Arrow Branded – Chapter 5

By: Suspicious Panda

     As the snow began falling, we searched for shelter. We walked along a steep hill, searching for sticks to make a hut. I felt the cold wind cut straight through my bones and chill my heart. I knew this weather could not be good for my health. I took a breath; the air tore through my lungs.

     Suddenly, I saw something that confused me. I saw a building; here, in the middle of the freezing forest. It didn’t feel right, as if there was something sinister about it.

     “Xavier, look,” Rumour called. I inspected the building. The words Morrow Inn were painted above the door. It didn’t look like much, but the others insisted that we stay for the night. I felt a wind pick up.

     “What is going on? It was only cold when we left the house; now it’s snowing and I’m actually freezing,” I complained. Soleil laughed.

     “There has always been something supernatural about this forest. The weather is more extreme, the creatures are more magical. It is more than what meets the eye. This forest holds many secrets,” she said. I stopped and stared at her. She had just given me the typical speech about the secrets of the forest; just like in a book or something. I kept walking and looked away.

     “Makes sense, I guess,” I muttered.

     As we approached Morrow Inn, I felt worry press on my chest. This didn’t feel right at all. The small roof above the door had gathered snow that was threatening to fall. It felt weird. A random hotel in the the middle of the forest. I couldn’t let my guard down. Not even when we entered and the heated air hit me like a pillow in the face. I finally allowed my hands to come out of my pockets.

     We looked around for someone to talk to. Nobody seemed to be there. I began to walk towards a door labeled Employees Only. I was going to knock and see if anybody could help us.

     “Hello, miss,” said a woman behind a desk. I turned around quickly, startled. She seemed to have just appeared in a matter of seconds.

     “Hi,” Soleil said. “We would like some rooms, please.” She took a wallet from her pocket.

     “There are two rooms available,” the woman said with a smile. “Will that be okay?”

     “Of course.” Soleil opened her wallet. While Soleil interacted with her, I took the opportunity to look around the room. I inspected the couch on the other side of the room. I touched a book on a coffee table, it was titled Where We Hide. A little bit creepy. The lobby of the Inn seemed innocent enough. Nothing sinister.

     “Lake.” I heard Rumour call my name. I looked up from the book and followed his voice.

     “Come on, I was investigating,” I complained when we got to the elevator.

     “There is nothing to uncover here,” Soleil said. I pouted, rubbing my thawing hands together for warmth. Only then did I notice the pain in my hands. I looked down at them; the cold had caused my skin to crack. My knuckles were bleeding. I sighed, knowing that it would hurt for days.

     Soleil seemed to notice me inspecting my skin and patted my shoulder.

     “We can fix that right up once we get to the rooms,” she said with a smile. I nodded. Then I thought about the room situation. Only two rooms had been available. Who would share rooms.

     “So, Xavier and I will share a room since we’ve known each other forever,” Rumour said. “You two can share the second room.”

     “Sounds good,” I said.

     Once we got to the rooms, which were right next door, I went to wash the blood off of my skin. When I came out, I looked my hands over once more. Clean.

     Xavier was standing in my shared room, talking to Soleil. He turned to see me and immediately looked at my hands.

     “Let me help you with that,” Xavier said.

     “I’m fine, really. Thanks though,” I said. He shook his head and grabbed me by the hands, leading me over to the bed. On the covers laid a box. He sat me down and began to rummage through the contents of said box.

     “You need that covered. It won’t get better if it’s exposed to the cold again,” he said quietly. I smiled. Xavier hadn’t seemed like the nicest person when we first met for real, but he was growing on me. I guess that is how most friendships go.

     He found what he was searching for in the box and brought it out. He held tape, scissors, bandages, and some kind of cream. I watched as Xavier kneeled in front of me and set his supplies down on the bed. He put the cream on my skin and I winced, causing him to apologise profusely. He proceeded to wrap my hands in bandages. When he cut the bandage and secured it with a safety pin, I examined my hands again. I balled them into fists. Xavier did a great job at wrapping them. I nodded in satisfaction.

     “Hey, thanks,” I said, looking up at him. He nodded and stood up, I could almost see a blush creeping up his neck and smiled. I flexed my hands.

     “Well, I’m going to go. I’ll see you guys in the morning,” Xavier said. Soleil gave him a hug at the door and he waved as he left.

     “This place doesn’t feel right,” I said to her.

     “Where is this coming from?” she asked. I shrugged and looked away, feeling slightly embarrassed. “Lake, what happened? Is that why you were ‘investigating’?” Soleil was practically interrogating me. I nodded.

     “I swear something’s not right, so don’t tell me I’m overthinking it,” I told her. She gave me a look. I glared at her.

     “Lake, not everything is something. It could just be a feeling, nothing more,” Soleil said in a quiet tone. I sighed. She never believed me. It didn’t matter though, I believed me. I had a plan.

     Night fell, but I lay awake. I heard Soleil’s breathing become steady, meaning I could get up without her knowing. I refused to leave the mystery unsolved.

     I got up and walked as quietly as possible towards the door. I stopped and looked back. Maybe I would need some supplies. I entered the bathroom and looked through some of the things provided. A hairbrush, some small soaps, a shower cap. I put some bobby pins in my pocket and took the blades out of a disposable razor.

     “Lake, no.” I heard a voice at the door. I turned to see Soleil standing there, her curly hair tied in two braids.

     “Lake, yes,” I said quietly and tried to push past her. She blocked the door.

     “I am not letting you go out alone,” she asserted. I rolled my eyes with a sigh.

     “Then come with me.” I knew it was a little far fetched to ask of her but I took the chance. I’m not sure whether it was because of me being persistent, or because it was midnight, but Soleil looked pensive for a second and nodded. She made me wait as she went back to get something. When she came back, she was wrapped in the blanket from her bed. I shook my head at the girl in front of me; half-asleep and dragging a blanket behind her.

     “Let’s go,” I whispered. I left and Soleil followed me. We took the stairs down, as to not make much noise. I looked around before entering the lobby nobody was there. I tiptoed out onto the dark red carpet. I had gotten about halfway across the lobby when I heard a crash.

     “Sorry,” Soleil said. Her blanket had caught on the corner of a small table, knocking the lamp to the floor. I shushed her.

     Suddenly, I heard footsteps. I grabbed Soleil’s hand and ran, dragging her towards the Employees Only door. We got in and I closed the door just on time. I heard footsteps outside. They paused, as if looking around, then faded down the hallway. I let my breath out when it was quiet again.

     “Be careful!” I whispered urgently. Soleil nodded. Felt around on the wall for a light switch. I was not prepared for what I would see when I found it. A trail of blood drops led down a long corridor. I felt sick. Soleil seemed frozen. I took a breath, then Soleil’s hand again, and started down the corridor.

     There was a heavy metal door at the end of the hallway. I tried to turn the doorknob and found that it was locked. I should have known. Then I remembered the bobby pins in my pocket. I knelt down on the floor, ignoring the dry blood.

     It took only seconds to pick the lock. I had learned how to pick locks because I often stayed out past dark at Lil’ Angel’s and had to pick the lock to get back in. The door swung open, creaking slightly.

     The room on the other side was completely padded, except for a circle about a meter in size that was in the middle of the room. In the circle was a wooden chair, and in the chair was a person. The person seemed to have his hands tied behind his back and his ankles tied to the legs of the chair. A chain bound his torso and arms to the chair.

     “Oh my god!” Soleil whispered. She dropped her blanket and rushed to his side. She checked his pulse and gave me a nod to signify he was alive. I ran to him. I took the razor blades from my pocket and began cutting the ropes that bound him. Once that was done, I tried to pick the lock on the chain around his chest and upper arms.

     “Soleil, get Xavier and Rumour and fast as possible!” I instructed. She didn’t hesitate to run off, being as quiet as possible. The person in the chair lifted his head slightly. I touched his face, making sure he was okay. He looked quite young; maybe nineteen years old. He tried to speak but I shushed him. He needed to save his energy.

     I understood then why the room was padded everywhere but there. To make sure no noise got past that first door. His tanned skin was bruised and he sustained several injuries and lacerations. Nothing serious enough to kill him, as if someone were trying to get information. I stayed at his side for a couple minutes before the other three arrived. The things that were previously in their hands were dropped the moment they saw what we had found.

     “Help me get him out of here,” I said. Rumour rushed to my side and helped me get the boy to his feet. He winced at putting weight on his legs. His wrists and ankles were burned from the rope.

     “Did you think you could be quiet enough to get in here?” Soleil and Xavier turned quickly. They both pulled out their bows and arrows, which they had grabbed from the hotel rooms.

     “I don’t want you back here. Employees Only.” the woman from the desk said.

     “Sorry for trespassing, but I needed to see where that bloody handprint came from,” I said casually. She smiled. I gripped the detached blade. I knew something would happen. The boy felt heavy on my shoulder.

     The woman lunged at Soleil and Xavier. Her nails grew into claws and her teeth looked more like fangs. The twins responded by spitting apart, forcing her to choose one. She chose Xavier and while she had her back turned, Soleil took an arrow from her quiver and notched it onto the bow.

     The woman shoved Xavier onto the wall then turned to Soleil. She knocked the bow out of her hands. I saw fear in Soleil’s eyes. The weapon she had trained with was gone. The woman grabbed Soleil’s wrists and shoved her up against the wall. She pinned Soleil by her throat and her hand began to glow red. I wanted to help but I was frozen.

     “Well, it’s my turn,” Rumour said. He helped me sit the injured boy back down on the chair. He morphed into his demon form. The gash in Rumour’s side still looked bad but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop him from fighting. The woman seemed to sense him coming and turned, her hand still on Soleil’s throat. She waved her hand and Rumour seemed as though he had been swatted to the side.

     “It’s my turn,” I whispered. I didn’t think I’d do anything significant, but I wanted to go down swinging. I threw my detached razor blade as hard as I could. Of course, I missed her completely. She looked over at my with a malicious smile and made a pushing motion with her free hand. I felt something hit me hard in the chest, knocking me over. I hit my head hard on the wall behind me.

     “He cannot escape; he’s my key,” the woman muttered to Soleil. Soleil’s struggled against her to no avail. Key? What did she mean? Xavier was pinned to that wall by some kind of magic and Rumour was lying against the wall. He had turned back into his human form and was lying in a dent much too big for him. I was struggling to stand at the back of the room, with the immense pain and dizziness swirling in my head. But I worried most for Soleil, being trapped against a wall.

     Then someone stood up. They turned in my direction and picked up the chair. I could see their eyes glowing, but it wasn’t Rumour. The young man’s eyes glowed bright green. He staggered over to the fight near the door, obviously struggling to even stand.

     “I’m… Not your key,” he managed. Then smashed the chair over the the woman’s head with a force that knocked her out. She fell to the floor and Soleil gasped for breath, touching her throat. I could tell that it would bruise.

     I stood up, leaning on the wall. I felt like the room was spinning.

     “Thanks,” I said in the general direction of the boy. I noticed it was the boy who had been tied to the chair. He had somehow gathered the strength to help us.

     “No problem,” The young man said before collapsing onto the floor.