Brothers In Wait
In the shadows he has stood.
In the shadows he still stands.
The child of the rain, the sappy, sticky mud, clings heavily to our shoes, making it more difficult for us to move. We had woken to find the rain ended, and we had set out, traveling as far as we could on horseback before finally being forced to walk, guiding the horses through the thick sludge. With the thickly covered branches above our heads, it is hard to tell just how long we’ve been walking. My feet have blisters and my skin color is hard to identify under the layers of dirt and grime on my skin. I hope to whatever God there is that we can reach the end of the woods quickly and soon.
Suddenly, Lukas stops in his tracks, and I see him slowly rest his hand on the hilt of his sword. Aylyn hushes behind me as I tense. Just a short distance away, a covered figure stands leaning against a tree. I scan the area around us slowly, but there is no one else that I can see hiding in the shadows.
“You always were the more cautious one between us.” The figure states, a slight humorous lilt to his voice. “At ease brother. It is only me.” A young man comes to stand before us, one hand casually at his side, the other drawing back his hood. Besides his blond hair, his features are mildly alike to Lukas’s, but this man’s eyes hold a lighter, more subdued voice. “I’ve missed you brother.” He says.
Lukas’ brother walked silently alongside us, his face only partially hidden beneath the hood of his cloak. Somehow, while it’s easy to see that they’re brothers, their actions seem almost contrary to the fact. His brother strikes me as the type of person to keep things quietly to himself.
I ponder this for a time until we stop at what looks like a tavern called The Silver Scale. At some point it had begun to rain again, and I only now take notice of the discomfort of my soggy clothes that are clinging to my frame like a second skin. Lukas’ brother opens the door and guides me in as Lukas and Aylyn leave to set the horses in the stable. Inside, it’s warm, with a fire crackling in a large stone fireplace. All around, men sit, lounging over their drinks, some placing bets on tables and others goggling over the few women in the room. I take in the noise as if he and I are long lost friends. It seems, from what I can hear, that the people are speaking in a different dialect, something with with harder syllables. This brings a quick flutter to my chest and I turn quickly to Lukas’ brother asking, “Are we in-” He cuts me off, an amused smile creeping onto his face.
“I hadn’t realized…” I trail off.
“The only area of unwalled border is at the edge of the forest we traversed through.”
I breathe out a sigh of relief and he lets out a small chuckle. Embarrassed, I lapse back into my silence as we take a seat at the end of a large oak table. At the sight of him, Lukas’ brother stands up again and grabs Lukas’ attention. As they make their way over, they leave watery puddles in their wake. Taking the only seat beside me, Aylin is forced to sit across from Lukas, and I can practically see her walls shoot back up at the sight of me.
“We shall spend the night here tonight. Get a warm bath, and as much rest as we can. The storm is making travelling conditions horrendous. There’s just too much mud and grit to work through on the roads, even if we are this close.” His brother reports.
Lukas gives him a firm nod. “I’ll go speak to the innkeeper.” As he stands and walks away, his brother takes a sweeping glance at Aylyn and I.
“I believe introductions are in order.” Suddenly, a disarming smile appears on his face, making him look much different from the dark, quiet man he was just moments before. “It is quite a pleasure to meet you both. My name is Cedric. I’m Lukas’ slightly younger brother, though I’m sure you were able to work that one out already.”
Looking as if to reply, Aylyn softly replies, “My name is Aylyn. Aylyn Degrey.”
“A lovely name indeed, Miss Degrey.” Cedric says before tilting his head to face me.
“Ronan. My name is Ronan.” Though I try, I cannot bring myself to say my last name. Somehow, I want to keep it close to me, protected, as if saying it aloud will tear apart my resolve and make me recall everything I have lost. Right now, it’s the only part of my family left in my possession. Sensing my discomfort, Cedric accepts my hesitance with an understanding nod.
Lukas returns shortly and we all go up the set of creaky stairs to the second floor. Key in hand, Aylyn and I step into our room. Two small beds stand, set apart from a partitioned off tub and pitcher stand. A short distance from the tub lies a small fireplace with a large metal pot with a spigot hanging over the edge of the tub for hot water. Settling myself down at one of the beds, Aylyn speaks up. “If you’d like, you may help yourself to the bath first.”
Slightly surprised, I shake my head. “You can go first, I don’t mind.” Giving me a brisk look of scrutiny, Aylyn goes behind the partition. I sit silently at the edge of the bed, looking out the little window on the far wall. Not too far off, I see the outline of what looks like a castle. However, the shape of it is much less severe than Her’s. It seems unbelievable to me that just a few days ago, escape felt impossible. But here I am. On the other side of her castle’s walls with a ray of silver hope shining in through an Inn window.
Splashing and the muffled rustling of fabric alert me that Aylyn is finishing with the bath. She soon reappears, clean and in a light linen shift, probably one of the few things she was able to pack with her in her bag. “It’s ready for you. I cleared out as much of the water as I could so it doesn’t have dirt and filth in it.” She states, brushing through her hair with her fingers. “I’ll be going to bed very shortly, do try to not make too much noise.”
“Thank you, I’ll try my best.”
Slipping behind the partition, I step into the aged brass tub and twist the spigot, letting the hot, soothing water spill around my toes. I try to let as much of the grime on my body wash off before filling the tub. In a sense, the rain was a blessing, allowing most of the dirt to wash away. After the tub fills, I sink into the hot water, letting my muscles relax, the warmth easing my sore limbs. This warmth makes me feel safe, just in this moment.
My sister’s name flashes across the backs of my eyelids as if written in fire. I have to live for her, and I have to find her somehow. Before any uneasiness can squirm its way inside me, I slip under the water, feeling the heat rush over my head. I turn my focus elsewhere and rub my hair and body with a bar of rose soap balancing on the thick lip of the tub. Feeling replenished and relaxed, I finally climb out of the tub, quickly wrapping myself in the damp, roughly woven towel. I cringe as I remember that I don’t have a dry change of clothes, but as I begin to bend over to pick up the wet heap, I hear a light knock on the door. Aylyn lies nearly motionless in her bed, deep asleep with exhaustion. Nervously tip-toeing over to the door, I crack it open and peek out. There, Lukas stands looking freshly dressed and clean with a small bundle in his hands. At the sight of him, I feel my cheeks pinken, feeling more than a little embarrassed with the conditions of this situation.
I catch awareness spread into his eyes and he quickly turns his head to the side, looking away. “I hope you can forgive my bad timing, but I remembered that your clothes are probably very wet.” As he hands me the bundle, I think I see a faint blush across his cheeks, but with the poor lighting in the hallway, it is difficult to tell. Reaching out I take the clothes from his hands and say a polite and quiet thank you.
“I’m so sorry for causing you to go through so much trouble.”
Still looking away he responds, “Think nothing of it, it was no trouble at all. Good evening.” He walks away and I close the door as soundlessly as possible, to be sure not to wake Aylyn. Laying out the clothes he brought, I see a simple cotton shift and a light blue, wool dress. I let the towel drop after checking that the door is locked and that Aylyn isn’t awake, and dress into the shift, trying not to rejoice at the comfortable feel of the dry, warm fabric against my skin. After cleaning up the bathing area and hanging both of our sets of wet clothes out to dry by the hearth, I set the wool dress on the pitcher stand and approach the bed with a mental prayer of gratitude to the heavens.
I never knew that a simple waking moment could be anything but wretched. I never knew that the sunlight could be anything but blinding, but as I wake, the sun manifests itself as gauzy and dull rather than piercing. The fear that used to carry on into each and every morning has melted into sleepily sweet orange and pink hues.ns 220.127.116.11da2