Chapter 3

Bare feet clapping on stone, Shyla scrambled back up to her room, snitching an oil lamp from the kitchen to light her way. Before pushing her door open, she did a slight roundabout, making certain no one had followed her. Breathing out a sigh of relief and paranoia as she glanced at the unwavering darkness heard the silence within it she wedged her door open with her shoulder. After setting the book and sword on the bed, she whisked around and shut the door again, twisting her hands around as many locks as she could until she was confident of her safety.

She slumped down against the door, feeling a sudden tide of sorrow rise in the back of her throat and a storm of tears brewing in her eyes, threatening to overwhelm her.

She cradled her face in her hands, letting her misery overcome her in a wave. It ebbed away quickly however, and stood, cursing to herself, wiping her sopping hands on her dress. She tottered over to her wardrobe, thrusting its doors open, pulling out old dresses that could suffice for long tunics, leggings, undershirts, among other things and tossed them upon her bed carelessly. After looking the pile of mismatched clothes and trinkets quickly feeling mildly satisfied, she kicked open one of the bottom drawers and drew out a thick leather bag.

She heaved it onto her bed and began to stuff it with clothes and the like – but before she even had the chance to organize herself, the door swung open, wide.

Shyla leapt as the door snapped against the wall and shuddered as Marrin's voice cut through the darkness beyond the threshold, "Good evening, darling." He stepped in, smiling broadly. He kicked the door shut with his heel.

"Marrin!" She squeaked. "What are you doing here – and at this hour?" She tried to mask her fright, standing in front of her bed and wringing an old tunic in her hands. Marrin's smile dropped a little.

"Well… You weren't feeling well today, right? I mean, you left the Great Hall quite suddenly this afternoon. I just came to see how you were doing, that's all."

Shyla averted his eyes and snaked her vision around him.

"Wait," she pointed "I locked that door."

Marrin chuckled and pulled at a thin silver chain around his neck, a simple tarnished brass key dangling at the end. "One of the maids kindly let me borrow this after we had gotten 'acquainted' with one another."

Shyla recoiled. "You're sick."

Marrin laughed, "Ah, rightly so, my love. I'll admit, my reputation is marred and it precedes me; but no more I'm afraid."

Shyla shrank back, "Wh-what do you mean?" Although she already knew the answer.

"Well, it's no simple matter to explain, honestly," he answered, lightly settling over to the window, glancing out of it with a certain romantic drowsiness in his voice. "But, as it's no secret to everyone, you won't be a child much longer; and many would agree that it's time for me to settle down." He smiled broadly as if to say, 'you can guess where I'm going with this.' Shyla had a burning sensation in her cheeks and a seething urge to scream at him until she blacked out.

She pushed her urges back and took a deep, shuttering breath.


Marrin smiled back at her ignorantly. "What did you say, dear?"

"No," she repeated fiercely. "I will never marry you." Marrin's face flushed deep in sanguine embarrassment and oncoming rage.

"Are you deaf?" Shyla's words cut at him. "I, as in Shyla, will marry you, Marrin, so long as I still breathe."

"What do you mean, 'no?'" He bore into her ferociously. "You act as if you were given a choice."

"As long as I still have a soul I still have a choice!" She slammed her fists on her bed, fingers now curled around the sword dangerously like a hawk's talons. Marrin jumped back.

"Where did you find that?" He whispered, blanching.

"Where do you think?" She hissed, tugging it way from his gaze and outstretched hand.

"You… you…" Words escaped him. "You can do this! You can't just ruin things like this! I won't let you do this!" He screamed, grabbing her wrists painfully, twisting one so easily like a green branch Shyla thought it might snap in twain.

"Stop, Marrin! Stop!" She pleaded, trying to pull her hands away. He released her suddenly. Shyla flew backwards, cradling her twisted arm, still curling around the sword.

"You," he pointed to her heart, "are not going anywhere, understand?" He circled around her like a vulture.

Shyla pulled the sword out of its sheath, making the air sing in a shrill pitch, pointing it to his neck in a fierce stance, the tip of the blade only a hair's breadth away from his throat.

"Don't you dare touch me again!"

Marrin grinned malignly.

"Are you going to kill me, Shyla?"

Her hate wavered for a moment, only to let her anger melt away and her voice become her own again. "No, I wouldn't do that… I-I couldn't…" Marrin laughed sadistically.

"That's what I thought." He said, pushing her weak arms away and forcing the sword out of her hands, leaving it to clatter to the floor. "Now, let's stop this foolishness, shall we?" She felt the tips of his fingers brush against the swell of her cheek, roughly. Wincing, she slapped his hand away, Marrin only laughed more audaciously than before.

"Don't bother fighting me, Shyla," he said, "our fates are undeniably intertwined, it's useless to fight fate-"

"You're a lying hypocrite," she spat. "'Don't fight fate?' You're not one to talk – you're fighting fate right now!

"I don't want to be here; I haven't wanted to for a long time," she explained. "I want to leave. Now. You're not stopping me, so don't bother trying." Marrin simply laughed again.

"After all those books you read, I thought you'd gain some sense." He grabbed the same arm he nearly broke off before and twisted it again painfully to the small of her back. "If there's one thing you should know by now, it's that I'm much stronger than you." He took his other arm and held it firmly around her thin forearm. He pulled her close to his body.

"I don't want to force you, Shyla," he whispered solemnly, "but I willtake you if you decide to fight against me."

Shyla's eyes widened.

"You wouldn't."

"I would, Shyla."

She felt something within her break. She blinked hard, and in less than a second, she felt Marrin's hands peeled from her own and the sudden absence of the unwelcome warmth of his body. A resounding thud made her eyes snap open and let her know of her deed. She shamefully touched her hand to her mouth and gazed upon an unconscious Marrin, whose blood made a small trickle against his forehead from his scalp.

Shyla felt the color rise in her cheeks again.

"I told you not to touch me," she said shamelessly. Promptly she shoved her feet into a pair of boots that were old and worn; so much so that the leather peeled and cracked away at places. She picked up the sword, re-sheathed it, shoved The Book of Hoeha in her bag along with her clothes, slung it across her back, pulled a heavy wool cloak from her armoire, threw it on, and left the room, slamming the door shut behind her.

She sprinted down the stairs, not caring if anyone heard her. She reached the main hall soon enough, only to stop suddenly.

No longer was the floor covered in its own bright luster, it was smothered in a dull pool of shadows. Shyla cocked her brow at this curious spectacle, leaning over one of the puddles.

Curiosity only mildly whet by a blurred reflection of herself, she pulled back. However she felt something tug at her foot as she shifted. Looking down, she saw a slimy black tendril wrapped around her ankle, tight. She panicked, swiftly pulling out the sword and swiping at it blindly. She sensed the disgusting black vine's grip loosen and the limb slough off, its filthy remains falling to the floor in a sickening plop.

Shyla suddenly remembered what these inky-beings were. These were Shadow-Hands. Man-made beings constructed from ink and ash, with no discerning intelligence or will of their own. These particular Shadow-Hands were made for guarding purposes, and though they lacked the necessary ability to differentiate friend from foe, they did well at their only job as far as Shyla could tell. She backed away slowly, until the puddle's gelatinous rippling ceased and her back hit the stone wall with a soft thud.

She edged along the stone carefully, watching the small sloping hills and knolls of the Shadow-Hands stared back at her, rising and falling like waves of the sea. Shyla was not eased by this, though they did not attack again – as she sensed, they simply wanted her to go, as if she didn't belong in the castle in the first place.

She didn't need what she thought were bitter stares from the Shadow-Hands of the floor, and she glared back at them bitterly as she felt the cool touch of brass underneath her sweating palm. By the width and molding of the brass she could tell that her back was against the main doors of the castle.

She held the handle tight and jarred her shoulder into the wood; softly at first, but when the hinges refused to give way, she leaned and pushed against the door with all her remaining strength.

The door shrieked open, but only enough that Shyla had to shimmy through, sliding the bag off her shoulders as she nervously dangled through.

The outside was dank and dark, unwelcoming and filled with contempt. The sky was a bitter grey, still sobbing tears onto the land, although no longer whipping at it with lightning. The ground was saturated, small ponds of rainwater and muck sat rippling where the grass stopped growing around the castle.

Shyla pursed her lips and pulled the hood of her cloak over her already matted, soaked hair, and made her way through the ramparts. She schlepped through puddle after puddle until the main iron-wrought gates of the castle were in sight.

She broke into a run. She wasn't willing to take anymore chances like she had done with the door before. She pulled her arms around her head, and in doing so, not seeing that the gates were unlocked and had swung open boldly in the wet wind.

She tripped and fell headlong into a lake of filth just a little beyond the gates.

Shyla cursed and spat out earth and grass, trying to slide the muck off her arms. She looked down – it was pointless to try to clean herself now; the rain streaked over her pale skin and the mud on it; her clothes were soaked now, and most certainly unsalvageable. She sighed angrily, and continued on at a trot into the forest that encircled the castle.

She felt her feet crush the fresh undergrowth, dangling vines from young branches whipped her face and left small cuts in her cloak. She no longer knew which way was which – the sky had become even more obscured by the canopy above, and in front of her trees and shrubs blocked her vision. She pressed on regardless – only when she felt her legs and the small of her back burn did she stop.

She had finally reached a clearing and the rain had sloughed off into delicate beads that fell gently from the sky, she sat beneath a great oak to rest.

Her breath caught on with her quickly, but something hit her mind like a stone from the air: she was lost and in a wood so dense it threatened to consume her right there.

She sobbed a little, pulling her knees up in a fetal position – although she was away from Marrin, how could she survive? She didn't know the first think about surviving on her own. Soon her thoughts overlapped and they became lost in a mist and muddled together as Shyla drifted off to sleep with a lullaby of soft pattering above her head.

The rain had stopped; the clouds began to pull away from each other like cotton, revealing a lavender ceiling.

Dawn was on the rise.

-End Chapter Notes-

Before anyone gets huffy about this – no, I did not steal Shadow-Hands from Garth Nix. Unlike Nix's shadow hands in the Abhorsen trilogy, the one I use are soulless, and generally amorphous creatures that can be rendered by anyone who has the capability to use magic. When I first thought of what I would name these creatures, I hadn't even gotten through half of Sabriel and it wasn't until I had gotten through it that a sort of "Oh &," epiphany dawned on me. I still have chosen not to change the name, because it ties into other parts of the story which will be revealed later. So keep your pants on, 'kay?

Yes, I know this chapter was a little short, but keep in mind that Chapter 2 was originally two separate chapters respectfully. This one is short because of the little cliffhanger at the end – don't worry, I won't leave you guys dangling for long!

Anyway, thanks to Mintelwerke for her review! One of… one review! YAY. :D

Until next time, folks!