Chapter Eight: The Canyon Dwellers
Series Fable Forever by Vampireninjabunnies
Chapter Eight
Chapter Chronology
Previous Chapter Seven: Aurora
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Chapter Seven: Aurora Chapter Chronology TBD

Sophie woke, the bright desert sun blinding her. She cried out in pain when she tried to move. Looking down, she saw that her legs were caught under the wreckage. Struggling to free herself, she looked around desperately hoping someone else had survived the crash. Her eyes fell upon nothing but the charred corpses of most of the crew, guilt beating down upon her heart like a child upon a drum. If she had acted even a moment sooner these men might have lived. Shaking her head lightly she bade those thoughts from her mind. The time for regret and repentant tears would come later. The air was thick with smoke burning her eyes and nostrils. Through the crackling of the flames devouring the wreckage, she could hear the sharp bellowing of camels. She laughed suddenly, a laugh she could hardly believe was her own. It was a short, harsh little laugh, mirthless and frenzied. How those two animals managed to survive apparently unharmed was a mystery to her. She laid there in the sand her efforts to free herself futile, listening to the mingled sounds of violent flames and terrified camels, laughing that pointed laugh.

Cash rummaged through the wreckage, the surviving members of the crew close behind, all hoping to find the princess their hearts palpitating for fear of what they might find were she found. “Princess!” They called out to her through the smoke. “Perhaps we should split up, cover more ground. We might find her faster.” Devon suggested casually smiling at Cash. Cash glared at him, suspicion boldly written in every hard line of his face. Though he could not prove it he knew Devon was responsible for the wreck. He knew it just as surely as he knew Devon meant the princess harm. Devon was right though, if they had any chance of finding the princess alive they needed to cover as much ground as possible. “Fine, half of you go that way. The rest of you come with me and Devon.” As the two parties separated, Devon took Cash aside. “Just what exactly do think you're doing old man? If I recall I'm your captain, you take orders from me. Not the other way around.” he growled menacingly. “Tis indeed the cap'n that gives orders.” “Then you'll do as I say and go with the other party.” Devon growled storming off. “I don't think so Devon.” Devon turned on him “Excuse me Cash, I don't think I heard you right” “No you heard me right. Ye see Devon ye may have taken the title but ye ain't me cap'n. My loyalties are with Reaver. That young lady means somthin to him and I'll be damned if I'll let you hurt her. Besides however would you explain it to Reaver.” Cash grinned smugly. “You're treading on thin ice old man.” Devon growled menacingly as Cash joined the rest of the group. He followed close behind scowling. Cash was talking to the crew when he caught up, apparently they hadn't found the princess but they did find the camels. “You've got to be kidding me. Those mangy beasts managed to survive.” He huffed crossing his arms. Cash and the crew ignored him and continued discussing their next course of action. Irritated Devon stepped away aimlessly wandering toward the largest part of the wrckage. He stopped looking around him. “Was that laughter?” And then he saw her out of the corner of his eye. Sophie was trapped under the wreckage, he could see from here that she wasn't getting out on her own. Drawing a dagger from his boot he snuck toward her. Admittedly it would be a shame to get rid of her but if she did manage to find Reaver the Shadow Court was certain she would find a way to free him from their grasp. Why they wanted to keep hold of Reaver so badly he didn't know and if he was to be completely honest it bothered him somewhat but not enough to divert him from his assigned task. The Shadow King wanted him to kill the princess so that's what he was going to do. He just hoped Reaver never found out about it. “Hey over here... I think Devon found something!” Devon turned quickly stashing the dagger, his jaw clenching as the cabin boy ran past him. “Princess, are you alright?” Sophie turned toward the boy kneeling beside her; her eyes unbelieving and her mind reeling. She reached up touching his cheek lightly, his face was covered with soot but he was there. “You're real.” She whispered relief washing over her. “He smiled “Don't worry your majesty we'll get you out of here.” “Tom where are you? What did you find?” She sat up as best as she could hearing Cash's voice hollering out. “I’m over here Mr. Cash!” Cash ran toward her followed by Devon and a few members of the crew. “Are ye alright princess?” “I’m stuck.” “Don’t worry, we’ll get you out.” She nodded grimacing in pain. “Alright but please...hurry.”

“We'll never get this off her by ourselves men.” Cash said examining the wreckage. “We need some sort of leverage. Maybe a pole or beam or...” “Something like this Mr.Cash?” Tom asked pointing to what had been a support beam only a few hours earlier. “Yes! That's perfect. Perkins help me with it.” Cash and Perkins easily pulled the beam free. They wedged it between the ground and the debris. “Come on and help us you lazy lout!” Cash glared at Devon. “Oh I suppose if I must.” He sighed shrugging lightly. Grunting the crew pushed as hard as they could till at last they managed to lift the obstruction. “I don’t think we can lift it any higher princess.” “That’s alright I think…I can wriggle free. Yes!” Sophie pulled herself clear of the wreckage, she grabbed onto Perkins for support hissing. Her left leg was covered in blood, there was a large gash on there that went from her ankle all the way to almost her knee. “What happened?” she questioned turning to Cash. “To be honest, I’m not sure but I think the engine blew. We lost most of the men in the explosion” “See told you not to trust Reaver’s insane contraptions, we’re lucky that any of us survived.” Devon scolded. “Hmm, be that as it may we should get going Cash, it won't be long before a crash like this attract Sand Furies and her majesty is hardly in any condition to help fend them off.” “Honestly, I'm alright.” Sophie insisted pulling away from Perkins falling as soon as she put weight on her leg. “You alright there princess?” Devon grinned. She glowered at him as she struggled to stand. She sighed heavily as Perkins gently scooped her up. “I'm sorry your highness but it's best if you stayed off that leg for a while, at least until we've gotten back to Aurora where the healers can give it a good look.” “NO!” Sophie struggled to free herself from his grasp. “We can't go back!” Cash stepped forward his voice kind and placating. “But princess we're still days away from Samarkand and you need care as soon as possible.” She shook her head adamantly “If we go back Uncle Logan will take one look at my leg and insist on sending me home.” “But Cash is right Sophie, going back to Aurora is the best course of action here.” Devon simpered wryly. “I don't care. All of you can go back if you want but I'm going to Samarkand. I have to see Garth, he's the only person who might have any idea where Reaver's gone. I'm going, even if I have to crawl all the way there I'm going!” Sighing Cash nodded, there was no point in arguing with her. If she received any trait at all from her uncle it was his stubborn resolve, a resolve even Reaver found difficult to resist. “Mr. Cash.” Tom spoke timidly pulling along a camel behind him. “Perhaps the princess could ride this until she's able to walk. We've packed what little supplies we could find on the other one. There should be enough for us to get to Samarkand if we ration but there is an outpost we can resupply at if we need to.” “Well done Tom.” Cash smiled “Since this is your quest princess it is ultimately your decision and I think you've made your position on the matter quite clear.” Perkins placed her on the camels back as softly as possible. “If this is the plan then we'd best be going. Perkins do what you can to mend her leg and Devon up front with me, you're the best fighter we've got for now.” Sophie had everyone assemble as Perkins tended to her leg, he was surprisingly gentle. He was a tall, strapping man swarthy and broad shouldered. He should've been intimidating but he was gentle and kind. Admittedly she felt far more comfortable with this bear of a man than she did with Devon, there always seems to be something sinister about Devon lurking just below the surface. “There you are princess, good as new.” Perkins smiled. “I know it's only a shirt sleeve but it should do for now. I am going to have to stitch it up when we make camp though.” “Thank you Perkins.” He nodded lightly, taking the reigns of the camel and following the rest of the ragtag party. Tom walked beside her camel staring up at her. “I...uh...found your gun and sword princess.” “Oh thank the gods.” she sighed relieved reaching for her weapons. “ that's alright princess. I'm happy to carry them for you.” Tom hugged them close to his small chest, he couldn't have been more than thirteen. He looked wiry and spry. his face split into an eternal grin. “Alright but only if you call me Sophie, it gets tiring having everyone refer to you by your title all the time.”

The sun beat down on them furiously as they made their way over the landscape of endless sand dunes. Wiping her brow Sophie looked around, it was hard to believe anything could survive here let alone thrive as the people of Aurora have. Her leg felt better, Perkins had stitched it up the night before as promised and as far as she was concerned they would've been hard pressed to find any physician in Albion who could've done better. He told her it would scar though apologizing but she didn't mind. She was proud of it because it was proof. Proof that she had survived something no one at home would have believed she could. Her mind wandered leading as always to Reaver, the desert sands melted turning lush and green in her mind's eye. She was so engrossed in the memory that the stifling heat turned light and cool; the sounds of gossiping nobles and busy servants filled her ears. The desert had disappeared completely becoming Millfields, with shaking hands she held a pistol in front of her aiming at a make-shift target. She pulled the trigger flinching at the impossibly loud bang; missing and nearly hitting a terrified maid. “Well my dear that...was...well that was just dreadful.” Reaver giggled from behind her. “You're not exactly helping.” She turned on him crossing her arms and pouting. “And I suppose you'll stamp you're royal little foot now. You really are adorable when you're angry pet.” He grinned wickedly running his hand through his thick hair. Glaring she stepped forward poking his chest angrily. “Don't make fun of me! And I do not stamp my foot.” He grabbed her arm and spun her around. Wrapping his arms around her, her back pressing up against his hard broad chest. “Oh yes you do dearie.” He whispered. She shivered as his hot breath tickled her ear, he ran his hand down her arm sensually. “Now aim, both eyes open, breath deeply and pull the trigger gently.” The faint scent of brandy, tobacco and spices she couldn't name filled her senses as she took aim and fired; hitting the target almost dead on. “See that wasn't so hard was it? Though I'd still say some practice is in order.” He cooed teasingly, tickling her side playfully. “S...stop it.” She giggled trying to wriggle free of his arms. “Never.” He whispered into the shell of her ear, kissing her lightly. Bloodcurdling shrieks filled the air pulling Sophie back to the here and now. Perkins threw Tom on the camel unceremoniously “Hang on princess.. Sand Furies!” Sophie jumped down wincing in pain, running toward cornered men. “What are you doing?” Perkins called to her. “They need help, get Tom out of here we'll be right behind you.” She commanded. Devon watched the ensuing battle with amusement as Sand Furies butchered most of the remaining crew, Sophie fought wildly firing at the Furies, slashing at their agile forms as she tried to defend the unarmed men. Hearing the shrill battle cry, Devon turned just in time to avoid being beheaded.. He grappled with the Sand Fury, the both of them falling to the ground, caused the hilt of her sword to be rammed against his head. His vision blurred as the world spun around him. He looked up just in time to see the Sand Fury raise her sword moments from plunging it deep into his chest. Suddenly she shrieked in pain bursting into flames. Sophie gripped him by the arm and pulled him up. “Are you alright Devon?” “Yeah just a bit dizzy.” “Good, we've managed to fight them off now but we should get going before they come back.” Though she was limping badly and almost certainly in a great deal of pain she ignored it but something still felt off. “Thanks.” Devon grumbled. “You're turning out to be tou...” Sophie looked back in time to see Devon crumple to the ground, an odd looking man standing behind him holding wooden club with flint embedded into the sides. She saw large gash in the back of Devon's head before suddenly being knocked to the ground herself. Putting her hand to head she looked around. The new assailants captured each of the remaining men, killing some. Warm blood flowed freely down her face as her vision faltered, suddenly dizzy and nauseous she fainted.

“C'mon princess. I think you've had enough beauty rest.” Devon hissed in her ear, helping her up as she shook her head. “Where are we?” She moaned. “I'd a cage headed toward that canyon.” The corners of her mouth twitching in restrained amusement; his tone derisive. “Bright side though. We are still headed in the direction of Samarkand. You'll just probably not live long enough to see it.” “You're not helping.” She scolded “Now how do...wait...are these human bones?” Her breath hitched as she examined the bars of the cage that were indeed made of human leg bones. Alright she thought to herself, stay calm, don't panic. “How long was I out?” “About two days, wherever we're going we'll be there soon.” “I think you mean now Devon.” Cash whispered from the cage beside them. Sophie stared nervously up through the bars at the canyon walls. “This is bad, really bad. What happened to Perkins and Tom?” “They probably died like most everybody else or they were caught. Then their as dead as the rest of us.” Devon remarked darkly. He knew he'd live through this but it was still likely to hurt...a great deal and that thought darkened his mood considerably. “Actually they managed to get away. So there might be hope yet.” Cash muttered, Sophie nodded in his direction as they came to a sudden halt in the middle of a primitive village. “Good but if those two are going to be doing anything at all to help they'll wait till nightfall, so for now we'll just have to try and hold out till then.” The warriors dragged them out of the cages, throwing them to the ground. The people of this village looked strange and sickly to her, their skin ashen and grey, she stared at them as the warriors led them to a building that could only be described as a temple. A dark woman stepped forward and examined each of them carefully, groping at their arms, and legs. Then she turned to the chief of this strange village speaking to him in a language Sophie couldn't even begin to comprehend. The chief smiled at them, a grotesque yellowed smile that would haunt Sophie for as long as she lived. They were taken to a dark room and thrown into another large cage with the rest of the surviving crew. They sat in their dark prison waiting for whatever fate their captors had in store for them as every now and then one of the grotesque villagers came and took one of them away kicking and screaming. Hours passed by endlessly leaving Sophie with only Cash and Devon for company, she found herself wondering what had happened to the others, if they were still alive. Wondering if Devon had been right, maybe they were all going to die. Suddenly their cell door opened and a small diseased looking girl came in carrying a tray of food. She placed it on the ground and left locking the door behind her once more. They walked over to the tray examining the barely cooked pieces of meat. “Well at least we won't starve to death.” Sophie laughed nervously picking up some of the meat and eating it, Cash and Devon joined her tearing at the meat ravenously. It had been days since they had eaten and now that her hunger was sated Sophie slept. Tossing and turning she slipped into another restless dream. She was standing in an ancient temple dread weighed down heavily on her as she looked around. Reaver stood in front of the three Shadow spirits each on his own throne, his gun drawn, he looked tired and disheveled. “Your time is up Reaver.” The middle shadow waved his dark hand and Reaver rose into the air writhing in pain. His screams echoed through the cavernous room, Sophie ran toward him the world seeming to move in slow motion. She was suddenly pulled back reaching out her hand for Reaver calling out to him as he and the dream world around her faded. She sprung up breathing heavily looking around trying to regain her bearings. “Sophie?” Came a small voice from behind her, it was Tom standing next to Perkins. “I'm fine. Glad to see the two of you though.” She smiled weakly brushing the loose strands of her hair from her face. Tom handed each of them their weapons and he and Perkins led them out of the dark cavern that led from the cells to the temple. “Good to see you your highness but we don't have much time for pleasantries. We've got to get out of here. It's about to get really loud.” “Why would it get loud?” Devon whispered as they snuck through the halls of the temple. “We set bombs while they were sleeping.” Tom grinned mischievously. “Good job” Cash ruffled his hair. “Now where are the others?” “I think I know where they are Cash.” Devon whispered looking back at them. Sophie stood beside him, her eyes wide. He reached for her as she stepped forward toward the bloodied alter. Parts of the crew had been strewn around left to rot. She gasped as she realized what had been done here, what had happened to the others. “Oh gods...they ate them. We ate them.” She whispered falling to her knees and vomited; she broke out into uncontrollable sobs, hugging herself screaming. “They fed them to us! Ate...them! We...we...Oh gods...”Devon took her by the arm pulling her up and slapped her across the face with all his might, knocking her head to the side. She looked at him startled and hurt, her small hand covering her cheek, the red imprint of his hand shining red underneath. “Get yourself together Sophie or I swear to the gods above I'll leave you right here. Now get up, we have to go while we still can.” She nodded standing straight. Perkins motioned for them to follow. “I've got a couple camels waiting.” He lead them down the corridor leading to the outside world the desert sun blinding them. All at once the village dissolved into chaos as explosions went off. Buildings burst into flames as people ran for their lives; not a single person taking notice of the party of strangers escaping on the backs of camels. Long after the canyon was far behind them Sophie stared back as though it was still right there. Self-disgust tearing at her mind, her mind that refused to let go of the image of that alter, which would plague her nightmares for the rest of her days. She turned forward toward an oasis as large as the whole of Albion. The alter swept momentarily from her mind she sighed with relief. Soon she would see her brother and somehow he'd make this guilty pain in her heart go away. Garth would give her the information she needed and she'd find Reaver. Soon, soon because Samarkand now lay in front of them. Her quest was nearly done. Or so she thought at that desperate moment.

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