Monday, July 21, 2008

Fifth Installment of Darkness Lifting

“Elena?” Loraine was calling through the door. “Are you awake?”
“Yes.” She had gotten up an hour ago, donned a new dress, and combed her hair.
“I have breakfast ready if you want some.”
“I will be out in a moment.” She stood from where she was sitting on the edge of the bed and straightened her dress. She looked around her room. She enjoyed the comfort of a soft mattress and thick quilts. It was nice to have a mirror, and wonderful to have a new dress. It would be a shame to leave it all behind. You don’t need all this, she reminded herself. She went out her door and down the short hall to the kitchen. Isaac was already sitting at the table. For some reason, she was surprised to see him out of his uniform; he was wearing a tan shirt with brown breeches and work boots. She could tell that he noticed she was in different clothing, too. Of course, she would never let him know that she saw him noticing.
“Good morning, Elena,” he greeted.
She nodded. In truth, she preferred night. Usually, she slept in late, but the new environment had woken her early. She paused for a moment at the table to see if Isaac would remember his manners and stand up. He didn’t, and she sat in the chair furthest from him, earning a silent point. Apperantly his education wasn’t as great as he says. Even she knew the basics of manners and propriety, though she did not always feel like applying her knowledge.
Loraine was at the counter, dishing pancakes and bacon onto plates. It smelled delicious. She brought three plates to the table. “Thank you,” Elena said.
“You’re welcome.”
“Thanks, Mother.”
“You’re welcome, Isaac.” It was silent for a minute except for the clank of forks on plates. “How have you been, Elena?”
She started at the question, unused to being addressed. “Alright, I suppose.”
“Where did you live before this?”
“She was in Lord Rozac’s tower,” Isaac answered for her.
“Surely her whole life hasn’t been spent in a dungeon.” Loraine turned her kind eyes to Elena.
“I lived in a cave five miles or so away.”
“A cave?!” she looked appalled at the idea of her guest living in a dirty cave.
“Caves are quite homey. I lived in that one for a good six months.”
“Did animals come in?” Isaac inquired.
“Were you scared?”
“No. I brought the ravens in.”
“You like those birds? I though girls were scared of things like that. My friend’s sister, Leah, would scream if a raven flew into her home.”
She wouldn’t waste words responding to that.
“Where are you parents?” asked Loraine.
“Dead.” Elena was tired of all the questions.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. How long have they been gone?”
“Dad died when I was three. I never knew my mother.”
“How did you live? Who raised you?”
“Don’t you know what I can do? No one would take me in. It didn’t matter, anyway. Dad taught me to take care of myself.”
“No one should have to live like that.”
Elena took another bite of her bacon. She didn’t like sympathy. She preferred it when people just minded their own business.
“What do you eat in the forest?” Isaac asked
“Berries. Roots. Game.”
“You can hunt?”
“I’m a girl, not a cripple.”
“So you know how to use a bow and arrow?”
“Oh. I see. You use your special advantage.”
“Is there anything wrong with that?”
He shrugged. “No. It’s just cheating, that’s all.”
“I thought that at first, too. But then it didn’t matter. I needed food.”
“I could teach you the real way to hunt.”
“You could.”
“Is everyone finished with breakfast?” asked Loraine.
“Yes,” Elena said.
“I just want one more pancake.” Isaac had already wolfed down four. Boys are pigs. The watched him finish eating. “May I be excused?”
“Yes. Put your plate next to the washing basin.” Loraine took Elena’s plate.
“Yes, Mother.”
“Why don’t you show Elena around? I’m sure she couldn’t see well last night.”
Isaac turned to her. “Do you want to look around the yard?”
She shrugged. “I can’t think of anything better to do.”
“Okay then.” He set his plate down and led the way to the door. “You can borrow Mother’s coat and boots. It’s chilly out there.”
She donned the winter items. She didn’t really want to tromp around outside with Isaac, but she supposed she could tolerate him for an hour or so.
When they went out the door, Isaac’s energy started flowing. Elena watched with dismay as he started jumping around. “That way’s to the main road,” he pointed to a path. “I’ll show you the barn. It’s nothing impressive; only three horses and a cow. And a stray cat, but she isn’t ours.” In a few paces, they were at a building slightly smaller than the cottage. It was dim inside, and though it was clean and well kept, it had a worn down look to it, so she was surprised to see a majestic black horse in one of the stalls.
She felt drawn to it and quickly went to pet its muzzle. “Is this one a girl or boy?” she asked.
“Girl. Her name’s Raven. My friend Rueben’s mare foaled her three years ago, and he sold her to us. I like my stallion better, though. That’s the chesnut with the star. His name’s Chestnut.”
“You couldn’t think of a more creative name for him?”
“Hey. I was twelve.”
She let him think over his horse’s name while she admired the mare. Raven was completely black, no markings, and her hair was smooth. Her muscles were defined and there was a spark of intelligence in her eyes. Elena wished she knew how to ride. She had a feeling she and the mare would be the perfect match.
“If you stay longer, you can ride her.” Isaac interrupted her thoughts. He looked sincere in his offer, but she knew she couldn’t take him up on it.
“Your mother couldn’t possibly want me around long. I should be looking for another shelter now.”
“No, you shouldn’t.”
“Why not?”
“Lord Rozac was going to have you executed as a witch. They’re going to be looking in every cave for miles, and patrols will go out regularly looking for you. I’ve heard rumors. It’s almost like he has a personal grudge against you.”
“How would I be any safer here?”
“They don’t know you are here. They wouldn’t think that anyone would want to house you.”
“Yet if your mother wants me out, I will leave.”
“I talked to her. She would never throw you out of out house.”
“Does she know what I can do?”
Elena thought. “I will stay a week. I cannot impose on you any longer.”
“Mother will think you don’t appreciate her hospitality.”
She ignored him and went to examine the third horse, a handsome bay. After a moment of quiet, Isaac approached. “That’s Mama’s horse, Mattie. He’s named after my grandfather. Actually, Grandpa’s name was Matthew, but Mother thought that name wasn’t quite right for a horse.”
“Don’t you have any chores to do?”
“Let’s see. I already milked the cow, made my bed, and gathered eggs. I don’t have to report for guard duty until three in the afternoon, which is six hours from now. We have plenty of meat, so I don’t have to go hunting, and there will be no gardening for another couple months. So no, I don’t have any chores. If you want, we can go horseback riding.”
“I don’t think so.”
“What else could we do? Sit around bored?”
“I could have some time to myself to think, and you could go hack something with your sword. Or go horseback riding without me.”
“You’re no fun.”
“And you are pushing me.”
Isaac looked at her icy eyes, nervous. “Okay. You go think. Me and Chestnut will ride to Rueben’s place. Will you tell Mama for me?”
“Anything to be away from you.” She muttered under her breath, and went off to alert Loraine of Isaac’s ride. She then went to sit against Raven’s stall and think about what she would do after her week was up.


  1. I'm glad you like it. I won't post any more, but I might consider emailing it to you.


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