Chapter 3A Chapter by Ashton
New home in a new land...
We settled into our new home rather quickly. We had no servants here and had to do everything ourselves. Thorne and I usually ended up being the ones who did everything. Thorne fell into the roll of homemaker as naturally as if she had been brought up for it. Cooking and cleaning and going to market, she was good at all of it. She seemed to enjoy it all. I cared for our small garden and the few animals that we had. I used all the things that Tylar had taught me. I started fires for Thorne to cook on. I chopped the wood and did small repairs on the cottage. At first Thistle wasn’t good for anything, but she caught on to sewing rather quickly. Her needlework was very good. Father kept to the small study, content to let us run our small home.
Spring became summer. The villagers began to tell stories about us. No one knew my story so no one spoke of the monster that lived on the outskirts of the village, but when there is a house full of unmarried beauties the stories cannot be silenced. Any time I accompanied Thorne to the market people asked us if we had any prospects for suitors. Thorne would smile and chat with the women at market about the available young men. I would simply blush and look away.
That summer at the cottage was pleasant. The locals left us to ourselves for the most part. They were friendly, but unconcerned. Thistle didn’t scream or throw fits anymore. For the first time in her life she seemed content. I loved to be outside. The skies were never quite sunny, but rather they were covered in a perpetual haze.
I stared up at this haze now as I took a break from pulling weeds. Thorne came and knelt beside me. “You’re getting tan.” Her eyes were soft as she inspected my skin. In the Hinterland, pale, porcelain skin had been prized.
I smiled. “I don’t mind. I think that people here would prize a hard worker over a china doll.”
“You’re probably right.” She stared down at the patch I was weeding. “How are you doing?”
It was a question that she asked a lot. I knew that she worried about me. “I miss Tylar. But I’m happy here. Maybe even for the first time in my life.”
“Tylar is a good man. I wanted to let you go with him. He would have been good to you.”
I chuckled. “I needed to come with you. Besides Tylar was to old for me. He’s forty-seven.”
Thorne looked at me in disbelief. I nodded. She laughed and then went back inside. I watched her go then went back to my weeding. After a while I looked up again. Our cottage was surrounded by a dense wood. Some days the wood seemed darker than others. Today was one of those days. The ancient trees were eerie. I looked down the dirt path that led to the town. It looked surprisingly ominous. A cloud passed over the sun. I shivered and headed inside.
Several weeks later there was a knock at our door. It was pouring rain outside. Despite my cheerfulness, I missed Tylar a lot. Thorne answered the door, wondering aloud who would be out on a night like this. She quickly welcomed the soaking figure inside. As soon as the door was shut the figure pulled off his heavy overcoat. We could now see that it was a man. Thistle went to get father.
Thorne dished up supper and we all sat down to talk to our mysterious visitor. He ate ravenously as he told us who he was. His name was Jacen. It turned out that he was an ambassador from Hinterland. He had been in Arumead for three years now. He had actually come to welcome us to Arumead. He told us of the great capital city across the mountains. He said that in the city, it wasn’t much different from Hinterland.
Thistle was immediately taken with the Jacen. I couldn’t blame her. With his dark hair and blue eyes, he was very handsome. He had the airs and graces that one would expect of a man born and bred in the courts of a king. He was exactly the kind of man we had all expected to marry back in Hinterland. Thistle was still a noblewoman at heart. She still longed for the parties and being waited on hand hand foot. He was the kind of man that she needed to marry.
Jacen told us that he would stay until the rain let up. He said he didn’t want to be a burden on us. I wanted for Thistle to be happy. I also wanted her out of the house. Even though she was quieter now and no longer threw her fits, she still glared at me. She still hissed things at me when she felt I was in her way. She didn’t like it here in Bridgehaven. She missed the city. I wanted Jacen to take her with him when he left. Mysteriously, it poured for over a week.
Thistle could be very pleasant when she put her mind to it. And with Jacen around it was like she was a different girl. Her charm must have worked on him because on the sixth day of rain he asked my father if he could marry her and take her back to the capital. He even agreed to the bride price. The rain stopped the next day.
Jacen promised to send the bride price as soon as he arrived back home. Thistle packed her things. She was deliriously happy. Before she finished packing she pulled me aside. “Did you make it rain like that?”
I shook my head, “I don’t know. I don’t control the weather Thistle.”
“The weather always matches your mood. But you’ve seemed pretty happy these last days. And since when does it pour for seven days straight? I think you did something to make it rain. I don’t really care. If you did, thank you.” She pulled me into an awkward hug. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a terrible sister to you.” There was sincerity in her voice as she said it.
I hugged her back. “I hope you’re happy with Jacen. He’s a good man for you.”
She nodded and shoved the last of her things into her trunk. Jacen was off buying a wagon in town. It wasn’t long before he was back. They put their things onto the cart and they were off. Thistle didn’t even look back.
It was quieter without Thistle in the house. Jacen had sent more than the bride price that father had asked. Once word of the bride price got around less of the women in the market asked about suitors for Thorne and I. Few people in the town had the money to pay a bride price.
Summer was sweltering. Even simple tasks like weeding left me drenched with sweat. Father never left the house. Thistle only left when she had to. I missed Tylar more than ever. One day, when all of the housework was done I decided to go look at the planes. The wilderness always made me feel better. It wasn’t as green in the summer. The grass had turned a soft yellow and all the flowers were gone. I usually walked through the town to get to the planes, but I didn’t feel like dealing with people today. I had often noticed a small path off the main road that seemed to lead to the plane. I stood now at this path, peering down the dark corridor that led off into the forest. I shrugged to myself and started down the path.
The farther I walked the more I wondered if this path led to the planes at all. The trees around me grew thicker and the path grew darker. Everything around me smelled musty and old. Suddenly the wind picked up. The trees began to creak and groan. I felt fire in my veins and I froze. The wind whipped around me, worse than it ever had on the planes. But what caught me were the voices. There were whispers on the wind. “Beauty.” The voices drew the word out. “Monster. Witch.” The trees groaned the words around me. My breath came in ragged gasps as fear clutched me. The voices sounded as if they expected something from me. It was like they knew who, what I was. I broke free from my stupor and ran. I ran deeper into the forest. I had the sense to stay on the path, but other than that I ran with no sense of where I was going. I just wanted to get away from the expectant voices. Suddenly the trees stopped and I was on the plane. The yellow green grass spread out forever in front of me. It rippled and danced in the wind. Here, away from the trees the wind tore at me. I was out of the forest but the voiced hadn’t stopped. The wind screamed my name. It clutched at me, tearing at my hair and clothes. It wanted something from me and I didn’t know what. I spun around to try and get my bearings. I needed to get off the plane. I needed to get back to the town. The sky above was the brightest blue I’d ever seen. The wind came again, threatening to knock me off my feet. It was trying to kill me. I knew that the wind would kill me. Fear gripped me. The wind tore at the medallion I wore, trying to rip it off.
I screamed Tylar’s name and clutched at the necklace. The wind hit me harder, knocking me to the earth. Light flashed in my mind as my head hit the ground. I saw a face over mine, but I couldn’t make it out. Things were fading fast. I heard Tylar’s voice. It said, “Oh god, I hope I’m not too late.”
I woke in my own bed. Thorne and Tylar sat nearby, talking quietly. I sat up, “Tylar!”
He was by my side in an instant. “Briar! Thank the stars!”
“What are you doing here? What happened?”
Tylar took my hand. “I was passing by with a caravan. I saw you standing out there. You must have tripped and fallen. You hit your head pretty hard.”
Thorne sat on the edge of the bed, “You must be her guardian angel Tylar. Once again you saved her life. No one would have found her out there.”
“It was nothing. I’m just glad I was there.” Tylar gave me a strange look. He turned to Thorne. “Can Briar and I have a minute?”
“Oh yes, of course!” She stood and left the room.
Tylar leaned in close. “What happened out there?”
“I was trying to get to the planes. I’m not really sure.” I shook my head.
“Tell me exactly what happened, from the beginning.”
I recounted what had happened as I remembered it. When I was done Tylar asked where the path was. I told him and he rose and left without another word. Thorne came back in the room. She sat next to me. “Thank the stars for Tylar. He always seems to be there when you need him.”
“So it should seem.” I sighed.
She smoothed my hair away from my face. “You’re tired. Go back to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake.”
I nodded. She left the room again and I went back to sleep.
Tylar was back when I woke up. His brown eyes burned into mine as we talked. “Don’t go into the forest again. Not until you have to.”
“What do you mean until I have to?” I shivered at the thought of having to go back into the forest.
“There is a time coming when you will have to go into the forest. Down that very path. But this time it will not take you to the plane. It’s important that you go down that path then, but no sooner. Only when you have to.” He took my hand. “Don’t be scared Briar. I don’t know what’s ahead. I only see glimpses. But I know you’ll be fine.”
I was out of bed soon after that. Tylar had a couple of days until the caravan moved so he stayed with us. I showed him the repairs I’d done around the house. He helped me with a few that I had not been able to do on my own. He asked about Thistle. I told him about Jacen and what had happened.
Before he left we went for a walk. “Is there really a caravan?” I asked.
He nodded “There is. Why?”
Well, just before I fell, I grabbed the medallion and screamed your name. I thought that maybe.” My voice trailed off.
“The medallion works in ways that no one understands. We made good time across the planes. We were a week early. Next time, for all I know, you may be whisked away to wherever I am.”
I smiled. “I wouldn’t mind that.”
“You still want to leave? You seem happy here.”
I sighed. “I am happy here. I am also alone here.”
“You’ve got Thorne and your father.” He motioned towards the cottage.
“You know what I mean Tylar.”
He was silent, but I could see that he did indeed know what I meant. He stared off into the woods. “You never really told me about your wife. What was she like?”
Tylar gave me a strange look. Then he looked off into the forest again. “It’s time for me to be on my way. The caravan is ready to move.” He walked back towards the house before I could say anything.
He gathered the few things he had and put them into a small pack that he slung over his back. Then he hugged me. “I’ll be seeing you. Stay safe, I won’t always be around to rescue you.” I nodded and hugged him back. He said farewell to my father and Thorne and then he walked down the path and out of sight. I sighed, but he said he’d be seeing me. I knew he’d be back.
Father came down with a fever shortly after Tylar left. I went to the village for a doctor. Now Bridgehaven did not actually have a doctor. They had a mage. The mage was in very high standing. He treated illnesses, resolved disputes, blessed land to bear more crops. The mage was the heart and soul of the town. Bridgehaven’s mage was a rather young man named Elan. He was a quiet man who was given to books. He could usually be found in his study, pouring over some manuscript or other. That was where I found him when I arrived in town. He glanced up at me, “Can I hep you?”
I stared at the floor. He looked at me as if confused as to why I had disturbed him. “I, my father has come down with a fever. I have been sent to ask you to tend to him.”
He squinted his eyes, studying me for a minute. “You’re Cassius’s daughter. What’s your name?”
“Briar, sir.” I kept my gaze low.
“Please, just call me Elan. You’re sister’s with Thorne right?”
I nodded. He stood, “She’s a good woman. I see her at the market a lot.” He turned down the lights and headed for the door. “Let’s go then!”
We started along the path home. “So how do you like Bridgehaven?”
I glanced over at the mage. “It’s nice. There are people I miss, but I like it here.”
He nodded, “Friends back home?”
I stared off into the tree line. “Not really. I became close with someone during the trip here. He travels a lot so I don’t see him much.”
“Him?” Elan said in a teasing tone.
I blushed. “It’s not like that. He’s more like a father to me than anything.”
“I understand.” We walked in silence for a moment. Then he asked, “What brought you to Bridgehaven?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.” We left it at that. Arumead was a place where magic was rather common, but it was still better if no one knew my story.
© 2009 Ashton
AboutI've always loved to write. Ever since third grade when I decided that I wanted to be an author. I'm hoping that I'll be published one day... I'm working on getting there. I've been rewriting a bunch .. more..