The Orbs: The Dark Assassin
Hey guys...this is the link to the novel Im writing. Its not horsey (ok there is Cobra the horse but hes not a main charectar lol) so thats why I posted it into hobbies....anyways feel free to read and join because we will post more of the chapters as we get more traffic. I hope to get it published sooner rather than later so if you know any publishing firms LOL :D
You have a way with words that is very captivating. I read a few pages and it looks really good so far, keep up your enthusiasm your so writing stays strong the whole way through!
Thank you...I will try to get onto him to post more chapters, or I could just post them on here. Mind you the 10,000 per page limit is annoying :/
Ok so heres the next chapter, glad you enjoy it :)
Chapter 2: The Red Emperor
Four Years later
Mcgrath lay on his bed staring up at the cream coloured ceiling in his quarters with his arms folded behind his head. He spent a lot of his precious spare time like this between lessons and helping Sir Alan, deep in thought. Sometimes he even fell asleep like this.
Mcgrath had now reached fourteen summers, a tall, slender lad with the promise of being handsome and broad shouldered by the time he finished growing. He excelled at his lessons and already held promise for being an excellent horseman. He often went out hunting with the game keepers, and though his aim with the bow wasn’t brilliant he had proved himself handy with the knife.
Already Sir Alan joked about the young ladies who visited the manor, giggling and blushing in Mcgrath’s presence. Mcgrath enjoyed their company but the ladies always seemed so silly even if he did find some off them quite attractive. He hadn’t noticed that before, the female form. Even in the preposterous dresses they wore with the thick lace ruffs, corsets so tight he questioned how they could breath and their bosoms almost around their ears, their beauty could not be denied.
He had learned to blot out his thoughts of her as they made his heart ache. He hoped she was well, maybe she had gained employment somewhere that they didn’t require a cook. With a start he realized she must be sixteen now. He wondered what she looked like. Pretty he guessed but not like the overly made up ladies who swanned around the place, their faces made pale from the lead paste, their lips blood red and their waists sucked pencil thin. Natalia wouldn’t be in that he imagined.
A sudden yell made him sit up suddenly. A few weeks ago some of the Kings soldiers had
been posted to the Chateaus grounds as a protection for barbarians stalked the forest. The barbarians dressed in wolves fur, often with long grimy beards and carried fearsome, primitive weapons. Mcgrath had been separated from his hunting party a few weeks ago and spotted a few of them lurking about. He had been terrified as he hid that they would capture him. He had heard tales of them using human flesh for belts and boots.
Mcgrath dashed over to the window, the sight nearly stopping his heart. A horde of barbarians, their leader on a horse as red as flames were charging towards the chateau swinging their swords above their heads. Mcgrath looked down at the guards, the barbarians had attacked during the lunch break as the guards fumbled about pulling on swords and helmets. Already the arrows had begun to fly, three soldiers falling before they could pull their armour on. Mcgrath looked up in time to see a flaming arrow sailing towards him. He leapt aside as it smashed through the windows, the arrow hitting his bed and immediately his bed erupted into flames.
Mcgrath scrambled to his feet, running out into the hallway. Sir Alan had gone into the City on business, Mcgrath usually accompanied him but today chose not to. Feet thumping on the stairs he burst into the foyer just as a solider came through the door.
“Run lad! Go to the dark forest, the barbarians believe its haunted so they wont follow you. RUN!” he yelled giving him a firm shove.
Mcgrath stumbled out the back door and began to run. His long easy strides carried him across the grassy fields behind the house as he headed towards the forest. Sudden hoof beats made him look around, the barbarians leader galloping his horse towards him. Mcgrath sprinted but the horse caught up. Mcgrath looked over his shoulder to see the barbarian draw his sword.
Remembering what Sir Alan taught him, at the last second he dropped to the ground, the sword missing his back by mere inches and the horse sliding to a halt ahead of him. Mcgrath stood to run but already the well trained warhorse had wheeled and charged for him again. Scrambling, Mcgrath stood to run but a rabbit hole caught his foot, Mcgrath falling heavily. The horse beared down on him just as Mcgrath felt the dagger that always stayed in its scabbard on the side of his tall boots. Snatching it he took it by the tip of blade and flicked it, the dagger flying through the air and plunging straight into the barbarians chest. The barbarian screamed, falling from his horse that immediately galloped off.
Not wasting a moment Mcgrath ran as the battle raged behind him. Just before he entered the Dark forest he heard the sound of breaking glass and turned to see the manor already aflame. His heart sank, but at least it wasn’t Sir Alan’s own manor but instead one of the Kings many manor house littered throughout the kingdom. As Mcgrath plunged into the forest he also felt glad that Sir Alan had gone into town. He just hoped that he wouldn’t worry that he had been captured or killed.
Mcgrath pushed his way through the forest, the long branches grasping at his clothing like fingers. The leaf litter lay thick on the ground, Mcgrath’s boots swishing through the dry leaves. The late afternoon sun barely slanted through the eerie trees with their rough bark and their long needles that whistled when the wind blew through them.
The forest seemed like a maze, every tree looked the same, the ground never undulated and there were no identifying features like rivers or boulders. Mcgrath stumbled for hours, he didn’t know if he was still going the same way or going around in circles. He felt so venerable without his dagger, he wished he had a sword or a bow and a quiver of arrows. He wished he could go back and that all this hadn’t happened. He was tired and night had dropped like a veil on the forest. Very soon he could add cold to the list. Shattered, both in spirit and strength he collapsed against a big tree, tucking his knees up under his chin and wrapping his arms around himself.
He must have dozed slightly because when he woke he could see a light in the distance. He stared at it, flickering invitingly between the trees, the scent of meat cooking drifting towards him. His stomach growled angrily, demanding to be fed as he forced himself to his feet. He knew it wouldn’t be the barbarian’s, the solider said they were superstitious of the forest and they would probably still be looting the manor.
Mcgrath spotted the solitary figure on the other side of the flames and stopped. He looked unusual, dressed in scarlet breeches, a scarlet shirt with a ruffled cravat pinned with a huge ruby and tall black boots. From a tree branch hung a long velvet cloak the colour of blood with a ruff made of a golden lion‘s mane. He wore a wide leather belt with an gothic gold buckle studded with rubies which from it hung a long handsome sword with a twisted, gothic handle also bedecked in rubies.
Behind him his horse stood tethered, a tall coal black stallion bedecked in silver armour that lifted his head with his neat ear pricked and snorted suspiciously. The man looked up, like most horseman knowing to trust their steeds instincts and followed his horses gaze. He had strong jaw and a sharp nose, but strangely handsome face with slowly greying black hair.
“Don’t be shy, lad, come join me,” he called.
Mcgrath warily stepped into the light, the stranger eyeing him closely and his horse watching him just as carefully. Mcgrath sat down as the stranger offered him a portion of rabbit that had been cooking on a skewer. Mcgrath bit into the meat hungrily, ignoring the fact it burnt his tongue, the meat tasting like the most incredible food he had ever tasted. The stranger watched him eat with an amused expression.
“Haven’t eaten in awhile?” he asked offering him another hind.
Mcgrath shook his head. “Not since this morning.”
“And what do they call you?” the stranger asked.
Mcgrath hesitated, despite the food he still felt wary of the scarlet stranger. “Mcgrath.”
He nodded as if rolling the name around his head. “They call me Malval, I am the emperor of the Red Guard Army,” he said, poking the fire with a stick.
Mcgrath looked at him cautiously. “Red Guard Army? I haven’t heard of them.”
Malval smiled coyly. “No very few people have. But we have strongholds located throughout the land.”
They sat quiet for awhile listening to the sounds of the forest, the lonely howl of a wolf in the distance, the breeze whistling through the trees and the hoot of the owl. Mcgrath felt tired, he still wasn’t sure wether to trust this so called emperor but his need for sleep was quickly overriding all other thoughts. He looked up to tell Malval that he intended on getting some sleep to find the Emperor staring at him with a slight smile.
“You haven’t touched any orbs by any chance?” he asked sounding cautiously excited.
Mcgrath blinked and quickly told him the story of how he and Natalia found the orb. “How could you tell?” Mcgrath asked.
“Your eyes, when look to the side they glimmer in an unnatural way that come from getting in contact with these orbs,” he said, “I only know this because I found one in a deep forest and I couldn’t resist touching it as I imagine you couldn’t. Ever since then I have had profound wisdom.”
Mcgrath rolled his eyes as he leaned back against a tree trunk. As far as he could make out they had no effect on him. “Come on lad, don’t keep me in the dark. What has the orb given you?” Malval asked when Mcgrath said nothing.
Mcgrath looked over. “Nothing. I don’t have wisdom and I don’t-”
He never got a chance to finish the statement before the Emperor, in a fluid, trained motion pulled a dagger from a sheath strapped to his leg and flung, aiming at Mcgrath’s head. Mcgrath dodged it to the side staring wide eyed at the Emperor who chuckled.
“Nothing? The orb gave you nothing? I will have you know that I am an expert shot with a dagger and you’re the first person in a long while to dodge it,” he said, holding out his hand to have his dagger back.
Mcgrath pulled it out of the trunk admiring its neat little handle with its silver blade. He handed it back to Malval thoughtfully. “Well I have been told that my aim and reflexes are brilliant but I though that was just through practice.”
Malval smiled. “Your so pleasantly naive about your gift. Come with me and I will teach you how to use them better.”
Mcgrath didn’t like the patronizing way that he called him naive but he was curious. If he did have these gifts, learning to use them better would be beneficial. Malval looked at him. “Sleep. I promise I wont throw any more daggers at you.”
Morning broke, the embers in the flame burnt low and first light trying to break through the trees. Malval’s horse who he learnt answered to Cyclops due to the fact he had been born without his left eye, stood tethered to the tree, resting with his head hanging low. Malval appeared from behind the tree and nodded in greeting. Cyclops lifted his head and whinnied lightly to his master as Malval checked his equipment.
“Hide the fire lad,” Malval instructed.
Mcgrath obeyed kicking the dirt over it with his boot and threw a large branch over it, wonder why this was necessary. Could it be the Red Guard Army were rebels? Mcgrath didn’t know but his curiosity overrode him wariness. Besides the Emperor seemed honourable enough. By then Malval had mounted and offered a hand to Mcgrath to help him up behind him. Mcgrath took his hand as the Emperor pulled him up behind him.
They rode all day, mostly in silence. By early afternoon they left the Dark forest and entered a wide open plain full of tall, wispy grass. Mcgrath looked behind him at the dark forest but when he looked back mist was falling fast across the plain, sweeping towards them like a wave. Very soon it engulfed them plunging them into a strange world where the only light came from the muted sun. Mcgrath could barely see the ground but he noted that it had changed from grassy plains to dark, damp soil. Occasionally he spotted mushrooms that grew in thick clumps, some in the most unusual colours he had ever seen.
“Where are we?” asked Mcgrath.
“We’re in the Land of the mist,” replied Malval shortly.
“How do you know where you are going? I have never seen mist so thick,” Mcgrath exclaimed.
Malval slapped his steed’s neck affectionately. “I know from memory but Cyclops can find his way much better than I can. He was born at the Dark Castle, he knows where he’s going.”
As if in response the shadows ahead suddenly grew darker which were followed by the ring of the horse’s shod hooves on stone. The mist began to lift steadily as they crossed a bridge that spanned over a wide moat. Thick moss grew along the black stone as Mcgrath made the shape of a tall castle ahead of him. Mcgrath heard a splash and glanced down into the inky water. He could barely make the outline of a beast, elongated and clearly huge.
“Um what’s in the moat?” Mcgrath asked.
Malval laughed. “Good question. No one really knows but its big enough to swallow a horse whole.”
Mcgrath made a mental note to stay away from the moat as the arched, wooden doors ahead of them parted. Cyclops trotted through them as they entered a large courtyard paved with the same black stone that the rest of the castle had been hewn from. At the end of the courtyard stood stables, with four other horses who called out Cyclops. Mcgrath slid off as a stable boy not much older than himself rushed out and took Cyclops.
Mcgrath followed Malval up the steps and into the castle. The entry room had a large fireplace that crackled merrily across the room with a handsome rug beneath his feet and a few velvet couches all in hunter green. A servant took Malval’s cloak and hat before informing him that dinner would be served shortly. Malval led Mcgrath down a hallway and into a large well stocked library where they sat on a soft, blood red chaise.
“Tomorrow I will take you to the monastery. They taught me everything I know and they will teach you well too,” Malval said.
“Do the monks make the orbs?” Mcgrath asked.
Malval shrugged. “You will have to ask them that.”
Mcgrath accepted a goblet of sweet wine as he sat back and thought about the days events. As it nearly always happened, Natalia drifted into his mind. He normally blotted her from his mind as thinking of her was painful but the days events made him wonder. Did she too suddenly find herself with rare talents? Perhaps she had Malval’s gift of extreme wisdom. Or some other gift, he wondered.
Hey I thought I might post another chapter, see what you think and please comment :)
Chapter 4: Coming of Age
The following morning they mounted their horses and made their way due west to the Monastery. Apparently Malval wanted the opinion of the head monk who had trained Malval himself and would give him guidance as how to proceed. Mcgrath listened as Malval detailed his long days and nights training under the monk. Mcgrath prayed his training wouldn’t be that boring.
Malval also gave Mcgrath a young stallion whom he could train by the name of Cobra, a tall dark horse with feathered legs and a long wavy mane. The young stallion looked like most of the knights mounts with broad chests, powerful quarters and arching necks. Malval explained that to be a successful Red Guard, one had to have a well trained steed who obeyed his rider‘s commands explicitly and this would take time and effort. A man without a horse is like a man without legs.
Malval himself had grown up elsewhere but had joined the Red Guards as a teenager and stayed here ever since. Apart from that he said nothing more about himself instead giving Mcgrath a detailed picture of the land in which he found himself which was more than he could say for what he saw as present he merely followed Malval‘s voice as he couldn’t see him at all.
The kingdom was guarded by three out posts and these marked the boundaries of the kingdom. North from the Dark castle stood the first outpost that overlooked the wastelands, a vast expanse of land that appeared empty but in fact crawled with dangerous warriors who rode lightning fast horses. Even their women were rumoured to be excellent horsewomen and skilled fighters. Attacks occasionally came from them, or from the rebels, outcasts and barbarians who were allies of theirs. Past the city of Galtory where they were headed stood the second out post which opened onto the Moon Kingdom. This post wasn’t as heavily guarded as the two cities were allies. People came to and from the two kingdoms freely and trade routes were firmly established. The third guarded from the land of the Orcs, a kingdom that never seemed to learn not to mess with the inhabitants of the Land of the Mist. Attacks occurred on a semi-regular basis but the Kingdom was always ready. As Malval explained, the Red Guards often freelanced for Queen Alice when the kingdom came under attack as the Orcs proved more of a threat.
They arrived into Galtory by mid morning, her gates wide as they remained during the day, though her streets unusually quiet. On the direction of a peasant they rode through the streets where in the town square they found the reason for the streets standing so quietly. Up on a platform, Queen Alice of the Land of Mist stood addressing her people. Mcgrath widened his eyes in surprise, for some reason he had expected an wrinkled old lady but instead stood a stunning woman in a shimmering, iridescent green gown.
Malval leaned over and explained under his breath that like it had always been, the land was ruled by a Queen who had been chosen by the pervious Queen. The first Queen was Mariah, who had founded the Christianity and helped conquer the over-lords who had been ruling the kingdom prior. She had brought Christianity and all its trappings to the Mist Kingdom and had founded the monastery to where they were headed. The insignia they wore on their shields and that bannered from every available flag pole in Galtory was one of a soaring mountain range shrouded in mist with a gold cross hovering above it.
Queen Alice apparently was in her late thirties not that Mcgrath would have been able to guess, with a tall slim figure and long blonde hair. She had pale, somewhat sharp features but none-the-less attractive as Mcgrath half listened to Malval. He sounded like the horde of adoring subjects who cried ’Long live the Queen’ when she finished but Malval’s face told another story. Mcgrath decided it best not to ask why but then figured that if she were the queen and he, self designated Emperor of the Red Army, than that would raise a few questions.
They rode on, soon arriving in Hamock. This small township consisted of a cluster of log cabins and houses, the smoke from their chimneys curling into the mist. Peasant children played in the streets, their parents sold various items to traders and the outlines of people could vaguely be seen ploughing in the misty fields. There they talked briefly to the town blacksmith who apparently was one of the best in the trade. He made shields that couldn’t be pierced and swords that couldn’t be broken and the Red Guards sourced all their armours exclusively from him. From there, Malval had a brief meeting with two of his generals leaving Mcgrath outside to wait with the horses.
Mcgrath remained outside for a good hour with the two stallions, waiting impatiently when finally Malval emerged alone. When Mcgrath asked his what he had been doing, Malval merely shrugged and said that he had to talk to some of his Generals and that Mcgrath shouldn’t ask so many questions before riding off into the mist.
An hour later they arrived at the Monastery by mid-afternoon, the mist at its thickest the long, high notes of the choir drifting through the dense mist broken in the silences by the tolling of the bell, one of the biggest in all the kingdoms that could be heard for miles around. It sent shivers up Mcgrath spine, the eeriness and the beauty of their voices like nothing he had ever heard. A monk, dressed in the brown robes with a heavy chain about his neck stood stoically on the front steps watching their arrival. He held the horses heads as they dismounted, Malval greeting him heartily.
“Mcgrath, “ Malval instructed, “Check the horses over, make sure they have water and have not been affected by the journey, then come in.”
Mcgrath nodded but as soon as the pair were inside rolled his eyes and muttered darkly. Its not that he resented having to care for the horses its just he hated being treated like a stable boy. Soon enough though he ducked inside just as the other monks were leaving their worship. The Monastery had been built from a dark brown granite, almost the same colour as their flowing robes which meant that they blended in against the stone as they flitted silently up and down the corridors like spectres. All the corridors looked the same, narrow and winding, with only heavy wooden doors between and very soon Mcgrath got hopelessly lost. Mcgrath tried to ask directions but most refused to make eye contact instead hurrying past him but one whispered that all had taken a monthly vow of silence. Mcgrath wanted to ask him why and also why had he just broken his but the monk who he realized had to be younger than himself scurried off before he had a chance to even thank him.
He arrived at the door that he had been directed to just as Malval and the monk stepped from within. The monk who underneath his cowl had an old, wrinkly face placed his hands on Mcgrath’s shoulders and stared deep into his eyes.
“You were right Emperor, this one has touched an orb,” he said smiling over his shoulder at Malval. “You are lucky indeed. They are a very rare phenomena. But the powers that it have given you depend greatly on you for no two people receive the same talent.”
“He shows promise of being a fine warrior,” Malval chipped in.
“Nurture it, son,” the monk said.
Malval strode over. “We have agreed that I and the other Red Guards will train you. When we will be finished there will be no other warrior like you in the land and they will speak of you for many years to come,” Malval declared.
Mcgrath smiled awkwardly, he still didn’t feel so sure that he had any gift but he supposed time would tell. They left soon after, mounting up and vanishing through the mist. Mcgrath wanted to ask more about Queen Alice but when he broached the subject, Malval said nothing instead riding ahead in such a manner that made it obvious that he didn’t want to discuss the matter further.
Mcgrath trotted up the steps into the castle a few weeks later grumbling to himself. He had spent the entire day training in the woods, sword fighting and practicing the drills with Cobra. The young stallion got bored very quickly with his master’s antics and Mcgrath had been dumped twice. Hi muscles were sore and aching, and he intended to tell Malval precisely what he thought of Cobra. And the training regime. And the constantly foggy weather. And-
The foyer was empty, the fire crackling as always but Malval was no where to be seen. Mcgrath looked around as the maid stepped out of one of the doorways and smiled shyly as she swept towards him.
“Where’s Malval?” he asked.
The maid shrugged. “He told me to tell you that he had to travel to Bankford.”
Natalia immediately popped up into Mcgrath’s mind. “What? Why didn’t he tell me? I would have liked to have travelled with him.”
The maid shrugged taking his cloak. “I think that’s why he didn’t tell you.”
Mcgrath grumbled to himself as he stalked off to his quarters. When Malval returned a few weeks later, Mcgrath was waiting for him on the drawbridge. Malval ignored his angry glare, grabbing him by the arm and towing him into the stables carrying a long bundle wrapped in black velvet.
“I found the orb in the cliff face,” Malval said with breathless excitement as he placed the bundle on the table. Mcgrath heard metal chink together inside and wondered what Malval had brought back.
Mcgrath raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Really?”
“Yes thanks to your description I found it and I brought it back to the blacksmith in Hamock and with the orb he forged this,” Malval said, whipping the bundle open with flourish.
Mcgrath gasped as he stared at the contents under the flickering torch light. Lying secured on the velvet blanket was the most magnificent long sword Mcgrath had ever seen. The long blade looked unlike any metal Mcgrath had seen it was shiny and yet matt black like Cobra’s coat. The handle was simple enough, leather twisted with strands of silver cord but the hilt intrigued Mcgrath the most. Its twisted gothic design reminded Mcgrath of Malval’s crown but studded just below the blade were two black gemstones the size of an orange segment. At first glance Mcgrath thought they were black sapphires but when he looked closer he realized the depths shimmered unnaturally like the orb it was hewn from. Beside the swords were eight throwing daggers, identical to the sword just in miniature, each with what Malval explained were segments of he dark orb.
“I….I cant its too beautiful,” Mcgrath stammered, overwhelmed by the gift.
“Nonsense, I didn’t go to all this trouble just for you to say no,” Malval grinned.
Mcgrath lifted the sword, relishing its weight; light enough to wield easily but heavy enough to do damage. “Thank you,” Mcgrath said.
“Just put it to good use,” Malval grinned slapping him on the shoulder.
Chapter 5: Following the Road
The wind blew strongly across the waves that rose and fell powerfully. The white caps rolled through the navy ocean as the spray flew up like plumes of steam. The tall merchant ship, Wave Breaker, lived up to her name as her sharp bow cut through the waves and her billowing sails pushed them along. Terns, albatrosses and other sea birds circled through her masts, calling out as they weaved in the strong wind. The ships crew yelled to one another as they changed sails, adjusted the rigging and sailed the ship in the direction of the Kingdom of the Melcorians.
A tall, lean figure stepped up onto decks from below and almost immediately that sailors looked around. Even their supervisor did briefly before yelling at them to get back to work. She wore a long forest green dress that lacked all the hoops, boning but was decorated with a modest amount of embroidery and velvet. She stood at the front of the ship, her hands resting on the worn wooden railing as the spray flew around her. With a quick flick of the wrist her long satin blonde hair flew free, falling easily to her waist, the wind rustling through its waves. Her moon like eyes stared out eagerly over the ocean, their hue a sharp green.
One old seadog leaned over to the younger sea mate. “I be telling you. That’s just like the mermaid I saw when I wrecked that time, just with fins.”
The wind blew the words across deck to Natalia and she couldn’t help smile. Many a man had commented her on her looks, she a few had even asked her hand in marriage but she quickly flitted away before they had a chance to follow that request up. But despite the looks she certainly didn’t have the siren’s fabled voice, able to lure men to their deaths. Natalia couldn’t even hold a tune in a bucket as they said.
The ‘land ho’ cry had gone up an hour ago, Natalia felt her heart pound faster and faster as she saw the land approaching, the port of Farport. As they drew closer the waves calmed as she sailed through fishing boats and into the harbour. Natalia disembarked immediately, melting into the crowd with nothing but the satchel on her back. Very soon though she got disorientated, as people milled to and fro, stall vendors called out, people with wagons rambled about the streets and the only one who seemed willing to help was an old drunk who wanted his pay in a manner that Natalia wasn’t interested in. After hours of blind stumbling she arrived at the cross roads.
Natalia stood staring up at the sign that pointed east and north. That’s all it said, east and north. People trudged along the road as she managed to grab the attention of an elderly lady whom she asked how to get to the castle. She merely pointed west before trudging on, towing her unwilling donkey with her.
Natalia watched her walk away before heading off west. The roads were cobbled as she walked along in the opposite direction that most people travelled in. Most seemed to be weary farmers and peasants, loaded down with drays of goods to be sold in the market. Many looked as though they had been travelling for many days, sagging faces and downtrodden spirits. There were soldiers too, riding on handsome steeds bedecked in shiny armour. Natalia watched all this go by as she made her way west. And yet despite the distance and the despondent mood that surrounded her, she felt cheerful almost like skipping. Instead she hurried along at a steady pace eager to arrive at her destination and find Mcgrath.
As she walked she thought about Mcgrath. She wondered what he looked liked, tall and handsome she supposed. She didn’t know to be honest. He was a bit weedy as a kid, but then so was she. He’d be so surprised to see her. She could visualize his expression now. This fuelled her as she hurried along.
By mid afternoon she arrived at the castle. Natalia supposed it looked alright for a castle, she thought that most castles looked far to ostentatious. She like cabins personally, high in the woods or on a mountain or on a windswept beach. No neighbours, no noise, just her and her books. She loved books, the nuns had taught her to read and from then on she couldn’t be stopped. She absorbed everything in her path. She liked most the books about nature. The natural world intrigued her from the smallest plants and flowers to the animals that roamed in the woods.
Spotting the guards at the gates she strode confidently over. “Excuse me. Can you point me in the direction of Sir Alan Westgaurd’s residence?”
The guard looked at her a little taken back by her forthrightness, but lifted an arm and pointed down a road. “Yes miss. That way down the road of their that leads south. You cant miss it, its big mansion.”
“Thank you,” Natalia called over her shoulder already heading in that direction.
‘They were right‘, she thought a little while later as she arrived in front of a tall, typically Georgian style mansion with its cream walls, brown edging and double glazed windows, ‘it couldn’t be missed‘. Natalia stood staring at it for awhile, she had half expected Mcgrath to have spotted her by now and come running out to meet her, but nothing. Suddenly full of butterflies she ran up the lawn, leapt up the steps and hammered on the door.
The door opened as Natalia found herself face to face with Sir Alan, but much older. His hair had turned to slate grey and his skin had sagged dramatically. “Yes miss? How can I help you?”
“Its me, Sir Alan,” she smiled. “Natalia,” she added when he still looked at her blankly.
The old man’s eyes widened in surprise. “Natalia? Haven’t you blossomed into a pretty thing! Come in, come in,” he ushered.
Natalia stepped into the foyer with its shiny wooden floors and handsome side tables. Looking up she came face to face with a oil portrait of Mcgrath, those golden eyes glittering and his pink lips creased in that infamous lopsided smile. Sir Alan led her through to the sitting room, Natalia staring enviously at his large wall to floor bookcase absolutely stuffed with books. He sat her down and had the maid bring some tea through, all the while exclaiming about how much she had grown, how stunning she was, how confident she looked and so on. Natalia cautiously accepted the tea. Again she expected Mcgrath to spring from the floorboards but nothing.
“So what have you been doing with yourself?” he asked dropping his chin into one hand.
“Well when I turned sixteen they released me from the orphanage and I gained employment as a maid for a baron in Port Granite. I worked there for about two years, nearly three, until I had enough for a fare to come here,” she said.
Natalia noted the old man flinched. “I hate to sound rude at your hospitality but where is Mcgrath?” she said after awhile.
The old man sighed deeply. “I’m sorry to tell you this but he’s not here.”
Natalia blinked, looking thunderstruck. “About two years ago, just after his sixteenth birthday we had an attack from the Barbarians. I was away at the time and when I came back the mansion had been ransacked and the sole survivor was a young guard who had been knocked unconscious and pretended to be dead. He never saw Mcgrath. I haven’t seen the lad since.”
By now Natalia had disintegrated into silent tears, staring down into her tea. Even Sir Alan looked a little teary as he came around and rested a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry. I’m normally not like this its just I have been winding myself up to see him and-” Natalia sobbed slightly.
Sir Alan nodded. “Its ok dear. You’ve come a long way. You welcome to stay as long as you would like to clear your head. Heavens knows I could use the company.”
Sir Alan took her up to the guest quarters, across the hall from Mcgrath’s old quarters that hadn’t been touched, apart from the broken window and burnt mattress since he left. Natalia stood in the doorway of it with Sir Alan, feeling suddenly very empty. She didn’t even know if he was alive, or captured by the Barbarians or anything. He could be anywhere. He could be dead. She pushed that last thought hurriedly from her mind.
She ended up staying two weeks eagerly reading her way through his library. Sir Alan noted her keen interest and astounding knowledge of the natural world and told her of a friend of his who had studied natural remedies in the Land of the Druids. This interested Natalia so Sir Alan wrote her a letter to give to his friend in Zadok, a small town past Galtory and he would take her to the Land of the druids. With any luck they would take her on as an understudy.
So that’s just what she did. Slinging her satchel over her shoulder and with the woollen hunter green cloak edged in gold that Sir Alan gave her, she made her way to Zadok and then hopefully on to the land of the Druids.
Sir Alan watched her leave with a heavy heart. He would miss her bubbly company but he realized that the young woman needed to find her own paths to follow. As he closed the door he prayed that she would find Mcgrath and that he was well.
Please comment :)
Bah. I love it! You're a wonderful writer :] Please, do continue posting this. You've definitely roped me in.
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