Chapter 1: Burden
"Miss, I really don't think it's normal to be pukin' so much." Mary said, sitting beside me rubbing my back in large circles. I waved away her hand.
"I think it's just because I'm a little out of it." I said in a groan then began to hurl. Mary was shaking her head.
"No, I still think this is abnormal. Really, we should at least go find the doctor." I hated doctors, I never felt comfortable around doctors.
"I'm fine, it'll pass! It's just some stage I'm in."
"Some stage." Mary helped me up and wiped my mouth clean. We both started dinner before the men came in from the fields. I made simple pies and rolls with jelly insides. At least four weeks had gone by since Damian left. Mother hadn't even sent for me, I wondered if she already had my sister and forgot to tell me. I looked over at Gail who was asleep on the mat near the archway. Galler was somewhere in the den, most likely asleep. Then I felt the wave of sickness sweep into my stomach. Leaning over, I gripped the wooden table. Holding my mouth, I ran at full speed to the lou. I emptied my stomach into the pot and laid against the cold stone.
"Emma? Emma!" I heard Mary call from the kitchen.
"In here..." I groaned, rolling over on my side, sweat covering my face. I saw her in the archway, her face filled with depression.
"Miss, I really don't think you're well." She kneeled down beside me and stroked my hair.
"I'm okay, just give me a few more days then I'll be good to go." I faced the stone wall of the bath we hardly used.
"You are getting paler, Emma. It looks like you're drained of blood!" Mary said before, disappearing to the kitchen, when she came back she held a cloth that was wet. It felt good on my forehead. I felt my eyes begin to close even though I tried to keep them open they closed anyways.
In the early morning, I woke with a start. My stomach growling at me, begging for food. I sought my way to the kitchen, eating a few bread bits then digging into the meat. I wipped my lips clean then wandered outside into the dawn air. The mist was floating over the field and the sun rays were making the dew on the grass look like glass beads. I saw skinny boy was running down the path, his long legs carrying him at great speed till he came to a stop in front of me.
"Oh, mornin', miss! A letter for you." He handed me a small flat parchment. He was off running down the path lined with apple trees faster then lightening. I watched him for a few more minutes then my attention was at the letter. I opened it carefully and smiled happily.
My Dearest Daughter,
I have news that you are blessed with a brother and sadly not a sister. But fear not, he his a bundle of joy. I am in need of company for these halls are empty without your father. I am in need of your arms. Please join me soon on tomorrow's afternoon. I will send someone to get you. Safe travels.
I giggled and darted into the house, calling Mary.
"Mary! Mary! I have news!" She came out of the kitchen, her eyes still layered in a sleepy haze.
"What is it?"
"My mother wants me to go to the castle!" I gave her the letter, she read it and hugged me tight.
"I'll get your things ready tonight, please go work the horses if you have a chance. Magic has been complaining all week."
"Seeing the ponies go out and tend the land must make him jealous." I nodded, my curly hair bobbing around my shoulders. "I'll get dressed." I whistled to the dogs who quickly got up at my command and followed me into the bedroom. I lingered in the doorway, seeing Damian sleeping in bed, his hair freed from a bun and spread over his face, his blue eyes resting. I shook myself from the day dream to see an empty bed. I sighed sadly and went to the drawers near the baby's room that was empty. I pulled out my pants that were brown. A soft tan tunic and a green leather vest. the mush leather boots were at the door. I slipped my feet into them, feeling the familar insides.
"Come on boys!" I called to the dogs as they bounded out the doors to the front whereI grabbed a hanging cloak just in case it rained.
The barn ceiling was high above me, hanging lanterns hung down. Ten stalls lined the walls on each side. Each stall made of a small stone wall and a wooden gate that held one horse per stall. Black Magic's stall was the second one next to Henry's whom was the first to the right. Henry snorted loudly. The dogs were sniffing all over, in the nooks and mice holes. I patted Magic's neck.
"We have to get some riding done, I hear." His ears fell back as if rolling his eyes but as slipped on the briddle and held the reins as I let him out, I could feel his energy boosting. I let Henry loose knowing he'd follow me where ever I went. The dogs also. I mounted Magic, gripping his mane and adjusting myself to his back. I clicked to him and let him trot out of the stables into the fresh air. Eying the woods in the back of the land, I figured it would be harmless to explore a bit. Kicking Magic into a canter, we raced though the long grass, not far behind Henry galloped to catch up while the dogs tried to follow through the long grass.Reaching the edge of the trees, I pulled Magic to a stop. Sizing up the trees, they looked harmless so I let Magic find his way through the deer trail. It had a soft mist layering the ground. But the deer trail was beaten down and was perfect for the horses. Henry and the dogs had finally caught up and were now on full alert. The trail went on for a few more minutes till it came to a soft flowing stream. The water looked fresh since it was crystal clear and you could see to the bottom. I let Magic stomp through it to the other side. The dogs seemed to take their time, lapping up the cool water then jumping to the other side where I waited.
The trail ended near the other side of town. Just through the brush I could make out the tiny houses and small figures moving along. I figured it would be best to make it back to the house before it became dark and that's when things became dangerous. Even I was on alert now, turning to each sound that was made throughout the forest. Magic snorted and stop himself when we almost neared the clear stream.
"What is it?" I whispered to him. His ears went forward as an answer. I looked to the stream to see a hooded figure leaning down, bring the clear water to it's lips. A bow was on it's back with a holder filled with arrows. The dogs were in front of me now, Gail letting out a hushed growl which it heard. Snapping it's head up in our direction, it pulled a dagger out then waited. Galler matched Gail's growl with a louder one which sent the hood figure fleeing to the left through the stream. I felt everyone relax, including myself. I let the dogs go first, they crossed the stream and followed the trail back. Henry close behind Magic. I let Magic go through the stream then stopped him when something shiny caught my eyes. It looked like a gold pendent. I jumped down into the water and bent down, my fingers clasped around the pendent. I held it up and looked at it. It was a hunters sign, an arrow shot through a jumping deer with it's head back. I held onto it then mounted Magic, looking at the gold pendent as we moved along.
We entered the barn just as the sun was starting to dip into the horizon. I unbriddled Magic and let him wander to his stall while I filled his holder with fresh hay. Along with Henry's. Whom I groomed until his coat was shining with golden streaks. He nuzzled me gently in the stomach with is nose. I locked up the stables then made my way to the courtyard to find Bavol being attacked with licks from the dogs.
"I see you have made friends with Gail and Galler!" I laughed, calling them to my side as Bavol held me in a hug.
"How are you?" He asked softly, his striking looks threw me off.
"I have been managing. Not that easy though." I sighed, sitting on the stone wall where Damian had sat once.
"Please don't worry. I know Damian is a good fighter and he will make it." I turned to him.
"How can you be so sure?" He tucked a strand of white hair behind his pointed ear then looked at me with those blue eyes.
"I grew up with him!" He laughed. "Damian was always a strong willed man!" Bavol sensed that I wasn't into smiling anymore. Instead, I changed the subject and pulled out the pendent.
"I found this on my ride today." Bavol's eyes widened and took it from me.
"Where did you find this?!" He looked at closely.
"Near the stream on a deer trail." I shrugged. "Is it important?"
"To the right person. This belongs to a bunch of rogues that are hunters. This is their pendent symbol." He gave it back to me. "Be careful, who ever that was will be wanting it back and will do anything to get it back. Did you who it was?" I shook my head.
"No, the figure was hooded-"
"Emma! You have returned! I need help cooking, then men are starved!" Mary called from the door then smiled at Bavol with a slight smile on her lips. Then she disappeared.
"Would like to join us?" Bavol shook his head.
"I can't, I meant to come by and see how you are. But Emma, be careful...that has great value to them. Be on your guard at all times now...or else..." He turned slightly and bowed then made his way to the front. I looked at the woods in the distance and saw a glowing light thought the trees that seemed to belong to a lantern, gasping, I rushed inside, calling the dogs and locking the door.