The Courage Within - A tale about a girl who discovers that a hero lives within her too.

A moaning, restless wind tore through the otherwise silent night, ripping leaves from trees with malicious glee and wildly stirring those already fallen. The wind was a cold and stinging slap against her partially numb face causing her to curse and pull her cloak tighter around her. The large yellow moon seemed to race across the sky as thunderclouds moved to gather together and rumble distantly with promising menace. Shivering, she glanced at the sky and thought again for the third time in less than five minutes that there was insanity in her family.

(I) Where is he?(/I) she asked herself viciously as her anger and worry grew. Shadows danced around the dim moonlit glen creating frightening monsters in her mind. She forced herself to look away and once again pulled her cloak tigher around her. An owl hooted in the trees above, causing her to gasp and start nervously, her hand reaching for the small dagger in her belt. She laughed softly and without mirth as she slowly released the blade and swallowed the lump of terror that had constricted her throat.

(I) This is ridiculous! (/I) she told herself, (I) I must have been drunk to agree to meet him here! (/I) The tree branches creaked as they swayed and the wind moaned, raising the hairs on the back of her neck. (I) That's it! I've had enough. He's obviously not coming! (/I) She intoned to herself firmly and started walking briskly in the direction of home, away from this place which allowed her imagination such free reign. With thoughts of home and her beautiful daughter commanding her concentration, she never saw one looming shadow detach itself from the others and materialize under the weak moonlight into the shape of a large man. She never saw her beloved home and daughter again either.

*******************

(I) Thud! (/I) Ryanni's ears were ringing, not only from the blow she had recieved - which had knocked her to the ground - but with the laughter and cheering of several teenage males gathered in a loose ring around her. If not for her pride she would have cursed herself for a fool as she slowly got to her feet. There is a saying: (I) Like mother, like daughter (/I), and in Ryanni's case it was almost true. She had honey coloured hair and deep ocean blue eyes with a golden ring around the pupil, quite like her mothers. Unfortunately, that's where the similarities ended. She was stubborn, determined and blunt with a quick mouth and quicker temper - just like her father she was told - who she only faintly remembered. It was her mouth and temper that had got her into trouble this time.

"Had enough girly?" leered Numair, a boy of sixteen who stood two inches above six feet with mud coloured eyes that gleamed cruelly and stringy brown hair. Ryanni wiped the blood slowly trickling from her mouth on her sleeve and squared her shoulders, drawing herself up to her five foot, six and a half inches, worth of height. She looked Numair in the eyes as best she could and pronounced with all the disdain she could muster, "The only thing girly around here is how you pull your punches!"

Numair roared as he launched himself at her and the boys around them jeered. (I) Eru's blade!(/I) she cursed in her mind as she watched Numair fly through the air towards her. Closer and closer he came and just when it seemed he would knock her flat she dodged out of the way at the last minute, his passage through the air not an inch from her, causing her hair to ruffle. There was a hollow sound as Numair hit the ground and the group around them booed. He picked himself up and swung around to face her, murder in his eyes.

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