Shadow Walker - Chapter #3

Courage is doing what you're afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you're scared. ~Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

From her window there was a wide view of the rugged countryside. The rolling mountains seemed to go on forever, with not a sign of a town or even a farm in sight. It looked as lonely out there as she felt here inside, making her wonder if anything would ever be normal again.

With a sigh Caitlan absently ran her finger over the metal frame of the window. The window felt out of place. Long ago, before windows and the invention of glass, an opening like this would have been covered with a heavy tapestry to keep out the elements. This one had a glass pane in it and it felt odd, being that the wall around it was made of basalt stones. The whole room was made of them in fact. It reminded her of pictures of the inside of ancient keeps she'd seen in books. There was no telling exactly how old it was, but there were places on the walls, that had been recently repaired with new mortar.

She couldn't tell much about the outside of the building itself, except that if height were any indication, Caitlain knew she was up at least three or four stories. Below her window, there looked to be a small courtyard of sorts with a large, black shaggy horse rolling in the grass.

That made her smile. She remembered a trip one sunny Spring day in April, that she'd taken with the rest of the children at the home, where she'd spent three years of her life. They'd gone to a nearby farm and there had been new foals. She'd seen one of them rolling around like the animal below her. He'd been so full of life, so carefree. Not a worry in the world, she thought, but then she'd been four and now she was older and knew the truth.

Life got ugly. It twisted itself up into a weird little ball and blew up in your face, when you least expected it. Then it left you to either pull a Ralph Carter and do a swan dive off the roof of City Hospital or fight back if you had the courage. Fight for your life and your sanity.

A movement down below caught her eye and she watched the horse stand up, wagging it's tail. Wagging it's tail? "Oh yeah, like horses wag their tails," she muttered ruefully. "Move over Ralph, here I come."

Caitlain frowned when she saw Borias step into view with what looked to be a large bowl. She bit her bottom lip to keep it from quivering, remembering how his words still stung. "Oh look, Ralph. It's His Nibs, the piss ant himself. Maybe with luck, the horse will eat that big pain in the...No, strike that. The poor horse would probably get a belly ache, maybe even ptomaine."

She hadn't expected what happened next. The horse made a lunge for Borias, raising up on it's hind legs and knocked him flat, causing her to scream when it came down on top of him. From where she stood crying, all she could see was his legs kicking furiously, as he was rocked from side to side underneath the huge animal.

A wide eyed Faolán burst through the door, a sword gripped in his hand. "Where is it??!!" he demanded ready to do battle. "Did it bite ye, Lassie??!! Where did it go??!!"

Her face ran a gauntlet of emotions. In the end, all that registered was stark fear and determination, when she grabbed the hilt of Faolán's sword and rushed past him, crying, "It's killing him!"

"What are ye talkin' about? What's killin' who?" he demanded, hurrying out the door behind her. "Lassie come back!"

"Outside! It's killing him outside! It's eating him alive!"

She half ran, half stumbled down the steps. The sword she kept held out just as Faolán had carried it. Michael and Caeoimhin who had heard her frightened cries had started up the steps, only to make it over the banister and out of the way just in time when she rushed past them.

Michael gave Caeoimhin a wide eyed look. "What the fook be up with that?"

Caeoimhin's jaw hung open and he shrugged. "Dinna ask me, but if that be the dreaded monthlies, I think I'll be needin' a damned drink."

Faolán hurried past them. "Quit hangin' about like a couple damned catterin' monkeys! She said, tis killin' somethin' and I dinna know where. Where's Bri?" he yelled, heading the way he'd seen Caitlain take off.

"Ye know how the auld fart feels about eatin' porridge, so he went to feed it to wee Cu Roi," Michael answered dropping the few feet to the floor below. "A'sides if there's anythin' around that doesna belong here, Cu will let us know."

A mischevious glint lit Caeoimhin's eyes when he looked at his companions. "Ye dinna suppose that she saw Cu and..." was all he could get out before he laughed and took off running, hoping he didn't miss the fun.

Caitlain shoved open a huge wooden door and rushed outside. Where was the damned courtyard, she worried frantically, staring at what looked like an old wagon road. From somewhere nearby, she could hear Borias' outraged shouts like a man possessed.

"Arrrr! Get the hell off me, ye deamon from Hell! Dammit, somebody git this damned thing off me, a'fore it eats me alive!"

Spurred into action once again, Caitlain charged toward the sound of his voice. He may have been an insulting egomaniac, she told herself, but he didn't deserve to die that way. Not like the others had. No one deserved that.

From an open kitchen window, Mick grinned watching the huge animal, lapping at a porridge covered Borias. "Dinna fash yerself, ye auld fart! Help be on the way!" he called gleefully.

"Dammit, I be dyin' here! Get this damned Hellhound off of me! Ahhh! Quit lickin' me in the mouth, ye nasty shite! I know where yer tongue has been!"

Peals of laughter floated out the kitchen window, when shrill cry was heard at the corner of the tower. "Get the hell away from him you filthy bastard! Leave him alone!"

Man and beast ceased to struggle when the huge squared head turned in her direction, watching her through a pair of blood red eyes. The minute Borias turned to try to look, the animal took another swipe at his mouth with it's wide tongue, making him groan in what Caitlain believed was agony.

"I said get off him!" she cried out, brandishing the sword.

"That be right, ye hellion. Go eat her and leave me the hell alone!"

The hand that held the sword trembled. "Shut up you bonehead! I came to save Ceasar, not bury him!"

It didn't help matters when Cu Roi decided to sit right in the middle of Borias' chest, when he said, "Huh?" It came out more like a wheeze, than a word. Cu Roi on the other hand was intrigued by this newcomer, but he sensed no danger from her, just that the small female with the sword was frightened.

Something blue sailed past the animal, attracting it's attention and he scrambled off of Borias to take out after it, leaving the elf to roll on his side and grab his groin. "Owww dammit! Ye killed me, ye black devil!"

"Better him than us!" Michael hooted from the kitchen window.

Borias rolled over on his side as Caitlain knelt next to him, watching for the strange animal to come back. "Are you alright?" she asked, the worry evident on her face.

His face was wet with saliva and something greyish brown and slimy looking. Some of his hair had come loose from the confines of the thin black ribbon that held it in the back and it too was plastered to his face with the same gooey mess.

"Do I look like I be alright, Woman?" he ground out, taking a finger and wiping it around his ear. It came away with more of the goo and he flicked it away. "Damn me! I have it everywhere!"

Her voice raised an octave. "What is that and what was that thing? It had red eyes! I saw them! It's as big as a damned horse! Was that thing a dog?"

He gave her a chiding smile. "No. It be a canary, ye wee idgit," he answered, then he growled at her. "Of course it be a damned dog! Have ye never seen a dog a'fore?"

A small boney fist snaked out of nowhere and collided with his already broken nose for the second time that day. She pushed herself up, standing there looking down at him, groaning on his back and returned his smile. "Of course I've seen a dog, you insufferable auld fart!"

She walked to the door leaving Borias laying there again clutching at his nose, as Michael came out followed by Caeoimhin and Faolán. She stopped just long enough to hand Faolán back his sword.

"Here. You can have this back. If I keep it any longer, I may wack something off about three feet below his thick skull and stick it in his damned ear for him." With that she disappeared inside, leaving the three of them to erupt in laughter.

Staying to herself at this point in time, seemed the best course of action, she told herself. All she really knew was, she had to put distance between her and Borias Bearach, otherwise she may do more than just break his nose again. The first time had been an accident and the second was intended.

"Third times a charm," she murmured quietly, shutting her bedroom door behind her. She tried to tell herself that her shoulders were broad, but so far, he'd not only called her an idiot and foolish, he'd informed her that she had a homely mug and a skinny arse to go with it.

Caitlain had never been vain, but his words had stung more than she'd ever admit to anyone. She walked to the bathroom and opened the door, staring into the full length mirror attached to the other side. The sight that greeted her, caused the corners of her mouth to turn down when the phrase, 'Death warmed over' came to mind. She sighed heavily looking at her reflection. There were dark smudges under her lavender eyes and if it wouldn't have been for that, she'd have had no coloring at all.

Her dark reddish brown hair was windblown from being outside and she reached up to brush the unruly ringlets off of her face and forehead. "You look like the Wild Woman from Borneo. You really should cut it, you know? Either cut it or tie it up in one of them bun thingies in the back." She frowned at the thought, "No, better not tie it back, because then you'd look like a severe old Wild Woman from Borneo, and old Bear Buttcheeks would have more ammunition to use against you."

Auld Bear Buttcheeks, she corrected herself. The name made her giggle in spite of the way she felt right now. "He does have a fine looking pair of those and there ain't nothing old looking about them either," she murmured softly. Her musings were short lived, when his words came back to haunt her. "So what the hell does he care how I look?" she asked her reflection. "It's none of his damned business anyway. I'm not here for him to gawk at. If he wants to look at something, let him go find a sheep to aggravate the hell out of and leave me alone."

Her reflection frowned back at her. "I'm not going to be here that long, right? I shouldn't even let it bother me. I don't know why I did. I should have learned the first time. Hell, he probably fell off of the same tree Andrew Golden did. No doubt he hit his damned thick skull, on every branch on his way down too."

Andrew Golden. Mr. Charming. Mr. Perfect Teeth. Mr. Perfect Body. Mr. Perfect Face. Mr. Polite. Mr. Macho Man with his tight abs and muscles. Mr.-Thanks-To-The-Family-Fortune-My-Shit-Don't-Stink. Mr. Perfect Jerkoff is what he'd turned into. She sniffed, wiping at her eyes. It was amazing how something that had seemed so right, could go so wrong in a matter of a few short months. "They should have named him Baby Fresh, cause all he was, was an ass wipe, just like Bearach."

Why hadn't she learned the first time, she wondered, turning away from the mirror. They had both been so kind, when she'd met them. Both had asked how she was, everytime she'd seen them. Both had seemed concerned with her well being. With Andrew she'd taken long walks in the evening. With Bearach, he'd been at the hospital everyday, careful of her feelings, making sure she ate when the nurse brought her trays. He'd even assumed the task of feeding her, because she'd been hurt and her good arm was in a cast. He'd been so gentle a little over a week ago and she'd felt so safe when he was near.

Then he'd turned into the macho man from Hell with a testosterone overload, that would have killed Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage or the Undertaker. "Just like Andrew Asswipe," she mumbled under her breath. He'd shouted at her, called her names, let her know how inferior he thought she was next to him. He'd done everything Andrew had but one. That was something that had turned Mr. Perfect Teeth into The Gap Toothed Troll, in the course of two minutes and practically laid him out in hallway of her apartment house.

"Perfectly cold," Caitlain said with a quiet defiance. She looked at her knuckles that were beginning to bruise. Those days were long past and she'd had enough. No one would ever do that to her again. Not him. Not Bearach. Not anyone. She wasn't that naive, not any more. She could fight back and she'd proved it. Not once, but three times, even though one of those had been an accident, but that didn't matter. She had fought back and that was what had counted.

"So bring 'em all on. Gap toothed trolls, bear butt cheeked elves, and vamps. I'll lay all of them out. It's a new day and it's time to grow up and get wise. This kid is done taking crap off the lot of them."

"There be no maid service here," she mocked. No one heard the tremulous sound of her voice, when she opened the closet door and took out her smallest suitcase. Sitting it on the bed she opened it to pull out a small pair of scissors, her brush and comb.

"Yeah, and what? Besides, I can wait on myself. So stick that in your little green pipe and blow purple smoke rings, Buttcheeks," she informed him, as if he were there, before she went in the bathroom and shut the door behind her.

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