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Old 03-09-2011, 05:08 PM   #41
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The light was still shining between the trees, less faint now as Catkin quickened her pace through the falling snow. ‘The Old Man does shepherd his herd tonight, I think,’ Willem spoke, to the wind and the drifting flakes, his eyes taking in the occasional shadow that moved across the distant gleam.

He strained his hearing to catch another sound of that high pitched scream. Here and there from numerous directions came the creaking of large wooden branches as the wind moved through them…..though, likely, too, they’d be the great hoary roots of the trees as they moved over the wintry forest floor. No scream, though.....no keening howl…..

It was Jumble, his nose to the cold, biting air and his head cocked to catch what sounds he might that heard something approaching as they traveled on. He gave a bark and a whine of anticipation, his body snapping to attention on the seat beside Willem.

A large, dark, four legged shadow came loping out from under the shadowed branches of the nearby trees. Willem squinted his eyes, trying to make out the animal as his hand strayed to the large ax tucked at the side of his seat. Catkin came to an abrupt halt, her ears flicking nervously. She pawed at the ground, intending to strike the beast if it came close to her.

But Jumble caught the intruder’s scent and began wagging his tail furiously. He barked, a definite bark of welcome and made his way down to the ground.

‘Why, look at that!’ Willem called out to his horse. ‘We know that fellow! It’s Duke, Karl’s dog!’ ‘See, Jumble knows him,’ he went on in an assuring manner to the skittish Catkin.

He set the brake and jumped down. ‘What’s the matter, pup?’ he said, running his hands over the large dog. Duke looked alright, no wounds, no signs of a fight about him. ‘Where’s Karl, boy?’ Willem narrowed his eyes and looked into the distance, the way from which the dog had come.

‘Can you take me to Karl?’ Duke goggled up at him, an expectant look on his face. ‘Karl,’ Willem said again, ‘Find him.’ Jumble nudged the larger dog with an insistent push and gave an imperative whine as he ran a little ways back down Duke’s path and then circled back.

‘That’s right! Go with Jumble, Duke.’ He climbed back to his seat and urged Catkin forward.

Back and forth the two dogs ran, keeping the wagon on track, until at last they broke from the tree line. A short ways away Willem could just make out two figures, near one of the standing stones. One tall, the other much smaller, like a child. And the bigger one appeared to have something slung over his shoulder like a large, lumpish sack.

‘Karl! That you, man?’ Willem called out, bringing the caravan to a halt. ‘It’s me, Willem. You alright? You hurt?’
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:38 AM   #42
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"I think we're all right, Jess" Karl's words weren't enough to completely reassure Jessamy, but they were enough to stop her from screaming again. She hobbled closer to Karl as best she could and had wit enough remaining to be embarrassed that she had hurt herself falling, yet again, and worse that she had fainted. Filbert would never let her hear the end of that if he found out.

But oh her head felt so fuzzy and she could scarce put weight on her ankle and that noise was still getting closer. But suddenly Duke was back with another dog, a smaller, odd-looking mongrel and then the caravan came into sight and it's driver was calling Karl's name. Maybe they were going to be alright after all. She relaxed for a moment and then remembered Edwin,

it was horrible seeing him like that and though she stayed close by Karl's side she could not bear to look at the boy. Instead she looked at the caravan. It was the most marvellous thing to a child's eyes - especially one with such a fondness for stories. It looked like a wonderful Wendy house on wheels with its colours bright as a child's painting, and it was drawn by a pretty grey mare, bigger than Silas' ponies but finer than the farm horses. Maybe she was still dreaming. How could a real person have such a fantastic home. Her eyes were as big as saucers as she tried to make out if the driver were a Wizard. She knew they existed - they said one visited the Prancing Pony from time to time. If he were a wizard, maybe he could magick Edwin better?

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Old 03-11-2011, 06:36 PM   #43
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Willem climbed down from the caravan and hurried over to Karl. A quick look assured him the man was alright. His gaze dipped down to fix on the young girl who hovered near Karl. She looked cold and pale, and a little frightened – her eyes large as they slid from him to his caravan and back again.

‘Oh, little darlin’,’ he said softly, crouching down to her level. ‘You look cold as the North Wind’s nose.’ ‘Here,’ he went on, swinging his thick wool cloak from his shoulders and wrapping it round hers. ‘This should warm you up a bit and keep the snow from creeping in.’ He pulled the generous hood up over her hair so that it shielded her face.

‘And what’s that you’ve got slung over your shoulder, Karl?’ Willem peered more closely at the limp bundle. ‘By the One!’ His eyes went wide as he took in the seeming lifeless body of the boy. A ghastly shade of pale and so limp, though Willem noted a flicker here and there beneath the lad’s bloodless eyelids. ‘Where do you wander, boy?’ he said, brushing Edwin’s hair back from his face. ‘Are you lost?’ He took Edwin from Karl’s shoulder. ‘We’re here, you know…..turn and come back….’

‘Let’s go into the wagon,’ he said, nodding his head toward the caravan. ‘I’ll light the lanterns; it’ll be a bit warmer. And we can lay this one on the bunk, under a stack of blankets.’
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Old 03-11-2011, 07:49 PM   #44
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Karl felt his relief fulfilled and nearly let Edwin slide from his shoulder. He knew this man! Willem was another sort of wanderer like himself, but a bit more professional about it. His brightly painted caravan made for an excellent home on the move. Karl only wandered very far in spurts, liking to have some kind of home to return to.

Duke sniffed furiously, happy to see a familiar friend as well.

“No, not hurt.” He looked to Jessamy, worried that she might have hurt herself when she tripped. Willem was off the cart and kindly tending to Jessamy before Karl could really think. “This is Jessamy.”

Karl followed Willem to the caravan. “I came across these two on the Downs. This boy, Edwin, I found like this. Was getting near to believing in the tales myself…”

“Stay, Duke,” he said, as Karl followed awkwardly up the steps into the caravan, ready to help Jessamy up if she needed it. But overall he felt rather useless now. He did his best to take up as little room as possible in the small space, and looked around, trying not to seem too nosy.

“What do you think we can do for Edwin, other than warm him up and see if he wakes?” Karl felt suddenly he should thank the man, but it seemed the wrong time now.
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Old 03-11-2011, 09:54 PM   #45
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Jessamy met Willem's gaze but was too shy suddenly even to whisper her thanks as he wrapped her in his cape. Too, shy, too busy trying to discern any clue that he was a wizard and just too slow as he moved on to Karl and Edwin before she could respond. She tottered after them mutely. Willem's cape, near full length on her, disguised her limp and it's deep hood hid her face and the wince that accompanied each step. Karl's outstretched hand aided her ascent in to the caravan but then the two men's immediate attention was all on Edwin and she was free to take in her new surroundings unobserved.

The waggon was as intriguing inside as out - more so since she would never have believed that it was possible to fit so much in the space. Not an inch was wasted it seemed. There was the bunk where they laid Edwin, and a cunning little table that could be folded away when not needed. Then a couple of bench seats but these had drawers and cupboards beneath, higher up were galleried shelves where jars and crockery could be safely stowed and little lockers and cubbyholes. Finally there were hooks bearing all manner of things that Jessamy couldn't quite make out in the dimming light of Karl's lantern. This she had placed on a convenient ledge while she installed herself on one of the benches and wrapped the thich, dark folds of the cloak closer about her. Then Willem lit the caravan's own lamps and she could see just about everything.

Unlike the brightly painted exterior, the woodwork inside was left natural save for a coat of wax or varnish but much of it was carved and Jessamy gasped as she saw the detail in it. Berry heavy ivy crept along the shelf edges, twining with the woodbine and sweetbriar that climbed the uprights. Posies of flowers adorned cupboard doors - many she recognised and some she didn't. Most enchanting of all was the tiny oaken mouse she sighted creeping among the foliage. Willem had to be a magician, it was the only explanation for such wonders.

Meanwhile the two men were discussing what could be done to help Edwin. If Willem uttered a reply to Karl's question, Jessamy didn't catch it but both went outside and from what she could make out they were lighting a fire. She realised she had forgotten the boy's plight lost in her fascination for the caravan and felt guilty. Now Willem returned and crouched down and opened a chest by the door which she hadn't noticed before because Karl had been in the way, If anything its carving was more ornate and its wood was different, darker. Maybe there was something in there that would help Edwin. Willem had taken something from the chest then gone again and Jessamy craned forward to get a closer look. The chest was zinc lined and seemed to contain many little packets and jars. The girl crept towards it, full of trepidation as to what she would see and then realised that it was effectively the man's larder and the glass jars contained as far as she could tell, nothing more remarkable than honey. Pale meadow set honey and dark liquid forest honey and several in between. She heard the creak of foot on step and retreated to the bench deflated and feeling the pain in her ankle more as she warmed up a little. Willem came back in and she had the feeling he knew she had been spying. She watched him silently from her corner as he took a packet and a jar from the chest and red glazed mugs from the shelf and a dark blue teapot. Karl arrived with kettle and a few minutes later Willem was adding some of the forest honey to the tea and offering her one of the mugs.

"Thank-you, sir", she whispered, breaking her silence at last. The heat of the mug was almost too much, the steam made her face tingle. She took a sip and its heat coursed through her. Emboldened and a little strenthened she asked, "Please, Willem, do you know what is wrong with Edwin? Can you make him better?".

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Old 03-14-2011, 01:44 PM   #46
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‘The boy looks like he had a dose of one of the old ghostie men. A wight as some names ‘em.’ Willem’s brow puckered as he looked down on Edwin’s still form. ‘So pale and cold he is and lost in some frightening dream. Poking round the wrong barrow’d be my guess. They’re still some of them jealous, those men of old, guarding treasures their bony old hands can never grab hold on again. Most have passed on; but some linger, the dark and twisty ones still waiting for the shadow to return.’ He shook his head. ‘Best to heed the stories about the barrow-downs and stay away. Hard for ordinary folk to say which mounds are naught but old grave sites and which still hold a waiting horror.’

‘But let’s see what we can do for him, eh?’ He gave her what he hope was a reassuring smile, though from the look dawning on her face he doubted its effectiveness.

‘Now, somewhere here,’ he went on, poking in the darker recesses of a corner cabinet, ‘I have a little something as might let him sleep more restfully. Did a little work for the Fair Folk and got this in return.’ His fingers found the plain little silvery-white box in the far corner. Untying the gold colored ribbon wrapped round it, he opened the lid and drew out a clear glass vial. ‘Give me a thimbleful of your tea,’ he asked Jessie, handing her the small silver cup which had lain beside the vial. ‘We’ll put a drop of this in it and see if we can get him to drink it.’

He lifted Edwin’s head up from the pillow and dripped the scant amount of liquid between the boy’s lips. ‘Our best hope, though, for him is just to get him through til morning. Sun’s light burns through old evil’s wicked spells, I’m told.’

Willem sat down on the edge of the cot, his hand resting lightly on Edwin's chest. He hummed a little tune under his breath as he looked at the boy's face.

'How are you doing?' he said, turning his head toward Jess. 'Did I notice a little twinge from you every now and then? Are you hurting somewhere?'

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Old 03-15-2011, 12:32 PM   #47
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Thoughts tumbled over themselves in Jessamy’s mind as she processed the significance of Willem’s words. She was so overwhelmed that at first she could do no more than follow his instructions and as she dipped the little silver measure in her tea she scarcely registered that she was handling something made by the fabled Elves. It seemed al l the old stories were true after all. Maybe there really were walking trees too.
Willem’s tea was starting to ease the pressure behind her eyes but her head was far from clear.

She had the inkling that there was no point in lying to Willem, not that she really had the inclination – despite her deception of that morning she was usually a truthful girl.

“I have twisted my ankle a bit, that’s all” she admitted, “I thought you were a barrow wight come to get me” she explained, “and I was trying to get away “

“They say third time pays for all” she added ruefully. “I fell over this morning when we found the skunk in the first barrow – that’s how I got separated from the others. Then I fell when Duke found me, he was chasing me and I thought he was a warg.” Jessamy looked a bit sheepish at this – the dog was so obviously as soft as butter. “Then Duke found Edwin and he was so strange. And I heard the chains clanking but we couldn’t see the caravan so it sounded just like the stories one of my brothers told me when I was little” she continued without a trace of irony, “about the ghosts of the old kings and how they would come to get me if I had been naughty – and I have, I did such a bad thing and now they will be so angry with me”. The girl bit her lower lip in an attempt to stop the tears that were forming again. The ordinary dread of the trouble she was surely in with her family was ever ready to resurface if the supernatural terrors left the forefront of her mind for a moment.

She remembered the pretty little box and desire to change the subject won over her residual shyness and Jessamy asked the question that had been tantalising her since she first set eyes on Willem
“So if you know the fairy folk – does that mean you really are a wizard?”
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Old 03-15-2011, 07:09 PM   #48
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Karl just stared blankly at Willem. He knew the man was odd, but Karl felt that he was odd himself. He was certainly the odd man out among most folks. Compared to Willem apparently he was a bit more regular. The man spoke as if he had experience with wights, straight out of the stories.

But then Karl thought about the fog, and the strange way the landscape seemed at times to change itself, or drive you in a different direction from what you intended. He had never been out on the Downs that late before. And why had he avoided it? Of course not because of the stories...

He looked at Jessamy, who seemed to take this explanation much better than he did. He felt bad that he had not immediately done anything after that fall, but what could he have done for a twisted ankle? Carry her too?

Karl's eyes widened at Jessamy's very direct question of Willem. "I have heard stories of a wizard of the Old Forest, as well," he said with a chuckle that did not sound altogether sincere. He wasn't sure what to believe anymore. He thought he was acquainted with this man well enough, but this evening Willem seemed like a whole new person. He somehow seemed larger, darker...more wild. Like the Downs and the Forest themselves.

~*~

Much of the color was returning to Edwin's face and hands. The dreams of ghostly hands and faces faded, and he felt himself become aware of his sleep. He was aware he was dreaming now, when he was dreaming of his body at home in his bed. He tried to force himself awake, but every part of him felt so heavy.
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Old 03-15-2011, 08:08 PM   #49
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A barrow wight! A wizard! Willem’s dark eyes glinted with amusement. He bit back a laugh, but unsuccessfully. ‘What wondrous imaginings, little mistress!’ He chuckled again and shook his head. ‘And the best that in the last you thought me a wizard and no wight.’

‘Nay, Jessamy, I’m no wizard,’ he went on, holding out his hands before him as if to inspect them front and back. ‘Just ordinary workings is what these do. I mend things; take care of what needs taking care of.’ He raised his brows a bit and looked as if into the distance. ‘Keep things safe as needed.’

‘As to the Fair Folk, I have had some dealings with them. Ones that worked out to both our benefit, I think. They keep their own counsel about things and it’s hard to say how well a person can ever know them.’

Willem crouched down in front of her, his gaze catching hers. ‘Sorry to disappoint you if I’ve done so by my words.’ He coaxed her injured foot out from his cloak gently removed her shoe and sock. ‘Ah, poor thing,’ he murmured, manipulating the ankle with a light touch. From a drawer beneath the cot he fetched out another little chest. This one holding a number of small, red clay pots, each sealed with a cork. Each cork had a small line drawing in black on its top. ‘Ah, this one will do.’ He pulled one out with some sort of leaf drawn on it.

‘It’s soothing ointment made of poplar buds,’ Willem explained as he spread it round her ankle. ‘Helps to take down the swelling and helps the pain.’ Once the area was covered to his satisfaction, he wrapped the foot with a long cloth strip to give the ankle support. ‘That’ll help, Jess,’ he said smiling up at her. ‘Though as with most things it will be old Time that brings the full healing.’ He helped her on with her sock and shoe. ‘No more adventuring ‘til it’s all right again, promise?’ He propped her feet up on a little stool, a pillow to cushion them, and drew the length of his cloak back over her legs.

Willem glanced toward Edwin, checking to see how he was doing. ‘Ah, look! There’s a little color coming back into his face.’ He smiled and nodded as he noted the retreating pallor on Edwin’s face.

‘I think I’ll go outside for a little while. Got to check on Catkin, and such. Want to make sure everything is alright. Karl, why don’t you and Jess stay snug in here. There’s more tea in the pot there. And here’s a little basket of nut cookies a kind lady gave me for mending a spoon or two for her.’

-o-o-o-

Willem unhitched Catkin and threw a warm blanket over her back. ‘Here, girl, have a nosebag of oats,’ he went on, fitting the straps to the bag behind her ears. ‘Not sure we’ll be staying here the night or going on….but nonetheless there’s no need for the waiting or going on an empty stomach.’ He gave her neck a pat. ‘Be back in two winks of the stone King’s eye,’ he whispered.

For the moment the snow had stopped. The moon had risen, high and bright above the shifting trees. Willem slipped in among the branches, his nose sorting out the night’s scents.

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Old 03-16-2011, 11:12 AM   #50
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"Well he would say that wouldn't he?" said Jessamy, thinking aloud as much as she was talking to Karl. She helped herself to a biscuit and dipped it in her tea before letting it dissolve deliciously in her mouth. She broke off part of the remaining half and slipped it to Jumble, who had stayed behind and had joined Jessamy on her bench, reckoning perhaps that his rightful place was nestled in his Willem's cloak even if his master wasn't wearing it.

"Maybe he isn't allowed to say he's a wizard - like Bryn can't really say he's a blacksmith 'til he has finished his apprenticeship" Jessamy paused realising that the idea of a man who seemed about the age of her father being an apprentice was a bit silly but wizards in stories were very old with long grey hair and beards so maybe it wasn't so daft. "But he clearly isn't ordinary is he? What was that he said about ordinary folk not knowing which of the barrows were safe, as if he were talking about other people but not himself? And he has this magic potion from the Elves that has made Edwin better - ish"

She could look at him now he seemed to be sleeping normally. Karl stared at her seeming a bit bewildered and she supposed she was talking nonsense. She finished her biscuit and looked instead out of the little window next to her - it was lighter than before outside - the clouds had cleared enough to let the new risen moon refect on the carpet of snow. She thought for a moment she saw something move out there but turned away. She had fancied enough terrors for one day. What ever Willem was she felt safe here now. And he had worked some magic on her ankle even if it had been the everyday sort. Her mother could not have been more gentle - indeed might have been a lot less so, since a quarter of a century of patching up five children had left her with a fairly brisk approach to minor injuries - and Willem hadn't felt the need to accompany his treatment with a reproachful commentary on her clumsiness. No adventuring 'til it's all right again? She hardly needed to promise. She doubted she would ever be allowed out again and would be lucky if she weren't chained up, she rued.

But with Jumble providing an extra source of heat and her foot at ease Jessamy started to feel warm and comfortable enough to feel a bit sleepy. It had been a long day and her eyelids felt heavy. They started to close but then opened wide

"Willem will freeze - I still have his cloak!"

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Old 03-16-2011, 07:02 PM   #51
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"Jessameeeeeeeee, Jessameeeeee, where are you?". All three of her brothers were calling much the same thing but none got any response, save that of their own voices echoing among the stones. The light from their lanterns and torches weren't making them look any more friendly. The trio had ventured off the road at the point they thought parrelel to where they had heard Jessamy scream. Sometimes one thought they saw a light glimmering but never for long enough for them to hold a course on the wandering paths of the Downs.

Bryn took the lead but never went far ahead of the cart.. his horse was reluctant to leave the company of the others and he himself wasn't overly keen. Their progress was slow, even though the snow had stopped, and they were losing confidence that they were getting anywhere - some of the rock formations they passed looked too familiar.

Then the moon rose and showed both their proximity to the Old Forest and that they were following an all to recognisable set of tracks.

"So I think we can safely say we are going round in circles" said Silas,"and there's not a trace of Jessamy". It seemed a long time since they heard the scream and while that had been proof that she was alive it was also proof that she had been terrified.

"Yes but at least the moon is up now we can navigate by that" pointed out Bryn.

"Doesn't tell us where Jessie is though does it" said Seth gloomily "and that Forest IS too close for my liking I'd swear the trees are moving.. or something is moving in them"

"Don't Seth - you are as bad as Jessamy for imagining stuff. We have enough real problems as it is without you making them up"

"I'm not making this up - I tell you I saw something" insisted Seth to his elder brother "Look!"

"I can't see anything .. but oh there are some more tracks". Silas pointed to where the snow was patchy in the lee of the too close trees.

Bryn rode ahead with his brothers following close behind "So are they ours? asked Seth.

Bryn looked at his brother as if he were an idiot .... "Well no ... look there is just the one set of hoof prints..."

" Could be your horse..." Seth interrupted.

"Only if Willow and Hazel had learnt to walk on air .... by my anvil, Seth, I know you are worrying about Jessie - we all are - but you have really lost your wits, if it isn't walking forests it's floating ponies..." He shook his head in wonderment. This horse is smaller than mine but larger than Silas'and pulling a waggon of some sort, out of the forest and faster than we have gone I guess - I think we would have remembered going throught the forest. I don't think the trees move THAT quickly".

"Oh alright Bryn, I only got a quick look... we aren't all obsessed with horses' feet .... can you see where they start again..." he scanned the breaks in the snow field.

Silas had got down from the box and was examining the ground a few yards away and his face was pale under the torchlight. "Um.... Bryn .. maybe Seth hasn't lost his mind, come and have a look at this".

Silas was looking at fresh tracks in the snow. "Don't even think to say they are from a dog ... those are dog tracks over there but no dog has feet that could make these and if it did it would be the size of a horse".

"But it can't be" said Bryn... "of all the tales of the Forest I never heard that - there haven't been wolves even round here since the Fell Winter".

All three brothers straightened as one and gazed nervously in to the shadows of the forest. And over their shoulders to the Downs. The barrow ghosts might haunt their minds but this was almost worse.

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Old 03-17-2011, 12:16 AM   #52
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There were things in the forest, Willem knew, that wished nothing but ill to those who entered beneath the old trees’ boughs. His intent was just a quick patrol to make sure they would be safe should they stay here for the night. He had gone some distance when his ears picked up the sound of voices calling loudly, to his right.

Now who are these, looking for Jessamy? he wondered, padding silently closer to the group.

The long, lean, brown bear lifted his snout and took a deep sniff-in of the three men. They smell alike, he thought, and like a heavier version of Jess’ scent. And a little afraid, too, though they work hard at hiding it.

Were these the brothers she had mentioned?

He watched as they examined the ground and then made ready to begin their hunt for their sister again.

They'll never find her! They're facing the wrong way.

Willem gave a low, reassuring growl, hoping the horses would understand he bore them no ill will. Within the shadows of the trees, he loped from one side of the trio, around them on the east, to the other side and back again, growling low in his chest – hoping to drive them in the direction of the caravan. The horses whickered and pawed the ground, the bear’s feral, dangerous scent conflicting with the more amiable message he had vocalized. In the end they were cajoled into taking the course the bear urged.
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:04 AM   #53
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"Well Jessamy isn't here and I am not sure I want to be" said Silas.. "what ever it was that made those prints... the horses don't want to hang around either" . He had resumed his seat on the waggon to better control the fretful ponies - docile beasts who normally needed no more than a twitch of the rein to restrain or guide them. Bryn's horse was equally restive, flicking his ears back, hearing things his master couldn't it seemed.

Seth had the sharpest hearing of the three brothers; he didn't spend his working life filtering out the sound of hammer on anvil or saw on bough. He heard, was sure he heard a soft growl from the forest behind them and saw a long low shadow passing through the trees. It was enough for him to grab the reins off his brother and let the ponies have their head. Hazel and Willow needed no encouragement and set off at a canter with Bryn riding hard at their heels.

On the box of the waggon Silas had taken back control and was berating his brother "What do you think you were doing, back there?"

"Getting us away from a bear - don't try and deny it, you saw the tracks as clear as I did, and I heard a growl - and so did the horses. "

"But a bear.. how can there be a bear in the old Forest and no one heard of it?"

"Not many folk go in there do they? Only rangers and the like and they don't talk much" replied Seth, before a too hideous thought crossed his mind " What if it was that that made Jessie scream?"

"Then Silas is going to have to explain to Mum and Dad that Jess has been eaten by a bear" said Bryn, now alongside..

"That's what I love about you Bryn, your unfailing optimism... and why do I have to be the one who tells them? " replied Silas.

"Because you're the eldest!" chorused his brothers. Silas had played that trump card too often in earlier times.

The path jinked back between two mounds and revealed what had previously been concealed. The horses were halted as the brothers gaped in amazement at the strange sight. There in the midst of the bleak snowcapped barrows and stones was a brightly coloured caravan, lit up inside and with the remains of a small fire glowing near it. A pretty little grey mare whickered into her nosebag nearby and their own horses answered.

"Woudn't be my choice of campsite but it explains those other tracks... " noted Bryn as they drew closer, wondering who would choose to linger in this forsaken place. He had no time to ponder more since first a large dog sprang out, barking, from under the wagon and caused his horse to shy and then the door to the caravan burst open to reveal a figure, small, but somehow regal - the thick folds of the borrowed cloak draped elegantly from her slight shouders, her hair was a backlit cloud of gold around her head. Less elegantly a mug was clasped in her hand.

"Jessamy!"

"Nnnnnnnnghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhllll" Jessamy squealed happily. With a cookie clamped between her teeth she stumblled down the steps to cannon into the nearest of her brothers which happened to be Silas. He had happily passed the reins now to his brother, leaving him to cope with the joyous assaults of Duke who bounced around barking happily having some inexplicable fascination with horsedrawn vehicles. Bryn consequently had an easier time to master his own horse and take some amusement in the plight of the brother who, in family tradition, was "the one with most skill with animals".

"Is she alright?" he called returning his attention back to his sister.

"Alright? She's drinking tea and eating biscuits!!" Silas' relief manifested itself as anger and he found himself shaking his sister "You little fool, have you any idea what you have put us all through you ginger-pated ninny - fog, and snow and bears. What did you think you were doing?"

"Leave her alone Silas," Seth, having calmed horse and hound, pulled her away from his elder brother and half crushed her against his chest "I'm sorry I was horrid to you, Jessie, I'll make it up to you, I promise" .

The world seemed to be slipping away from Jessamy... she must be dreaming she had never seen Silas so angry and Seth.. why was Seth apologising to her? She couldn't believe it but her superior, sardonic brother seemed to have tears forming in his dark eyes while Silas' blue ones glittered in his wrath. Jessie started to cry as her eldest brothers vented their anxiety in argument. But there was Bryn, on his own feet now, solid, even tempered Bryn. Bryn who picked her up easily and gently and sat her back on the waggon steps.

"You alright half-pint?", Bryn straightened her cloak and ruffled her hair.

Jessamy nodded. "Karl found me...I hurt my ankle but Willem has bound it up"

"Willem? Who is Willem" Bryn asked gently wiping away her tears.

"Someone Karl knows - this is his caravan. He is really kind. So is Karl" She looked up to where her rescuer lurked awkwardly in the doorway...

"And what about Edwin? Is he here too." Jessamy nodded

"Inside.. he got too cold or something" she elided "He seems to be getting better now" Jessamy wasn't going to lie again but she didn't see the need to tell the whole truth at the moment. "Willem gave him some tea with honey and stuff in it."

"This Willem sounds quite a character - where is he?"

"I don't think he has gone far .. he was just taking a look around I think, make sure we were safe" . Bryn nodded and standing turned his attention back towards his elder siblings.

"Do you think that you could manage to be pleased for a moment that we have found Jessamy safe and more or less sound? And not kill each other? You know the whole point of this effort was that we ended the day with the same size family as we started it ...and we are going to have to go through all the whys and wherefores when we get home so lets leave it for now. The main thing is that Jessie is safe, thanks to Karl and Willem - whoever he may be".

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Old 03-17-2011, 09:26 PM   #54
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Karl wondered a bit at Willem's way with Jessamy. He seemed to interact with her with ease, and know exactly what to say. People in general were never particularly easy to interact with, and children least of all. Karl did not find them bothersome, but he just was not sure how to handle them.

Willem left and Jessamy's mind seemed to follow him out. It seemed she was greatly intrigued by this man, for which Karl couldn't blame her. He was more confused by him than intrigued at this point, but maybe that was just because he had some catching up to do, when Jessamy's mind had already run far ahead.

The thoughts she shared certainly were too fast and too far ahead for him. Karl was mulling over what she said, trying to connect it all, and of course trying to come up with some reasonable response. He couldn't go encouraging her to believe in certain things, particularly since her parents may not want her to believe in certain stories. He didn't think there was really a problem with believing in them, at least for a while...and then even at his age believing in parts of them. Karl believed in the sort of evil that a barrow-wight embodied, whether they were evil dead men or evil spirits in their bodies...well he didn't know about any of that, or any of their magic songs. But he knew there was plenty to fear in this world, even now.

He looked at Jessamy. And yet even she could take it all in stride. Or perhaps she could better than most.

Karl had almost decided no response was necessary, and then Jessamy brought his mulling to an end. All of a sudden she was worried about Willem being cold? As he had thought...all in stride. No reason to sit around worrying about wights and wizards, whether they were good or bad...worry about other people and whether or not they were cold.

Karl smiled and followed Jessamy out, feeling the need not to let her out of his sight. Sure Willem was right outside, but...well, the way the evening had gone, he didn't assume anything would be the way it should. Which meant perhaps that he had absolutely no reason to think Willem couldn't be a wizard. He glanced at Edwin's still sleeping form before heading toward the doorway of the wagon.

No, there was no Willem. But there were others...Jessamy's official rescue had arrived.

Karl observed the reunion, watching the shapes at the edge of the fire light. He stayed in the doorway, not wishing to interrupt. Duke of course had no sense of manners, and was happily barking at the new arrivals. "C'mere, Duke," he said, getting the dog to come sit near the caravan, away from both the poor horse and the family reunion. "Now shush."

He stepped down the stairs but stayed near the door, peeking in at Edwin again before closing it behind him to keep out the cold. He scanned around the edge of the fire, wondering where Willem was. Could something have happened to him? Surely not, considering the type of man he was. But one could have too much confidence and not enough caution, even on the road.

Karl walked over toward the boy's cart and Duke followed, wagging and twitching but resisting the urge to bark and jump at all the new people. "Did you run into any trouble on the trip out here?" If Willem had found trouble, perhaps the boys had run into it too.

He felt like he should perhaps explain things, but Jessamy had already told them the necessary pieces of the story it seemed. And what was he to say, other than reassure them that their sister was alright, even with him. He was a little nervous about what these young men thought of him, but he was also a touch disappointed that he was no longer a rescuer at all...now that he had been rescued by Willem, as well. But mostly, of course, he was just relieved. Perhaps he could even avoid the entire trip back to Bree-town, and the awkward return to parents.
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Old 03-17-2011, 10:49 PM   #55
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Jessamy looked at Bryn gratefully. Even so she felt the need to firmly establish Karl as a hero "I don't know what I would have done if Karl hadn't found me" she said "I was so scared and so cold. And he was bringing me home but then we found Edwin and ... he couldn't walk and Karl had to carry him so it was taking ages, and I and sprained my ankle ...so when we met Willem..." She was desperate for her brothers to realise that she hadn't been delaying on purpose and was relieved when her brothers stopped their bickering and went to thank him, apologising for the trouble their silly sister had given him.

"Trouble? Apart from the snow and the dark and going round in circles and being worried sick about this one even before she screamed like a banshee? - what was that about Jessie? - Well Seth reckons he saw a bear in the forest - does that count"

"We all saw the print Bryn ... don't pretend we didn't "

"We don't know it was a bear though... "

"Well what else woud it be? It certainly wasn't any sort of dog - not that shape, not that size - and whatever it was it put the wind up the horses "

"I screamed because we heard the chains rattling on the caravan before we saw it and I thought it was a Barrow wight" - Jessamy finally got a word in edgewise and looked accusingly at Seth, who had the grace to look embarassed. "That is when I fell and hurt my ankle"...

She wished Willem would return. She knew that getting her home would be the next thing on her brothers' mind and part of her wanted nothing more to be back there. But being in Willem's caravan was like being in a fairy tale and she was loathe to leave it so soon.

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Old 03-18-2011, 10:46 PM   #56
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Willem hopped about on one exceedingly cold foot, trying as quickly as he could to pull on a sock and cram his other foot into a boot. ‘Thorns and thistles!’ he muttered, brushing the snow from his cold bare foot. He pulled his other sock on and jammed his now nearly numb appendage into its boot. It was at times like this that he wished he could just stay in bear form. His clothes, which he’d stowed on the low bough of a tree, were chill against his skin. And no amount of rubbing his hands together brought any of the sought warmth to his fingers. Teeth chattering a bit, he hurried in the direction of the little fire at the back of his caravan.

The brothers’ horses snorted as he drew near them. Arching their necks, heads held high, they whinnied and stamped the frozen ground. ‘S’all right; hush, hush now,’ he spoke low to them as he ran his hand along the side of the one nearest him. The urgent whinnies changed to quiet nickers as they crowded near him, nudging against his torso with their muzzles.

‘Now, don’t knock me down little darlin’s!’ Willem said with a chuckle. ‘I’m cold enough as it is!’

He felt the men’s eyes on him as he turned about and stepped toward the little group. ‘I’m Willem,’ he said, offering his hand in greeting. ‘And you must be Jess’ brothers. I can see the resemblance.’ He smiled, his eyes twinkling. ‘I’m so glad you found your way here.’ Behind him, one of the horses snorted, as if amused at some private joke.
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Old 03-21-2011, 11:35 AM   #57
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Karl couldn't help but feel a swell of pride and worth as Jessamy told her brothers how he was essentially her rescuer. He had been able to do so little for her, he thought, but at least he had come across her and been able to offer what help he could. He at least thought he had a much better sense of the land than she did, though this evening that had seemed somewhat questionable.

At the mention of Edwin, he glanced back toward the cart. He quietly accepted the brothers' thanks, shaking his head but not knowing what else to say. He had happened to come across her, what else would he have done? Leave her on her own?

Duke's attention seemed caught by something outside the fire's light. Karl watched him, not sure from Duke's appearance if he sensed friend or foe, man or creature. Perhaps Duke didn't know himself. Then Willem stepped into the firelight, startling the horses.

Karl wondered where Willem had been, but he had no reason to be nosey and question him. It seemed that would be particularly impolite at this point, considering he had just introduced himself to the brothers.

Karl murmured that he was going to check on Edwin, not worrying overmuch if anyone heard him, and dragged Duke along with him to stay near the steps of the caravan and away from the people on whom he so wanted to jump.
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:55 PM   #58
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“So are we, sir,” said Silas having taken Willem’s frozen hand “and even gladder to find Jessamy safe and looked after. I..” Silas stopped himself from tactlessly expressing the received wisdom of Breeland, that he thought only strange folk like the Rangers or worse frequented the Downs and the Forest and that it was a wonder that Jessie had managed encounter only people who wished her no ill. Somewhat clumsily he picked up on Willem’s earlier comment.

“I… I suppose the likeness shows more when we are together. Jessie is most like Dad, our other brother looks like our mother, and the rest of us are in between one way or another. But sorry we haven’t introduced ourselves I’m Silas, and these two are Seth and Bryn” he added as his brothers shook hands with Willem in their turn.

"Now you look as cold as the Northwind's nose" Jessamy chided limping towards the group, unfolding herself from Willem’s cloak as she did so and offering it back to him. She was sure she had seen him shiver and felt a wave of guilt. “I told Karl you should have taken your cloak. Shall I make you some tea?”

“This isn’t a picnic, Jessie,” reproved Silas “ – there are people at home worried about you , Mum , Dad, Fern, Filbert , no doubt about Edwin too."
“Filbert? I don’t think so.. “

“To be fair he might be more worried about what Seth would do to him if we didn’t find you” clarified Bryn “and seeing how cold it is we might not have found you in time “ he pointed out, ever the realist.

“We might never have found you at all” added Silas gloomily – we were going round in circles until the horses decided they knew where they were going – maybe they sensed Willem’s mare”

“Or maybe they were frightened by Seth’s bear… “ added Bryn grinning.

“I don’t know why you call it my bear just because you are too deaf to hear and too stubborn to believe what your eyes are showing you – don’t forget we will be going back that way .. and what happened to just being happy Jess is safe? Does it help to point out that she might have been eaten by a bear if she didn’t freeze to death first? “

“Might not do any harm to have a brew while we decide what to do next if you don’t mind, Willem. We have firewood and other supplies on the cart – the horses could use a breather and Jessie could be warmer by the look of her”. Bryn suggested realising that their sister’s rescuers were being ignored as family bickering resumed.

“That is true enough” said Seth who had substituted his own cloak for Willem’s returned one “What about the boy Edwin? Is he fit to travel? “
“ I don’t know – I think maybe Karl has gone to check on him” answered Bryn looking towards the caravan - so what about that tea?”, Silas had slipped away for a moment to put rugs over the horses and he might as well collect what was needed from the waggon at the same time Bryn reasoned.

“I’ll make it!” Jessamy offered trying to make amends.

“You ought to be resting your foot “

“Why are you being so nice, Seth?” Jessie asked bewildered.

“Don’t get used to it. As soon as we get back I am going to get Bryn to make you a cage… you are never going off the farm again” he wrapped his arms about her shoulders protectively

“Never? “

“Well if you are good I’ll take you in to town once a year on your birthday ..on a chain”

“Oh” Jessie’s face fell... Seth’s joke was too close to the punishment she feared she deserved. Though, before her rescue, she had longed to home and never leave, meeting Willem had revived the attraction of the wider world. Now the doors to that seemed to be closing against her forever and as firmly as the arms that held her. Too weary, confused and dejected now to cry she crumpled against her brother and looked helplessly towards Willem and the caravan, as if he or Karl might be able to rescue her from this fate too.

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Old 04-03-2011, 08:01 PM   #59
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Edwin really did seem to be returning to health. Karl touched the boy's forehead with his cold hand to feel how warm he was. Edwin's eyes shot open. "Wha? Who?" He sat up, looking terrified. "Who are you?" The boy had no idea where he was, but he had no desire to move any further.

Karl looked almost as terrified as Edwin. "It's okay, it's okay... I'm Karl, I'm around the town sometimes..." He didn't expect the boy to know who he was, of course he didn't... "I found you out on the Downs; you were out cold. We're in a man name Willem's caravan, he's helped you get better."

Edwin did recognize this man, but he did not particularly trust him, and he had no idea who Willem was. "Where are the others? Did you do something to them? Did the Wights get them?" He felt as if he was on the edge of hysteria, breathing fast, shallow breaths.

"Calm down. I don't know about all of the others, but Jessamy is outside, with her brothers from town. We'll be heading back soon I promise. Now just stay lying down, we don't want you passing out again." Karl was feeling a little frustrated and he didn't want to have to literally carry this boy back to his parents.

"Get away from me," Edwin said, but he did not shout. He pushed his way around Karl who was afraid to grab him and be too rough with him, and burst out of the caravan...missing the steps and falling hard on his knees and hands.
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:29 PM   #60
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It was all he could do to control the anger that flared up as he listened to Seth’s comments. Was this how those of Bree dealt with their children? Willem looked from Silas at the horses to Bryn by the wagon, wondering why Jessamy’s other two brothers did not speak up in her defense.

Memories of traveling players with a caged bear in tow to entertain the crowd loomed up unbidden.

A cage….. he fumed silently, his dark eyes glinting dangerously. A chain to lead her out on…...

A low growl began deep in his chest. Willem’s hands clenched and unclenched beneath his cloak. The brothers' horses whinnied nervously and backed away from him, intending to bolt. Jumble barked loudly as he began a frantic pacing back and forth before his master. Duke, for his part, disappeared into the trees behind the caravan with a panicked whine.

‘You jest, of course,’ he managed to say, swallowing down the desire to give them all a severe thumping. His hands relaxed. Looking from one to the other, his eyes settling at last on Seth, he reached out a hand to rest protectively on Jessamy’s shoulder. ‘She’s but a young cub; we all were once, weren’t we?’ He managed a smile. ‘Surely there are other ways to help her learn from her mistakes in judgment – other than threatening such dire punishments.’

The caravan’s door burst open before a reply could be made.. Edwin came hurtling out, his hasty exit propelling him over the steps to a most graceless and likely painful landing on his hands and knees. He had a confounded look as Willem hauled him to a standing position.

‘Back with us now, eh boy?’ Willem asked, giving him a once over glance.
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Old 04-04-2011, 11:42 PM   #61
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"Oh of course he is, " started Bryn, returning "he has been worrying his guts out about Jess all the way here, he just doesn't want to admit it ". He threw a spare cloak at his brother's face and Seth, still bewildered by Willem's palpable hostility in response to what seemed an obvious joke, let go of Jessamy.

Bryn would have scooped her up again, reassured her,scolded Seth for still not knowing when to stop winding their sister up, but Edwin hurtling out of the caravan like a cork from a bottle had claimed her attention before he could put down the other things he was carrying.

Jessamy managed a smile for Willem, grateful for the comfort of his hand on her shoulder, even she hadn't really taken in the tension that surrounded the gesture. The world was getting fuzzy at the edges again and she could only take in one thing at a time. For now it was the boy she had left pale and unconscious in the caravan. She tottered forward "Edwin! You're awake!!!" she declared happily But then she remembered she and Edwin had been quarrelling before they had been separated and she stopped.

Meanwhile her brothers regathered around her, each trying to square their sister's evident trust in Willem and man's strange, almost dangerous presence. It wasn't something they quite pinpointed at the time but it was as if the atmosphere changed with the older man's mood. None of them quite dared to really answer his question.

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Old 04-05-2011, 08:02 PM   #62
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Edwin choked, looking into the eyes of this strange man. There was something wild in them, like those eyes he thought he’d seen peering at him from the edge of the Forest. He would have thought he was still in those empty dreams, but compared to them, even this world made sense.

He whipped his head around at the sound of his name. He didn’t think he would be happy to see the face of someone who up until now was just an annoyance to him. But there was no stopping the relief that filled him at seeing Jess.

“Wha…I…yes, I’m awake…I don’t know what happened…” He was shaking; Willem still held on to his arm and Edwin was using his support to stay on his feet. He swallowed. No, no, what was this! He couldn’t cry. Oh no. He looked around at all the faces. All Jess’ brothers, all older than him. And these men. Oh what would they think?

He cried. “I’m sorry, Jessamy… Where are the others? This is all my fault…I’m sorry…” He wasn’t sure who he was apologizing to, really. Everyone and everything. It was his fault this had happened to him as well. And what would happen when he got home!

Karl tried to step quietly out of the caravan, not sure what was going on. Poor Edwin. He was so young, even if he didn’t think so. Should he apologize to the boy? But he had done nothing wrong; simply his presence had startled him. Karl stood up against the side of the caravan, once again observing the scene, but also looking around him for where Duke had gotten off to. Dog wasn’t good at staying. Or going where he was told.
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Old 04-06-2011, 08:32 AM   #63
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"It's not all your fault, Edwin, " said Jessamy quietly and she was the one who was crying as she stood unsteadily between the boy and her brothers. "You didn't ask me to come out here."

Silas's anger melted into pity "And I don't suppose you could have stopped her if you'd tried" he said gently to the boy, as he moved towards Jessamy and slipped his arm around her heaving shoulders. "The others should be home by now - we met them on the road on the way. And no doubt our Dad will have things to say to Jess when we get back and your folks will be the same with you. But the important thing is, barring further mishap, "you do get to go home. And for that you have Karl and Willem to thank". He added before addressing his sister.

"Come on Jess, don’t cry, it’s cold and damp enough out here”

"But you were so angry with me and so will Mum and Dad be. .. and Seth is being .."

"Is just being Seth. He can't help it " supplied Bryn helpfully.

“We were scared we had lost you, little one, but it will be alright. I promise we will make it alright somehow" Silas resolved realising Jess’ tears were of genuine contrition rather than born merely of self pity. ”Don’t worry about it now”.

But still his sister wept finding it harder to stem her tears in the face of kindness than anger, and no longer caring what Edwin or anyone else might think.

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Old 04-20-2011, 12:24 PM   #64
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Edwin wasn’t sure what was happening. Her crying too just made it worse! He sniffed and swallowed and tried to right is breathing, and tried not to feel annoyed that Jess had her brothers all consoling her while he was left to awkwardly cry alone. Well, Jess cried with him, he supposed, but…that was different.

He was almost holding back all the tears, almost settled down. He tried to think of something to say. Thank you? “Thank you,” he said, turning to Karl and then Willem, whose gaze he couldn’t hold for more than a second.

Suddenly a high-pitched whine followed by a low bellow came from the trees behind the caravan, and the noises came closer until Duke burst into the firelight and started running in circles around the fire and Karl. Duke’s muzzle was covered in long spines.

Edwin couldn’t help but laugh. He looked a little guilty after, hoping someone else found it funny. Sure he felt bad for the dog’s pain, but it was his own fault. Kind of like Edwin’s situation.

Karl groaned and called to Duke, trying to keep his voice gentle. He managed to grab the dog by the scruff and then, getting on his knees, held Duke with both arms. Karl spoke gentle words to him while getting a hold on his head and trying to pull each spine out quickly.
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Old 04-24-2011, 05:18 AM   #65
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Jessamy started to laugh too. The sight of the dog with his pincushion nose was just too ridiculous, but the reviving effects of the tea and biscuits had worn off and she rested wearily against Silas. Seth had gone over to try to help Karl while Bryn was still holding the things he had fetched from the waggon.

"Right shall I get the kettle on?" He asked his eldest brother.

"I don't know, Bryn, Jessie's done in, maybe we should get on our way straight away - it's getting late and the sooner she is safe home the better . "

Jessamy raised her head and asked "What about Karl and Willem?".

"I hope they'll agree to come back with us - think we owe them some hospitality if they'll accept it" . Silas looked inquiringly at the two older men.

Seth’s mind, as he held Duke while Karl extracted quills, was occupied with Willem. The man had growled at him he was sure... and what had he called Jessamy “a young cub”? He made him nervous and now.. oh wonderful Silas had invited him back to the farm.

But what was he thinking? He chided himself for imagining all sorts of fancies and fairy-tales. This place was getting to him and he was reading too much into things. He remembered that Silas had likened Jessamy a fox-cub the day she was born and many times since. She did look like a wild little creature with that great shock of hair and ever curious eyes. Besides Jess might be thoughtless but her instincts about people were usually good. And with Willem, she behaved as if she had known him all her life not just a matter of hours.

Poor Jessie he thought , realising that she must envy the freedom of the life led by Willem and even Karl . Willem’s words haunted him . It wasn’t so much helping her learn from her mistakes.. . she was bright enough not to repeat this escapade he guessed – it was the future he worried about and the dangers she wasn’t aware of, how could they keep her safe without crushing her spirit?

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Old 04-25-2011, 11:31 PM   #66
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Willem watched the little scene play out. Poor pup! he thought, hearing Duke whine as each quill was eased out. He shook his head, knowing that by morning the dog would be even more miserable than he was now - his snout would be swollen and very tender.

‘Shall I get the kettle on?’ The voice of Jessamy’s youngest brother caught his attention.

‘That would be nice . . . a big mug of hot tea!’ Willem rubbed his cold hands together as he murmured aloud, more in response to the frigid night air than to the young man’s question. ‘You know, it will take some time before all the quills are out. Better if they’re eased out, at least for Duke, that is.’

He glanced to where Jessamy leaned against Silas. ‘She looks a might cold, too’ he said motioning with his chin to the girl. ‘It’s warmer in my caravan . . . Silas, isn’t it?’ He nodded toward Edwin. ‘Maybe you can take the boy and Jessamy in there.’ He gave a quick smile toward Jess. ‘She can help you find some biscuits and tea . . . and bread and jam, too, in the yellow carved chest beneath the bed.’

Willem stepped nearer to Bryn. ‘We can build a little fire here . . .leave the other fire’s light to Karl..’ He looked from one brother to the other. ‘The night’s dark is well upon us,’ he said. ‘And it looks like the snow is starting to come down more heavily.’ His hands gestured about the small camp. ‘You’re more than welcome to share this little camp . . . if you wish.’
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Old 04-27-2011, 10:39 PM   #67
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Karl muttered about them not having to wait for him, but he doubted anyone was listening and he wasn’t sure if he wanted them to be. He had not been in the company of this many people in…well, a long time. It was starting to grate on him a little, but there was also a warmth about it. Especially on a snowy night like this.

He smiled at Seth, thanking him for his help. Duke wasn't upset to have another person's soothing attention. He was such a social animal, he did not hide from people when hurt but rather sought their comfort. Upon hearing Willem’s comment about removing the quills slowly, Karl reddened a little and glanced at Seth. "Hope I haven't been making it worse..." he murmured. Well, he did not have experience with porcupines. It was rather surprising, considering all that Duke tended to get into. He gently eased out the next quill. Duke was being as strong as he could, his whines becoming more like whimpers.

~*~

Edwin felt out of place. His awkward ‘entrance’ into this impromptu campsite had brought attention to him for a time, but now he was just a part of the group, and a part that was not connected to any others. Somehow the Willem person was familiar with Jessamy, and of course there were her brothers. And this Willem knew Karl, which was not at all surprising since they both seemed rather strange. And then there was Edwin…‘the boy.’

When Jessamy’s brothers began talking about heading back to town, Edwin sunk into his thoughts. With any luck, by the time they got back, his father would already be passed out and he could put him to bed without any fuss from him. It wasn’t as if he was worried about punishment, but…he made it worse. When he did things like this and made his father worry, it made his father worse. And yet he kept doing them, he kept pushing it. Though nothing he had gotten into before could compare with this afternoon and evening.

Willem, whose eyes seemed as if they could never look kind yet were filled at the moment with warmth, included him at least, suggesting he go with Jessamy and one of her brothers back into the caravan. “Thank you,” he murmured to Willem. Biscuits and bread weren’t quite as appetizing right now as soup or stew might be, but he wasn’t about to complain.

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Old 05-02-2011, 07:59 PM   #68
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"I don't know... we don't get many porcupines on the farm - sometimes the quicker out the better with splinters and the like but this one has so many in his muzzle that it would be too much." Seth tried to console the dog, rubbing the loose skin at the scruff of his neck while keeping a firm hold on his collar with his other hand, "sometimes there isn't a simple right answer" he added aware of the dilemma facing his elder brother dithering over whether they should stay or start out.

"Duke will be a bit sorry for himself for a while but he will get over it in a day or two, maybe learn not to make the same mistake again, Bit of luck and the same will be true of Jess and Edwin".

“Well?” Bryn, asked his eldest brother, who was clearly torn –“It isn’t like we didn’t come prepared to stay out if we had to, and I really think we would be daft to set out now it is snowing again – we could end up stuck and more cold, tired and hungry than we are now. “ Bryn would normally defer to Silas in this sort of decision – but he guessed that his desire to get back was skewing his judgement. “Why not do as Willem suggested and get these two inside and I’ll get the fire going If the snow stops quickly we could rethink but for now we might as well eat and get as warm as we can?”

Silas gave in - “Alright, you win…come on Jess, lead the way “ His sister returned Willem’s smile, and still hobbling a little climbed back into the caravan, eager to resume her place in the cosy interior and perhaps discover more of its, and Willem’s secrets.

Bryn waited for the door to close behind his brother and just caught his gasp of amazement as he saw the caravan’s remarkable interior. Then he spoke to Willem.
“Now we can get on. We have bread too as well as soup and cheese and well I’m not sure what else - but there seems to be lots of it. He prodded around the large basket he had fetched from the waggon. “so we won’t starve. We have plenty of firewood – what with Silas being in the trade – so the fire needn’t be so little maybe . It’s under a tarpaulin so it should be dry enough. With a bit of luck we should be more or less ready by the time they have sorted out that poor dog” . Bryn made to go back to the waggon when he paused and turned to Willem, a moment of doubt creeping into even his practical mind. “You seem to know this place well enough – do you think it is safer to stay here than to try to get back- they say a lot of strange things about the downs and the forest “ he glanced towards the mounds and trees in turn knowing in his heart he had not forgotten the tracks they had seen earlier.
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Old 05-07-2011, 11:35 PM   #69
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Willem fetched the little shovel and the hand axe from the long box which hung beneath the wagon. ‘Breeze’s from the north, at least for now,’ he said, holding his hand up at arm’s length to catch the direction. ‘Let’s get the fire going here,’ he went on, starting to dig out a small pit. ‘The caravan should block most of the wind, I think.’

‘About your question…..’ Willem knelt down by the shallow pit and began shaving wood to start the fire. ‘I think you might find it safer just to stay here tonight. The trees can be tricky in the dark.’ He sat back as Bryn piled the kindling and some of the wood over the shavings. ‘And sometimes those that make their homes hereabout are less than friendly to those just passing through.....But, as I said, you'll be safe enough here.'

He rubbed his hands together near the blossoming fire and smiled towards Bryn. 'So, where's that soup you mentioned, eh?'
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:44 PM   #70
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"I'll get it, " said Bryn, "we had it in a bucket of hot ash on the waggon but it will be all the better for being properly hot" he added as he returned moments later with a good-sized billy-can and a hooked iron spike which he set at an angle across the little fire pit. He lifted the lid with his gloved hand "Looks like vegetable and bean - still some warmth it it so shouldn't be too long." He set the billy on the hook above the burgeoning fire and nodded approvingly. He couldn't have done a better job even at the forge.

"I'll talk to Silas if he starts to fret - for myself I'd rather wait til it was light to go near those woods again..." he shuddered momentarily then forced his mind back to more immediate issues. "Though we brought food enough, we haven't got much to eat it off - only a few tin mugs and plates - we didn't expect such a party, only reckoned on staying out if we hadn't found them. May be you have extra?" Bryn asked the older man tentatively not sure if someone who lived an itinerant life would be geared up for company.

In the caravan, Silas gazed in amazement at the intricately carved interior. His sister had swiftly resumed her previous spot, discarded her boots and rested her feet on the little stool. From which position she could direct Silas as to where to find things.

"Could you make me one of these?"Jessamy asked hopefully. Silas laughed " the structure maybe, if I didn't have to earn a living - but this carving work would take me years even if I had the skill." He smiled and touched the little mouse on the high shelf. "If your friend Willem did this, he is a true craftsman. "

Jessamy gave Edwin a sidelong glance and thought he seemed troubled - she realised that he hadn't been in here before awake and hoped he was alright. She would love to have another look at the little Elvish phial but she could hardly poke around other than as Willem had permitted, at least with witnesses. And since she had elided how ill Edwin had seemed, she felt she couldn't really bring it up now with Silas around. "Are you really better now Edwin?" she asked, thinking how strange it must have been to wake up somewhere so different.

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Old 06-09-2011, 04:56 PM   #71
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Edwin was thrilled to hear Jessamy’s brothers had brought soup, something warm and filling. He felt chilled inside and out, and though his stomach didn’t feel quite right he hoped eating would make him feel better. He followed Jess and one of the brothers, Silas, into the caravan. This time he actually had a look around, and wondered at the woodwork of the interior. Edwin could never imagine living in one of these instead of a house, but it did seem pretty cozy.

Even inside the caravan Edwin clutched himself and Karl’s cloak around him. It felt a little like he would never be warm again, even if he sat right up against a fire indoors. It was cold out, so it was really no wonder, but…this chill felt different somehow. He was just wondering at it when Jess asked if he was alright.

He nodded, and thought about what had happened. Was it the water? Water that put him to sleep…sounded like magic, which was absurd. “Just…cold. Feels like when I fall asleep during the day for a little and wake up feeling heavy, but worse.” He looked at his feet. “I guess I owe a lot of thanks.” Could he have died? Surely he could have, from the cold, if not from…whatever had happened to him. What had it taken to wake him up? Just the warmth of the caravan. Not that it felt especially warm at the moment, but warmer than outside…
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Old 06-23-2011, 04:57 PM   #72
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At the Prancing Pony

Tate sat at a familiar table at the Pony, staring into a mug of watered down ale. He knew the innkeeper watered it down, but not to get more money out of him. Just to keep him busy and keep him less drunk, for a time. Tate didn’t have much to return to from the shop in the evening. All he had was his son. And now he might not have anything at all.

The word was that Edwin had gone out to the Downs. It was just like him, to take the lead and do something crazy like that. Some of the children had come back to their parents, spooked. But Edwin had not come back. No one knew where he was. What if he had wandered into the Old Forest? Or fallen in to an old crypt and broken his neck?

Tate took another long, slow drink and stared at the table, trying to ignore the angry man standing over him. As if it was his fault that Erling’s daughter had gotten herself lost as well? How could he go berating him when he had lost his son as well? It was cruel. Erling had all those sons…Tate had one, and now he was gone. Oh Cassy, he thought of his wife, I’ve lost our only son!
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Old 06-24-2011, 06:26 PM   #73
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Perhaps he should have said nothing. Erling Woodseaves was not particularly swift to anger, His wife was far more quick tempered and had passed the trait, in some measure, to all their children save Bryn, who was was harder to rouse even than his father. However even the most placid of men have their limits and Erling had got too close to his.

If his sons were his pride, his daughter was his joy. Sukey had craved a girl but he had been content with his fine boys. Jessamy had been born so long after her brothers that the hope had been all but deferred to the next generation. Erling had had to learn late how to raise a maid-child. Maybe he had not learnt well, having been enchanted. Perhaps he had spoiled her but it had seemed to do no harm. He had thought there was mischief but no malice in the child. And the sprite- a funny little creature all limbs and hair - made him laugh and so charmed him that when she raised her blue eyes to meet his own and said "Sorry Daddy" all was forgiven and forgotten - too quickly perhaps.

He had sent Filbert back to the farm - it would be some comfort to Sukebind to have one of her chicks safe in the the nest. For himself he couldn't face going home while the rest of his children were out on the Downs and in this snow too. He wasn't so worried about the boys - they were grown and well equipped and above all, together. And they had horses with them and beasts, Erling felt, had more sense to get out of danger and find their way home than most men. But Jessamy was a different matter - she was so young and alone (or at best in the company of the boy Edwin which was small comfort). He didn't blame the lad - from what he had learned from his youngest son, Jessamy had gone on this escapade more than willingly and her participation was premeditated. He was a little shocked by her deceit. But that was an issue to be tackled when they got her back. If they got her back.

The thought they might not was unbearable. It had occured to him at Silas' wedding that a time would surely come when he must hand his daughter over into another man's keeping and the mere idea caused a wrench years before it could become reality. But that was no loss at all to the one he now faced. He touched neither the food nor the ale offered him and despite the long day following the plough he could not keep to his seat either, pacing the room pausing only to gaze through the windows desperate for a sign of his children's return. The sight of Edwin's father was sitting in his usual spot, drinking as much as usual infuriated Erling. Yes the cobbler had lost his wife. It was a tragedy but not an unique one - Erling had lost everyone and everything but the clothes he stood up in when he arrived in Bree. Tate had drowned his sadness in his beer mug and maybe it was no wonder his boy had gone a wandering. Little enough for him at home, Erling guessed and then wondered at his own child's reasons. Eventually he could take no more of the man sitting morosely in his cups.

"How can you just sit there and drink when they are out there? " his voice was harsher than usual. As tall and lean as his elder sons still, he towered over the seated figure. Erling's hair which had once been as bright as his daughter's was now mostly grey and he was a good decade - maybe even two- older than Tate but he cut a more imposing figure at that moment.

"My boys are out there looking for yours - and my little girl - and all you can do is swill ale!". Erling slammed his fist onto the table in frustration. He was not inclined to violence but he was sore tempted to shake the man if not smite him.

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Old 06-27-2011, 12:53 PM   #74
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Tate sniffed and avoided looking at Erling, as if he were trying to hide behind his messy dark hair. “I didn’t ask nobody to go looking for my son,” he all but muttered. It was heading towards dark, and his boy wasn’t back yet. But what was he to do? It would be night before he got out to the Downs, and then what were his chances of finding Edwin in the dark? He was just one man…he did not have a host of strong young sons to send out!

“And I don’t have nobody to send. What could I do, wandering those cursed mounds in the dark? Oh if only I’d made him help me in the shop today…but he’ll never stay to help, no way to make him, not anymore… Maybe if I’d known earlier but how was I to know…man has to make his living, though I don’t know why now, if my boy’s gone…” He choked, ending his rambling for few moments, at least.

The truth was it had been a slow day at his shop, as usual. But Edwin was heading toward adulthood in…a couple years, a few years? Regardless Tate didn’t have apron strings to lead his boy by. At this the man tried to steel himself a little. There, Edwin was no witless babe! He was a smart boy, he would make it home. Telling himself to forget all that superstition, he shuddered.

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Old 07-13-2011, 08:25 AM   #75
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Erling's ire faded almost as quickly as it flowered. What was the point in losing his temper with this broken man? He suddenly felt exhausted as if his anger had been the only thing sustaining him. He crumpled into the window seat and gazed once more through the shutters left part open to the road.

He drank without thinking from the mug on the little table by him and spoke to the room as much as Tate, he did not move his glance from the too empty street, where snowflakes danced in the lamplight.

"I didn't send them.. I didn't know anything about it 'til they didn't come home. Didn't want to worry me, didn't want to wait..thought they could sort it themselves.. " Erling was torn between pride in his grown sons and pique that they clearly felt they didn't need him any more, "and the other one - my youngest lad didn't use the wits he was born with. He knew the children were going and kept quiet." Erling shook his head in disbelief " I sent him home to his mother. Think his brothers gave him a hard time for not telling and maybe Sukey will give him worse" or maybe not.. Erling knew his wife had a bit of a blind spot concering their youngest son. And he was as bad with Jessie. He sighed, how had they managed to get worse at raising children the longer they did it...


"Still Filbert said Jessamy took some food with her and maybe your boy would know how to start a fire if they found any dry kindling?" Erling was farily sure Jess wouldn't have the skill herself out in the wild "so maybe if they were able to stay together when they got separated from the rest they won't be so cold and hungry" Erling tried not to think of how little there would be to make a fire among those bare stones. A fire would give hope of guiding their rescuers to them as well as warmth.

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Old 07-20-2011, 10:14 AM   #76
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Jessamy waited a moment for Silas to leave with the tea and the suggestion his sister cut some bread before she answered Edwin with more than a nod. She stood and took up her station at the little counter formed by the cupboard extending out beyond the line of the shelves above. Before she started she gave Edwin the sort of appraising look her mother would give a market purchase.

It was odd she realised that she had known Edwin all her life, growing up in the same small town but didn't really know him at all. Didn't know if she could trust him. He wasn't quite close enough in age to be friends with her brothers - Filbert wasn't the sort to attract the hero worship of younger boys and - and had no brothers of his own who might have been their contemporaries. She had been to his father's shop though - shoemaking being one of the things that the family couldn't manage themselves. She remembered her mother once meeting one of her cronies after they had taken some boots in for mending and them talking about how sad it was the cobbler had started to drink after his wife died. Jessamy hadn't understood at the time - didn't everyone drink? Now a little older she realised her mother didn't mean tea or water or even the mug or two ale or cider that her father and eldest brothers might take of an evening. Yet Edwin of himself did not invite pity. He had been the ringmaster of the adventure, leader of his little group and had they not been alone, Jessamy would not likely not have had the nerve to speak as she did.

"Owe thanks? Yes you do - to Karl and Willem..and...and me. Karl wanted to take me straight home when he found me and it might have saved me a lot of trouble if he had. But I wouldn't let him. And whe we found you you were lying practically in a little pool of water and you were so cold and we couldn't rouse you" Jessamy was cuttting rough slices of bread from the loaf as she spoke. "I haven't told them "she indicated her brothers with a nod towards the door, "much about what happened before they arrived, and I don't see I have to. But people are funny about anyone different in Bree so it would be a shame if Karl and Willem's kindness caused them any trouble: I might have to explain how Karl had to carry you because you were in a dead faint rather than just cold... And Willem said..." The girl paused and gave Edwin another quick glance, her blue eyes fierce. " Promise I can trust you ..then I'll tell you!"

Jessamy realised that she was waving the knife and put it on the bread board. "I'll just take this bread out to Silas. I won't be a minute. You could put the blankets back round you if you are still cold." Then she wrapped Seth's dark green cloak tight around her, picked up the wooden platter holding the slices of bread and went out still favouring her good leg.

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Old 08-12-2011, 01:38 PM   #77
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Tate

Tate listened to about half of what Erling said, and about half of that really registered with his mind. He couldn’t tell for sure if the man was still angry or not, but at least he wasn’t standing over him anymore or looking at him accusingly. As if he had much of any say in what his son did at all these days! Erling’s sons had gone behind their father’s back as well, it seemed, which somehow made Tate feel a little better.

He tried to focus on the last bit, as Erling’s voice seemed to indicate he was talking directly to him again. At the words ‘cold and hungry’ Tate sniveled a bit before shoving his face back into his mug, or vice-versa.

~*~

Edwin

Edwin shrank back slightly at Jessamy’s words. What was the matter with him?! Was he afraid of her? What could she do to him? What could anyone do to him? His father likely wouldn’t remember this night, like every other night.

It was another feeling entirely. Something gnawing at him, making him just want to disappear. But no, it wasn’t fear.

Edwin’s eyes widened a bit as Jessamy went on about having to explain things to people back in town. Oh no, no, no…he was so happy to just be alive and a little warmer, and had been thinking of nothing but food. He had not thought one bit about what he would tell people when they inevitably asked him on the morrow, or commented on his disappearance for days, maybe even months afterward. What would he tell the other boys? He could come up with a number of stories that would impress them, but there were all these witnesses!

He blinked at Jessamy as she walked out. What had Willem said? What did she have to tell him? He would keep any secret in the world, especially for Jessamy at this point. He would do anything she asked if only she wouldn’t tell anyone what had happened. He had been afraid…

He wrapped his arms around himself and stared at the caravan door as it closed behind her.
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