The Wonchax Army
Dryness and gloom was all The Stranger could feel or see. Not a single star was shining through the ugly gray sky. It was the same experience The Stranger had felt several times before. Standing over a cliff, The Stranger observed the barren valley hundreds of feet below. Little shadows were moving about a miniature campsite. A fire, the size of the head of a pin, was the only light that cut through the dusk.
Though too far away to hear what was being said by the army below, the wind carried the soldiers’ unspoken messages to The Stranger’s ears. The army had attacked several other towns before The Stranger had singly handedly fought against them. These towns had been left in rubbles, bodies and destruction left behind in the army’s wake. However, the past couple of attacks of the Wonchax Army had been foiled. Out of thin air, The Stranger charged, knowing exactly where they were and what they were up to. Many soldiers met the tragic fate of The Stranger’s blade. The towns they had targeted all had valuable resources. Irontown was known for its weapon productions. The best swords and bows and arrows could be purchased there. The Wonchax Army might have gotten away with a few nice swords, but not as many as they had planned. Meddleburg was known for its horse breeding farms. The Stranger made sure that not one single horse met the cruel clutches of the vicious attackers.
The next stop would surely be further eastwards, towards Iddleville. This town concerned The Stranger the most. It was the main producer and source of food for the entire country. If the Wonchax Army wanted power, they simply needed to take over the town. It was strange that they didn’t even try to head towards Iddleville. Instead, they took a sharp turn westwards, through a long stretch of rocky and deserted land towards a small insignificant town. This confused The Stranger. The town was not known for anything valuable, and it was very small in size. The only assumption The Stranger could make was that since the Wonchax Army was rather small in size, this town would be easy to take over, and a start to the army’s new power. But even that didn’t make sense. The second time The Stranger had stopped them, their bodies were shaking with fear at The Stranger’s mere presence.
What was the wind saying? With closed eyes, The Stranger listened. They were going to camp and rest for the night. After traveling three days non-stop, the army was exhausted. They had foolishly thought that by now, the Shadow Dasher had lost track of them. What fools! Traveling in an open field, how could the Shadow Dasher not know exactly where they were? Even if they tried tricking The Stranger by not heading towards Iddleville, the Shadow Dasher would never stop following them until they were all destroyed.
A loud snort grunted from behind The Stranger. Turning around, The Stranger stared into the sapphire eyes of the faithful steed.
“You are right, Nightglyder. If they are resting, we can certainly rest, too.” With that, Shadow Dasher left the edge of the cliff alongside with the silver unicorn.
It had taken twenty minutes to set up camp. Julia was taking off some of her armor. She had been wearing it the past three days and it felt good to release some of the weight. She could smell the stench of her body as she through down her golden plates onto the rocky surface of her tent. Her eyelids were growing heavy again. Picking up her water jug, Julia took a big swig. Aaah! Placing the jug back on the ground, Julia pushed open the tent flap and walked out into the clear sky, now dazzling with glittering stars. Standing by a fire was the remainder of the Wonchax army. They had lost several people due to that wretched Shadow Dasher, as his name had been known across the land. Nuisance! Hopefully, though, they had gotten him off of their trail. Surely he would have traveled toward Iddleville. The town’s government had been unstable recently, rumors of scandals has spread. It was an ideal place for the army to attack. However, Julia had them change directions unexpectedly. They were heading toward a small village, Gloryfield. The town appeared to be quaint and harmless, but after hearing a very curious story from Conlan Wonchax himself, Julia had to check it out. For now, they would avoid Iddleville until the Shadow Dasher was stopped, though that job was on another’s hands.
Julia marched towards her troops, who were warming their hands by the fire. On hearing the bells attached to Julia’s boots, the army immediately went quiet, all eyes facing her.
“Well, now. We have all been traveling long and hard that we deserve a good rest. But don’t be fooled. I have already told you what we are looking for in this town. We will not destroy or kill unless we have to. Any violence we make will catch the Shadow Dasher’s attention, and he will quickly realize that we are not heading towards Iddleville, if he hasn’t already. We need him off of our backs as long as we can; he has caused too much damage already.”
“Why can’t we fight him then if we come across him?” said a gruff voice from a bald fat man. “He is only one man!”
“I have already explained this, Marcoose,” Julia said through gritted teeth. “Shall someone else explain?”
“Another army is forming simply to find and dispose of him. A bounty has already been placed by other pursuers,” said a slender woman, her eyes glowing madly by the firelight.
“Exactly, Trisha. Why do you think they call him the Shadow Dasher? He pops out of thin air on his unicorn, slices us up, and disappears without a trace! He is like smoke in the wind, impossible to catch. That is why it is important that we proceed as carefully as possible. The object we are looking for should be in this town. If it is not, we leave peacefully.”
“But that is not what this army is about!” roared a stout man with a black goatee. “We are about taking over towns and building up our army!” Julia could feel a vain pulsing on her forehead. She pulled out her sword and struck the man’s arm.
“Did you not hear anything I have been saying, Peadar?” she said, angry shaking every word, while the man yelled in pain. “We don’t want to draw attention to Shadow Dasher!” Julia raised the sword to strike Peadar again.
“Please, don’t!” Rachel jumped up and gently held onto Julia’s hands from behind. “We don’t need any more injured people. We have already left many behind to die!” Julie lowered her arms and sword as Rachel let go of her. A couple of men were wrapping Peadar’s arm with a bandage.
“We will split in groups,” said Julia, as if nothing had happened. “One group will sleep for 3 hours while the other group stays on watch. Then we switch. As your leader, I will sleep 6 hours so that I may be refreshed to guide our troops for tomorrow. We will leave as early was we can so that we can get to Gloryfield in the morning. That is all. Julia slipped the sword in its hilt as she turned away, her black cloak fluttering behind her. She went back into her tent, and continued to remove off her armor. Julia knew that she was a dangerous person, and that her troops feared, but respected her. She took no jokes or ignorance. It had not been the first time she had lashed out on someone’s disobedience or stupidness. It was lucky she had been stopped…
“Ms. Julia?” Rachel had opened the tent flap slightly. “Do you need any help?” Julia started at her. Rachel had long, light brown, wavy hair that was always decorated with some sort of bow. Though Julia hated bows, when it came to business, Rachel had no problems cramming a helmet over her head, crushing her bow without complaints. She would even push her hair inside it so she looked more masculine and serious. Julia had never asked her to do this, and admired it.
“Yes, please help me take off these infuriating plates!” Rachel walked in and kneeled behind Julia. She bent down and started to undo the chains. Everyone had some sort of protection, but it was usually just some thick clothing. Julia was the only one that actually had any type of armor, besides the helmets.
“I think your plan is very sneaky, Ms. Julia. I never had the chance to tell you that before, as we were so busy traveling. But do you think we really have lost the Shadow Dasher?” Julia gritted her teeth again. She hated the mention, or even the mere thought of this maniac! She had been close to meeting the Shadow Dasher’s sword the last time he came to stop them. Only her arm was slightly grazed. If it was anyone else but Rachel, Julia would have punished that person.
“I don’t know, but I am not taking any chances. However, if I do get to meet this Shadow Dasher, I will make sure to make his death slow and painful, but as real as day and night.”
Rachel smiled as she finished unfastening the last plate. “I’m sure you will, Ms. Julia!”
Saddie McLoyan and the Shadow Dasher
As soon as the sun had started peaking into the sky, the McLoyan family was up and busy! The dairy cows had to be milked, the hen eggs had to be collected, weeds from the potato fields had to be pulled, and the beef cows had to be rotated to a new field so the grass in yesterday’s field could rest. There was never a quiet day at the McLoyan farm. Saddie was up in the kitchen with her mother, who was getting together ingredients for their dinner stew, while Saddie was standing on a stool by the kitchen sink, cleaning the breakfast dishes.
The McLoyan farm was the largest farm in Gloryfield. It contained thousand and thousands of acres; Saddie had not seen the entire farm yet. She had uncles, aunts, and cousins, along with secondary family members whom she was not directly blood related. Her family lived in houses throughout the farm. Dinner time was never a silent ordeal, and this time dinner would be at their house.
“Thank you for helping me with the dishes, dear,” said Saddie’s mom. “I’m going to need your help with cutting these potatoes. I think I need to rest for a bit.”
“Ok, mum,” said Saddie. She watched her mom waddle out of the room and into the adjacent living room. Saddie was one of the youngest children in the family, but her mother was soon to give her another sibling. She had an older sister, Clara, who left the house a couple of years ago with her lover. Her other sister, Sara, and her two older brothers, Clark and Samuel, all worked hard on the farm with the rest of the family. Samuel was a couple years older than Saddie, but he was closer to his other older siblings.
When Saddie would ask her mother if the baby would be a boy or a girl, her mother would laugh.
“It’s a boy. This baby kicks like Clark and Samuel. You and Sara never kicked like this!” After Clara left, it was taboo to mention her.
Saddie finished the dishes and went over to the counter to cut the potatoes. The counter was at her height, so she didn’t need her stool. Her mother only let her use her special sharp kitchen knife on rare occasions. She really must not be feeling good. Saddie cut the potatoes. She was being extra careful, and it took her much longer than her mom. She put the potatoes into the pot.
“I’m done with the potatoes!” she called out.
“Good. Go get some carrots and cut those. I’ll finish the rest in a bit.”
“Can I get you anything, ma?”
“No, just be a good little helper and cut the carrots, please.”
“Ok!” Saddie put the knife down on the counter and grabbed a basket that once held the potatoes. She opened up the cellar door on the other side of the kitchen and pulled the little string to turn on the dreary glow from the light bulb. The cellar was always dark and creepy. Saddie hated it. One time when she was in the cellar, she accidentally walked into a spider web. Her skin began to itch at just the thought, and she could feel that spider again scurrying up her arms.
Squinting her eyes, she made her way down the stairs towards the cellar’s bottom, where there were tons of shelves storing their fresh produce. She walked over to the carrots and grabbed a couple of bunches. As her hands touched the surface of the carrots, she could feel that they were slippery. Rubbing her hands on her overalls. She felt through the carrots. They all felt slimy and gross. Saddie collected all the carrots and brought them back upstairs.
“Ma!” she called again, as soon as she turned off the light and closed the cellar door. “All the carrots are slimy!” Her mom let out a long sigh. Saddie put the basked of bad carrots on the floor and went into the living room, where her mom was lying on the couch and breathing heavily.
“I thought the carrots were in there for awhile,” she said. “I don’t think I can get some more. If anything, I’d say your new brother is telling me that he is ready to see the world.”
“Ma!” Saddie cried out.
“Go get your pa,” she said. “Then run into town and buy some carrots. Baby or not, with my little helper, we can still get this stew ready by supper time.” Without another word, Saddie dashed away from her mother, back into the kitchen, and out the back door. The screen door slammed behind her as she called out as loud as she could.
“Pa! Pa! Ma thinks she’s ready to have the baby!”
“Your Pa is way out in the corn fields. What is that you say, Saddie?” Uncle Herman was the first one to hear Saddie’s shouts.
“Ma thinks she is ready to have the baby. She’s been breathing funny ever since breakfast.”
“Oh, my Lord!” Uncle Herman gasped. “We’d better get your Pa and tell the others!”
“Ma told me to go into town to get some carrots for the stew.”
“I thought we had plenty of carrots!”
“They all went bad.”
“She’s about to have a baby, and she still is thinking about feeding the family?”
“I can make the stew,” Saddie said, proudly. “I’m almost eleven, and I’ve seen Ma do it tons of times. I’ll get the carrots and take care of supper.”
“My golly, my little niece is growing up so fast! I’ll go call for your Pa and take care of your Ma. You go get those carrots, little lady!”
“Thank you, Uncle Herman!” Saddie dashed back towards the house, and skidded through the kitchen.
“Uncle Herman is going to get Pa and the rest of the family. I’m going to take care of supper, don’t you worry about that!” Saddie kissed her mom’s cheek.
Saddie’s mom smiled. “I know I can count on you. Go get some change from Pa’s sac, and don’t forget the Lion! With the Lion and the Lord on your side, you will be guided back home safely.”
“I know. Bye Ma!” Saddie ran through the living room and into the parlor. She opened up a closer door, and bent down low to open a much smaller door hidden by junk in the wall. Pushing away the junk, she opened the door and yanked out her father’s sack. She untied the sack and grabbed some money, not sure exactly how much, but it looked enough, and stuffed it in her pocket. Tying up the sack, she put it back in the little cubby, closed the door, pushed the junk back, and then closed the closet door. She bolted towards the front door. To the right of the door on a hook hung what her ma had referred to as ‘The Lion.’ It was actually called ‘The Lion Emerald.’ It had been passed down through the family for ages. The emerald contained strange symbols. The symbol had two partial triangles. The triangle on top pointed upwards, and the triangle at the bottom pointed downwards. If the triangles were connected, it would look like some sort of diamond or jewel. Between the triangles was a heart, and in the center of the heart was a dark circle. Saddie had asked her family about The Lion Emerald.
“It was passed down to me as a boy,” her pa said. “My mom gave it to me. It has a protective spell on it.”
“It has magical powers. As long as a person has this necklace around his neck, no harm can be done to him,” one of her uncles said.
“The heart means love, of course,” her ma said. But no one else could explain the other symbols. They were all myths, Saddie thought to herself, as she slipped the necklace on. But it was still fun to pretend they were real.
Finally outside, Saddie ran through the front lawn towards the old abandoned shed. Her family built a new shed, but never took down the old one. This was perfect for Saddie, for she had stored special things in there that no one else knew about. It was the only place she could keep her secrets. She opened to the door and crept inside. Lying on the floor was Clara’s staff. The staff, like the emerald, had been passed down through the family. The history of the staff was more recent. The original staff had worn out over time, and their Pa’s grandfather carved out a new staff. The emerald and ruby satin ribbons from the original staff were still wrapped around the gnarls, twists, and turns of the new staff. At the top of the ribbons hung two round spheres. The ruby sphere hung by the emerald ribbon, and the emerald sphere by the ruby one. The spheres, which also came from the original staff, had the same markings as the Lion Emerald.
The staff was passed down to the oldest child. Clara was the next person in Saddie’s family to receive it. However, Clara did not like family traditions, and when she left the farm, she left the family’s staff in dust under her bed. Though Saddie did not know why, but she had a feeling if her parents knew that Clara did not have the staff, there would be an uproar. They were big in traditions. To prevent Clara from getting into trouble, Saddie took the staff and hid it in the shed. She only took it out if she had to go to town by herself, or when everyone else was sleeping. It made a good weapon.
Pulling the staff out, she closed the door and made her way into town. The staff was about two feet taller than herself, but Saddie had gotten use to carrying it. The spheres danced in the wind as she sped down the road.
Gloryfield was one of those small, quiet towns where everyone knew everyone. Crime was pretty much extinct. It would be a boring place to live in for Saddie, if it wasn’t for all the exciting rumors that went around about the Shadow Dasher. Since the horrible stories of the mysterious Wonchax Army attacking cities, killing and stealing from townspeople, the Shadow Dasher had entered the tales, always one step ahead of them. He would always save the day, always on a close call, which thrilled Saddie, even though she knew they were just stories. She had images of him, riding his silver unicorn, dressed in a cape that covered his entire body, except for his eyes. Out of nowhere he would charge in, his sword striking any enemy that got too close, saving the townspeople.
She was still thinking about the Shadow Dasher when she reached the market area of town. The Market was full of several shops all lined up next to each other. Storage and apartments were above the shops. It was clean and well kept. The smell of fresh produce always hung in the air, making Saddie’s nose want to dance. There were horses and wagons tied up against some of the shops, and every now and then she was see automobiles, though most people in Gloryfield couldn’t afford them.
Saddie’s best friend, Emily Jennkins, and her younger brother, Jarrod, were leaning up against their family’s fruit stand as Saddie made her way down the road towards the Johnson’s Grocery Store. Emily looked like she was bored, and Jarrod was making designs with a stick on the dirt road. Upon seeing Saddie, Emily immediately perked up, as if new energy was poured on her.
“Saddie!” Emily said, as she ran towards her buddy, giving her a big hug. “We’ve been so bored! My goodness, I’m so bored, I’m ready for school to start back up again, but now that you are here, we can play! Not a lot of business going on now. Watcha doing in town anyways?”
“My ma is having the baby. I’m getting some carrots for dinner, and then I get to make the stew,” said Saddie.
“Your mom’s having the baby? Does she need a doctor?”
“Nah. My Aunt Jessie is a nurse, and the rest of the family will help, too. I can’t stay long, so I gotta hurry.”
“Oh, you can’t even wait for Old Ben to come?” said Emily. “That’s the only thing that’s been keeping us entertained, waiting for Old Ben.”
“He’s making new stuff, but he wouldn’t tell us what,” said Jarrod, who was still quietly playing in the dirt.
Old Ben was a kind homeless man. He had ragged clothes and gray, unkempt hair and beard. He often smelled like he had fallen in a lake many days ago and never removed his clothes since. The adults did not like Old Ben.
“He doesn’t work, because he is so lazy!” Aunt Sally said once when they went to town together. “Lazy as a mule!”
But the children loved Old Ben. He was good with creating things with his hands. He would whittle things and the children would eagerly buy his newest creations. Whatever he created would be the newest fad in school. Though the adults would scold them for wasting their money, the children didn’t care.
“If Old Ben is around after I get the carrots, then I can stay for a bit.”
“Oh goodie!” said Emily. “Oh.” Emily had turned her head towards the road. Two strange women were walking by, and in a small town, outsiders were more noticeable. They’re clothes were strange, they were both wearing long cloaks of some sort of tan woven material. It was as if to make them appear poor, but their hair and faces were give aways of their wealth. One woman had long slick black hair, bright red lips, and long eyelashes. The other woman looked too skinny. She had long, curly sunflower hair and pale skin.
“Wonder where they are from?” Emily asked as the women walked into the shop next to the Johnson’s Grocery Store.
“Dunno,” said Saddie. “I’d better go get the carrots. I need to get back home and make sure Ma is ok.”
“All right then,” Emily said, with an air of disappointment in her voice. Saddie left her friend and went into the Johnson’s Grocery Store, which was just across the street. The little bell above the door jingled as she walked inside.
“Why, hello there, Saddie!” said Mrs. Johnson, who was helping Mrs. Smyth weigh her potatoes. “What brings you out here?”
“Getting carrots for our stew.”
“Did you come alone?”
“Ma is having the baby when I left.”
“My dear goodness!” exclaimed Mrs. Johnson.
“Oh, she’s finally having the little dear!” said Mrs. Smyth.
“I got to get some carrots and hurry back,” said Saddie. “I forgot to bring a basket. Do you mind if I borrow one of yours?”
“Go ahead, my dear!” said Mrs. Johnson. “Just don’t forget to return it back. I’m not making enough money to keep buying baskets!”
“Right, I will!” The two ladies went back to their conversation while Saddie picked up a basket and walked over to the bin that had fresh picked carrots. The carrots still had dirt stuck to them. Saddie grabbed a handful, and put them in the basket. Being so small, it was awkward for her to hold the wide basket and her staff at the same time. The little bell on the door tingled again. Saddie turned around and saw the strange two women come inside. Saddie went back to the carrots while trying to eavesdrop.
“That will be five dollars and fifty cents,” said Mrs. Johnson.
“Thank you dear,” said Mrs. Smyth.
“Excuse me, but this is important,” one of the women said. Saddie could hear Mrs. Smyth losing her balance. She thought she was going to fall, but Mrs. Smyth apparently regained her balance.
“How rude!” she said.
“How can I help you?” Mrs. Johnson said, her usual politeness had vanished from her voice into a monotone utter.
“Well, you see, my sister and I are looking for this.” Saddie glanced over her shoulder to se the woman with the long black hair hand Mrs. Johnson a piece of paper. “It belonged to our mother, but when she passed away, someone stole it. How cruel people can be when you’re down!”
“Yes, quite cruel,” said Mrs. Johnson, as if she was directing this statement more to the woman than the thief. Saddie pretended to be counting her carrots. She could hear Mrs. Smyth tapping her foot impatiently.
“Well, it is very important to us. If you see it, can you please let us know? We will pay anything for it. Even a bigger shop for your store.” Mrs. Johnson grunted. “We will be in town for a few days, in case you see it.”
“I will sure…let you know…” said Mrs. Johnson. There were footsteps, the jingle of the bell, and the two strangers were gone.
“How rude of those women, pushing me aside like that!” said Mrs. Smyth, as the sound of jingling change rang in the air. “What did those hooligans want? Is something wrong, dear?” Saddie, who had finished picking carrots, turned her full attention to Mrs. Smyth and Mrs. Johnson.
“I got a bad vibe from them,” said Mrs. Smyth. “What is it they wanted?” Mrs. Johnson looked up.
“Saddie, go get home now!” she said.
“But I got to pay for the…”
“Take them, they’re free! Little gift for your Ma and her new baby. Now go!” Confused, Saddie left the store. When she stepped out into the streets, she felt a strange uneasiness in the atmosphere. Emily and Jarrod were no longer standing by their fruit stand. Out of the corner of her eye, the two women were standing next to the Johnson’s Grocery Store, talking excitedly. Along the streets were other people, all dressed in strange clothes. They were walking about everywhere.
“Saddie!” Emily hissed. Saddie looked down and saw that Emily and Jarrod were tucked away underneath the fruit stand. Saddie put down the basket of carrots and slid across the dirty road to join Emily and Jarrod. Her denim dress and white smock got dusty and scrapped up in the process. She pushed her staff underneath her legs. Jarrod was softly whimpering beside her.
“They all popped up while you were in the store,” Emily whispered. “We were going to tell Mum and Dad, but they were coming in so fast, we got scared and hid. All those stories Old Ben use to tell us about the Wonchax Army…it looks like them!”
“Little girl!” said a loud voice. Saddie could see the black boots from the woman with the black hair make their way over to the fruit stand. “I know where you are. There is no reason to be afraid. I just want to be your friend.” The woman got onto her knees and peered inside. Her silhouette was completely dark, except for her eyes. They looked calm, but wild at the same time.
“It’s ok, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk, and be your friend…AAAAG!” The woman’s body fell limp, her hand sprawled underneath the fruit stand, just a few feet from where Saddie was pushed back against Emily and Jarrod. That’s when, for a brief second, she saw it. Four silky white legs and golden hooves. In a flash, all that was left was the strange woman groaning. There was a commotion outside, people yelling, swords clanging.
“How did he find us?” yelled the woman, as she sat back up again. “Well,” she muttered, “I’m not letting this chance get me by.” Saddie watched as her hands gripped underneath the fruit stand. She was lifting it up! Sunlight poured inside and over one of Saddies legs and Jarrod’s back. He was screaming now.
“Emily! Jarrod!” came the panicked voice of their mother somewhere nearby.
Everything was happening so fast.
The one thing Saddie could remember clearly was a gruff voice saying “What are you up to?” as the fruit stand flipped over on its side, revealing the hidden children underneath. Jarrod was so scared that he immediately stopped crying. Saddie looked up into the eyes of the Shadow Dasher, perched upon his silver unicorn, right before her very eyes. He fit the description perfectly. All Saddie could see was his eyes, baring down hard at her. A strange anxious and fear went all over Saddie’s body, from head to toe.
Not much sense was made to Saddie after their first contact. The next thing she knew, the Shadow Dasher grabbed her by the back of her shirt. She landed on the back of the unicorn, gripping the side of the Shadow Dasher to help keep her balance. She held her staff as tight as she could as the wind wiped her face. There were yells and shouts, some from the Wonchax Army and some from the Shadow Dasher. Some Saddie thought were directed to her, but she couldn’t make out what anyone was saying.
The unicorn was never in one place for more than a second. The scenery and angles were constantly changing. One minute, they were in front of the Johnson’s grocery store. The next, she was looking at the dirt road leading in the opposite direction of her family’s farm. Then she was looking directly at the sky as the unicorn bucked. She had no idea what was keeping her from falling off.
After awhile, when she thought her head might just spin off, the unicorn sprinted off, leaving the Market, Gloryfield, and a majority of the Wonchax Army in its wake. Some of the army was dashing after them; she could hear them yelling in the distance. The Shadow Dasher was breathing heavily as the wind crashed through them. Saddie was still gripping to his side as tightly as she could.
The valley that surrounded Gloryfield opened up before them. Saddie found herself surrounded by vast lands filled with pink and purple desert flowers and cacti and trimmed along the edges with large purple-blue mountains. The sky was wide open letting the heat pour down onto the valley below. Saddie could feel her skin getting sticky with sweat, and her fingers sore from holding on to the Shadow Dasher. When she looked behind her, Gloryfield was gone, along with anyone who had been chasing them. The unicorn trudged on, kicking sand into the wind that would sting Saddie’s exposed skin.
The unicorn made a sharp turn towards the right. It galloped over a little stream and went through a narrow opening in the rocks of one of the mountains. It then went left, and up onto a ledge. They continued to climb upwards, the heavy breathing the only sound in the wind.
At long last, the unicorn came into a clearing several feet above the ground. The clearing was covered in sand and red and green desert flowers; it looked like a miniature version of the valley below. The unicorn slowed down as it walked between a wall of rocks, so that no one from the valley could see them above. The unicorn stopped. Saddie could start to feel her heart beating again. The Shadow Dasher swung his arm, knocking Saddie off and onto the soft sand. Saddie groaned as the Shadow Dasher jumped down from the unicorn. He walked over to Saddie, and grabbed the Lion Emerald that was around her neck. She felt her neck yank forward and her airway grow tight.
“Where did you get this from!?” the Shadow Dasher asked, jiggling the chain. “Well, answer me!” He let go of the chain and Saddie’s head hit the sand again.
“It’s…it’s…it’s my family’s. Oh, please, let me go home!” Her voice shook. She didn’t know what else to say. What if the Shadow Dasher considered her to be an enemy? She would soon be dead!
“Your family? What is your family name?” asked the Shadow Dasher, as his shadow cast over Saddie.
“McLoyan,” said Saddie.
“McLoyan?” The Shadow Dasher glanced over at her staff. “It’s another Lion Emerald. What is that?”
“My…my staff. It was my older sister’s, but I took…took it.” The Shadow Dasher was still looking at the staff, then he nodded his head.
“How interesting,” he said, as his eyes turned back towards Saddie’s. “The Wonchax Army would do anything to get those emeralds.”
“That was the Wonchax Army back there then?” Saddie asked. As the truth was sinking in, it sounded much more terrible than when it was actually happening.
“No, they were from the circus. Of course that was the army! No doubt, you have heard my name before, yes?”
“I’ve heard stories, but I always thought they were just stories,” said Saddie, as she sat back up. “Please, can I go back home now? My Ma was having a baby when I left, I was suppose to bring her carr…”
“No. You cannot go back home. Never. You have been seen by the Wonchax Army. They will be looking for you, and anyone that can lead them to you. Going back home would put you at jeopardy, as well as your family. It would also ruin all my hard work of stopping them so far.” Saddie was horrified.
“I don’t like sidekicks,” the Shadow Dasher continued. “I travel alone with Nightglyder here.”
“Then…what am I…” Saddie was so scared, she couldn’t even cry. Her whole body was quivering uncontrollably.
“You will be traveling with us. There really isn’t much of an option. If you were to travel alone, the Wonchax Army would be sure to have your emeralds. Besides, why do you think I have been able to defeat them without being killed myself? Not even a scratch on my arm!” The Shadow Dasher pulled from underneath his cloak an identical necklace as Saddie’s. The symbols were exactly the same. Saddie leaned forward for a better look.
“You have a Lion Emerald, too?” she asked.
“Yes, it was from my family. Like yourself, I stole it.” He tucked the emerald back underneath his cloak. “If we are from the same family, I guess, in a way, that makes us sisters.”
“Sisters?” Saddie was confused. The Shadow Dasher pulled off his cloak. Saddie watched as his soft black hair fell down to his shoulders. He had gentle, ruby lips and from looking at his chest, Saddie instantly came to the realization that the Shadow Dasher was actually a woman!