KATRINA - CHAPTER TWO –
The roadway turned, and as we entered a dark forest I suddenly felt the weight of impending doom surrounding us.
“Listen,” I told myself. “Use all your senses.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I could feel Quinn and Thomas tense as they realized what I was doing. They slowly drew their swords, and as they did, so did Gunter, Simon, and Father. I could ‘see’ many horses and many humans.
Then Father’s voice boomed. “Ride!”
As we forced our horses into a gallop, my senses told me the men in the woods to the right of us, outnumbered us by ten.
“How far? How far were our attackers from us?” I asked myself. A mile maybe less, I detected.
“How far is the Palace?” I yelled.
“Two miles!” Father shouted back.
“We’ll never make it;’ they’re only a mile away,”
Thank goodness we had left the wagons in the city with the servants, who would follow us later.
Then I realized that no common robber would risk attacking such a large party. Despite all the care and secrecy with which we had undertaken this journey, someone must have alerted our assailants to our presence. We must have spies amongst us; for only one kind of human would have the audacity to attack us —the Volator—those whose sole purpose in life was to hunt and kill vampires. That they had picked this time to attack, was no accident, I thought.
I could see the Palace now, less than a mile away. We might just make it.
Then out of the darkness of the woods, I detected the distinct whistle of an arrow in flight.
“Duck!” I screamed.
We instinctively bent down low as we urged our horses ahead. Another arrow came from the right, and a horse squealed and fell, the guard flying off his mount into the ditch.
Suddenly Father, Philepe, and Gerhardt pulled their horses up, jumped off, and ran into the forest.
“Get Katrina into the palace, now!” yelled Gunter. We galloped by as he dismounted to follow Father.
Suddenly Nulla tripped. Only because of my strength and quick reaction, was I able to cling to the saddle and avoid being thrown. I clung perilously, hanging off the side of the saddle, as Nulla continued thundering down the road.
“Open the gate!” Quinn yelled. He reached out to help me back into the saddle almost unseating himself.
I had trained my whole life to be able to save myself, and the time had come to do it. I pulled myself up and into the saddle, just as the gate opened and we galloped through. Guards, swords drawn, pushed past us, ready to aid Father. My heart was pounding as people rushed towards us.
“Are you all right, my Lady?” someone asked.
“Yes. Quinn, Thomas, are you all right?”
“Yes, we’re fine. We’re going back to help,” Quinn panted.
“No!” Thomas insisted. “Katrina is your charge right now. You stay here; she must be safe.”
I dismounted and noticed blood dripping down Nulla’s leg, an arrow jutting from her shoulder.
“Oh, no!” I cried, “Nulla!”
Hearing my cry, Quinn ran over to see what was wrong.
“She’ll be fine, Katrina,” he assured me as he looked at the wound. The wound is not deep. Stable boy! Here! Now! Take my Lady’s beloved mare to the stable and see to her. Take great care and report back to me.”
The stable boy nodded, and poor Nulla limped away with him.
As if he had read my mind Quinn said, “She’ll be fine. Your father will be fine. It’s those cowards in the woods that ambushed us you should worry about. Your father and Philepe will show them no mercy. The only problem we’ll have is to endure the stories of bravery Gerhardt will tell.”
I rolled my eyes and we both had a laugh. It was short lived however, because just then we heard the gate swing open and Father’s party gallop through, the dust from all the hoofs making it impossible for me to see for a moment, then I heard my father shout. “Katrina! Where is my daughter?”
“I’m here Father.”
He was alive. And just as we had predicted, out of the dust Gerhardt appeared and said, “Did you miss me?”
Philepe, Gunter, and Simon were also unhurt but we’d lost four guards, two from our garrison and two from the palace detail.
“What of the Volator, Father?”
Father had a shocked look on his face.
“Who else would it be?”
“Five got away, but twenty-five or so were not so lucky. Unfortunately I don’t think their leader was amongst them. But I assure you he’s not far, and we’ll find him. No one is safe until we root out the traitor who has revealed us. Now you get cleaned up and rest, because we must report to the High Regent.”
The thought of a traitor living among us sent shivers up my spine.
A lovely girl named Gretchen showed me to my quarters. Several young ladies would be sharing this large common area surrounded by bedrooms. Tall leaded glass windows on each side of the fireplace filled the room with light and gave the gold, overstuffed chairs and sofa a soft glow. A round table with six chairs sat in the corner. The high, dark-beamed ceiling was adorned with two iron candle chandeliers. My bedroom was the second door to the left, and in it was a large bed with wooden posts, lush green velvet bedding, and an eiderdown so thick that they might not be able to find me in the morning.
I heard the door to the common room open and my curiosity revived me enough to go and meet the new arrival. She was stunning. Glossy, ebony hair drifted over her shoulders nearly to her waist. She had big brown eyes and skin the color of warm sand.
“Hello,” I said. “I’m Katrina Von Dracek.”
“How nice for you,” she said in a bored voice without looking in my direction.
“I can see this is going to a long week,” I thought to myself.
“I’m Rosalinda DiPalicio.”
“How nice for you too,” I said, and turned to walk away.
“All right, that was rude, forgive me. It’s just that it was quite an adventure to get here. I’m exhausted, I’m starving, and I smell like a horse.”
The tension broken, we laughed. I knew just how she felt.
“Let’s start again. I’m Rosalinda DiPalicio, but you may call me Rosa.”
“I am pleased to meet you, Rosa. I’m Katrina Von Dracek, and you may call me Kat.”
“There were some delicious morsels standing guard outside. I don’t suppose we’re allowed to feed on anything or anyone we want to?” Rosa grinned and licked her full lips.
“No, I don’t think so.”
Again, the door opened and Gretchen came in carrying a large case. She was followed by a girl of medium height. Her blonde hair was pulled back away from a lovely heart-shaped face, which featured a smile that seemed to light her from within.
“Hello. I’m Eleanor Flanery. We just arrived from England.”
“I’m Rosalinda DiPalicio, and this is Katrina Von Dracek. You may call us Rosa and Kat.”
“I’m glad to meet you, Rosa, Kat. Please call me El.”
“And call me Letta, short for Arletta,” said the girl stepping out from behind Eleanor.
Arletta Valdesio had traveled from Spain. She had olive skin and dark brown hair pulled back and up in ringlets that were secured with a beautiful jeweled comb. Instead of the brown eyes I was expecting, coneflower blue eyes met mine as we were introduced.
Gretchen showed the newcomers to their rooms.
“Thank you, Gretchen,” said Letta. “Has a bath been prepared?”
“Yes, we could all use a bath,” said Rosa.
“I’ll see to it at once,” Gretchen answered, “and then I’ll bring you some luncheon.”
“Oh, glorious,” El said. “I’m starving,”
“I am, too,” I said.
Eleanor flopped down on one of the chairs.
“At least I survived the crossing. I really hate sailing. How were your journeys?”
“We were attacked in the forest, about two miles from the front gate,” I said.
“Really? How frightening!” Eleanor’s face showed her concern. “Was anyone in your party hurt?”
“We lost two guards, as did the palace, and, Nulla, my beautiful mare took an arrow in the shoulder, but she’s going to be fine. Father said only four or five of our attackers escaped.”
“Who, was it? Why would anyone do such a thing?” asked El.
“There are many who dislike our kind and despise our way of life,” said Rosa, “They seek to end our existence and take our lands, but they’re fools.”
“It is true that men often seek to kill that which he does not understand, and it seems that as a species man is always fighting someone,” I added.
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