Robbie lay on the ground, a stunned expression in his eyes and a small drop of blood staining his lower lip. Jill stood back and let him get to his feet. She circled him slowly as the wolf guards laughed and jeered behind her. The Gray and his three closest guards formed a loose circle around the fight. They’d each been given a staff and a dagger. Jill fingered the blade at her hip as she watched Robbie’s confused movements.
“I won’t fight you,” Robbie said.
Jill lunged for him again, her staff moving like a bullet through the air. Robbie blocked her attack as she drove him backwards. His back hit a tree and she pinned him by the throat with her staff. She whipped out her blade and held it at the ready.
Robbie’s eyes showed a hint of confusion before understand replaced it.
“Don’t you dare smile!” Jill hissed as she raked her blade across his forearm, ripping the fabric of his shirt. Robbie didn’t disappoint. He shoved her back and squared off again.
“Fine! Have it your way, human,” he growled.
The fighting grew more intense as they sparred with near misses and dagger thrusts. The wolf circle moved closer as the action picked up. Robbie choked up on his staff and swung with all his might. Jill dropped under it and he connected with the closest wolf sending him to the ground in a heap. Jill drove her staff up and hit between the legs of The Gray so hard he briefly left the ground before he fell hard. He made a squeal like a small girl before his eyes rolled back in his head.
Jill and Robbie made short order of the other two wolves who were too stunned and stupid to react quick enough to stop them. Just as they turned to run, a small door opened up behind them. Jill whirled, ready for more guards when she saw Layla.
“Come on! Hurry!” she said.
Jill and Robbie followed Layla through the small door and secret passages leading through the castle.
“How did you know where to find us?” Jill asked as they ran through the close corridors full of cobwebs and dust.
“I've been using these tunnels for years to find out what’s going on in the castle. I saw The Gray bring you out and followed. I can get us to the stables and off the grounds before the other guards get wind of what’s happening.”
They passed by a room that hummed like a generator pump. Layla paused and listened.
“Sounds like a machine,” Jill said.
“Worse! Keep moving!” Layla said.
They came out of the tunnels into an empty stable stall. The smell was a blend of hay and animals. Layla pulled two mounts from their stalls already saddled and ready.
“Have you ridden a Caba before?” she asked. “A what?” Jill asked. “I have. I’ll carry Jill with me,” Robbie said.
Jill watched as her friends mounted the massive animals that had very little in common with a horse, except for the long flowing mane. Robbie hauled her up onto the caba’s back in front of him and showed her how to hold on. Layla led the remaining seven cabas from their stalls, knowing they would run wild once they left the stables. As soon as they opened the doors, the cabas bolted. Layla led the way at a hard gallop with Robbie and Jill close behind her. Shouts and alarms rang out in the distance but only after they’d cleared the castle boundaries. Several cabas followed behind them, influenced by the lead animals.
They broke through the woods and hit a grassy plain. Another caba galloped toward them at incredible speed. Layla and Robbie pushed their animals harder as the other gained on them. Then Jill noticed the guard’s blue uniform.
“Veelka!” Layla yelled. He caught up to them quickly.
“Follow me and stay close. Fostering fugitives is a deadly offense. If we’re caught, we’re all dead.”
They pushed their mounts for hours without let up and the cabas continued to run full speed. Jill could tell they enjoyed it. As the sun began to paint brilliant colors across the sky, they reached a narrow pathway. Veelka barked out a signal. They never slowed as a response sounded back immediately. They found the camp when dusk settled and stars began to blink into view. All sorts of creatures gathered around them.
As Jill dismounted from the caba, she saw two familiar faces. Vrag and Saal. She surveyed the other inhabitants as she hugged them both but she didn’t see him anywhere.