Sunday, 4 November 2012

Second Chapter Of Homeland!

So no faffing this time - I'm gonna get right down to it!
Here is the second chapter of Homeland:
Chapter Two
It all began on a cold evening in September. All that could be heard in the county of Shalo were the occasional hoots of owls in the forests and the marshes and the slosh of a wave in the harbour. The county was smaller than any other in the large island of Atlaan. The boats in the harbour bobbed up and down, the market was empty and still. The cobbled streets of the city were dark and lined with sleeping houses.

However, there was still one person awake in the tree house village on the outskirts of the city. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Mike slept on, while their niece, Malina, listened to the rustle of the wild animals below and the hooting of owls. She loved the noises of the night - they reminded her that she and her family were not alone; they were not all dissimilar to those creatures out there in the dark forests, surrounding her tree; she, too, had to manage with what she had, whatever she could get her hands on. She, too, was treated with distain. 

Malina arose, opened the small door to the cabin and stared out in the darkness in an attempt to estimate the time. If watching, one would instantly spot her yellow, cat-like eyes peering out into the night.
On the forest floor, a small bird - a thrush - hopped about, looking up at Malina. Occasionally, it pecked at the ground, but continued to glance at her. The eyes then popped back inside the tiny hut. Malina went to lie back down on her thin mattress on the floor and tried to get to sleep.

Slowly, the sun crept over the horizon and, at last, the daylight had arrived. As the sun shone into the small tree house, the features of the home could be seen by any passers-by through the large windows. The family could not afford to put glass in the windows, so they were left as big square gaps in the thin wood. Lined with unpacked boxes – for the house did not have space for all of their belongings – and always cluttered with blankets, stood the family’s battered room. The branches holding it were strong and firm to the grip, yet the wood itself was moulding and cold. With a weak lamp, Malina stole out of this room – a place that held at least four rooms of a regular house – and climbed down its wooden descent to a ground dusted with breaking leaves. A soft wind could be heard whispering through the trees.

Malina was very similar to those wild creatures around her. Unseen and undiscovered. Shalolians took little care of the creatures in the woods – they were not useful enough to be noticed. Malina’s similarity to the forest could be seen in her appearance and her natural vigilance and, as a result, she perfectly blended in with the trees. With a fleeting look, one would mistake her for a deer, a small bear or perhaps a wolf. Malina listened to the trees around her as an early bird started chirruping into her ear.

Malina’s first errand of the day was to buy some bread and a small chicken from the market by the harbour. Last night they had used up all she had bought in the market that day. Malina made her way down the edge of the park, looking in on the games that some children were playing.

“Hey! Girly! What do you think you’re looking at?” shouted a rude, posh voice. A boy, clad in a red corduroy suit with a white collar came towards her with an almost identical pack of boys following closely behind.
“N...Nothing.” Malina stumbled, and continued to make her way. She wasn’t supposed to talk to people of such high status.
“Poor people can’t come in the park” the boy chided.
“I’m not in the park.” Malina muttered quietly but defiantly.
“You shouldn’t be here, should you? You’re not allowed here!” a short boy squealed with delight.
“Riff-raff like you should stay where you belong! In the sewers!” His pack chuckled with laughter as they sauntered away from her and went to sit under a tree. The exact same boys had done the exact same thing for as long as she could remember. She could easily recall countless times when, as a child, she had been led into harsh booby traps in the woods and pushed over into the small woodland streams. A particularly nasty memory was when she was pushed into a marsh near the Oracle’s house, surrounded by the corduroy boys, throwing sloppy mud in her face.

She scurried away and as she saw the market come into sight, she repeated the old saying to herself: “It’s easy to enter Port Shalo Market, but not so easy to get out”. In she went, zigzagging her way to the butcher’s stall. She handed over the money and got hold of a small chicken. She carried on forward, past sellers shouting “fish for sale!” and “come and get your vegetables!”

At last, she reached the sea front. She settled down onto a nearby bench for a rest and gazed at the large gathering of boats, all tied to the railings in front of her. Now she had to decide: should she go back through the busy market and risk losing what she’d just bought or should she take the long route though the rough area of the port? The harbour was lined with pubs and drunk fishermen. She mapped her way out in her head and set off.

As she walked between the stalls and along the dusty streets, an uneasy feeling came across her. Somebody was following. She turned around but all she could see was a thick crowd of irritable adults, bustling and moaning.

All of a sudden, out of the blue came a flying potato, aimed at her head. She ducked and heard it hit the man behind her. With an angry cry, he slouched off, disappearing amongst the crowd. Stumbling, she dodged a flying apple. Fruit, vegetables and stones were coming at her from nowhere! Then WHAM! A watermelon. Her head collided with the pavement and she blacked out.

“Ay, girl. You all right?” A man was kicking her, checking she was still alive. “Why’ve you got watermelon in your hair, huh?” His breath stank of alcohol. With a pounding head, Malina looked up, dumbfounded. The man shrugged and disappeared as the crowd of sniggering corduroy boys peeked out from behind a market stall.
Of course, who else would it be? Malina grumbled to herself. She slowly shuffled under a market stall table where she found a bag full of pears. Perfect. She hid her bread and chicken inside her long, black, moth-eaten cloak and stuffed her trouser pockets full of pears then crawled into the next street. Bad mistake. The corduroy boys fell about laughing.

“Just where the poor beggar belongs!” one of them cried with laughter in his eyes. Malina made a run for it, zigzagging through the stalls, squeezing through the crowds. With potatoes and apples hurled at her from every direction, she ducked, crawled and sprinted. Whenever she could, she through a pear behind her shoulder, but only once did she manage a hit. The crowd of boys gathered behind her, herding her into a corner, and THUMP! She ran into a boulder. The boulder was a stout and heavyset creature wearing brown boots and ripped farmers trousers. He had a large belly being held in by a straining belt. His ginger beard covered most of his stumpy neck. A whiskybuck. His small beetle eyes locked with Malina’s.  He wore a basic green shirt, now scruffy and sweaty from a day in Shalo market. “You okay?” He chuckled, his voice slurred from a recent intake of beer. Malina nodded in reply and, to her horror, felt the cold stare of a hundred cruel eyes on her back. A huge crowd had formed to watch the conflict. She looked back over her shoulder just as the boys let go of their last pieces of ammo. Apples, pears, potatoes, you name it, came hurtling towards her. With all her might, she wished that, somehow, they would all miss her. She clung on to the whiskybuck as she heard a loud gasp.

Fruit and vegetables held stiff in midair. A large crowd of people had turned to watch what would happen next. Malina let out a huge sigh of relief and, to her amazement and utter shock, the food fell to the ground splattering those close-by. The Whiskybuck pulled himself free of her and her knees buckled. With a cry, a woman behind her stumbled backwards into a stall. Chestnuts scattered everywhere but were scarcely noticed.
“An outlaw! I saw it! She’s an outlaw! She has the scar!” A woman cried.
“You are filth. You and your parents! Filth!” Malina heard.
But her scar was a...a mark of affection from her mother...that’s what her Aunt had told her.
The scar had been created by a large gash just below her shoulder on her arm which formed the letters of her name.
“And a witch!” Another woman shrieked.

“FREAK!” A woman cried. “She’s a freak!” And the crowd started chanting. “Freak, freak, freak!” They cried. Malina stared in horror at the crowd of menacing faces and grabbed hold of her meat, ready to make a run for it. Everyone knew what happened to outlaws in Shalo. Hanging, starvation, jail, death. Shalo had never accepted the outlaw’s rights. They wouldn’t even bother to check the truth. She slowly stood and walked backwards, leaning against the whiskybuck. Suddenly, a big hand grasped her waste and she was lifted up onto a big, beefy shoulder. Malina watched the chicken slide from her hands and fall to the dusty floor.
“I’ve got you”, said a deep voice in her ear. The whiskybuck ran like the wind, with Malina hung over his shoulder, until he reached the rough port. A mob of screeching Shalolians followed right behind. Malina kept her eyes shut, hoping this would all disappear. To avoid the crowds, the Whiskybuck jumped from ship to ship, a lurching feeling making Malina feel sick. Up through the port they went and into the mists surrounding the oracle’s house. At last, they were in relative safety. The Shalolians didn’t much like going near the Oracle’s house. The whiskybuck carried her around the hedges which acted as a wall to the Oracle’s gardens and roughly put her down.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? An outlaw in Shalo City? Are you mad?” He bellowed.
“I’m not an outlaw!” Malina squeaked.
“You bloody well are according to the scar on your arm! What did you think it was? A cut? Look, you’ve gotta get your backside outta here! They know your face now and they’ll come searching for you soon enough! They’ve seen my face too!” he sighed, with a troubled expression. “I’m sorry, you’ve got to find your own way...” his eyes wandered to a spot in the direction which they had just come. Behind her, Malina could hear those daring to catch up and enter the mists surrounding the Oracle’s home.
“Witch!”, “freak!” the voices shrieked.
“I can’t be seen with you! You’re illegal!” The whiskybuck whispered, in terror. “They’ll never stop hunting us both!” After a pause, he looked at Malina with determination. “My name’s Ally Thompson. What you’ve gotta do is get to Kalos. Don’t know how, mind, but try and find your way. Here’s my address.” He gave her a slip of paper. “You come and find me and you may have some shelter okay? Can’t give you much else, I’m afraid.”

Malina nodded. The voices were much closer now.
The race was on. She sprinted towards the tree house village, through the trees and scuttled up her ladder. The atmosphere inside was as if nothing had ever happened. She ran about the room, collected up her belongings, stuffing them in a bag.
“Malina! What is wrong with you?” her Aunt shrieked.
“They think I’m an outlaw! They also may think I’m a witch! There’s no going back now, I have to leave!” Malina cried, her eyes reflecting her inner fear.
“What happened?” Her Uncle asked, his eyes following his frantic niece.
“It doesn’t matter what happened.” Malina snapped” I need to leave Shalo. Now. Goodbye.” Just before climbing back down her ladder, she turned to take a last glance at her home and family.
“We’ll see you again, won’t we?” Her Aunt said, anxiously. She had an understanding look on her face that Malina didn’t fully understand.
“Yes, yes...maybe...I’m not sure...”

There was a pause while everyone tried to take in the news. Malina was the first to break it, as she climbed down the ladder and started her journey. She could hear her heart pumping against her chest, the whole world was spinning.

She pelted. Head down, pelted; zigzagging around the trees, further and further into the forest. Who knew what dangers lay there? Rumours of muggers, wolves and bears filled her mind as she raced away from her home. After what felt like hours, she looked back to see only trees. She hid behind a great oak to catch her breath, but the world was spinning. Her vision became blurry and unfocused as, the ground reeled before her and she fell to the floor.
The Mayor of Shalo sat in his cold, shadowy hall. A shaft of light pierced the darkness as the heavy oak door at the end of the hall creaked open. A young man, clad in a red soldier’s tunic marched up to where the Mayor sat.
“Mayor Longthorn, this morning an Outlaw was spotted in our midst.” He said gravely.
“Well? Bring it to me!” The Mayor said in a threatening voice.
The soldier bowed his head and looked timid. “ see sir...We don’t know where she is.” He couldn’t meet the Mayor’s eyes.
“What is this?” he whispered, venomously. “ You let it escape! I don’t want vermin like that in my county! Find it at once.”
“We’ve searched everywhere for her. She’s nowhere to be seen.”
“Inconceivable!” He breathed, his eyes narrowing. “I want every squadron available. She will be found. And killed.” Folding his red velvet cape around him, he swept out of the room and up the winding staircase to the top of the tallest turret in the castle. The messenger bowed and left in hurry. Augustus Longthorn was not a man to be messed with.

The Mayor looked out over his vast, majestic county. The soldiers, line upon line of them, marched endlessly through the streets of Shalo, like a colony of ants.
Far below, the soldiers scoured the streets for any sign of the Outlaw. It was getting dark and the wicker torches along the walls of the castle had been lit. The castle’s western portcullis had been closed and all the merchants in the market, outside the city walls, were packing up. The bell above the dungeons struck ten o’clock.  On a normal night, the County would have fallen into utter silence, but on this night, the castle grounds bustled with noise. Every house had to be searched, every stall upturned. The Outlaw would be found.

The Mayor watched as the light slowly dimmed and a wind struck up, ruffling what was left of his hair on his balding head. He was a stocky man with narrow, beady eyes and a well trimmed beard, outlining his jaw.

August Longthorn thought he had a lot more power than he actually did have. The port in the northern part of Shalo really wasn’t as big as he imagined it. Nor, indeed, was his castle. The portcullises could be crushed by any decent battering ram and his population was minute compared to other realm on the island of Atlaan. But his knowledge did not extend far enough to understand how weak he really was. After all, he was just another Shalolian. He seemingly had no knowledge of what lay beyond and insisted that there was no need for any Shalolian to know of anything further than their County. This was why Outlaws could not contaminate his beautiful land.

 However, his army was greatly feared. It was the one thing he owned which he could truthfully - and rightfully – say was powerful.

Slowly, the soldiers’ search settled down. They would need their sleep for the hunt that would begin again tomorrow. The Mayor had decided that they’d have to look outside of the city grounds the next morning. He would not stop until she was found.

I hope you like it! Please give me some feedback :D x

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