Wassup, peeps?! Sorry for the delay in posting, here's the latest chapter of my novel, The Heroes' Inheritance.
Links to Chapter One and Prologue-
The Heroes' Inheritance- Prologue
The Heroes' Inheritance- Prologue
That afternoon, Mark led a blue roan mare, which Mara had aptly named Blue, from the stable, bringing her to stand just outside the front door. There he waited, looking out at the lake, until Mara stepped out. She had traded her dress for a blue tunic and black leggings, and her hair was tied back with a blue kerchief-she knew the wind was blowing rather wildly.
Mark mounted, then twisted around to help her up behind him. Blue was not saddled, and Mara was perfectly content with that. She preferred riding bareback.
“Ready?” he asked her.
She nodded, and Mark clapped his heels to the horse’s sides, sending it into an easy lope. They rode along the lakeshore, Blue’s hooves kicking up dirt behind them. On the other side of the lake was their cousin Adam’s home. For reasons which Mara had never understood, Adam’s parents had purposely built their home as far from the woods as possible, while her own parents had built theirs close to the forest. It made the two families close enough to see each other often, but not right beside each other.
As they neared the house, Mara smelled a heavenly scent drifting towards them on the breeze.
“Pie,” Mark said, as if on cue.
Mara poked him between the shoulder blades. “Do you ever stop thinking about food?”
“Rarely,” he replied. They rode up to the house, and he dismounted when the horse stopped. Helping Mara down, he tied Blue’s reins to the stake designed for that purpose. Before they had made it up the porch steps, the door had already been opened by Adam.
The tall, blond, lanky boy grinned widely. “What are you two doing here?” he asked.
Mara smiled back. “There’s a tournament in the village tomorrow,” she said. “I’ve persuaded Mark to go. Are you interested?”
Adam gave her a look. “Against Mark? Are you serious?”
“You’ve gotten better,” Mara replied. “And Mark hasn’t practiced.”
“Will you two please stop talking about me as though I’m not standing right here?” Mark pleaded.
“No,” Adam replied.
Mara snorted. “Leave him alone. So, what do you say?”
Adam shrugged. “Sure, if you insist. Don’t expect me to last very long, though. What time?”
Over Adam’s shoulder appeared his mother. She beamed at the sight of her niece and nephew, and opened her arms in a welcoming embrace. Mara accepted the hug and inhaled deeply. The familiar smell of baking bread and cinnamon filled her nose.
“What are the two of you up to?” she asked.
“I’ve dragged them both into the tournament tomorrow,” Mara stated.
Marianna nodded once. “Best be careful, Mark. The last tournament ended badly for your opponents.”
Adam nodded. “They’ll be out for revenge, for sure, and if they’re determined enough, the rules won’t stand in their way.”
“Good point,” Mara said, just remembering the attitudes of the participants in last year’s tournament after being defeated by her brother. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“I’ll be fine.” Mark rolled his eyes. “You’re underestimating me. I beat them once; I can do it again.”
“Never mind,” said Marianna, breaking the silence. “Of course, you two will stay for dinner.” Her tone left no room for argument.
Mara saw her brother’s eyes light up at the mention of food, and she elbowed him in the ribs. “Mark.” She didn’t need to say more.
He looked suitably abashed, and replied meekly, “Yes ma’am. Dinner would be lovely.”
The next morning, Mara woke early and prepared breakfast, which she finished just as Mark staggered, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen. “Coffee?” he asked hopefully, smelling the heavenly scent.
“In the pot, Mark. Here. Eat.” She passed him a plate, and, without hesitation, her brother dug into the oatmeal. “Hungry, aren’t you?” she asked dryly. “Are you nervous?”
He considered her question for a moment. “A bit,” he admitted. “Some people weren’t exactly good sports last year. They may not play fair.”
The twins rode into town two hours later, this time joined by Adam and his aunt. The village of Travela was not large by any means, but today it was bustling with activity, the town square filled with vendors and crowds. The tournament was to take place in the square, and a makeshift amphitheater had been constructed there. Nearby, a small building marked the armory, where the competitors would prepare for the event.
At the edge of the square stood a large, colorful tent, where the village magistrate, Kenneth Closebrook, would be keeping watch over the proceedings, along with the village healers. Unfortunately, accidents happened often during these tournaments, and the authorities had to remain vigilant even during this day of frivolity.
Beside the armory were the stables, where the tournament’s attendees could safely keep their horses. It was to this building that the Farlanders headed upon entering the square. They dismounted and led the horses inside, and when their mounts were safely in their rented stalls, Marianna and Mara left the boys and headed to find decent seats.
Mark and Adam entered the armory and the relative silence was a huge relief. The foyer was empty, except for a small, wiry man standing near the door, who raised his eyes to survey the two boys.
“Names,” he said, his tone a bit weary, as though he was getting tired of his job.
They gave their names, and he looked them up and down. “Brothers, are you?” He didn’t sound all that interested.
“Cousins, actually,” Mark replied.
The man nodded and wrote something down on a sheet of parchment, then waved them on. “Practice blades are in the bin, mail shirts hanging up if you need them.” He gestured to the aforementioned items at the end of the room. The boys each selected a dulled practice sword, sliding it into a sheath at their waist. After slipping on the cold chain-mail shirts, they proceeded into the next room.
The atmosphere in this area-jokingly referred to as the Barracks because of the hardcore preparation that competitors participated in-was unfriendly, to say the least. Silence fell as its inhabitants looked upon the newcomers critically.
Mark, anticipating the cold welcome, glanced coolly around the room, nodding in acknowledgement. A few men nodded in reply, and several smiles were flashed in his direction. But out of the twenty men, about eight held a considerable grudge. Adam knew a few of the others, and busied himself making small talk. Mark joined him and listened to the conversation, but he could hear a few muttered insults.
He nudged Adam. “This was a bad idea.”
His cousin shook his head. “Don’t back out. That’ll only make you look bad. You go in there and knock the stuffing out of them-”
“And have them angrier at me.”
Adam sighed. “Just keep away from William Swiftviper. He looks ready to murder someone.”
“Namely me,” Mark stated flatly. “Understood.”
He separated himself from Adam, in an effort to draw attention away from his young cousin. He didn’t want Adam to fall victim to the same treatment as himself simply because they were together.
A hand clamped down on his shoulder and someone spun him around, slamming his back against the wall. “If it isn’t Mark Farlander, the coward who made me look bad.” A muscular arm pressed into his windpipe.
Mark saw a pair of brown, hate-filled eyes inches from his own. “William,” he rasped. “What do you want? Whatever it is, I’m sure it can be settled without breaking my neck.”
“That depends.” William Swiftviper shook his dark hair out of his face. He was young, probably around twenty, only three years older than Mark. But his physical strength was much greater, and he easily twisted Mark around and locked his left arm behind his back. Face pressed into the wall, Mark let out a gasp of pain as his arm was twisted cruelly upward. He would not cry out or beg for it to stop; wouldn’t give William the satisfaction of hearing that.
“You’ve made us look like fools, and you’re going to pay for it,” William hissed in his ear.
Wasn’t hard to make you look like a fool, Mark thought. “I won… fair and square,” he gasped, earning himself another vicious upward twist. A steady pressure on his back forced him down to his knees. Then someone delivered a hard kick to Mark’s stomach.
Mark could hear the voices of his tormentors laughing. His face flushed red in humiliation as he clutched his stomach. A knee pressed into the center of his chest and William’s face hovered over him.
“I swear that you will receive a just repayment,” he whispered. “So swiftly you won’t know what hit you.”
Luv u guys. Sorry for the cliffhangers.