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Old 11-04-2003, 01:55 PM   #194
Shadow of Tyrn Gorthad
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: The Fencing Lyst
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Once Etheldreda had disappeared into the crowd, Sigrid found herself again at loose ends. The fire in the stable still raged despite the better efforts of the many who worked at dousing the flames with the line of water buckets being handed down from the well. At least, the horses had stopped screaming, but the smell of singed hair and burning flesh now filled the air. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye as she watched a man rush from the very mouth of the flames, his hair on fire. His face was a soot-streaked mask of grief. Someone from the line of bucket handlers stepped forward and beat the fire from the man's head, but he pushed his way onward into the crowd. Sigrid watched him as he ripped the scarf from his face and vanished into the throng of people.

Turning, she looked down at Kajsa, her dog. "I should make myself useful," she said softly. "Not just stand here like some village's missing idiot. You, stay." She pointed to a spot on the ground near the fence that seemed to be both out of the way of traffic and of danger. The black and white border collie whined softly, but lay down, resting her nose on her front paws.

Sigrid looked back in the direction of the fire. Not knowing what else to do, she tied the horses she had collected to the fence and placed her small bundle of belongings under the protection of the dog. Then, she turned and trotted in the direction of the bucket handlers. Pushing her way into the line, she found herself between two young men, both grim-faced and smelling of smoke. The one on her left had light hair and looked to her like a farm boy, a big strapping fellow, with bulging forearms and broad pleasant features. The one on her right had longer, dark hair and a slimmer, more wiry build. As he kept his face turned in the direction of the blaze, she was unable to get a good look at his features.

"'Ere ya go, sweet'eart," said the blond one behind her, passing her a full bucket. She handed it on the dark-haired man in front who took it without a word. "Coming back," the dark one said a moment later, passing back an empty bucket. She had no sooner let go of it into the hands of the blond than he handed her a full bucket in its place. In no time she fell into a rhythm, handing the full buckets forward, the empty ones back, all to the ongoing chant of the two young men: "'ere ya go", "coming back." She quickly lost count as the buckets became a blur. She was a strong girl, but soon her back and arms felt like so much deadwood. Nonetheless, she continued dutifully handing the full and empty buckets back and forth. "'Ere ya go." "Coming back." She had a feeling she would be hearing that chant in her sleep.

She wished they could slow down just a little bit, but the fire seemed to be growing hotter. People had begun to shout that they should start a second bucket line to wet the roof of the inn's main building so that the fire wouldn't spread there next. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder toward the inn itself. So far, it seemed safe, but she could see the cause for concern. A breeze had picked up and sparks were now swirling freely around the courtyard. As she watched, a stray spark ignited a pocket of dry grass in the courtyard. A man quickly stamped it out, but Sigrid felt a chill race down her spine in spite of the heat. All it would take would be a single stroke of really bad luck and the whole place could go up in flames.

"Coming back," came the steady voice in front of her, but she barely heard it. She was looking anxiously in the direction of Kajsa, hoping that the dog was still safe and out of the way.

"Coming back!" the voice repeated. This time, she felt the empty bucket pressed into her side. Instinctively, she grabbed it, but when she looked up, she saw the dark-haired young man glowering at her with a pair of very blue eyes.

"Sorry," she murmured and passed the empty bucket back to the blond, who grinned as he took it from her hands and replaced it with a full one.
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