Life biteth me in the butt… or is that spanketh? Either way, you get another chapter of Sian, because that’s what I have written. 🙂 I have Wolf looking at me, the clock. Me, the clock… and tapping his foot. Maybe, just maybe I’ll have a chance to write on the Meeting or one of the other stories.
Sian woke to the smell of cooking. No, something was burning. She sat up and looked around. Lew and another man were moving a pot off of the fire and the smell was coming from the pot.
“Ifin you don’t scrape bottom, it won’t taste of the burn” said Lew.
“Awww, but Lew! It’s the smell of it. Burnt porridge will taste of it. An you’ll scarce get the smell out the pot afore dinner. You’ll need to scrub it you will,” said the other man.
Lew ladled the porridge out of the pot and into a large bowl. He tasted it and the look on his face was enough to tell Sian that it was scorched.
She stood up and laid the rug and cloak on the alcove bench. Her dress was a mess. Mud clung to the hem and there were little snags and rips from her travels. She straightened herself up as best she could. It would have to do. On a hook next to the alcove was her own cloak. It was still damp. Running her fingers through her hair, she tried to tame the dark curls back into a braid. There was no use in it, so she tied the ribbon around it and started towards the table.
“Good morning Sian.”
“Morning Lew?” She looked at him in hopes that she had the name right.
“Yes, Lew’s right, an this here be Sam.” He gestured towards the man with the cook pot in his hands.
“If you soak that pot, it’ll come clean easier.”
“Aye, it will lass,” said Sam. He walked off with it and disappeared out a door.
“Here, you’d best eat while there’s a chance Sian.”
“What do you mean, while there’s a chance?”
“Well, once the men get here, there won’t be much left, burnt or not. We came a fair pace yesterday. Rode all night, and they’ll all be famished.” He handed her a bowl of scorched porridge.
Sian took it and the wooden spoon, moving off towards the fire to eat. It tasted as burnt as it smelled. How could you ruin porridge? She choked it down though, as she too was hungry.
The rest of the men came in with Sam. Lew served out porridge for all of them. Sian was standing by the fire. She remembered Artur, his twin and Mael. Everyone else was unknown. She finished her bowl. Sian sat there, feeling nervous about walking up to the table. There were loud complaints about the state of the porridge, and Lew grumbled about the help he got. From the way they bantered about, this was normal. No wonder they’d made comments about her staying to cook. Her thoughts were interrupted by a voice to her left.
“Morning Sian. Have you made a decision on what you’ll do?”
She turned and looked up at Mael. He was taller than her father, yet probably no older than Cadell. She looked up at him, and then stood as to not make such a crick in her neck.
“I,.. I thought I’d go home. My family will be wondering what happened what with Cadell running off with me.”
“Cadell? Is he the one who left you on the road?”
“Yes. He wanted to marry me, but he didn’t ask me. Just figured I’d go along with him. He got mad when my father said he wasn’t good enough for me. We’d planned a picnic, and Cadell brought a horse for me. When father told him no, Cadell rode away with me before anyone knew what was going on.”
“How did you end up in the road, all rain soaked?”
“We stopped to rest the horses and I demanded he tell me what was going on. I’d never ridden so fast in my life. He explained what had happened. When I said I wanted to go home as I didn’t love him, he hit me and rode off.” She touched the sore spot on her face where Cadell’s hand had landed. “Then, just as I was about to grab the horse to ride home, he rode back and took it. Cadell left me in the road to fend for myself. I tried to walk home, but I got lost with all the rain and the dark. I slept under a tree for a bit and when I started to walk again, there you were, almost running me down.”
Mael looked at her thinking about all she had said. He knew the lads were listening too. Some had a look on their face that told him they thought her no more than another mouth to feed. Others, like Lew were concerned and would probably knife Cadell in a minute if they ever came across him. It didn’t do to leave a woman of any age alone on the road. He took a good look at her and realized that she was nice looking. Dark curls escaped the ribbon and her blue eyes were set in a pale face. He could also see she’d been brought up a proper lady with servants and the like. Not exactly the type that would take to living rough with a bunch of outlaws like himself. He came to a decision.
“Lass, if he’s willing, Lew will take you home as best he can. You’ll leave as soon as he gets a horse ready.” He gave Lew a look and a nod of his head. “You’ve no place with a bunch of men like us. Sorry to worry you like we did with tales of not going back.”
Sian was so relieved, that she dropped her bowl and hugged Mael. Realizing a moment later what she had done, her arms dropped like a stone and she turned bright red.
“Pardon me, it’s just that I’m so happy to be going home.” Picking up her bowl, she went to get her cloak and head out the door of the hall.
“What are you thinking? She’ll be telling tales and the next thing we know, the law will be after us here, when we thought we’d have a safe place for a while!” Artur was aggravated and pacing up and down the table length as he spoke. His twin and some of the other men nodded.
Mael crossed his arms on his chest, leaned back against the fire place and started to talk. “She’s of no use to us. Manor bred that one. Look at her! Fine manners, soft hands, pretty speech. She’s for some noble to bed and take care of with servants and stable lads. She wouldn’t last one day here. Nearly got herself killed in the woods just overnight.” He moved to the table and sat down. “No, it’s better we try to put her on her way home. Worse off, we don’t want her Da to come looking for her do we?”
Some of the men agreed, but it was plain that there were mixed feelings. Lew came in and motioned to Mael.
“We’re ready. I’ll try to find her home and drop her off near enough that I can get away unseen. I should be back by nightfall.”
Mael walked him out the door and over to where Sian sat on Lew’s horse. “Alright Lew. You be careful. Goodbye Sian. Hope all goes well for you and you find your Hall.”
“Thank you Mael.”
Lew mounted up behind Sian and they started off down the road. Mael went back to the farmhouse as there was work to be done today. Things to be sold at market and perhaps a chicken or two to nick for supper.
They rode for a long while. In the early afternoon, Sian began to recognize landmarks and realized how far she had gone wrong in the dark. At the crest of a hill, Lew set her down and they took a long look across the landscape. Off to the right was the lake, and in the far distance, her home.
“There it is Lew!” She pointed to the stone edifice just barely visible.
Lew looked and then knew where he had to go. They’d stolen cattle from that hall months ago. Lew figured he’d drop her off and ride away before anyone recognized him.
“Come on then lass, it’s a fair piece to your house.” They got back on the horse.
In the late afternoon, Lew and Sian stopped just a few fields from the Hall. Sian dropped off the horse, and turned to Lew.
“Thank you Lew. I can find my way from here.”
“Don’t forget our bargain. Not a word about us and I’ll keep the lads from stealing around these parts for awhile.”
Sian nodded and with a wave of her hand headed towards the Hall. Lew turned the horse and rode off quickly. It wouldn’t do to be seen returning Sian. Not if any of them wished to avoid trouble.
Sian entered the Hall to be greeted by her mother and her sisters.
“Where have you been!” her mother asked. Sian’s sisters all chimed in as well, pulling at her cloak, asking questions until she couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
Sian told her story up to the point of getting left in the woods by Cadell when her father came into the Hall. The look on his face silenced everyone. Sian wondered what had happened, and then suddenly realized that those looks were for her.
“You’d better have a pretty good excuse for your disappearance yesterday young lady.” His tone was cold and angry.
“Yes. Yes I do.” Sian began again to tell her story.
Her father sat down and listened while she explained what had happened. Sian was careful to leave out any mention of Lew, Mael or her night in the brigands hall. “…and then I walked to the ridge and could see the Hall and came home as fast as I could.”
He looked at her, and then her feet. “You expect me to believe you walked all that way and your shoes look no worse for wear except for a bit of mud?” he growled.
Sian didn’t understand what he was on about until she looked down at her shoes. Light dainty leather shoes. Muddy, but they certainly didn’t look like she’d walked as far as she said she had. Sian realized she was in trouble with no way to fix it. She had to keep her word to Lew and the others.
Her father rose up out of his chair, grabbed her arm and shoved her up towards her room. “I won’t put up with liars. Especially women who lie,” he growled in her ear as they went up the stairs.
“But father, I’ve not lied!”
Her father shoved her into her room. Sian was terrified as he had his riding whip in his hand. He’d never laid a hand on her in anger and she couldn’t understand why he was so angry with her now. He slammed the door, and came towards her.