Lyla Langston stands in a dark room. A single candle is lit on the
opposite side of the room next to a crib with two baby girls lying sound
asleep. Next to the crib is a changing table stocked with diapers and
baby wipes. Just across the room is a dresser on the side wall and a
wooden rocking chair in the corner. A large circular rug is placed in
the middle of the room. She notices two windows as the moonlight shines
through onto the floor.
Loud voices arise in the hallway from a man and a woman.The sounds are
muffled, but Lyla tries to make out the words as well as she can.
"Where is it?" asked the man.
"I do not have what you seek," replies the woman with a firm tone.
"I know you have it," he yells. "Give it to me or you and your children
Lyla hears what seems to be a struggle. Someone runs toward the room, so
she moves to the other side by the crib. Suddenly, the woman comes
through the door and closes it behind her. She locks it before rushing
to the crib.
The woman was very beautiful with long, dark brown hair. Lyla could see
that she was very thin and frail as if she would break if anyone touched
her. Her skin was very pale and looked like she had not seen sun in
ages. Dark circles were visible under her eyes from lack of sleep. As
she approached, Lyla saw that she had the most beautiful eyes. They were
a deep blue that compared to the depths of the ocean.
"I love you both," she says to her two girls. She bends down and kisses
them both on the forehead. She takes them in her arms and hides them
under the crib before hanging a blanket over the side to cover the
bottom so not to be seen. They both stay sound asleep as the mother
crosses the room to the door. She opens the door and waiting on the
other side is the unidentifiable man.
Lyla noticed that he was much taller than the woman and looked like a
giant standing in front of her. He was clothed in all black, head to toe
and a dark hooded cloak hung from his shoulders. She could not see his
face or any other way to identify him. He suddenly pulled out a sword,
something she did not see hanging from his belt under the cloak.
"You will pay for this," he says and shoves the sword into her abdomen,
pulling it out as quickly as it went in. Her eyes went wide as she
stumbled backward and fell to the floor with only a few breaths left.
The man stares toward the crib and Lyla felt as if he was looking right
at her. The dark figure steps toward her.
Lyla woke suddenly. She lay on the hard ground covered by a blanket. She
could see the camp fire burnt down to smoking ash and her sister
sleeping just beyond it. It was still dark, but she could see the sun
creeping up beyond the trees that stood before her. There was a small
breeze of summer air passing through that was still cool from the night.
She got up slowly and folded her blanket before putting it in her bag.
It was a burlap sack with a shoulder strap for easier carry. She went
over to her sister to wake her. Her skin was pale with freckles that
lightly covered her face and brown hair to coincide. Her sister was very
thin and frail just as she was.
“Lilly, wake up.” Lyla put her hand on Lilly’s shoulder and gently
“It’s too early,” said Lilly wearily. She remained in the same
position with her eyes closed. “Just a little bit longer.”
“Lil, we must go now. We have already stayed too long and dawn is
quickly approaching, we have to keep moving. We mustn’t linger where
we do not belong.”
Lilly got up slowly and steadily, wiping her eyes and yawning.
“You look terrible,” Lilly says to her sister.
“Thanks a lot. You always give the best compliments.”
“Did you have the dream again?” Lilly asked.
“Every night for as long as I can remember,” said Lyla. “Always
the same. Never more or less. I suppose I should be used to it by now,
but I’m not. It’s a nightmare!”
Lilly looks at her with concerned eyes. Lyla looks back at her and gives
a slight smile.
“It’s alright,” says Lyla. “Why don’t you take a few minutes
to fully wake up? I will scope out the area, but be ready when I get
Lyla took her knife in hand and walked north into the woods. It was
still mostly dark, but she could see enough that there was no need to
carry a light. She walked around carefully so not to make a sound and
saw nothing but a few creatures scurrying along. She had her sights on a
rabbit that she would have killed for food had it not been for the four
baby rabbits that followed behind her. They were a family, something she
did not have much of. If it wasn’t for Lilly she would have felt as if
she had no one. A feeling of sadness come over her that she tried to
push away as quickly as it approached.
Suddenly, she heard the sound of twigs breaking and muffled voices up
ahead. The animals scattered and Lyla moved forward slowly to
investigate. She was very courageous and rarely ran away from danger. As
she got closer she saw three men walking through the forest heavily
armed with swords and knives. They were dressed in black with dark
cloaks. She had seen these men many times before and they always seemed
to be searching for something, but she did not know what. She backed
away slowly and headed towards camp.
When she got back, Lilly had already watered down the fire and covered
it with dirt to make it look as if no one had ever been there. Her pack
was ready and hanging across her body over her shoulder. She wore light
colored cotton pants and a grey shirt, both were very worn with tears
and holes. Lilly saw the urgency in the way Lyla walked towards her. She
knew something was wrong.
“What is it?” Lilly asked. “What’s wrong?”
“Takers! In the woods, not far behind us. We must move!” Lyla had a
distressed look on her face trying to make sense of what she just seen.
“They have never come this far south before, not that I have seen
anyway. What are they doing here?”
“We will figure that out later,” said Lilly. “Let’s just focus
on getting home before they find us.”
Lyla and Lilly headed south into the woods moving as quickly and quietly
as they possibly could. The woods were all too familiar. They had been
through it many times for hunting and gathering food. Also, for training
and heading north to spy on the Takers. They did not know who the Takers
really were or what they were doing there. All they knew is they had
been around since they were infants and no one knew where they came
from. Lyla and Lilly had given them the name Takers because they had
been known to take and destroy. They had invaded the entire planet and
caused an all-out war of mass destruction and unfortunately the Takers
were successful. Those who were not dead, fled and went into hiding.
They came to a small town that had a town square surrounded by shops and
houses. Each time they came through they would search only one house at
a time for fear if they stayed too long they would be discovered. After
the towns were fully searched they would take new routes and search
through other towns.
“We can’t stop,” said Lyla.
“We must!” said Lilly.
“Not when we have Takers on our trail. It’s too risky.” They were
walking down a side street in between a long row of houses, all of which
had overgrown plant life in the yard and broken windows all part of the
Aftermath. Lilly grabbed Lyla’s arm so she would come to a stop.
“Risky or not we need supplies,” said Lilly. “If they catch up
with us we are fully prepared to defend ourselves.” Lyla didn’t want
to admit it but she knew her sister was right. Supplies were hard to
come by in the tough times they lived in.
“Fine,” Lyla said. “But we make it quick. We move fast and stay
They stopped at a single-story home with a large front porch attached to
the front. Just like many of the other houses the windows were smashed
and the door frame was broken by someone who kicked in the door. When
the invasion happened, it was said to be massive chaos all over the
world. People were scared and afraid and ransacked other people’s home
for more supplies which left barely anything for Lyla and Lilly to find
when they searched the houses. Every once in a while they would find
something useful, but other times they left empty handed and moved on.
Inches of dust and dirt had settled on every surface and feces were in
various places of the house indicating that rodents were occupying the
space. When they first started searching houses, Lilly and Lyla would
gag at the obscene smells and unkempt messes, but now they had seen it
all and grew accustom to the harsh environments.
“I will search the cupboards for food if you want to search the rest
of the house for any other supplies that might be useful,” said Lyla.
Lilly nodded and went to search the rest of the house.
Lyla started for the cupboards with her knife in hand just as a
precaution if something were lingering inside. One by one she opened the
cupboards finding a few lonely cans that remained on the shelves. She
grabbed them and put them in her bag. Lilly came around the corner empty
“All I found were a few blankets and various furniture pieces. Did you
find any food?”
“Only a few cans of vegetables, which is better than nothing,” said
Lyla. “We have plenty of blankets, maybe we will find something in the
shops, but we must hurry.”
Before they left the house they carefully looked down the street and
around the houses surrounding them to see if they had been followed. As
far as they could tell, everything was completely empty. When they made
it to the town square where all the shops were, they split up to save
time. Normally, they would stay together, but they did not want to
linger for too long when the takers were nearby.
They had already been to the bakery and the grocery store on one of
their previous travels through. There was hardly anything left, but they
had managed to salvage a few items. Knowing that they would not be
finding any food, Lyla headed for the clothing store. When Lyla walked
in she noticed medal racks lying on the floor with minimal clothing
scattered around them. It almost seemed hopeless to scavenge for food
and supplies, but giving up would only make it seem more hopeless. Lyla
stuffed whatever clothing she could in her bag. Even though none of them
were her size, they would find a use for them.
A slight movement caught her gaze from the corner of her eye. Lyla
spotted three figures walking in the center of the road and her heart
contracted. The Takers had caught up with them. She ducked down away
from the large glass window in front of her and hid behind a long
counter. She pulled a knife from her belt and waited.
When Lyla heard the door open she peeked around the counter and saw that
only one Taker had entered. He stood for a moment looking at all the
fallen racks. Slowly he walked around opening doors and slamming them
when he found nothing. Lyla heard him come to a stop and listened as his
footsteps grew louder toward where she was hidden. Her heart was racing
and as he came to the counter she stood and rammed her knife into his
chest. She kicked him down to the ground and ran. She knew Lilly was in
the building at the end of the street, but she didn’t know where the
other Takers were. She had to find Lilly and they had to leave this
Excerpted from "Aftermath: The Armorian Chronicles (Volume 1)" by Courtney Beals. Copyright © 2017 by Courtney Beals. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.