Chapter 5 – Guardian Warning
She groaned in frustration and scanned the area for a place to hide as the crashing in the underbrush grew louder. Hanna scampered toward a bit of growth to her right, but she knew it wasn’t thick enough to hide her completely.
Fortunately, the hooded figure in the center of the clearing took all of their attention. Both Jakob and his brother stood there in awe, surrounded by three other boys.
“What is that?” Jakob asked in a quiet voice.
He took a few steps forward, closer into the clearing. The other boys crowded in behind him.
“Who are you?” Jakob asked with a trembling voice, even though he tried to hide it.
The hooded figure turned its head slowly in the boy’s direction from where it had been watching Hanna.
“I am the guardian of Swift Saber. It is best if you leave this clearing before you get hurt. The bearer has already been chosen,” it said in a menacing voice.
“That’s not fair,” Jakob whined in his typical, bratty voice that was used to having his way. “I should be the bearer. I am strong and courageous. Make me the bearer of this Swift Saber.”
The boy paused and looked around the clearing. His eyes lit up when he saw Hanna crouched in the bushes. A wicked grin split his face. Hanna sighed. She knew the boys wouldn’t harm her physically, but they did everything they could to make her life miserable.
Hanna wished she were strong enough to defend herself. More than that, she wished her parents would protect her from these bullies. But there were old traditions. The strong were allowed to push the weaker ones around. Somehow, they thought it would toughen up those who were weak and frail, but Hanna knew better. It was just some dumb rule made up by those who were stronger and tougher to get what they wanted from everyone else.
For once, she wished she had paid more attention to her father’s sword lessons. She envied her brothers, who were outperforming manual labor that would strengthen them. Following her mother and collecting herbs had done little to strengthen her slim, frail body.
Jakob reached down and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck. His sweaty palm slipped on her collar and he jammed his hand down harder, grabbing a bunch of hair to make sure she complied. His eyes widened when he saw the saber in her hand. Another wicked grin split his face.
“Give me the sword,” he demanded, holding out his hand.
Hanna meekly reached out the hand holding the saber. She didn’t mind letting him have it. The saber was pretty and glowed, but she had little use for it other than that.
“I wouldn’t recommend you touch that,” the tall, dark man said quietly. “The bearer has been chosen. It is theirs until they complete the adventure. Or they die.”
Jakob glared at the hooded man defiantly before reaching out to grab the saber. He grabbed Swift Saber about halfway down the blade and immediately leaped back with a howl as if he had been seared with extreme heat. Jakob shook his hand and ran around in a small circle before falling to his knees.
“What did you do, you stupid runt!” he screamed at her when he finally looked up.
He held his hand in pain as he stood to his feet. “I’m going to teach you not to mess with someone like me. I’m gonna burn your face off with that thing.”
Hanna took a step back, but continued to hold the saber out toward him. She realized she should probably use the weapon to defend herself against him. But that might actually make things worse, and she did want to be rid of the sticky thing.
Jakob strode forward till he was in her face. Then he twisted his body, so she was behind him. The boy threw his arm over hers to take possession of the saber.