Enjoy a fun, free read. The Illyrian Chronicles is a lightly-edited freewrite project I began to show my son that reading can be fun. I hope you enjoy today’s episode: On the Run.
Elira slunk through the dark woods, fuming silently under her breath. Grabbing a stick from the soft loam beneath her feet, she slammed it hard against the trunk of a nearby tree, wishing it was Kit’s head. “The selfish idiot! What’s wrong with him?”
Then she stepped back, realizing what she had done. With a wince, she patted the patch of damaged bark. “Sorry tree. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Sighing, Elira dropped to the ground, nestling against the base of the tree’s trunk, and pulled her tan deer-hide waterskin free from her waist. She drank long and deep as her mind rolled over her predicament. She was heading due north, right into the land of the giants on her desperate quest to find the Prophet. Kit’s unexpected arrival had been a ray of hope. But, right when she needed him most, he had abandoned her.
“Coward!” She gritted her teeth and plopped back against the tree with a huff. Night was falling and she was too tired to go any farther. Ignoring the rumbling in her stomach, Elira folded her arms across her chest, in effort to fight off the slight chill. She closed her eyes. The warbling songs of night birds and the hum of cicadas filled the air, lulling her slowly away from her problems and into the arms of—
Her eyes flew open. The birdsong. She sat up; her mouth suddenly dry. It was the cry of a mockingbird. Elira stood up, eyes straining into the darkness. “There are no mockingbirds south of Giant Land,” she whispered. She pulled her knife free, knowing that, if her fear was right, her knife would be as good a weapon as a bucket of water.
The giant’s voice from behind her was a low growl that turned her insides to water.
She pivoted and tried to swing out a punch, but his large, ham-like fist snapped around her arms, pinning them to her sides as he lifted her, effortlessly, off the ground.
Moonlight pierced through the clouds, momentarily illuminating her surroundings. A scream built up inside her as she caught sight of his face. He stood at least fifteen feet tall, the same height as the trees. His face was masked by a spiked, iron war helmet. His eyes burned like coals of fire behind a pair of night-vision goggles. And, when his lips pulled back in a wolfish smile, Elira couldn’t hold her scream back any longer.
“Go ahead, lunchmeat.” The giant threw back his head and belched out a laugh. “Scream with all you’ve got. Mebbe more human ants will come runnin’ to save you.” He licked his lips. “More food for me!” The giant whirled around. “Redeye! Slackjaw!” His shout was like thunder in the night. “Bring the others and let’s get back to camp. I’m starvin’.”
With that, he flicked open the door of an immense birdcage and tossed her unceremoniously inside.
Elira rolled to her feet, fury replacing her fear. “Let me go, you overgrown bilge rat!” The giant’s coarse laughter made her ears ache.
“Enjoy the ride, shorty.”
Then, with a stride that seemed a mile long, he lurched forward through the trees. He was soon joined by two other giants, each of whom had birdcages filled with prisoners dangling from their massive belts. Elira grabbed hold of the bars of her cage and pulled herself upright, steadying herself against the nauseating rocking motion.
It didn’t surprise her that she hadn’t heard or seen the giants. They masked themselves behind cloaks that bent the light around them, making the wearers invisible. Sometimes they stayed immobile for hours at a time, waiting for unsuspecting prey. Despite their bulk and coarse manners, the giants of Britannia were famous for their scientific ability and intelligence.
Intellectual giants, Father used to call them. When on the hunt, they communicated by mimicking the cries of mockingbirds. At night, they donned goggles that let them see clearly. They had made a sort of tacit peace with the three scientists of Ru’ahal, who generally gave them a wide berth.
“Elyon,” she breathed out the prayer, “help me.”
A loud guffaw fell on her ears like a mountain of stone. “Your god is dead, lunchmeat. Pray all you want, you’ll still fill ol’ Gorian’s belly tonight!”
Elira gritted her teeth as her auburn braids whipped back and forth against her face. The giant’s hearing was ridiculously sharp.
How could this have happened? Kit gone and her captured by giants? Focus.
She let out a slow breath, trying to fight past the panic that crashed in her chest. “You’ll get out of this Elira,” she said, more bravely than she felt. “Somehow, you’ll get out of this.”
Kit stared out from between the iron bars of the cage that kept himself and about fifteen other prisoners who lay about, crying or simply staring into the darkness. He was still unable to believe just how incredibly unlucky he was. After working up his courage to join Elira in her mission to die, he had made it back to Britannia only to be captured after bungling about in the forest and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Kit winced at the metaphor. He was about to be eaten. And he might well be alive while it happened.
“It’s cursed, I am. Totally, undeniably cursed.” He scratched the swollen bumps on his face and peered into the darkness of the giant’s firelit camp. There were three of them, each carrying about five of the traps filled with their victims. Three enormous tents, each in a different corner of the camp, marked where a giant slept.
“Do you know what they’ll do with us?”
Kit turned as a voice spoke up from his left. A boy, about six inches taller than himself, broad shouldered and wearing a deerskin outfit that reminded him of Elira, moved to stand beside him.
“Who?” Kit turned back, preoccupied by a worrying thought. Elira. What if they capture Elira? A stab of fear for his friend ripped through his heart.
The boy scoffed. “The giants, idiot. Who else?”
A frown creased Kit’s brow. He didn’t like it when people mocked him. “I’m not an idiot.”
“Well, you ended up in a birdcage, didn’t you?” The boy sniggered. “Birdbrain.”
Kit glared at him. “I don’t seem to be alone. Last time I looked, you were in here too. So, if you’ve got nothing useful to say, do us both a favor and just shut it.”
A moment of awkward silence fell. Then,
“Right. Well, you have a point there.” The boy shrugged and looked at his bare feet. “Sorry. I’m Drake by the way. Drake of Western Forest.” He held out a hand and Kit, after a moment, shook it.
“I’m Kit. Kit Benedict.”
“Not that there’s much point in getting acquainted,” Drake continued. “These giants are famous for their brutality.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“Well,” Drake dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “They go on raids like this about once a month, disguising themselves with some sort of technological cloaking device. You never see them coming.”
“You mean they can make themselves invisible?”
“Something like that.” Drake nodded. “They’re quite smart, you know.”
Kit pushed past this. “Never mind all that, tell me what they’re going to do to us.”
“Well, I’ve heard that first they rip the skin off their victims’ bodies while they’re still breathing. Then the pull your legs off, one by one, and bite down on the tender part. While the blood’s still oozing, they rip the meat off your bones and then…” He waited.
“What? What?” Horror almost choked Kit but he had to know the worst.
“They pop your eyeballs out and use ‘em for lollipops.” Drake tossed his head in a confident nod. “Trust me. We’ll be dead before morning.”
Kit just stared at him. “You’re happy about that?”
“Well, everyone else will be dead. Not me.” Drake’s teeth glinted white in the flickering firelight. “I… have a plan to escape.”
“Escape?” Kit’s voice was louder than he intended. “You’ve got to take me with you.”
Drake pressed a finger against his lips. “Shhh! Quiet down.” He glanced around nervously. “Look, forget I said anything alright? There’s no telling if I’ll make it and you can’t come with me.”
He turned to go but Kit grabbed his elbow. “Listen Drake. I need to get out of here. My friend’s out there somewhere. The giants can get her too. I-I need to warn her.”
“I can’t, Kit. I need to move fast and hard.” He glanced at Kit and crinkled a nose. “No offense but, you look too scrawny for a fight.”
“But Elira needs me.”
Drake cocked his head to one side. “Elira? Elira from where?”
“I don’t know.” Kit noticed a giant moving toward them and he suddenly felt like he couldn’t breathe. What does it feel like to have your leg pulled off? “S-she’s from somewhere in the south, I think.”
“Elira of Southern?”
The giant was getting closer.
“Red hair, tied in braids? Stubborn as a mule?”
The giant’s footsteps made the cage vibrate.
“Never seems to know when to shut up?”
Worried cries from the other prisoners filled the air.
Panic made Kit’s voice shrill. “Yes! Yes. That’s her!”
Drake eyed him thoughtfully as though he didn’t know that their captor was only a few paces away, though he couldn’t possibly have missed the shaking earth or the giant’s booming, cruel laugh. “So it is her.”
“What do you mean?” Kit glanced at the giant then back at Drake. Don’t let him eat me God. I’ll never complain about Nick beating me up again, I promise. Just please don’t let him eat me!
“Look!” Drake pointed to a birdcage next to a massive bonfire about fifty feet away. Kit followed him with his eyes. “She’s been captured.”
And then he saw her. “Elira.” His heart sank lower than the ground beneath his feet.
Drake spoke again. “I didn’t think it could possibly be her, since she’s supposed to be in the South but, when you said she was on the road north, I realized it had to be her.” His voice became quiet. “I could never forget Elira.”
“Good. J-just don’t forget me too. I’m her friend.”
“Puny human ants!” The blast of the giant’s roar threw every cell in Kit’s body into a state of instant shock. “Gorian’s hungry!” He flicked open the door to the cage and groped inside. Kit shrank back with the others, trying to find some escape but, before he could take two steps, he felt thick fingers wrap themselves around his body.
“Nooo!” He strained at the bars, the floor, anything but nothing could stop the raw strength of the giant’s touch. “Drake!” He looked at the boy with wild eyes. “Help me. Please!”
But Drake, who had boasted so loudly of his escape, now scrambled toward the far end of the cage, struggling to hide behind the human wall of screaming prisoners. He shrank downward, trying to hide the fact that he was taller than everyone else. Apparently, fear had swallowed the boaster too. “S-sorry Kit.”
The ground below swayed in a sickening lurch as Gorian tossed him effortlessly into the air. Smack! Kit felt the breath leave his lungs as he landed back into the giant’s open palm.
Deafening laughter pounded his eardrums as Gorian spun him around and held him close to his face. Kit smelled the hot odor of Gorian’s breath, saw a glob of saliva plunge toward the earth below.
What do you think will happen to Kit? To Drake? Tweet your thoughts: @JPRobinsonBooks. Read Episode 1, Episode 2, and Episode 3 of the Illyrian Chronicles for free.
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