You Know You Love Me

“Your objective is to retrieve the artifact from the enemy without destroying it.” Master Klimik gave Cassidy a pointed look. Cassidy smiled and blinked sweetly as though he hadn’t the faintest idea what he meant. “You will also be guarding your own artifact. If it is stolen you will fail. You have twenty-four hours to retrieve the enemy’s relic and return to your camp with it starting—now.”

 

The class split into two teams of fifteen. Most everyone scurried about like they were preparing for war, but not Cassidy.

 

Cassidy stood and stretched. “You know they could at least not make these games sound so dreary.”

 

“They’re prepping us for the real world,” Vance scoffed.

 

“We’re kids, we should be out having fun not wasting time with stupid drills,” Cassidy grumbled.

 

“Stupid, or not, let’s just get it done,” Warren said joining them.

 

Finally, Cassidy relented. And followed Warren to their mock war-room. Of the fourteen with him he really only expected Warren, Vance, and Emron to be of much use. The others were fine, but boring. Those three though, they knew how to make things interesting.

 

“All right, their biggest strength is Vallerie, if you find her take her down,” Warren said, studying the map of the training grounds. What good is looking at the map gonna do? It’s not like we can see the other team’s base. 

 

“Like she’ll let herself be seen,” Samuel muttered.

 

“Vance, I want you to take Emron, Barclay, Allric, Terrwyn, Atarah and scout out this area here.” Warren continued without acknowledging Samuel’s comment. “If you find their base hold position gather some information on their defenses then send Terrwyn back with a report.”

 

“Sir,” Vance nodded, taking his team into the forest.

 

“Zoella, Greyson, Nullan, Zander, Drace do the same over here.” The team nodded then left.

 

“Cassidy, Oswin, Thayer, we’re setting up a parameter around the artifact,” Warren said.

 

“Guard duty?” Cassidy groaned.

 

“I want you up high. I want you to watch for Vallerie,” Warren explained.

 

Cassidy swallowed, that was the one thing he’d hoped Warren would overlook. 

 

“Are you sure? I could be useful on a search team.”

 

“They’ve already left, and you’ve got the best vision, hearing and archery skills of any of anyone here. If anyone is going to catch her it’ll be you.”

 

Cassidy opened his mouth then shut it. If he argued more he’d give himself away.

 

“Fine.”

 

As Oswin and Thayer moved out to their positions Warren moved closer to Cassidy. 

 

“Besides, it's not like you can keep your eyes off her anyway,” He smirked.

 

“You—but I—how did—no, no you’re wrong. I don’t like her. She’s just, um—”

 

Warren chuckled evilly as he strode away.

 

The monster.

 

Cassidy reluctantly picked up his quiver and skulked to the tree where he built a perch a few weeks prior. If he’d known he’d be the one sitting up there he would have secured the boards a little better. One wobbled as he put weight on it. This is idiotic. Cassidy settled into the branches and waited. Warren selected this tree as an outpost because it provided the best line of sight through the forest and the best view of the most likely path intruders would take to try and breach their base. To Cassidy it didn’t really matter though, the whole exercise was ridiculous, they were supposed to be training to fight monsters, why bother with war games like this? The Darkness didn’t have bases with artifacts, prisoners, or valuables. It just materialized wherever it wanted.

 

Cassidy twirled an arrow between his fingers. This sucks. At least on a patrol he’d be able to move, though he doubted he’d see any action. Their training ground was twenty miles of forest, running into anyone on the other team was unlikely. Which meant it would be several hours before he even had a possibility of seeing anyone. Cassidy exhaled a hot breath. This sucks. 

 

 

Something disturbed the brush one hundred yards from him. Finally. Cassidy’s legs were numb and his back ached from sitting for six hours in the tree. 

 

A hint of brown leather peaked from behind a tree. Gotcha, Cassidy drew his bow. The blunt tip wouldn’t pierce armor, but it’d leave a pretty bruise. Thwack! Cassidy loosed the arrow and it tagged his target in the shoulder. Two more figures appeared near the first one and scurried into the forest with their “wounded” companion. 

 

Cassidy smirked as he let another two arrows fly and find their marks. The two scouts that had come to help their friend  “died” instantly, one with an arrow to the heart, the other with an arrow to the back of the head, Cassidy was pretty sure that was Bridger and he'd bragged about winning this little game too loudly the other day. 

 

Though the swift take down satisfied him he was disappointed it ended so quickly. Now he’d have to sit here for another fourteen hours, bored out of his brains. He yawned. It would be a while before anyone else showed up, a short nap wouldn’t hurt anything.

 

— 

 

“Cassidy!” Warren shouted.

 

Cassidy flailed forgetting his unstable location. His heart leapt into his throat as he suddenly found himself falling through the air. Hard earth slapped his back as he hit the ground. Ow. 

 

“After her Cassidy!” Warren barked.

 

Cassidy surveyed the now dark forest. To his right he glimpsed a dark figure dashing through the forest. He snatched his bow from the ground and stumbled to his feet. 

 

The chase was on. Branches whizzed by and leaves slapped his cheeks. A grin plastered over his face, she’d made a mistake running this way. He’d catch her this time. Cassidy leapt on top of a fallen tree and drew his bow. Gotcha. He released. His arrow hit the artifact from Vallerie’s hand. She skidded to a stop at the edge of a cliff and spun around. She drew a pair of daggers and screamed as she sprinted back toward him and the artifact. 

 

Not so fast, Cassidy shot a dagger from her hand and reached for another arrow. His fingers waved through empty air. NO. The rest of his arrows must have fallen out when he fell from the tree. Suddenly, she hurled her second dagger through the air at him. Cassidy yelped as the blade sliced his sleeve. For a moment he paused. A cornered beast is the most dangerous. She had nowhere to go, and that was her last weapon. Cassidy lunged forward and snatched the artifact from the ground. Vallerie halted and glared at him.

 

“Don’t be like that.” Cassidy said.

 

Fierce emerald green eyes glared at him. Wow. Every time she’d ever looked at him was always the same—every sane thought left his mind.

 

“What?” She asked hostility in her voice.

 

“I win,” Cassidy declared.

 

Vallerie’s lip twitched upward revealing devious dimples.

 

“You think so?” she said, raising her fists.

Cassidy exhaled a small laugh, then stepped in closer leaving barely an inch between them. Her breath on his lips sent static through his body.

“Admit it you love me,” Cassidy said.

Her mouth parted, but nothing came out. He knew it. He’d chased her for years, he showed off, he bragged, he’d done everything to get her attention, but nothing seemed to impress her. He’d caught her. She was faster and cleverer than anyone he’d ever met, but now he’d caught her.

“Cass, I…” She glanced to his lips.

Cassidy leaned forward and closed his eyes. 

Something sharp poked his neck. Vallerie held a throwing knife at his throat. The dreamy expression on her face had vanished, now she seemed slightly apologetic, but mostly conniving.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

She took the artifact him and backed towards the cliff. 

“What are you doing?” Cassidy asked. 

Vallerie flashed a dimpled grin his way then jumped off the cliff. 

“Val!” Cassidy ran to the edge to see her making her way down a set of wooden stairs along the cliff face. 

Halfway down she paused and looked back. 

“Catch me again and I just might,” She called then continued her escape.

Cassidy grinned. He’d catch her again.