The Run for Survival

Prologue

Escape

"We must go now," Ramel said to the only person who had ever meant anything to him.  Indrene sat in the small chair that was almost the only piece of furniture in the room.  She looked distressed, sad, and helpless.  Ramel himself felt the same way.  It had been a long time since he had felt secure.

"No, I can't.  He will kill us."  'He' meant Jalome, the ruler of the Caves and the person who had tried to kill Ramel more than once to get Indrene.  He had not succeeded, but that hadn't discouraged him.  He only seemed to get more interested in Indrene each time.

"We must leave now," Ramel repeated.  "I cannot guarantee what is out there, but if we stay, our life will be miserable."  She stood up, walking over to Ramel slowly, unsteadily.  She didn't look well, but they couldn't wait for her to get better.  Jalome would attack before then, Ramel was sure of it.

"Fine, but let's hurry.  I don't want to get caught.  I don't even want to think what he'll do to me, or you."  Ramel opened the door to the outside, and slid quietly outside, not making a sound.  Indrene followed behind, clasping Ramel's hand.  Ramel hoped that they would be able to reach the small valley below them without being detected, as their home was near the top of the mountain.

Slipping out into the darkness, the cold air was suddenly upon both of them, clawing to get to the skin.  They moved along the hard earth-packed path, feeling the cliff for support.  They had lived in the Madine Caves for almost three years now, never going more than a day's walk away from them.  Now they would be leaving forever, traveling until Jalome could never find them.

As they reached the first bend in the path, Ramel noticed movement in the direction he was going.  The figure revealed itself in the failing light as Jalome.  He had three people behind him, lackeys of his that he couldn't name.  The light glinted off the dull gleam of a double-edged sword in the hand of Jalome.

"Hello my friend," he spoke, his voice hinting of madness.  "What would you be doing out on a night like this?"  The party of three slowly converged on Ramel and Indrene, giving them no choice but to go back the way they'd come.  Ramel and Indrene walked past their door, and knew that they were running out of time.  They slowly came out into the open as they walked onto the ledge beyond their door.  The ledge ran out over the Arendine River that ran throughout most of the northern cities and ended in the Fenfur Sea to the south.  It was a long fall to the river, and the water was already frigid in the late fall.  There must be a way out Ramel thought as they reached the very edge.  He touched his hand to his own sword, but he knew that he couldn't take on Jalome and his three colleagues.  Indrene slipped on the loose rocks.  Only her grabbing Ramel saved her from plunging into the water.  Jalome smiled seeming certain of his victory.

"Indrene, do you trust me?" he whispered to her behind him.

"Yes, I do."

"Then we must jump.  It is our only chance at survival.  Jalome will surely kill me, and he will force you to marry him, making the rest of your life a torture.  Are you ready?"  Night was approaching, the smallest sliver of the sun still peeking over the horizon.  Before Indrene could answer, Ramel somehow lost his own footing on the ledge and fell, pulling Indrene after him.  He could have sworn that he'd seen Jalome's eyes turn black as he dropped off the ledge, but it was impossible to tell in the fading light.  If he can control magic, nothing can save us.  He plunged headfirst into the water, the cold coursing through his body.  Head bobbing out of the water, Ramel panicked when he couldn't see Indrene.  He searched frantically, the cold seeping into his bones.  His legs were already numb, and he was beginning to lose consciousness.  He looked back toward the ledge and could see Jalome looking over it, but he walked away, leaving Ramel to his fate.

It was a moment later when Ramel spotted Indrene, farther down the river.  She appeared to be making no move against the strong current pulling against her.  With a renewed sense of purpose, he swam toward her.  She was conscious, but appeared as though she was paralyzed.  He grabbed her and drew close, sharing body heat to keep each other warm.  He wasn't sure if he could make it to the edge, and if he did now Jalome would surely catch them.  He let the river carry them South, praying they would make it out alive.