The Tale of Ander Collins, Chapter Two

Fiction By LoriAnn // 2/13/2009

CHAPTER TWO

He managed to find his way back to the kitchen with no problems, noticing as he went a hall that he realized he should have turned left in, instead of right. But he hardly thought about it, so caught up in self-scolding was he. If only he had brushed his hair before he met the princess. If only he had asked Carlo outright about being a page. If only Carlo hadn’t been so enamored with his bride that he had forgotten Ander. If only, if only.

Ander didn’t speak to anyone as he slipped back into the smoky kitchen and returned to his place at the spit. Someone – probably Cook – had removed the meat from the flames so that it wouldn’t char, but now it was cool and the fat had coagulated in an unappetizing glaze. Dispiritedly, Ander swung the spit-arm back over the roasting fire and sat, turning steadily, while about him the rest of the kitchen workers shouted and laughed and cursed in happy obliviousness.

The kitchen was a large affair, almost as large as the princess’s front room, though not as high-ceilinged. The walls and floor were both built of yellowish stone, with cabinets and counters carved directly from the rock. Heavy, narrow tables stretched the length of the long room, book-ended by large fireplaces at both ends. One was a huge oven, capable of baking sixty loaves of bread at one time. Ander hated working the ovens because he was always afraid that the roaring flames would somehow reach out and snatch him. The temperature when the ovens were in full flare – like this day – was nearly unbearable, and even from the opposite end of the kitchen, Ander could feel the rippling heat on his back. The fireplace he sat before was a roaster and a general source of heat for boiling water, cooking stews, and whatnot.
Ander squatted before the flames, staring mesmerized at their flickering depths. The spit turned automatically in his hand and was soon done to perfection, golden-glazed and barely pink on the inside. Cook came to take the meat out and prepare it for the table. She looked in concern at the boy.

“Are you alright?” she asked Ander.

“Yes’m.” he said, dusting off his hands as he stood. “What do you want me to do next?”
Cook looked a bit doubtful, but she didn’t have time to mother a moody boy. Girl trouble, no doubt, she thought. “Well, there’s a sink full of bowls that I need washed, or you could take Marla’s place at the ovens. Oh, and I need a basket of greens chopped fine, but I think young Jond was going to do that.”

Ander made a face at the growling ovens and made his way over to the sink. Even greasy dishes were better than that horrible thing – especially on such a hot summer day.

As he scrubbed the lye soap over every inch of the filthy bowls and platters, Ander mused over his anger with Carlo. It really wasn’t fair to the big man, he realized. A prince would be supplied with pages and squires from all the best families in the kingdom. How could a kitchen lad expect to compete with young lordlings and duke’s sons? Besides, Ander thought with a wry grin; I’m much more comfortable in the kitchens than in the princess’s chambers. It still hurt though.
Excited babble from a cluster of maids caught his attention.

“Have you heard?” Marla skipped from her spot near the baking bread to share her latest gossip with Ander. “Princess Reina and her bodyguard eloped together!”

Ander wasn’t quite sure how to respond. So he just grunted. Marla looked disappointed at his lack of excitement “Well, grease-boy,” she exclaimed primly “I didn’t think even you would fail to realize what a scandal this is.”

Ander shrugged “Why is it a scandal?” he asked, a bit uneasy. Fortunately, Marla didn’t notice.

“Silly! He’s common and a foreigner at that. The king has already sent out a warrant for the arrest of whatever priest performed the ceremony.”

Ander bit his lip “What will they do to him?” he asked, now genuinely worried.

Marla shrugged prettily “Oh, execute him, I suppose. It counts as plotting against the king, so most will call it treason. I hope they find him, Princess Reina was supposed to marry Lord Caternt from Hunsoly, and he is a dream.”
Ander could feel the blood rush from his face. Execute? A priest? What might happen to him if someone told who had suggested the priest to the “scandalous” couple?

Marla looked closely at him “Ander, are you – good gracious!” she threw her hands up and ran back to the ovens “My rolls!”

A slight smell of burned bread wafted through the kitchen, but Ander didn’t notice. He had to get away. It wasn’t safe for him to be here anymore. But where to go?

Slowly, trying not to attract attention, Ander dried his hands on a nearby towel. He made himself move casually toward the closest door, as if he just had to use the privy or was getting a breath of fresh air. But as soon as the thick, metal-banded door closed behind him, he darted away, dodging crates of vegetables and farmers carting in their goods for the feast.

Slowing down once he was a good distance from the kitchens, Ander’s quick eyes spotted a hidey-hole behind the stables, where they backed up against the castle wall.

He slipped inside the narrow space and crouched down, thinking hard.

He had no money. Everyone he knew worked in the castle, which also meant that everyone who knew him knew that he worked in the castle. But he had to get away.

"Perhaps I can find myself an abandoned hermit's shack in the Denwold." He muttered, slightly too loudly. A passing milkmaid shot a funny look at the dark cranny, but didn’t see him. Ander grinned unhappily at her. Fine, the Denwold it was then. But first – to gather some supplies.

Returning to his shed in the servant’s quarters was nerve-wracking, as he tried to dodge every person he saw and avoid being seen himself. But finally, he reached the skinny alley that led into the shed he shared with Jove, Criston, Kenderly and Davior. Ducking inside, he rummaged about in his pile of rags that served as a bed, and soon emerged with a few objects wrapped in the cleanest rag he could find. An extra tunic, a loaf of bread, two apples, and – most precious - his mother's wedding band, all tied up in a scrap of blue flannel.

The sun was sinking low in the west now, but - though he was desperate to leave - he was a bond servant of the castle. Abandoning one’s bond master (in Ander’s case, the king himself) was a crime, punishable by imprisonment or hanging. There was no use in running away from the king’s wrath if it only brought the same fate in the end.

Ander glanced around the street, carefully evaluating every strolling farmer or castle soldier. He felt self-conscious, sure that every eye was upon him as he scurried toward the north gate; the smallest and least guarded. He slunk along through the shadows and back allies, jumping at every sound of a mewling cat or a dropped pot. But surely the princess wouldn’t tell on him right away, and even if she did, she couldn’t recall his name while he was with her. Why should she remember now? Would the king truly arrest a boy and a priest, just for obeying the orders of Her Royal Highness?

For half an agonizing moment, Ander considered turning back; back to Cook and Marla and his other friends in the kitchens; back to full meals and a warm (if poor) bed; back to safety; back to the only home he could remember. Then suddenly, he heard a wheezing, panting noise coming up the alley toward him.

Turning, Ander was shocked to see Priest Under, stumbling in his long robes and with his face as white as ash.

“Sir!” cried Ander

The priest tripped and fell nearly at the boy’s feet. Ander ran to him

“Sir, Master Priest, sir,” he stuttered “are you in trouble?”

The priest lifted his head from the dirt with a weary sigh. “Yes, lad.” He rasped “I am in trouble, and you will be too if they find out that it was you who told the princess about me.”
Terrible guilt welled up inside of Ander “Oh, I’m sorry, sir!” he lamented “I didn’t know!”
The priest raised himself up with a grimace “I know, lad. I’m not blaming you. But you must get away from here. The soldiers who were chasing me will be here soon.”

As if to underline his statement, cries of “Where is he? Blast that old priest.” And “I think he went this way!” echoed down the winding alleyway.

“Go, lad!” Under exclaimed

Ander hoisted the old man’s arm over his own shoulder. “Come on, I’ll help you!” he nearly shouted in fear

The old priest pulled away and shook his head. “No, lad! You’d never make it with me. But here.” He pressed a cleric’s gold token into the boy’s palm. “Show this to the gatemen, and tell them you are a novice of the Order, leaving to…Oh, I don’t know, lad. You’ll have to think of something yourself. Just go, now!”

At that moment, three soldiers in the green and silver livery of the palace poured into the alley. Ander threw one last glance at the old priest, and ran the opposite direction, heading for the north gate.

Rounding the last corner and darting out into the open courtyard that led to the stables and castle gardens, Ander screeched to a halt and dashed behind a cart whose owner was negotiating the price of cabbages with a royal gardener. Peering out from between the wheels of the cart, Ander watched two liveried soldiers conversing with the gatemen. They don’t seem to be relaying orders or anything important – they were just laughing in the sun, sharing some private joke. Ander prayed that the soldiers would leave soon – he couldn’t try fooling them as well as the gatemen. After what seemed like hours of waiting, the soldiers waved to the gatemen and took their leave. With a sigh of relief, Ander rolled out from under the cart – right into the legs of the cabbage farmer.

“Whoop, boy!” the man exclaimed. “Play your games of hide and seek elsewhere, I beg you!” He laughed; a deep throaty laugh.
Ander sketched a rough bow to the man and muttered an apology. As the farmer walked away, Ander spun on his heels and made for the gate.
The two men standing there looked him up and down quizzically.

Ander approached the gate slowly, trying to look sad and grieving. The guards stared at him and one snorted, "Well wha' do ye want, waif?"
"Sir," Ander said in a sad, woebegone tone, "I am going to visit my ailing aunt. They say she is ready to die... And," he sniffed loudly, making up his tale on the spot "I’m taking the blessings of my lord the priest to her before she passes on."

The burlier of the two eyed him suspiciously "You’re a priest’s servant?"

Ander nodded vigorously. “Yes, I mean, no sir.” His nods changed to wags. “I’m a novice, sir.” He tried to sound proud instead of frightened. He held out the cleric’s token, now hot and grubby from his hand. “See?”

The second guard, a kinder looking man, nodded at his partner. “He’s alright Chester.” He said. “Only those of the Order got tokens like that. My own brother is a novice in this very castle. See here, boy,” he turned to Ander. “Do you know my brother Hardin?”

Ander nodded again. He felt as though his head might fall of at any moment. “Yes sir, but not well.”

Chester still looked like he was spoiling for a fight. “An’ ye’re going to see yer aunty, are ye?” he growled.

Ander felt desperate. Yanking a dirty hanky from his filthy pocket, Ander began to sniffle into it with tears that were not completely false. "Yes, I am!” he cried. "And I don’t know why you don’t believe me! All I know is that my Aunt Rauth is dying, I'm not there, and I might not make it, and-and-" he sniffled, glancing up at the guards, who looked bemused "I just want to go see Auntie!" He then blew his nose in his hanky for a dramatic effect.

Chester cast a sidelong glance at his fellow gateman. “D’ye believe the scamp, Kelber?” he asked

Kelber looked down at Ander pityingly. “Aw, Chester; let him through.”

Chester nodded grudgingly. “Aye, cap’n.” Ander started at the title. Captain of the Guard? As he turned to open the small gate, Chester began to chuckle rudely. “He looks just about useless anyway.” He laughed to himself – but loud enough for both Ander and Kelber to hear. “Even if he were tryin’ to escape or somethin’, nobody’d notice. Go on then, Novice.” He called in a louder voice. “Get on with ye.”

Kelber patted Ander’s shoulder. “Don’t mind him, lad.” He muttered. “Best wishes for your aunt.”

Ander nodded. “Thank you, sir.” He said. Then, restraining himself from looking too eager, he strode out of the castle walls, and out of the royal clutches.

Ander’s heart felt as light as a bird, just waiting to burst out of his chest and fly free. He fairly skipped down the hill from the castle above to the village below, where no less than three goodwives, seven urchins, and a blacksmith smiled at his obvious glee. He blushed at their scrutiny, but managed a cheerful wave before trotting out of the village and down the dirt road.

He turned a corner around a clump of pine trees – and almost tripped over his own feet as he skidded to a stop. The road branched – one way led to the north, and one to the south. Ander had never left the castle before; he had no idea which way to go.

With a shrug, Ander turned south. After all, he had no set destination, so why should he care which way he went. Besides, no one would expect a young, unarmed boy to venture into Denwold, the monster- and brigand-infested forest that were the theme of every child’s nightmares.
Ander walked for what seemed like hours, satisfied in his escape and naively confident in his good fortune. The only mar on his happiness was his lack of knowledge concerning Priest Under’s fate. But he pushed it from his mind for the time being and simply enjoyed being free on the open road; with no dished to scrub, no ovens to tend, and no vegetables to peel. He could get used to this life.

A sudden sound, faint at first, but swiftly drawing louder and nearer, jolted Ander from his idyllic stroll. Horse-hooves; clopping in the hard packed dirt, were coming down the road form the direction of the city.
Ander panicked. Sure that they were soldiers coming to capture him and carry him off to the king, Ander dashed off the road, deep into the shadows of the Denwold.

Crashing through the underbrush and vines that blocked his way, Ander ran blindly through the forest, trying not to cry out as thorns ripped his clothes and arms and caught at his feet like grasping hands. He leaped to avoid a rotting log in his path, but a hole on the other side grabbed his foot in its earthy clutches and brought him to the ground, mouth full of dirt and mouldy leaves. He lay there for a moment, all his breath knocked out of him, unable to stir.

The forest was silent. Frighteningly silent.
As his ability to move returned, Ander sat up, wincing at the bruises that he could feel forming all over his body.

A distant cry made him stiffen. Was someone on his trail?

The cry came again, and Ander relaxed a bit. It was the sound of a young child weeping. A problem, sure, but not hunters or soldiers intent on his capture.

He rose to his feet and, favoring his sore ankle, limped toward the sound.

He followed it easily, skirting a dank puddle of standing water and a briar thicket that smelled of something dead. The cries came ever louder as her drew near, but they didn’t sound threatening. If anything, they sounded more pitiful the closer he came.

Finally, rounding a large oak tree, he saw the source of the cries. A small, ragged girl in a brown dress and tousled hair sat in a small clearing, her tear-stained face looking right at him. Ander pulled up short and stared at her. Her dark green eyes bored into his for one terrible, unbearable moment, and Ander felt a horror he couldn’t name – something gold and green and shining hotly. Then it was gone, and only a terrified little girl looked back at him. Her sobs re-entered his consciousness, and Ander almost forget the dread of a moment before. Indeed, the child, even in her raggedness, was so charming and pitiful that Ander’s heart swelled until he thought it might burst. He would do anything in his power to help this little bit of tearful sweetness.

He went nearer and knelt beside the sniffling toddler. “Are you hurt?” he asked gently

She swiped at her eyes with a grimy hand, shaking her head. Then, seeming to change her mind, she nodded violently. “Yes! My mama went away!”

Ander glanced around the small glade. “Were? Are you lost?”

She smacked the ground childishly “No, Mama is!”

Ander sat on the damp leaves and pine-needles that matted the forest floor. “Maybe you had better tell me what happened.” He suggested.

The child nodded and sniffed again. “Mama and I were out for…for a walk.” She began “There was thunder and Mama pushed me away, and told me to run. I runned, but I looked back at her and there was a dragon. So I runned again, and I fell and hurt my hand.” She thrust out the offending finger, and Ander peered at the miniscule splinter that marred the baby skin.

He was slightly doubtful of her story, as much as he believed she thought she was telling the truth. She might have thought she saw a dragon, but it must have really been a bear or something else of the sort.

“What did the dragon look like…um,” he paused “What’s your name?”

She drew herself up proudly. “I’m Princess Cellie.”

Ander nodded. “Alright, Princess.” Though inwardly, he groaned. Not another royal female.

Something crashed in the dense brush surrounding them and Cellie began trembling again.

Ander glanced around but didn’t see anything, so repeated his question. “What did the dragon look like, Cellie?”

She narrowed those fascinating eyes in fear. “It was the black one. The big, black one that lives in the scary cave.”

That wasn’t much to go on. But Ander shrugged and stood. “Can you take me to the scary cave?” he asked her.

She flinched back, and he hastened to reassure her, “You don’t have to come near it. Just show me. Maybe we’ll find your mama.”

Reluctantly, Cellie nodded, “Alright. But I can’t get close or Uncle will swat me.”
Ander took her hand. “As you wish, Princess."

She looked up at him from underneath her long, dark lashes. “Are you really going to help me?” she lisped.

“I’m going to see what I can do. If I can do anything at all.” Ander realized he didn’t sound very heroic, but he didn’t want to make any promises he couldn’t keep. Besides; a fire-breathing dragon? That sounded like a bit too much for a humble kitchen-boy-turned-runaway.

The little girl took him by the hand and led him deeper into the forest. Strange sounds echoed through the trees, and intermittent rustles in the undergrowth made Ander recall every terrifying tale he’d ever heard about Denwold. Werewolves and piskies and kelpies that looked like horses but would eat a man alive. All sorts of creatures – Wil-‘o-the-wisps; harpies and trolls who hoarded dead men’s bones and giant cats with eyes of fire – were said to roam here. In fact, Ander thought with a chill of apprehension, there were stories of horrifying monsters who could take on the shape of children and lead unsuspecting people to their doom – but Cellie wasn’t like that. Ander put a firm stopper on his thoughts. There were no such things as monsters.

So why was he marching off to meet a dragon?
He halted in his tracks. “Say, Cellie, perhaps we ought to go find you uncle or someone instead. I mean—”

She held a finger to her perfect, rosebud lips. “Shh,” she hissed. “We’re here.”

Comments

Oh dear. Is this suspense

Oh dear.
Is this suspense punishment for leaving my own readers on cliff hangers?
lol. :)
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In this sinful world there is no such thing as "peace" unless someone strong enough is willing to protect and defend it. -Norm Bomer, God's World News

Anna | Sat, 02/14/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Oh dear. Is this suspense

Oh dear.
Is this suspense punishment for leaving my own readers on cliff hangers?
:)
*************************************************
In this sinful world there is no such thing as "peace" unless someone strong enough is willing to protect and defend it. -Norm Bomer, God's World News

Anna | Sat, 02/14/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

AHHHH! Help!!! Put the next

AHHHH! Help!!! Put the next chapter up soon, PLEEEEEEAAAAAASE!!! You just left me hanging there. I can't wait to find out what happens next:)
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"Pretty soon people are going to come to look at it. And some of those people will be... realtors!"--Klaus Baudelaire

Ariel | Sat, 02/14/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

LOL, Anna, now you know what

LOL, Anna, now you know what we felt like!
Good job on his chapter, LoriAnn! I'm eagerly awaiting the next chapter, there are so many questions to be answered!!

Anonymous | Sun, 02/15/2009

*looking nervous*

Um...how many of you will track me down and hurt me if I told you that...*swallows* the next chapter isn't written yet? Or that it takes me forever to write a whole chapter? *gulp*

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Wed, 02/18/2009

You haven't written the next

You haven't written the next chapter yet?!!!! Prepare yourself for punishment. No, really, it didn't take you long to get this chapter up. I have no worries that the next chapter will be up soon.

Hey, I don't mean to sound like I think I'm going to sound, but, could you not make it a fantasy type story. I like it better if it's not. But if you want to make--what ever I just said not to do, I'm sure I'll like it anyway, cause you're a good writer.

P.S. I like the way you described the little girl. I pictured her as the little Hobbit girl at Bilbo's birthday party (even though this girl has green eyes and not brown)......so cute.

"A wizard is never late, nor is he early; he arrives presicely when he means to." Gandalf

The Brit | Wed, 02/18/2009

Sorry, brit, it's already a

Sorry, brit, it's already a fantasy - that's just what I write; and I'm really not that good at much else. See, with fantasy you can make things up - out of the blue, no basis in reality whatsoever. *Sigh* I love that. lol

And don't get too attached to that girl. Just a hint.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Fri, 02/20/2009

Honestly, she reminds me a

Honestly, she reminds me a little of a specter in the book The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. Am I anywhere close?
*************************************************
In this sinful world there is no such thing as "peace" unless someone strong enough is willing to protect and defend it. -Norm Bomer, God's World News

Anna | Fri, 02/20/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

You might be

Love that book, btw. Yeah, she's not all she seems, anyway. Though she does leave footprints. lol

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Fri, 02/20/2009

lol Yeah, I guess leaving

lol
Yeah, I guess leaving footprints is a good thing.
I love Gail Carson Levine... Ella Enchanted is still my favorite, though. :D
*************************************************
In this sinful world there is no such thing as "peace" unless someone strong enough is willing to protect and defend it. -Norm Bomer, God's World News

Anna | Sun, 02/22/2009

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Yeah, I've read those books.

Yeah, I've read those books. She does remind me of them a little.
BTW, great chapter! Excellenly written.
more, please!

Sarah | Sun, 02/22/2009

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

:)

Working on it! I'm about done, but I have to find a way to END the chapter.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I am a dreamer, take me higher, open the sky up, start a fire...I beleive, even if it's just a dream." -Bethany Dillon

LoriAnn | Mon, 02/23/2009

Good

Poor guy, running around

---
The Word is alive/and it cuts like a sword through the darkness
With a message of life to the hopeless/and afraid...

~"The Word is Alive' by Casting Crowns

May my words be a light that guides others to the True Light and Word.

Julie | Fri, 03/27/2009

Formerly Kestrel

"She held a finger to her

"She held a finger to her perfect, rosebud lips. “Shh,” she hissed. “We’re here.” Wow, that was really good. It was a good CLIFFHANGING chapter! I am glad that I can just go on to the next chapter!
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"Their most active years are the first six months"--Old Fashioned Girl, referring to cats.

Kendra | Sat, 04/25/2009

<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\<>/\
"Are you sure this water is sanitary? It looks questionable to me! But what about bacteria?"--Tantor the elephant from Tarzan.

So...is she really a

So...is she really a princess, or just pretending in the way little girls do? Great chapter, but don't leave us hanging with Priest Under's fate!

"Oh lovely snowball, packed with care
Smack a head that's unaware.
Then with freezing ice to spare
Melt and soak through underwear!
Fly straight and true, hit hard and square.
This, oh snowball, is my prayer." - Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes

Bridget | Wed, 05/06/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya

I just started reading this

I just started reading this story and so far it's sooooo good! She is rather specter-like...I am suspicious. (I love the TPB btw. amazing book)

KatieSara | Sat, 09/19/2009

Katie:-)

"Are all humans like this? So much bigger on the inside?"
-Idris/TARDIS

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