IT WAS LATER that evening that Kat knew hunger for the first time in her life. Food was plentiful in a village filled with capable woman. She had been full to her stomach since the day she was born and now she could not even remember her last meal. Her stomach growled angrily as she walked as if each step burned whatever meager amount of food she held within her belly.
She wanted to stop and find a cavern to eat at but she didn’t want to use her small amount of money unless it was absolutely necessary to. Hunger stabbed at her relentlessly till she had to lean down on a log and rest there for awhile. It was only a matter of time till she would collapse, she thought.
Finally, giving way to her needs, Kat went along the dark road hoping to be able to stop at the next place and get some food. It took her a while to realize that she was lost. She was in the woods now but the path was unclear to her and the road was getting more and more harder to see.
She walked for awhile longer, feeling like a lost puppy and grieving her reckless decision to leave home, when she bumped into something. She was sure, by the light of the moon that there was no tree in front of her and yet when she reached out she felt a solid surface underneath her touch.
She reached out her hand again, expecting to touch air when instead she felt her hand graze something that felt like glass. She was starting to think that her hunger was driving her insane when she heard voice beyond the barrier.
“There, there, m’dear, do not let this go so easily…yes, infact…”
She couldn’t quite make out the rest but she was determined to get through the barrier. She knew that there were people behind it and she was sure those people had food. It was either getting through the barrier or starvation. There really wasn’t much of a choice.
She took out the ax from her pack and hefted it back before slamming it down forward with all her might. It landed with a loud bang. She heard something similar to a crap but could not see it with her eyes. She continued hacking away at the unseen barrier until she could see peeks of the dark gloomy air. If she thought she were insane before now she really did.
The barrier continued to open wider and wider until it was just big enough for her to crawl through. Beyond the barrier she could make out row as of houses in semi-darkness though there were lights lined along the streets to see the paths. After putting away the ax she steps inside the portal and takes a deep breath. Food, was all that was on her mind right now. But where to find it?
Suddenly from the corner of her eyes she saw a person creeping along the trees. He had the look of someone who had just stolen something and she was curious to find out who he was. And why was his town encased in the unseen shield.
She decided to get to him, but she’d have to make sure that she saw him before he saw her or else Kat was sure he would run off.
She crept silently beside him and whispered, “What are you doing here?”
He jumped in frighten then grabbed her by the arm, pulling her behind the tree as well. ”I should be asking you the same. You know as well as I that we are not allowed outside perimeters after nine.”
“What are you talking about, there is no such thing..”
But the boy was not looking at her anymore, now his gaze strayed to the road where two figures walked along.
“Are they looking for you?” She whispered
“Yes! Now be quiet or we’ll both be caught.” he retorted.
Kat looked at him warily, trying to figure out what sort of trouble he was in. Was she consorting with an escaped prisoner. Was she herself in danger for being so near him? The boy was a little taller than her, lean and reluctant as most males were his age.
He had obviously spent long hours at work. Kat could just make out muscles along his arm. They were not huge but apparently strong nonetheless. He looked capable of taking both those men out with one shot, so why were they hiding here behind a tree?
Kat glanced at the boy beside her considering her options. Her stomach growled noisily and she wanted to get away from this tree as soon as possible. “What is your name?”
The boy glanced at her sharply, “What makes you think I’ll tell you that?”
“Well, look-whoever you are- where is the nearest food market, or inn? I’m starving to death here, and I don’t know where the heck I am.”
The boy stared at her in open amusement, “You can’t be serious. Are you insane.”
Funny, Kat had just been thinking the same thing minutes ago when she was behind the shield.
“Yes, I am. Where is this place and what’s with the shield. I had to hack it through it to get over here.”
The boy laughed loudly, “You really are a luny aren’t you? Everyone here knows that the shield is impenetrable.”
Kat raised her eyebrows, “Well your so called impenetrable shield has been cracked. My ax wasn’t even as sharp as it usually is.”
“You have a weapon?” The boy asked in wonder. His face had turned from wistful to utterly bewildered. “All weapons have been confiscated by the Elders five years ago…You mind if I see it?”
Kat took out the ax from her pack and carefully handed it to the boy. He gazed at the ax for what seemed like decades till his gaze slid up to hers. “Where were you able to get this from.”
“At the Clemens ironing shop, owned by my father.”
He gazed at her with open confusion, obviously contemplating whether she was really crazy or not.
It looked like he was going to say more but then a figure from the air came out and was about to attack them.
“Look out!” Kat screamed as she ran to the side. The boy veered left then, trying to avoid the mans fists, and kicks; then seemed to remember that he had a weapon in his hand. He swung straight out, and without any warning the attacker fell at his knees then crumpled to the ground.
The boy stared for a moment, it was easy to tell he has not quite as used to killing as Kat was. She gently removed the ax from his hands and started to go down toward the road.
“Wait, where are you going?”
“To find food-that’s where! I’m not going to stay behind some tree all day waiting for someone to attack me.”
“Wait…follow me. I know somewhere we could go.”