Told you guys I was working on a chapter for my novel. So, in this one, we finally get introduced to the three other characters who will play a major role in this story. As I mentioned in the last chapter, I wanted to get them in then, but the chapter was too long. So yeah, these three new people, well, they’re going to be something. Let’s just say. 😉
I leave my house, making sure to close the door behind me. Though there aren’t many people who live in this area, on occasion we have had some “visitors”. Suffice to say, the more precautions I take, the less likely my meagre belongings will be stolen. Then of course, I think it is in my best interests to keep my unwanted guest separate from any other people who are likely to think him mad, and me worse for keeping someone like that in my house.
“We’re still related in this story you know,” his voice calls from inside my cottage. “I know exactly what you’re thinking, at least until I’m out of the rendering distance.”
“Get out of my head creep,” I call back, annoyed. Hoisting a bundle of kindling onto my back, I whistle for Griffin, and strap the wood to his harness. Then, glaring one more time at the door of my cottage, turn and begin my journey to the village.
I live on the outskirts of a small settlement known as Tharriadoc. It is a quaint village, old as the hill themselves it is said. Most everyone who lives in Tharriadoc is past their prime. The reason for this is that once all the children came of age, they all left, and that was a generation before me; apart from the scenery, Tharriadoc has no real attraction whatsoever. It suits me though. The inhabitants ask no questions, and are glad enough to buy the wood I cut.
“Too bad most of the wood is wet eh, Griffin?”
He snorts, and eyes me with one large eye as if saying, “Worse things have happened in the past.”
“You have no idea how true that is,” I say, replying to my imaginary question.
As we get closer to the village, I detect something different about the general mood there. It is a feeling of surprise and unpreparedness. The sort of feeling you get when a friendly neighbor comes over without forewarning. Even the animals seem to be in a state of restlessness. Griffin, who for the length of the journey has been quiet as– well, a donkey I guess, perks up as we approach, and I have to tug on his bridle a couple of times to stop him from trotting off without me.
“What in the world has gotten into you,” I say, taking my eyes of the road to glare at Griffin. He shrinks away apologetically. Then I hear it too; laughter. “But nobody laughs in Tharriadoc,” I mutter, turning back to face the road.
“And who is that?” a silvery voice in the distance asks. Looking up, I see Gerald Black sitting on his front porch with three young women around him.
They all wear a dress of the same cut, yet each girls is different. Light shimmers across the blonde head of one girl, while a gentle breeze toys with the black curls of another. Even now as I approach, they watch me interestedly.
“That there is Phillip, our woodcutter,” Gerald says, answering the question that had been asked of him.
“But how can he chop wood? His leg seems to be hurt,” another one of the trio asks.
“Oh,” Gerald replies, waving his hand vaguely in the air. “He manages. Keeps the whole village supplied too. Hey, Phillip! Come over here for a minute. I’d like to buy some of that kindling.”
“Sure thing, Gerald,” I say, and change my course. “How much do you want?” I ask, as Griffin and I approach.
“The usual,” he replies, and I start unloading Griffin. When I’ve finally piled all the wood by the front door to Gerald’s cottage, he invites me to have a seat and share a cup of coffee.
“I’ll take the seat, but I think I’ll pass on the coffee.”
“Really?” Gerald asks. “You don’t usually decline a cup of coffee.”
“I had breakfast today,” I say, as a matter of explanation.
“You did? Good on you lad, glad to hear it. You work so hard for us old folk, it’s a pity that you rarely get enough to eat.”
The three girls have been watching us attentively all this time, and I am about to ask them who they are, but as I sit down on a stump, something flies into my eye.
Phillip dashed a hand across his eyes one more time and then opened them.
“Sorry, something got in my eye,” he said, slightly embarrassed. “So, who are you three?”
“Well,” the tallest girl said, taking a seat on the pile of kindling Phillip had made. “I am Serena Walsh, the daughter of Duke Walsh from East Byrdshale. She,” Serena indicated her auburn-haired companion. “Is Victoria Devereux, daughter of the Baroness of Carlick Castle in the southern isles. And she,” Serena pointed to the final member of the three who was engaged in petting Griffin. “Is our animal lover, June Fitzroy, heir to Brider Manor and the lands surrounding. The three of us are traveling across the country for pleasure.”
“With such a high social status, I’m surprised that you three ladies are traveling alone,” Phillip said.
“We can more than take care of ourselves,” Victoria said, her brown eyes flashing fire. Looking at her, Phillip more than believed that.
“We heard you are a wood cutter,” Serena put in, trying to draw the conversation away from a potentially dangerous topic.
“I am indeed,” Phillip gestured to the pile of wood she was sitting on.
“My limp? Well, you don’t really need strong legs for chopping trees down do you? A good back, stout arms, and a will for hard work. That’s all I need.”
“Indeed,” Serena said, but she appeared unconvinced.
At this point, June came up to the porch to join the group there. As she walked up the stairs, she stared at the floor, but when she had reached the porch, she shot a glance at Phillip. In the split second that she looked at him, Phillip thought for an instant that her eyes were yellow, but then he blinked, and realized they were green. Then, she winced and brought her hand up to her black hair. Upon noticing this, her friends became worried immediately. They both stood up.
“June,” Serena said, bending up to look anxiously at the downcast face of her companion. “What happened, are you alright?”
The girl, who was now very pale, moved her lips, but no sound came forth. Serena brushed a lock of hair away from June’s forehead and placed the back of her hand in its place.
“She’s got a fever. Victoria, we’re going to need water, and a place for June to rest. Can she rest here?” This question was directed to Gerald. He seemed uncomfortable upon being faced with such a problem.
“Well– You see, it ain’t really that simple. I got a cousin comin’ over, and I promised him a bed at my cottage.”
“You could come to my house,” Phillip put in quickly. “It also happens to be by a brook. I’m sure you could get cool water there.”
Serena looked at Victoria for a moment. They said something through their eyes, then Victoria nodded silently. June, who was looking decidedly sicker by the moment, moved as if trying to say something, but the exertion was too great for her, and the slender girl fell into Victoria’s arms.
“Here,” Phillip said, whistling for Griffin. “Lady Fitzroy can ride back on Griffin. I’ll lead the way to my cottage. You two ladies can walk on either side of her to support her and make sure that she doesn’t fall. Gerald, you’ll hold onto my kindling for me until I can retrieve it?”
“Sure thing lad,” the burly man said, glad to be rid of the worry of having a sick girl in his house.
Phillip undid the bundle of kindling from Griffin’s harness, then nodded to Serena. The two friends helped June onto Griffin, then stood on either side of the patient donkey to hold the girl steady. Hobbling to the main road, Phillip whistled for Griffin to come, and began the long journey back. Half an hour later, they had arrived.
Phillip held Griffin still as Victoria and Serena gently eased June to the ground. Then he swung open the door and let the trio inside. Three things happened when they entered the cottage. Phillip looked up and felt his heart sink to his feet when his strange companion stood up from the table, completely startled; the three girls, or rather two, for June’s eyelids were drooping, and it was all she could do to keep her footing, wondered who the crazy man was in Phillip’s house; and the person who had caught their attention so successfully, boomed the four words:
“I had already left.”
The next thing Phillip knew, the old man was gone, and he was staring at thin air. In the meantime, the two girls, who were now struggling to hold up their friend, requested that Phillip stop staring stupidly at thin air and show them the bedroom. Jerked out of his trance, he turned and led them through the only internal doorway in the room. After the laid June gently down on the bed, Victoria turned and faced him.
“Come on, where’s that brook you were talking about? And stop acting so dumb. You never seen a sick girl before?”
Phillip knew all too well about a sick girl. He had known a very sick one in fact. It was all he could do at this point to keep his mind focused on the task at hand instead of traveling to that dark corner in his mind. Victoria, noticing Phillip’s expression, regretted her harsh words instantly. She bit her lip hard. Why did she always have to be so caustic?
“Sorry,” the repentant girl murmured. “Let’s just go get June some water alright?”
Phillip nodded mutely, and both of them grabbed a bucket. Phillip limped in front to lead, and taking a road that only he knew about, brought Victoria to the little brook that flowed behind his house. They both dipped their buckets in the water until the containers were full, then laboriously lugged the heavy pails back to the cottage, doing their best not to spill any of the precious fluid.
After placing the two buckets down by June’s bedside, Phillip stood around uncertain as to what he should do. Serena turned from her friend to look at Phillip.
“We’d really appreciate some privacy now, thank you,” she said, doing her best to smile, but nothing concealed the worry that was drawn across her face at June’s condition.
“Of course,” Phillip said, backing out of the room, then turning and leaving the cottage completely.
Outside he was met by a very angry looking old man.
“You could have given me some warning!”
Phillip, having just been reminded of his dark mental corner, was in no mood for complaints. “Just leave me alone okay? One of them is sick, and I completely forgot that you were in my house. I thought you’d have left by now.”
“Oh yeah, sure. You of all people should know Phillip, that it is not an easy task to tell stories! I barely managed to throw something together there. Do you have any idea where I ended up?”
Phillip sniffed the air.
“By the smell of it, Griffin’s stables, and not the freshest part of it either.”
“This is no time for any of your facetious remarks. And who are those three anyway?”
“Have you forgotten already?” Phillip asked. “You asked me to find some people who could help me defeat your Executioner. There they are.”
“I asked you to find three people to help you. Not find a whole harem of women.” At this, the grumpy man huffed and turned around. Phillip just glared at the back of the storyteller as he walked away.
Oh, and if you are wondering about the chapter title and how “un-fancy” it is, that is because this is in an abstract sense meant to be a parallel to actual story-writing if you get my drift. 😀