Never Forget--Chapter Six

Fiction By Ariel // 9/8/2009

            “Gerhard!”

The boy jerked his head around to look at the girl on the other side of the marketplace.

            “Just a minute,” he yelled back and turned once more to the farmer across from him. He handed Alcander’s bridle to the man and spoke again. “Are you sure you know the way?” The big man nodded and fastened the leather reins to the back of his vegetable cart.

            “The first village I come to, and then go up the mountain for approximately two miles,” the man repeated slowly. Gerhard nodded and laughed as the big horse began reaching his shaggy head toward the lettuce that was lying on the wooden floor of the wagon,

            “If you get lost, just ask for directions to the shepherd’s croft…the villagers will know,” he said. The stocky man bowed low and reached out his hand. Gerhard’s face grew hot and he fished through the lining of his rough tunic. He withdrew a small bundle and dropped a few coins into the roughened hand before him. The man smiled broadly and bowed even lower. Gerhard bowed in return and the two clasped hands. The broad-shouldered man turned swiftly and clambered into the rickety seat of his cart. He flicked his whip out over the back of the bay work horse pulling it and they began slowly rumbling away from the boy, the wheels rattling on the rough cobblestones of the square. Gerhard reached out his hand and let his fingers glide over the knotted muscles in his father’s draft horse. The beast trotted slowly behind the wagon, his head bobbing to the rhythm of his plodding steps. The few peasants that had braved the rain to bring their wares, parted for them to pass through, their low voices never once faltering.

            Gerhard watched silently until the cart had turned the corner and the mist had swallowed it. He turned and ducked around a stand full of apples to where Donawyn stood fingering an elegant water pitcher. She held it up for her adopted brother to see, her eyes shining.

            “Wouldn’t Mere just love this?” she asked, her voice soft with wonder at its delicacy. Gerhard nodded and turned back to scan the nearly empty marketplace.

            “I wonder were Paine is?” he wondered to himself. His sister sighed and set the vessel down, her fingers traveling once more over its smooth neck and handle. She turned her gaze to where the boy’s rested.

            “I don’t know. Didn’t he tell you that he would try to help you find work at the stable today?” she asked. Now that the rain had stopped, she tossed the hood of her cloak down and shook out her hair. Even in the grey light it seemed to ripple with its own energy. She crossed her arms and a wrinkle appeared between her delicately arched brows, “Why is it always so grey here?” she whispered.

            The mist was beginning to lighten and the shoppers that filled the streets were starting to look less like shadows and more like flesh and blood. Though the city was out of sight of the great ocean, the distant sounds of sea gulls could be heard on calm days, and when the wind howled around the eaves of the small houses, children would huddle in their beds together and shiver at the sound of the mighty waves breaking on the rocks. The ever present fog was attributed to the nearness of the sea, yet no one could ever understand why it was that the sun had never dared to hide her face until that fateful day when their kingdom had fallen. The two stood under the awning of the cart thinking about the bright meadows and sparkling waterfalls of the mountains that they had come from. Gerhard shook himself and took a deep breath.

            “Well, I must go find Paine. Will you be alright while I’m gone?” he asked, looking deep into his sister’s grey eyes. She laughed and pulled the hood of her cloak up again.

            “Listen to you! You’re already starting to act like those stories those men in the inn were telling last night are true. Would you have been this concerned about me last week?” She laughed again and placed her hands on her hips. The boy grinned and laughed along with her, but something inside him kept nagging at him.

            Yesterday Paine had led them to a respectable inn were they could stay for the night. Gerhard had come in after bedding down the horse and found a group of burly guards talking loudly around a table. He had listened from the shadows as they became more and more rowdy from the many drinks that filled their belliese.. The most outspoken had been a large man with iron grey hair and a long stained beard. Gerhard had listened with wide eyes as the man had begun boasting about the entire village that he had helped raid that day.

            “Notta kernel o’ corn did we leave in their barns,” he had yelled. The men around him had laughed coarsely as he told of how he and his men had led away more than half of the men from the tiny town in chains. “Crushed that revolt like a swollen grape under our heels, we did!” He leaned back on the two back legs of his chair and lifted the mug to his swollen lips. Gerhard had started to climb the stairs, mentally blowing off the soldier’s boasts as the talk of a drunken soldier, but the man’s voice, low and gravelly, had stopped him. The man had leaned in among his mates and begun talking in a dark voice. “I hear tell that his Lordship the King is going pass a new law soon. It states that whosoever comes into the city must have a pass and be able to state were he is going and why. The old man must be pretty afraid for ‘is crown, eh?” The boy on the stairs had realized what a threat this new law could pose for him and his sister. They had no legitimate reason for being within the walls of the city except one that was indeed a danger to the man’s stolen throne. He’d lain awake most of the night thinking of all the dangers that they had not taken into account before they’d left the cozy little cottage in the mountain. After all, one of them was the heir to the throne of Lauderlan, and he was sure that the “king” would have no problem having either of them put to death immediately. What would they do if the guards suddenly demanded of them papers and reasons? They had none. What would happen to them if they were both thrown into prison? He shuddered to think of the dampness and rats that he knew inhabited the lower levels of the castle. What would they do if their true quest was found out? What would they do if….

            “Gerhard?” The boy blinked rapidly as Donawyn’s voice broke into his thoughts, “Where were you? You looked like you were a million miles away,” She laughed. He chuckled and patted her shoulder,

            “Not nearly that far…now, now I will go find Paine! Stay close to the inn; I should be back before long,” He pulled up the hood of his cloak and started out. Donawyn waved idly at his retreating figure,

            “Don’t worry about me,” she called and turned again to the cart to examine a bolt of shimmering green cloth, “How pretty…” she whispered.

--------

            “Paine!” Gerhard called to his friend. He had spent almost an hour exploring the city in search of the man. He had just come down a street filled with carts of rotting vegetables and meat when he had spotted the fellow coming out of an alley. Paine Aymen whirled around at the sound of his name and his hand flew to his sword belt. A figure in a black cloak jumped out of the dead end alleyway and sprinted up the street. Gerhard stepped back and looked questioningly at Paine. The man’s face was hard and light reflected off the magnificent sword he held in his hand. He had jumped out of the shadows and held his sword at the ready. Gerhard raised his hands as if to show his innocence and backed up against one of the motionless carts, but the burly man advanced nearer. “Paine, wait! It’s just me, Gerhard Minstraily,” The storekeeper dropped his sword swiftly and a look of relief spread over his weathered features.

            “Gerhard, me lad, gave me a start ye did!” Gerhard relaxed his tense muscles and stepped out while the other man sheathed his sword quickly, “I couldn’t see you all that clearly under that there cloak. I’m right sorry for springing on you like that, lad.” He extended his right hand and the boy grasped it firmly. Paine’s smiling mouth disappeared behind his bushy beard and he stepped closer. “Seriously now, laddie, one can never be too careful. How much of that back there did you hear?” Gerhard shook his head slowly.

            “I didn’t hear anything, but who was that you were talking with?” he asked, peaking over the broad man’s shoulder in hopes of getting another glimpse of the retreating person with his dark cage billowing out behind him. The shopkeepers’s face sobered.

            “Just a friend,” he said briskly. Gerhard quickly pushed the idea of inquiring any further out of his mind. Suddenly Paine gave a start and began looking around wildly.

            “What is it?” The boy asked. The vender turned to him swiftly with a strange look on his face.

            “Where is your sister?” he asked quickly. Gerhard took a step back and raised his hand in the direction of the marketplace.

            “Well, I left her at the fabric vendor’s. Why…” but his voice trailed away at the look on his friend’s face.

            “Did Hovel not give you the news?” Gerhard shook his head silently. He hadn’t seen the portly innkeeper since he’d gotten their room the night before. Paine groaned loudly and pulled on Gerhard’s arm, “Come, we’ve no time!” And he bolted off down the street. Gerhard’s mind was reeling, but he sprinted after the man for almost ten minutes. By the time he had caught up to the older man, they were both breathing heavily. Paine slowed to a stop near a butcher shop. Gerhard grabbed the vendor’s sleeve and shook him. His voice was hard as he spoke between gasps for breath,

            “I’m not going any further until you tell me what is going on!” he stated, his face covered in sweat. Paine lifted the corner of his short cloak to dry his forehead,

            “Last night I made contact with…with an informant from inside the castle and he had learned that the Queen is in search of a new maid.” Gerhard looked at him with a blank look on his face. “Och, man! Don’t ye know what that means?” the shopkeeper asked him. Gerhard shook his head again; the older man drew a deep breath, “It means that she’ll send out her personal guards to get her one. Every young girl they can catch is taken to the palace so that she can choose. She’s not completely bad, she gives the girls a meager salary, clothes and a place to stay, but no one wants to see his daughter dragged off by the hands of the king’s Bears.” Gerhard’s face had been steadily growing paler through the whole speech. The muscles in the side of his face were clenched and he began backing away slowly. “The only way we thought we could prevent this was by getting the word around about what was coming.” Paine bowed his head and closed his eyes, not wanting to look in his young friend’s horror-struck face, “I’m not sure we’ll make it in time to get your sister, lad. My informant told me that the raid was planned for this late morning when the market is at its peak activity. The only thing we can do now is pray and hope we get there in time.” He pulled himself into a standing position and looked over at the boy. Gerhard was no longer standing in the shadow of the butcher’s sign. Paine just glimpsed the edge of the dark cloak as Gerhard rounded the corner, headed in a dead run toward the marketplace and his sister.

Comments

Uh-oh!

Agh! My dear OFG, now that won't do. How dare you end the chapter like that!! You better have a new one up soon, missy! :0P

Seriously, good chapter. Nice suspenseful story questions, and I'm now itching to find out if the man in th black cloak was anyone special. :0)

Heather | Fri, 09/18/2009

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Oh, good job on this one!  I

Oh, good job on this one!  I can't wait until chapter seven! Post soon!

Kendra | Sat, 09/19/2009

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

Heather -- I hope you know

Heather -- I hope you know YOU MADE MY DAY! I'm sorry I didn't say thanks any sooner. The Man in black! OoOoOo...I'm actually not sure what his destiny will be. Let's just say his life is in my hands! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! I'm almost finished with the next chapter ( I've been so busy I havn't been able to work on it much) so I should be able to post it soon. Thanks again.

Kendra -- Thanks!

Ariel | Tue, 09/22/2009

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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

Oh, Old Fashioned Girl?

When are you writing chapter 7? I know, it's the school year, and it's hard to find time, and all, but still...you've left us over a cliff! Is Donawyn safe?

Annabel | Sun, 10/18/2009

*Wails*

I know, I know, I know!!! I'm sorry it's not done yet....too much to do and so little time! Chapter seven is ALMOST done, just not quite! :) Hopefully I can finish it and chapter eight before the end of the month!

Ariel | Mon, 10/19/2009

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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

I think it's a perfect place

I think it's a perfect place to end. After all OFG is no dumb-dumb. You see she has now made it so that we are horribly doomed to read the next chapture! (But I guess I don't need to tell you that ;)

Very good, but really Donawyn is such a fool. She should pay more attention to the stories of drunk solders. If their around so is trouble! (Did she ever read a good book?) I like Gerhard and Paine.Donawyn too, but really who would fell safe in that wet dark place?

P.S. I love your picture! It dosen't really look like you, but still really cool. I might have to put one of those up.

I am Nate-Dude | Sun, 10/25/2009

Nate-Dude

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