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Ara

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Written in Ash
« on: September 23, 2016, 12:00:02 pm »

Chapter One




Elinor stood in the window, long fingers holding back the lace curtain. It was finer than anything in her whole homestead but it didn’t interest her at all. Morning light soaked her pale cheeks, high cheekbones pulling the skin into almost sharp angles. She was striking, very nearly too much so but she had a delightful habit of ducking her head and looking up through her lashes that made up for the strength of those bones. Pale gray eyes looked out into the yard of the Nathaniels home.

She came here often, to check on the sickly Mrs. Nathaniel. She was a fragile creature and bearing her first two children had nearly killed her. Two little girls, fat things with pouty lips and round cheeks. They had pretty golden curls like their father. Elinor rejoiced in brushing out those curls on the girls before tucking them under their bonnets.

Elinor had arrived at the Nathaniels home with the first rays of the sun, a blessing as his wife put it, with a basket of buns and meat pies for the girls and tea for Mrs. Nathaniel. The Carson family just down the road would send one of their own daughters daily to tend to housekeeping for the Nathaniels and mind the little ones—it was the girl’s job. But Elinor stopped in out of kindness, worth oh so much more. Not only did it make Mr. Nathaniel aware of her good nature and cooking, it made her mother and father proud because they cared so very much for the community of Patience. Her father, Peter Thomas, was a pillar of the village even if he and his large family lived just outside it on their farm. Peter Thomas himself had seen Patience through many hard winters, careful to see that no family went without.

Mrs. Nathaniel coughed, a wet dangerous sound, and drew Elinor’s eye from the yard where Mr. Nathaniel was chopping wood, thin shift already sweaty and clinging to muscles. She smiled softly and picked up the cup of tea from the table, coming around the bed curtain to help Mrs. Nathaniel take a sip. “You are such a very fine girl,” Mrs. Nathaniel whispered, tired even at dawn. “Thank you so much for looking after us as you do.”

Elinor shushed her tenderly, sixteen and nursing the twenty-year-old with motherly care. Her own mother had birthed twelve children—Elinor the fourth. Seven of them still lived and Elinor had seen much mothering in her years. She’d done plenty of it herself. “Just rest yourself and be well again soon.” Mrs. Nathaneil’s thin mouth pressed with a smile when she laid back, nodding, eyelids heavy. She thought she was keeping a secret but Elinor could practically smell it on her. She was pregnant again, so desperate to give her beloved a son that she was taking herself to the grave. It wasn’t the smell of pregnancy and life that hung in the room around her—it was the heavy fragrance of death.

Elinor stood, put down the tea on the bedside table and smoothed her heavy, dark skirts. Mrs. Nathaniel wouldn’t survive another birth and Elinor need not do anything but wait. She picked up her basket, now light without the breads and pies. She kissed the girls playing under the kitchen table, and then left. The Carson girl was already coming down the street, looking rumpled and rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

Elinor paused in the yard to tell Mr. Nathaniel she was heading on and that Mrs. Nathaniel had gone back to sleep. He lifted one arm and used his sleeve to rub the sweat from his hard jaw. Michael Nathaniel could easily pay someone else to cut his firewood, but he was the sort of man who thought hard work cleared the mind and cleansed the body. “Thank you, Elinor,” he huffed, winded, cheeks flushed and gold locks sweaty. She tipped her head to the side, blushing with discomfort at his gratitude. Men and women alike enjoyed that expression, and Elinor enjoyed their good graces.

“Elinor! Mr. Nathaniel!” A voice called from behind and she turned, shoulder and cheek, to look back at the road. Her two eldest brother’s, Tobias and Frances, came up the road with one of the family carts and horse. She smiled brighter, giving Mr. Nathanial a quick bob of a curtsey before hurrying over to the little dirt road and her brothers. “We’re fixing the fence on the north edge. Mr. Carol said it was looking weathered,” Tobias explained, smiling with his wide lips and pretty teeth.

Frances leaned over the edge toward her. “And we wouldn’t want any wolves coming in to snatch you up,” he added with a flare of delight. He always liked a good story. She gasped in pretend fright and Tobias swatted his brother’s arm, giving him a scolding glare.

Tobias looked down at her from where he sat on the bench of the cart with the reins. “Would you like a ride, Elinor? Where are you off to now?”

“I was going to check in on uncle Edmund and aunt Rebecca.”

“You mean you were going to see if Isabelle could come out and play,” Frances jabbed slyly.

“We aren’t children anymore, Frances. We don’t play.”

Frances smiled, already moving to the back of the cart. “You’re so happy doing everything that even chores look like games.”

Tobias reached down and she took his arm, holding her skirts up and in her other hand, basket looked into the crook of her arm. Elinor hopped up into the cart and settled herself on the bench seat. “I think that’s a compliment,” she thought aloud.

Tobias nodded. “It certainly is.” He gave the reins a sharp whip and the big, brown horse trotted forward.

It took effort, but she didn’t look back to see if Mr. Nathaniel had been watching. She wouldn’t be seen making eyes with him, not while his wife was still clinging to life. She smiled softly at the sleepy town of Patience as they road through it at a slow pace. Soon enough Mr. Nathaniel wouldn’t be married at all and she could make eyes all she liked.

« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 10:32:05 am by Ara »

Jill the Ripper

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2016, 05:00:17 pm »

Mother had fretted herself ill, in a way that a truly weak woman would not. 

"The Carson girl just arrived."  Isabelle said demurely, taking her mother's teacup - fine china, imported for their family by one of her father's ships - carefully.  The bread and milk meant to break her mother's fast had gone untouched, though Rebecca Thomas did not waste away, for all the lack of vittles. 

"Leave."  Her mother commanded sternly, too strong to be sick, a damp cloth over her eyes.  "Take your stitching and find somewhere outside, I will broker no disturbance today." 

"Of course, Mother."  Isabelle whispered.  She kept her eyes downcast - she had her mother's eyes, hazel with long, calf-like lashes, though on the youngest Thomas girl, the effect was sweetened.  What beauty Rebecca Thomas had been graced with in youth had diminished after hard years and stress, and her own strange compulsion to take ill-humour where there was none.   Isabelle was in the bloom of her life, with a heart-shaped face with cheeks that coloured naturally and a sweet mouth.  This morning she had left her hair - tied back,  and brushed carefully, a cascade of dark curls - fall free from under the thin cotton of her coif.   Sitting perched on her mother's bed, teacup and plate in hand, the girl looked loving, and tender.  "I'll be back for the midday meal."

She did not kiss her mother, who turned away in temper, but rather slipped away quietly, smiling to herself.  She was wearing a new dress, dark blue, Father having brought home a bolt of the rich wool from when he visited the Town last.  And even more secret - the petticoats she was wearing, well hidden under the heavy cloth of her dress, sewn with the delicate, fine lace that her Father pretended not to know Isabelle had stolen.  It was the utmost of frivolous vanity, one that would have sent Goody Thomas into one of her ills, which meant that Isabelle enjoyed it all the more. 

She gathered up her basket, the sampler she'd been toiling with tucked deep inside.  Abigail, one of the Carson girls, was quietly sweeping out the kitchen floor.  Isabelle ignored her, pausing only to smooth out her apron before opening the door. 

There was the slow, steady clop of a horse, the creaking of a cart and Isabelle looked down the lane, smiling when she saw who approached.  "Elinor!"  She called, her face lighting up as the cart pulled to a  stop.  She smiled at her cousins, each in their turn.   When she met eyes with Tobias - gray, like Elinor's, set in a handsome face - Isabelle could feel her lips part, and she turned it to a soft smile, before dropping her gaze, mindful of her lashes, and the warmth of her cheeks.  Isabelle had always admired Tobias's silent ways, his strength, his beauty.  His hands were firm on the reigns of their horse and the girl could feel something purring within her, like a wicked thing. 

"And where pray tell would you be hurrying to, fair cousin?" Frances asked.  His hair was slightly curlier than Tobias's waves, or Elinor's own locks, but all three of her cousins were very beautiful people.

"I was hoping to come find Elinor," Isabelle replied, without lie.  "Mother's taken poorly, and I thought -" She hesitated here, as though unsure what she was about to say was a good idea. "I thought some flowers would bring gentle colour to the house, while she is unwell." 

Frances grinned, like the wicked creature he was, about to say something - Tobias warned him off with a silent look, before bestowing Isabelle a small smile of his own.  "That is a kind thought."

Isabelle blushed prettily, but did not look away from him this time. 



« Last Edit: September 23, 2016, 05:54:33 pm by Jill the Ripper »

Ara

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2016, 01:03:34 am »
Elinor smiled when she saw her Isabelle up ahead. They were born the same year, cousins on her father’s side, but somehow Isabelle had always felt like a little sister to Elinor. A sister in ways that not even her own had ever been. She held out her arm and helped Isabelle up into the cart, scooting over on the bench. “They’re off to fix the wall on the north side. There are blackberry patches out near the woods, should we pick some?”

Tobias glanced at them with a crease of uncertainty at the corner of his plush lips. “We’re going to work on the wall, not gathering in the woods.”

Elinor looked up at him innocently enough, the village waking all around them to the early morning. “We won’t go far. Not out of eyesight,” she promised.

Frances laughed from the back of the cart. “Dare you risk it? Surely the wolves will come for you this time.” He tried to press back his smile, to look serious, but he couldn’t contain it. He’d been teasing them about the woods ever since they were girls and came home alone from days lost in the thicket of trees.

“Frances,” Tobias said his name harshly, a warning. He had been just old enough when the girls disappeared to go with father and search. She still remembered how he cried when they came home. Frances had cried too, and remembered it well with a certain thrill of terror, but he liked to make a joke of it instead.

“We never saw a wolf, Frances Thomas,” Elinor scolded mildly, arm lacing with Isabelle’s. It was a lie, but it came so easily to her lips that no one would suspect it. “And you have riffles, if there be danger.” She turned to Tobias instead, because really he was the one that would decide, and touching his arm softly. “If you think it terribly unwise we can stay on this side of the wall, but mother and aunt Rebecca do so love blackberries.”

Tobias looked to the side at the two girls with a pang of responsibility and reason smothered by love. He sighed and looked forward again, smiling a little. That was how he gave in to them whenever he did. Elinor squeezed Isabelle’s arm excitedly. “You’re not to leave sight,” Tobias said, sounding firm. “Not into the woods. Not far from the work.”

She felt a wave of displeasure from Frances behind her, where he sat on planks of wood and tools. He was still pretending not to care but he didn’t like the risk. She loved him most for his subtle lies. He would wave her off and talk of wolves and savages, all while worry gnawed at his heart.

Frances leaned up closer to Isabelle this time, trying his luck on another. “Aren’t you worried a witch might snatch you?” he whispered near her ear. “A nasty old crone, come to steal your pretty youth.”

Tobias’ brow pulled harshly and he twisted where he sat, reaching back behind Elinor to shove Frances away from Isabelle. “Not another word, Frances. Not another word.” He warned. “You’ll not frighten our cousin or our sister.”

Frances raised his hands in defeat, waited until the cart had settled once more before leaning forward just a little and saying “clickety-clackety” in a singsong tone the way the small children did when they talked of witches coming to snatch each other up.


Jill the Ripper

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2016, 03:49:22 am »
After they had returned from the woods (pale and quiet, the adults around them collapsing in praise of the Lord's delieverance) no soul dared to utter a word so fraught as Witch.

Isabelle curled in closer to Elinor, her arm twined with hers.  She was thrilled, her heart near-sick with the warmth of gentle Tobias's attention.  Even Frances, with his furious need to remind them, again and again to relive the drama - even he could not take away the light it inspired inside of her.

Instead of allowing this immodesty to shine through, however, Isabelle kept her eyes down, silent, as though she had taken fearful.

"Frances." Tobias's voice was strained with the finality of the warning.  Isabelle glanced up to Elinor, an innocent enough look to share. 

They were all silent for a moment or two, the cart jerking along as around them others began the day's work, some raising a hand in greeting.  It would be a busy day, while the menfolk attended to the wall.  Isabelle looked up, the sky clear.  Blackberries.  It had been a fistful of blackberries that had begun it all.


« Last Edit: September 26, 2016, 12:53:26 pm by Ara »

Ara

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 01:45:15 pm »
When they left the edge of the little town and started across the field, between gardens and farmyards, they could already see the wall up ahead. What looked to be Mr. Lorell’s cart was already there and three other men were working on pulling down the flimsy, molded plants of wood from the wall. It was already looking to be a larger hole than Elinor had imagined. Her heart lifted with excitement. The more work they had to do, the longer she and Isabelle could play in the valley up against the edge of the woods.

When they came closer she could make out the three men. Mr. Jacob Lorell, a large chested man boasting a thick beard, and his son Nicholas Lorell were already setting to work. Mr. Lorell was the town carpenter and his son, Tobias’s age now, had been apprenticing since he was old enough to hold tools. Mr. Carson was standing with Mr. Lorell and looked to be talking more than working. Mr. Carson was not an overly hard working man but did just enough to keep himself out of the stocks. Elinor found him most unimpressive, certain that his wives and daughters did more work to put food on the table than he did—only truly upsetting because he seemed to eat most of that food and spend every coin he had at the tavern.

Tobias brought the cart to a stop close by and hopped down.

Nicholas made his way to the cart and Elinor pretended not to notice the way his blue eyes shone brighter and his mouth pulled into a smile when he saw her and Isabelle in the cart. Instead she looked around at the valley, long grass and wild flowers all in bloom. Little Prudence Lorell was sitting near the wall, 9 years old this summer and with long chestnut brown hair falling out of her bonnet. Mrs. Lorell had died years ago, leaving Prudence with two rough though well-meaning men who had no idea how to help her with her hair.

Elinor had been bringing them pies and bread for years, she hadn’t entirely meant to cultivate feelings in Nicholas but there he was, all good intentions and calloused hands, looking at her with those dreamy eyes full of wishes.

Prudence jumped up from where she was sitting in the grass with Sarah Carson. Sarah was despicably prim and lovely for coming from such a disorderly family. It was like she fell out of a fantasy, where her father was a good man and her mother a fairy queen. It was difficult not to dislike her and her shiny blond hair, always out of her bonnet for show.

Elinor was decidedly slow about moving from the middle of the bend, busying herself with something in her basket and leaving Tobias to round the cart to the other side and help Isabelle down first. As soon as he was on the other side of the horse, she scooted into his seat and further, intending to either jump down or get Francis’s attention but Nicholas picked up his stride. A look of almost panic struck his features, as though she’d leap to her death before he got there. He helped her down, arms strong enough to hold her high as long as she liked, but bringing her down safely to the grass.

Nicholas smelt like fire and metal and she was very nearly tempted to linger, blushing just a little and looking up through her lashes when she mumbled a shy thank you. He turned a pretty shade of pink and ducked his head, taking a step back just as his little sister rushed forward, grass whipping her arms. “Elinor!”

Elinor smiled wide and swept the little girl up into her arms, awkward as she’d grown so much just this year, but walked with her anyway, their skirts mashed together. She huffed with the girl was decidedly too heavy and put her back down with a giggle. “Oh, Prudence, must you keep growing?” She immediately put down her basket and started tidying up the girl’s hair. “Soon you’ll be as tall as Isabelle and I and I won’t be able to carry you at all!”

Mr. Lorell grinned happily at the sisterly affection for his dear daughter. Little Prudence looked so very much like her dead mother that it was hard for anyone that loved the women to look at the child for long. A beautiful sort of tragedy—to have love meld with agony so much that the two could no longer be untwined.

“Will you and Isabelle be sitting with us in the field, Elinor?” Prudence sang, biting her lip and looking between the two young women. Elinor didn’t miss the ‘us’ there and cast Sarah a warm, lying, smile where she still sat in the grass, working on her mendings.

“Oh, better yet, Isabelle and I are going on the other side of the wall.”

Prudence’s pretty, round face was stricken by too many emotions—shock, envy, excitement, amazement, desire. She turned and looked to her Pa with big eyes, already set to plead. He shook his head firmly, still working on pulling away the old wood planks. “Not a chance, little one.”

Elinor bent and kissed the top of the girl’s bonnet. “We’ll bring you back the prettiest flower we find,” she promised.

Tobias came around the side of the cart. Francis had set to work unloading some of their things from the back, standing the riffles up against the side of the cart to be easily grabbed. He played careless but he was far from it. Tobias looked up to see his little cousin in the cart, always such a pretty girl. One of his first responsibilities as a boy had been to look after Isabelle and Elinor. The night they disappeared was still the worst of his life. He remembered searching the woods for days with his pa, so afraid of finding her pretty corpse.

He reached up for her, strong arms ready to pluck her up from the cart and set her down in the grass. "Don't let Francis upset you," Tobias would say softly when he lifted her. "And don't let Elinor drag you along anywhere you don't want to go." His sister was a brave creature, as capable as any girl or woman he'd ever known. He hated the idea of them wandering close to the woods, but they weren't little girls anymore nor were they birds to be caged. He held Isabelle's gaze when her feet were on the ground, words soft but voice deep. "It's all right to stay close, Isabelle."



« Last Edit: September 26, 2016, 02:15:36 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2016, 03:00:05 pm »
Isabelle flushed, in a way she knew sweetened her face.  His hands - a man's hands - were large and firm and strong on her, and underneath the cloth of her dress she burned fearsomely for him.  Strong, gentle Tobias, who was meeting her shy glance with a level, calm, gaze.  Even though he and Elinor - beloveded Elinor, who was fierce where her brother was calm - shared the same clear, gray eyes, their souls shone through and made both different.

"We will not be silly."  She promised him.  They were so close - but then Frances, not one to be left with the work, shouted out for Tobias, and the moment slipped away. 

Her mood could not even be spoiled - at least not greatly - by the presence of Sarah Carson, smiling at both her and Elinor from where she sat with her mending, a sickeningly pretty picture in the sunshine, her cheeks rosy.  She had no right to be so - so - goodly.  Little Prudence, who was really more Elinor's than Sarah's, by all rights,  could not seem to choose, too dazzled with both older girls.  The lure of the outer wall won over Sarah's fairytale charm, however - and though burly Mr. Lorell had cleanly put his foot down, the wistfulness on the little girl's face followed them. 

"She is a sweet creature," Isabelle said fondly, linking arms with Elinor again as they picked their way around the fuss and dirt of the menfolk setting to work.  It was a beautiful day, another testament to the Lord's glory - and Isabelle could not help but feel her mirth shining through.  "One could not ask for a better sister to be."

She could only imagine the look on her beautiful, Queenly cousin's face.  Nicholas Lorell's love for her shone in his brown face, his pale blue eyes.  He was a good man, but not the right one, not for Elinor.


« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 04:19:07 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2016, 04:01:22 pm »
Arms linked, they marched through the opening in the wall, passing Mr. Lorell and Mr. Carson. Elinor ducked her head and smiled a greeting to both as they walked by.

“Not out of eyesight,” Tobias reminded, voice steady at their backs.

Elinor felt his eyes boring into them for a time when they stepped out into that open field. The world felt different outside the walls of Patience. It felt big and deep and old and it pulled at her soul in a way that few things ever did.

A smile pulled at her features and she bumped Isabelle’s hip with her own when she spoke. Isabelle had the most wicked tongue. “Oh, I can think of better.” Elinor smiled, looking at Isabelle and then over her shoulder at Tobias among the other men in the gape of the wall. “Though I fear you’d hate life with a farmer, beloved Isabelle. Milking goats and always fat with babies.” She smiled wider, biting the edge of her lip and leaning her cheek close to her cousin’s ear, even though they were far from eavesdropping ears. “Though you may enjoy making all those babies.”

The grass rolled against their skirts, steady steps carrying them closer and closer to the tall dark trees of the wood. It hummed, she was sure of it. Elinor could hear it breathing, whispering, howling to her. It had been so terribly frightful when she was a child. It was the place of nightmares, where all the terrors of their world slept and ate and bred. She had wanted nothing to do with it, until that day when Goody Jones carried her Isabelle out into the dark of those trees. She’d followed then, right into the night, right into the nest of nightmares. She’d followed the sounds of her beloved cousin crying all the way to its rotting heart.

Now there were no nightmares. No terrors. Only the glorious wood and all its unraveled mysteries.

The viney, thick blackberry bushes clustered at the edge of those trees, wild with thorns and bright with dewy spiderwebs. “Goody Nathaniel is pregnant again,” she gossiped freely with the only person she ever shared her truths. Elinor enjoyed fooling all others only because she could tell Isabelle everything she told no one. Goody Nathaniel being pregnant was as good as a death sentence. “Determined, isn’t she?” She smiled. “Always wanted to give Michael a boy.” Her hand reached out, running long fingers over the violent thorns of the blackberry bush. “And she finally will.” Elinor had a way of knowing things. She had never been wrong about the gender of a baby or when an illness would pass or take a life. Of course, she never told anyone but Isabelle. Boastfullness was a sin, after all.


« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 04:16:55 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2016, 11:53:35 am »
To Isabelle the woods were still, had been still since that long-ago day.   The only noise for her was the beating of her heart.  "I fear you mistaken, dear Elinor. I would enjoy all about creating and carrying Tobias's babies."  She said gaily enough, her cheeks rosy.  "And to think, we would be true sisters."  Here she cut a sly look towards her cousin, her fair hand running along the spindly branches of the blackberry bush.  "I think, you would enjoy the comforts that come with being a townsman's wife - particularly one as... hardworking, as some."

Elinor's Knowing always thrilled Isabelle, and she dropped her shawl, kneeling to gather the gleaming, jewel-like berries.  "It would be a great loss for Mr. Nathaniel, if his poorly wife's life should give.  And for his children, to be left motherless."  She tilted her head to the silence of the trees.  It was a space within her, now, that filled her always with calm.  "I wonder where his dreams take him, in such a troubled time."

She smiled sweetly, full-faced, towards her cousin and her friend, plucking a handful of berries and biting into them, the dark juice filling her mouth.  It was sweet; she could not imagine blood sweeter.


« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 04:20:10 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2016, 04:00:25 pm »
Elinor looked up from the twisting, thick vines of the blackberry bush at mention of dreams. She smiled just a little. “I would hope his dreams took him to a place of comfort…”

She smiled wider when her cousin ate the berries, her own fingers plucking a few and dropping them into the clean blue cloth inside her basket. She pulled a fat black spider from one of the thorns, long slender legs wiggling until she dropped it too into her basket. Her little sisters always screamed with an awful fright when they saw spiders. She’d hate to deprive them of the excitement.

A breeze rolled by, playing at their skirts and Isabelle’s pretty curls. Elinor parted her lips to ask something else about her cousin’s dreams. Perhaps even to ask a favor of her gifts, but instead she felt fingers clawing up her spine and the tinkling laughter drift on that wind. She turned, looking back over her shoulder at the wall. It was too far to have heard the laugh, but she did, and gray eyes drank in the sight of Sarah Carson laughing, face bright in the morning sun and hand reaching out to touch Tobias’ arm. Tobias smiled warmly in return and Elinor felt that knowing sense in the pit of her stomach, like the moment a decision had been made, a contract signed, a child made, a fate sealed. The knowing pressed lips to the back of her neck, to the base of her skull, and licked at her spine.

She worried her bottom lip, eyes narrowing. She had always assumed Tobias would be Isabelle’s. Her cousin adored him so very much. And yet his gaze was turned, Sarah shone so bright, hair like gold in that light, hand still holding onto his arm. It was inappropriate now, the length of that touch, but she was pressing her laugh longer to keep his touch, pretending to need it to steady herself. “Isabelle…” Elinor pulled a few more berries from the bush and dropped them into her basket, turning her face forward and away from the display at the opening in the wall.

Maybe Isabelle’s interest in Tobias would be a child’s fancy. Maybe she wouldn’t care if she lost him to the Carson daughter. Elinor almost laughed. Maybe. But the storm in Isabelle’s soul was nothing to be sneered at. She could will the skies to cry and the crops to turn with all that passion of hers.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2016, 04:58:25 pm »
Isabelle was consumed in the simple, almost sinful pleasure of the fruit; it took her slow, long moments to realise Elinor had said her name in such a way that could not be missed.

Elinor looked to the opening of the fence, and Isabelle stood, quickly.  Her beloved had the look about her when her Knowing, her Sight, took hold -- Isabelle's heart began to gallop, a wild horse's run.  "Is it Tobias?  It's not injury?"

She did not need her cousin to confirm this, though - it was too quiet, no shouts of panic, but still there was something grave in the other girl's face that made the youngest Thomas fear, deeply.  There was only ever but one matter which had the power to bring the black demon of emotion over her - naught else could wrap its' spindly fingers around her heart so, not since the days of the forest - and that was Tobias. Almost instinctly, Isabelle moved towards the fence, taking one step, two.

The breeze picked up, threatening to be a wind, and Isabelle closed her eyes and breathed in deep so that they could still.  When she opened them again, her hazel eyes searching.  People were moving, carrying wood, men - and then there was the slim, bright figure of a girl -- with golden hair.  Walking with a boy - a man, who even at this distance, so far from hearing, was recognisable.

It seemed all the world stopped.  There was nothing within her but a terrible emptiness that verged onto furious, white and cold.   Tobias had been hers since they were children and he held her hand, leading the way.  The girl knew now what Elinor had seen.

Elinor, who had a quiet, powerful way with all living things. 

"Dearheart," Isabelle said, dark and low. "If you truly love me, call on something now and let us tear them asunder."   


« Last Edit: October 02, 2016, 05:15:37 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2016, 06:57:24 pm »

Elinor reached up from where she sat in a pile of her skirts, and curled her fingers into Isabelle’s palm. She squeezed tenderly and smiled with just as much care. Her Isabelle was like fire itself, bringing life to them all but with a change in the wind, she could devour everyone and everything. Oh, how Elinor would love to sit in the ashes of Patience with her, but perhaps it was too early for that.

Oh, she might rejoice in seeing the ruin of Tobias and Sarah while that bruised heart still ached, but when it passed she may regret the loss of him. Elinor would not have that. She would not see her Isabelle regret anything. “Waste not, my love,” Elinor said, looking up at her cousin.

She felt the woods behind her, ever a shadow even in the bright morning. She turned her head down as though listening to those thick and endless trees. She reached out with her very soul, searching the forest. They weren’t so hard to find, stretching in the dawn like the rest. Chin down, her eyes flashed a terrible yellow. Her fingers squeezed at Isabelle’s as though for anchor and then she exhaled.

Somewhere in the woods, not far at all, a howl came into the morning, piercing the trees and rolling out across the field. She shuddered and kept her head turned to the trees to hide her smile. “Run, beloved. Run into his arms and see that he carries you home,” Elinor whispered, letting go of her hand.

The men at the wall were shouting, nerves built to a fine point at that sound. Those nerves would snap into action soon enough. The wolves were cutting fast through the brush, they would leap over the blackberry bush and hit the field with mashing teeth and violent intentions.

Elinor swallowed back her glee and when she twisted toward the field, her face was drawn with terror. Her gray eyes were glassy with tears and she clawed at the grass to pull herself to her feet. She would follow Isabelle but not pass her, intent on seeing this plot play out just so. The field was long and already she could taste the fear spiking in the people standing near the open belly of their town’s wall.




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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2016, 12:32:55 pm »
It was terrible and great, the display of Elinor's power - the air tasted sweeter after it, a lingering of the powerful force her loved one wrought down around them.  It made Isabelle's skin tingle, wicked and grand.  As the wolves howled, she breathed in deeply, squeezing her cousin's fingers one last time.  Run into his arms, Elinor had said.  And she would.  This was perhaps the single greatest difference between her beloved and herself - that Elinor could think of these little games, careful and cunning, whereas Isabelle wanted all to burn. 

She dropped her basket just as the men at the gap began to shout, and gathering up her skirts - the lace underneath showing, catching at the grass - began to run, screaming one short, desperate time, thrilled to her core as she stumbled over grassy clumps and rocks.

The wolves broke free of the brambles, vicious and snarling, quick to recover, and Isabelle's heart raced, flying along with her spirit.  She had no fear for Elinor, who was behind her, similarly donning the terror their situation called for - beloved Elinor was a wolf in wool, one of them, more than them, a Queen among the beasts.  There was only one thing Isabelle could focus on now, and that was Tobias, who tore himself from that wretched wanton Sarah, hurtling towards his cousin and his sister both as men rushed behind him, gathering muskets.

She could hear him shouting for them to run, to run - someone came up beside him in a blur, burly and tall - Isabelle thought she could see Frances just behind, musket in hand, but the figures were all interchangeable.  She only cared for one now and he met her halfway, in the middle of the field, open and brave, his arms out like he could gather her up away from the danger.  And he would, oh how.

Isabelle launched herself into his arms, strong and waiting and he did, he gathered her up, skirts and all and she pressed herself to him, tears trembling on her lashes, hands balled into his shirt.  She could feel his heart, his soul underneath her hands.  "Elinor," She gasped.   Elinor, her Queen, who could care fiercely for herself with the help of no man.  It wouldn't do to look callous, however. "But Elinor!"


« Last Edit: October 03, 2016, 12:43:03 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #12 on: October 03, 2016, 01:36:32 pm »
And it all worked just as planned. Beautiful. Elinor ran but the wolves ran faster. She loved them for it. She would love them even when they died and their hides laid out on her bed. She would touch the fur tenderly and think on their beautiful ruin for her love's beautiful passion.

Tobias had Isabelle up in his arms, looking like a giant, holding her tight and twisting to the side to keep his body between hers and danger. He would never let go. She could see it. If the wolf reached him, burly and wild with hungry jaws, he would kick and punch with that free arm, but even if it ate him alive he wouldn’t let Isabelle down. His eyes pierced Elinor with strangled pain, boots stiff in the grass when he couldn’t bear to take his cousin closer to danger now that he had her. Elinor felt his agony, his terrible sickly realization that he would leave his sister to die that awful violent death and carry his cousin to safety. He felt it choking him like betrayal but she loved him so much more for it. If his heart had been willing to risk Isabelle, Elinor might have seen to his death for that treason.

“Frances!” Tobias hollered, voice booming, crying out to have his soul saved from the ruin that would have come from leaving his sister to die.

She fell in the grass and one wolf pounced on her skirts, heavy paw slammed down into her leg and teeth mashing in thick material. The other wolf darted past, running for Tobias and Isabelle. He bared teeth, holding his little cousin tighter and twisting her away. It leapt but before it landed a musket shot out and the great beast fell like a sack of wheat. Frances dropped the riffle and started running for Elinor, the wolf on her shaking its great head back and forth violently, dragging her in the grass back toward the woods—intent on sinking into the dark with her.

She let out a screaming sob, one hand clawing at the earth while the other stretched out with pale fingers for her brother. He pulled the long knife from his side and she could see his intent. He would fight the damned beast with hands and one little tooth if he had to. He would not lose her to the woods again.

Another shot echoed across the field and the weight of the beast came down on her legs, heavy but still. She looked past Frances, past Tobias and Isabelle, to see Nicholas standing there with his musket exhaling smoke and his muscles so tight they might snap.

Frances pushed the wolf off her legs and picked her up, turning her to sit her down beside the great dead beast. Her bonnet had fallen back, her dark hair exposed to the morning light with strands falling against her cheek. Frances pulled at her skirts, patting her down through them, looking for blood in those torn layers. “You are well. You are well,” he said again and again.

She felt the ground under her hand grow thick and warm, like hot mud, and looked down to see the wolf’s blood pooling in the grass under her palm.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2016, 05:07:42 pm »
Even though it was far, the smell of blood - drenching into the Earth, mingling with the sweet darkness of Elinor's power.   The smell was intoxicating, and Isabelle did not have to play at quivering - it excited her so.  Tobias, being good and kind as he was, almost sagging with the relief of his sister's safety, held Isabelle even tighter against him when he felt it.

He was so warm, like summer sunshine.   Isabelle's hand curled around his neck, feeling the life in his taunt muscles and burying her face into his chest as he turned from the scene of his siblings clinging together in the dark, hot blood of the beast.   Away from that, and to the promised land of Patience, where there was shouting and a gathering spectacle, their fear palatable.   But were it any other day, and Isabelle's soul would have delighted in it.  As it was she could only curl around the satisfaction of her dearheart's clever ways coming together so neatly, Tobias a god as he cradled her close, his hands in her hair, against the wool of her dress, unaware that Isabelle would take this, and visit him with it in his dreams, soon enough. 

The golden-haired harlot was there, lingering within the safety of the imagined lines of the village, as if that could save her.  Isabelle didn't have to turn her head to see her - everything she could want to know was told to her, by the girl's voice.  "Oh!  Praise the Lord!  I thought it surely the Devil's work, that those beasts should come so!"  She was talking to Tobias, her voice small and trembling.   Isabelle's being was so tightly wrapped with Tobias's in that delicious moment that she felt Sarah reach out and catch his sleeve.  "Pray tell, are they both well?"

"By the screams of her, Elinor fares well."  A voice nearby joked, able to be jovial now that it was clear no harm had fallen over them present.  Even in her stolen bliss, Isabelle felt a strike of hot hatred for even daring to think of Elinor in anything but the terms of the powerful creature she truly was.   Tobias said nothing, pulling away politely - but neatly - from the Carson whore, Isabelle only lifting her head to meet her tear-filled eyes with his once he set her down in the cart, his arms still about her. 

She did not have to say a word.  Tobias's hand - the rough hand of a man who worked - reached up and cupped her cheek, the girl letting her tears spill.    A calloused thumb wiped what it could away, and Isabelle let her lips part, so close.

Yes, she thought in satisfaction.  Beloved Elinor's plan had worked well.


« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 08:04:29 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #14 on: October 05, 2016, 08:16:18 am »
His heart was beating so fast. He touched her face, cupping that round cheek, and awed at the smallness of her against his palm. The softness of her. The warmth of her. He could have lost her to teeth and terror. An acute, physical pain washed over him at the thought of that death befalling her. The very image of it was unbearable. And it would have been his fault. He would have been the man that let her go, out into that field, toward those dark trees.

He tried to clean her beautiful face of those tears, like rubbing away the proof of what had almost happened. “Forgive me.” He whispered without thinking, not even sure it was her he was asking forgiveness of. That horrible moment had taught him too much—forced him to know things about himself he’d never wanted to know.

The guilt of arguing with Elinor that night when she was a child, of yelling at her and letting her run off, had eaten at his heart for nearly a decade. He had known she would go to Isabelle—his sister always went to Isabelle. But when neither child was there, both lost to the woods, guilt had slammed down on his chest for the very first time. He thought it was the worst feeling he had ever known, worse than that time he broke his arm, worse even than when their brother, Christian, died of fever. Now he knew so much worse. He knew it and there was no going back from that. He had stood fast in the field with Isabelle in his arms, a wolf on his sister, and felt relieved. Relieved! Because Isabelle was safe and warm against his side and that had been all that mattered. The shame built into a near physical stabbing at his heart but he could not let it consume him, only because he could not bear to imagine Isabelle running in that field without him there to meet her.

“Frances will bring Elinor,” Tobias spoke quietly, the words pulling up from deep in his chest. Even now, he could not go to his sister, could not leave Isabelle alone in the cart beside the wall. More and more people had gathered, having come to mend the wall or play in the field and now standing around eyeing the spectacle. Men had gone into the field with muskets in case more wolves came, others picking up the bodies of the two shot.  “He will see you home.”


Elinor sat in the field, lifting her hand from the grass. It almost stuck, strings of blood trying to keep her. She lifted her hand and turned it palm up. The red was so violently bright, brighter than any color in all of Patience. Her fingers looked terribly long under it—under the blood on her hands. “Frances…” She trembled out his name in the smallest of cries.

He looked up and saw the blood before quickly grabbing her wrist and pulling her hand forward, he rubbed it clean on his shirt front, anything to get the color off of her. She had killed plenty of livestock before, but this wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the same because it could have just as easily been her blood as the beasts.

Nicholas reached them and knelt beside Elinor and Frances. “Is she hurt?” He asked, voice quiet as though others might be listening.

“She will sport some bruises but she isn’t wounded.” Frances answered, grabbing her by the elbows and starting to stand with her. “See if you can get on your feet,” he urged, drawing her upward. She wobbled for their worry but steadied herself, nodding. Frances kept hold of her arm and started walking her back toward the wall.

“Isabelle?” Elinor asked quietly, as though she could not feel her heart in that cart out of sight. As though she did not know her beloved’s well-being every moment of every day.

Frances made a harsh sound between tongue and teeth. “You should worry more for yourself, Eli.”

He only called her Eli when they were alone, and usually only when he was very tired or when he had been very young. “She is well. Tobias has her.” She heard the way the words ground out of him, edged with contempt. He had seen how their brother froze, how he left her to the wolves and where she loved Tobias for it—Frances may never forgive it.

She leaned into his arm. “You killed a wolf.” She tried to appease his anger with a reminder of the story he’d have to tell. Not many his age could say that. Not many had seen a wolf since Patience was settled.

They passed others on the field going to fetch the body of the dog, they tipped their heads and wished her well, she smiled with tears in her eyes at their kindness. Nicholas had to take double steps to catch up with them, but fell into a slow pace on the other side of them. Frances gave him one, unamused look, knowing well that the other man was love struck and not finding it the least bit amusing today. “Good shot.” He finally said across his sister.

Elinor smiled at Nicholas. “Was it you that shot it? I saw nothing…” She looked distressed, disturbed by the memory.

Nicholas looked stricken by that expression, hands holding tight to his musket. “Thank god for it,” he said and she noticed how his eyes took in her loose hair and the bonnet hanging around her neck. She pretended not to notice she had lost it, pale and stricken by disbelief of such a horrible event. No one would blame her and it added all the more to the image of her distress.

They walked her to the cart and Goody Higgins stopped her to take her hands, squeezing warmth into them and looking so beautifully distressed. Charity Higgins was a new bride, barely a year older than them. She was spilling beautiful words of praise for the lord while tidying up Elinor’s bonnet and kissing her cheeks. “We were so worried when we heard you scream. Thank the lord you are safe in the arms of Patience again—it would be a darker place without you.” She shot a few of the others a hard look—the kind she could give now that she was married—and meant those words down to the very pit of her soul.

She meant it, and Elinor smiled for that foolishness and kissed her cheek. “It was a fright but the gentlemen were good shots and we will be well again just as soon as our nerves stop shaking.”

Frances managed to wedge himself between Elinor and Goody Higgins and help his sister up into the cart. She scooted to the middle, beside Isabelle and noticed how Tobias could not bear to look at her. She also noticed how Frances refused to look at Tobias. Oh, the beautiful ripples of a beautiful plan.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2016, 05:54:40 pm »
Without words, Isabelle took Elinor's hands in hers and squeezed tightly, their fingers interlocking, the blood from the wolf - the blood that drenched her beloved's skirts - sticky between them. 

She could not say it with words - not with Frances, stiff and smoldering, so close - so she whispered it with their clasped hands, her glee at the day's unfolding events.   She savoured Tobias's whisper, the desperation in his face -- and his hand on her cheek, most of all.  For Tobias to allow himself such a touch, in front of all: why, her soul delighted in it.

The cart rambled into life, Frances driving them through the village towards the Thomas homestead.   His silence spoke volumes, and Isabelle cut lazy eyes towards her queenly cousin, her dark hair unbound from her coif, wild.  With her blood-drenched dress and her beautiful face where the quiet power of her lurked underneath her skin, and gave to her a glowing.   Isabelle was in the presence a dark and terrible beauty, like a storm, like Mother Nature herself, and she squeezed Elinor's hand once more, as the cart jerked along.


« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 08:30:56 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2016, 10:33:18 am »
Chapter Two


Elinor struggled not to run, not to cry, not to scream out. The main road of Patience was alive with excitement. Every year, just after the middle of summer, they had a festival. It was full of music and bundles of flowers. They brought tables out into the main road and covered them with food everyone brought to share. They played games and danced and told stories. It wasn’t as wonderful as the harvest festival in autumn, but it was lovely all the same.

Now, seeing the happy faces preparing the tables and flowers, Elinor could see nothing happy about them.

That morning, she’d stirring to life knowing that something had gone wrong. While she slept on the pelt of the wolf she’d sacrificed for the sake of plans only a week ago, her own carefully laid plans had been shattered. It wasn’t months wasted, it was years of work, of intentions, of careful ground laying. Goody Nathaniel loved her, as did her family, and by winter Goody Nathaniel would die delivering that baby in her sickly womb. By winter Mr. Nathaniel would be widowed, left with two daughters and one baby boy on the brink of death. Elinor would save that baby. She would care for his family and he would see that she was a perfect fit and finally stop resisting all of those beautiful dreams Isabelle put in his head wherein he found such peace and comfort in Elinor’s arms. By winter, she would have the life she’d picked for herself. By winter she’d have everything.

Winter would never come.

She felt it crash down on her when she woke, crushing her. She trembled when she dressed, mind racing, searching for what had gone wrong. Surely Michael Nathaniel was well—his wife sick as ever. She came downstairs to find her mother beaming, her younger siblings still asleep and the older boys already out to check on the livestock.

Oh, what good news her mother had. Good for everyone but Elinor. Everyone but Isabelle. And so, it was good news for no one.

She almost ran up the path to Isabelle’s house, knocking at the door. She had planned to come over today, to get ready for the festival and work on the little handkerchiefs they’d been making for all the ladies of Patience as a festival gift. She knocked again, swallowing hard at the scream swelling up in her throat. She was a bringer of bad news, Elinor realized. Her precious Isabelle was safe from it until she opened the door, safe from knowing how their world was being threatened, safe from the hot agony twisting in her own chest. She needed to share it though, she needed to give it to Isabelle because she knew, just knew, that they could resolve their fates together. If Isabelle shared her distress, her misery, she knew that she would be able to move mountains to save her.

She just needed to think. She needed to breathe. She needed Isabelle.

The ball of her fist beat against the door, catching a glance from Goody Carson spreading a tablecloth over one of the large tables out on the road. Elinor pressed her shoulders down and forced a pleasant smile at the woman.

“Perhaps they’re out with the others picking berries and flowers, Elinor,” Goody Carson called and waited, worn smile seeking more.

Elinor knew what she was seeking. She wanted to see if Elinor already knew the good news. The news that would see someone in this town dead if she had any say in it. And Elinor always had a say in it, even if no one listened to her words. Yet she smiled, easy and empty and dumb just the way that comforted the old and sneaky best. “Perhaps, but her house is so very big I fear she might just be upstairs.” Elinor giggled and it almost cost her all her energy to do so, but it satiated Goody Carson—now occupied with her own envy for the Thomas house and back to setting up the table with her worn and unmended tablecloth.




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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2016, 05:05:56 pm »
Isabelle had woken up that morning refreshed and smiling, hands curling in the linens of her bed as the morning sun shone through the fine cotton of her curtains.  Her hair, heavily plaited for sleep, was curled around her neck like a snake, warm and soft.  She had stroked it idly, luxuriating in last, faint pleasure of the dream she had crafted for herself last night, before her mother - sharp today, Goody Thomas not one to miss appearences before the town - called to her to begin her day.

Her mother had bade her to wear the black dress today, the woman's attempt to remind the town of who the Thomas's were.   They could afford the dye to create such cleanness.  There was a crisp, freshly starched apron awaiting Isabelle too, and pleasantly enough she readied herself, her hair smooth, falling neatly from under a new bonnet.  She had made it as she and Elinor sat and sewed for today's festivities. 

Mother, fussing, had bade Abigail go with her to go to Katherine's, Isabelle's older sister, to help her gather some flowers for the festival.  Isabelle was pleased, for it would be the Carson girl who would have to hear and humour Goody Thomas's ills, lest til they arrived at Katherine's door, where surely the woman's attention would shift.  Abigail always seemed nervous under Goody Thomas's fierce attention, who, apart from complaining, saw the Carson children as needing saving from their father's lazy ways.  When her mother was feeling in good spirits, she would oft devise more work for poor little Abigail - idle hands being the chief playthings of the Devil.   

Isabelle, spinning slowly in her room imagining the delights the day could unfold, miss the first pounding of the front door.  She only caught the second after pausing, everything within her stilling -- she reached out with that invisible thread that tied her and her beloved together and felt it was Elinor, and she brightened.  Together with their baskets they would go arm in arm about the festival, celebrating the secrets only they knew.   

Pleased, Isabelle turned and ran through their quiet, beautiful house, almost taking the strides to the door in leaps to open it to her cousin's beautiful face. 

"Elinor!"  Isabelle cried joyfully, as she flung open the door.  "Elinor, I - "

She stopped, taking the other girl in.  Something was very wrong.  In the flesh the connection between them quivered, something plucking at the calm and beautiful strings between them - fear.   

"What has happened?" She whispered, not even caring that the simple, stupid Goody Carson was watching nearby with a envious interest.  "Oh Lord, Elinor - what has happened?"


« Last Edit: October 07, 2016, 05:34:28 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2016, 06:07:52 pm »
Elinor suddenly wished fiercely that she had not rushed to her beloved. She wished she had stayed home and somehow brought the whole day to a stop, so that she might have been forever in the lovely mood that had withered all around her right before Elinor’s eyes.

But she had come. She ran to Isabelle because running to Isabelle was what Elinor did. Like a ship following the stars. Without her she would be lost.

She reached out, fingers finding Isabelle’s and lithe body pressing in to the home of her dearest. Her maroon skirt stroked across the doorframe, the crisp clean white skirt beneath bright and matching her apron and bonnet. She worried her lip and begged Isabelle to close the door, one hand playing fingers at her lips. “Oh, it is so terrible, my love. So terrible,” she whispered even in private and paced about the hall before slipping into the parlor. She knew this house as well as her own though it was the complete opposite.

While the Thomas homestead owned by her father at the edge of town before the spread of his farm land was rough and all function over beauty—the Thomas townhouse owned by Isabelle’s father was utter luxury. Clean painted surfaces and freshly upholstered couches and chairs. Elinor had never been jealous. She loved both homes because they were both theirs, contrasting but lovely in their own little ways.

“Engaged!” She cried the word. “There have been engagements. And they will announce them tonight if everyone does not hear it before the festival.”

Her eyes pressed shut and she stopped pacing, hand to her forehead. Everything would be ruined. She could see it unfolded. Sarah Carson would be an ever present fixture on the homestead and Elinor would be cast out, sent to the Lorell home. Oh, how happy her mother had been. How proud of the match. She was to marry Nicholas Lorell and care for his family. It had hit her like a sack of bricks to the chest. Thankfully her mother had mistaken her tears for joy and she had managed to smile and play them off as such. Oh the shock, her mother had called it. The lovely shock.

“They’ve been talking in secret, the parents, they’ve worked out the arrangements already. I’m supposed to marry Nicholas Lorell!” She pushed her fingers at her mouth when the name came too loud. Oh, she could see it. It was lovely, it was. He would be a good husband by all accounts—upright and just and love her deeply in their youth. But Elinor’s sight went longer than his crush. And she had plans. She had told Isabelle of her designs these past years, her intentions to be the next Mrs. Nathaniel.

Her eyes flung open, shining gray locking on to her beloved with new horror. “Oh, forgive me. Forgive me!” she pleaded, taking hold of Isabelle’s hands again and shaking her head. “Here I mourn my own loss when…” She took a deep breath and then let it out slowly, miserably. How had she not seen it coming? How had they been so quiet in their plans? “Tobias.” She sighed. “Tobias is promised to Sarah Carson.” She nearly spat the name it was so vile in her mouth. “Mother said he did not know of the engagement plans until this very morning. They thought it a lovely surprise for a us both.” She laughed bitterly but it was short, ending when her lungs were out of air.


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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2016, 06:42:46 pm »
There was something dark, bubbling like a promise in Elinor's forced laugh and Isabelle could only stare, stare at the other half of her soul as her world came crashing down.  "Engaged?" She whispered.  It was as though the word itself - wretched word! - stole the very air from her lungs, and the Thomas girl dropped like a stone to the floor, dress puddling about her. 

"How --"  It struck, then, the white hot fury that pricked at her eyes and bade forth tears, that tightened her throat.  Where her beautiful, patient cousin saw herself the gentile Goody, the loving wife reigning from benign comfort, Isabelle had seen herself the happy and content mother to precious babes who were all strong boys like their father, with a little girl just like her whom she could teach the whispering of the woods to.  And yet those dreams were struck down, replaced by that stupid, simple Sarah Carson, Sarah Carson who would make a perfect farmer's wife and have stupid, simple children, with none of the terrible beauty Isabelle or Elinor had. 

Her grief was so great that she could feel the fine teacups Mother kept rattling in their cabinet, brought all the way from the city by Father.   "I would rather see this village burn than you or Tobias chained to lives you should not live."  She managed to whisper.


« Last Edit: October 10, 2016, 10:08:26 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #20 on: October 11, 2016, 12:15:59 pm »
There was her beautiful Isabelle. There was her goddess of vengeance and fury.

It was everything she needed—everything she’d come for. She watched her sister in every way but blood sink to the floor in an upheaval of skirts and the flutter of lush curls. The house shuddered with her pain, with her anger, and it made Elinor shudder with something much more pleasant. She sunk too, leaning into Isabelle’s skirts and grabbing up her hands. She held them together, as though they prayed.

“Oh, my love, it has not come to that yet. Not yet.” She promised and suddenly knew that it was true—that all was not lost. What could they not do together? Who could they not sway, fool, ruin, if they put their hearts to it? “Engaged is not married, right? We have time, little time, but time.” The weddings would be soon, before summer faded to autumn. Weeks at best.

“Tell me you will help me and I will see this right again. Tell me your heart will be with mine and I will put theirs on our plates.” She swore, voice harsh with whispers that carried the wind of change. She knew it in her bones that she would put Sarah in her grave to buy back Isabelle’s happiness and she would be sure to see Nicholas’s ruin as well. Anything, to have her fate as she desired it to be and her sister always dancing at her side. “Help me and I will see that our lives are ever as we will them to be.”



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #21 on: October 11, 2016, 02:14:01 pm »
Her hands in Elinor's, Isabelle felt a hiccuping calm take her, and she clutched as though to a rock in the stormy seas.  Elinor was her rock, her One True Heart -- she would do anything Elinor asked, anything, everything.  If her beloved bade her to jump with her from great height, Isabelle would, because she trusted her sister to lead them into flight.

"Of course, dearest."  She said, fingers tightened.  "I could only but help you, I am you, you are me, I would do whatever you asked."

They would have looked truly pious, should mother and the Carson - Carson! What a cursed name now! - girl returned.  Elinor always looked the supplicant one, the one who would lead them both into humble prayer, there on the floor.  Isabelle bowed her head over their joined hands, as though really praying.   "My heart knows no other." She whispered tenderly, hazel eyes glittering with unshod tears.  "I would not see you led to a life you would not want, and - and I -"  Isabelle struggled for a moment, then burst forth.  "I could not live in this world if I had to watch your brother love another! Tell me what you need!"

Put their hearts on plates, Elinor had said.  Isabelle would eat Sarah Carson's with her own fingers if it meant she would be free the threat of her.  "Tell me what you need - dreams?  Surely we must work soon.  The wedding banns will hang for a few weeks yet, but I fear time."


« Last Edit: October 11, 2016, 02:17:01 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2016, 09:47:10 pm »
Elinor held those precious hands, squeezing them, finally pressing the back of one to her cheek and letting out a sigh of utter relief. Even with the axe looming over head, she was made completely certain by those words—those offers—that forever companionship. She opened her eyes and sat back at the mention of dreams, smiling slowly. Yes. Oh yes. All the terrible things they could do.

“Yes. Yes. We will put together a perfect end to make our perfect beginnings.” She was still smiling when she kissed her Isabelle’s knuckles and then pushed herself to her feet, pulling her cousin upright to have their skirts swaying together. “But it must be exactly right. We must be clever.” She almost giggled. “Wickedly clever. We will go to the festival and smile and I will tell everyone of the glad news of my wedding and we… We must congratulate Sarah.” The name was still putrid in her mouth. She shook her head quickly to stave off any protest. “We will kiss her cheeks and cry with happiness for her fortune knowing that we will cry with joy soon, when her ashes dirty our skirts.”

She tapped a thoughtful finger to her lips, gray eyes gone dark with spinning plots. “We will begin tonight. You must put yourself in Tobias’s dreams—nothing too bold to be devilish—a longing perhaps? Seeing you in a field, trying to reach you but never able to. Something that will wake him uneasy with a sense of loss.” She nodded along with her own musings. “And others in town… We must spread a feeling of distrust in Sarah Carson. Every night until it’s done. Little dreams of her being wicked, of something not right, of her snatching babies and poisoning apples.”

The idea struck her at once and she stilled where she stood in the room, turning to look at her beloved. “Nicholas—poor, kind, hardworking Nicholas—will be the victim of a witch. And that witch will be Sarah Carson.” Her skin prickled and she felt the lips of fortune kiss her spine at the base of her neck. It smiled against her skin and accepted her turn of fate. A door opened and another closed and it was laid before her eyes. Oh yes, their futures were right again, but the cost would be great and already she felt the blood on her hands—like the blood of that wolf wet beneath her palm.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2016, 03:23:23 pm »
It was easy enough, to appear happy.

When Mother finally came home (a harassed Abigail following with a basket of flowers from Katherine's garden) Isabelle had shored herself together enough to pretend pleasure at Elinor's engagement.  Engagement!  How Goody Thomas had coolly approved.  "You will make a fine wife, a noble woman."  Her mother had said as she kissed her niece's cheeks.  This was more affection than she showed Isabelle, but it did not bother her -- only that the woman could not see how wrong it was that someone so pure, so untamed, could be shackled so to a life that did not reflect her splendour.

And how that faked giddiness had to follow both girls to the festivities -- where it seemed everyone knew, even before the announcements.  Mr. Lorell actually beamed at the sight of them, clasping Elinor fondly, his young daughter squealing with delight to take Elinor's hands.  How she hated them!  Hated them for being able to celebrate such chains!  Yet she could not scowl, or take ill humour; instead she clasped Elinor's hand and when they sat together at the table, turned to her, as though excited, two young girls sharing girlish hopes and dreams for a future that, if they had their wicked way, would never be. 

It was such a glorious day.  Some of the young men had cleared a space, taken off their jackets; in the middle of them was the simple Nicholas Lorell, who looked so pleased!  His eyes shone as he made merry with his friends.  The boys were wrestling, taking turns to measure their strength, the men around them watching seriously, calling out encouragement as needed, cries of bitterness when one boy was pinned.   Men always setting themselves apart with the games they played. 

Women sat together, partaking of food, ignoring them. The tables were laden with food. Cold rabbit and warm stews and mussels, steamed.  And the sweets!  Pies and berries and sugared nuts; Isabelle herself had helped her Mother to bake light, rich honeyed cakes, her favourite, yet now, sitting in front of them, the smell of the honey and the flowers abound sweet, Isabelle's stomach turned.  She tried hard not to look at Tobias, sitting at another table - and Sarah Carson.  Sarah Carson!  Sarah who glowed, her hair light and spilling from under her coif, a coy wreath of wild flowers in her lap.  Her cheeks were rosy as she sat next to Tobias, and Isabelle could not stand it -- she would see that wretch's death for this.   Swallowing, only Elinor able to know what a vice her hands had become, she let her eyes flicker to her Tobias's, only for a moment.   Dreams, Elinor had said, something simple. 

There was a posy for fresh little blue buds in front of Isabelle, and her free hand reached for them, touching them lightly, sadly, knowing as she did that Tobias looked their way, for even a moment.  This would visit him in his dreams.    And her dissent of Sarah Carson would begin.


« Last Edit: October 12, 2016, 03:33:55 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2016, 09:48:47 pm »
She smiled and ate and blushed and it was all false. The food tasted like nothing on her tongue, pushed back and swallowed down with the vague hope that she wouldn’t wretch it back up. Luckily, any moment of trembling hands or uncertain gaze that slipped through that sweet mask were met with the delight of the other ladies. Happy gitters, they called it.

In the flurry of the afternoon, Nicholas found her. He rumpled the edge of his hat in his hands and looked at her shoes poking out from her white skirts below the maroon dress. He asked her, softly, with the slightest blush on his tanned cheeks—he asked her if she would marry him. He didn’t have to. It had been decided and announced. But Nicholas asked because he wanted to hear the reassurance that she welcomed the match. And Elinor knew, with utter certainty, that if she said anything but yes—anything at all or nothing even—he would release her from their union. He would let her go because right now, at this moment in his beautiful life, he was not the sort of man to take what was not offered.

Elinor reached out and gently pulled his hand from his rough grip. He watched her pale fingers smooth the material, stroke the rim gently and then hand it back to him. She smiled, and not even the devil himself would see the lie in those lips. “Yes, Nicholas Lorell. I will marry you.” She let that smile grow and break into a wild blush. When he took his hat her hand came up to cool her cheek, turning away in embarrassment and hurrying back to Isabelle’s side. She gave him little glances and smiles all night long and the younger girls swooned over the romance of it all.

She could already taste his heart. He gave it freely and she would have it.

Even Goody Nathaniel had come out to the festival, her daughters rushing form her apron’s edge to Elinor at first sight. Goody Nathaniel congratulated her and hugged her, weak arms pressing as best they could. She whispered in Elinor’s ear that she too had good news, but it would keep for another day. It was a knife to her chest—a reminder of plans so well laid and so well laid to waste.

Later, sitting with her Isabelle, she looked around at the festivities. Goody Nathaniel had long since retired back to rest and Mr. Nathaniel was keeping company with the better men of Patience—the wiser, calmer, smarter bunch that mingled well with the prosperous. She didn’t look at him. A part of her worried she would not see even an ounce of disappointment in him when she did.

She felt Tobias where he stood near the wrestling the moment his eyes met with Isabelle’s. It was like lightning to her senses—impossible to ignore. “He is disappointed,” Elinor whispered, picking at the honey cake in front of her cousin for a reason to lean in so close. “though he has not allowed himself to imagine why.”

Tobias was a good son to his father and a good son to Patience. He would not disappoint them. He trusted his parents because god said he should and so he could not imagine doing otherwise. And yet, his smiles were thin, and his dark gaze wandered to their lovely little cousin.

“Isabelle shall be next to marry!” Sarah Carson spoke up from a conversation on the other side of the table. The eyes of all others turned her way and she flushed at their unexpected pressure. Obviously she had not intended to speak so loudly when Emily Harken and Abigail Carson pressed—no doubt hoping she would say one of them was next to wed. “After us, of course.” She looked to Elinor when she added that bit, perhaps worried that she had overlooked her.

Emily Harken smiled, wide mouthed with a silly nose. “To whom? To whom?” She urged Sarah, tugging at her sleeve.

Sarah was warm with attention tonight. She was alive with it. Her gaze scanned the crowds of men and boys thoughtfully and Elinor could feel her thinking. She wanted to flatter Isabelle—desperate to join them now that she would be family. The thought made Elinor’s skin crawl. She had no idea how little marriage or blood meant in the bonds that tied Elinor and Isabelle. “Frances!” She burst just as the lean boy concurred another in the roll and tumble of limbs, rising with a laugh in the display at Elinor and Isabelle’s back.

“Frances?” Milicent, Elinor’s own sister scrunched up her face at the thought.

Goody Higgins, their own age but first to marry, shook her head and made a disparaging sound. “No. No. France’s has a temper that would not suit our Isabelle. She is far too gentle a soul. But perhaps James?” She tried to press back a smile at the rush guessing gave her.

James was France’s twin though they looked very little alike aside from their lean build. James had lighter brown hair and green eyes with softer cheeks. He was striking, like all the Thomas children, but he had a terrible habit of disappearing in the crowd. Quiet, even tempered, smiling James.

Milicent, all of twelve years old and certain her brothers were not a desirable match for anyone, stuck out her tongue.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2016, 02:07:53 pm »
It was hard for Isabelle to smile sweetly Sarah's words, so clearly overheard, even harder when she thought about how all she wanted now was to taste the smell of the wretch's flesh burning in the pyre the town would build for her, once Elinor's lovely, lovely plan came to fruition. 

Her cheeks were burning, but most at the tables present thought it at the embarrassment, and not the swallowed rage that Isabelle thought would consume her.  James was sweet, but the Thomas girl only loved him as family - he did not, and could not inspire the same passion that burned within her at the thought of Tobias, of Tobias's large, worn hands, his level gaze.   She and Tobias would worship each other in a fevour that no Church in the Lord's land could inspire.   A life with James would sweet, sweet, sickeningly sweet with a quiet husband who would work hard and whisper around his own home.  She wanted a man who would walk in, eyes searching for her; who's hands would reach for her in their marriage bed, firm.   James would be a fitting brother - but not a husband. 

Heart clinging to her beloved's words of Tobias's disappointment, Isabelle twined her fingers with Elinor's. stilling her eating of the cake.  "I will send Sarah uneasy dreams tonight, to give her a sleepless look," She whispered, the merry making around them meaning no one could hear.  "As though she has been up to mischief."  She smiled, victoriously, and thought herself most clever.  Suddenly the cake before her, in all it's sticky filling, looked delicious.


« Last Edit: October 16, 2016, 04:31:54 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #26 on: October 17, 2016, 01:55:08 pm »
Elinor leaned in to Isabelle beside her, holding her hand tightly. She smiled gently. “Send her thoughts of Nicholas,” she whispered, looking past her cousin’s shoulder to the man in question. She wanted Sarah tormented, bothered with sleepless nights and improper thoughts of someone other than her betrothed. If they were lucky, Goody Higgins or even Isabelle’s mother Goody Thomas, might notice more than Sarah looking worn and troubled—they might notice her looking too long at Nicholas with a telltale blush. Oh, how they would whisper in those few days between the happy festival and the dark morning that brought true terror to little Patience.

Those days between were full of happy planning in the Thomas family. Elinor’s mother was helping her make a dress for her wedding. There would only be a few weeks left of warm summer before it turned bitterly into autumn. How they counted their blessings in those days. Elinor brought the Lorell’s breads and meat pies every afternoon and Mr. Lorell rejoiced for what a fine daughter he would soon have and how their family would finally feel whole again. Little Prudence had taken already to calling her ‘sister’ and Elinor had smiled warmly at their dreams. Dreams were always to be smiled at—fragile fleeting things that they were.

Elinor was no dreamer. Every night, when she laid herself down and ran fingers through the fur of the wolf skin on her bed, she planned. Her intentions could not be contained by dreams. Dreams were wishes in the night. Elinor need not wish because she could change even fate. Tonight. Oh tonight, how fate would weep for her foolishness. How dare she ever think she could go against Elinor Thomas.

The Thomas farm was alive today. Every month or so her father liked to invite his brother’s family out for a big meal. Her younger siblings and cousins were running in the field, screaming and giggling. Wild little things.

Elinor returned from her usual walk through town, giving out pies and treats to just about every house. Just about every wife in town marked her good spirits and said she was brimming with joy and what a good wife she would make. She stopped near the house when she saw Tobias’s shape in the stable. She shifted her basket on her arm and walked around the side of the house, down the little path to those wide open doors. He was brushing down one of the mares and looking far away in thought. Oh, she could see those thoughts. He was unsure about his wedding. He wanted to trust in the choice of his parents but a little sense of distress pulled at his heart. It was the feeling that something was being missed, as though he was turning down the wrong path and losing out on one much better. She hid her smile when his hand stilled on the brush and he thought of Isabelle. Of her soft round cheeks and the smell of her hair. He imagined that hair in his hand and remembered that day in the field when he held her in his arms and carried her from danger.

Elinor leaned against the door, letting it creak, and her brother’s shoulders tensed. He went back to brushing the mare, looking back at her briefly and smiling thinly. Things had not been the same between them since that day with the wolves. He could barely look at her without feeling guilty. “I took pies and a chicken to the Carsons,” she told him because his soon to be wife was among their household. “I suppose next month she’ll be here at the house preparing for the family dinner and I’ll be in town.”

He looked down, brushing the brown coat of the big old horse. She felt his grief. “It’s a good match, isn’t it? You and Nicholas?” He asked in that always rough, quiet voice.

She smiled though he wasn’t looking, because she knew he was checking again to be sure it was her will. James had asked something similar days ago and Frances, oh her Frances, he had not asked at all. He had joked about her new family like he did about the wolves but she saw the distress in his eyes. “Mother says so and I am so glad of it. He will be a kind husband and I am so lucky to have a family to care for already.” She smiled brightly. She paused a moment longer before coming around the mare to look over its back at him, her face tight with pain. “Tobias… Are you sure about Sarah?” she whispered, reaching across the beast to put her slender hand over his thick one. He looked back at her. “I do not wish to think ill of anyone, but I worry…” She bit her lip.

He looked enraptured, almost needy to hear her next words, but when they didn’t come readily he shook his head and pushed up a smile. His other hand folded overtop of hers. “Mother thinks well of it and that she can learn to be very useful on the farm.”

Elinor leaned closer, feeling the warmth of the side of the mare pressed to her front. “Tobias, she gives me this terrible feeling…” Her whisper was full of dread and her eyes swam with tears she would not shed, no matter how they brimmed against her lashes.

He patted her hand tenderly, her words nothing but the worries of a girl. “Fret not, Elinor. All will be well.”



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #27 on: October 18, 2016, 06:48:36 pm »
The beautiful day gave no indication of the wickedness that Elinor and Isabelle were going to lay store to later that night.   

Isabelle had helped her mother and Abigail Carson - Carson! - to bake dishes for that night's dinner, with her Uncle's family.   Abigail had found herself more willing to talk, now that her sister was moving upwards in society - Isabelle hated her innocent talk of Sarah's plans, the wedding gown they were making her.   Isabelle had been cruel in her jesting, with Elinor, when the girls found themselves alone.  "She will wear a dress made from sacking."  The girl had laughed.  It eased her heart a little, to imagine Sarah - who otherwise glowed, hateful creature that she was - dressed so dourly.  But that was not the case, as Abigail had told Isabelle and her Mother.

"Tobias is so kind," She had gushed.  "He and Goody Thomas came round, bearing a boon for the household - just small things, t'was consideration on their part, because our families are joining, see -- but the best of it!  Tobias's mother gives my mother a bolt of this lovely blue, lighter than the sky, and says that they thought it fitting as material for a dress, a best dress, for Sarah to wear when she and Tobias wed.  That was lovely enough, but Millie let slip later that it was Tobias who imagined the scheme - he paid for the cloth and bade his mother to give it.  Millie said that he thought it a small thing he could do for his future wife."

The young girl had beamed at this, pleased at the romance and generosity of this action -- but it was all Isabelle could do but hold her fist and will herself calm.  It hurt to think of, Tobias's kindnesses bestowed on another.  He would see Sarah and know such a thing as cloth for a decent dress would be a luxury, considering the shameful shambles the Carson's found themselves in -- it would not be done out of pride of himself, but a pure, simple thought of maybe his intended would find pleasure in this.

The dream Isabelle had plagued Sarah with that night had been particularly vicious that night, punishing the blonde with its' crudeness.   Isabelle had tried to temper the dreams she sent her; but that night's had Sarah and Nicholas rutting like animals, Sarah wearing a dress made with the cloth, the touch Isabelle was most proud of.  It was revenge for a slight the other girl didn't even know she'd committed. 

The only good that came from this was that, for once, Goody Thomas and Isabelle were agreed on something.  As Abigail opened like a flower before them, excited to have such a thing before her family, Isabelle's mother  grew more and more wary.  It was not just Abigail's relentless talk -- but Sarah herself.  The dreams Isabelle plagued her with like Elinor bid worked a charm.  Soon wretched Sarah Carson lost her healthy glow - she looked tired, and as soon the deliciousness of Isabelle's beautiful tales came into play, the lingering, sinful signs of wanton thoughts began to bloom like roses in Sarah's cheeks.

All signs that Goody Thomas, sharp-eyed hag that she was, took in readily. 

Abigail had been sent home after the morning's baking and chores, and as Isabelle lovingly tucked the food with cloth, snug in its' basket, her mother spoke.  "I worry that perhaps your good Aunt and Uncle have been hasty in making this match for Tobias."

Isabelle could not help but smile, though she hid it well.


It was James that Isabelle saw first, when she and her parents reached the farm.  Her cousin helped her down from the cart sweetly, taking her basket for her.  "These smell well."  He said, simply.  Isabelle smiled fondly at him - soon they would be joined as siblings, when the ashes of Sarah Carson cooled.  "Where is Elinor?"  She asked. 

He tilted his head in careful thought.  "She went to town to deliver pies - but I think I perhaps saw her head towards the stables."

Heart buoyed, Isabelle thanked him breathlessly before glancing back to make sure her mother was distracted.  When she was satisfied her mother would not notice, Isabelle squeezed James's arm before near fleeing to the Thomas stables, the path so well known to her.  "Elinor!" She called, excitment for their plans tonight bubbling within, easily taken for the excitement they usually always seemed to meet each other with.  "Elinor!"  She cried, just as she stepped in.


« Last Edit: October 18, 2016, 09:14:53 pm by Ara »

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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #28 on: October 19, 2016, 12:59:40 pm »
Oh, how she loved him for his foolishness. Her worries would be ignored, easily and without grudge, but how Tobias would regret it when the terrible truth about Sarah Carson was brought to light. How he would regret this moment tomorrow, when his little sister was in a fit of sorrow over the loss of her hearts love. Elinor would not blame her beloved brother, though. No, she would forgive him wholly as she had forgiven the day he left her to the wolves and the night he let her run off into the dark alone.

She let his comforting words wash away the worry in her eyes and bring back her smile. She felt Isabelle coming even before she heard her name called out in the most beautiful voice. Tobias flinched at that same voice, not because it was any less beautiful to him, but because its beauty had become his pain. Oh, her brother had a gift for bearing guilt. She drew her pale hand back and he finished brushing down the mare.

He looked over his shoulder to see Isabelle run in, a flurry of skirts and glossy dark hair. His lips pulled into a thin, pained smile, and he ducked his head politely in her direction.

Elinor moved around the mare in a hurry, giggling happily at the sight of her beloved cousin and wrapping arms around her. They were at home, after all, no need to act like proper young ladies on the cusp of adulthood here. And she knew how it warmed Tobias’s heart to see them like that—like the innocent little girls he used to look after between chores. “Are your parents well?” Elinor asked, voice a chime of happiness as it was a happy day—even if not for the reasons everyone else thought. She unraveled her arms from Isabelle to play with her hair.

“I heard the silliest rumor from the little girls this morning. It seems they’re obsessed with the notion that you and James will marry.” She giggled but they would both feel Tobias’s instant tension. He looked at them from the corner of his eye, mind reeling with the idea and even more so, with why he hated it so much. Tobias had very rarely felt harshly toward any of his siblings, possibly Frances on occasion, but certainly never James—not until that moment. It was like burying a seed, Elinor thought. If she wanted to, she could make sure it took root and smothered other plants in the yard.



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Re: Written in Ash
« Reply #29 on: October 26, 2016, 08:06:45 am »
How Isabelle laughed!  Gaily and bright, like a bell - all the while the terrible ache inside her throbbed.  If only Tobias knew how much she hated any future, even just childish fancy, without him!

But the play here required sacrifices of them all - and so Isabelle felt herself flush, clutching at her beloved Elinor close.  "'Tis but rumour."  She spoke shyly, but the warming of her face made it seem like she thought otherwise.   Could Tobias imagine it, like she could?   A future of carefully orchestrated agony?   Quiet James, and a small house dressed in the lace curtains that Isabelle would bring in her glory chest; they would have beautiful, clear-eyed children with his cheeks and her hair and Tobias would have to watch it all, his brother's contentment --  because Isabelle could, if she so wanted, make any man content. 

Instead she turned to press her face into Elinor's shoulder, as though overcome.  "I shall not be able to look at James properly, this eve!" She cried, muffled against cloth, smiling smile.  After a moment or two she pulled away and cupped Elinor's cheek.  "But come, it is not me getting wed -- we have much to share, I cannot bear the thought of us parting so soon, dearest, if I were a man I would marry you myself to keep you forever."


« Last Edit: October 26, 2016, 10:58:40 am by Ara »