Friday 3 – Saturday 4 August 2012
Large drops of rain fell with increasing speed. If they didn’t make it to shelter within the next few minutes, Elle knew they would be soaked to the bone.
‘Barnaby, RUN,’ she called, barely audible against the thunder that now rolled in.
‘I’m going as fast as I can,’ he breathlessly replied.
‘Not fast enough,’ Elle said, and placed her left hand between Barnaby’s shoulder blades, and gave him a gentle push. He stumbled forward, and Elle half expected him to hit the ground, but he regained his footing at the last minute.
Taking two gigantic final steps, Barnaby was up and on the front stoop of his cabin. He stopped the instant he was undercover and out of the rain. Elle was a few small steps behind him. Both stood gasping for breath, and looking out towards the fields that appeared to go on forever, which were currently being battered by the inclement weather.
‘Your land is beautiful, Barnaby. And vast. Very, very vast,’ Elle said. Barnaby surveyed everything that lay before him and smiled. He knew how lucky he was to have been gifted the land by his father.
‘Yes, it is, isn’t it?’ He didn’t give Elle time to reply, ‘Come, we should get in and dry off.’
Even in the middle of the day, the cabin was as dimly lit as Elle’s cottage. The fire, crackling and warm, welcomed them into the cabin and to its hearth.
‘Sit by the fire, Elle,’ he ushered her towards the fireplace and waited until she sat in the worn rocking chair by the wood box. When she was settled, Barnaby walked a few steps into the small kitchen, and rummaged around for bowls and spoons.
‘You know, Barnaby, it is quite funny seeing you potter around the kitchen. You’re such a gigantic man and your kitchen is tiny compared to you,’ Elle laughed.
He smiled as he brought the bowls and spoons to her. He reached into the fireplace and removed a steaming pot from a hook above the flames. Elle was surprised; she had glanced into the fire but had failed to see the small cauldron-like vessel hanging there.
‘It’s nothing special,’ Barnaby said, ‘but all the vegetables come from my garden, the barley from my field, and the meat from my beasts. I can’t guarantee that my cooking has done any justice to the beautiful produce that I have, but it’s hot, and it’s filling, and we need sustenance if we’re to wage war.’
Barnaby took a bowl from Elle’s hands and, using a large spoon that looked as battered as everything else that he owned, filled it with the soup he’d prepared before she had arrived. He handed the now full bowl back to Elle and took the second bowl, repeating the action and filling it as well. After handing the second bowl back to Elle, Barnaby replaced the pot on the hook above the fire, and went back to the kitchen. He returned to Elle with two very large chunks of crusty bread.
‘You made this too?’ she pointed to the bread in his hands and he nodded, passing her the larger of the two pieces.
They sat in silence in front of the fire consuming the food, drying off, and both contemplating the morning.
‘We need a plan. Do you have any idea where to start with this?’ Barnaby asked. He scrapped the very last of the soup from his bowl, and mopped it dry with the last of his bread. Elle mirrored his action. She had been hungrier than she’d anticipated, and Barnaby’s food seemed like a feast to her hungry belly.
‘At the moment, the only thing I’ve got is Francois,’ she replied.
Barnaby’s eyes widened, and he gasped at the man’s name.
‘Don’t worry,’ Elle started, ‘Francois is on our side.’
‘How can you be sure, Elle? He’s always been at her side.’
‘It’s a long story, Barnaby,’ she replied. He stood up, took the empty bowl from her hands, and took both back to the kitchen, carefully placing them on the large wooden table. From the table, he whistled to Elle, and when he had her attention, he threw an orange at her. Elle was agile enough to reach up and catch it with one hand, without leaving the rocking chair. Barnaby smiled at her athletic display.
‘It may be a long story, but I have plenty of time, and with this rain setting in, so do you,’ Barnaby spoke as he walked to his seat peeling an orange of his own.
‘Okay, if you insist,’ Elle answered. ‘It all started after the War for Riverfall.’
. . . To be continued . . .