Jennet Dreams of Destiny...
*This uses characters from the novel I’m deep in writing, although this wasn’t a scene I intended to include originally. Still, the Sunday Scribblings prompt got me thinking (guess that’s the point ;-) and this is the result. No, it’s not polished.
If you want to know more about my novel, come here.
The last day of the elderberry harvest arrived, mist dotting the landscape and curling towards the climbing clouds. Down the stairs she came, slow and soft of foot, pausing at the door to prepare herself for whatever it was that summoned her so early from her sleep. Barefoot on the castle’s lawn, she stopped to speak to Marion as the nurse plucked berries and thrust them eagerly into the basket hanging from the crook of her arm.
“Marion,” Jennet said, her hand on the woman’s round shoulder. “Something strange woke me...”
The woman continued gathering the tiny fruits, her focus unusual. But so is her love of elderberry wine, Jennet thought, clucking her tongue and backing away. Ignored, she continued to distance herself from the castle and her bed.
“Odd,” she whispered. “I must start leaving the shelter of castle walls more often.” She studied the landscape. “The forest seems...” Raising one eyebrow, she tilted her head. Her brow creased in wonder. “Closer?”
The woods beckoned, branches teasing her gaze like the signaling hands of friends with secrets to share. She shivered, but continued forward, inexplicably drawn to what somehow felt like destiny.
Hidden between weaving trunks and wrist-thick stems with warp of oak and weft of rose sat a small cottage. The thatch smelled fresh, but was dotted with mosses all abloom. The door was small—Intimate, her mind whispered.
Her lips stated what she knew too well, “This should not be here...” Still it felt right, its river rock walls glistening in the dappled light.
Thwack! She jumped at the noise of axe splintering wood. With caution born of fear, she rounded the house and peered at the young man who split logs with a nearly alien ease.
Shirtless, his muscles rippled with each easy bite of the axe. And while he cut, he sang, “Oh I forbid you maidens all who wear gold in your hair...”
Jennet was suddenly aware of heavy pins weighing her head down. She reached up-- stunned and knowing she had descended the stairs with her hair in a long and simple single braid. She tugged a pin free, watching it glitter—warm and golden—in her open palm. Her fingers raced across her scalp, sensing her hair was suspended in a dramatic sweep of braids and curling tendrils.
Thwack! The man sang on, “--To come or go by Carterhaugh for bold Tam Lin is there...”
Jennet looked around, gaze settling on a carved and gilded wooden sign somehow she missed before. Suspended from a branch it spun slowly, reading: Carterhaugh.
Thwack! He split another log and pulled her attention back. He paused to stack his handiwork. The song that had seemed so jaunty and playful now turned on its melody, the words slowing, tone darkening. “There’s none that goes by Carterhaugh, that leaves there just the same, with golden rings a sparkling--”
She straightened by the cool stone wall, breathing hard, her hand on her heaving chest. Rings suddenly glistened on her fingers.
He turned then, hearing her panicked gasp.
His eyes flared a blue she’d only seen in the hearts of all-consuming fires and she stumbled away from the cottage.
“No,” she whispered, realizing she no longer was barefoot and in her loose chemise, but bound up tight in a sleek surcoat and long emerald mantle. Her feet were snug in sparkling shoes, glittering like glass, heels too high for running.
Still, she tried.
A shoe fell free in her haste, and not daring to look behind, she kicked the other one away as well, racing from the cottage and towards what she prayed was the forest’s fringe and the castle beyond.
With a howl of outrage, the man’s form twisted and where once had stood a handsome woodcutter now was a wolf with grim and hungry eyes. He sprang after his quarry, swallowing the ground with great and stretching strides.
Jennet heard his breath—so close behind--and spun to face her attacker.
Wide paws landed on her shoulders and she tumbled onto her back, breath bursting free, lungs burning as the beast stared down into her eyes.
But she was transfixed by the bell that jingled brightly above her, suspended from the slavering wolf’s carefully--No, lovingly, her mind insisted-- embroidered collar...
“No!” she cried as his dripping jaws opened to consume her. Her world went black as deep and moonless night.
She trembled in the dark. Did death equate to blindness? she wondered, sitting up. She blinked. Where...?
And then she heard the familiar sounds of morning.
Birds chirped. Daylight tried to pierce the shutters of her bedchamber. She closed her fingers on the blanket spread across her legs and trembled. As warm as her room was, she shivered, chilled at the memory of the strange dream.
She slid from the bed, tapping her feet on the flagstone floor. Turning towards the window, her hand shot to her head and she pulled something out of the rat’s nest which her hair always became while she slept.
With a cry of disbelief, she let it drop to the floor where the golden hairpin rolled and glinted back at her, mocking her attempt to escape destiny’s cruel grasp.