The cold air seemed to weigh down my lungs with every short, gasping breath and made my eyes water and blur in the wind. I push forward as fast as I could, focusing on how fast to put down my feet to double my speed. I blink away the tears, almost stumbling into a snow bank in the process.
I could hardly feel the bow strap falling off my shoulder slowly with every step or the arrow case wedged in between my shoulder blades painfully, but secure. The beat of my heart drummed loudly in my ears and I reached up to count my pulse to find that it wasn’t matching the drumbeats.
I painfully gasp as I fling myself to the right, hard, straight onto solid ice. The pain was drowned out by fear as the white-hot fireball screamed past me, hardly missing me in the process. If I didn’t move, I would surely be dead by this point. The drumbeats got louder and a mind-numbing roar filled the sky as the giant shadow passed over me. I suddenly felt so small and helpless, like a small mouse being circled by a hawk.
The creature landed heavily onto the ground some 40 feet away from my current position, causing the earth to shake. Frozen in fear, I watched his scaly mouth curl into a smile before slithering slowly towards me. His eyes shocking me only momentarily before I realized that I had no chance if I didn’t move NOW.
I blink away the tears left over from the icy wind and scramble to get my bow and arrows. My heart drops as I realize I only had one arrow left but I grab it anyways.
“Might as well die trying than to not try at all…” I sobbed quietly as I put it into place.
By this time he was already almost on top of me, his large stature casting a shadow over me, making the temperature drop another 20 degrees.
Instead of killing me like I thought he would, he smirked and chuckled lightly. My arms burned from how tight I had the bow string pulled back, ready to send the arrow flying whenever.
“Child… you have no chance. I’m not able to be killed. Have you learned nothing yet?” He turns his head slightly and extends his wings out all the way to show multiple scars and arrows still left inside of him. “Why don’t you just give up already… surrender or you’ll be extinct. You’re the last of your kind… Call it an act of mercy.” His voice was deep and vibrated in my chest.
“I will never service you! Dragons should have never come here! You’ll never make it back to the others to warn them! Long live Gaidraeith!” My voice shook and I was openly sobbing at this point, no longer afraid to be seen with emotion.
The Dragon growled, “So be it!” His tongue swept out once, fast, and he puffed out his chest, getting ready for the last stream of fire that would completely eradicate an entire race from the planet.
I remembered my father and how he used to teach me how to shoot. He taught me… breathe out slowly… count to three.
Time seemed to slow down and my thoughts race as fast as the wind.
“1…” His eyes squeeze shut, the fire starting to bubble out of his mouth.
“2…” I lined my arrow up to his face and tighten the string even more.
“3!” His mouth half-opened and I could see the fire.
On a split decision, I decided to aim straight into the growing fireball and release the arrow.
It flew straight into the fireball so I couldn’t see it connect. Momentarily, I thought I was done for… that it didn’t connect, but as his fire died out instantly and the eyes rolled back in his head… I knew.
I closed my eyes as I heard his body hit the ground. I didn’t know how to feel. The tears that were already on my face were slowly freezing but I didn’t have the energy to wipe them away.
“I have just… defeated the undefeatable…” I whispered out loud. I laughed a little, but it sounded hysterical so I stopped.
The once silent birds started to chirp again, signalling life to go back to normal as if nothing happened. When I opened my eyes, the dragon was still there, but turned to stone, the moment of his death forever frozen in time. I felt a burst of joy as I realize that I would be the only person to have been recorded to kill a Dragon… but my smile faded and my tears started to flow as I thought about my dead brothers and sisters.. my family… my way of life forever gone.
Deciding to not let this get to me any further, I pushed myself forward and got to my feet and put my bow on my back. I had nowhere to go and no one to see.
At this moment, the snow began to fall softly and the sun dipped behind the giant mountain tops, the light almost completely gone from the sky. Seeing as how I wouldn’t even be able to try to make it to a village or town, I began to look around for firewood.
My father taught me so much in his short time with me. When I was younger, he wasn’t around and it didn’t seem to affect me in any way as I was a bright and happy all the time. But as my mother grew older, she became more harsh and demanding, so when my father came home from war, I found myself learning more “manly” things with him.
All I could find was a sharp rock and some thawed out branches thanks to the dragon’s breath. I used the rock to chop more branches down from old trees and piled them up under the stone dragon’s wings, thankful for no wind. Digging around in my pocket, I found flint and a small pocket knife. Since I didn’t have anything to catch the fire, I reluctantly grabbed a small chunk of my already short hair and cut it off, mixing it in with the sticks. Thankfully, it caught fire with little effort.
I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly kept awake by the automatic replay of the entire event in my head. A rustle in the bushes terrified me and I lept to my feet, not aware that I was beginning to doze off and my fire was only embers at this point.
“Come out now or I’ll turn you dead, too!” I shouted into the darkness.
My beating heart seemed to stand still as the bushes rustled again and a tall mouse-like man stepped out, shivering in fear with his hands up.
“P… please don’t kill me!” he stuttered and started to cry.
I realized how worthless and pitiful he is, his body was shaking so hard I thought he’d fall. He wasn’t armed and the only thing he had on was a long robe. I assumed he was a monk and he was okay so I turned around and threw more sticks on the fire and it roared back to life. When I turned back around, he was still there.
“I let you live. What do you want.” I never realized how dry my throat was before, but it started to burn a bit so I cleared it.
He looked straight up at the Stone Dragon’s face as the flames made it glow. “You…. killed that thing?”
I shrugged. “Yeah. But now, if you don’t mind, I’m here to try and survive the rest of the night.”
He reaches into his robes.
“HEY,” I pull out my pocket knife, “Aye stop. Freeze.”
He started to shake again but pulled a small, square cloth out of his inner chest pocket, “No… no I want to help. Please.”
I lowered the knife a little, but didn’t relax much out of fear. “One chance. You get one chance and if you mess up, I’ll kill you. Don’t think I wont do it.”
He nodded and grinned softly as he whispered something that sounded like Ragneth at the cloth and it started to crackle and burn. He looked so proud of himself as his smile grew bigger and he looked up at me, still holding the small flame.
I was in such awe that I shut the knife and put it in my pocket. I realized, at that time, that he was most definitely not a monk.
“Who are you?” I asked, staring at the small flame who wasn’t eating away at the cloth, but seemed to be cradled in it.
He seemed puzzled at the question, “I come from the dragon’s resting place. I was the one who was supposed to keep him asleep.” He looked down at his feet, seeming ashamed. “My people… are known for their voices. They’re known to be so soothing, they lull their opponents into deep sleep.” He looked towards the dragon’s stone corpse, “I was ordered by the king to keep this one sleeping. It was my shift.. it’s been days nonstop singing.. you have to understand!” His eyes turned back to me, pleading.
I was angry. “So you could have stopped this one from killing my entire species.”
The fear on his face returned, but I looked away. I did understand. We’ve been almost nearing extinction for many years and I was the youngest one since the breeding of the people was complected and full of the religious bullshit I never seemed to catch onto.
“Listen… nevermind. Just don’t worry about it.” I tried to put the anger away and relax.
He stepped closer, the warmth of the flame wrapping me in it’s embrace. I decided not to sleep while he was around. He was just too suspicious. Why was he trying to help?
I sat down next to the fire I made and he sat on the other side, putting the fire on the ground and laying next to it. A few moments later, I heard his breathing even out and get deeper. I knew that he fell asleep and I felt safe. Maybe he could help me get back to where I belong. Who knows. All I wanted to do was to get to the next city, get a job, and eat. I was so hungry and so thirsty.
The snow started to fall faster and harder as moon just started to go down. I pulled the cap off of my arrow case and set it out to catch some snow. It was only about as big as my hand, but when it filled up and I melted the snow into water, it lasted for a few minutes as I sipped slowly. My throat no longer felt like it was burning and I was starting to get sleepy. The man was sleeping soundly so I decided to let my guard down a bit. I rested my head and immediately passed out asleep.
I woke up but didn’t open my eyes, keeping my breathing at a slow, deep pace and listened. I could hear the birds chirping, the creaking of the willows as the ice and snow weighed them down, and the sleeping sounds of the man. I opened my eyes to the soft snowfall and the sun peaking through the clouds. The sun looked like it was trying to fight away the dark clouds but was slowly failing as they just grew thicker. I wondered when the snow would stop.
I rolled over onto my side to see how bad the fire was to find out that it was fully burnt out because somehow, the snow got to it. I frowned.
“Hey… hey wake up.” I whispered.
He suddenly sat up and looked around, confused. He looked straight at me as shook my head slowly and put a finger to my mouth. Slowly, carefully, I got on all fours and crawled to his side.
“The dragon’s wing was covering the fire, right?” My voice was shaky and raspy.
He slowly looked over at the dragon. That’s when we realized that it was no longer stone, but black and red. A low growl shook the ground and I screamed.
The man took a deep breath and started a song in his own native language. I covered my ears and tried not to listen, but the song started to grow louder and sweeter and I couldn’t help it. I got up and tried to stumble away. I got a few steps away until I collapsed under the weight of my own eyes.
When I awoke again, I jumped up out of a strange bed in a dusty wooden home.
“Hey… are you okay?” The man was sitting there next to me, his face wet from either snow, sweat, tears, or a combination of all three. He was accompanied by two armed men behind him, freshly covered in blood.
The fear hit me fully and I grabbed for my knife which was no longer there, but the men grabbed at their swords and pointed them at me. The man who was with me at the fire jumped in front of me.
“Please, listen! Relax!” He was shaking, but firm in his orders. They slowly put their swords away and I stood there, silent.
The tall one spoke, “We want to know about the dragon. Why was it out, who killed it, and who is going to pay for the damages.”
I growled, angerly and tried to push past the man to hit the guards. “I was the one who killed the dragon! And damages? Don’t even get me started! They killed my family! My species is gone!”
They looked hurt. “Look, we’re sorry. This is just mandatory. We have to get information for the King. My name is Derik,” He points at his partner, who looked equally as sorry. “this is Evan. We are the guys who saved your asses and dispatched the Dragon.”
He didn’t seem to brag or boast about killing a Dragon, which is something to be extremely proud of. I slowly sat back down, trying not to cry. I was so scared and so alone.
I suddenly realized something “Excuse me?” I reached up and tugged on the man’s shirt, “I have yet to ask you what your name is.”
He smiled widely and bowed, “Smith at your service, ma’am.”
My sadness disappeared and I smiled a little at his obvious plan to cheer me up. I did a slight bow back “And I am Amaya. At your service, good sir.”
Evan spoke up, “Sorry but how did the dragon get out, Smith?”
He looked dead at him and lied, “It happens. Dragons get distracted.”
After the awkward silence, the guards just looked at each other and started to leave. “Listen, if you need anything, we’ll be in the brick house at the end of the road. We guard the Inn sometimes. That’s next to us on the left. Please. Visit whenever.” They both walked out the door.
When it closed, Smith started to go through all of the drawers and cabinets in the the place, all the time looking over his shoulder.
“Dude! What are you doing?” I was shocked. It looked like he was stealing things.
“Well I don’t know what you’re doing, but I am going to leave here asap. It doesn’t matter why the dragon got out, they’ll kill me for it. For slaughtering an entire people, I will lose my life for that. I haven’t eaten in seven days or seen anyone in that time. So I’m taking what I can and leaving.” He turned around, holding out a card. “This is where you will find me if you need me. Give me three days to get there. This is going to be our goodbye.”
Before I could say anything more, he reached into his pockets and pulled out my knife, a key, and a bag of dried meat. He handed them to me, kissed my cheek, then ran out of the door. I could see a little bit out of the door and I realized I was in a city. Exactly where I wanted to be. But there was something about the urgency in Smith’s voice that told me to run as soon as I could. I looked at the foot of the bed and there were a pair of worn jeans and a shirt. I put them on and everything fit but the shirt, which hung off my shoulders a little bit. I thought about changing back, but before I could think any further, there was footsteps coming closer, I shoved everything into the nearest drawer and the guard, Evan, was back.
“Well, where did your friend go?” He slipped in the door and closed it behind him.
The room wasn’t very big so he was only a few steps away. I fixed my shirt and stared straight at him.
“Out. He went out to look around. Why?” I was nervous but I had to straighten my back and stand straight.
He awkwardly positioned himself in front of the door and shrugged, smiling. “Wanted by the King.” He took a step forward and nearly closed the gap between us.
I couldn’t sit still anymore. I knew what he was thinking and I had to get out of there. As he got closer and reached up to touch my face, I swung my elbow up and drove it into the soft, leather armor covering his chest. I hit so hard that I heard all the air from his lungs rush out and as he hunched over, I brought my knee up and smashed his nose flat to his face. When he finally hit the floor, blood gushing from his face, I ripped the drawer out and grabbed my stuff. Across the room was a closet that was locked. I brought out the key and put it to the lock.
I was suddenly ripped back by my hair and thrown onto the other side of the room by Evan. He looked angry, but mostly happy. He pinned my arms to the wall.
“Seems like you can’t get away now, little girl!” He laughed.
I spit in his face, “I’m not a little girl!” And brought my knee up, hard, to meet his crotch.
He fell for the last time, this time crying. I jumped over his body and unlocked the closet. There I found arrows, my bow, my pocket knife, and the rest of my gear. I grabbed it all, even taking time to put it on while watching the pitiful groaning mess cry. I then decided to leave. I opened the door and looked back.
“If you ever touch me again, I’ll kill you.” I said, seriously.
The gust of wind shut the door behind me with a slam and I found the shirt to be less covering than I was hoping for as the snow quickly attacked the bare areas, numbing them with coldness. I ran fast, away from the small house, having no issues on the small streets because everyone was indoors. When I got to an extremely large gate, I knew it was the only way out. I pushed against it softly, but it didn’t budge. I then decided to try and ram it with my shoulder and it moved a bit. That’s when I heard a giant bolt being undone and the gate creaked open. There was Derik.
“Amaya?” He looked confused.
I smacked him in the side of the head with my bow, “Surprised to see me? Surprised I’m not dead?” I yelled in anger.
He rolled on the ground, holding his head, “Amaya what the hell are you talking about?”
“Evan attacked me in the house. He tried to hurt me.” My voice trembled a bit, but I held back the tears.
Derik looked very confused. His confusion quickly turned to anger. “And I hope you beat the shit out of him. Listen. The King is looking for your friend. I suggest you get out of here. I don’t care how, just run.” He slowly got to his feet. “I’m sorry I can’t go with you. I’ll make something up. Just be safe.”
The kindness in his eyes reminded me of my father. I kept a mental note about where to find him and ran off into the small hills, hoping I could duck down if someone were to shoot arrows at me, but no one did.
I kept running until the city was no longer visible and then more. I realized that the further I ran, the less snow was falling. An hour later, I decided to stop and take a break outside a small village. People were bustling around hanging up signs advertising accessories and food. I entered the open gates and stood in the doorway, taking it all in. They were regular humans, granted a bit taller than my mother told me about. The ground began to rumble and I froze in fear, thinking about a dragon attack. The rumbling stopped and there came a snort from behind me.
I turned around fast and the horse threw its head up in surprise. “Hey! Mind moving?” The carriage driver said, kindly.
Still staring at the horse, I moved to the side and it trotted forward, bringing a small carriage of boxed up goods. After I got over the shock, I smiled at the beauty of the whole town working together in unison. After further inspection, I spot a blacksmith walking around her newly washed leather armor and walk to her.
“Hello, excuse me. I was wondering about the status of my arrows and bow.” I pull out my bow and arrows and give them to her for her to inspect.
She smiled at me widely and sat on a log stool and worked the arrows through her fingers. “Well. You can definitely make some money from these! Made from one of the finest of trees deep in the mountains… how did you acquire them?” She looked at me from the corner of her eyes, her stare made me uncomfortable.
“A friend gave them to me.” I shuffled my feet and looked away.
She chuckled, “Oh, you don’t have to lie to me. I’ve done some stuff in my day. Your bow is in horrible condition, though. Lucky you. I have a bow to match these arrows. It’s going to cost you, though.” She got very serious, “Or.. you could help me with something. I will give you the bow and a reward.”
I immediately snapped to attention. There was nothing I loved more than a surprise and helping others. “You got me. Shoot.”
She sighed, “A few years ago, the king allowed only people that worked for him horses. That’s why we only have one that ships in supplies every now and then. My family owned a stallion and his daughter who, at the time, was only a few weeks old. They took them away…” I could tell she was about to cry. “Well.. I know where they are and I know where they’re going to head here come tomorrow so I need them back. If you get my stallion back, you can have the mare and the bow.”
I nodded, “I would gladly get them back for you. I just came from the King’s town, I believe.”
“No, no. They’re not there. The next town over has the stables. Just out the gate to the left and you should reach it by nightfall. Please, be careful. You’ll know who the two are. The stallion is the purest white. Not even another color on him. The mare… well she could be any color now. Last I saw of her, she was white with these beautiful grey spots.” She handed back my things. “Safe travels. But please, enjoy the town first. You look absolutely exhausted!”
I took her advice and looked around the streets. The horse carriage was just sitting outside. No more goods in the back, but still had the horse tacked up and ready to go with no person around. I decided to go into the bar to get a little pick-me-up to find that the place was full with people. The bar smelled like hot cider and apple pies. It was what I needed.
The waitress blew out smoke and wiped the dark, wooden counter with her blue and white checkered rag. “Need anything, sweets?”
I smiled and put a thirty on the dry part of the counter. “Yes, please. A ‘Deep Freeze’ and whatever you were smoking there a bit ago.”
She smiled largely and handed over a pack of cigarettes. “I’ll be right out, baby girl.” And she waltzed out to the other room in a provocative way.
I couldn’t help but feel amused and I giggled a little as she disappeared out of view. She was strikingly beautiful, so I could just imagine how many others have tried the same lines I did. I could feel every man’s eyes at the bar burn into my body as jealousy set in.
One man spoke up, “Hey. What do you think you’re doing around here?” He slurred his speech. He was obviously drunk so he wasn’t a threat. I didn’t answer. “I said-“
“Sir, if I were you, I’d sit down. I don’t have time for your bullshit and I just came here to drink and smoke. Got it?”
He was surprised that I spoke up and he sat down silently. “Women these days…”
I looked around for a lighter as the waitress came back, blushing. She put down a beautiful glass full of sparkling, blue liquid and pulled out a pink lighter. “Thought you’d need this.”
I happily took the lighter from her hands and lit the cigarette, taking my first draw in a long time. When I blew out, I noticed she was joining me.
“I see many people come and go in this place. Some people have a lot to say, some don’t have any. I can take my break now, darling, if you wanna talk.” Her voice was sweet and smooth. There’s no question about it, she was interested. “Or… the rest of the night.”
I was shocked. “Sorry, ma’am. I am going on an adventure tonight and I won’t have time to… talk.”
“Oh…” she looked disappointed. I honestly felt sorry for leaving.
“But…” I took a deep draw and blew it out again, “How would you like to come with? I’ll warn you, it’s illegal in every way and we could die.”
She laughed and put her cigarette out. “I would love to. I get off work in a few minutes.” She got a serious look on her face, “Now drink up and warm up by the fire. You’re distracting me.” Her voice made me smile.
I got up and walked to the fire, the bar still loud, masking the sound of the crackling fire. The alcohol tasted like sweet berries and the cigarette went well with it.
At the end of her shift, she met me by the fire and I realized I was dozing off.
“So what’s the plan, hun?” She layered her accent on thick and I couldn’t quite place it. I noticed she was trying to hide it earlier.
“Well,” I grinned, “I don’t know about you, but I am going to go steal something from the King. How does that sound to you?”
Her eyes went wide. “Oh hold on, now. I can go to jail just talking about stuff like this. Are you for real?”
I looked over to the man just going into the men’s wash room. “Listen. If you wanna come with, we go now.”
I jumped up and walked fast in the direction of his carriage. I could hear her following, silently, and that gave me the courage to go on. The giant box was still in the back of the carriage and the horse was still and quiet as usual. I pulled up the tarp covering the box and climbed inside. It looked like it used to hold some sort of big animal since there were bars on the doors. That, or it was a jail cart.
“Now why would a food cart have a jail box in it?” She climbed in after me and squeezed in on the other side of the box, covering us back up with the tarp and closing the door.
I could only shrug back as I heard the man coming back out of the bar, singing quietly under his breath. He jumped up onto the carriage, snapped a whip, and the horse jumped forward, running home at top speed. It only took a little time before I started falling asleep again. The woman pulled me into a hug before I passed out.
The wagon rolled to a halt and my eyes shot open. I could feel her arms around me, warming me, and I felt comforted even though there was a high possibility of me getting arrested and executed. I pulled away, reluctantly and she quickly put a finger over her mouth, quietly shushing me. I could hear footsteps outside the tarp and strange voices.
“Got that shipment in, aye?” A deep voice said, happily.
The carriage man responded, “Yes, I did! Those poor bastards don’t have anything without us.”
The other man laughed, “Well. Goodnight! We’ll unload everything in a few hours. Get some sleep.”
“Goodnight, to you, too. Thanks for the break!”
I looked at the tarp moving slightly in the wind and listened to the carriage rider walk away and a door slam. We waited minutes before moving. I finally shoved the door of the jail box open and slipped out from underneath the tarp. There were only two houses and a huge barn area with a small stable outside of it named “Export.” I could assume it wan’t as nice as it sounded as I saw the two beautiful horses sitting there in chains that I was supposed to take. The lady was right about the Stallion being the most brilliant of white and the mare being speckled with grey, though she seemed to have a dark brown mane and tail. I couldn’t quite tell in the dark.
I snuck forward quietly, making sure to avoid the random branches and crunchy leaves on the ground. The horses saw me before I could get too close and the stallion stomped his front hoof. I signaled to my partner that she should get the mare next to him. She nods and I move forward, whispering and holding out my hand to the horse. I never realized before how large he actually was, but he towered over me as I got closer. He calmed down when I got closer and I could see he was already saddled up with an Elvish styled stoned saddle and bridal.
A shout came from the house that was farthest away. “HEY!”
I quickly mounted the horse and untied the rope that was holding his saddle to the post next to me and he took off. I couldn’t look behind me because I was too busy hanging on so I had no way of knowing if she got the mare or not. I heard gun shots and thought of the worse as the stallion kept increasing in speed towards home.
He kept running towards the gate and the guards quickly opened them to let us in. By this time, I’m exhausted and crying out of fear of what happened a while ago. The woman was waiting outside and the horse seemed to prance towards her. I slipped off and let them have time together.
“Oh thank you! Where’s the mare?” She was happy, but obviously worried.
I just gave her a grim look and she understood.
“Listen. Come inside for supper. We have pasta and a warm bed. I know it’s not dark out yet, but you look sick. Please stay.” She reached out her hand and pulled me in for a hug.
I found myself feeling like I was going to cry so I didn’t open my mouth, but hugged her back in gratitude before following her into the home. She led me, this time, to the basement where there was a large room with its own table, bathroom, and dresser for clothes.
“My son used to live here before moving away. Please. Make yourself at home.” She smiled largely. “There is pasta upstairs but I’m gonna go ahead and bring it down. Get comfy. There are spare clothes in the closet.” She looked around and then left.
The room smelled like lilac and roses and it calmed me down quite a lot. I didn’t bother changing, but fell onto the bed, crying. I didn’t even care when the woman came back and set down the pasta on the nearest dresser. I couldn’t do anything.
I must have dozed off because I could hear someone else sleeping upstairs. I turned on the small lamp next to me and see a note next to the pasta.
“Dearest, You’ve fallen asleep so I have heated up your pasta. Take care, Darla.”
The pasta was still warm, so I know she didn’t leave it there all night. I tiredly made a promise to myself that I would stay for a while. Enough time to take back this town from the King.
I happily ate the pasta, but before I could finish, someone started knocking on the door upstairs frantically. I quickly grabbed my knife and run to the stairs. The woman sits at the door, waiting for me to show my face, only to tell me to back away. I signal to her that I was ready to protect her, but she still refused it.
“Hello? Whose there?” She said out loud.
The knocking stopped and a familiar voice called out, “Please let me in! I see your horse out front! I know she’s in there!”
I sprinted up the stairs and flung open the door to the woman standing there, holding the reins to this beautiful, large mare. I jumped ahead and wrap her in a hug, fresh tears rolling down my face.
“I thought something bad happened to you! Oh my god I’m so glad you’re okay…”
She hugged me back and relaxed in my arms. I could only imagine how tired she must be. The woman who owned the house silently slips past us and grabs both horses. She disappears behind the house but I don’t care. I just wanted to be okay.
“This sounds bad but we didn’t really officially meet.. my name is Amaya. Yours?”
“Stela,” she whispered, obviously exhausted, “I need something to eat…”
I lead her down to the bed and give her the rest of my pasta that was still warm and cheesy. It took her a while, but she ate it all and then passed out asleep on my lap. I didn’t want to sit and wait for the sun to rise, so I slowly got her to roll onto the pillows next to me and we slept.
We woke up around the same time and just lay there, happy.
“That has got to be the best sleep I’ve had in a very long time.” Stela laughed.
I rolled onto my back and closed my eyes again, “Yeah, I mean… I actually feel rested.” I opened my eyes and sighed. “What do you think we should do?”
She grabbed my hand and squeezed it. “Stay for a while. You’ll love it here, I promise. Even if it’s not an adventure or some illegal stuff, which by the way, you seem to enjoy way too much,” we both laugh, “I have a place you can stay, but you can also buy the small farm. I mean it’s ratty but it works.” She lets go of my hand.
I didn’t have much time to think about it before she grabs me to go upstairs. I never really realized how beautiful the home was. The walls were painted tan and the lights were actually long-lasting candles of many colors. The windows were mostly frosted over from the over-night snow and were circular. I realized there was only a fridge and a dresser for the kitchen and only one couch for the family area. The woman rounded the corner and smiled big.
“Well good morning!” She said, cheerfully.
“‘Morning. Hey, so Stela was talking about a small farm near here and I thought we’d check it out. Know anything about it?”
She scrunched up her face, deep in thought for a moment then said, “Yeah I know a bit. I know it used to be a breeder and once horses were taken away, it closed down. There is something we have to sit down and talk about, though.”
Stela and I followed her to a cloth-covered table and sat down on the wooden chairs. I was really confused since she was in such a good mood, but I went along with it for the time being.
She cleared her throat, “So, as you know, you both stole back the two horses from the King and you were seen as you were fleeing. They checked here early in the morning but I hid the two at the farm in the barn which, to their knowledge, has been boarded up since they did the boarding. They’re still there, I checked just a few moments ago. Since they couldn’t find the horses, we are crossed off the list of suspicious activity and the King was going to launch a full-scale investigation.”
I guess she saw how confused we were because she laughed and took a break from talking to give us time to sink it in. When we didn’t, she continued.
“Well, over night, there was an attack on the King’s actual city and it’s still going on. I have not gotten any new news on what happened, but so far, it looks like it was FFAC.”
I stopped her, “Excuse me?”
Stela chimed in, “FAC stands for Freedom For A Cause. It’s cheesy as all hell… but they actually do some really good work. They overthrow Kings that are corrupted, they give back the money that has been taken from the people for stupid shit… they’re highly respected.”
“Well I’ve never saw them before.” I scoffed.
“Anyways,” The woman began again, “They love to take down corrupt Kings and I think that’s what is happening. They’re an elite group so the King doesn’t stand a chance.” Her smile grew bigger. “This means you’ll stay until everything calms down?”
I nod. “I’m going to take shelter in the farm home. As long as it’s not that bad and no one minds.”
“That’s up to them, to be honest with you. The people. You can always ‘move in’ and see how things go. I think that would be best.”
We worked hard all day and by nightfall, it was finished. The home was small with only one bedroom, a larger room that was obviously used for an office space since they left bookshelves there, and a functioning kitchen. The barn and farming area was amazing. The barn had enough room for 18 horses and there was at least fifty acres of land that was open and overgrown with grass and apple trees. There was also another area that was used for smaller creatures like chickens and rabbits. Surprisingly, the rabbits were still there, but not that many as they were locked up in cages.
I still couldn’t believe that I’ve decided to stay. Even the morning of the day when the whole town came together to welcome me and help fix up the property. I couldn’t think of a single other time when I was more welcomed into another community other than my own.
The structures hold up perfectly, the rest of the animals that were left were getting cared for, and we found a stash of wine in the cellar. Everything was looking good.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t dream about my family and how things could have been if they were still there. Looking out and traveling these vast, unknown lands has given me only very little distraction from the truth: I was alone. But I’ve found new ways to distract myself. Recently, I’ve started building large fences meant to keep small animals contained and laying a cover over top so nothing could get in. It was looking great, so far. The village people kept showing up randomly and helping me with small tasks, realizing that it was rough for me to transition like this. Since the ground was no longer frozen with ice and the air started to get warmer, I’ve started to work more on the land.
I was just putting in the last post when I heard footsteps behind me.
“Wonderful morning, isn’t it?” I spoke aloud, still fiddling with the wires and making sure they were not going to move, not really worried anymore about attacks.
“I think it’s beautiful now that I see you.” Stela said softly, reaching around me to help.
I couldn’t help but to blush, “Glad to do you a service, ma’am.”
She laughed and gave me a huge hug from the side. Everything seemed to be going amazing with her. Over the past few weeks, she’s grown more fond of spending time with me on her days off. She even gave me ways to contact people that sell animals that would help me keep down the grass in the pasture. Since FFAC was still battling the corruption that the nation has, we’ve been untouched by them and were able to actually expand.
“Oh!” She exclaimed in excitement. “I have a present for you!” She let go and grabbed my hand, pulling me to the bar.
I couldn’t help but think, “what have I done in the world to deserve such an amazing person?” It took us a good while to get to the bar, but I saw it before she could say anything. I couldn’t help but start to laugh.
“Tadaaaaaa~!” She did a cute little pose, pointing at the two crates with 4 young chickens inside.
“You didn’t! Stela! You are the best!” I hugged her tightly, smiling.
She broke away after a few seconds to go inside and grab us some champagne for when everything got done and we headed back to the farm. There were not a lot of options for paint colors here, but I made them work. The roof was a dark black so that the chilly months were not that hard to endure, and the outside was shades of blue and green, made to look like a rolling ocean. The barn had wooden boards on the roof which, surprisingly, didn’t leak whenever it rained and it was quite sturdy and it was re-painted a lighter tan color instead of red in order to make it easier on the eyes every time you looked at it. Everything looked beautiful.
Since I didn’t have any large animals, I’ve made the pens a lot smaller. One of the large acre fields was now ready for my female rabbits to be released into it and the half acre field a few feet to the left was ready for the males. With 5 females and 2 males, the areas seemed fine to me. This left hardly any room for the chickens, though. Since they would also need the same kind of fencing and overhead cover.
Stela looked around, “Well. You could put them with the females. I know they get along and you could just build something later if that doesn’t work. It’s a big space and you could even rotate them with the males, too. They’ll eat the pests and the rabbits will eat the grass.”
I nodded. “Stela, you smart motherfucker. Let’s do this.”
It took a lot of effort to catch the rabbits again and separate them, but it was worth it. As soon as they were placed in their new and improved pens with all the long grass, they happily began munching. The chickens were also let loose and not a single time did they even bother each other.
I looked around more. “Is there anything else we should be doing?”
“Popping this bottle and inviting the village over for a party, obviously.” She lifted up the bottle. “Although..” She held it against her again, “This could just be for one glass for everyone. We can grab the wine, also.”
After a long night of partying, people trickled off the property slowly until 8 in the morning when it was just Stela, me, and the woman who made this all possible. I finally learned her name was Kate, and I felt bad for asking so late in the friendship. Everything was okay again.
Soon, Kate headed home and all that was left to do was spend time with Stela.
“Hey, hun..?” She grabbed my hand, her other hand supporting her coffee so she could recover from the night before. “I love you.”
I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say! Did I love her back? Yes! I didn’t have time to even respond before she started to lean in for a kiss. I closed my eyes.
Then came a gust of wind, followed by a familiar drumming from the sky.