“I’ll say this Binny. It looks like you’re on the right track.” Katniss said.
The moment they walked through the break in the low stone wall that the Sphinx had been blocking, the landscape transformed into a hilly, rocky terrain. Green and gray were everywhere, and things felt damp. The desert was long gone.
“What makes you say that?”
“This little quest of yours, we’re looking for characters that have been in the Stacks since before Michel here, right?”
“You just met your first one.”
“The Sphinx?” Binny asked.
“Yep. The Sphinx is from ancient Greece.” Katniss said. Twenty-five-hundred years old. That’s a rough count mind you. She’s from Oedipus I think.”
“Not exactly.” Michel interjected. “She is mentioned in the Sophocles plays, but the actual description of Oedipus and the Sphinx was in an Aeschylus play that was lost.”
Everyone stared at Michel.
“I told you I have a fondness for ancient literature.”
“You could have told me that before I went and faced off with that thing.” Katniss was indignant.
“You seemed to have it well in hand.” Michel smiled.”
“Thanks to Binny anyway.” Katniss said sheepishly.
“Yes Binny. You seemed to know just what to say, except for one thing.” Hermione said. “Why didn’t you ask the Sphinx whatever it is you’re trying to find out while you had her? Wasn’t finding an older character the entire point of this little ‘adventure’?” Hermione’s tone made it clear what she thought of their adventure so far.
“Honestly Hermione, that wasn’t top of my mind when I was looking at its claws and trying to figure out that riddle.” Binny put her hands on her hips.
“Well what next then? How much more of this lunatic journey are we going to go on?” Hermione demanded.
THWACK. A burning arrow landed right at their feet.
“INCOMING!” Arya yelled. “RUN!”
The five of them ran. Arya led, jumping from rock to rock, avoiding small obstacles, her movements more animal than human. The others could barely keep up.
Behind them, a new hail of arrows appeared – some burning, some not. After the sound of the arrows a new and scarier sound appeared, thunder. Not thunder exactly, but something thunderous. A pounding. A beating of the ground. And then shouting. It was indecipherable. But the voices were men’s voices. They were angry. Yelling. Grunting.
As they ran in front of a tree, there were more arrow sounds, but this time they landed well in front of them, not in back. Suddenly, a body fell to the ground right in front of Arya with an awful thud.
An archer had been up in the tree shooting at whatever was behind them. Apparently the fighters behind them had their own archers and had tired of the arrows coming from the tree. They’d sent a volley of their own and the result was the dead archer before them. An arrow stuck out of his head. It had pierced him right between his eyes.
Binny wanted to throw up. The others didn’t look much better.
“Keep running.” Arya yelled. And they did. Arya in the lead, and Katniss in the rear. Only Katniss paused for a moment inspecting the man that had just died at their feet.
As Binny ran, the sounds from behind came more into focus. Men. On horses. Binny didn’t dare look behind her for fear of confirming her suspicions as well as potentially tripping on a rock. Were the men that killed the archer now going to kill them? Binny had no idea.
And then the worst sounds of all. Metal on metal. Swords clanging with swords. Swords clanging with armor. And then screams. Binny was running too fast to be terrified. But then, there was no more room to run. They were at the edge of a cliff.
“What now?” Hermione asked, heaving from the running.
Michel was looking over the edge of the cliff. “There’s a beach down there, but we need to find a way down.”
Arya had a big smile on her face.
“What are you so happy about?” Katniss teased, a little out of breath herself.
“I’ve always wanted to yell that – INCOMING!”
Everyone was facing the cliff. It had been only recently that they were facing a Sphinx in a desert. Now they were on the edge of a cliff. Waves crashed onto the rocky beach below, and the sea stretched off into the horizon.
“What have we here?”
Without even looking Binny could tell the speaker had a sickening smile on his face. Everyone turned to see who had spoken.
It was a man. Strong, and tall, and dirty, and sweaty. He held a shield and a sword. The sword already had blood on it. The blood looked fresh.
Binny heard the sound of steel being unsheathed. Now in Arya’s hands, Needle glinted in the sun.
“Oh my, now we truly have something interesting. I wonder. Are you Wu, Uruk, or Briton? I know you’re not Trojan.”
“None of the above. Leave us alone before I teach you a lesson.” Arya shouted.
“Young lady. Why such rudeness to the son of King Priam?”
Michel had a surprised look on his face. “You’re Hector?”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Hector made a gentle bow in the group’s direction.
“You are chivalrous, and honorable. Why would you threaten a group of children?” Michel pleaded.
“I am the daughter of Eddard Stark, King of the North. And I demand that you withdraw. Immediately.” Arya’s eyes were on fire.
Hector laughed at Arya and turned back to Michel. “Chivalry? Honor? Do those things exist in this place? For if they do, please, by all means, direct me to them immediately.” Hector paused for a moment as if waiting for someone to take him up on his offer.
“Ah, I see. You know it as well. Here, in this place, what we have is death. Endless ironic death. As death here isn’t final, it’s just a brief respite from more death. It’s all quite pointless don’t you think?” Hector glanced briefly at the point on his sword, the blood shone in the sun. “Well, not quite entirely without a point, but you understand my meaning.”
“I’ve had enough.” Arya took a step towards Hector.
Binny thought she saw the briefest flash of nervousness cross Arya’s face but then it was gone.
“Little girl, you mean to fight me with that? It’s more an eating implement, then a weapon.”
“Arya, no!” Binny yelled.
Arya ignored Binny’s plea. “Good idea, maybe I’ll use it to roast marshmallows after I use it on you.” Arya took another step forward.
Hector didn’t change his stance in response.
“Hector, this isn’t you.” Michel tried one last time to reason with him.
“Boy, if I don’t know what I am in this place, then you surely don’t.”
Arya took advantage of the distraction and lunged. The tip of her sword grazed Hector’s leg, cutting a red line across the front.
But while Hector was too slow to avoid the slice, he moved faster than Arya expected. Just as Needle left his thigh, his own sword connected with Arya’s and hit it so hard that it went flying out of her hand and scattered on the rocks feet away.
At almost the exact same moment, Hector kicked out his other leg and his foot connected with Arya in the stomach with a sickening crunch and knocked her flat on her back. Arya hit the ground.
The others gasped.
Hector looked down at his leg, examining the damage. “I’m impressed with your initiative, Stark girl. Unfortunately, it will be your last.”
Hector took a step towards Arya.
Binny launched herself without thinking. Hector was a seasoned fighter, but he had little ability to predict how a group of eleven-year-old girls, each a hero of their own books would react. Apparently ancient Greek eleven-year-old girls were not quite as feisty. Again, Hector was caught off guard.
But despite being surprised, he staggered back only a step off course, and turned quickly slamming Binny with the back of his arm. Binny also landed on the ground. He’d knocked the breath out of her. Binny gasped for air wondering if anything was broken. Michel and Hermione rushed towards her.
Hector laughed so hard Binny thought he might choke. She hoped he would choke. She was choking, wondering what organ he’d dislodged, or whether he’d collapsed one of her lungs.
“You spoke of honor boy. How come your friends don’t know how to die with it?”
Hector turned back to Arya’s splayed form, but all he saw was rocky ground. In the melee, Arya had disappeared.
“Now you’ve gone from entertaining to nuisance child. Where did you disappear to? We have unfinished business.”
Hector stepped closer to the edge of the cliff, looking over it to see if Arya had slipped over the side.
“I’m over here.”
Hector twisted around, his back to the sea below. “Ah, there you are. Let’s finish this, so I can move on to the rest of your friends.”
Arya took a step forward, but it was clear that she was badly injured. Binny guessed it was probably a broken rib or two, and who knew what other internal damage. Arya’s breath was short and ragged, but she stayed upright.
Hector’s stance made it clear he was done being surprised. He was in an attack stance. “Come little one. Die with honor.”
THWACK! Hector screamed. Blood dripped from his left arm where the arrow had pierced his bicep.
“Dammit!” Katniss yelled. “I’m not used to this bow.”
“You’re next!” Hector growled at Katniss.
When Hector turned to look at his new wound and to glare at the person who inflicted it, Arya saw her opportunity. Binny didn’t know how she was able to move with such speed given the injuries Binny was sure Arya had sustained, but Arya didn’t flinch or hesitate.
“You die with honor!” Arya screamed as she sank her blade into Hector’s chest and through his heart.
At this final surprise, Hector turned to look at Arya. His face was a twisted mask of shock.
Hector teetered for a moment. Arya put a second hand on the hilt of her sword and kicked Hector in the crotch, hard. The impact sent Hector falling backwards off the cliff and onto the rocks below.
Arya, took a large breath, and collapsed into a heap, passed out cold on the ground.