A/N: This is the first part of the story of Jarred and Anna's march to the Shadowlands. There will be approximately four to five chapters in total, and I will try to update as much as I can. I would welcome some reviews! :)

Sorry for the very long hiatus. I'll admit I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to go with this story, but now that I've actually finished Part One I have a better idea.

The Shadowlands

Part One

As she stumbled over the dirt path leading from the Forests of Silence, Anna felt it. It was something she had not expected to feel, not for the Forests which had haunted her dreams since she was a child. But still, she felt it, a numbness, a hole in her heart which sucked everything in until there was nothing left but emptiness.

For all it was worth, for the past seven years the Forests had been home. The dangerous creatures of the forest floor which she had feared as a child had become a promise of safety, protecting her and her family from the Shadow Lord's fearsome Grey Guards. Anna had given birth to her daughter there, and had lived and loved there. It was home.

And now she was leaving. Leaving behind the Forests, leaving behind the illusion of safety it had held until that fateful day the Grey Guards captured them. Leaving behind Jasmine. Anna could have wept at the thought of Jasmine, alone in the Forests, without friend or family to support her. Even now, she could still see her curled amid the cluster of ferns in First Wood, green eyes filled with terror and confusion, waiting for her parents to return to her. But having her here in chains beside her would have been a worse fate than the one she had given her. In the Forests, Jasmine had a chance to live, albeit a slim one. Here, she would not have lasted a moment.

Anna shuddered at the thought, and felt Jarred's arm brush hers, in a silent attempt to reassure her. Anna did not know how she had been able to find such a good man for a husband. He had given up their place at the forge for his childhood friend, King Endon, and his wife the Queen and their unborn child. He had travelled with Anna along the great road that connected Tora and Del, and when the Torans refused them sanctuary, sought refuge with her in the Forests of Silence. For all the hardships they had faced, he had never faltered, never gave up the hope that Deltora would be free one day. And even now, as they marched towards certain death in the Shadowlands, he did not falter, did not give up. His hope and determination filled her heart.

Alright, she thought. If Jarred will not falter now, then neither will I.

Even so, her thoughts flew to Jasmine alone in the Forests of Silence with little chance of survival, and herself and Jarred marching to their deaths in the Shadowlands, and felt a dark terror stir deep inside of her, and her heart clenched painfully in her chest.


The Grey Guards had finally allowed their prisoners to rest for the night, after the coming of night revealed a moonless sky. Even so, Jarred found it hard to sleep. He tossed and turned upon the grassless dirt, unable to relax, wondering how Jasmine in the Forests and Endon and Sharn and their child in Del were faring.

'Jarred?' Anna's soft voice roused him from a fitful dose.

He opened his eyes. 'Yes, dear heart?'

'I am afraid,' she whispered.

Her admission tore at his heart. He hated to see her like this, green eyes round with terror, hugging the ground underneath her as if it could protect her from the monsters sleeping ten feet from them. Jarred wanted to protect her badly, but there was nothing he could do if the Grey Guards harmed her. It made him frustrated to feel so helpless.

'Do not be afraid, dear heart,' he whispered anyway. 'I will protect you. I swear on my life.'

She looked up at him and the love and trust in her gaze tore at his insides. 'I know you will, Jarred,' she said. 'That is what frightens me.'

She turned her back to him, closing her eyes. Within moments he could hear her breathing in a deep, steady pattern. Jarred was left, wide awake, on the ground, staring up at the sky and hoping her trust in him was not misplaced.


A routine established itself across the following days. The Grey Guards marched their prisoners along all day, heedless of exhaustion and thirst and hunger, only allowing them to stop when the darkness obscured the pathway before them. Then they were fed lumps of chewy meat and cold broth that slid down their throats like slime. At dawn they were marching again, bleary eyed with exhaustion, not having slept for more than a few hours at a time. Anna's feet ached; Jarred's wrists chafed in their chains. But there was nothing to be done about it. Any complaints from the prisoners would bring the Grey Guards' wrath upon them, flogging their whips at them, telling them to shut it and move faster. And thusly the days went by.


Gradually, Anna began to recognise herbs, plants, flowers in the midst of the barren wilderness. Herbs for healing, plants for eating. Herbs to alleviate pain. That night, as the Grey Guards lay snoring under a tree a mere ten feet away, she gathered some and applied them to the wounds she and Jarred had sustained during the day. As Anna and Jarred ate the remaining herbs, she felt a sense of peace she had not felt in days. Finally she was doing what she was born to do.

She handed Jarred some leaves. 'You place these under your tongue to alleviate pain,' she explained in response to his questioning gaze.

Jarred gazed at her, astonished, a slow smile gracing his face. 'You are amazing,' he whispered, awed, expression filled with pride and fear. But mainly pride.

Anna's heart warmed to see it.


It filled Jarred with pride, to see the determination in Anna's eyes, the stubborn tilt of her chin as she marched beside him. She ignored the Grey Guards, their jeers and taunts and laughter, walking just fast enough to prevent from being whipped, and did nothing to attract their attention. Gone was the fear, the trembling, the anxiety he had seen in her in days past. They had faded like ashes in the wind the night Anna had put to use her skills in healing and herbs to help them survive the hard days of walking. Jarred could not have been more proud of her. Anna had found a purpose, a reason to live, and Jarred was glad of it. He knew he would not survive this dangerous journey without her; she was his heart and soul and the very centre of his life. If she died, he would die with her, leaving behind an empty, lifeless husk of a man. Jarred knew this as well as he knew himself. He glanced at his determined, courageous wife and silently reiterated his vow to her. Anna, dear heart, he thought, I would sooner die before I see you harmed. I will protect you. I will!


In an effort to avoid having to enter the Os-mine Hills (which were almost as deadly as the Forests of Silence in their own way), the Grey Guards chose to skirt close to the edges of the trees that made up Middle Wood, the second of the three woods that were the Forests of Silence. The sight of the rustling leaves and swaying boughs of the trees all at once gave Anna a blessed feeling of relief and an unbearable ache in her heart. To be so close to the Forests, the life they had made for themselves, and Jasmineā€¦ Beside her she felt Jarred shudder, and knew that he felt the same.

She bit her lip to stop the tears from falling. She longed so badly to run, run far away, back to the Forests that had become her home. She longed to gather her daughter into her arms and comfort her as she had each time Jasmine skinned her knees while attempting to climb onto a particularly high branch or to make an impossible leap between two boughs in the treetops. She longed for her life to return to the way it had been before the Grey Guards had destroyed it, when it had been herself, Jarred and their daughter living in the tree-house Jarred had created out of fallen branches, leaves and tree bark on the forest floor. She longed for it so much, and yet it was impossible. She couldn't leave Jarred, and couldn't rid herself of her chains or evade the notice of the Grey Guards long enough for her to escape. Even if she did succeed in breaking free, she thought bitterly, the Guards' poisonous blisters would fall on her before she even took three steps, leaving her to die an agonising death and leaving Jarred to be taken to the Shadowlands alone.

Perhaps it was what the Grey Guards were hoping for. Certainly she was not a strong fighter like Jarred, and her small, seemingly fragile stature would be a disadvantage in a fight, as would be her gentle nature as a healer. If she were to die on march, the Grey Guards would not have to risk their master's displeasure at their choice of combatant, and in addition would find pleasure in watching Jarred fall apart. Anna suppressed another shudder at the thought of what her death would do to him, of the insurmountable pain it would cause him. It was unthinkable. It would destroy him, destroy his hope, and that Anna knew she wouldn't be able to bear it, knowing the desolation her death would cause.

No, she thought, turning her head away from the tantalising view of the Forests of Silence. She could not let herself think such dangerous thoughts, not now. It was impossible to escape; she and Jarred could only survive as best as they could, and pray that Jasmine did the same.

It was the only thing she could let herself believe without falling to pieces.


'Do you think that she is still alive?'

Anna's voice sounded as thin as a thread amid the grunts and snores of the Grey Guards. Jarred could not see her, but he could feel her tremble as they lay underneath a moonless sky, huddling together for warmth. The Guards, being impervious the weather themselves, did not deign to find any means of a shelter from it and so Jarred and Anna were left to survive it as best as they could. Even if they had, Jarred thought wryly, they would not have bothered sharing it with their prisoners. Any discomfort they experienced was the highest entertainment to the Guards.

The nights were getting colder. Jarred could feel it in the air as he forced his aching muscles to move so he could face Anna. Soon it would be winter. How would he and Anna fare then, without adequate shelter or clothes to protect them from the biting winds and cool temperatures? Jarred almost shivered to think of it.

'I do not know,' he said to Anna. 'She may be.' He did not want to speak of it, did not want to wonder whether their daughter had survived this long without them. If he did, it would bring images to his mind that he didn't have the strength to bear: of Jasmine's tiny body torn bloody by the creatures that lived on the forest floor, her eyes glazed and sightless; of her starving, freezing and afraid. By the Belt, she was only seven years old! Why was fate so cruel?

He closed his eyes against such images of horror and continued. 'We taught her everything we could. She knows where to forage for food, and where to find water. She knows to stay in the treetops at night and only venture to the forest floor during the day. She knows how to create shelter for herself and protect herself from cold and wind.' He looked reassuringly at Anna, or so he hoped. 'She has a chance, dear heart. You must believe that.' His heart ached at the fear in Anna's eyes, the deep-set terror that echoed his own. 'Please believe it, even if you believe nothing else.'

He felt Anna shake her head. 'She is only seven, Jarred,' she said. 'How can she? And yet, she is better off there than here with us. She would not have survived a moment here.' She shuddered again. 'I wish we could go back. I wish that I knew for certain that Jasmine is safe.'

She lay her head on Jarred's chest, and he drew comfort from the fact that he could still hold her. 'You must have faith, dear heart,' he whispered, as Anna's eyes closed and her breathing slowed into a deep, even pattern. 'It is the only thing left to us.'


Whether it was the cold or the memory of the conversation with Anna, Jarred did not drift to sleep until well into the night. When he did, his dreams were jumbled and filled with blood. Not his blood, but Anna's and Jasmine's. He watched, unable to do a thing, as Anna dropped to the ground, her skin marred by welts, her mouth in a grimace of agony. Each time a blister hit its mark she screamed his name in a raw, pain-filled voice that shattered him to pieces. And there beside her was their daughter, sobbing in terror and agony as blood oozed from her mauled throat. He could feel a strangled sound choke his throat; it was almost too much to bear.

He awoke to the grey light of dawn, a remembered cry on his lips and an image in his mind. Of Jasmine, perched on a branch in the treetops of First Wood, her hair glinting brown in the golden light of the setting sun. She frowned at the creased drawing in her hand, mouthing words so recently learnt. 'Wake the bear, do not fear...' She looked up at him, dark curls bouncing, eyes alert and curious. 'What does it mean, papa?'

He grinned at her, and said quickly, 'Nothing. Nothing at all. It is just a silly rhyme. I thought you might like it.'

She traced a finger along the faded lines of the roughly drawn castle and he watched as her frown dissolved into a delighted smile. 'It is so pretty!'

Jarred couldn't agree more. The drawing brought back memories of a better time, a time before the Shadow Lord and before their chaotic flight into the Forests of Silence. It was a time he thought of often.

His heart swelling with fondness, he pressed a kiss to Jasmine's forehead. 'Try not to wear it down too much,' he said lightly. 'I would hate for it to fall to pieces after so much use.'

Jasmine giggled. 'Alright. I will not.'

She clambered to her feet, placing the picture into her dress pocket as she did so, and ran along the length of the bough, leaping agilely across to the bough of the adjacent tree. Although he knew that she was in no danger of falling, he still moved to follow her. Even with her short five-year-old legs she was quick, and he did not catch up to her until they were almost at their tree-house home. For a moment she paused, and he swept her up into a hug, laughing as she squealed and wriggled in excitement.

'I love you papa,' Jasmine said, her voice muffled against his chest. Jarred felt his heart swell ridiculously at her words.

'I love you too, sweetheart,' he said to her.

In the light of the dawn, Jarred took heart from the memory, and held it close for all of that day and for all the weeks to come. Through the searing cold, the grunts and chuckles of the Grey Guards and the painful strike of the whip at his ankles, he fastened on to the memory of dark strands of hair glinting brown under a setting sun, and the sleepy voice of his daughter saying that she loved him. It was the only thing he could do, the only thing that was left to him. A quiet memory of happiness.