|The Merchant's Daughter
Author: Aurelia Knight PM
Much time has passed since Gwen and Brandon returned from Adony. Now, their daughter decides to take a bandit problem on by herself and runs away. To find her, they set off on yet another journey. It will take everything Gwen has at her disposal to save her marriage and rescue her only child. Meanwhile, the leader of the bandits has caught her daughter's complete attention...Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Chapters: 14 - Words: 19,111 - Reviews: 7 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 04-29-13 - Published: 01-24-13 - id: 3095005
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I sat myself down on a log and tried to figure out where I was. Drawing a map in my mind, I attempted to retrace my steps. I went out the central west gate from the city. That road led me to a small town at the edge of supposed orc territory. Though what exactly orc "territory" meant is beyond me, since they like to just do whatever the heck they want. Anyway…
After I passed that town, I went began to go north. Or was it north-west… West, maybe? I sighed. I didn't have a clue as to where I was. Perhaps I don't know the forest as well as I thought… As I was sitting on the log, I may as well stay here for a little while.
I pulled out a small instrument from my pouch. The smooth, clay ocarina rested easily in my hands. I couldn't play very well, but I could play a few songs. Putting it to my lips, I filled the silence of the forest with the melody of a song my mother used to sing to me. The notes drifted around me, enveloping me in warm memories.
She never sang for anyone but me. Not even for my father. I loved her voice, however much she hated it. When I was younger, I would ask her to sing me to sleep every night. She would laugh and wonder how I possibly could, but nevertheless, she would oblige. Occasionally I still catch her singing to herself in her study, but not very often.
The ocarina dropped into my lap. I felt tears welling into my eyes. Now that I was gone, there wouldn't be anyone there for me. I don't mean to say that I necessarily wanted her to treat me as a child, but… She was still my mother and I still missed her. Over the past few days of traveling I tried to keep the feeling of loneliness away.
What had I honestly been thinking, running away like I did? Even when I found the bandits, what am I supposed to do? Ask them nicely to stop robbing the merchants blind? Threaten them with my toothpick of a sword? All in all, this wasn't a very well thought-out plan. I felt a tear snake down my cheek. I…want to go home…
With a shuddering breath I packed up the instrument and prepared to keep walking. Eventually I hoped to find a road or a village of some kind. Anything that would point me in the right direction to go back to the capital. I was done with my adventure. Alone, they were scary. How on earth did my mother manage to do this twice? But then again, she was never alone.
As I stood up, I heard a rustling sound. I whirled around to face whatever adversary may meet me, my hand on my sword hilt. The rustling became louder. Just as it appeared right in front of, I drew my blade. "Ha!"
A bear cub tumbled out of the brush. It looked up at me with large black eyes. I blinked rapidly, sheathing my weapon. "Oh. Hello there, little one." I knelt before it. "What are you doing here all alone?"
It whimpered and stumbled to its feet, lumbering toward me. I tilted my head in confusion until I felt the warm breath on the back of my neck. Turning slightly, I saw a giant black bear behind me. It loomed above me, glaring at me with beady eyes. I scrambled to get away from it.
The baby bear latched to its mother. I tried to control my breathing so as not to appear frightened. Can they smell fear…? "I… I'm just going to—"
At that moment the larger bear roared deafeningly. I wasted no time in turning to sprint away. I could hear the crash of the mother running after me. Risking a glance back, I saw she was nearly right on me.
I turned sharply, my boots slipping against the grassing ground. Eventually I regained my footing and managed to keep running. Another roar split the air. By now I could feel her hot breath against my neck. I only ran faster, my lungs bursting. I took another turn. I felt her sharp claws just catching my shoulder.
Ignoring the pain, I kept going blindly, pushing branches and other obstacles out of my way. I jumped over a fallen log and rolled against the ground. Jumping up, I pushed off into a run again. My ears caught the sound of water too late.
Before I knew it, I felt my boot slip on something and I was suddenly falling. The creek here was swollen from the rains lately. Unable to stop myself, I rolled the short distance before sliding right off into where the creek dropped into a waterfall. Rocks and other debris fell with me.
When I hit bottom, I saw the bear standing at the edge. She looked down at me with a disgruntled expression before going off to find her baby. I let my head drop back against the stone with relief. The sky above me began to grow dark. I closed my eyes and allowed the darkness to claim me.
I awoke sometime later. My eyes fluttered open. Though, instead of seeing the night sky above me, I saw instead what appeared to be the inside of a hut. I turned my head to the side. An older woman sat there, seemingly asleep. "Excuse me…" I cleared my throat and spoke louder. "Ma'am?"
She shook herself and gazed over at me. "Oh. You're awake."
"Can…you tell me where I am?" I shifted my weight weakly.
"You're in our camp. Errol found you at the waterfall unconscious. You've been asleep since." She tilted her head slightly. "How are you feeling?"
I winced as I moved the shoulder the bear slashed. "I'm not sure… How am I supposed to feel?"
She laughed softly. "You seem to be doing very well for someone who fell from the top of the waterfall."
"It wasn't that far of a drop…" I flinched again. "Am I all right?"
At that her small smile disappeared. "You will be. I wouldn't suggest moving around much. Bruises and cuts don't heal overnight."
I nodded. "Right. Thanks…"
"You can thank me by getting better." The woman turned her head to the entrance of the hut. "Hm…"
A young man around my age allowed himself in. "Saskia, is she…" He stopped as he saw me. "Oh. You are."
I gazed up into his amber eyes as he walked over to me. His dark, midnight-like hair swept across his brow, waving down around his ears. He smiled slightly. "I wanted to see how you were doing."
Much to my chagrin, I felt myself blush slightly. I swallowed hard. "F-fine. Just fine. Well, as fine as I can be, given the circumstances."
"Right." He nodded. "I'm Errol."
He chuckled. "The leaves turn the color of your hair."
I shot him a playful glare. I had inherited my mother's golden-red tresses. Most of my appearance came from her; all except my ice-like eyes. They were entirely my father's.
He turned to the woman, Saskia, apparently. "I'm going to take her on a tour of the camp."
"What?! She has to rest! She's just woken not a half hour ago!"
"I carried her here from the waterfall, didn't I? Who says I can't carry her around some more?" Errol grinned cheekily.
I cleared my throat for their attention. "Saskia, it's all right. I feel well enough to let him do that."
Errol smirked at her. "See?" He moved to pull away the blankets covering me.
I instinctively scrunched together at the cold. "Warn me next time!"
"Heh, sorry." He gathered me into his arms, careful not to rub up against my wounded shoulder. "You all right?"
I looped my good arm around his neck. "Yes." Again, I felt a streak of crimson pop up along my cheeks.
He ducked out of the hut and into the daylight. The sun momentarily blinded me, but once my eyes adjusted, I realized that we stood in the middle of a forest encampment. Men went about their chores, sharpening blades or stringing bows. Some were even training.
I looked up into his face again. "What is this?"
He scrunched his eyebrows together in confusion. "You didn't know? We're, well, bandits, to be honest."
What a roundabout way to get to my destination. I had been right; they found me. Or at least, Errol did. Around me ordinary men were working. It seemed hard to believe they were bandits, robbing innocent merchants of their wares. Suddenly, I didn't feel so good about my plan at all.