Whoohoo! Three weeks in a row where I remember to post a chapter! I'm on a roll. :D Anyhow, here you are. Chapter two of Displaced. <3
“I need to find a town.” Kendall ran his hands over his face and groaned. He’d found a small deserted cave to lie in until his headache had calmed down which, fortunately, had only been a few hours. Once he’d been sure he could move without feeling ill, he’d travelled at a jog for the past hour.
He stopped and shifted. He was definitely getting closer to some sort of civilization. The smell of smoke and people was getting stronger. He turned back to his human form, unsure of what he’d find once he finally found another living being. He took another look at his surroundings. Now that the sun was coming up, he was even more confused as to where he might be. There were a lot of narrow trails weaving their way through the woods though he’d yet to come across any animals that might help him ascertain which part of Quelondain he was in. And the foliage… Though all of the plants seemed somewhat familiar, they also differed drastically from what he was used to seeing. There were more plants with teeth here than he’d ever seen before.
A woman’s voice rang through the air.
“I swear, Hanna, the men I meet simply get worse and worse. Why can’t I simply find one decent man who’ll take me on as his mate?”
“Maybe it’s where you go to meet them, Neeka. You go to a pub, you’ll bring home a drunk.”
“And where else am I supposed to go? There’s nowhere in this bloody part of the land that has any decent men in it.”
“There’s the soldiers…”
There was a grunt. “Right. No better way to get loved and left.”
“You know, you are intended to Christopher.”
“And you know I won’t be his mate. That was Brian’s doing, not mine. The man scares me. There’s something off about him.”
The two women rounded a corner in the trail and stopped short at the sight of the man before them. Kendall tried to hide his surprise. They weren’t wearing any style of clothing he remembered seeing anywhere in Quelondain. Their dark grey
pants were loose in the leg to the point where, had he not seen them walking, he’d have thought them to be wearing skirts. They were both holding baskets laden with fresh food. The shorter of the two met his eye and frowned. She adjusted the basket on her hip, the gesture pulling his gaze to her torso which, instead of being covered in a tunic, was wrapped in a cloth band, like someone had started at her hip, continued their way up, then looped it over her shoulders before moving back down and tying it in a knot along her waist. The black shawl she wore over her hair blended in with the raven color of her long, curly hair. The sheer material covered her head then crossed so that it wrapped around her neck before coming back around and tying around her hair at the nape of her neck. The second woman nudged her and the light green eyes holding his blinked.
Kendall was the first to recover. “Good afternoon, ladies.” He nodded to both and was rewarded with smiles. “I seem to have gotten off course. Would you be so kind as to tell me where I might be?”
“Hanna!” Neeka shook her head. “You’ll have to excuse my sister. We all know that whatever shifters are left have vacated the area. She still accuses everyone of being one.”
“What? Can’t a girl have a little fun? It’s funny to see the looks on people’s faces when I ask them. I mean, you should have seen yours.” Hanna grinned at him.
“Soon enough, we’ll be completely rid of the bastards.” Neeka grunted.
Kendall’s mind was racing. The war was over. The humans had lost. This was all wrong. Were these women rogues, they wouldn’t be out in the open like this. “Um, right. See, that’s what I’m wondering. I was attacked a few days back and forced to travel blindfolded. All of my things were taken…” He glanced from one to the other, hoping he was running with the right thought. “I’d like to know where I was dumped.”
Neeka nodded. “Well, you’ll be glad to know you’re still in Thistendal,” she teased.
Hanna elbowed her. “He’s been through enough. You’re just outside the town of Jaish.”
It took a moment for their words to sink in. “Bloody hell.” Kendall’s curse was loud in the sudden silence. His heart pounded in his chest and butterflies fought to break out of his stomach. Thistendal. He wasn’t even in Quelondain anymore. He was on a completely different continent! How, in the name of the moons, was he going to get home?
“Are you alright?” Neeka put her basket down and reached for the canteen she had in it. She handed it to him.
He nodded and cleared his throat. “I’m just surprised at how far I’ve travelled.” He ran a hand over his face.
“Come. Our guardian runs the inn in Jaish. We’ll get you a room for the night and you can get your affairs in order.”
“I’ve no money. Robbed, remember? I’ll be fine, I’m sure, though I do appreciate the offer.”
She grinned. “You must be from farther south. I love the accent. Anyhow, it’s not an offer, it’s an order. You need to eat and sleep somewhere tonight. They say the shifters are gone from this area, but you never know if you’ll run into one. Dangerous. They’ll kill you in your sleep if they can. Come along. I insist.” She picked up her basket and waited until he was beside her before starting off.
His curiosity getting the better of him, he glanced down at Neeka. “Have you ever met one?”
“A shifter. Have you ever met one?”
She looked up at him. “How do you meet an animal?”
“Well, they’re human as well, yeah?”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter what form they take. They’re all beasts. And no. I’ve never seen one.”
Kendall decided to drop the subject. Could it be that shifters here were different than the Majs and Namaels of Quelondain? Maybe they were more animal than man. Whatever the case was, it was obvious that to let on he wasn’t human was the worst thing he could do. Steering clear of that particular subject seemed like a swell idea.
He was drawn out of his thought by Neeka’s question.
“Have I what?”
“Seen a shifter.”
“Oh. No. Never.” At least, not the kind she seemed to be talking about. He wondered what she’d do if he told her shifters weren’t what she thought. He took a deep breath. It was best to leave it alone. He’d find some supplies, some food, and take the day to try and think of how he could get home. Who knew… maybe Hayden would somehow manage to displace him home again.
“So, do you have a name?”
He smiled. “Kendall.”
“And what do you do, Kendall?”
She blinked. “Really! Here I had you pegged as a soldier of some sort.”
She shrugged. “It’s the way you hold yourself; like you’re about to jump out of your skin.”
He grinned. “It never hurts to be prepared.”
Neeka raised an eyebrow in his direction. “Like you were when those men jumped you?”
By the moons, was the woman ever going to stop asking questions? “I was sleeping at the time.” He breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the small town before them.
“Come along. The inn is this way.”
As they wandered into town, he enjoyed the brightly colored roofs and white walls of the buildings. The red, blue, and yellow paint made it seem like such a cheerful and happy place. His brows drew together as he watched the people wandering the streets. Kendall’s unease increased once again. This was a bad idea. It was obvious that even though it was morning, a large number of people were already stumbling about intoxicated.
He watched as one man pulled his pants down, barely making an effort to turn and hide as he relieved his bladder in the street.
“Is there a celebration happening?”
A woman yelled out of the window and threw a plate at the man.
Hanna nodded. “Some soldiers came into town late last night, swearing they’d killed a shifter.”
Kendall’s stomach dropped. “They had proof?”
She shrugged. “If a lock of white blond hair is proof, I suppose you can say they did.”
Now, he wanted nothing more than to leave. What was wrong with these beings? There was never a time when he’d been out on patrols when he’d thought it alright to rejoice over a kill he’d made. He was a soldier, not a savage.
And what was he thinking?
There was no way a shifter was going to go unnoticed in a town full of humans with an obvious hatred of shifters. He glanced back to the safety of the forest then looked down where Neeka had put a hand on his arm. She cocked her head to the side in question.
“I’m just hoping the crew who robbed me aren’t here. This seems like it might be their kind of scene.”
She smiled. “Well, if they are, I’ll protect you.”
He laughed despite his unease.
“Come along. You can’t tell me you’re not hungry. I can hear your stomach from here.”
He nodded. “I could use a bite.” He glanced at Hanna who was watching them intently. “Careful!”
Hanna let out a small squeal as he grabbed her arm and pulled her toward him.
“Watch where you’re going,” he growled at the couple of drunks who’d almost crashed into her.
Both sisters glared at the men before gathering the vegetables that had fallen out of Hanna’s basket.
“Here. Let me take those.” Kendall took both baskets and followed along as they led the way to the inn.
Here was hoping nothing happened to draw any attention to him between now and whenever he’d be able to leave.