Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 48

      Quin slumped into a chair. "Where did you last see her?" he asked, his worry-filled voice tight.
     "It actually wasn't too far from here. We were going to come into town for a night, see Ros's family a bit before heading home. But no one has seen her - I've been asking everyone I've seen."
     "We should look for her." Quin began to rise, but Daril put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him. "We should go now."
      "It's no use. We couldn't find her."
      "It's plenty of use! This is my mother, and I will find her!"
      "Quin..." Isadora began from the top of the stairs.
      "No, Isa. You're not a part of this. And neither are you!" He rounded on Daril. "If you hadn't whisked my mother off her feet with tales of a better life, we wouldn't be in this situation!" He rose and made for the door. "I'm going now, and no one is going to stop me. And I'm not coming home unless Ros is with me. Goodbye, Isa, Lilia."
     Isadora raced forward in her nightgown and bare feet. "Quin! Quin, please!"
     The door closed in her face.
     She raced out into the night. Cold air stinging her face, she caught up with Quin's quick and angry stride.
     "Please, Quin. Come back." She grabbed his arm, feeling goosebumps she wasn't sure were from the cold.
     "Isa, I need to do this. You'll be safe with Arin and Lilia . And I'll come back just as soon as I find Ros. But please, don't make this any harder for me. I know you're brave, and I know you're tough, but you've also come from nobility. And I just- I just don't want you to get hurt." He raised her chin with gentle fingers so that she looked into his eyes. "Isa, please stay."
     "Quin, I want you here with me." She saw the tears in her eyes, and struggled to meet them. Quin pushed a stray hair behind her ear.
     "I love you, Isa. I don't want to lose you."
     "I'll wait for you, Quin."
     As he walked away, she added in a whisper, "I love you too."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Part 47

The momentary distraction by Rudolph when Alisen careened into his arms was all the two thugs needed. They heaved themselves up, raining down soil, and pulled the Rudolph and Alisen away from each other in a dual motion, before holding identical daggers to their throats, instantly silencing them.
"Now, you both jus' don't scream, hear me?" Jette had spoken, and now he and Beetel began tearing up the nearby green clothes into narrow strips, and using them to bind the ankles and wrists of their prisoners, as well as to fashion effective gags. Within minutes Rudolph and Isadora could not move nor speak. The daggers were tucked back into the belts of the rouges, as they proceeded to rob the pair of their packs and boots- those they were to sell on market day for a fetching price, Beetel snickered.
The thugs had gotten their revenge, and left merrily, stolen goods bouncing on their backs as they walked with a newfound spring in their step, leaving Rudolph and Alisen alone and tied up, with no way to call for help, and no food or water left in their possession.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 46

Alisen held her breath, knowing it was too late. Suddenly, a large shape hurtled out of the darkness, hitting both men in one stroke and throwing them both to the ground. It was Rudolph. He fell on top of them, carried forward by his momentum. Alisen's breath caught in her throat and she wanted to scream. Both men were obviously stronger than Rudolph, and without the advantage of surprise, he hadn't a chance. She leapt down from the tree to help, but slipped on the green cloth below and stumbled into Rudolph's arms.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Part 45

Daril was the man who had married Quin's mother, Ros. He was downstairs at the small wooden table by the front door, and Isadora watched as he told both him and Lilia that he and Ros had run into some trouble  at the first inn they stayed at. There were two men there, thugs, who broke into their room that night and held knifes under their throats, demanding all their gold. The morning found them robbed of all their money and with no idea where the tow men had gone. Unable to pay the innkeeper, they had been thrown out, and had traveled through the forest, trying to find the nearest town and get help. But Ros twisted her ankle as they were crossing over a stream and Daril had been forced to leave her and get help before dark. He had run as fast as he could and only paused for breath at twilight when he saw lights up ahead. He had rushed back with three men from the town to where he had left Ros, only to discover she was gone. He and the two men searched the forest until dawn began to lighten the sky.
Isadora watched from the top of the stairs, hands clasped around her knees, as Quin dropped his head into his hands and Lilia nervously played with her hair.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 44

Isadora closed her eyes and tried hard not to think about what had just happened with Quin. About what he had said. About how the mere thought of him now caused a sensation in her chest like she wanted to laugh and cry and dance all at the same time. About how everything had changed with that one little word.
     There was a sharp knock at the door and Quin slowly dragged himself out of bed to open it. Isadora opened her eyes but did not dare look at him. Lilia shouted from behind the closed door,
     "Quin! Please come!" The door opened, and she grabbed Quin's hand. "You have to come. It's Daril. And he says he's here about your mother." Isadora was about to get out of bed and join the cousins, but Quin said,
     "Stay here Isa. Just" -his voice cracked- "don't move. I'll be back."
     The heavy door shut, leaving Isadora alone in the darkness.

(P.S. Sorry about not posting. But now I'm just home from my trip, so everything should be back on schedule for a while.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Part 43

Alisen shook the soil off of the thick scroll. The footsteps were growing nearer, and soon Alisen understood that they were not the footsteps of one man, but two. She hugged the tree, paralyzed with fear. The footsteps grew nearer, and with them voices became audible.
"...pesky no-good kids just walking around looking for trouble. Just you wait, Beetel, as soon as I have my hands around the neck of that girl you just wait... I'll-"
"Calm yourself, Jette, they are around here somewhere, you saw their camp remains yourself. Now just calm down until we find them. You'll do no good running your mouth off about them, you'll only make yourself hoarse and give me a splitting headache."
Alisen pinched herself hard to break the spell of her stand-still and scrambled up the tree, thankful for its low-hanging branches and thick canopy. She watched as down below Beetel's and Jette's bodies appeared. She drew in a sharp intake of breath, realizing that, while the scroll was tucked safely in her boot, the green cloth was lying exposed beside the tree. Alisen closed her eyes and dug her fingernails into the soft bark of the tree, hoping very hard that the two men would continue walking.
She opened her eyes, and gasped inwardly. Beetel and Jette were crouched directly below her, their eyes on the cloth. They both looked up.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 42

Apologies for the late post. My Internet access has been spotty at best for the last few days. And now I am going to do something that is going to make you, miss Politick, very annoyed (although it seems justified for all the times you've ruined all my wonderful plans by throwing a new twist into the story). This Isadora / Quin scene is all yours. I'm not interested in writing it. So I'm switching back to Rudolph and Alisen for now and you can write "falling-in-love scenes" for Quin and Isadora to your heart's content.

"Alisen! Wait! Please!" Rudolph's cry rang through the trees to Alisen's retreating back, but she continued, scooping her pack on her way out of the clearing. She did not look back at Rudolph, although even if she had, she might not have noticed the newly wet eyelashes and trembling jaw. Her own eyes blurred, and she began to pay little attention to where she was going, so long as it was away from him.
After about three minutes of blind wandering, she realized what a bad situation she had gotten herself into and sunk down against a tree to create a plan. When no ideas came to mind, she continued sitting, figuring it was just as well she stayed in one place rather than uselessly expending all of her energy. Soon he heard someone trampling through to forest some ways back.
Rudolph, she figured.I can't deal with him right now, or ever, at least until her gets some brains into him. Thinking to hide from her former companion, she crawled around to the other side of the rather large tree, where a bush obscured her form from any passersby.
Waiting for Rudolph to pass, Alisen sunk her fingers into the earth and looked through the leaves of the bush at the forest beyond. Then, through the soil, her fingertips touched what was unmistakably roughly woven cloth. Intrigued, she dug for it and pulled out a green cloth bag. Inside was a piece of paper.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Part 41

Isadora froze in her bed as Quin looked over at her, shy after his bold words. She did not meet his eyes, feeling awkward under his gaze. This she did not understand, for she had felt so comfortable around him for the past couple of weeks, and she had also nursed her crush on him, and so had been quietly eager for this moment. Guilt, again, washed over Isadora as images of Rudolph swam over her vision. The images dissolved into salty tears that lurched down her cheeks in harsh ridges. She was sobbing now, and covering her face with the thick knit blanket that had been pooled around her knees.
Quin looked away, staring hard at the floor, before leaning over to brush his hand across her cheek, bringing it back to his own face. His hand was streaked with tears and he rubbed them onto his own cheek, showing her that he shared her confusion and pain. Neither understood why they felt pain, they only knew it was there. Quin leaned over once more to tuck the blanket around isadora, under her chin, before moving over to his own bed on the other side of the room.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 40

The next morning the travelers awoke to birdsong from the trees above. Gumbing and sore, they sat up, and as Rudolph rummaged through to bag for some breakfast, Alisen began to clean up the clearing. Still blinking the bright sunlight out of his eyes, Rudolph handed the last few strips of meat to Alisen.
"That's the last of the food, Alisen," he said. "We'll need to find another town by tonight to get more."
"That'd be a great plan, Ru dolph, ecept that we don't know where the heck we are. Why don't we go back and ask for a map or something?"
"No!" Ru dolph shouted unintentionally. Seeing Alisen's curious glance, he added. We should kept moving forward. We... can't go back."
"I can't believe you're still keeping things from me, Rudolph. Even now, even after everything. Why can't we go back?"
"The two men that we-- you knocked out last night. Apparently they were going to come back for us. And not alone either. I just wanted to get you out and get both of us to safety."
"I am so fed up with you. Why did you think you had to keep this from me? I'm thie one that saved you yesterday, if you remember. I'm not some naive, defenseless, little princess!" She spat the words at him with such forced that he had to step back, and he cringed at the reference to Isadora. He had told her about his life as a stablehand, but had never mentioned that Isadora was a princess. He'd hoped she would assume Isadora was another servant at the palace. But the names of the royal family were common knowledge. He shouldn't have assumed that just because Alisen had been in Taliss's cave for a few months that she'd forgotten what every village child knew. And it seemed that Alisen had put two and two together, thanks to his brainlessness, and she'd hate him all the more for not telling her that he was in love with the princess.
"That's it, Rudolph. I'm done. You'd think 2 weeks in a cave with someone would be enough to get to know them, but I guess not. I thought you cared, but now I see that I'm wrong. Goodbye, Rudolph."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Part 39

Rudolph took in the innkeeper's warning as he inhaled a small breakfast of yams spread on toast. He was sure that they had to leave quickly, before they could be attacked again. George, in his worry for the two young travelers, had provided Rudolph with a pack full of food, and two flasks of water. He had shaken his head with finality when Rudolph had tried to hand him some coins.
Alisen came downstairs as Rudolph was finishing his food, her hair wet from her bath (Rudolph had insisted on paying for the water). She sat down beside him, attacking her own yam-toast. The two rouges did not come downstairs, and this made Rudolph fidgety and nervous. He knew they should get out very soon, but refused to let himself say anything to Alisen until she had finished her last bite of toast.
Rudolph and Alisen left the inn in a hurry, George's warning echoing through his mind again and again. They hopped over rocks and splashed through narrow streams that masked their footsteps, mashed their way through thick vegetation and crisscrossed through trees that had grown so close together that their branches had become entangled. By dusk Rudolph was close to collapsing. His face bore the tiny scratches of tree branches, and he was wet from the waist down from all the hurrying through water. His boots, which had sucked in the water like sponges, felt heavier than lead, and he sat down messily onto the mossy tree roots of a massive oak, whose leaves provided coverage over a small clearing. Alisen, who looked pretty much the same as Rudolph, managed a meek call over to him from where she stood in the clearing's center.
"Oi, Rudolph! Let's...well, we will stay here tonight. not go to sleep without eating a bite first or tomorrow you will feel more wretched than you do right now."
Rudolph, in answer, threw off his pack. Alisen removed a loaf of bread embedded with salted nuts, a small package of dried fruit, and several strips of dried pheasant. She went to sit beside Rudolph, and together they  finished the meal, surprised that they could feel hunger through their exhaustion, and realizing that they were very hungry. Afterwards, they drank heavily from the water flasks they each wore at their hips, and then bid each other sleepy goodnights. They both produced yawns as  they stretched out beneath the oak's canopy, before falling into much-needed slumbers.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Part 35

There was an ache within Isadora as she fell asleep that night in the unfamiliar bedding of the house. Quin remained downstairs for some time, speaking with his cousin whom he had never met before.
As she twisted around beneath the sheets waiting for the murmuring sound of speech to cease and for the footsteps of Quin to kiss the stairs up to the bedrooms, Isadora stared out her window at a moon partially covered by the long branches of an olive tree.
Finally, after what seemed like many hours, Quin entered Isadora's room to say goodnight. Isadora, feeling a sudden burst of adrenaline, spoke:
"Do you love her?" Her face was tight, her eyes accusing, and after spitting out the words she pursed her lips and looked at the floor, her face reddening. Quin's eyes got huge as he looked at her.
"What? Is, what did you ask? I...I do not know her. So no...I do not love her. What is this, Is? What is going on? I was talking to her because she is family and I do not know her! I like to know my family...what has gotten into you?"
" you do not love her." Isadora spoke with uncertainty now, nothing backing up her words. She was embarrassed by her outburst and had no idea what to say.
"No. I do not. I thought I had make that clear, Is." Quin's words punched at the air in the room, and he roughly ran his hand over his face. He looked very tired to Isadora. He sighed and sat on Isadora's bed, back to her.
"I...I love somebody. Not her...I love..."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 36

Rudolph was awakened the next morning by the growling of his stomach and the light hitting his face through the grimy window. Alisen, wrapped in her blankets, was fast asleep with a slight smile on her face, dirty from her journey from Taliss' cave. Careful not to wake  her, he went downstairs to look for breakfast and somewhere to wash up. As he reached to bottom of the old stairs, he met the landlord, George.
     "Hullo, sir. Did you have a good rest?"
     "Oh, yes, thank you." Rudolph sat down at one of the tables in the dining room, and George took a seat across from him.
     "Good, good. There were no further... disturbances, then? And the young lady is fine?"
     "No,  there weren-- wait a minute, how did you know about that?"
     "I know just about everything that goes on around here. Not to mention that those two men, some of our best customers, came down in the the middle of the night groaning like dogs. That's why I came to find you, see. They're not nice fellas. Good customers, but not too nice. And they've taken a disliking to you and your lady friend, see. And so I'd suggest you get out of town, and fast, or they will hunt you down and you're not likely to get home - ever.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Part 35

Isadora and Quin reached the town the next day. It was raining lightly and the fog was so thick Isadora was unable to see past her hand when she held it in front of her. Quin led her into a small tavern where they snacked on salted tree-nuts and drank foaming cups of steaming chocolate.
Isadora was feeing very good about being in the town, Rydon, as it was called, because the tavern was warm and there was laughter all around. She smiled at Quin, who is return gave her a tight-lipped smile. She knew that he was in pain. He had barely talked the whole way to the town. Isadora understood that he was dreadfully worried about his mother and while the town was satisfying to her, Quin would be smiling easily when they were on their way back to Jodra with his mother in tow.
It was very late when they left the tavern. The stars, although not visible with the heavy layer of fog, were out an d surrounding a big round moon. Quin had a cousin in Rydon, and of whom Isadora knew nothing about.
Isadora and Quin arrived at the door wet and tired. Isadora in fact, was so tired that she wanted nothing more than to collapse onto something soft. She was rushed into full alertness however the moment Quin's cousin opened the door. She had a slim, strong figure and long wavy hair that seemed to hug her hips. Her skin was the color of tree-sap and her eyes her an impossibly rich green. A green that Isadora had only seen captured by the valleys encircling the castle. It was not a green that was possessed by irises, but this woman's eyes had that beauty. She was more girl than woman, seeming to be about the age of Isadora, who herself was close to seventeen years.
The girl introduced herself as Lilia and it became very clear to Isadora as Quin introduced himself that they had never met and in fact, they were very distant cousins. Distant enough that marriage would be possible. Isadora, although she despised herself for it, began to feel the heavy hand of jealousy clutch at her heart.
"Come in, please." Lilia smiled.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 34

After a minute or so sitting on the bed with Alisen, Rudolph stood up.
     "I'm going to try and get these thugs out of my room. You stay here. Rest a bit."
     "Rudolph, if you think you're just going to leave me here--"
     "Stop, Alisen. You're worn out. Just stay on the bed." Alisen relented with a glare, and flopped onto the threadbare pillows. Rudolph took the arm of one of the men- Ern, probably, he thought - and tried to drag him into the corridor. Rudolph got Ern a few feet toward the door when Ern's limp body got stuck between the bed and the dresser. As Rudolph tried to get him un-stuck, Alisen said,
     "Hey, Rudolph. I'm sorry for getting mad. But it was totally justified. I can't believe you thought I'd be safer in the cave!"
     "Look, I explained in the note. Taliss is now going to be combing the countryside for me. If she finds me - us, now - we both die. If you had just stayed in the cave, she would rarely be there because she'd be out looking for me, and if I did get caught, you'd be safe. And if I didn't, I'd bring back help to come get you. You have to understand - I thought it was the best waaaaaaa--"
     With a large tug, Ern came free and nearly flew across the floor, and Rudolph fell back onto his rear.
     "Oh, for goodness sakes, Rudolph. This is pathetic. No wonder you got captured by Taliss." Alisen hopped off the bed, heaved Ern onto her back, which seemed far to tiny to support Ern's large figure, carried him out the door, and dropped him at the end of the hall, several feet before the top of the stairs. She came back into Rudolph's room and looked up at him. "You gonna get the other one, or should I carry him out too?"
     Rudolph reddened, and quickly muttered, "No, I'll get him." With difficulty, Rudolph heaved Al onto his own back, and trying hard not to trip, he just managed to get out the door before he had to put him down.
     Coming back into the room before Alisen could see that he hadn't managed to get even halfway down the hall, he shut the door behind him, and Alisen locked it,
     "So that they can't get back in. They'll probably be waking up pretty soon." Grinning, she added, "I don't envy the headaches they'll have."
     Rudolph smiled briefly, then grabbed a blanket from on top of the bed and spread it out in a corner of the room. "You take the bed," he told her.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Part 33

Rudolph sat there in his bed, stunned.
"How...what?"He managed to get out. he felt a lump in the back of his throat. She was safe. He had been so worried and now he could see that she was safe and he wanted to cry with relief.
"When you covered up that section, you left a small gap at the bottom, light from coming through from it. I crouched down to see through that shaft of light and there it was...the free mountainside. It took all morning to dig my way out, and then until now to follow your tracks. You leave quite a mess behind you, did you know that? Broken branches...heavy footsteps...torn cloth from your trousers. I suppose that means I will have to patch them up for you."
"What? thank you, I mean...I can fix them myself..."
"Oh, can you? Well if you can do that why don't you tell me why you thought it was okay to leave me there, alone. With a dragon."
"Oh, knock it off, Rudolph. I thought you cared about me. I mean, why else did you talk to me so much like you did? Oh, I get it. You were just lonely, right? Just needed someone to talk to you and to listen to you until you could get out and find that Isadora girl, right?"
The two men on the floor began to stir, and Alisen, in all her rage, grabbed the wooden tray that had had held Rudolph's soup and bread the previous night, and whacked them both smartly over the heads in one great swoop. Their chins clunked against the hard-wood floor and all movement ceased.
"Snakes, Alisen! I'm sorry, alright? I just..." Rudolph, who had leapt up from his bed upon Alisen's violent act, sank back down into the quilt. "I just assumed that I could get help for you quicker if i went alone. I couldn't...bear for you to be out there with case anything went wrong."
"Idiot! Idiot! You thought leaving me with a fire-breathing dragon in that cave would be safer than taking me out into the fresh air with you? The THERE IS NO DRAGON-FRESH-AIR?!?"
"Please...calm down. I'm so sorry..." Rudolph got up slowly and moved over to put his arm around Alisen, who at this point was quivering with anger. He expected her to slap his hand away in fury, and indeed her shoulders did tighten when he made contact, but surprisingly she let him hug her. She turned into him and started to cry, really cry. And Rudolph buried his head in her hair---her hair that smelled like singed pine needles. He breathed deeply.

Let's Sort This Out

Alright. So it seems there has been a mistake in the writing. A, as one would say, slight misunderstanding. In parts 31 and 32 of the story, things get confusing. Allow me to explain.

I wrote post number 31, and then BookBird pointed out that there were some spelling errors, I went back to my post to fix them, and decided to add another paragraph and change some things. BookBird obviously did not check back that night, instead she most likely began to write her part, which posted the following night. And for this reason there are two paragraphs, one by me and one by her, that describe the inn in further detail as well as describe Rudolph's room.

It is actually kind of interesting to read these two different paragraphs. One can really see the differences between our writing styles and what we choose to focus on.

Anyways, hope that cleared up any misunderstandings. And also, in reply to BookBird's comment on electricity- no, I do not think there would be electricity, but instead candles and such, for the reason that if there is electricity in their world, they would have toasters and outlets and heaters and air conditioners and thus we would have to get into that and all the other technological things they have. It seems way to modern for the story. I thought the story to be pre-electricity. Books of Bayern-esque world.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 32

     "Thank you, madam," Rudolph said gratefully, involuntarily licking his lips. He'd had nothing that day but an apple he'd plucked off a tree on his way to the city. He followed her, slightly dazed, through the corridor - too narrow for much comfort after the largeness of the cave - and up a set of rickety wood steps that did not seem quite willing to support the large landlady. Even with his slim frame, he stepped on them cautiously; he was sure the landlady and her husband would not be pleased with him if he broke their stairs, and he couldn't afford to have that kind of attention. After all, he was still a runaway from the royal family. Not that they'd send anyone looking for him, but he'd rather keep out of trouble for a while.
     The landlady showed him into a small room with a bed at one end, a dresser at the other, and not much else. The room most likely could not fit another piece of furniture and still give him room to stand anywhere other than on top of the bed.
     "There you go, sir. I'll send George up in a minute with some food for you." She patted him on the shoulder and left the room. Rudolph sat on the bed and took off his shoes. He lay back on the pillow and tried to think about what he would do next.
     When George, the old landlord came in about 10 minutes later, Rudolph was lying, fully clothed, on top of the bed. He was fast asleep.

Rudolph woke several hours later at the creaking of an opening door - his door, he soon realized.
     "Where do you reckon he's got his bag?" A gruff, deep whisper came from the open door.
     "How do you know he's got any money, Ern?" A second voice, also whispering, asked.
     "Of course he's got money, Al. Did you see that tunic he was wearing? Sure, it was dirty, but it was obviously pretty nice. Come on, let's see if we can find anything." As the two men crept into the room, Rudolph could see from the faint moonlight that these were the men he had seen downstairs. He considered yelling for help, but he was quite certain that these men could hurt him much faster than anyone could come running.
     Suddenly a light turned on in the hall, and Rudolph had to cover his eyes. From the shouts of surprise, it seemed like Al and Ern had had to as well.
    "Well, ain't that just something. How dare you try to rob that man!" A woman's voice came from the open door. Rudolph tried to open his eyes, and immediately shut them again. The woman had turned on his bedroom light and was advancing toward the two thieves. There were several large thumps, two yells of pain, and the thud of two bodies hitting the floor.
     "Don't worry, they're just knocked out. I would hope for something as kind if I were you, sir. How dare you leave me all alone in that cave!"
     It was Alisen.

*P.S. Do they have electric lights? I have no idea. For the sake of surprise, I decided they did for now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Part 31

Rudolph entered the inn far after the dark blue stain of night had coated the sky. He was wearing a sweat-stained tunic, rough slacks that were too hot for the weather, and his worn-out boots. He plopped down into the nearest chair and for the first time looked around.
The Inn was called the Drinking Bear, and on the front the name hung from a sign that bore a painted bear guzzling a mug of beer.
There were only two other people in the inn- both men, and both burly and drinking beer whilst talking in the lowest of voices. It sounded like buzzing to Rudolph's tired ears, so when a large woman with callused hands tapped him hard on the shoulder and said, "Hey son, interested in a room or occupying seats my customers could sit in." Rudolph cleared his head enough to understand her. He decided not to point out the fact that there were three people in the room and at least ten chairs to go with the small oak-wood tables.
"A room, please ma'am. And some food as well, if there is any left at this hour." Rudolph automatically thumbed the bottom of his tunic, where he had sewn 10 gold coins into the hem.
"Alright, then. Follow me please, sir, and as soon as you are settled in I'll have my husband bring you up some soup and bread."
"That would be really nice, ma'am, I'm starved, you see..." Rudolph, who had been stranded in a dragon's clutches with one other girl for company was eager for conversation. However, the woman began walking up the wooden stairs to the rooms, a sign that she was utterly uninterested by his words.
Rudolph's room was small and square, with a wash-bin in one corner (1 coin for enough heated water to bathe, the woman told him), and a low bed on the opposite side, with a heavy quilt laid out on top of it. The woman explained to him that the privy was outside and there was a candle near the wash-bin so that if he needed to relieve himself in the middle of the night he could find his way. She also collected five gold coins from him (Rudolph turned to rip them each from his shirt as she was pointing out form the sole window where the privy was located): one for heated bath water, one for the bread and soup he was to receive, and three for the room for one night. Because the inn was far from the capital and the only one for miles, the innkeepers were able to keep the prices high and satisfying. Rudolph was sure others had argued the costs down to something more agreeable, but he was in no condition to argue. He was tired and hungry, and the guilt of leaving Alisen alone in the cave was beginning to press down on him. For what if the dragon decided to kill her before he was able to get back to her?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rudolph and Isadora, Part 30

The next morning, Quin and Isadora set out for town, equipped with food for two days and a small bag of coins taken from under Quin's mattress. The morning was clear but slightly chilly, and they each had several layers of clothing on. They talked some, but mostly they just walked together through the forest. Quin knew his way even when the road disappeared, and Isadora followed, glad for a friend, because she knew she would undoubtably get lost by herself. Quin knew all the birdcalls they heard, and pointed each one out to her. Not really interested in birdcalls but enjoying Quin's company all the same, Isadora kept trying to make him laugh. Finally, a road appeared between the trees.
     "We must be getting close to the city," said Quin. "Can you keep going, or should we stop a bit?" Isadora was unused to walking far, and although wearing Jodra's sturdily-made boots had helped a bit, she was worn out an pink in the face.
     "Let's stop a bit, Quin. She plopped down without a thought about her dress, stuck her feet out in front of her in a most un-princesslike manner, and patted the ground beside her, inviting Quin to sit as well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Golden Night, Part Two

Author's note: Rudolph and Isadora is not over. Since I'm writing The Golden Night independently, I'll be posting the chapters randomly, whenever I finish them. The Rudolph and Isadora posts will continue to go up every day as scheduled. 

I’d fantasized as a child about my life being like a fairy tale, but as a little girl, I’d forgotten what came before happily ever after. And I didn’t even know about the darker tales, the ones that had no happily ever after...
     Paralyzed by shock, Alethia was led from the throne room by a stone-faced guard summoned from behind a door at the far end of the room. Her mind was reeling from her encounter with the king. She was walked down long hallways, footsteps muffled by carpets thicker than any she’d ever seen. Eventually they came to a plain wooden door, which was opened by a maid. The guard talked quietly with the maid for a few moments, and then gently pushed Alethia inside. The door closed behind her and locked.
     “So you’re the girl. News travels fast around here – I’ve already heard all about you. Well then, we’ll get you cleaned up right nicely, now.” The maid’s loud and friendly words snapped Alethia out of her daze.
     “What do you mean?” Alethia asked. “I think there must be some mistake. I—”
     “You’re the guest of the king, you are. We’re to clean you up and make you look all nice, and then tonight you’ll do your spinning ” –at this she twirled– “and tomorrow you’ll go home with a gold piece in your pocket. Sounds like a right nice deal to me.”
     She took Alethia into an adjoining bathroom and spent the next twenty minutes scrubbing dirt and ash off her face, chattering away the whole time. Several other maids came in to do her hair and help her dress in a gown finer than any she’d ever owned. She thought she heard one of the maids say that it was a shame her old clothes had to be burned, but the meaning didn’t truly register until hours later. She was, however, allowed to keep the sash, which was tied around her waist and rested appealingly on her forest-green dress. Alethia was as confused as she’d ever been, but she wasn’t about to stop the maids. But if she had to spin or die, how was she the guest of the king? And why did the king want her anyway? She came to the same conclusion every time. The king was mad, and she was doomed.

     Later, she feasted in the great hall with the nobles of the kingdom, all perfectly-mannered and all incredibly dull. The food, however, was nowhere near as insipid as her tablemates. She ate each rich course with gusto, and by the end of the meal, although her head swam and her stomach was uncomfortably full, she was content. As she watched the dancers spinning gracefully, her eyes became heavy, and she was just drifting off when she felt a hand grasp her shoulder. She looked up, suppressing a gasp. Three guards were standing behind her, obviously waiting for her to stand up so they could lead her, like some animal, to do the king’s bidding or die trying.
     She stood up, bid a quick farewell to whatever nobleman was sitting next to her, and let herself be led down twisting passages, up spiral stairs and into hidden passageways. When they finally reached a plain wooden door, one of the guards knocked, and she stepped into the room.
She gasped. This room, fairly large, was a clothmaker’s paradise. Every wall was stacked to the ceiling with supplies to weaving, sewing, spinning – anything to do with cloth. The king must have ordered one of his servants simply to buy the entire stock of every clothmaker in the region… or more likely that foul advisor Nukta had. The king wouldn’t have thought about it.
     There was a narrow window in the west-facing wall, and through it, she could see the sun setting, it’s golden light tinting the entire sky.
    “You work starting at sunset.” Alethia turned quickly to see one of the guards still standing in the doorway. She realized it was the one who had led her out of the throne room what seemed like a lifetime ago. He must have been assigned to her. “The king will come to inspect your work just past sunrise. If he deems it satisfactory, you will get a job in the palace and several gold coins. If not, I believe you know the consequence.”
     “Thank you—” Alethia began to say, but she did not have time to get the words out before the guard closed the door. She heard the bolt slide into place, but she didn’t hear the guard walk away. They’re still guarding me, then, she thought. She sunk to the floor and put her head in her hands, but the tears she was expecting did not come.
     She was done worrying about what would happen – she’d done that enough before dinner. Now was the time to act. She began to pull materials down from the piles and out of the stacks, and sat down to create her golden cloth.

     Hours later, eyes and fingers aching, she finished the bolt of fabric. It was golden in color, and soft and fine on her fingers, but it didn’t sparkle like the cloth around her waist. She knew it would never be good enough for the mad king and his awful advisor.
     What do I do? What on earth am I supposed to do? She just wanted to sleep, to wrap herself in her new gold cloth and forget the coming dawn. But she didn’t. She needed something for the king other than the cloth. He’d never accept the cloth. So she got out a needle and a tray of embroidery floss, and took out a piece of thick, flowing, sapphire-blue cloth and began to embroider.
     The candles around her burned low and her eyes began to strain in the fading light, but she continued pushing the needle in and out of the cloth, which was soon no longer blue, but all shades of the rainbow, showing the sunset from the west window, the last view she had seen before being locked in to face her fate. Each stitch was tiny and perfect, and the picture was as fine as any painted by the royal artist.
     As she finished the intricate embroidery, the tears that had not come earlier finally settled on her lashes. Sitting there with her watery eyes, oft-pricked fingers, and scene of sunset, she thought of home. She had embroidered every day, sitting behind her table with a piece of fabric and watching the door of the shop for customers so that she could call her father out of the back room. Everyone in the town had an embroidery of hers. And her family – they all had more than they could possibly need. They had scarcely one set of unembroidered clothes between them. She smiled to remember how her younger brother had hidden his clothes so that she could not get at them with her needle. They had eventually compromised, though – she could embroider them only if he told her what to embroider. Her silly younger brother. Her gift to her family and friends had been to paint these pictures with cloth and thread. And nearly all of it had been lost in the fire. Her family’s life work and living was lost. And now she was here, embroidering for a king who had lost all rationality instead of her family who she might – would most likely – never see again.
     As the sun rose, the door was unbarred and the guard found Alethia asleep in a pile of fabric, with a bolt of gold cloth in one hand and her embroidery in the other. He woke her gently, let her straighten up, and called in the king.
     “Let’s see the girl, Nukta,” the king wheezed as he shuffled into the room, slowly falling into a chair set out by the kind guard.
     “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” said Nukta unctuously. He led Alethia to the king, smiling at her in an oily way that made her want to wrench her wrist from his grasp. When he finally let go, it was only to grab the sparkling golden cloth from around her waist and hold it up to the light.
     “Let go of that right now.” She spoke without thinking, and covered her mouth with her hands as both he and the king turned to look at her incredulously. She curtsied, and was about to apologize when a look from Nukta made her decide that silence was wiser.
     Keeping her mouth firmly closed, she held out the fabric she had made the night before to the king. He ran it though his fingers.
     “This is very fine cloth, Nukta. Perhaps we should keep her on to make more of this cloth.” Alethia gasped, and it took nearly all of her self-restraint not to throw herself onto her knees and beg for this solution. But she had to do something.
     “If it pleases Your Majesty, I also made this last night.” Fingers shaking, she offered the embroidery.
In a low voice, Nukta snapped, “You do not speak to his Majesty unless spoken to,” but the king took the embroidery. Squinting his eyes to see the picture, he seemed satisfied, and was about to speak when Nukta, having sidled up next to him, whispered,
     “Remember your promise, Your Majesty. She did not carry out your order. Why should you reward her for doing less than you asked?”
     At this, Alethia dropped to her knees in front of the king.
     “Quiet, girl,” said Nukta, pushing her away.
     “I have made my decision,” said the king. “Although a masterful clothworker, the girl did not carry out the royal order. She must be made into an example. She is to be executed in 1 hour. Goodbye, girl.”

Part 29

Rudolph scrambled down the side of the mountain. His muscles burned with the effort and his legs were cramped from the long night he had spent by the cave. When Alisen had finally quieted her sobs and had fallen asleep, Rudolph had snaked around to the back wall of the cave- the one covered in tapestries. He had been, for the past two weeks, chiseling into a narrow fissure with the knife he always had in his boot. In the beginning he was only able to stick his arm through---but after all that hard work he had finally made it large enough to squeeze through. He had then filled it with stones to prevent Alisen from breaking out as well. He felt like a cad, and it had been a terrible thing to do, he knew. But by doing so she would not end up lost in a world she had left untouched for months, and he could not bear to lose her. By leaving her in the cave and heaping all the responsibility of getting help onto his own shoulders, he felt more secure. He also, deep in his heart, wanted to be alone when he found Isadora. For this was another motive of his escape- to find the blonde beauty he was so besotted with.