When I was young my mother used to tell me stories about another world. Within this world nothing was painful, and night never came. The sun shown every day and families were never torn apart. The grass there was greener than the purest of emeralds, the sky the most glorious amethyst. The rulers were the kindest of people, and everyone was always prosperous. She spoke, also, of the kindness of the beasts, how they would come to you bearing gifts, and let you care for their furr with the ivory combs that you would use often to comb through your hair.
My mother, she loved that place, the place of her dreams, and she went their often in her sleep. Yet one day, you see, she never came back. And now, as I look out of the carriage window at the rain which falls outside all I wish is that I had the peace that she does as I hold her hand tight, blocking my tears. All I can think of is how much I'd rather be in that place than this. Yet this is my reality, and I cannot allow myself to be lost within dreams. For dreams may feed the soul, but they do not keep the body alive. And I must stand strong, else both our bodies, me and my mothers, will die.
With that thought I reach over to attach my sword once again to the leather belt on my waste and, making sure to keep myself steady for the carriage bounces unsteadily on the rough ground as the horses lead it slowly, I swing myself out of the back of the small contraption, climbing onto the ledge on the side smoothly, and cross to the front of the carriage to sit beside the middle age man who sits there, controlling the three horses that are pulling us forward.
"Aye, there ya are, my child, I was begin'n' to wonder at where ya might've gone ta." The man drawled, lending a light smile in my direction.
I chuckled back at him, Rolf was dear to me and though he was not my father by blood he was mine at heart, and I loved him as such. I could not imagine having survived as long as I had without his guiding hands helping me through in the hard times.
We then rode on in silence, his sturdy presence giving me the company I needed to wear down on the lonliness that always came with seeing my mother in her sad state. The scenery was, needless to say, rather neglegable. Nothing but dieing grass and the occasional tree which was neither large nor small, luscious nor lacking. Not that we could see anything too clearly, of course, as the ever falling rain kept everything just out of focus.
As the dusk was approaching we made it to a traveller's camp. These groups of tents were set up for people such as us who were going cross country, and kept themselves supplied with just enough provisions to provide for nightly meals around large fires where people such as us would regain our strength and tell tales of how we ended up in this or that situation, where we came from, and to what place we were headed. This did not seem particularly busy, and we pulled the carriage up along the edge of the tents, making sure that it would be within view from the central fire so that we would be able to watch for theives. As I untied the horses and attatched them to stakes that I hammered into the ground, Rolf meandered off to talk to the camp leader about the payment for staying the night. Though not overly expensive, the slight cost would be enough to garuntee a certain amount of food, fire and safety for our short stay.
Rolf returned after a number of minutes with a grin on his face. Acknowledging his expression I raised my eyebrows questioningly at him, "You seem rather content, I take it that the pay was not too painful?"
Rolf, leaned down to help me tie the leather strap of Kinkra, my mother's horse, to the stake I had just finished hammering, making my work much easier. "Aye, ya might say somethin' like that." He said with a wink, " After all, las' time I 'eard, 5 copper peice' twas'n't too high a price."
A nearly dropped the reigns as I looked at him suspiciously, "Only 5? Per person, or...?"
He shook his head, "Total."
The statement was hard to beleive, I scoffed, "And exactly how did you get them to agree to that one?"
The man laughed his robust laugh and slapped my back playfully, "Ya don't question the good things 'n life, m'dear." With that he turned and walked over to the carriage to fold up the driver's seat and close up the windows. I watched him with a half grin on my face, I knew better than to question him, but all the same, I had to wonder.
Shaking my head I yelled out to let him know that I was heading out to get some dinner and headed over to the fire where the rest of the people had gathered. It seemed that they had already began serving, and I walked up to the woman serving soup by a large wooden ladle and, detaching my bowl from my belt, held it up with a nod of greeting. Smiling back at me she spooned a hearty amount into it, "There you go, my girl, eat it all up now, and tell me if you be awanting anything more, we don't have that many tonight, and you look like you could use a little meat on them bones."
I laughed at her quip, "Thank you much, ma'am, I'll keep that in mind." Food in hand I walked over to the fire, taking a place in the circle of people that stood there.
All attention in the fire circle was aimed towards a large man, I would guess around twenty-eight to thirty winters old, who was veraciously telling some-or-other battle story.
"And then, with my axe held high, I swiped at it, knocking the tale right off of the beast!" He declared, acting the motion out with his beefy arms striking down, his beard flailing with the swift motion.
"Nay," A comical voice of a thinner man came from beside him on the ground, "If I remember correct you attacked with your axe held high in a glorious miss and ended up with your big fat rump on the ground and your face in the dirt. Then I came to save your worthless arse with an arrow through its eye, just in time to keep you from being a'eaten, my friend."
At that the man who had originally been telling the story went red in both drunken anger and embarrassment, and all around him the crowd burst into laughter. "Why I oughta..." He began.
I grinned, and then continued watching as the thinner man stood up to place his arm over the bearded man's shoulders, "Ah, but worry not, my friend, I will let you pay me back with a pint of beer this here night, for all this monster killing I fear has made me a slight bit weary." He looked at the other man pointedly at this time.
"Pay you back?" The bearded man said in disbeleif, "Pay you back? Why I oughta take from you, you son of a-" At that the crowd was truly amused as the thinner man easily dodged the drunken blow of the larger man.
Next to me I heard Rolf speak as he took a place next to me, a bowl of soup in his hands, "Quite an entertain'n group we got tonight, m'child." As always, his tone was light and a smile danced on his lips as he watched the fighting of the two men on the opposite side of the flames.
I nodded, shaking my head at their immaturity before turning my attention to the food I had been given. Tasting it I was suprised by the delightful taste held by the warm broth and the comfort given by the saltiness of the dumplings within it. "The food's good today." I found myself commenting offhand to no-one in particular.
"Aye, that it is." Rolf agreed, taking time to savor the taste as he ate his share, yet not forgetting about the large pint of ale that he had set next to him on the ground, "But alas, m'girl, forget not 'bout yer mother, now. G'off and give 'er 'er med'cine." With that he nodded at me, giving strength to his command.
Nodding back, I stood up and brushed myself off to shed the dirt, then walked back over to the carriage to feed my mother one of the small crystaline pills that kept her alive. The pills were magical, and upon being placed in her mouth, would do their job dutifully, giving nutrients and strength to her comatose body. Looking at her sleeping face, I stroked my hand through her chestnut coloured hair, feeling its softness.
How could she be so soft? I wondered as I sat beside her on the small bench by her bed. How could one be so soft in a world as callous as this? Maybe it was because she was not truly in this world anymore. In a way, though I missed her so, I did not wish to bring my mother back. For the land she must be living in now is no doubt better than the one that I would be taking her to. In a way, it would seem selfishly cruel to wake her up. With a slight frown on my face I layed down next to her on the bench and stared at the ceiling, before shutting my eyes to fade off into sleep.
"Kara," A voice rung through my mind, calling my name, "Kara, over here!" Looking at the source of the call I saw a girl standing by a lake at the edge of the forest. She wore a simple but beautiful peasant's dress, and had long golden hair that curled down her back, held up in the front with bronze-coloured pins. Her green eyes danced with playful mischeif.
"Come one now!" She called, "What takes you so long? Twill it be night before you come to enjoy this day with us?"
Something pulled me towards them, and I walked down the small path with my barefoot feet making barely a sound against the ground, and the small golden anklet I was wearing jingling slightly with the up and down of my leg.
Coming up to stand beside the girl she turned around and with a hand on the tree I looked out into the expanse before me. It was glorious. The lake itself had water an aquamarine that glittered as if filled by an incomprhensible amount of glowing jewels, and the grass around it flowed in an emerald glow. On the banks of the river behind the grass the branches of the trees waved in the wind, and there was a small waterfall where a stream flowed into the lake.
I heard laughing and saw more people there now, appearing in that way that things appear in dreams. It was a boy and a girl, and they splashed eachother with the water that they were wading in. Another boy grinned at me and my friend from his place on the bank a little ways from us.
It was relaxing, and it was enticing. I could not help but move towards the scene, wading my feet in the water warily. I heard the laugh, and the boy that had been sitting on the bank chastised me lightly in some way or another.
Light suddenly overcame my dream, as the images flashed breifly into darkness, before being replaced with the faint dawn light shining through the large opening of the carriage.
"Aha, there ya are." Rolf said, eyebrows raised as he looked through the opening, "C'mon now, Kara dear, Tis time to make our way." With that he let the leather covering that closed the back of the carriage close.
I stared at the entrance from my position on my arms for another few seconds before collapsing back onto by back, placing my hand over my eyes, rebelling at the morning. Damn morning. I wanted to sleep.