Shades of GloryAn early morning breeze tickled Kia’s nose, but when she woke she realized that hadn’t been what got her attention. In spite of the calming effect of the otherwise cool morning air and the way the sunlight was scattered across the forest floor with trickles of orange and red seeping in from the sunrise, her heart was pounding and her palms were clammy.

She heard a noise, a clang of metal on metal, then a distant, gravel-crunching voice.

She sat up and saw that the others in camp were still sleeping. Laird Summers and his men had set up a perimeter with guards keeping watch, though she noticed one who was close to nodding off.

It was easy to sneak past him. She scampered up into one of the trees and used it to move through the sky like a squirrel until she dropped down out of sight of the guards and made a run for it.

This might not be worth waking the others for. It might have just been her imagination, or some local boys out for an early morning training session, though as far as she knew, there weren’t any villages in this area.

Again with the gravelly voice.

Trees blocked much of her view ahead, along with gullies and fissures where old riverbeds had dried out here or earthquakes had torn apart the ground there.

She rounded a group of blackberry bushes that grew over some rocks, pausing to grab a couple of the blackberries for an early breakfast, and immediately threw herself backward into a prone position.

Not quite sure she had seen what she thought she had, she inched forward on her elbows and peeked around the rock again. (more…)