And, it's eleven days until my sister gets married! :O
And then life can slowly began to get back to normal...at least, as normal as life can be with the loss of an older sister. She and Jesse are moving down to Georgia. BUT THEY WILL RETURN. WE WILL MAKE THEM.
But now, onto my next post. As I'm sure you're dying to hear what happens to William, Meg, and Steven! ;) So if you missed a part, the precious chapters should be links in the "Stories in Progress" page, if not, let me know in a comment and I'll put a link in there asap. :)
A Time of Healing
After the storm of tears passed, both William and I took turns looking after Steven. I cooked a small meal from our diminishing supplies we had brought with us, and William filled our water skins in one of the many mountain streams he had found nearby.
“If we can keep his fever down throughout tonight, I think he’ll make it,” William said.
It was evening now, and supper had long been eaten. Steven had awoken briefly and taken some broth I had made him along with some more swallows of wine. Then he again lapsed into a restless sleep. It was a good thing indeed that William had made him a brace when he had, for the boy would have dislodged the bone again by this time with all his thrashing if he had not.
I cast a sympathetic glance towards his sleeping form. “Shall I stay up first?” I asked.
William shrugged. “Whichever you would prefer. If you’re feeling tired right now, I’ll take the first shift.”
“I’m not tired,” I answered, stifling a yawn quickly.
“Very well,” William answered, unconvinced. “Awaken me when you do become tired.”
“Good night Meg.”
“Good night William."
After William had finally gotten comfortable on the rocky floor, silence fell. I softly crept to the mouth of the cave after seeing that a cool cloth was laid over Steven’s brow and slowly my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness. I could see the outlines of our two remaining horses standing in their sleep over by the tree. My gaze was drawn to the heavens where uncountable stars twinkled brilliantly.
“Soli Deo Gloria,” I said softly, “To God alone be the glory.” From childhood, we had ended our last prayer at the end of the church service with that Latin phrase, but now I really meant it as I stared in awe at His handiwork.
Darkness surrounded me, yet I was unafraid. With God above watching out for me, and William within calling distance, I felt safe. I took a moment to go and check on Steven and found him sleeping peacefully. I dipped the cloth in the cool water once more, and then laid it on his head. Once again, I went to the entrance of the cave to look at the beauty of God’s creation.
The next thing I knew a low growl coming from somewhere nearby and the horses’ frantic whinnies woke me from a sound sleep. I sat up stiffly from where I had slumped against the cave entrance.
Two iridescent eyes shone in the light of the moon. They were fixed on me now, as a possibly easier meal than two frantic horses. Instinctively, I felt for some sort of weapon and found with relief that my sword was by my side. I slid the blade from the scabbard, relishing the sound it made. Braver by every inch that came, I stood up, my own eyes flashing in sudden fury.
“Pick on innocent, tied up horses, will you?” I asked the creature through clenched teeth. “Come and fight, coward!”
The shadow slinked closer, and I watched as it lowered itself onto the ground, readying itself for a pounce. I held my breath, clutching Safeguard’s hilt with sweaty hands.
It sprang at me without warning. I heard myself scream, an unearthly sound, as though I was somehow detached from my body and watching myself react slower than life. Then everything happened too quickly. The creature lunged at my throat, my sword pierced its hide, and both of us fell to the ground in a heap.
William rushed from the cave a moment later, rolled the dead body off of me and helped me scramble away. At the sight of the dead creature’s blood all down the front of my dress, bile rose to my throat and out of my mouth. I coughed and shuddered before rising to my feet shakily.
“W-what was it?” I asked when I could trust myself to speak again.
William inspected the creature with his foot. “A wolf,” he said. “A sick one too by the looks of it. That would explain why he wasn’t with a pack and took you on instead of running as any sensible wolf would have done.”
“Sick?” My face blanched. Quickly, I checked myself for any sign of a bite from the dead wolf, and was rewarded by finding nothing more than a few scratches. One of the sleeves of my dress had been ripped off in the struggle, but that was hardly a concern, considering what could have been. I had heard horror stories of people who had been bitten by “mad dogs”, and I new what a diseased animal’s bite could transfer into humans.
“You’re all right?” William asked.
I nodded. “A little shaken is all. The horses are safe though.”
“I’ll take over watching now, you go get some rest,” he ordered.
I was in no shape to argue. I lay down on the rocky floor, and though it was hardly comfortable, I slept until the gray of dawn had brightened into a brand new day.
My eyes opened to a stream of sunlight pouring through the mouth of the cave. Our fire was down to mere ashes, but that would be easy enough to deal with. William was over by his brother, dipping the cloth again into the cool water and laying it over his head.
I crawled over to their end of the cave. “How is he?” I asked softly.
“Much better than I had dared to hope last night,” William answered in relief. “His fever is all but gone, and his leg has set nicely.”
“Praise God,” I murmured, looking down at the boy’s leg.
“Indeed,” William agreed.
Steven’s eyes opened. They were clear, not clouded with fever, or wild with pain. He saw us both sitting over him, and smiled. “I think you can stop treating me like a wee babe now,” he said.
William grunted in good humor. “If there was any doubt that Steven was still unwell,” he said to me, “it’s far gone now.”
I grinned down on Steven’s face, noticing for the first time that his healthy pink complexion was finally returning. “I couldn’t be more glad. You had us worried for a moment,” I added to the prostrate boy.
“Me?” Steven shot us both a wink. “A little broken leg could never stop me!”
William humphed. “Well, it did a fairly good job of it for a while there.”
A small frown darkened the younger boy’s face. “I suppose this means we won’t get the princess from her captors before they reach Duke Of Devonshire’s castle.”
“I’m afraid not,” William answered. “You need at least another day before we can even think about letting you up on a horse.”
“You should go on without me,” Steven said. “Rescue the princess, our kingdom needs her!” He bit his lip bravely. “It doesn’t need me.”
“We’re not going to leave you!” I protested. “If Christine were in the same predicament, even if her own father was being kidnapped for ransom, she wouldn’t leave a suffering friend by himself.”
“She’s right,” William agreed. “Right now, the princess is more safe than you. The Duke won’t allow her to be harmed since she’s being held for ransom. Though it is true that we won’t beat her captors to the castle, I think that even with your leg broken we’ll still be able to rescue her before the Duke has time to get a ransom note to our king.”
I looked at my teacher in ill concealed wonder. “How are we going to do that?” I asked.
William gave me a cocky grin that reminded me so much of Malcolm. “Very carefully.”
Now it was Steven’s turn to humph doubtfully. He sounded so much like his older brother that I had to smile. “Dream on, brother mine. I still think you should put me on a horse and send it towards the castle.”
Both William and I shook our heads at the same time.
“You’re coming with us,” I said as firmly as I could. “We won’t leave you behind.”
Despite his protests, we continued to treat Steven as a “wee babe” the following day. We hand fed him, keeping the fever down with cool clothes, and making sure he didn’t move very much.
By the next day he was begging us to let him care for himself. William and I took turns helping him hobble around, and his older brother even managed to find him a makeshift crutch from the same tree he had found the branches for his brace.
On the third day in the cave, Steven was proclaimed able to sit on a horse if he was careful, and so we set out towards the Duke’s castle. By this time, we realized the princess’s captors were too far ahead for us to catch up with, but William had a plan that would save us some time.
“Her captor’s will have to painstakingly work their way around King Frederick’s camp that’s about a day’s journey after we get past the mountains,” William said when Steven asked what his grand scheme was. “But we have the ability to go right through, without having to worry about dodging lookouts and watches at night.”
A spark of understanding lit up Steven’s eyes. “You may have something,” he replied slowly as the idea sank in.
“Of course I do!” the older brother exclaimed indignantly.
Quiet, through all of this, I finally spoke up. “It will help us to meet the king while we go through,” I said.
William nodded. “We’ll be able to tell him everything that has happened just in case there are more traitors where Alfred and his friend came from.”
“Then he’ll know to not reply to the Duke’s ransom note so quickly,” Steven said. “He’ll stall until she can be rescued.”
“By us?” I shot William a knowing look.
My teacher grinned. “Of course.”
“What are we waiting for?” Steven asked sarcastically. “Let’s go put our lives in danger. It will be so fun!”
“Well,” William said with a snort, “he’s definitely better.” He helped Steven and me up onto Duke, the bigger of the two horses, before mounting his own.
And then we were on our way yet again.