White Magic - by InkedGirl, Chapter 4, Fantasy

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White Magic - by InkedGirl, Chapter 4, Fantasy

Post  InkedGirl on Mon Apr 02, 2012 4:00 pm

Chapter 4



Ardis Farrow wrapped her cloak tightly around her. The wind from the mountains wound about her ankles and drew out pieces of her golden hair from beneath the hood. Her teeth began to chatter and she hoped desperately that she was growing close to the village.

Surely enough, tiny lights began to appear through the thick trees. She stumbled the rest of the way out, her bare feet catching on brambles and twigs. If they cut her, she did not notice, for the cold had begun to take the feeling out of them. She tripped and fell for the third time, catching holding up her arms to break her fall. Her knees were luckily protected by her skirts from the thorns strewn across the forest floor. Pain shot up her skinned arms as she pushed herself back up. She continued walking, paying careful attention to where she placed her feet. Ardis was not sure if the next time she fell she would have the drive or ability to pick herself back up.

The wind rustled the trees as she finally exited the forest and landed on a grassy hilltop. Down below her was the town. She viewed the few torches with a feeling of hope and she suddenly realized all that was ahead of her. What was she to do once she reached the town? Where was the man she needed to help? Why did he need her help? Her thoughts were cut short when something wet dripped on her face.

“Great.” She muttered into the open air. Sure enough the clouds opened up above her and let loose. The drench came quick but unluckily did not stop as quick. She gripped her cloak tighter around her face and stumbled down the hill, her face tickled by the tall grasses as she sped past. A break of thunder exploded above her head and her blood instantly cooled. The grassy slope was very quickly getting soggy and turning into slick mud. It took all of her concentration to make it down the hill without slipping.

When she had reached the bottom she flicked her fingers. A small flame sprouted from between them. It managed to resist the rushing wind and pelting rain around her. She gave a small smile. Even in unpleasant situations at least she had magic to give her a small comfort. All she had to do was remember to turn it off when she reached the cropping of houses. For now, however, the strong flame gave her the light she needed to make it to the town safely. As long as no one saw her everything would be fine.

She edged her way closer and closer to the houses before blowing the flame out. From what she know from the tales her mother told her, the best place to find a bed to sleep would be the inn. What an inn looked like, she had not a clue. As she walked between the small houses and stands, now empty for the market was closed for the day, she wondered if there was anyone still awake to give her directions to the village’s inn.

She had almost made it to the other end of the village and there still was not a single human soul on the streets. Sighing, she looked at a wet pack of straw lying in a large cart. It would not give her any shelter from the rain that still pelted against her cloak and made the cold unbearable, but it would at least be off the ground.

She turned suddenly in fright when voices came up behind her. They were men’s voices, she instantly recognized. Without another though she fled behind the closest house, the brick to her back. She told herself to relax. After all, if she had to, she would simply use her magic to chase them off. But, she thought, did she actually know how to do a spell large and intimidating enough to scare off an entire group of men? She did not think so.

She gulped. Who knew who these men were? There were the only people out at the time, so she did not think them to be of the safe sort like those she knew in the castle. They were most likely more akin to those in the stories her mother told her since she was only a child. Her heart sank in remembrance of her mother’s warm smile and devious eyes that were always sure to reveal a new story. Her father never believed in the tales and told her mother more than once not to fill her head with the craziness of the world outside, a world she would never be a part of. He never said those things in front of young Ardis of course, but in the night when she could not fall into the fine trappings of sleep, she would stay awake and eavesdrop on her parent’s conversations, their warm voices, sometimes frustrated, other times peaceful and at ease, joking with one another over the day’s recollections or the castle gossip. They argued sometimes, that was certain, but Ardis never for a second doubted the depth of their love for one another. It was something that could move each of them to tears and in the next second pure happiness and content. It was a love that her mother contained in her tales. A love that Ardis could only foolishly wish to have one day.

“I thought I saw something moving over here.” Once voice said, bringing Ardis back into the present.

Her body suddenly went numb and her chattering ceased. It was now or never, she thought. Either she used her magic to protect her or she was as good as dead. The footsteps approached her from behind, feet crunching against the stone street. A thought suddenly came to her mind. If they were going to capture her, magic would not be the best defense. They would just kill her anyway later, even if they did decide that they did not want to kill her. If she used something else, Ardis would seem like any other harmless young woman trying to defend herself from a band of common thieves. She bent down and carefully chose the two biggest stones she could find. Knowing that if she waited for a moment longer, she would lose all courage, she turned quickly and revealed herself in the open road.

A group of men, a few with hoods, and others enjoying the cool rain on their rangy hair and beards stood a few paces in front of her. At least she had caught them by surprise, which was evident in the way that they paused when they saw her, and not the other way around. At least this way she had a chance.

The rocks suddenly felt heavy in her tightly clenched hands as her thoughts caught up with her actions. What if she was wrong and these men were simply just that, men? What if she was wrong and they were only the villagers, fathers, brother, and uncles to the women in the village just like those in Sharpspeak Castle? After all, it was the first time she had ever set a foot outside her birthplace. She knew too little of the world to make any true judgments against these men. The only bits of the world she was standing in now had been from the tales her mother told. And what were they, really? Fantasies?

Her hands still lifted, however, as if out of their own free will and fear. “What do you want?” Ardis asked them, voice shaking.

One, a tall, muscled, blonde man about her age took steps forward and held up his hand. Ardis believed it to be a sign of peace and not harm, but this did not quench her fears. She was still unsure of these strange men.

“We don’t mean any harm.” He stated, saying the words as if he presumed she was somehow slow.

She pushed back the irritation that grew whenever someone insulted her intelligence and dropped the stones. It was not as if she could protect herself anyway, especially when each of them had swords, she noticed numbly.

“Right.” She said, sighing in an attempt to seem unfazed. “Do you know if there’s an inn in this town.”

His eyes flicked. The men behind him seemed to grow restless, their hands touching their swords, glancing at the closed windows around them.

The man, realizing that she was no more a threat than them than a small fly, took his hand from his sword and pointed behind her. “Down the street there. Jigg’s Inn.”

She watched him warily for a few moments before turning and looking in the direction he pointed. Cursing her lack of being able to read, she asked him one more question. “The one with the hanging blue sign?”

“No, it’s the one behind it.” He said, sounding almost impatient. “If that is all, miss, we’ll be on our way.”

The sound of the word “miss” directed toward her gave her strange chills. She never had someone call her that. All the servants ever had called her was “Ardis” or “girl”. She felt free somehow, as if the chains she had been wearing for so long were finally beginning to fall off.

She gave a small bow of the head before heading toward the inn’s door. What an odd man, she thought, for being wary of a small girl. He must have thought her mad, with rocks in her hands, ready to fight such a group.

She walked into the inn and pulled off her wet hood. The tables were all empty, save one where an old man with a thick gray beard sat, eyes closed, possibly snoozing. A large woman with short thick red curls was sweeping the floor. Was she the servant of this place?

“Excuse me, but I’m looking for a place to sleep. Does your master have any rooms available?” Ardis asked. Her cheeks were growing warm from the fire that burned in the inn. She watched as the woman stopped sweeping and studied her from head to toe before speaking. “My name is Jigg and I am the owner of this inn, girl.”

Ardis turned pink. “I only meant-”

The woman’s previously unkind features softened at the young woman’s obvious embarrassment. “I do have a few rooms open for a small price.”

“How much?” Ardis pulled out the pouch that her mother had packed for her. She remembered catching her tuck glints of gold into the pack. Sure enough, she found more than enough inside.

“Three pieces for one night. If you plan on staying for more it’ll be that many extra.” She stated, watching as Ardis took out the gold coins and handed them to her.

“Take the stairs up there and take the first door to the right. I’ll have my daughter bring you a washbowl and a bit of mead. You look parched.”

The look she gave Ardis the feeling of a mother looking over her child. It was strange that this woman she had only just met seemed to have already developed a care for her. “Thank you, miss.” Ardis bowed her head slightly and made her way to the room.

The room was completely dark when she walked in. Unluckily, the storm outside had barred any moonlight from reaching down. She flicked her fingers for a small flame once again. There was a fireplace and a small bed in the room. A rough circular rug covered most of the center of the floor.

There was a knock on the door and Ardis quickly extinguished the flame. She opened the door.

“Hello, miss. I’m Bayenne. My mother told me that you needed some water to wash up. To me, however, it seems as though the best thing for you is to warm up by a nice warm fire.” The young red haired girl looked like a younger version of Jiggs. Her freckled face smiled in the torch lit hall. With her she carried a bowl of water a scrap of cloth. The corners of her mouth turned down when she looked over Ardis’s shoulder. “Oh dear, it seems as though I have forgotten to light up this room! Give me a moment please.”

She handed Ardis what she held and brushed past her into the room. Soon enough, a small flame was started in the fireplace. Bayenna rose from where she had been crouching and appeared pleased, brushing off the ash that had fallen on her brown skirts. “There you go, miss. Do you need anything else?”

Ardis thought about the ash she had cleaned out of the castle kitchen’s fireplace earlier that day. Her mind wandered to the ash covering her own eyes and throat and a new happiness renewed itself in her. Better not think of the past, Ardis, she thought with relish. Tonight she began her new life, and with it would come whatever she so wished.

Lost in her thoughts, Ardis jumped when the girl, a few years younger than her spoke. “Are you alright, miss?” She asked, worried just as her mother had been.

Ardis smiled. “I’m fine, really. Thank you for everything.” She gave a small bow of the head as the girl walked out the door. Bayenna gave her a strange look before she closed the door.

She gave a long sigh and stripped off her soaking wet cloak. Immediately, it felt as though an enormous weight had been lifted over her shoulder. She laid it down on the floor near the fire and sat next to it, warming herself and growing sleepy as the flames grew taller and hotter. It was heaven, really, after the wet, chilly temperatures she had endured out in the forest. It was all joy and excitement in her mind as she drifted off in front of the fire until another thought that had previously escaped her, surfaced once more. It was the reason she had left the castle in the first place. Someone was after her. Someone with magic was after her, and they planned on abusing her own magic along with her. Her eyes flickered open and began gazing into the fire. What was it that her mother had said?

She had told her that she must help a man find what he needs. Who was that man? Where was that man? In all honesty, she had no idea where to begin looking. Her meager experience with the world did not do much to prepare her for this spontaneous journey. It was too much to think of after the walk in the rain and cold all the way from the castle. She was tired and the moon had risen past its peak in the night sky outside the window. All the thoughts that were coursing through her head would have to wait.

Her tunic and brown skirt thankfully had been relieved of the small amount of moisture they had gained on the trip. She took off her belt which contained her map and mess of supplies and laid it by her cloak. She climbed, warm as could be, into the soft bed in the corner of the room and fell fast into a fitful sleep.
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InkedGirl

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