moment at a time and then disappearing as quickly as it had come. Thunder rumbled in their wake, its vibrations coursing through the bodies of every creature. The word of the massive Saxon incursions, as well as the ensuing course of action they intended to follow to protect themselves from it, spread quickly amongst the Woads. In a matter of hours, the Council had gathered all of their peoples and nearby supplies, instructing them to spread out amongst the forest to build, install and hide various traps. They all wholeheartedly complied, finding that their determination to be rid of the Saxons and Romans alike was their fuel to continue working through their fatigue and hunger.
Out of all of the Woads, Lourdes was one of the most determined to build their defenses. Exhibiting the skills of leadership that was in her family's blood, she supervised a handful of Woads who were diligently building spiked traps, kindly instructing them on how to make the bonds of rope stronger and, in effect, rendering the trap more effective. She seemed as though she was Leofric's second in command, for the Woads treated her authority with much respect. She herself had prepared traps and weapons, working in the rain for hours upon end, barely heeding the calls of hunger.
As she had just finished tying the last of the traps, a hissed murmur spread through the Woads around her. Instinctively reaching for the dagger resting upon her belt and keeping her bow to her side, she began to follow her countrymen as they stealthily moved through the forest in a strict line. Carrying their spears and bows and arrows to their sides, they remained silent, ears perking to the distant sound of panicked hooves. The hushed Woads around her moved into position, continuously creeping through the trees and bushes, forming a loose circle around the path. In her line of vision, Lourdes spotted seven knights upon steeds, haphazardly dashing through the muddied path, intent on escaping Woadian traps. Placing her back firmly upon a tree trunk, Lourdes positioned herself so that she would have a clear shot at the knights below with her bow and arrow. As they rode closer and closer, she felt intense hope that their defenses would work.
The knights were steadily careening into their trap.
In a sudden, abrupt movement, the spiked trap that Lourdes had helped install sprung from the ground, reaching for the hooves of the horses. Having been carefully camouflaged and covered by fallen branches and leaves, the knights and their steeds were taken by surprise. The horses neighed and kicked in utter fright as the knights desperately held onto the flapping reigns, simultaneously attempting to keep their balance and dodge whizzing arrows. Lourdes could see her comrades letting loose their roped arrows, whistling through the trees, firmly embedding themselves upon tree trunks. The knights were now caught in a web, their escape route blocked. The horses' hooves seemed rooted upon the ground in fright, refusing to move, and the knights could do nothing but stare at the myriad of Woads now surrounding them, weapons drawn. The cries of the Woads pierced the air, seemingly engulfing the intruders. With their spears drawn, they pointed them dangerously towards the knights, who had managed to sheathe their swords in preparation for battle.
Amidst the confusion and desperation of the moment, Lourdes bravely emerged from behind the tree trunk, bow and arrow stiffly drawn, instantly aiming for her targets. Lancelot looked down upon her, teeth gritted, sword held high beside him. In a moment of simultaneous recognition, the two locked eyes, their brown orbs both aflame. Without another moment of thought, Lourdes released her arrow, aiming straight for Lancelot. The knight tried to evade the speedy projectile, but it eventually caught his left arm, cutting through his tunic and bare skin. Lancelot hissed and Lourdes gave out a grunt of frustration at this outcome. She felt the rage coursing through her veins, emotional pain surging through her body. Quickly reloading, Lourdes pointed her arrow once more upon Lancelot – Melot's murderer, she reminded herself – intent on instantly killing him.
Suddenly, Lourdes recognized a Woadian horn sound in the distance, which caught all of their attentions. Lourdes looked in the direction of the sound, then back towards her target. Simultaneous indecision and confusion marked her expression, reflecting that of the knights'. Lancelot's intense orbs bore into Lourdes', teeth still gritted, sword still held high, as she kept her weapon steadily upon him.
"What are you waiting for?" He barked at her, even holding his arms out as if to taunt her.
Hesitation filled her.
Lourdes' piercing eyes surveyed Lancelot, then the lot of knights, breathing out her anger as the horn blew once more. In a moment that neither Lourdes nor Lancelot thought would come, she finally lowered her bow and arrow, causing Lancelot to even furrow his brows in question. Without breaking her dark stare upon the knight, she took a cautious step back, and then another. In an instant, she bolted from the scene, disappearing into the cover of the woods.
t t t
A/N: Don't forget to review! I want to know what you guys think! xx