The Rebel's Heart: Part Eight
Darena and Amaretta paired themselves up and followed the pirate Uni for hours.
Finally, she stopped at a place in Meridell that Darena recognized as the training area where she had been taught. She spoke quietly to Amaretta.
“Kara! This is where I was trained! What if they recognize me?!”
Amaretta bit down lightly on her lower lip. “I have no idea. What are the chances that they’ll recognize you? You weren’t painted shadow until you started serving me.”
“Yes, but I developed my own style of fighting here. I heard that they started incorporating parts of it into what they teach the new recruits. If that is true, my style will give me away!”
“Can’t you just say that you’re related to, well, you. You can say that Darena taught you how to fight like she did.”
“And I just happen to be a Zafara like she is and I just happen to have the same name?”
“I don’t know! I’m trying to help anyway.”
Darena sighed. “I know, I know. It’s just hard to deal with this. Who knew that it would be this much trouble?”
Amaretta let a faint smile tug at her lips. “I did guess.”
Darena chuckled. “Yes, I suppose you did.”
Amaretta gasped suddenly as she felt her legs weaken and turn to jelly.
“What is it, Amare- I mean, Kara?!”
“I just realized something. Father must know about me by now! He’ll be furious. He’ll be looking everywhere for me!”
“Do you think he’ll look here?”
“Are you kidding? This is probably the first place he’ll look!”
Darena took a deep breath before speaking. “Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. We have enough things to worry about, right?”
“Then it would be wise for us to just take all of this one day at a time. If we spend the entire time worrying, we’ll eventually end up giving ourselves away! So we’re going to stay calm and pretend that we’re just peasants like everybody else. Your name is Kara and you were named after the Queen. My name is Darena and I was named after my aunt. She taught me how to fight just like she fought and she even paid to have me painted shadow. That is who we are from now on. We aren’t anybody else.”
“Well, I guess we don’t have much of a choice in the matter, do we?”
“It’s too late to second-guess ourselves, Kara. We’re in this and we’re staying in it.”
“Recruits, this is going to be the most miserable week of your life. You will be sleeping in bunk beds in the shacks that line the track. If you are up past 11pm NST, you will be running for every minute or hour that you are out of your bed. If you wake up after 6am NST, you will be running for every minute or hour that you were in bed. You will not be catered to here. You will eat at 6:30 am. At 7 you will train. You will be following your instructor’s schedule. You will eat a light snack at 1pm. You will eat dinner at 8:30. You will clean yourselves at 10:30. You will follow the instructions or you will run. If you do not run, you will be removed from this camp and you will serve in the front lines of the army. You will do whatever your instructor tells you to do. There will be a full relay drill a minimum of once a day. Today you will be getting to know your shack-mates and meeting your instructors. Depending on your instructor, you will train. Your bunkmate is your walking partner. If you have any questions, too bad. Ask someone else or figure it out on your own. As a treat, you get to choose your shack. Choose well. You’re dismissed.”
“This is not going to be fun.”
“No, probably not. But at least we have each other for support. And I’ve done this before, so I know some of the instructors.”
Darena jogged around the track at a slow enough pace that Amaretta could keep up, but fast enough that she could try to find her instructor of choice before anybody else.
“Kara, before I pick a shack, I need to know something. How much do you trust me?”
“Do you trust my judgment?”
“Then we have a baby Xweetok to find.”
“A baby pet is an instructor here?”
“The toughest of ‘em all. She hates being treated like a baby even though, well, she is one. So she’s really hard on everybody.”
“Wait, we want her as an instructor?”
“Definitely. She may be hard, but she’s the best here. She demands a lot, but the more that is demanded of us, the more we’ll work and the more we’ll succeed. It’s probably why, toward the end of my training, I was almost transferred to her shack. The only reason I wasn’t was because I had a unique fighting style and I would surprise any enemy, plus you needed a servant, so they released me ‘early’.”
When Darena and Amaretta arrived at the shack with the baby Xweetok, they saw that most other pets were now running toward the shack. They were pleased to see that there were still two bunks left, so there was room for them and one other pair.
When the shack was full, the baby Xweetok addressed the occupants. “Congratulations, campers. You just picked the worst shack in this dump. You will do one of the following while you are here: eat, sleep, use the facilities, train, or run. There is no other option. That applies to today as well. You will be miserable here, and I take full advantage of that fact. I can guarantee you that you will be miserable. Finish putting your things away, then meet me at the track. You’ll be running until dinner. That’s just a warm-up.”
Amaretta sighed and spoke to Darena. “I’m not sure if I trust you anymore.”
Before Darena had a chance to be worried, she heard Amaretta’s joking chuckle and she realized that her friend was merely kidding.
“Come now, it isn’t so bad. We’ll nearly be falling asleep as we do, well, everything, but we’ll be the best. Sometimes you don’t want the easy way out because what appears to be easy is not sufficient. In this case, we had to go for a hard instructor, the hardest instructor in fact, because she will help be the best. But be warned, she is immensely strict about the whole running thing. That’s why many pets groom themselves then try to fall asleep immediately. Well, there’s also the fact that she works us through the training courses like mad, but that isn’t the only factor. Oh, and another little tidbit. She doesn’t really have a good side, only a bad side. So if she’s indifferent towards you, consider that a good thing.”
“Quiet, you cannot tell the King about Amaretta’s secret. It would only put her in danger.”
Quiet twirled around and nearly fell over. She was alone with the cursed Unis, and only about another hour away from the castle.
“Who said that? Show yourself!”
A second voice, nearly identical to the first, responded to Quiet. “We will not take you to Amaretta’s father. You may go on your own, but to do so would put yourself in danger.”
The first Uni spoke again. “Darigan will attack while Darena and Amaretta train. He is only hours away from striking our borders with his entire army.”
The two Unis continued to trade the part of the speaker.
“If the King is concerned with his daughter in the war, he will never issue the orders that can end in a truce. He will instead demand a retreat. We must have a truce.”
“Darigan will agree to a truce, but only under his conditions. If Amaretta is away, the King will not find them acceptable and he will allow his army to turn to bloodshed to end the war.”
“There are many factors that we do not know. But this we do know.”
The two Unis spoke simultaneously and with the force of Darigan’s entire army.
“The King must not know!”
Quiet was barely able to speak over the knowledge that the once cursed Unis knew much about the war and they knew what they should not. In addition to that, their speech was powerful and majestic. If they hadn’t been normal green Unis, Quiet would have mistaken them for twins in some royal family.
“But you were cursed?”
The first Uni spoke. “My name is Zaretan. My sister, Bithiah, and I are the missing twins from the small land off the shore of Brightvale. We were stolen away as babies. We were cursed by a dark faerie to roam and we were deprived of deep thought. We were restored by a light faerie named Zeresh, and we have Amaretta to thank for that.”
Bithiah looked much like her identical twin. The only difference between the two was that Bithiah’s voice was a miniscule bit softer than Zaretan’s. “However, that is a long story. Zeresh asked us to rely this message, and so we shall.”
Once again, Bithiah and Zaretan said simultaneously, “You must not tell the King!”
To be continued...