Here is the second story for #flashfictionfriday. If you weren't here last week I'm going to be writing short little bits of fiction that may or may not turn into longer stories. Be sure to sign up below for my Reader's List to get exclusive content for the Breathe series and to be the first to know when my next book comes out! =)
We stood at the edge of the cliff, our breath coming out in huffs and puffs. Bent over at the waist, hands on my knees, I spent precious moments trying not to pass out. No matter what anyone said, running outside took a lot more out of you than running on the treadmill. I needed to up my game at the gym if we ever made it out of here.
“Whose idea was this anyway?” This got me a glare from Honor. Oh right, that would be me. “Find the Rune” had sounded like a fun way to spend a Saturday morning at the time. Now? Ugh. I needed to think about these things more carefully.
“We need to… hurry up. I thought… I heard her behind us.” Honor said through her deep, catching up breaths.
Similar to a one-way Capture the Flag, the teams were given a set amount of time, the rune, hidden by the Mage, had to be hard to find as well as physically taxing enough to burn serious calories. We picked teams from names in a bowl brief moments before the game began so was no prep time.
The winners got to choose amongst themselves the place for the next game and which one of them would be the next Mage. The losing teams paid for dinner after and were subject to endless harassment. That was not happening today.
Honor and I were the first ones at the top, but finding the rune took more than being fast. We had to think like the Mage and find an object the size of the palm of your hand in an area where everything looked the same. And we only had an hour to find it and make it back.
“What do you think?” Honor asked.
I finally straightened up and looked around. “I'm not sure. What did the clue say again?”
Honor pulled out the card, lowering her voice to somewhere between a cheesy radio announcer and a creaky version of Dumbledore. “Ware ye the cliffs of Katans, for they hold the rune bespelled with ancient magik.”
“Seriously, Arielle needs to read something besides fantasy books. Can't she give clues like a normal person?” I rolled my eyes. Ridiculous.
“She takes it seriously, Scarlett. When it's your turn you can word the clues however you want. In the meantime start using your brain so we can get out of here.” Honor huffed.
Being hot and sweaty made her cranky and besides, she was right. The other two teams were close behind so we needed to get moving. It's all fun and games until she obliterates you from existence. In other words, found us and shot us with her paintball gun. Time to go.
“Where would she hide the rune up here?” I asked glancing around for possible hiding places.
“I'm not sure. She's so good at this. Like the one that we never found.” She reminded me.
“Her being the Mage for so long was terrible. We will find it this time!” I punched my fist in the air.
“You're a dork. C'mon, she mentions the cliffs so it must be somewhere near the drop-off.” At the end of the trail, the cliffs dropped into oblivion. The bottom was a long way down. And there were no good hiding places at the edge. No obvious loose rocks to look under or anything. Not that I expected it to be as easy as that but still. Where would you hide something that small and actually expect it to be found?
Forest lined the sides of the trail before the cliffs. We stood looking around but nothing here fit Arielle's preferred type of hiding place.
“Why don't you take the left and I'll take the right?” Honor said, gesturing to her side of the forest.
“Okay, watch for anything fantasyish. You know how she loves her fairy rings.”
“Right. Don't get too far off the trail.” Honor said over her shoulder as she moved to her side of the forest.
I waved and moved off towards the trees on the left of the trail. It was immediately darker and cooler as the shade from the intertwined branches hovered low over my head.
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the low light before I could see anything that might be our Mage's type of hiding place for the rune. A hundred trees covered the forest in front of me.
“Seriously Arielle?” I whispered to no one.
Each one of us had a style to their hiding places so I glanced around and tried to think like my fairy-loving friend. A moss-covered tree lay on its side twenty yards to my left. Seemed promising.
When I had thoroughly checked the entire tree, including rolling it to the side to see if the Rune was underneath. After I danced around trying to avoid all the creepy crawlies that had been uncovered and rolled it back, I let out a frustrated breath.
“Where is it?” I mumbled to myself and sat down heavily on the fallen tree.
A huge willow tree sat just five feet from where I sat. It's roots lifted above the ground. There was a space between the tree and the mossy forest floor.
“Ah,” I breathed. Crawling on my hands and knees, I tried to see inside. Not willing to stick my hand in there, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and shined the flashlight into the space beneath the tree.
A glint of red flashed back.
“Victory!” I shouted, reaching in to grab it.
Arielle had found the beautiful red stone in a second-hand store a few months ago. Before that, we'd played with the flat top of a matchbox cover with the word “Rune” written on the front and all seven of our signatures on the back to prevent cheating. The stone made the whole game more real.
I stood up, brushed off the moss and shoved the stone in my pocket. I was about to head for the trail when I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.
In this area, we had all kinds of wild animals like bears, coyotes, and bobcats. But this was no bobcat. It was a guy. A teenage guy. Walking through the forest toward me from the opposite direction of the trail. Where had he come from? There was nothing that way but more trees.
Dressed in jeans, a black Tshirt, and a black jacket, his mouth was set in a determined line. I stood staring blankly at him, like an idiot, as his long stride closed the distance between us. As he got closer, more details became clearer, dark brown hair, green eyes, and an angular, handsome face.
He stopped with less than fifteen feet between us. I wanted to run but for some reason, my feet were firmly planted and wouldn't cooperate when my brain was telling me to “move”.
My heart was beating hard in my chest. Looking into his eyes I got slightly woozy in my head like I'd just stepped off a tilt-a-whirl ride at the carnival that came to town every June.
“Umm,” Brilliant. Really impressive conversational skills.
He reached for my hand that held the Rune.
Startled, I took a step back, finally able to make my feet move and promptly fell over the fallen tree, on my butt, my mouth snapping shut with a clack.
He held out a hand to help me up, but instead of taking it, I scrambled backward like a crab. The voice in my head shouted “run!” this time. I jumped up and took off running.
Someone told me once that looking behind you when you were running was the fastest way to lose a race. It took everything I had not to turn around as I bolted through the forest to the trail. Finally, I broke through the trees shouting for Honor.
“I've got it!” I heaved out. “Honor, we have to go!”
She popped out from the bank of trees on her side. “Let me…” She took one look at my face and asked. “What's wrong?”
I slowed just long enough to point and say, “Go, we have to go.” Instead of waiting for her to catch on I took off, assuming she would follow.