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Between Trees Read 5123 times

Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #30 on: October 16, 2013, 12:43:05 pm »
Penelope stood anxiously from her chair when the shadows moved behind the woman. Her heart pounded wild in her chest and it seemed as though the only weight that kept her from drifting away completely was his hand on her shoulder. She didn't dare to blink.

The crone snarled angrily at them- at him- but the shadows seemed to laugh, shuddering in the room. The whole house shook when they turned on her. She moved faster than an old woman should, her withered hands moving through the air between herself and the shadows to force them away with a light that came form her palms, driving one back. The second vanished down into the floor before reappearing at her side.

Penelope gasped, holding onto Roman's arm now. This was all a nightmare. She was certain of it.

The darkness grabbed at the old woman and she screamed when that shadow spread over her arm and shoulder, wrapping around her torso to throw her hard into the wall. When the crone hit the wall, Penelope jumped again. "I want to leave." She whispered, pleading as she stared at the fight that seemed to rage all around them as more shadow figures emerged, swarming around the crone as she struggling to her feet, driving away one or two only to have the third and fourth swing long limbs at her.

The fire in the pit trembled, long flames lashing at the bricks while it seemed to scream in its frail inhuman voice. Penelope clung tighter to Roman's arm, looking at the fire. It seemed to reach for the crone as she backed toward it to use its light against those shadows. Her mouth was bleeding from where her face had met with the wall, her features turned to a nightmare with her back to the fire.

The shadow figures lurched toward her, seeming to grow longer rather than step closer, jaws dropping low and arms reaching out. She screamed, a sound mixed with anger and terror and then, just as they grabbed her, the fire went out.

The sudden darkness came with stillness and Penelope did not dare to move. She strained to listen to the room around her but could only hear her own deafening heartbeat.

Beau

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #31 on: October 20, 2013, 03:18:13 am »
Should he feel remorse?  Roman watched the shadow attack.  A sense of numbness stole over him.  He could feel the warm flesh of Penelope’s shoulder beneath his callused hand, but his fingertips were cool, almost numbed by the chill of the ghostly figures. 

We wants it.  We has it!

They drew on the dark cast by the fire, moving in fluid motion and tossing the hag against the wall.  Roman bent forward and blew out the candle as the hag screamed.  His other arm stole around Penelope.  A hand cradled her head against his side in an awkward embrace as he stood between her and the dark forms.

“Close your eyes.” He said with a whisper. 

There was nothing Penelope could do for the woman.  Roman sensed compassion as well as fear in the huddled form near him.  His leg ached, but he remained standing as the darkness fell around them.

Finally it  was over.  Screamed turned to silence.  The window flew open, and Roman closed his own eyes against the harsh gust of air and the pressure of magic dispersing.

The tea cup on the table shattered.  One piece of the china nicked his wrist, drawing fresh blood.

Small price to pay.

Moonlight did little to illuminate the cottage.  Roman wanted to leave, but first he would search and see if there was any item of power that the witch might use to return.   Hesitantly he released Penelope to limp towards the wall where the pictures of freedom has been displayed.  His hands moved delicately over the bricks searching for evidence of a door.  He frowned when he found nothing, not wanting to believe it was that simple.

“She would have done the same to you.”  Or me. Roman tried to explain as he let his fingers touch the lower part of the wall.  “Magic is about trade.  You need to be careful what you wish for and what you unknowingly agree to.”

He felt light headed, as though he’d been a part of the battle, even though he’d not lifted a finger.  Soon he’d transform, unable to hold the human form.  He took a deep breath and tried to think warm thoughts to fight the chill.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 06:06:38 am by Beau »

Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #32 on: October 23, 2013, 10:31:51 pm »
Penelope was still shaking when the room fell still and Roman assured her that there was no reason to grieve. She hadn't been grieving. She wasn't even entirely sure that this was real anymore.

She had spent her whole life hearing fantastical stories about the creatures of the woods and the things that could happen in the night there. She had heard about wolves that would gobble up children and witches that would eat your flesh. She had heard about trees that talked and trolls and goblins. She had heard a hundred dreadful things and yet even the imaginations of a hundred villagers had not managed to surpass the reality of the forest just beyond their gardens.

She frowned and wobbled on her feet when she took a step closer to him, watching his hands on the bricks. "What are you looking for?" She asked and did not like how small her voice sounded.

How much longer before morning? Her brother was probably asleep and would not notice her missing until midday tomorrow when his dinner was not on the table. No one would believe this story, she thought and had already decided how to make it simpler and easier to tell.

"I would like to go back to my village..." She mumbled nervously. This had been quite enough adventure, she decided. "How is your leg fairing?"

Beau

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #33 on: October 30, 2013, 06:41:22 am »
She asked another loaded question.  Roman turned his head to study the fragile form that walked towards him.  He couldn’t really say he looked for freedom because he knew none was to be had.  Any yet he did search for something.  Trouble was, it was more feeling than thing.  He opened his mouth to reply and then realized an answer wasn’t really necessary.

“I only wanted to be sure she wasn’t hiding somewhere.”  His words were meant to offer reassurance.  Penelope’s tone was tentative.  Was she afraid of him?

She should be…

Roman turned back to the rustic bricks and let his hand touch the wall one last time, searching in vain.  His own voice was melancholy.  “I will not harm you tonight Penelope.”  The words were a pledge that perhaps was better unspoken, but needed to be said.  “I will see you safely home, but the dark holds us now.  We cannot get to the village the way you know.”

And they couldn’t stay here.  Roman sighed, and looked again at the girl.  He couldn’t say what really made her different from the others, she just..was.  When the dawn came she would be gone.  He didn’t regret the lingering minutes even though he suspected she’d prefer their time over.

He put weight on his injured leg to turn towards the door, and winced at the sharp pain.  “I live close to the edge.  We will go there and wait.”  Roman limped across the wooden floor.  His shaky hand clutched the knob. His forehead was beaded with sweat.  His words implored.  “Trust me for a bit longer.”

Roman didn’t say more. Protective magic took over and he transformed to the wolf she’d seen earlier, all black hair and blue eyes.  He nosed open the door, better able to move on four legs.  It would be up to her to follow or not.  He wouldn’t offer more advice, although he looked back with longing, wondering, not for the first time, why he hadn’t kept the ribbon.

His home was a cave, concealed by thick trees.  The opening was narrow, but the inside was warm, buffered from the wind.  No windows to remind Roman of the sun he missed.  Here he spent his nights, furnished for human use with a chair and a bed.  A dry box held food.  Only a few trinkets made the space personal: a picture of a girl with Roman’s eyes sketched on a scrap piece paper, a soft blanket dropped from a wagon and dutifully collected, a couple of sprigs of herbs with nice smells in a chipped glass bottle.   It wasn’t nearly as nice as the witch’s cabin but he didn’t feel safe there.  Here he had a century of wishing for more, and being satisfied with less.   

Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2013, 01:43:31 pm »
He hadn't offered her much in the way of answers but she realized that she hadn't expected them either. Penelope had been moving closer when he started limping to the door, arms reaching with the intent of helping him walk just before his form changed. She had sucked down an eep of surprise and stood painfully still for a moment, alarmed though her mind wondered why it bothered being surprised at this point. Would that wear off if she survived the night?

He promised to deliver her home and for some reason she believed him. He had not lied to her yet and in the whole of this dark wood he seemed to be her only friend. She found herself walking through the forest again, eyeing the ever moving shadows anxiously and keeping stride with a wolf. It would have been an odd sight if anyone had been there to see it, a woman in a mud stained and tattered dress following a limping wolf through the dark. If everything else she could imagine around them did not have her bones tight with terror, she might have laughed at the idea.

For the first time in her life, a cave seemed like a reasonable and welcomed sanctuary. Children loved to dare one another to venture into caverns when found, but Penelope had never been one to go. They had always looked like the sort of place something might live and since there was no door to knock on, there was simply no way she would be walking in. Following Roman into this particular cave seemed to prove her theories about all other caves. It was a home, door or no.

She sighed in relief when the air stilled and warmed against her cold cheeks inside. She stood awkwardly, mouth pressed and uncertain. Finally she pointed to the chair and looked at the wolf. "Would you mind if I sat?" Normally she would wait until being offered a seat but nothing about this night was normal. Penelope continued to look around, surprised by the very human assortment of items in this place. She smiled when she saw the drawing and took a step closer to it, looking closer and using cold fingers to push her messy hair behind her ear. "Did you draw this?" Her mother had been very good at sketching, mostly flowers and trees, but it had not been a skill inherited by Penelope.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #35 on: November 13, 2013, 03:57:26 am »
Roman  had never stopped to consider how unusual it must be for him to understand the human language while not human.  Inside the cave he pondered it now as he offered a nod to Penelope’s request to sit.

Survival skill? Perhaps.  But who’s survival he wondered.

He’d need to treat the injured leg.  Hands were better suited to the task of fetching herbs and boiling water.   Her comment on his sketch didn’t require more than a yes or no, but he wanted to talk.  So, with a hiss of wind and a flash of pain, Roman transformed again to his human form.  As before black smoke swirled around him covering his bare flesh with the black cloak.

Flint and stone were gathered to light the small stack of kindling strategically positioned to create maximum light in the small space.   “Once upon a time, yes I drew that.  Seeing her each morning reminds me not to be foolish again.”  His words sounded harsh even to his own ears.  He glanced over his shoulder at his guest and elaborated.  “That is my sister, Bella.” Was would have been a better word.  Years passed. To his knowledge she’d lived a long and fruitful life.  One he’d had no part of.  “It seemed we have in common delinquent siblings who do not understand responsibility.  I never saw her after…” that night. 

He sat on the ground ostensively the better to reach the small cup he could hold over the flames to warm.  That left the chair for his guest.  He’d already added some crushed leaves to the mixture and planned to clean the wound .  Pushing the cloth aside he could see the flesh had a greenish hue.  Magic was at work, eating away at him. 

“You can sleep if you wish,” Roman said.  He figured he wasn’t the world’s best conversationalist and it was late.  Even he was tired, although that likely was due to the other things beside the hour.   His fingers didn’t feel the warmth of the flame as he let them linger long enough to bring the water to a boil.  Then he took the mixture away from the fire, planning to use his rudimentary first aid skills as best he could.

Better to let her talk. “Tell me about your home?”

Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #36 on: November 28, 2013, 12:19:56 am »
There was smoke and magic and the moment when she turned to look to see that he was no longer a wolf. She still had the sense to look away as quickly as she had looked to begin with, cheeks that had gone white from the cold turning pink again. Even more questionable than standing in a cave turned home with a wolf was sitting in one with a man wearing only a cloak.

Still, her legs bent and her body was happy to be seated, her arms curling around herself to bring her own cloak in tighter. She resisted the urge to examine the damage the poor cloth had undergone. It was surely ruined.

Penelope found herself holding her breath when he spoke, offering bits of a story that seemed terribly close to a secret, so much so that she almost choked on the dueling desires to ask more questions versus being polite and keeping her lips pressed tight.

He offered her sleep and she smiled at the shadows moving on the stone walls of the cave. It was a suggestion made from kindness she imagined, but it was cruel because of how much her limbs wanted to accept and how desperate her mind fought the will of her body. How could she sleep? She was already in a strange dream where men turned to wolves and cabins appeared from nowhere, infested by frightful crones.

She rolled her head to the side just enough to peek through her hair and see him tending to his leg. Should she offer to help? She knew nothing of herbs and certainly less about the health of wolf-kindred men.

She sat up in the chair and ran her fingers through her hair, realizing for the first time that the long brown locks were utterly unwoven. Penelope laughed lightly when he asked about her home. "What could possibly be interesting about my home after tonight?" She thought aloud, busying her fingers with putting those strands back into a braid. She sighed softly because it would be nice to fill the space between them with sounds. "It's not much. The village, that is and I've only the one brother." She laughed a little again and shrugged one shoulder. "He is not much of a brother." She admitted, voice dropped as though it were a secret. It wasn't. Everyone knew. "But he is mine. If I make it home by dawn I'll likely be making him eggs and porridge for breakfast. If I'm lucky I can convince him to marry Karin. Her father has a farm and could use the extra hands of son-in-laws and I might finally be rid of him." She giggled and shook her head, looking at Roman. "Awful, aren't I?"

She got to the end of her braid, holding it in front of her and still looking toward the fire at him. "So you were human once? Or is your sister like you..?" She wasn't sure what it was that he was so she found herself at a sudden loss of words.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #37 on: November 28, 2013, 08:03:37 am »
“I am human still,” Roman said in response to Penelope’s question. His chin lifted, but his mouth frowned.  He wanted to curse and swear but he did none of that.  He looked back at the leg and the herbs he used.  His fingers shook, but he willed them to steady as he finished the first aid.  Quietly he added the truth, “Well…mostly.”

He bled.  He felt pain and loneliness.  He longed for more than he had – wasn’t that being human?

Roman set aside the poultice.  He looked up at his guest and saw the sincere question in her eyes.  She was more human than he. 

Penelope toyed with her hair.  He almost offered to help her, but he only shook his head as he denied himself the small pleasure. After all these years, he still didn’t know why he fought against fate.

“My sister is not like me.”  He’d been the responsible one.  “She lived happily ever after.”

Had there been a farmer?  Children?  He thought so, but couldn’t remember the specifics.  It felt so long ago.  Roman did his best to stay away from the village.  Without the constant reminder his memories faded.   

He considered it now, brow furrowed. “We also lived together.  She was older, but more adventurous.”  He sighed and predicted.  “You will miss him when he’s gone.  Or do you have in mind a happy ever after yourself?  Does someone wait for you?”

The air around him shifted.  The small fire flickered as the unseen breeze flowed into the cave.  The shadows on the stone wall grew larger, although such was not simply a feature of the light.

Roman’s shoulders stiffened.   He spoke again, but this time it wasn’t to Penelope. “Haven’t you feasted enough for one night?”

The shadows moved again. “Hungry.  Always hungry.”

Roman wasn’t sure if Penelope could hear the voice.  He glanced in her direction half hoping the hissing echo was for his ears alone, and half hoping she might hear and understand, least he appear crazy to her eyes.

A second shadow joined the first.  “Village.  You are taking her.  We come.”

“No.” Roman said.  He put a hand to the bridge of his nose, pinching it between two fingers.  His eyes closed in deference to the fatigue he felt.  “No.  I’m not going to the village.  I’m sitting.  See me sit?”

The third shadow slithered in on the floor.  It moved over Roman, darkening his skin with a sooty pattern before joining its brethren.  “Pretty.  We wants it.”


Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #38 on: December 08, 2013, 04:14:24 pm »
She had turned her eyes down to her lap to keep from look skeptical when he said he was human. He was unlike any human she had ever heard of.

Penelope got to the end of her braid and fished her ribbon from the pocket of her coat. She tied it fast, with more intent that it stay than it look lovely. There was little hope of looking lovely when splattered in mud and possibly a fair amount of blood.

It was strange to hear him say the phrase 'happily ever after' since he was much like the frightful figures that stood in the pathway to such a daydream in fables. She laughed in surprise when he asked if she had someone waiting for her and looked up at him then, shaking her head quickly. "No. No." She answered, perhaps too quickly. "I dare say that the prospects in my village are a little lacking. I might prefer to be a spinster." She leaned back in her chair. "Perhaps when I am old I will tell children stories of you. Will you be old then? Or will you be the same as you are now?"

The shadows moved and she sat upright again, back rigid and pulse quickening. Had they followed them? They whispered but she could not make out their words. Roman could, it seemed, because he replied to them.

She watched breathlessly, stiff in her chair and clutching at one arm of it. When there seemed to be a pause she swallowed hard against her nerves and asked softly, boldly. "What are they?"

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #39 on: December 12, 2013, 02:55:35 am »
Would he ever be old?  Roman glanced at Penelope as she asked her question about life.  He felt old.  He’d long ago given up looking at his reflection in the mirror.  He knew though that each day dawned and he was forever the same.  “Time has little meaning for me.  For them.”

Them didn’t have a name.  He’d spent a century trying to discover it.  When he was young there had been a story about names and magic.  He’d foolishly given his name and now heard it whispered on the wind whenever he lost his way.

What they were was hard to say.  They seemed to be shadow, but where there was dark there was also light, so it couldn't be that simple.  He sensed that more than hunger that drove them. It.  Even though there were three bodies of sorts they thought with one mind. The voices were slightly different, but he could never tell from looking which was which, or which was speaking.  As such he’d never tried to name them himself.  He’d given up the idea of numbers.

For a moment he considered having the shadows answer the question.  Then the idea formed in his throat and was spoken.  “The lady wants to know what you are?”

The shifting of light and dark seemed to pause.  The movement and constant questing appeared to consider the question, briefly distracted from their ritualistic movemevent.

“Pretty one speaks. And wants to know.”  The three moved as one closer to Penelope.

Roman’s eyes narrowed and his muscles tensed.  As long as they didn’t touch he wouldn’t interfere.  If they could take what they wanted then they would have no use for him.  And he knew he had his uses.

The voices shifted in tone and vibration.  It became apparently they wished to be heard, the voices merging as one.  “We are magic.”

A whisper as they glided about.  Merging together and then back to separate.  “We are fey.”

Or what’s left of them.

Roman didn’t see them as fairy folk.  They didn’t match what he recalled from the old tales.  And yet he could see where they might be magic personified.  Twisted to hunt rather than help.

Roman warned.  “They cannot take anything from you.  They can ask.  You can give.  But all magic demands a price.”

The shadows hissed and moved again.  They brushed by Roman as though to see him better, and then returned to their study of Penelope.  “We live to serve.”

Ah, but who is the big question. Roman had a theory, but he kept it to himself.  The great wizard Kalan had not been seen in the woods since a certain night long ago.

The shadow asked, “Can we serve you….Penelope?”
« Last Edit: December 12, 2013, 02:57:51 am by Beau »

Ara

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #40 on: December 15, 2013, 04:41:10 pm »
A part of her regretted asking when the attention of those shadows turned to her, swaying closer and whispering with a thicker more certain voice that her straining ear could hear. But it was a small part because most of her was caught there marveling at the darkness that spoke to her.

"Magic." She whispered after and a small smile pulled at her lips, skeptical. She would not call them liars. She would not call a blind man with a crooked back a liar so she most certainly would not risk her tongue and her manners on a creature that- fey or not- was nothing she had previously imagined. Roman assured her that it could not take from her but it sounded like more of a warning than a consolation.

They were not like the magic or the fairies she had heard tales of. Not even similar. There was nothing enchanting about them. Even the cruel stories had a lure, something beautiful that tricked the heart. Everything about these shadows told her to be careful, to stay away. Unfortunately, Penelope had no where to go.

She sat stiffly in the chair when she felt their attention pressing into her again, making her skin tight and her heart heavy. It knew her name. Why was that so disturbing? She smiled out of nerves as much as out of confusion. "Thank you, but that's not necessary." She would have explained that she was only a passer by in this strange world and that she would be promptly taking herself home come daylight, but some part of her feared to give them too many words.

Her eyes moved past the shadows to look at Roman again. It seemed much more like he served the shadows than that the shadows served him. "Did they give you something?" She heard herself ask before she could think better of it. In many stories witches or fairies would ask for a trade and Roman said that they could not take. "How did you come to know them?" It was curiosity and it was dangerous but she was sitting in a cave with a wolf and a shadow that called itself fey.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #41 on: December 26, 2013, 11:58:08 pm »
Roman looked up at Penelope’s words.  He watched the shadows and listened to their odd phrasing.   He nearly laughed at her presumption that he’d been given something by the shadows.

“I wouldn’t say that…exactly.”  Roman chose to look down at his wound and test the flesh with one finger. The blood was no longer flowing, but the bite marks were deep and not sealed.  “Magic is about exchange.  I am what I am, and they are what they are.  But we didn’t really start out this way.”   He shrugged.  “We’re sort of stuck with each other.”

The trio of shadows swirled around the room again.  If they took offense to Roman’s words they didn’t speak on it.
A glance towards the cave door showed the night dragged on.  Penelope brought light but time moved no faster. He could tell the story simply.  He could make it last for hours.  And yet it had been decades since someone had asked for the tale and it was hard to know where memory left and imagination began.

“Once upon a time,” Roman said.  He didn’t watch Penelope as he spoke about events long past.  The shadows swirled around the cave, gliding over the walls with the ebb and flow of his words.  They would hiss and still from time to time.  One remained close to Penelope as though watching for her reaction.  Roman shared the rumor of a dark wizard in the woods.  He had a pack of wolves that the villagers thought stole not only sheep, but young children as well.  “My sister never listened to the warnings about the forest.  Maybe if we’d lived in the village longer she might have taken the tales more seriously.   We both learned firsthand that the rumors were more than true.”

His sister had dallied in her journey.  Roman had been sent to fetch her, their father too distracted by his own work as a blacksmith to have time to chase wayward children.

“Noel was older than I.  But by only a few minutes.  We were twins.”  But they hadn’t been as close as some.  Still, Roman told Penelope about meeting his sister and the wizard on the road. “I made a bargain – an exchange if you will – but I didn’t understand at the time just what I was giving up.”

He pointed to the shadows.  “They came later.  A second bargain, or rather my resistance to the magical bonds forced upon me.  The wizard is a part of the forest, but he isn’t…human…any more."  He shrugged, "I suppose I'm responsible for that.  The shadows spring from him, I think, although it’s hard to say really what magic is.”

Roman lifted his chin and sniffed the air.  A wolf howled in the distance.  “Morganis has friends.”  Roman crawled forward to put another small log on the fire. He didn’t feel strong enough to stand on the leg just yet. “They know where I live.”

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2014, 03:49:25 pm »
She sat still when he talked, afraid if she moved or interrupted he would stop. Her eye was drawn on occasion to the shadows, never willing to lose track of their lashing movements along the walls.

Her hands were in her lap and her fingers tangled together. She squeezed them when they felt cold. He gave a name to his sister and it made the story ring honest, not that Penelope was ever the sort of girl to call someone a liar. "Do you regret it then? The bargain you made?" She whispered, feeling much like an intruder on a world she had simply never known was right there in the forest she had walked through her whole life. Though, she had never really walked through it. She had stayed the path just like everyone else and only peeked through the shrubs and branches at the dark depths that housed trees and so much more.

Penelope hadn't realized that she was leaning to the edge of her seat until the sound of the wolf in the dark outside had her pressing her body back into it's rough frame.

She stared at the gape of the cave with widened eyes and she could feel the tiredness at the back of them. "Will they come in?" She whispered, her pulse had quickened again and she was almost surprised by it, certain that she should be too tired to manage fretting by now. Really, she would have slept if she weren't afraid of those shadows that seemed to inch closer when she looked away.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #43 on: February 19, 2014, 12:23:26 am »
She asked about regret, even as the wolf baled at the base of the hill.  He looked at her profile in the dim firelight, before he gathered some water and snuffed out the small flame.  He didn’t want to answer the question and stayed silent with the conflicted words in his head.  Life was as it was, but he wondered what it was supposed to be.  He had purpose, but it was not a life he enjoyed.  Regret was too simple a word.

Roman could hear the approaching threat in the crunch of leaves and the hiss of shadows.  His companions moved now to the gaping mouth of the cave now that the light that gave them visible form was gone.  Roman too managed to move towards the doorway even though the progress was painful.

“This is not your fight,” he said to the dark.

And she would not sleep if he could not guarantee her safety.  “Perhaps we should make a run for it after all.”
Roman stepped outside the cave and let the moonlight wash over him.  Fur covered his form and his leg pain returned to a dull throb.  He’d not run, but he’d speed his charge to the edge of the forest with all due speed. The sun would see her safely across and back to her own bed.

She probably wouldn’t remember the final heartbeats before parting.  How Roman would try, but fail to pass into the village once the sun peaked over the horizon.  For a few seconds as night blended to day he could see the door but he would not be able to pass though.  He’d stand and speak, let his fingers find hers to lace and hold, contradicting his words, “You should go.”

She’d made him feel.  He wouldn’t forget the impulse that had him leaning forward to snatch a kiss goodbye.  He was no romantic, no practiced Lothario.  He was far to innocent to even know if his aim was good, and too self conscious to linger to see her expression before he sought the comfort of fur and the dark of the woods.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #44 on: March 05, 2014, 09:41:20 pm »
There had been so much urgency when she finally reached the village- when she was finally home and instead of the joy and relief she had expected, Penelope felt gripped by the terrible feeling that she would never see him again.

Her fingers had curled with his. He was warm. He was real. And she had pushed her ribbon into his palm. She had felt the tears in her eyes, suddenly afraid to go inside her home. Afraid that she would forget or wake up. When he leaned forward her heart raced so quickly that her vision blurred. Her body held still with breathlessness until he kissed her. Her first kiss was gone and before she could register it at all, she was watching a wolf vanish into the night.

She did not remember going to bed and when she woke the memories that had been so fresh that they tore sobs from her the night before were fading fast. She blinked against the daylight that filtered in past her curtains, sitting up in her bed to the soft memories of a strange dream. She might have believed it was just that if it weren’t for the state of her dress and boots.

Penelope stood and felt the ache in her muscles for the effort. She changed out of the mud soaked and torn dress and into something clean before taking up a mirror and gasping at the state of her face. Twig scratches on her cheeks and dirt on her jaw, not to mention her hair. She sighed and sat down beside the little desk, leaning her mirror to the wall and dabbing a cloth in the cold water in her wash basin. She rubbed away the smudges but the scratches still stung and turned a sharp red in anger when she tried to wash them away too.

She wracked her mind to remember what had happened as the memories seemed fleeting like those of a dream. She had gone to return the horse and not wanted to stay in Mr. Hamish’s house for the night. It had been a logical offer but she had not liked the gleam in his eye. She had taken the road back and it had been dark. Had she been robbed? She remembered being frightened, she recalled as she started to braid her hair.

There had been wolves and someone else on the road. She got to the end of her braid and her heart thumped in her chest, remembering her ribbon in his hands. Roman. The wolf. The house in the woods and the shadows.

Penelope stood quickly and rushed out of her room into the hall. Her boots sounded heavy and she came into the kitchen to find it empty. There was no one. How had she come home? Last she remembered was the cave. She pushed the door open and stopped short when she saw someone sitting on the porch. The split second of excitement and relief was replaced by the sinking weight of reality when she saw Fredrik there, whittling at a piece of wood. He tossed her a look and then scoffed. “‘Bout time you woke up.” Her brother muttered.

“What?”

“It’s midday. Ms. Elly wanted to send for a doctor but I told her you were fine.”

Penelope frowned. Fine? She had looked a mess and she still didn’t know how she had come home. “Where is he?”

Fredrik looked up at that. “Mr. Hamish?”

If Penelope could frown more, she would have. “Roman, the man that brought me home last night.” She said impatiently.

Fredrik raised a bushy eyebrow. “What man? You came home alone. I found you on the damn porch around dawn. I thought you’d been robbed or something from the look of you.” He went back to his whittling. “But you still had your purse so I guess you must have gotten lost on your way home. You shouldn’t take the road at night.”

She had stopped listening, her eye trailing across the field, passed another house and into the broad woods that sat there on the hill. They had been there all her life and yet she had never believed the stories they told about them. She had never believed in anything magical or phenomenal until she met him on that road. She knew now, why people should not take the road at night- and yet a part of her wished to take it again.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #45 on: March 09, 2014, 07:10:20 am »
Three days and two nights passed.  Roman didn’t return to his cave.  He hid amongst the shadow of the trees, sleeping when he could, moving when he thought the enemy drew too close.  He circled the village.  On the third night he crept to the road leading into town.  His leg was better, or at least good enough that he could maneuver without too much discomfort.  He felt brave enough, knowing he could run, that he ventured close to where Penelope’s home was, hoping for a glimpse and a reassurance that she was alright.

He still had the ribbon.  It was tucked in a special tree, the knothole a secret hiding place for the few treasures he had.  He glanced towards the tree now, and then inched onto the road.  His paws vibrated with the feel of magic as he tested the barrier, and the sensation caused him to pause in the full light of the moon.

Someone shouted, “Wolf!”

Instinctively Roman darted back into the shelter of the trees.  He ran farther as he heard voices and footsteps behind.  His leg hindered him a little.  It seemed that more than one villager pursued, and Roman was forced to scramble down a steep ravine to evade.  A thorn jammed in to his foot. A sharp twig scrapped his side.  He scampered up the other edge of the trench and ran deeper into the woods.

Steps slowed as it seemed he’d eluded his followers.  Panting, Roman sat on the earthen trail.  He inched forward until his head rested on his paws.  It was then that voices of a different sort found him.  They promised much as they always did.  Roman tried not to listen. 

Really he did. 

The ribbon was presented to him yet again.  His hidey-hole raided.  The white silk smudged and draped over a tree branch.  It was then that another bargain was struck.

“One week.” The final words rang in Roman’s ears.

He slept.  And when he woke he would wonder, yet again, if it was all a dream.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #46 on: March 19, 2014, 07:09:58 pm »
Penelope stood in the kitchen, drying plates while Margret went on about the dress in her hands, the one she was mending. It had been Margret's mother's and she was going to wear it when she married in the spring. She was just as excited today as she had been when John asked her a month ago. It was cute, but sometimes hard to keep up with. Penelope had kept up just fine with her enthusiasm until three days ago. Or was it four?

Her mind wandered and she wiped the same dry plate over and over. She went through the facts she had told herself that first morning again but it seemed every time she did they became more of a list than actual memories. She had forgotten his face and though she was certain there had been something between the road and the cave, she could not remember what it had been. The cave was just a thing she told herself too. She couldn't remember what it had looked like and the idea of being in a cave with anyone was terrible. The whole night was lost and all she was left with were the little facts she repeated and the aching feeling in her chest that with every hour that passed- she was losing something.

"Pen, really." Margret complained and Penelope looked up, blinking back to reality to see that look on her friend's face. "Where have you been these days? Are you sure you aren't ill?"

Penelope smiled reassuringly and she wished she had been able to see it herself. Maybe then she would have believed it when she said, "I'm perfectly well. So why are you waiting until Spring?"

Margret sighed, it seemed to have been a question many had asked. "John's brother lives over the mountain and he insists on having him come for the wedding." She rolled her eyes. "But it gives me time to take in my-"

There was a shout outside. Wolf. The plate fell from Penelope's hands and her body rushed forward, pushing open the front door. Margret called after her in surprise. The air was crisp and her eyes were wide, searching, only to follow the shoulders of men into the tree line. Her heart hammered in her chest. Wolf. The word should send her bolting her door but now she found herself rushing toward it, staring out across the field at the trees long after it was gone.

"Penelope!" Margret said angrily, grabbing at her arm. "What is wrong with you?"

Wolf. She closed her eyes and tried to remember. Tried to remember that night. Tried to remember anything but what she had told herself not to forget. Just words. Wolf. "Nothing." She whispered.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #47 on: March 20, 2014, 05:34:50 am »
He was dressed like royalty – or at least he felt that way.  The finery that graced his body was soft to the touch and new.  He hadn’t had anything new in 100 years. The boots, however, were what he liked best.  Soft leather that molded to his feet in a tan color that blended with the earth.

Roman stood on the road leading into the village, one hand on a horse also well dressed with a shiny saddle and new shoes.  He didn’t have a name for the animal, but the black color with flecks of white was beautiful in its own way.  Simplicity would dub the animal Midnight if necessary.  One of Roman’s hands lifted and stroked the side of the horse.  It shied away; perhaps knowing that under the fancy clothing still beat the heart of a wolf.

“Well,” Roman said.  Some of the pleasure lost in the trepidation of the animal.  “At least I don’t have to ride you.  We’re here.”

He pointed to the village.  It wasn’t much.  Sun would set soon and men were hurrying in from the field. 

The smell of home fires burning and dinner cooking was achingly familiar.  He let his eyes take in the sights for a moment before taking the next step on the road.  A tug of the lead for the horse and the pair would move on towards their desired destination, the one inn in town.

“I remember there was a tavern of sorts.” Rudimentary at best, but the village needed some place to gather. “They had a drink.  I don’t recall the name.”

The horse snorted.  He wasn’t impressed with Roman’s remembrance. 

Roman didn’t let the horse’s opinion bother him.  The animal was window dressing, as was everything about him from the trimmed dark hair to the clean shaven face.  He even had the lies ready to match the persona – a traveler enroute to Barstow.  He’d like the look of the village.  He’d stay a few days.

A week.  No more.  And in that time…

“Sir, can I take your horse?” The blacksmith was outside the barn, closing up for the night.

Roman paused before the man.  He wasn’t surprised to see a hint of his own father in the set of the shoulders.  The familiar nostalgia gripped him.  This was likely his great, great, great, great, great nephew.

Another prompt, “Sir?”

Roman extended the reins to the outstretched hand.  “Yes, please.  How much for boarding.”

“A farthing a night.” The man said.

He didn’t know if it was reasonable.  Rather than argue he reached into his purse and produced a copper coin.

“But –“ a word of caution from the recipient.

Roman waved it away, “I may be here several days.  I want to be sure…Midnight…is well cared for.”

With a bow and a nod the man opened the stable doors.  “He’ll be right here when you need him.”  A pause and then he added, “The inn is down the road.  After I settle the horse, would you like me to bring your bag?”

Roman made the same gestures, “Yes please,” and then walked on towards the inn.  His greeting there was one of respect.  The owner of the inn offered a room which he accepted.

The innkeeper said, “Have you had supper, Sir?”

“Please, call me Roman.”  A smile he was starting to grow used to flashing.  “I haven’t eaten in some time.  A meal would be welcome if it’s not too much trouble.”

“My wife made stew.  We can set a place for you at the bar if you’d care to join the locals.”

Roman figured there was no time like the present.  “I’d like that very much.”
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 05:40:50 am by Beau »

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #48 on: March 23, 2014, 10:13:55 pm »
Fredrik laughed, the sound thick and heavy like the glass around what remained of his ale. It was joined by the boisterous chorus of the other two men with him. They occupied a table to the side of the bar, dealing out well worn cards and draining their mugs. Most men were just coming in from their days work but Fredrik was well on his way to drunk. Penelope had received her pay yesterday,  making his pockets just heavy enough to wear a large smile when he waved to Ms. Gail behind the bar to bring them another round.


Penelope sat behind the high counter of the seamstress's shop in Camsdon. From her stool she could see through the windows at the front of the little room crowded with fabric and chairs. The sun was almost down so it was time to close up but she only had a few more stitches left on the cape she was mending for Mr. Bran. With a hiss she jerked her hand back from beneath the dark material. She held up her hand, finger pressing into that one and eyes staring to watch the pearl of red rise up from her skin. It seemed to come from no where and hung there like a bead she had caught on her fingertip.

It reminded her of something, of another memory of blood, but she couldn't remember what. With a sigh she stuck the digit in her mouth and cringed at that iron taste. Her finger throbbed. She had woken up this morning calmer than she had in what felt like forever. She had felt better and yet, she felt like it had come at the loss of something.

"You're still here, girl?" The widow Crane said when she waddled from the back to the front room, frowning and moving to the door to flip the open sign to closed.

Penelope took her finger from her mouth. "I was almost done."

Widow Crane frowned at that as well. She was a skilled woman at frowning, with all the wrinkles in her face to make the gesture unmistakable. She was also a well known grinner and had a hearty laugh when it was deserved. "He won't be in for it until tomorrow night. Plenty of time to finish it in the morning."

Penelope smiled and nodded, setting the work on the table and hopping down from her stool.

"We'll start on Mrs. Florish's gown tomorrow. She ordered another one. You'd think she lived in London and not Camsdon." She huffed amusement after her own words and started turning out the lights.

Penelope gathered up her coat and pulled it on, fastening the buttons in the front before leaving. "Don't forget to lock the door behind me." She reminded and the widow waved an arm in her direction dismissively. She bit back a laugh and ducked out of the shop, making her way toward the bakery beside the inn.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #49 on: March 31, 2014, 01:11:24 am »
Only when it was too late did Roman realize that he’d made a poor choice to dine with the villiagers.  He sat on a stool with a bowl and a spoon, but the atmosphere was loud and boisterous.  To someone who lived alone, save for the companions of shadows, the room was more intimidating and bright than welcome.

“Is the stew not to your liking, sir?” The inn keeper asked.

Roman used the spoon to push around the meat.  The meal smelled good, but the taste was foreign.  He’d managed not to spill any on himself, but his hands were shaking.  Behind him someone with a tanker of ale laughed loudly.  The sound caused Roman to jump and place his hands in his lap.

He said, “It’s fine.  I guess, I’m not as hungry as I thought I was.”

The growl from his stomach was ill timed to support his statement.  The inn keeper looked at him curiously, but didn’t press the topic.  He left for a moment and returned with a beer and a basket of bread, adding them to the plates before Roman. “No charge.”

Roman nodded his thanks and reached for the bread.  It was still warm and smelled good.  He smiled as he broke a piece.  The mild flavors more to his liking. Eating with his hands more familiar even though he did cook and use a fork from time to time.

A voice called to Roman, “You there.” Causing him to turn and look curiously at the man who tried to get his attention.  “Yes, you, stranger.  Care for a game?”

Roman wasn’t quite sure how it happened, but the next thing he knew he was seated at the side table with a few other men.  Colored papers with pictures were dealt.  He was asked if he had some coins to put in the center as a wager and thus his purse was lightened.   The men seemed nice enough: complimented his attire, rightly guessed he was a traveler, admired his accent.

Roman picked up the cards and enjoyed the feel in his hands.  He managed a smile as the ache of loneliness eased around these new friends.  He didn't notice the small wager placed to the side.  He didn't see the conspiratory grin.

“I don’t know how to play.” Roman admitted.

“We’ll teach you,” one of the men said, eyes twinkling.  “No trouble at all.”

« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 01:19:57 am by Beau »

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #50 on: April 02, 2014, 08:45:49 pm »
Penelope came into the kitchen of the Inn from the back door. It was propped open to vent some of the steam and seemingly endless heat that gathered in the oven and stove.

Mrs. Wells greeted her cheerfully and directed her toward the breads she had paid for earlier that day. She lifted the cloth on the basket. They were still warm. She smiled and picked them up just as Mr. Wells ducked into the kitchen, the sound of the tavern was loud when it flowed in around him. He took quick steps to meet his wife at the stove, leaning over the pot of stew. "Is there something wrong with it tonight?" He asked in a low voice, no judgement just in case it was a sore subject for Mrs. Wells.

She looked surprised and a tiny bit offended. "Of course not."

Despite her protest he quickly took up the wooden spoon and had a taste. Finding nothing wrong with it, he shrugged and started back for the front when he noticed Penelope. He stopped with a hand on the frame of the door. "Ms." He called. "You aught to know, you're brother has been out here for the better part of the day. It ain't no business of mine-"

She groaned and that was answer enough for the inn keeper. He returned to the bar and Penelope picked up the basket of breads. "I'll have the basket back to you tomorrow." She told Mrs. Wells. She had been a friend of her mother's and Penelope was quite certain she had been eating these same rolls since she was a child. She went back out the back door and around the building so as not to indicate that Mr. Wells had given Fredrik away.

She was more than a little surprised to see a stranger at his table with the usual group of louts. He didn't belong there and from the look she saw her brother exchanging with Timothy Gorn, she was suddenly certain they were up to something disgraceful. She balled her fingers into fists to keep from smacking him in the back of the head when she came up to the table and nudged his chair with her hip. Fredrik had a curse on the tip of his tongue, some of his beer sloshing from his cup to his slacks, when he looked up at her. He smiled instead when he saw her. It wasn't a happy gesture but it was hopeful that he would get away with whatever he was up to. It was the same smile he'd had as a boy and it never meant anything good was afoot.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #51 on: April 27, 2014, 02:16:12 am »
The card game was confusing.  It seemed the rules continued to change – first cards needed to match and he thought he’d done well with four tens. But then apparently numbers in sequence, or the same color.  Roman still had fun even though his purse grew lighter and he worried that he wouldn’t be able to play much longer and still pay for his room.

He hadn’t expected to see Penelope. Roman waved, but she didn’t seem to notice the gesture. She walked up to one of the men sitting with him. As she stood beside him Roman sensed the familiarity.  Noted the close gestures and like features.

This must be the delinquent brother.

Had his sister had the same sense of fun?  The same smile that hinted more was going on? For a moment Roman longed for the comfort of his own family.  He was chasing a dream.  Only now realizing how hard it would be to capture. 

“Penelope,” he said her name.  Stood as a gentleman would do, only to realize that she wouldn’t know him.  He took a moment to breathe, to force the ache from his chest and to extend his hand in greeting.  “You must be Penelope,” he rephrased the greeting so it wouldn’t seem as shocking.  He nodded in the direction of her brother – perhaps he would think he’d introduce them properly, and correct the impression he’d left earlier that his sister was a slave to work and no fun.

Roman tried not to feel self conscious, standing when the others did not.  Hand extended and waiting.  In his day men stood when ladies entered a room.  He might not know how to court a woman properly but he understood manners.  He’d not seen things change, although he couldn’t well say they were the same.  He stayed away as much as possible from the town lest temptation or some other magical force drive him to do something unspeakable.

The unspeakable here would be inviting more heart ache.  But his tongue was too willing to do so. “Won’t you join us?” He asked.

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Re: Between Trees
« Reply #52 on: April 29, 2014, 01:21:07 pm »
Penelope was more than surprised to hear her name from a voice she didn’t know. The stranger stood and offered his hand. Had Fredrik spoken of her? That seemed odd but the possibility of it made her cheeks warm because she was more than certain he couldn’t have said anything nice.

She looked at his hand, waiting for hers and if she wasn’t blushing already she certain would then. She took it quickly with a smile that apologized for any delay. “I am and you are...”

“This is our new friend, Roman.” Fredrik offered, brushing the spilt beer from his slacks and taking another drink before putting his mug down. “Pen, shouldn’t you be getting home before it’s too dark to see? Wouldn’t want you getting lost again.” He laughed around the words and shot his friends a look. They joined in his amusement though the look in some of their eyes clearly said they weren’t sure what was funny.

Penelope pretended not to hear her brother’s jab. He’d thought it terribly amusing that she managed to spend a night lost in the woods. “It’s very kind of you to ask, Mr. Roman but I’m not much for gambling.” She admitted to the newcomer. He looked familiar in the vaguest of ways, the way that pulled at her thoughts and had her staring too long.

She realized then that she hadn’t let go of his hand and quickly did, fidgeting with the basket on her arm instead. It wasn’t like her to be flustered but she found herself looking just about anywhere to keep from looking at him too long again.