Check out this sneak peek into chapter 6 of “The Princess and Her Rogue”
“This place reeks!!” Kiara screeched in disgust as they entered into Gimel’s Bog.
That morning, Kiara was relieved to find that their food hadn’t been snatched or stolen by any beast. She was more excited to find that both her and Nate were alive and unharmed. When she had awoken, Nate was already busy putting out the fire and collecting their supplies for another day of walking.
Kiara had half a mind to complain about her feet more so as to avoid the arduous task ahead, but when she stood up straight, putting all her weight on her injured feet, she felt she had enough strength and resistance to walk a while. What she wasn’t expecting was the swampy land that they would have to cross to get past the western border of Deceiver’s land.
“Of course it stinks. It’s a bog. It’s supposed to stink,” Nate replied to her outcry with irritation in his voice. He wasn’t about to make her play the conversation game again as they had yesterday, but he sure wished that he had something to cover that big mouth of hers with. Ever since they started out that morning, all she did was talk about the scenery, her feet, her clothes, his clothes, the food, her sleep and everything else she could think of to make up for his malevolent silence.
“Why does it stink so bad, though?” Kiara asked as they stepped onto the mushy marshlands while she held her nose.
“Probably because animals would get stuck in the mud or quicksand and die, so their carcasses are rotting underneath the surface.”
“That’s so gross! Can’t we just risk going through Deceiver’s forest and over his border to get away from this?”
Nate stopped and held out his arm to make her stop as well, just on the edge of where the bog would turn into a swampy maze. If the trees outside of the bog looked dead and lifeless, then the trees within the bog were even older and more decrepit with grey bark and moss hanging from their branches. The ground was soft and sank under their feet. All around Kiara, she could see little puddles of misty, bubbling, tar-like mud.
“Because, it’s less risky to go through here than face Deceiver’s scouts. I’ve been through here before and I know a path that leads straight north,” Nate said calmly, pointing at the winding little land bridges that weaved through the trees, providing a medley of different roads to take. But, only one was trustworthy enough to lead them to the end.
“Are you sure?” Kiara muttered with a look of insecurity at the bog that awaited them.
“Sure about what?” Nate glanced down to her with puzzlement.
“Are you sure you know the right way?”
“Positive. Come on, it’s almost noon and we need to get out of the bog before stopping for lunch,” Nate said, then picked up a walking stick and prodded the ground to find a particular path to walk down. Kiara shyly walked behind him, trying to not be misled by the way the ground looked. Sometimes, if the surface looked unstable, it turned out to be really hard. And if it looked firm, it was actually quicksand.
Nate finally picked one trail and confidently walked down it, occasionally tapping his stick ahead of them to make sure it really was safe. Kiara followed, finding it difficult to come up with any conversations in the midst of her anxious mind, so her mouth stayed shut. All she felt she could do was stare around at the bog and watch the ground that her feet were treading on.
The trees were wide and their roots stretched out along the surface of the mud, providing a stable base for them to stand taller than most of the other trees she had seen. The bog was buzzing with all sorts of insects like mosquitoes, fireflies and dragonflies. Kiara was constantly swatting in front of her face to keep the bugs away from her.
There were no bushes and the only sign of foliage besides the trees were wiry vines that wrapped themselves around the trees and hung from their high branches. Hardly any wildlife was present either. The most she could see were snakes, lizards and other reptiles that could dwell amongst the trees.
Kiara grew more excited when she saw a friendly-looking squirrel jumping from branch to branch not too far from them.
“Oh, Nate, look! A squirrel!” she whispered so as not to frighten the little rodent.
Nate stopped along the trail and glanced up to the trees in confusion, as if he wasn’t expecting a squirrel to even come near the bog. When he spotted the animal and looked at Kiara’s ecstatic face, he shrugged at its insignificance, then proceeded along the trail. Kiara slowly continued behind him, never taking her eyes off the cute little creature. She was happy to see something so familiar in such a scary place where the sun refused shine.
But, her happiness was soon put out like a candle when the poor little squirrel missed his mark while making a long jump. He scraped against the branches that flew past him as he fell down towards the mud. The squirrel was unable to save himself. He landed in the tar.
Kiara gasped and stopped on the trail to watch the squirrel struggle for his life, groping and gnashing out for anything to pull himself out, but there was nothing. The mud stuck to his fur, weighing him down and the bog swallowed him under like a hungry beast. Not even a little air bubble came up from where the squirrel had disappeared. Kiara shed a small tear for the animal, and then hurried to catch up with Nate.
Nate was aware of what had happened, but felt no sympathy for Kiara or the squirrel. The animal should have never come in the bog in the first place. Just like Kiara, that squirrel didn’t belong there. But, Nate was determined the get her out and to safety, even if he had to drag her out.
Kiara was silent and hung her head low, feeling even more scared and alone. She had Nate for company, but it wasn’t really enough to make her feel welcome. He was still very cold and aggressive and Kiara wished he would come out of his shell or either they would arrive to her father’s kingdom quicker so she wouldn’t have to endure his rude behavior for very long.
Although he was respectful in some ways, he didn’t make her feel any safer or at home. Kiara wrapped her arms around her stomach insecurely and breathed deeply as they walked on. It was silent except for the occasional bubbling and gurgling of the bog and the sounds that came from the strange animals up in the trees.
As nearly half an hour passed, with Nate taking turn after turn down different paths that took them around and about, almost in circles, Kiara was beginning to think this wasn’t the right way. Her faith in Nate’s abilities to get them out of the bog were dwindling down to nothing as her feet were sinking deeper and sometimes getting stuck in the mud.
“Are you sure we’re going the right way?” Kiara eventually asked as she was struggling to slip one of her feet out from the paste-like mud. “It seems like we’re taking the long way instead of just going straight through.”
“Yes, I’m sure. And unfortunately, the long way is the only way that leads straight out.”
“But, the ground is getting less stable and more muddy. I’ve got some swamp water seeping through my boots. Isn’t there some path where the ground is harder?”
“Not really. If you take one of those roads, it leads straight to quicksand or some bottomless pit.”
Kiara sighed and got quiet for a while, staring at the path ahead. She didn’t know exactly whether to believe him or not. All she knew was that she was loosing her footing and it was becoming more difficult to walk with confidence as he did.
Another fifteen minutes passed on and they came to a place where their own path separated off into five others. Nate stopped and looked down each road, tapping his stick over them to find the right one. Kiara watched with nervousness, waiting for him to choose.
After testing the grounds on all of the paths, Nate stopped and stared around dumbly at the subtle differences in each trail. Nate’s back rose and fell steadily as he sighed and bowed his head to rub his eyes and face.
Kiara waited, but the longer that he had his head down, the more impatient she became. “What’s wrong?” she asked, stepping up alongside him to examine his expressions.
“Nothing,” he mumbled.
“Well, which way do we need to go?”
“Just give me a minute.”
“…You don’t know which way it is, do you?”
Nate took a deep, aggravated breath and wrinkled his nose under his palm. “Yes, I do know the way.”
“Then why have we stopped?”
“Because I need to take a breather, ok?” His tone was steadily rising.
“You didn’t have trouble making the choice up until now, so what’s wrong?”
“I haven’t slept in a week, ok!” Nate shouted angrily, turning to Kiara with a scowl, holding up his hand as if he was about to strike her. She jumped backwards a little in surprise at his outburst. They stared at each other, both hot-headed, stubborn young people. Kiara crossed her arms over her chest and looked down the paths they had to choose from.
No sleep, in a week? How could he even be walking? Kiara sometimes needed eight to ten hours of sleep a night just to function. Kiara knew that he didn’t sleep one or two nights so far, but a whole week? That was ridiculous. She also knew that scolding him wasn’t going to help the situation. He was tired and grumpy and there was no point in making him more upset. He was liable to push her into the mire if she spoke her mind too much.
“So, you haven’t slept in a week?” she confirmed, probably just as upset as he was. She didn’t like to be yelled at. It was one of the worst feelings in the world for her and when she did get yelled at. She would become defensive.
“Yes… I haven’t slept in a week and I’m a little tired, so I need a moment to try and think clearly,” Nate replied, once again, scanning over the paths before them as she did.
“Well, I am not going to trust your judgments any longer. You’re too tired and your mind isn’t sharp enough to make decisions like this…” Kiara stepped forward and tapped her toes against the paths as Nate had done with his stick.
“I am perfectly able to make the decisions. It’ll just take me a while. I’m used to not sleeping for a week. I’ve gone a whole month of only sleeping a few hours and I’m still alive, so I’m just fine.”
“I still don’t trust you… I’m taking this road. If I don’t see you at the end, then I’ll know what became of you. Good day!” Kiara said angrily as she set off down the path that led north and was the hardest out of all five.
“That’s not the way! You’re going to get lost! Get back here!” Nate demanded, stomping his stick into the mud as Kiara just stuck her nose up in the air and kept walking without any regard for his pleas.
“And how would you know? You’re too tired to think straight!” Kiara retorted spitefully.
“Fine! Get stuck in quicksand for all I care! You stubborn, hard-headed woman!” Nate shouted as he was still standing back at the junction of the five unknown paths.
Kiara turned around to face him, a good thirty feet between them and she scrunched up her face angrily, let out a frustrated cry, not really knowing what to say. She was so angry at him. First, he raised his voice at her, then he openly insulted her for the umpteenth billionth time since they started this stupid journey. She had had enough. She knew which direction north was and from memorizing the map Nate had shown her, she thought herself capable of finding Mem’s Pass. And if she did happen to get lost, she would just ask someone on the way – if there were anyone. She didn’t need Nate in the least.
She turned around and took one more step forward on the path. That step proved to be a mistake. Her foot and leg sank down all the way up to her thighs. Kiara stumbled over onto herself and cried out as her whole body sank past her hips in quicksand. Now she felt like a fool. A dead fool. She should have listened to Nate and stayed with him. Why, oh why did she have to be so strong-willed? Kiara was even more frightened and she felt she would suffer the same fate as that poor squirrel from earlier. While she looked around at the mess she was in, she couldn’t help but begin to whimper and cry. But, this was no time to lose her head.
Kiara struggled and reached for the solid path she had once been on, but it had dissolved into muddy sand as well. She was trapped and as she wiggled more and tried to reach for something to hold onto, she sank deeper and there seemed to be no end.
Find out if Kiara escapes from the quicksand by purchasing the full novel on Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook at the links below: