Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Third Installment of Darkness Lifting

Here is the rest of chapter one:
Sixty five minutes later, Isaac checked the halls for unscheduled visitors. He then went to get the keys, hidden around the corner. He wasn’t exactly sure why he was helping Elena out, except that she didn’t deserve a witch’s death, which he knew Lord Rozac was planning for her. His mother had taught him that witches where people involved with spirits and supernatural things. What Elena had was entirely different. She had a gift from Abador, the same way he had a gift for sword fighting, or his friend, Rueben, had a gift for tracking. Granted, she was a little stand offish, but no one was perfect. Her anger would fade away with exposure to nicer people.
He grabbed the keys and fiddled with them, finding the right one for her door. This was exciting! If things went according to planned, Elena would be out of Lord Rozac’s tower and at his cottage before midnight. He unlocked the door and it swung open, seemingly of its own accord. He jumped back, unsettled. He was not comforted when the black haired, dark eyed, pale girl walked out with the tiniest of satisfied half-smiles. Her face reverted into its normal hard expression, and she looked straight into his eyes.
“This had better all be real, Isaac van Hufer, because if you betray me, you will be sorry.” She pronounced her words in cold articulation. The part that gave him goose bumps was that he had never told her his last name. Maybe he had made a mistake letting this girl out.
When he found his voice, he told her, “I would never, ever betray you. Ma’am.” He added the last part out of pure respect for what she could do to him.
She looked amused. “Your full name is embroidered on your tunic.” He was sure his expression conveyed his horror. Could she read his thoughts, too? Maybe she was a witch! “I can read your face like a book, Isaac. I am not a witch.”
“I knew that,” he bluffed. Her left eyebrow was raised just a hair. “We should escape now,” he said decidedly, uncomfortable with the situation.
“Indeed? I though the goal of your getting the keys was for you to stand before me looking stupid.”
He turned red and turned to the door. She was enjoying this too much. Thankfully, he still had the sense to look carefully before motioning Elena forward. Two doors, three sets of stairs, and four hallways later, the escape was working perfectly. He opened the next door, confident that his plan had no faults. But he had miscalculated. George, his friend on the guard, was feet in front of them. He tried to motion the escapee back, but it was too late. They had been spotted.
“Isaac! What are you doing down here? I thought you were supposed to be up watching the …” his face darkened. “Why is she out? You didn’t help her break out, did you?”
Isaac didn’t know what to do. “George, I…”
Elena stepped forward. “Here is the deal, Sir George of Celvont: you let us pass without a word, and your family will sleep safe tonight. Breathe a word to anyone; your wife, Lord Rozac; anyone, and well…” she let a threatening smirk slide onto her face. An invisible force pushed George against the wall. “… I don’t think I need to tell you exactly what will happen. But just in case you wonder, I will tell you this: whatever I do to you will be a lot worse than any punishment your superiors may bestow. Have we reached an understanding?” The knight-guard nodded. “Good. Come along, Isaac.” When they had taken a few steps forwards, she looked over her shoulder and whispered, “Remember, George: not a word.” And she strode away so swiftly that Isaac, a good five inches taller, had to trot to keep up.
“How did you know all that about Sir George?” Isaac asked once they had successfully cleared the castle and were safe in the woods.
She sighed, as if the answer were obvious. “Simple observations. His name and station were embroidered on his shirt, like yours. He was wearing a wedding ring. And there was a stain on his tunic right were one would burp a baby. He must be a good father.”
He stopped and looked at her with admiration. “Wow. You’re good.”
“Previously established. Now, unless you have something intelligent to say, shall we move on?”
“You don’t have to act like I’m stupid,” he grumbled, resuming his way home, “Because I’m not.”
She didn’t say anything, clearly expressing her opinion of that statement.
“I graduated top of my class this year.” Still not a word. “I was the best swordsman.” Silence. “I bet you can’t even tell the hilt from the blade.” He could hear the crickets chirping in the background. He was getting frustrated with her unresponsiveness. “You are so ungrateful!” he exploded, “I generously offer to help you escape the tower, am leading you to my home, but do you say so much as a ‘thank you’? No! It’s all insults and pride. You won’t even carry on a proper conversation!”
“We are trying to get to your cottage without anyone noticing us, are we not?” she inquired calmly. “And the best way to do that is to keep quiet, am I right? So perhaps it would be best if you shut up, stopped making immature statements, and led the way home. Unless, of course, you have changed your mind about me, in which case I can stroll around alone and find a cave.”
His was stricken, and he seriously considered letting her go live in a cave alone. But he realized she was right. Maybe she’ll thank me when we get home. If she can stop treating me like I’m slow. He pushed down his pride. “Alright. Silence it is, then, ‘til we reach home.”
Elena actually felt slightly bad about talking to Isaac like that. She really was grateful for his help. She was simply unused to conversing with people, let alone thanking them. And she doubted that she would ever have to get used to it. After all, she was never in one place for long, and Isaac’s his mother would surely kick her out at the first sign of her unique abilities.
And yet, when the moonlight illuminated a cozy cottage with smoke coming from its chimney, she found herself wishing she had such a home to come to. But she knew, even as she walked side by side with Isaac, that such a thing would never happen. She would never have a garden like the one they walked by. She would never have frost-encrusted grass like the carefully groomed patch they strode through. The beautiful middle aged blonde in the doorway would never be her mother. She would never hug someone like the woman hugged Isaac. She would never be able to say, “Come on inside, meet my mother,” with such love and happiness that anyone could tell she was home, she was accepted.
No, she was a fugitive, always would be, and even as Isaac’s mother served her steaming chicken broth, she knew it was all temporary. Soon, she would again be in a cave, eating berries or crudely cooked rabbit, alone except for perhaps a raven to nurse to health. She stared into her bowl of broth, brutally honest with herself. This tiny family seemed nice, to be sure, but this comfort could not be hers for long. It was her lot in life to never be accepted. It could never be any other way.

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