Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chapter 22

She admired herself in the mirror. Her blonde hair hung loose about her shoulders, bringing out the green dress, which in turn made her light green eyes really stand out.
She had to admit it, there was no way around it: she looked pretty.
That was a rare thing for her to see, that she actually looked pretty in something, as she had always seen herself as ordinary looking.
She looked at her reflection for a few more moments before finally being able to drag herself away to go exploring some more, now that she wasn't in just a bathrobe.
The skirt slid on the rough carpet, and it took all of her grace to not trip and fall flat on her face, and even that wasn't working so well, as she kept tripping over the long skirt, with only her reflexes saving her from landing face first on the floor.
This was harder then it looked.                              
                                                                               * * *
The horse was very, very noisy. He would whinny, and stomp his feet constantly when they'd stop for the night, or when they'd stop for lunch. The only time he was quiet was when they were moving.
"That horse is getting on my last good nerve." Cadman said eventually.
"Agreed." Alroy said.
"He can't help it," Finn said. "He's anxious to find her."
"Finn's right," Cayle said. "Once he finds her, he'll calm down, trust me; but until then, we need to be patient with him, my guess is this is the longest they've been separated."
As if in response, the horse tossed his head and snorted.
"Fine." Cadman said with a sigh. "Whatever, I just wish he wouldn't be so... What is that?"
He'd glanced off to the side and noticed a group of riders, heading straight towards them.
                                                                               * * *
She made her way back to the bathroom she'd come from, and looked around a little bit, but, deciding that simply looking around a bathroom, waiting for someone to show up to show her around, she left and began exploring.
She made her way down the hall, peeking in doors. At one point, she found a library, with shelves upon shelves of books, which simply made Deanna depressed: she couldn't read.
She closed the door and continued exploring until she came upon a door that was ajar, she could hear people talking, and she couldn't help herself. She stopped just outside the door and listened, though she didn't recognize either of the voices.
"No! I will not!" One voice, a man's, said indignantly. There was a hrmph sound, and a sound of wood on wood.
"Aha! Take that!" Another voice, also a man's, said. "And you will! When I win, you will clean my horses stall for a month, that was the deal, and so you must hold."
"And if I don't?" The first voice challenged.
"Then you shall be locked in the dungeon with the other prisoners."
There was a pause. "Is she down there?"
"Who? Marianna?"
"No," The second said. "Didn't you hear? It was a case of mistaken identity."
"But why is she still here if it was a mistake? Shouldn't she be on her way?" The first asked.
There was a hesitation. "I shouldn't tell you this, but I will anyway, because we're friends, right?" The second asked, sounding like he was about to confess a deep dark secret that boarded on treachery.
"Of course we're friends." The first said.
A pause, and then, Deanna could hear an intake of breath. "The lord is planning on-"
"What are you doing?" Someone demanded from inside the room.
"Uh, Haley, what are you doing here?" One of the men asked.
"You and you're stupid chess games and conspiracy theories." The girl named Haley said.
Figuring she wouldn't be hearing any more of the lords plan from them, Deanna continued on down the hall, wondering who this Marianna of the Shore was, and why everyone thought that her and Deanna were one and the same.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chapter 21

Deanna had been escorted out of the throne room and into a bathing chamber, where the two maids who accompanied her attempted to wash her, which Deanna was more than capable of doing herself. She explained this to them, but apparently, all royalty couldn't bathe themselves. She dismissed them and then proceeded to sit in the steaming tub, finally being able to relax.
When she was done, she put on one of the robes that had been laid out, as apparently one of the maids had stolen her clothes, presumably to wash them.
She began wandering around, curious as to her whereabouts and those of her horse. That thought concerned her more than anything. Where could he be? Is he safe? Is he... dead?
That last thought made her freeze.
He couldn't be dead, could he? She forced those thoughts from her mind.
                                                                              * * *
"Can you tell the horse to calm down?" Cadman said testily as the horse they had found stomped his feet impatiently as the small party sat around the fire, eating. "We're trying to eat and he's not helping anything by acting up."
"He's anxious is all." Finn said. "No need to get upset with him; he just doesn't see why we're wasting time."
"Wasting time?" Cadman repeated.
"Will you two stop already?" Cayle interjected. "I swear, you two are worse than an old married couple."
They looked at each other.
"OK," Alroy said, walking back into the small clearing. "I have filled the water-canteens."
"Thanks, but you really don't need to announce it." Cadman said.
"I felt like it." Alroy responded, dropping the canteens by Cadman and walking closer to the fire to see if there were any leftovers.
                                                                             * * *
Deanna found one of the maids who had first showed her the washroom cleaning a suit of armor in one of the hallways.
She walked up, trying to make some sort of noise so as not to scare the poor girl.
The maid took a quick look at the armor, before nodding to herself and climbing down off of the small step-stool she had been standing on.
"Your missing the shield." Deanna said calmly, examining the armor as well.
The maid yelped in surprise and spun around.
"Sorry." Deanna said. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"That's alright." The maid said between gasps of air. "What did you need?"
"Where are my clothes?" Deanna asked.
"Being cleaned." The maid responded, her hand over her heart in a still surprised position.
"I'm sorry again." Deanna said. "I tried to stomp a bit when I got closer."
"That's alright." The maid repeated.
"Uh, so, if my clothes are being cleaned, what do I wear in the meantime?" Deanna asked after a pause. "I can't just go around in a bathrobe."
"Follow me." The maid said, folding up the step-stool and placing it next to the armor before walking off to the left, Deanna right behind her.
The maid led her through a door into a dressing room and looked through the wardrobe, picking out a few dresses and placing them on the bed.
"Which one do you like best?" She asked Deanna, who was looking suspiciously at the dresses.
"I'm not a big fan of dresses." She said.
"Which one do you like best?" The maid repeated, ignoring what Deanna had said.
She sighed and began going through the dresses until she found one she liked. An emerald green one, that wasn't too fancy or too poofy, like most of the other dresses were.
"That one?" The maid asked, and when Deanna nodded, the woman grabbed it and hung it up on the wardrobe door and began taking measurements, first of the dress, then of Deanna.
"You're in luck." She said after a few minutes of this.
"What?" Deanna asked.
"It's your size, no adjusting required." The maid answered. "Would you like help into it?"
"I think I can figure it out." Deanna said. The woman nodded and bowed slightly before leaving, closing the door behind her.
Deanna looked at the dress, still hanging on the wardrobe door. In this light, it almost seemed to shimmer.
She walked forward and took it off of the door to put it on.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chapter 20

"Whose horse is that?" Finn asked as it got closer.
Cayle ran up to it, trying to catch the reins.
He almost got trampled before he was shoved out of the way and Cadman grabbed the reins
"Cayle!" Cadman said angrily. "Do you have a death wish?!"
"Not to my knowledge." Cayle answered as he got to his feet. "Whoa! It's alright there, buddy, it's ok." He said, trying to calm the panicking horse. 
Finn and Alroy came running up to help, startling the horse.
"Do you mind?!" Cayle demanded as his efforts were thwarted by his friends.
"Here, let me try." Finn said as he approached the horse, not waiting for a response.
He held his hands out and spoke in a calming manner which seemed to work; he took the reins from Cadman and patted the horses snout as it finally calmed down.
Finn turned to his companions. "Piece of cake." He said.
"Cayle, do you know this horse or something?" Alroy asked, remembering Cayle's reaction.
Cayle nodded. "It's her horse; I'm sure of it."
"Really?" Finn asked, looking at the horse more closely. Not what he had imagined her riding. "I thought she'd have a white mare or maybe a palomino."
"Something's wrong." Cayle said.
"How do you figure?" Cadman asked.
"She wouldn't let her horse roam like this, I know she wouldn't." Cayle answered. "You don't get the kind of loyalty I saw by abusing your horse."
The horse snorted and stomped his feet, trying to go off to west. It took all of Finn's strength to hold him steady.
"Uh, I think he wants to find her." Finn commented as he struggled to hold the massive horse.
"Well, let's go find her then." Cadman said, grabbing the reins and leading the horse back to the wagons.
"I'll ride him." He said.
"Why do you get to ride him?" Finn complained.
"Because I can control him and you can't." Cadman said, a bit smugly.
The horse then promptly stood up on its hind legs and ripped the reins out of Cadman's hands, and when he landed he turned his back on him, trotting off to the west.
Cayle ran up and grabbed the reins again.
"Whoa there, boy." He said. "We'll help you find her."
The horse calmed down again, but still seemed restless as he allowed himself to be led back to the wagons.
"Could she have been ambushed?" Alroy asked suddenly.
They all looked at him in surprise.
"What?" He said. "It would explain a few things. Like how she, apparently, based on Cayle's 'gut' anyway, she wouldn't leave her horse alone, and that bare piece of the road there." He pointed at the piece of road Cayle had been looking at before being startled by Deanna's horse.
"What do we do with the horse?" Finn asked. "Since he keeps dancing around like that, I don't think he'd let us hook him up to the wagons."
"Someone can ride him." Alroy said.
"It's not that important, Finn." Alroy said, slightly annoyed.
"But it is kind of important." Finn said defensively.
"Not it's not." Alroy argued. "Fine. You want someone to ride him? Let Cayle ride him, since they're acquainted with each other. Happy now? Good."
Finn was too surprised to say anything, as that was the most words Alroy had used at one time since they had met him, it was also the sharpest tone he had used.
Cayle mounted the horse after a few minutes, as the horse was apparently not accustomed to anyone but his mistress riding him.
"What should we call him in the mean time?" Cadman asked. "It's not like we can keep calling him 'boy' or 'horse'."
Alroy raised his hands in an act of exasperation. "It's. Not. Important." He said slowly, taking his time saying each word, in hopes of his meaning getting across, since they were ignoring him when he spoke normally.
                                                                             * * *
"Well?" He asked as his messenger entered the room.
"The message has been delivered, and the terms have been accepted, my lord." The man reported, bowing. "The King of the Eastern Shore shall be here as soon as the Pass opens up, it's been horribly flooded the past week."
"Good." He said, smiling.
                                                                             * * *
"Well?" Herndon asked as his informant entered.
"She hasn't arrived at the next location, sir." He said. "She was kidnapped at the four-way road before she picked up the false trail."
"Who kidnapped her?" Herndon asked.
"The Duke of Hammershon, sir." The informant said. "He believes himself to be a king and acts like one, as well. He is quite insane."
Herndon thought a moment. "She'll be fine; at least she's out of the way now. Go tell the southern scouts to begin preparations, we shall be starting shortly."
The informant nodded and left the room.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chapter 19

They had been traveling for a while now, and still hadn't seen any sign of her.
Cayle stopped his wagon to look at the map again. Could she have changed direction?
"Why are we stopping?" Cadman asked as he pulled his wagon up next to Cayle's.
"Needed to look at the map again." Cayle said.
"Again?" Cadman asked.
"Yes 'again'." Cayle said. "I just want to make sure we don't stray from the trail."
"Not that this is much of a trail." Alroy pointed out. "You follow slight tracks in the dirt and eyewitnesses who may just be lying to get the money you tend to promise; not exactly a solid lead."
"It's all we've got." Cayle said, slightly defensive as he put the map away. "Okay, let's get going."
They came to a four-way fork that, based on the tracks, was used frequently.
"Guess you won't be finding any tracks here." Alroy commented.
Cayle held back his reply as he climbed down to look at the tracks more closely, to see if he could pick out her tracks in the mess, but to no avail. All the tracks looked the same, although, there was a slight outline that appeared to have been swept away, to hide something. Could that have been her?
Suddenly, they all heard a panicked neigh from a nearby horse. They glanced at their own horses to see what had panicked them, but they were silent and gave no indication that they had made any noise.
If it wasn't our horses, Cayle thought, then whose was it?
Suddenly, a brown and white stallion came tearing out of the faraway woods to the north, baring down on the small group.
Cayle recognized that horse.
It was Deanna's. But why would she let her horse loose? He had seen first hand the loyalty that they shared, and knew she would not have simply left her horse to roam. No, something was wrong.
He could feel it.
                                                                       * * *
The man looked at her in confusion. "You are Marianna of the Shore, are you not?"
"Never heard of her." Deanna responded.
The man looked even more confused before he turned to a man at his right shoulder and whispered something. The man looked at her closely before whispering back to the first man.
"Bring me the guards who brought this woman in." The man ordered, and three of the guards positioned around the room obeyed and left to find them. "Bring the woman forward."
The guard behind her shoved her forward, and she glared at him. "Didn't your mother ever teach you how to treat a lady?"
The two men stared at her for a moment before whispering to each other once more. It was kind of eerie.
"Look, this is obviously some misunderstanding, so I'll just go on my way." Deanna said, turning to the door to leave, but the guard blocked her way.
"You cannot leave, not yet." The man said, finally addressing her.
"And why not?" She asked.
"You cannot leave until I have formally apologized." He explained. "This has all been terribly embarrassing."
"Okay then, go ahead." She said. He laughed in response.
"You do not understand, it is not that simple." He said, speaking in a tone that one would take with a child. "I have been embarrassed, and by that right, my kingdom has been embarrassed, and that cannot be undone until we have shown you hospitality, as is the way of my people."
Deanna was more than a little confused by this.
"Please, stay a few days, it is the least we can do." He said.
Before she could answer, he clapped his hands twice and two maids appeared, their heads down. "Please take this one Lady..." He began, but faltered. "What is your name?"
"Deanna." She answered. He smiled.
"Please take this Lady Deanna to one of our empty chambers and get her cleaned up." He said. The two girls curtsied, before turning to her and leading her away after the guard had removed the shackles.
If they had thought she was this Marianna of the Shore, then that girl was in some serious trouble.
The three guards came back in, bringing with them the captain who had captured Deanna. He bowed to the man.
"You have brought me the wrong wench." He snarled, his demeanor completely different than the one he had used with Deanna.
"I am deeply sorry, my lord, but they look an awful lot alike." The captain explained, his head down.
"I don't care! You were supposed to being me that sea wench!" The man exploded. "How else am I supposed to ransom her father?!"
The captain flinched at the harsh tone. Then he heard something he didn't expect: laughter.
He looked up to see him laughing, confusing the captain even more.
"My lord?" He said quietly.
"This is brilliant!" He said through his laughter.
"How so, my lord?" The captain inquired.
"I may not be able to ransom the real wench to her father, but, if my sources are correct, then she is still inland." He explained through his glee. "And we can just pass off this woman as his daughter!"
"But, sir, wouldn't Maria-, I mean, the wench's father know his daughter from a look alike?" The captain asked. "If the ransom is paid, and when he comes to claim her, wouldn't that sour the deal?"
"Don't you see?" the man said, his excitement growing with every passing second. "He won't get the chance to leave with her! He'll pay the ransom, I'll demand he pay it in person, and when we introduce the other one, we'll kill him before he realizes what's happening! It's perfect."
"What will we do with the girl afterwards?" The captain asked. "Kill her?"
"No," The man said. "I've been getting quite lonely as of late, I think I shall take her for a bride."

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chapter 18

"Ok, left or right?" Alroy asked as they came to a fork in the road.
Cayle looked from left to right and back again, trying to think. He pulled out the map and studied it.
"OK, so, according to this, she has been heading east, so, left." He said.
Alroy nodded.
Behind him, Cayle heard Cadman and Finn's wagon start again. He held out his hand to the right and motioned for them to come up beside his and Alroys.
"We go left, and then we'll stop for lunch." He said. Cadman, who was driving, nodded and went ahead.
                                                                    * * *
The guard led her through the door into a hall and through another door, and another, until they came to a maze of twists and turns of halls that made Deanna wondering who designed it.
Finally, he led her into what appeared to be a throne room, with two chairs sitting up on a podium with one of them occupied by a man who looked like he hadn't done a lot of smiling in his day.
He got to his feet, and as he did so, all the soldiers, servants and everyone else in the room, aside from Deanna, dropped to their knees in a show of respect.
"Marianna of the Shore, welcome to my home." The man said. Deanna, who had been looking at everyone in the room, suddenly looked back at him.
"Who?" She asked.
                                                                     * * *
They had finished lunch a short time later, finishing off the last of their smoked beef.
"OK," Cayle said as he pulled out the map and spread it out of the ground. "I say we keep going another 3 miles, and then we rest for the night, or until we reach another town."
Alroy thought a moment. "Wouldn't it be wiser to go around any more towns unless our supplies were getting low? After all, wouldn't the woman you were chasing have lookouts in the villages? Anyone can be bought."
Cayle thought a moment. "No, she wouldn't do that." He said, thinking back on his brief meeting with her.
"And how can you be sure?" Alroy challenged.
"I just know, OK?" Cayle said defensively. "It would be out of character."
"But it would explain how she keeps eluding you." Alroy pointed out. "I'm going to go refill the water skins."
He picked them up and walked away in search of a nearby stream, leaving Cayle, mid-comeback, with his thoughts.
When Alroy returned some time later, he made a point to avoid Cayle as much as possible.
"He's done this before." Cayle muttered as he saw Alroy join Finn in the other wagon as Cayle climbed into the other.
Cadman climbed onto the wagon and took the reins and directed the horses back to the road.

Chapter 8

"Who's the killer, mam?" One of the serving girls asked.
"Well, it's not you, so you can relax; though I'd stop taking the silver-ware if I were you." Deanna responded; the girl jumped in surprise.
"How did you kn-" She started to say, but cut herself off too late.
"Lillie, it's not important." Harriet said off-handedly. "Besides, we already knew."
"You did?"
"Of course; now, go away please." Lillie practically ran from the room.
"Now, who killed my father?" Harriet asked. "I can't imagine who would, or could, do such a thing, he was so well liked."
"Why don't you ask your mother." Deanna said.
A puzzled look came over Harriet's face, but Deanna was hardly paying attention to her, instead watching the widow, who had jumped when Deanna had spoken.
"Are you insane? Why would my mother kill her own husband?" Harriet objected.
"Greed, perhaps? I don't know her motives," Deanna said. "But I do know that she stands to gain the most with his death, and, as you said yourself, he was so well liked."
"Mother?" Harriet said, turning to her. "Please say it's not true."
But her mother wasn't listening. She had turned white as a sheet as soon as the accusation came out into the open.
"I must say, you did an excellent job concealing the deed. I had dismissed you as a suspect considering your grief, but you weren't really grieving, were you?" Deanna said.
"Stop it!" Harriet said, covering her ears. "My mother would never do such a thing! How dare you accuse her!"
"Harriet," Her mother said quietly. "Be a good girl and shut up."
Harriet sat there, open-mouthed at her mothers words. "Mother?"
The woman was looking at Deanna, steel in her eyes. "You caught me; didn't think you'd be able to figure it out."
"Why did you kill him?" Harriet asked quietly before Deanna could speak.
"He stood in the way of my inheritance." She said simply, as if that explained everything.
"What inheritance?" Harriet asked.
"Your father had inherited this Inn, and he had promised it to his wife, who would get it upon his death." Deanna interjected. "By the way, I wouldn't drink your tea."
"Why?" Harriet asked, unconsciously glancing at her tea-cup.
"You stood to inherit part of the Inn as well." Was the answer.
Harriet stared at it for a moment, before slowly turning back to her mother in shock. "You wouldn't? Please tell me you didn't."
But her mother stared back, unconcerned. The tears she had been crying not five minutes before had suddenly vanished from her eyes.
Harriet stared at her mother in horror. "You would kill your own daughter? For a piece of real-estate?"
Silence was her answer, and that was more than enough. Harriet stood and walked to the other end of the room. Her shoulder's were shaking.
Deanna stepped outside the door to wave some of the local guard that patrolled for the local Duke. After explaining what had happened.
They came and arrested the widow, who showed no concern or remorse for her actions.
Harriet watched in tears as they led her mother away to the jail.
                                                                       *       *      *
"How did it fall off?" Cayle asked as he, Cadman, and Alroy stood in a semi-circle looking at the fallen wheel.
"I don't know; it's your wagon." Alroy said.
Cayle bent down and raised the wheel so that he could examine it more closely.
"The foods ready."  Finn said from where he was sitting over the small campfire he had constructed while the others had been obsessing over the fallen wheel of the wagon.
"Oh, thanks Finn." Cayle said; he set the wheel back down and walked over to get some food, Cadman and Alroy following.
"We'll fix the wheel tomorrow." Cayle said. "I don't know about you, but I just don't feel like fixing it tonight."
"Procrastination is man's best friend." Cadman said with a grin.
"I thought that was dogs." Finn said. They all started laughing, Finn, after a moment, started laughing as well.
                                                                       *       *        *
Deanna walked over to stand next to Harriet, who hadn't moved from her spot in the doorway since they led her mother away.
"I'm sorry," Deanna said, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder. Harriet turned to her, tears standing in her eyes.
"How could my mother do such a thing?" She asked in a quiet voice.
Deanna shrugged. "Greed is a powerful thing."
Harriet wiped the tears from her eyes. "Well, I'd better get started on the dishes if we're going to be open tomorrow."
She headed off for the kitchen, but Deanna stopped her. "You can take some time, you know. No one will hold it against you."
"No, it has to be open tomorrow." Harriet insisted. "My father never left a customer out in the cold, and nor will I."
Deanna smiled. "Alright, if you feel that's best. I don't think I'll trouble you for the night, I'll be heading off now."
"Alright." Harriet said. "Thank you for finding my father's killer. Even if it was my own mother."
Deanna didn't know how to answer that, so she just nodded and got her things together, since she never checked into a room, and left the Inn.
She went around and got Krennan ready to leave.
"Well Krennan, I solved it." She said quietly. He snorted in response and she smiled at him before mounting. They walked out of the barn, and when they were clear, she let him break into a run.
                                                                   *        *      *
Harriet watched her from the window, her face frozen in pain and grief.
She turned to find the strange man who had been there only a few days prior to the stranger, seated at one of the tables.
"You did well." He said.
"My mother was arrested, you never said she would have to take the fall." She said.
He shrugged. "I thought it was implied. But well done anyway, you managed to peak her interest for longer than I thought possible."
Harriet curtsied like a school girl, a smile on her lips.  "It's from years of getting my father to do what I want."
The man smiled in return, creasing the area on his face where his scar sat.
"You did well, and so I will help you with your parents' debts, as promised." He said, taking out his purse and pouring some of the contents onto the table. It was all gold.
                                                                    *       *      *
The night went by quickly, Deanna rode most of the way, stopping occasionally to rest Krennan, and then she would be off.
"Well, this pattern seems familiar." She commented as she stopped once more to water Krennan and to get something to drink herself.
She sat down and started eating some dried fruit and a biscuit that she had, noting the tastelessness of the fruit.
"I really should have requested some more food from that Inn." She muttered as she ate.
Soon, she was off again, heading for another Inn to get a meal that actually had a taste.
                                                                    *       *       *
The next day, Cadman and Cayle started working on re-attaching the wheel to the wagon; also trying to figure out why it kept loosening and falling off.
"OK, hopefully that will fix it this time." Cayle said. "Who would have thought that this one wheel would give us this much trouble."
"Did you ever think of getting a new wheel?" Alroy suggested.
"This was the new wheel." Cadman said. "We'd been having trouble with the old one so we got this one; maybe the problem is the wagon?"
"I don't know." Cayle said. "There is nothing wrong with the wheel or the wagon, they just don't want to stay together."
"Maybe it's operator error." Finn muttered just loud enough for them all to hear.
Finn glanced at them to see they were all staring at him. "What?"
                                                                    *       *     *
Deanna began her usual pattern, stopping at Inn's, pubs, and any other place where Herndon would have stopped, but with no luck.
When she stopped for the night in the woods, she thought over everything.
Since no one had seen him, that means that he must have either bought them, or taken a different route than the one she's been on.
She sighed, really hating this.
She leaned up against Krennan and pulled her blanket around her shoulders and fell asleep. She'd worry about that in the morning, but for right now, she needed sleep.