Chapter 34 of Lead Heart is up, please enjoy!
The world around Leliana slowed to a standstill as she sailed over the safety of solid ground. Colorful patches of bright blue and dark green zoomed in to sharp focus far below. She could pick out individual details in a the stone clearing against the cliff face she’d just hurled herself off of.
Jagged rocks cradled a medley of decayed vegetation and gave way to a gentler, still rocky slope littered with debris. The crisp, blade-shaped leaves of coniferous trees contrasted sharply with the darker pine needles interspersed randomly between the waiting giants.
Every heartbeat stretched into an eternity while she hung, weightless, and decided which boulder she wanted to decorate.
Suddenly she had a better idea.
The momentum of the jump was just enough to get her as far as the first or second tree beyond the clearing. Her eyes snapped between the trunks. An interesting idea struck. She’d look pretty cool if she landed it, though she would look like an idiot if she didn’t.
If I’m going to die, she mused, might as well do it in style.
Leliana folded her legs and wrapped her arms around them. Muscles twitched and strained while she inhaled and bore down. Hard.
Another heartbeat, another eternity. A series of mostly bad decisions sprang to mind to remind her of why she was here.
She released the built-up tension into a swirling somersault mid-air.
The instant she made contact, a crater exploded into the strong dogwood. She ran down the rough bark and her knees nearly buckled when she made the push off to the next tree, a dark-wooded fir. The leap took her face-first through a viper nest, surprising the both of them. She ricocheted between trees at breakneck speeds, instincts driving while her conscious mind struggled to comprehend. One desperate, last minute leap to shed the downward momentum flung her at the rock face itself.
One quick gyroscopic movement and the stone splintered beneath her heels.
One more excruciating heartbeat stretched into eternity.
Finally, she let gravity drag her down until she collapsed with a cheer. “WOOOO!” She was still grinning like an idiot when a thick leather boot planted into the gravel beside her.
“What a reckless child you are. Though I am glad you did not die.”
The frown showed disapproval, but the look in her eyes when she observed the cratered trees held a different meaning.
Leliana’s heart still hammered a hundred times a second and she could only sigh with relief. “It was amazing. You have to put that on your to-do list.” She winced when the older woman plucked a few thorns from her poor face.
“I will pass. You are impulsive and unsound of judgement, yet bid to meet the protector by the seeker herself.” Arms crossed and the woman towered over the sprawled girl. “I find this difficult to believe, but easily enough disproven. If you are eager to see your last day, I will not stop you from following me to my brothers in arms. I cannot guarantee your safety, however.”
Leliana bounced to her feet. “Fair enough.”
Then the monk did something unexpected.
“Besides.” She continued. “I have a funny story for them thanks to you. You should be there to see their reactions.”
Leliana coughed. “We can probably skip over some of the details on this one.” She felt her face flush and cursed her traitorous body.
The monk gave a short bark of laughter before disappearing into the dark shadows. “Keep up!” Was the only thing Leliana heard before she realized she’d been abandoned.
Trees were a blur as they whizzed by, her feet somehow managing to stay upright. The telltale snap of a twig or rush of leaves was all the clue she was offered as the monk sped unbelievably fast through the shadowy forest. More than once Leliana found herself pushing off the sturdy trunks to prevent herself from running into them with her face.
She burst into a small clearing to a chorus of laughter. No more than 100 feet across and dotted with tall grass and bright flowers, the clearing was currently home to a bizarre contraption. Brass wheels supported the wooden frame of what appeared to be a smaller version of the huge wagon she’d woken up on just earlier that day. The dark wood was rimmed with a brighter set of troughs filled with dirt and various plants and herbs. The most notable feature was of course the thick metal column running through the front and rear of the wagon. The bottom of each column was buried into the soil beneath the vehicle, and each were topped with a metal orb.
“And here she is.” The large woman gestured to Leliana while she skidded to a stop.
There were three others in the clearing, all sitting atop the weird looking wagon. The first was giant of a man, as big as Gib and likely twice as strong, a dark and untamed mess of a beard adorning his otherwise bald head. An extremely lithe man lounged against the first, his light chuckle all but drown out by the guffawing giant. His silver hair cascaded over a shoulder and his blue eyes lighted on Leliana for just a moment before he returned his attention to the woman. Lastly was the blue-scaled and winged lizard standing as high as the big man’s torso as it stood on two hind legs surveying the scene. Mottled blue and green patterns swirled around the creature’s body in a way that she knew would’ve been impossible to see if it wasn’t sitting inside the wood and metal box.
“Uh, hey! I’m Leliana…” Was all she could think of to say. She moved to step toward the group when she was caught in a crushing grip from behind, pinning her arms in the process.
“Who. Are. You.”