Lost Children

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


A farmer searches for his kidnapped daughter.

Table of Contents

Chapters 1-4

Submitted: November 05, 2017


Before you read. This is a work in progress, second draft. I notice, I have been in the habit of not capping and will fix this later :D


A harsh gust of chilling wind blew. It was the sort of cruel gale, destined to blow on cold moonless nights. when beasts and men too wretched to walk in the light of day. come away from their
hidden nooks and crannies to walk under the gaze of the watching wood.


Wind whispered through thin, phantom-like branches. The never-dying leaves of Goldwood rustling in hushed reply.


This is Goldwood a place, of strange tranquility. a kingdom, whose borders, are that of the forest itself. a place, where the golden leaves, stretch out far and wide. a forest whose trees grow
between brooks, sloping valleys and peaceful rivers. rivers, whose water runs, towards the expanse of the rocky outcrops, of a stormy sea. sun hued canopies looming over the small forest animals
whom they shelter.


The white barked trees, sway as they listened, to what the breezes have to tell.


The winds of Goldwood are of a different sort, than the breezes that blow elsewhere. they shimmer like water through the small valleys. picking up small murmurs. eavesdropping on quiet speeches
conversed in secret behind closed doors. They carry the voices of battles fought long ago and of laughter of children since grown.


There are those who say the winds of Goldwood are alive. and that for those with ears to hear and minds to listen. the wind in the valleys of Goldwood carry voices of things and people long
forgotten.


A particularly abrasive gust whipped through the forest. causing weak branches to strain from their place. creaking in warning to those below. a painful whimpering scream, traveled across the
breeze. it was ,or rather had, been someone whose story was not yet ended. a tale older than many of the trees themselves.


So the wood listened with an ancient knowing, to the sorrows of days past. A youths corpse lay on a stone slab pale against the light of dawn his features bore the marks of royal splendor. The red
knight, prince of day now descended into that final state of life lay unmoving. clad in an armor that was not silver was not gold. a red flaming copper, that caught the rays of morning light, like
burning embers in scolding flame.


The deceased boy's brow furrowed, his mouth grimacing, in an icy frown. despite the handsome features he had had not been a lovely youth. for loveliness requires a sense of compassion, even if be a
small ounce of peace to carry in one's spirit. the eyes of the dead boy burned with an anger that could only be silence by death and death alone. A fair women of a grace that went beyond beautiful
to a point of sheer majestic enchantment. a slim figure that bore neither the liveliness of girlhood or the wrinkles of old age. her dark black hair was as fine as sleek silk and blacker than a
raven's plumage.


The fair noblewoman sobbed, as she ran up the winding stone. gripping a knight's brass helmet over her pounding heart.


She past several small window's. flashes of blue sea and pink red sky, flickered at the corner of her eyes. she was distraught to a point beyond what the mind could bear. she was the only one in
that age old place. who could claim to have loved that strong, tantalizing youth now gone forever..


The elegant lady stumbled over long flowing gown tripping her down the stairs. till battered and bruised she made it the top of the stone tower. on top of the very world, here not even the sun
itself could have felt so far away from the rest of existence.


The queen stood balconies edge she paused. one last fragment of self preservation holding her back. but the spark of life already faded, what use to her was an empty corpse a walking bag of flesh,
covered in aging skin skin.


She peered across the barren space ahead. over the ripples of blue waves the cresting sun burned blinding those who sought to catch a glimpse. for one moment in time fate held its breath. then she
fell dropping to the crashing tides below. the tall stone tower became small like a children's plaything.


She focused on the old ruins that had been both her home, and her prison. smashing into the roaring tide which welcomed her like an old friend. the water hugging her down, into its bosom. her cloak
and dark Tyrian skirts, Rippled around her.


To her chest, she clung to a knight's bronze helmet. only after her body washed ashore, could it be took from her stubborn hold. even then whoever found her would have to cut it from her with the
sharpest of blades. Below the waves, past the place where even the most unsavory of aquatic dwellers dared not go. the queen drifted, pulled deeper, with every fading beat of her slowing heart.
life ebbed away from her. blood stopped its flow her mind dwindled to all but a vague shadow of thought.


A voice beyond the darkness spoke. It spoke in a voice that was not a voicc, in tones that were inhuman. “oh lovely queen your honorable grace of such sadness" ." what ils thee how can I heal your
bleeding heart?" the queen thought her mind fading away, “no one can heal this no one can bring back what is now lost ”. and the darkness answered “ahh but my queen I can I can indeed..”


Chapter One Morning


“Blow out a burning candle. If the wick continues to smolder for a long time, bad weather is coming. If it goes out quickly, the weather will be fair.”


Morning light crisscrossed down from the sky. gold rays filtered upon the golden hued leaves, of trees who never grew green. through the underwood a small group of swallows danced. shimmering
feathers glowing against the dim sunlight. their song sharp and clear across the quiet of waking. they pass overhead, a small cobble stone cottage.


In front of the cottage a one eared Mule grazes on a patch of tangled weeds. a few feet off beneath an overturned wheelbarrow an old blue hound sleeps. the dogs back legs twitching nose moving at
the scent of unseen things.


The cottage door opened, the hound dog jerked one ear upwards, an eye blinked open. the canine seeing who it was , let itself fall back into slumber, unconcerned. the Mule, turned towards the
sound, giving the Cottage a mournful eye, snorting in a degraded huff.


Standing in the doorway, Gildo raised his head to the breeze. he stuck his heavy well worked hands in his trouser pockets. letting his newly awakened senses, take in the freshness of the outside
world. there was the smell of moss and damp grass. the crisp air was almost a better refreshment then a hot mug of spiced brownsap with armskimp spice. that glorious caffeinated beverage, that
Melly always brewed for Gildo.


Gildo bent and fashioned on his old leather boots prepping for another day of hard toil. behind him he heard the sound of Melly raising out of bed. pulling back the quilts she stood to the floor,
patting over to him.


He did not need to turn to see what she looked like. she would be wearing her blue nightgown her dark black hair spelling down her shoulders. pale rosy skin smooth and delicate with her long and
narrow features glowing in the light of the new day.


He felt her breath on his neck, as she brought two long gentle hands over his waist. Gildo grabbed hold of his wife's hands, she had long slender fingers soft pale hands. a farmer's wife, loving
mother, shepherd's daughter, love of his life.


Melly nagged in his ear, “where do you think you're oft to in such a hurry?” . the words flowed from Melly's mouth. that voice that always sounded like beautiful song when uttered through her lips.


“Come now” Melly continued “go wake Alannah, and come down for your meal". " don't you even think about stepping out that door, the hens can wait for their feed you on the other hand... ”.


Melly pulled away but Gildo turned and held her. Gazing at her his heart stopped. he always felt this way in the mornings, when he heard her voice. he wanted to tell her how much he cared, but he
was not a man of adequate words for things of such matters. so only silence passed between them, but that silence was enough.


Melly reached over pecking Gildo, on his bristly cheek. a soft sweet kiss of affection. turning from her husband she traced across the wood plank floor over to the small wood stove.


In the small loft Gildo found Alannah. she lay in her small straw bale cot. knitting needles and half stitched wool cardigan lay beside her small form.


Beside the bed stood a stump of candle. it had only recently burnt out. a trail of grey smoke wafted up to the ceiling. Gildo looked at the heavy slow smoke, candle smoke that was thick and heavy
meant wet weather. he would need to get the fencing mended early.


“Caterpillar” he shock Alannah. she roused with that quick animated movement of the young. “Papa she murmured, I had a dream I was flying”. Gildo smiled, stroking Alannahs bronze colored hair, like
his it was a tone to dark to be ginger. unlike his Alannahs hair was soft and less tangled. tied with two blue ribbons.


He had bought her those ribbons for winter's passing. they had been a cherished gift a pair of proper blue ribbons, made of fabric that was not quite as fine as silk.


Alannah beamed as she recalled her dream. “you were there Papa, you were flying with me, you were trying to catch me" but you didn't need to I had already learned to fly”.


Alannah tossed off the sheets, sniffing the musty air “hmmm Scones”. “I'm hungry enough to eat a hundred chickens, eighty biscuits, two barrels of cider and a bucket of pudding!.


The Cottage door opened. the old blue Hound lifted his head. this time rather than lie in place stretched and trotted over to Gildo. Gildo stopped brushing the dog's forehead. “there's an old boy,
you mangy old blue” Gildo said in a low voice. he scrapped around in his pockets, pulling out a small piece of dried staled bread. the kind he always kept around somewhere to treat the animals.


Gildotin mug of hot spiced brownsap in hand. Gildo tracked down the worn pathway. He stopped to button up his shirt. it was to cold for this time of year, keep this up and the crops would freeze
over.


Alannah came racing. her skirts bellowing, two parcels of wrapped cloth grasped in her hands. her feet pounded on the damp grass catching up with her father she slowed to a sort of skip.


“I have your lunch” Alannah held up the larger of the two parcels to Gildo. most likely some sort of stuffed pastry. savory of course Melly would never let sugar or Amber sap pass for a meal. he
always forgot, how many times had Melly nagged him about skipping meals. “Ma said I could come” Alannah said in good cheer.


Why in Tanglewood, a girl Alannahs age was always so eager to tag along on farm yard task was beyond Gildo. girls her age usually did things like cook or tend sick animals. not Alannah. Alannah as
chipper and giddy always walking in her father's shadow.


To Gildo Alannah was a puzzle even now Gildo was working on disappearing. “Where are we going?” Alannah asked a straight question this time. “To check the fences Caterpillar”. “Oh alright” Alannah
giggled skipping along.


Four yards ahead a black cat darted after a small feather snake. “hold it” Gildo grabbed Alannahs shoulder “wait” he said eyeing the pathway. Alannah raised her eyebrows, Gildo stalled looking from
left to right he sighed. Gildo knew he was a reasonable person a black cat crossing your path was bad news period. he tossed a small handful of the rock salt.


Gildo always some salt on hand. in the small purple pouch he hung on the same string. next to the amulet that had a very small but lovely sketch of Melly with a baby Alannah. a moonsrising gift
from Melly's father. two seasons before he had passed away Alannah had never got the chance to meet him. he'd been quite the gentleman, regal for an individual of such social circumstance.


An icy guest braised past Gildos mussels tensed. Yellowing wheat swayed. beyond the fields Gildo could make out the vogue outline of town, roof tops peeking over the horizon.


Alannah was admiring every small marvel that caught her gaze. she knelt before a small blue flower, which grew on a thin vine twining up the wood plank fence. she was so pretty, so gentle. Gildo
eased his worrisome thoughts. best focus on checking the fencing, no use putting energy in things no man could mend.


“That's what I was afraid of”. Gildo looked at the broken fencing kicking it with his boot. a plank of wood caved in with a loud thwack.


Gildo bent down to pick up the plank. he examined the piece of wood, with a unsavory expression. woodflies he knew it they always showed in unseasonable weather.


The Woodflies, had been successful in infected several lengths worth of fence. Gildo had not only to task at tearing up the wood. but also gather some spare from the forest afterwards to build a
temporary fence in place.


"Papa” Alannah was standing beside him. “Yes Caterpillar?” . he slapped his two dirty hands together circulating warmth. “Papa”Alannah said “ Jackly is going to the fishing hole can I come with
please Papa”. she eyed the rotten plank with an innocent eye.


Gildo looked to his daughter and down the dirt path. indeed young Jackly Brinx stood waiting. the small six year old miscreant holding a fishing stick and tin pail. swinging his arms back and
forth, in the closest thing to staying still. the little boy ever came to. his mother had made remark more than once that even in sleep the pale haired boy never stopped kicking.


Gildo shrugged his shoulders “it's not as if your mother would disagree, she likes that boy” . Alannah embraced her father digging her head in his grimy cotton cloths. “Thank you Papa” she whipped
down the road. Jackly said something that made her laugh. Gildo watched them go till their figures shrank into tiny dots on the horizon line.


The sun ticked over the sky Gildo hammered in a few nails into some fashioned planks. two sun chested squirrels frolicked out of the corner of Gildos eye. he chuckled . the little critters always
made him laugh. one of the golden rodents scampered up a tree trunk hiding behind a branch, jumping out at it's pursuer. chasing him in a downward spiral claws gripping the tree bark with perfect
ease.


Gildo raised his hammer more determined to finish his work. “Well, well busy here aren't we?” a voice interrupted. Gildo cringed there was never a chance that he would ever fail to recognize that
weasel like voice. he didn't want to look he didn't want to see that smug smile planted on Chances round face.


Chance displaced a handkerchief from his front pocket. muttering a brief sentence between agitated sniffs. “How's the country life treating you these days” Chance congealed. leering over Gildo in a
manner that he wasn't such a frail wisp of a man would have been menacing. “Fair enough" Gildo murmured under his breath.


Chance smiled, his prematurely white hair stuck up on end uncombed. our family's never like each other it's in our blood Gildo thought. yet and you come here acting like we're good friends. why
don't you send one of your servants to collect the dues.


Chance pulled out cigar which he stuck in his mouth chewing the tip. grinning he leaned in against the fencing . it broke under his bulk little as it was sending him toppling down into the dirt. a
rather comical look of shock spread across Chance’s face. his lovely hand tailored suit had a nice cover of dust smeared over the plush royal purple. he brushed it off.


Gildo offered a hand up but Chance turned it down. “that's some poor craftsmanship” Chance blundered. Gildo scowled “woodflyies, get them everywhere with this weather”. “Well then” Chance
readjusted his glasses righting himself up ,“see to it that it gets fixed”.


Chance took off his glasses and polished them. “bad weather for business huh” he added in a softer manner almost apologetic. Gildo didn't say a word. he starred in the space behind Chance
preferring the view of wheat fields to Chance’s person. Chance babbled “I only came to say next time you're going to be late on the land fee you let me know first”. “I'll do that” Gildo said still
looking oft into the distance.


As the young lord walked away Gildo sighed from relief. back in his fathers day a Duke would have seized the crops by this point . Chance was a strange Duke. and even now after servile years had
past since he had talen his fathers place no one know what to make of him.


The day drew out the sun crested to midday. the blue sky turn a pinkish hue. Gildo kept working not thinking. he if he stopped to think he'd get mad, mad at the early frost, angry at having the
need to lend money to keep the farm running. mad at Chance for all that his family represented. for his calm demeanor. to be fair Chance wasn't the worst of it. but Gildo didn't care, a Duke he was
supposed to be a greedy leering pain to the peasant folk, whose homes he owned. Chance tried to present himself as if they were equals..


“Papa” “Papa” Alannah dashed down the countryside. “Papa we didn't catch anything Papa”. Gildo continued what he was doing.


Alannah ran off she spent some time plucking small flowers together. with small fingers undid one of her braids and used the ribbon to tie a bouquet. “look, I picked some flowers their for you,
Papa. Papa!”. Gildo glanced up "that's nice" he said. “Papa” Gildo snapped he didn't mean to but he did “Silence Alannah, For Goldwoods sake can't you see I'm working!”. Amelia's face fell
crestfallen. breaking gildos heart he reached out to grab her but she was too quick skirt hem slipping past his reach.


Gildo turned back to the fencing he would finish mending the fence, go home make up with Alannah. she would understand. she was a sharp girl, much sharper than he had been at that age. a frightened
scream rang from over the thicket.


“Alannah” Gildo called dropping hammer. Gildo ran into the woods. He came to a small clearing. here in this empty spot, yellowed grass bristled. an elderly moon bird squawked flying overhead. two
gold squirrels scampered across the thin branches causing golden leaves to fall.


Alannah was nowhere. only the echo of her small cry lingered in the air. at his feet a small bunch of plucked flowers tied with one blue ribbon. “Alannah” Gildo called answered only by the ever
present hum of Goldwood..


Chapter Two A trail


“In the order of saving children from bad or dirty powers, they should be called with different names.”


Gildo lay face down on the counter. he downed the last of the ale from his mug. he motioned the bartender to refill his glass. Gildo’s eyes were hollow. his face pale he had wept for four days
straight after the incident. Melly had held him in bed to frozen to move.


He eyed the decaying flowers in his hands tied with a silky blue ribbon it was all they had found of her. Everyone had helped of course.


The villagers may not have always been on friendly terms. but when push came to shove they did what they could as a community. they scavenged the whole area in search of Alannah. Gildo had stopped
he'd stopped on the first night they said it had been a wild animal. but that was not true. no beast with a taste for child lasted long in Goldwood. the towns were too close to one another. the
woods to bright and small for many predictors to stalk even the small prey. someone had taken Alannah. and without a scent or trail to go on there was nothing he could do save drown himself in ale.


Gildo had become so very lost in the nightmare that was now the waking day. he had gone with a heavy heart to the Pub. a place he had seldom ever ventured to in the past, now became his regular
place of residence.


Here the people stared, minds filled a a mix of disapproval and sympathy . at home it was even worse Melly had been so quiet. she didn't yell at him or scream or shout only walked about the
cottage, doing housework. she cried, but it was only ever in sadness never anger. Gildo wished she could be angry, it would somehow be better that way. Melly only cried, she curled up to him at
night hand pressed on his chest. thinking Gildo was asleep slink off up to the loft and keen to herself. only to be up in the morning cooking breakfast setting the table for three.


The Bartender filled the empty glass. Gildo gave an upward glance at the heavily built Mr Crane. Crane returned Gildos pathetic attempt at a smile topping off his mug.


At the back of the bar a group of farm hands talked rather non discrete manner . "Is that Gildo, whatever happened to that gal of his?” “not the only one ya know that's what I heard I heard they
even had a similar occurrence up near Amberwood boarder”


One of the others broke in. “yeah but that's the shore line folk they always are losing children nothing special”. “no, no, see them’s kids vanish not a trace always there's something funny goes on
beforehand". "rain without clouds lightning with not a clap of thunder". "it's something strange all rights a regular mysterious” another farm hand pipped. “I not disagreeing with ya there but”.
Gildo turned giving a cold steely glare the ragtag group the young men went dead silent.


Gildo pressed his thumb to his temple. the drink having a greater effect raising physical pain than drowning out his agony.


He reached for the nuts they wouldn't taste like anything. A man could given the right circumstances become drunk on grief . wallow enough in that blackness and one could almost forget the reason
for the misery.


The pub bustled as much as it ever did the young men moved on to other more subtle topics.


In the far corner of the joint Harper, Mr Crane's only living son. light from the broken lamp above spilled over his lanky proportions. he had been eyeing Gildo all evening. usually Harpers only
known interest was to play the fiddle. much to the semi anounce of his old man as well as all the unmarried young women in town. Mr Crane had known a few bards in his time and never favored any of
them. however the music pleased the customers and pleased customers bought more spirits. the exception of those bleak few, such as Gildo at present. who given the chance given the chance would
drink the whole establishment dry.


Tonight though there had been no music the old fiddle lay unused in Harper's grip. his hair which never seemed to have a consistent color, glimmered under the oil lamps haze.


After some time Harper went across the maze of jovial revelers. his tallness disconcerted alienated him for the rest of the young men. Harper was not a giant among men he nevertheless he stuck out
well enough amounts the small crowded bar. he was Gildo presumed the talk of all the young girls in the village.


Harper sat himself next to Gildo’s near conscience form Gildo. grimaced “what do you you want” he tipped his mug to his lips. Harper started “I” He stopped, searching for the right words. Harper
wad a lad of little speech. he was one of those people who refrained from the use of dialogue unless he deemed it necessary.


“I need to talk to you it's about” Harper's spoke. “what” Gildo tapped the counter with his freehand. the young mustered out his sentence“it's about your daughter". " I know something about who
took her” . Gildo dropped his mug.


“What” Gildo bent forward sheer even voice drew level with Harper . “what are you saying?” Harper glanced around the bustling pub he took a deep breath..


“Someplace less exposed” “say what you have to say now or leave me be” . Gildo stared into his lap his hands were trembling from fear or rage. he didn't know at his feet the shattered fragments of
his mug lay in a sticky damp puddle of undrunk alcohol.


“I helped with the search I saw it in the woods written drawn in crimson” Harper's voice was urgent. Harper stroked his violin in that manner another person might pet a cherished cat or small lap
dog.


Gildo’s mind filled with abraded confusion. what was the lad going on about? Harper had always seemed a sensible type he often was no more than a human statue staring off into thin air. a sensible
lad none the less even if he wasn't practical in nature.


“ The symbol it was wrought in the tree stump, where you found the flowers" Harper spoke in earnest. “I copied it and had a look at the church's basement”, the Church of many paths basement was in
a vague way a sort of library. since there was no one around to care over the volumes hat lay harbored in old moth ridden crates. people referred to as the church's basement.


Harper reached, in one quick nimble movement, into his coat sleeve pulling out a parchment. “I made a copy”. on the ancient parcel of stained paper the insidious emblem. Gildo knew even without
having seen the like of it before, that the blood red emblem was the mark of sinister power.


“What does it mean?” Gildo asked. Harper drew his breath “It's very old , not much is in the books" . “why?, people like to write about old things don't they them Scholars up in Kingsbright?” Gildo
added a note of distastefulness at the word Scholar.


“They burnt it all, something about a calling and things that listen beyond the dark” Harper paused . Gildo was now leaning in close enough to hear the boy's sharp healthy breath. “ I'm not that
simple Harper Crane” Gildo said offended. Harper shook his head “your daughter isn't the only child spirited away”.


Gildo thought for a moment “Then who took her glassmen?, dark cloaks? ” he raised his hand waving in the air. a few men down the table looked over at them. “What are you looking at mind your own
business Glints” Gildo addressed one of the young men.


Harper's said in certainty “ I am going to Kingsbright to notify the authorities, we'll find her " . "you're a fool" Gildo grimaced the liquor induced migraine was setting in. "the king's men don't
care about peasant children disappearing, why should they?". Harper did not budge in his standing, "I'm going to Kingsbright at dawn you can come or stay it's your choice".


“Hey Laddie what you got huddled up over there for?” Glint Barsome third son of Waysword Barsome the town's famous pottery maker.


Harper rolled up the paper. Glint squeezed and twisted his large green hat in his tan brown hands. “why the silence tonight lad? you should be doing your thing”. Harper smiled, his fingers twitched
at the tuning pegs of the fiddle's neck. “actually, sonny I was sort of wanting to put in a request you see” Glint bent down to Harper's ear. Harper nodded and Glint gave him a thankful slap on the
back.


Harper faced Gildo again and held out the universal sign of wait here a moment. he glided towards the the center of the old establishment.


Harper relished his instrument striking a few test notes. the bars loud bustle faltered, as the first melodies flowed past Harper's fingers. the first song played was quick and upbeat a few men got
up and twirled the young ladies across the floor. the rest kicked their heels under their sets. if Harper wanted you to dance you would swing and lift up your feet till the music stopped. the men
laughed picking up their drinks.


With a twist of his rest, Harper sounded a different tune. a soft song that drew in stillness, some of the fellows leered “play something for us to dance to chap”.


Glint Barsome, approached Flinch Heather , young daughter of Slims. on one knee Glint pulled out a slender silver wrist band . “Flinch, my honeybee will you be my girl”. Glints forehead glistened
with perspiration. Harper softened the pace. Flinch pulled back her long brown hair planting a kiss on Glints lips melting into his arms. the room exploded with cheering .


Baring his hands Gildo’s head throbbed from the yammer and festivity. the young couple in the center of the bar were dancing across the floor gliding. the music lulled. Gildo’s eyes grew heavy.


Chapter Three out the door


The sound of thunder clapping filled the empty space.it was not thunder, there was no storm, no rain, no darkness. above the horizon was clear a soft hazy blue, neither sun nor moon were present.


Beneath the roar of a mad animal bellowed. the roar was deafening. the sound was longer than a wolf's cry and somehow sadder than a lost child's whimper of lonesome despair. It was a noise Gildo
had never heard there could be none like it nothing could sound as big as lonely as this.


Gildo was falling into the wide open jaws of a beast. teeth made of boulders a stomach that stretched across to the ends of the world. this is it than Gildo closed his eyes. he tasted salt.
creature's breath smelled of salt salt and fish, “what are you?” Gildo asked the vast scene coming towards him.


Gildo was now falling at a much slower pace, as if gravity choosing to take its time had eased its pull. “Papa”, the cry came, once more. Gildo tried to turn but a heavy weight held him rooted in
his position. he peered round searching for a girl in sky blue ribbons.


Gildo pleaded “please come home Alannah please, I'm sorry I yelled at you, please come home”. “Papa, I can't it won't let me go, it won't let any of us go” the girl above said all this in an eerie
calm. Gildo pressed “Alannah please come back” was he sobbing? he couldn't tell the spray from below tasted of salt tears tears.


“Look up Papa” Alannah sang, “look up look Papa look see how I've learned to fly ” . Gildo opened his mouth to speak. so much salt, the essence of salt, stinging his eyes, filling his nose. Gildo
wanted tell Alannah to come away from this benevolent dampness of falling sky. to go home with him were her Mother was waiting with a broken heart. but the darkness reached up and the wet cold
swallowed the world.


He awoke his stomach turned a pinch of pain . Gildo blinked up at cracked ceiling. a drop of cold rain water dripped down on his forehead. wet. cold everything was cold. he was almost shaking. he
tried to feel his toes they had gone numb in the dank temperature .


Melly had torn the sheets off of him. her hair was done up but still managed to retain its normal tangled look it always had in mourning. before she hacked away at it in front of the wash basin
combing out the raven black strands.


Melly rolled over long right arm folding over Gildo's broad chest. Gildo let Melly's arm rest untouched it move raising up and down with his breath.


Who had brought him home old Craven likely. he'd been so near unconsciousness that he could barely remember the night before. he was still in his work clothes yes but Melly had taken off his shoes
and put on his bed socks. he would have been to heavy to her to get him out of any of his other wear. something of the night before slipped into place. the Crane's boy an old parchment.


“Oh bugger!” Gildo wiggled out of bed trying not to wake Melly. He tucked the green and yellow patchwork quilt around Melly's bare toes. she whimpered twisting over on her side once more and
falling back into silence.


Gildo washed his face in the steel basin. he took out his razor blade staring into the depths of the small glass mirror. a small broken off shard in the upper right corner disrupted the sheen of
reflection. Gildo's face was rough creased in hard stubborn lines.


The reflection looked back at tired farmer, when did you start to look so old? Gildo managed to think. putting the razor down and then back up again. Gildo lifted up the razor. metal against soft
skin cutting away the small red hairs. a sharp pain as the metal slipped cutting below the skin's service. Gildo winced a drop of red fell like dew into the wash water. the blood swirled, the water
rippled it could almost be a symbol a sign.


Gildo placed the razor down as the red drop spread merging with the water sinking to the bottom of the wash bin. a look of startled recognition spread across Gildo’s face. in his mind's eye he
recalled young Harper Crane’s gentle shy speech. Kingsbright oh bloody hell, that whippersnapper was going to the capital.


Gildo went to fetch his coat burning with porpoise. he grabbed a brown cloth sack, stuffing what he could it was a four night Journey to Kingsbright. Pulling on his boots Gildo shouldered on his
coat,“wait” Melly was standing behind him. she rushed out of bed, bare feet thudding over the dry creaky flooring.


Gildo wrapped his arms around her. his universe his world. Melly was crying on his shoulder, “Don't leave please it's lonely enough here right now as it is please”. Melly gripped him her head
borrowed into the roughness of his crinkled work cloths.


Gildo lifted his hand to her chin raising her gaze " I'm not leavin you Melly I would never”. Gildo smiled unsure even himself but he had to try. “I am going to do is bring her back” Gildo said to
his benevolent wife. Melly nodded she drew her arm over her gentle face the sleeve of her night gown soaking up the tears. she walked to the far end of the cottage bending over a particularly noisy
wood plank. pulling the plank loose, she drew her slender hand inside, pulling out a purple pouch.


"it's what's left of father's inheritance” Melly pressed the pouch in Gildos hand. Gildo opened the case took out a small portion of the money inside. “you keep the rest you'll need it to keep the
place running while I'm gone”. Melly did not reject she took the pouch. before he could turn to leave she drew him in with a kiss. he buried his face in her hair taking in her scent. “I love you”
she whispered” Gildo breathed a heavy sigh “I know” . “I'll bring her home, I swear on every inch of this land” Melly nodded and Gildo slipped out the door.


Chapter Four a turn in the road


“When you set out on your journey, you'll bring bad luck to your voyage if you look back toward home after starting out. It's also considered a really bad idea to head back home for any reason”


Gildo didn't look back there was nothing to look back to. home would not be home again till he managed his task.


Gildo reached for his amulet clutching it in a firm trembling hand. an anchor for him to steady himself as he made along towards uncertainty.


The sky was a hot bright pink as it sometimes is in Goldwood when the day draws on certain magical qualities.


The old hound dog proceeded after him. keeping familiar company. however once they reached the end of the farm the canine stopped. he was an old dog and his days of crossing beyond his turf were
long ago. the hound sat at the fence post tail thumping on the dusty ground. as Gildo kept onward the dog gave a disgruntled whine, ducking its head in a farewell gesture.


Gildo unwrapped the symbol that he kept in his overcoat. Harper had left it on the counter at the pub. Gildo had somehow managed enough sobriety to take it putting it inside his pocket. The symbol
glared up at Gildo who peered at it daring the red ink to form into meaning.


A few larks flu in winding patterns over the wheat fields. further on the golden wheat turned to cabbage patches that moved on to empty pasture.


Gildo past the occasional rustic hermit dwelling. you had a lot of hermit types in the area. as it was still and solitary enough to be by most people's standards yet near enough to town to acquire
staples. staples such as craft brewed ale and soft sweet baked goods.


Dust wafted up from the lane filling Gildos lungs with the heavy trodden soil. Gildo’s boots pressed over the earth in a straight mechanical movement. the dust filled his boots it covered his coat.
was a traveler's friend as Gildos father used to say.


Small trees grew at the path's edge offering a chance for wayward travelers to stop under the shade. heads upon the topiary to listen to the playful scampering of gold squirrels.


This seemed such a tame place. the weather was never dire with humidity or frost. too cold for crops yes. but never so frozen over to kill a man out for a stroll. still no matter how much people
thought they had tamed the natural world, one way or another it owned you.


A sound vibrated down the trail. a melody which shimmered almost visible in the air. a hermit strode down the pathway. a long tangled grey beard swinging to and fro. The Hermit paused to pick a
pebble out of his aged and battered shoes.


The old outcast looked to the sky and smiled. wrinkled face drawn to the light of the day's sun. old Hermits by rule of thumb take in the simple pleasures of the world, with a deep appreciation.


The Hermit nodded at Gildo “lovely day” a guttural voice said. Gildo returned the greeting “some show down that way” the old fellow remarked, placing his boot back on. the hermit shambled on
dragging his beard behind him.


Gildo expected who it was playing the harmony. no one else in these parts, could play that good. under the graceful eve of a large tree Harper leaned, fiddle tucked underneath his chin. bow gliding
across the silver strings with ease. the birds seem to stop their chatter outdone by the song that played by the roadside.


Gildo waited with disgruntled patience for Harper to finish. The young man stood upright holding his fiddle under arm. he then without word began walking down the road in the direction Gildo had
been going.


After somewhere between forty minutes to an hour had passed them by Gildo’s legs began to feel stiff . For a boy who spent so much time standing still, Harper could move at quite a speed. Gildo
jogged along stepping beside his youthful companion.


Gildo felt around in his head for some point of conversation “one of us should be saying something ” . stillness the air hummed a group of small insects buzzed in a small cloud over a few yards
from them. Gildo was careful to walk around any cracks in the road.


Gildo bit his lip he never wanted to talk to people. people were noisy, rude and always talked to much. but there was something wrong with how Harper had taken to extreme the exact opposite of the
social norm. there seemed to become some sort of gap in his head where the chattering of a human voice should have been. as it was there was the sound of birds, the hum of hot air. two people
walking without words.


Gildo spoke to Harper “you can go back you know ”. talking with Harper was like talking to the wind it whisked away every word often before it was even spoken. Gildo finally decided to at least in
the interim save his breath. he unpacked a scrap of smoked fish meat offering some to the silence that was Harper Crane.


It was a little time later that Harper began to play while walking. this was the cause for Gildo not hearing the sound of carriage wheels coming up towards them.


“I say dear fellows stop!” Gildo looked up caught off guard. the cart came to a conclusion beside them. Harper drew back his fiddle bow. The black horses pawed the earth irritated at the delay.


The carriage itself was a fine thing. made of black wood. brass iron doors, decorated with silver trim. it looked to Gildo as if it had cost a ridiculous amount of money.


Harp er waved a greeting to the carts occupant who stuck their head out from behind the dark curtains. Chance Higgins beamed, smitten with a kind of overkill enthusiasm most men lost at the age of
nine. “it's mighty unpredictable weather to be walking on such a open road”. Gildos mouth went sour how in all the crazy men they could encounter why did it have to be Chance. Chance lord of the
crested region of Goldwood.


“You're all very quiet today” Chance replied to the blank face of Gildo and the calm boyish Harper. “do come in”. Chance leaned a welcoming hand out of the window “no need to stand out in the heat
this road only goes one way" . Chance ushered the two to come step inside the carrier. the duke opened up the gold handled door with his clumsy hands.


“We don't need” Gildo started but Harper had already stepped inside. Gildo gave a heavy sigh and against his better nature exapted Chance’s invitation.


Gildos legs sank, with a guilty pleasure, into the satiny cushioned seats. he worked everyday out in the fields, yet trekking at such a quickened pace left him breathless.


Chance held out a cigar case a few inches to close too Gildo’s face. Gildo shook his head “don't smoke?” Chance took out one of the cigars, sticking the but end of the cigar in the corner of his
mouth. Chance didn't light the stogie, he chewed it the way others would chew a s bit amber sap.


“I say where are you fellows oft to ?” “Kingsbright” Gildo replied rapping his knuckles on the oak wood beside him.


“Well you don't say you're in for a stroke of luck I'm on that way myself ” Chance said. Chance nipped at the cigar, “how are the girls?, I bet you left them with some care what with that animal
attack of recent”. Chance’s cigar bobbed up and down the movement of the cart drew a bit rough as the hill side grew steeper.


Gildo pursed his lips “it wasn't, an animal attack" Chance scowled "not an animal attack?". Gildo looked at the rip in his coat pocket frowning "it was Alannah, she's missing not a trace of blood
or struggle”.


Chance’s mouth slacked, cigar tumbled to the couch floor. “ I had no idea” Chance said. he must have had more brains than Gildo gave him credit for, because he said no more. letting the time slip
by without word.


Harper opened his mouth to say something “what is it, young man?” Chance asked. Harper looked to Gildo "ask him" Gildo “ask him what?”. Harper,s words made a small click in his head. Chance was a
duke and a dukes business at the capital would involve some sort of transaction with... Yes. Gildo gave a sinister smile at Chance . “can you get an audience with someone of authority in
Kingsbright” Gildo asked. Chance snubbed the unburning cigar. “I'll see what I can do”
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