Friday 10 – Saturday 11 August 2012
The reflection staring back at her was almost unrecognisable. She was becoming someone entirely different. She looked entirely different. Gone were the hazel eyes that radiated happiness, replaced with what appeared to be almost completely black irises. Gone was the carefree smile that had once graced her lips, gone was any trace of the light and happy girl she once was. Now, reflected in the mirror before her, was an Elle that was hell bent on delivering justice for all of those who had suffered an injustice at the hands of Queen Josslyn.
She stood looking at her reflection for a moment longer, studying her eyes, and the lines that had found their places upon her face. Lost long ago was the young woman who was filled with awe and wonder about the world, and who had believed in the goodness of all people. She sighed, and ran her fingers through her hair, catching a knot or two.
‘Stupid hair,’ she said to herself.
‘You often insult your hair?’ Barnaby asked from across the room. She threw him look that made him chuckle.
‘Let’s go,’ Elle said. Barnaby rose and joined his companion at the door.
‘Are you sure this is a good idea?’ he asked.
‘No, but it’s got to be done. I need to raise an army, and right now, it’s the best place to start. They’re hurting, and angry, and hopefully, more than a few of them will want to fight back. Is it proper and respectful? Not at all, but I can’t afford that luxury.’
She opened the door and stepped out in to the sunlight. The rain had passed overnight, and ahead of them was a perfect spring day.
‘It’s a beautiful day for a journey,’ Barnaby said as he followed in Elle’s footsteps.
‘Yes, Barnaby, it is. It’s just a shame that circumstance prevents us from simply enjoying the day,’ she replied. Elle allowed Barnaby a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine and the perfect day before heading off.
They hadn’t been travelling long before they saw the smoke haze some distance in front of them. On horseback, they were another hour away from the site of the latest massacre, but the destruction was evident already.
‘It’s going to be a bad one this time, Barnaby,’ Elle commented.
‘Then you might just get your wish, and raise an army from this village alone.’
* * * * *
Elle dismounted at what she assumed used to be the village entrance but was now nothing more than a pile of charcoal and ash. Barnaby followed, and they led their horses in to the devastation that was formerly a thriving village. At first, no one noticed or paid them any attention, giving Elle a little time to assess the damage and work out how to sell her idea to the villagers.
It was a small child of five or six who first noticed the strangers and raised the alarm. Within seconds, the remaining men of the village, armed with anything they could find, approached and surrounded Elle and Barnaby. Patrick Miller stepped out of the crowd, wooden staff in hand.
‘If it’s food and shelter that you seek, you can see for yourself that we have nothing to share,’ he spoke with authority.
‘We do not want your food, or to impose on whatever shelter you might have left,’ Elle responded. Patrick was surprised, expecting Barnaby to be the one to speak.
‘Then what is it that you want?’ Patrick asked.
‘To give you an opportunity to seek vengeance on the Queen,’ Elle paused and looked beyond the crowd. ‘I’m assuming it was one of her death squads that did this,’ she pointed to the remnants of the village.
‘Words such as those will get you executed in this land,’ Patrick replied. He glanced around at his fellow villages to gauge a reaction from them. There was nothing on their faces except hopelessness, pain, anguish, and grief.
‘Any words will get you executed while Josslyn reigns,’ Elle smiled as she spoke. Her reply seemed to break the tension, eliciting a few chuckles from the villagers.
Patrick stepped within reach of Elle and offered his right hand to her.
‘I’m Patrick Miller.’
Accepting his hand and speaking as she shook it, Elle introduced herself and her companion.
‘Welcome, new friends. Any enemy of the Queen is most certainly now a friend of this village. Come, we’ve been able to salvage one building that we’re using as a place to sleep. We’ll go there and talk. Michael, Richard? Please, take care of our friends’ horses and then join us, as quickly as you can.’
Michael and Richard, looking as dishevelled as every other villager, stepped out from the crowd and took the reins of Elle and Barnaby’s horses, leading them off to be watered and fed. Patrick ushered the two visitors to a barn, and the rest of the village followed promptly.
The fire had scorched the outside of the barn, but it had remained largely untouched. Patrick opened one of the large, rickety, old doors and showed Elle and Barnaby inside.
‘It’s cold, and draughty, but it’s dry and it’ll keep the rain off until we can rebuild the village,’ he said.
‘And it’s better than nothing at all,’ added Barnaby.
‘Well said, my friend, well said. Now, sit yourselves down and explain to us this plan that you obviously have,’ Patrick said.
Elle smiled. This was a very good start. Another village that appeared eager to jump into action when they were called upon. Villages in every direction, surrounding the castle, were awaiting the signal that the war had begun. And inside the castle, Elle had a surprise weapon positioned close to Queen Josslyn. It wouldn’t be long now, before Elle could meter out the justice that Josslyn so deserved.
. . . To be continued . . .