Two Children, An Enchanter, and Three Horsemen; Chapter 24

Fiction By Teal // 7/13/2009

 

Chapter 24
 
          Jane stepped out of the carriage, lifting her dress with one hand. The driver closed the carriage door behind her and swung the satchel out of the back. A small, tidy, white cottage stood before them in the midst of a grassy meadow. A dirt path led to the wooden door.
          Jane saw that the path also branched off to the right, leading down a steep hill to a great blue lake that lay partly hidden behind verdant mountains. The sun shone warmly down on her, the gentle breeze pushing her hair back from her face.
          Feeling uneasy, Jane looked towards the driver. He nodded towards the house and threw the satchel over his shoulder, walking up the path towards the house with long, swaying strides. Jane shook her head as she followed him. He seemed to be a man of very few words, having hardly spoken to her the entire trip. She ached to have someone to speak to. Perhaps this girl, Matrim’s sister, would be a good friend.
          Matrim’s talk to her on the cliff ledge came back to her suddenly. She remembered how his face seemed heartrendingly sad when he spoke of Luella. What were his words? Oh, yes. “The morning-star…gone forever…” Why gone forever? If she were still alive, why had he referred to her as gone?
          With a jolt, she realized that they had arrived at the door of the house, and summoning her courage, she knocked. Brisk steps sounded from inside and there was the sound of the bolt being drawn. Jane swallowed. What would Luella look like? The door jerked open. A tall woman, with streaks of gray standing out in her dark hair which was coiled tightly into a bun, stood imposingly in the doorway, her back stiff and an expectant expression on her stern and wrinkled brow. Her eyebrows knit up when she caught sight of Jane. She wiped her hands on her apron, leaving white streaks on the stiff gray material. Jane saw that the woman’s hands were covered in flour.
          This was Luella? This aging, stern woman dressed in a dark drab dress?
          Still, Jane managed to smile as she held out her hand. “Hello Miss Luella, I’m Jane. Your brother, Matrim sent me.”
          The woman frowned disapprovingly and shook Jane’s hand gingerly. “My dear, I am not Luella! I am Mrs. Biggs, Luella’s guardian, housekeeper, and cook.” She stepped back and gestured for Jane to come in, while snatching the satchel from the driver.
          Jane gave a little gasp, and blushed sheepishly. “Oh, I see. I’m terribly sorry. It is very nice to meet you, Mrs. Biggs, I’m sure.”
          Jane said a hasty goodbye to the driver as the housekeeper counted a few copper coins out and handed them to the man. With a wave of his hand, he ambled off, climbed into the carriage, and clucked to the horses. The carriage rolled forward, down the dirt path. Mrs. Biggs closed the door and bolted it.
          “Now that you, Miss, will be staying with us, you might as well learn the rules of the house. Number one: no animals allowed inside these walls while I remain breathing!” Mrs. Biggs scowled at Jane. “I will not stand to have any filthy creatures gallivanting about and spreading sickness inside this house, d’you understand?”
          Before Jane could nod her assent, Miss Biggs continued on. “The two things that I most greatly detest are dirtiness and idleness. This leads to the second rule: during your stay, you shall be expected to assist with any chores. The third rule is: never, ever, ever let me catch you bathing in that nasty, filthy lake!”
          She shook her graying head firmly. “Eh! And one more, I’d almost forgotten…” Her eyes narrowing into small slits, she whispered fiercely, shaking her scrawny index finger at Jane. “You shall never mention the word ‘Enchanter’ in Miss Luella’s presence! Never! D’you hear me, girl?”
          Jane nodded emphatically. “Yes, ma’am. I understand.”
          Miss Biggs stared into Jane’s eyes for a long moment, then straightened, smoothed her skirts, and began leading Jane down a hall. Turning swiftly, the tall woman gestured towards a door to their left. “There is Luella’s room. You may go in and see her.” She thrust the satchel into Jane’s arms and marched down the hall.
          Jane took a deep breath, put her hand on the door, and gently pushed it open. It was so bright in the small room that it took Jane’s eyes a moment to adjust to the light.
         
*        *       *
 
          Casia stretched and yawned. “I’d better go feed that chick o’ Will’s,” she muttered.
          Andrija nodded absently. “That chick is such a nuisance!”
          Casia shrugged. “It’s gettin’ big… and dangerous!” The small girl trotted off in the direction of her hut.
          Andrija smiled after her and then, sighing, turned to continue her vigil of the castle. Something glinted in the sunlight far, far down in the valley. What was it? Were the peasants returning? Andrija squinted. The blood flowed from her face.
          “Soldiers, soldiers! There are soldiers coming up the road!” She leapt to her feet.
          There was an immediate outcry at this news.
          “Good heavens!”
          “Soldiers?”
          “You sure, girl?”
          “Ah! She’s right! I see them, ‘bout four, five mile away,” a young girl cried.  
          “They’ll be here in ‘bout an hour. The path from the valley is a treach’rous one and they’ll haft ta dismount,” pronounced one aged grandmother.
          A young mother brushed a protective hand over the soft heads of her two children. “Whatever we do, we must save the young ones.”
          “Yore right, dear. We must have a plan.”
          Andrija stood up on the rock. She straightened her back, threw back her golden hair. Determination glittered in her blue eyes as she gestured for the women to gather around her.   
          “Here is what we must do!”
         
*          *         *
 
 
          Matrim held his raised sword over his head, his dark eyes flashing like lightning bolts in a midnight sky. “I appeal to all of you soldiers who have known a mother’s tender care! I appeal to all you who have sisters, daughters, wives! All we men ask is that you take pity on our women and children! Refuse to obey this madman’s command! Refuse to slaughter the innocent!”
          The Enchanter’s soldiers were bewildered. What would they do? This young man was brave indeed, to speak so to them before the Enchanter himself. And what he said was true… Many of the Enchanter’s men felt a sudden pang in their cold hearts.
          “Think of your children, slumbering safe in their own homes; your young wives, your aged mothers, bent from weary years of labor. All gone in one cruel blow! In obeying this man’s command, the blood of babes will stain your hands! Are you willing to live the rest of your lives suffering from the guilt?
          A battle-hardened, cold-hearted general raised his spear as he spoke. “Young rebel, do you understand what will happen to us all in the Enchanter’s garrison if we refuse to obey this command of His Majesty, the Enchanter?”
          Matrim stood tall and confident. “You will have disobeyed the order of a madman! You will have preserved the lives of innocent women and children!”
          A young soldier burst out, “But we must obey him! He is our leader!”
          Matrim shook his head, his eyes narrowed to tiny slits. He laughed harshly. “And what a leader: a weakling who orders fully armed men to kill helpless women and children; a sly and crafty impostor who came to the throne by treachery and by the corrupting of many men. This is your leader—a man who cares nothing for the welfare of his people. These…” Matrim turned and gestured towards the peasants around him, “These are his people! And see what good his rule has done for them? The Enchanter had forced his people to work weary years in the field. He has taken from them every right that should justly be theirs! Uneducated, beaten, broken by poverty…this is the life they must lead beneath your leader!”    
          Matrim stopped, panting for breath from his passionate outcry. The peasants stared at him in wonder. Matrim spoke more softly. “So I must say to you… Even if you are all destroyed by this accursed wizard for disobeying his commands, would not your last breath flow from you easier if you knew that you were dying for the cause of Justice?”   
          The soldiers’ faces were blank and dazed. There was a long, tense pause.
          An old hard soldier threw down his spear. It clattered metallically as it struck the ground.
          There was a momentary silence, then the thundering sound of weapons falling to the earth drowned out the despairing scream of the Enchanter.
          Matrim stood, breathing hard, watching as hundreds upon hundreds of soldiers stood weaponless.
          With a start, the former soldiers of the Enchanter realized what they had done. By throwing down their weapons, they had defied the commands of the greatly feared Enchanter. By this one simple action, they had demonstrated the breaking free of their service to him, and had established their new loyalty to this young rebel.
          A new strength flowed into them, a sense of independence. No longer were they to hang upon one man’s every word. They were in control of their own lives now! As one, they raised their heads, and through hundred upon hundreds of mouths, they cried aloud their dedication to the pursuit of Justice and Liberty.”

Comments

Good work, Teal! This is a

Good work, Teal! This is a great chapter...though not quite a satisfying one. Somehow, you managed three cliffhangers at once! Please post soon...I can't wait to meet Luella.

Annabel | Tue, 07/14/2009

Really good!!

I hope this gets published someday, and they make a movie out of it!

Laura Elizabeth | Thu, 07/16/2009

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The best stories are those that are focused, unassuming, and self-confident enough to trust the reader to figure things out. --

http://lauraeandrews.blogspot.com/2014/05/dont-tell-me-hes-smart.html

Ditto, Laura!!! This was a

Ditto, Laura!!!

This was a sort of "in between" chapter, but I LOVED it anyway!!!

Ariel | Sun, 07/19/2009

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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

Oh I like this chapter!!! You

Oh I like this chapter!!! You are doing a really good job with this. I really do hope you get it published someday. It's great.

Alecia | Sun, 07/19/2009

It awoke with a shrill shreak that can be trnaslated "How dare you leave me in this bed, when I am asleep and helpless?" My sister

 YEAH!!!

 YEAH!!!  GO MATRIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!  *screams wildly* But what sort of thing is the Enchanter going to do?  I can see him in the background, his face getting all red, and soon he's going to explode...
BTW, what happened to the three horsemen?  They're part of the title, but is their part in the story already over?
 

Bridget | Wed, 07/22/2009

"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

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