Moonrose

Chapter 4: Rosamar

Hopefully that dagger's ready today. If I'm to be the protector of Tanssi Kuun like Aunt said, I'd best have some sort of weapon. It's been half a week since I visited the blacksmith's, and he did say he'd have it done in a few days.

I hurry up and finish my last basket of wool for today and bid my evening goodbyes to Lilia and Sima, both of whom give me a hug before I leave.

"Until tomorrow, Rose," Lilia says.

"Bright and early," I answer, as is our ritual.

We share a brief smile before I tug on my cloak and step out into the street. The walk to the blacksmith's proves as short as I remember, and I almost hum in contentment as the warmth from the smithing fire wraps around my chilled form. Though it's getting to be spring now, the nights are still rather cold.

"Ah, welcome back Rosamar. Your dagger, as promised."

The blacksmith, Darin, greets me with a friendly smile and eyes dancing with firelight as he holds out what I can only assume to be my dagger. I can't help but smile as I look it over. Thin blade, engraved with designs so intricate I can barely fathom how or why he made something so beautiful for me. The handle is all earthy colors and leather wrapping to make it comfortable to hold. In so many ways, it's what I've imagined Tanssi Kuun to be like.

"It's exquisite," I murmur, almost without realizing it.

"As is its owner."

"Hm?" I must have heard him wrong; I'm really quite plain, and everyone knows it too.

"Never mind. Here, hold it. It's yours, after all," he says, laying the intricately fashioned weapon in my hand. I can't seem to stop staring at it.

I start to dig out my purse with my free hand, but Darin stops me with a shake of his head.

"Don't worry about that."

Instantly, a spurt of anger runs through me. Does he think I can't afford this?

He must see my anger, because he lifts two hands in a placating gesture.

Still, I keep my piece and don't say anything. I merely nod and murmur a quick 'thank you' before turning to go.

"Wait!"

I purse my lips into a thin line, but I wait.

"Do you plan to attend the faire tomorrow?"

"I hate crowds," I answer simply. Why would he ask that, anyhow?

"As do I. However, perhaps I might see you there?"

"If you like."

I'm so certain he's only joking that it takes me a moment to process his reply.

"Yes, I would like that. I'm a hopeless dancer, you see, and perhaps you could teach me?"

"Maybe I'm rubbish at dancing too," I challenge, turning sideways to regard him carefully. What is he playing at?

"I doubt it."

"And what makes you so sure?"

Darin shrugs and pulls a red-hot piece of metal from the fire.

"Intuition," is all he says before he starts to hammer away at his new project.

My lips press into a thinner line, but I can't say I'm not tempted. It might be nice to dance with someone my height rather than the odd child here and there.

"Alright then."

His hammering stops instantly and he turns to face me slowly.

"What?"

"Well, you asked," I say with a shrug.

He stares at me for a few long, uncomfortable moments before a boyish grin breaks out on his face.

"Until tomorrow then, Rosamar," he replies, still smiling at me.

I tip my head slightly to the side in confusion, but I nod my affirmation.

"Until tomorrow," I echo, turning to go. I just catch the sight of his grin spreading into a giddy smile before I disappear out the door.

The very moment I'm outside, I almost hit myself in the forehead. Yes, that's a brilliant idea. Go to the faire, Rose, and teach a young man you met only days ago to dance. That's just the smartest idea I've had in a while. I can't wait to see what other grand ideas I act on tomorrow night.

Rolling my eyes at my inner dialogue, I tap the side of my head with two fingers to clear it and hustle down the street and towards the bridge. Time to try and find my entry tree…again.

At that thought, I have to fight back a sigh of frustration. It's been over a year since Aunt gave me this pendant, the one still hanging from my neck, and still I've yet to find my way into Tanssi Kuun. What if something's happened while I've wandered around uselessly looking for it? Am I just looking in the wrong place? But I searched every single tree near Beruna, and I had no luck, and I've searched only half of the trees within walking distance here. I wish Aunt could have given me some sort of clue as to what it might look like, other than that it has an engraving on its trunk matching the pendant.

More thoughts I try to force down come bubbling up as I start across the bridge.

'What if Tanssi Kuun is deliberately hiding itself from me?'

'What if I'm not fit to be its protector?'

'What if-'

"No, stop," I order myself in a stern whisper. I can't afford to indulge in my self-doubt, not while I have to concentrate all my energy on finding my entry tree.

In response to my urgent thought, I walk a bit faster and search a bit more determinedly than before when I finally get to the woods.

Hours pass, and soon the moon is high in the sky. I go deeper and deeper in, hoping that maybe it's just hidden deep in the forest and if I just go deep enough, maybe I'll stumble across it.

But I have no luck; I've learned this the hard way.

By the time the sky turns to grey, I've had enough.

"Where are you?!" I suddenly scream, vaguely aware of a trail of something warm and wet running down my cheek.

Silence greets my desperation.

"How can I protect you if I don't know where you are? Please, just stop hiding!" My voice sounds so foreign to my ears. It's been years since I raised it above its normal volume.

More silence.

"PLEASE!"

Somehow, I find myself on my knees, and then on my hands too, leaning over the forest floor, defeated.

"I know I'm nothing, I know I'm not very good at protecting. But I could learn, don't you see? I want to learn!" I pause to choke on a particularly violent cry.

"Aunt charged me with protecting you, don't you understand?! She thought I could do it! Just let me try, please!"

I'm greeted with nothing more than a gradual lightening of the sky.

"I know I may need you more than you need me, but please, just one chance!"

I don't know if I get an answer, because my face hits the leaves before I can look around.

I really hate crying. It makes me feel so weak. And yet here I am, bawling like an infant for milk. What am I?!

'A wonderful protector, to be sure,' mocks the sarcastic doubt in my head.

I take a deep and shaky breath. This isn't what a protector does. A protector isn't weak. How can I hope to be what Tanssi Kuun needs if I can't even control my own emotions?

With that, I swallow every last tear and push myself upright with infuriatingly shaky hands.

"S-stop it," I order. There's no bite to it.

"Stop!" There, much better. My shaking ceases, and I pull myself to my feet. I brush myself off and wipe the streaks of dirt and leaves from my face. No need for any of that. A protector is strong; a protector doesn't cry. A protector doesn't need to cry.

I straighten my neck and hold my head up as high as I can. No more of this; I can find Tanssi Kuun, I will find Tanssi Kuun, and I'm going to be patient and just keep searching until I do. And that's all there is to it.

Suddenly, I realize how close dawn is. I've got barely over an hour to be back at the workshop. I don't want to have to come up with an excuse for being late, especially since Sima sees through any and all excuses. So I'd best get myself in gear and get my sorry rear end back to the workshop. And maybe I'd better banish the tired lines from my face as best I can while I'm at it. Lilia worried for a week last time she found out I didn't sleep at all one night.

I rush myself back to the city, and I skid into the workshop just as Sima opens her mouth to call for me.

"Ah, just in time Rose, child! I was about to call for you."

"So it seemed," I answer mildly as I scurry over to my little carding stool and take my first of many handfuls of wool for today's work.

"Why, Rose, you look worn as a rag. What's the matter?"

I groan inwardly at my failure to wipe the last traces of exhaustion from my face.

"Just a long night, Lilia. That's all."

It doesn't take a genius to tell that neither Lilia nor Sima are convinced, but they're kind enough to not ask me anything further. I sit down and work tirelessly the rest of the day, wishing that I wasn't so used to carding as I am now. The ache in my shoulders would actually be very welcome now; it'd keep my mind singularly focused on the work at hand. As it is, it keeps straying back to my doubts and worries.

'Get a hold of yourself, Rose,' I scold myself. Honestly, do I want the whole city to know my troubles? If they can even be called that. Others go through so much more every day! At least I can say I have food on my table and a roof over my head. That's more than some. Who am I to complain about not being able to find a secret world? I'm lucky to even know of its existence!

Before I even know it, the sun's setting again, and I've carded today's wool all three necessary times.

"Well child, I know you're feeling under the weather, but you do work so well when you're stressed," Sima comments off-handedly as I clean my work station and hand over today's wool.

"Thank you." There was a time I wouldn't have been sure if that was a compliment or not, but now I know Sima well enough to know that yes, it is a compliment.

"Shall we get ready for the faire, Rose?"

I turn to look at Lilia curiously.

"How did you know I was going to go?"

She doesn't answer for a moment, just looks at me with a mischievous sparkle in her eye.

"I didn't. Until you just confessed, that is."

I almost groan.

"That never ceases to fool me," I grumble.

"And I sincerely hope it never will," she laughs as we wave goodbye to Sima and walk toward our homes, arm in arm.

"You just enjoy getting a rise out of me, that's all."

"Oh no, not at all! I don't think even the King of Narnia could get a rise out of you, Rose. You're very reserved. I just like messing with you."

"Well, thank you. I'll take it as a compliment."

"You're welcome," she says simply, steering me toward her hut with it's door that's splintering around the knob.

"Er, Lilia? I've got to get ready," I remind her, gently trying to extricate my arm from her grip.

"We can get ready together," she chirps back.

"You sound like a bird," I mutter. She really did, too.

"I'll take that as a compliment," she fires back, a smile playing around the corners of her mouth.

"Now you're just making fun of me."

"No, just messing with you. You know how mischievous I get."

"I'm afraid I do," I sigh. "Come on then, let's get ready."

And get ready we do. Her home is almost exactly the same as mine; same furniture, same wear and tear rounding the table corners and same creaky bedsprings and same soot-covered fireplace. It's not so different from getting dressed at my own home, but for Lilia's extra beauty supplies. I've never felt the need to dust the pink powder on my cheeks myself, but tonight, apparently, it's a necessity. I really didn't expect to be done up quite as much as she insists on. Lilia even pulls half my hair back into some intricate sort of braid I could never hope to figure out, not in a millennia.

"Why are we getting to dressed up?" I wonder aloud.

"It's the faire! THE faire! Everyone dresses up," she answers as she begins work on her own hair, now that mine's finished with a lavender wildflower tucked behind my ear.

"What is it, exactly?"

"Well, think of it like a celebration of all the work we all do, day in and day out. Everyone just takes an evening to dance and maybe even buy something other than necessities, if they're lucky."

"Dancing?" So that's why Darin talked about me teaching him to dance. Though I still have no idea why he's so sure I know how. I do, I love to dance, but how would he guess that?

"And music, too. Some of the prettiest music you'll ever hear. And this year is likely to be one of the best. We'll have Narnian music as well as Telmarine, you know!"

"One of the many good things of having King Caspian X on the throne," I comment.

"Indeed. Though I think most of the female gender are far more interested in the bonuses of being his queen than the good things his rule may bring," Lilia laughs knowingly.

I know exactly what she means; barely a day can go by without at least one girl mentioning how handsome/brave/dashing/desirable/courteous/etc. he is. Though after he stopped to apologize after almost running me over yesterday, I think I understand the 'courteous' ravings.

Why did he stare at me? He almost looked as if he recognized me, but that's so impossible I could laugh at my own foolishness. That was a long time ago, and we never even spoke.

"Hello? Rose?"

I start back to the present when Lilia snaps her fingers inches from my eyes.

"Sorry, just lost in thought."

"About King Caspian?" she teases.

"He apologized for almost running me over, that's all. I just found it odd."

"I beg your pardon?"

"What?"

"You never told me you met the king!"

"I didn't, not really. In any case, it really wasn't anything special."

"Well, still, humor me?" Lilia looks so eager I can't refuse her, even if I'm silently thinking she doesn't need quite so much black lining her eyes.

"I was walking down the street, and he came tearing down toward me. I leaped to the side just in time, but he still halted his horse and apologized for almost running me over."

"A very thoughtful thing to do," she muses.

"Odd, wasn't it?" I murmur, as much to myself as to Lilia.

"It was only the polite thing."

I nod, satisfied. I'm still getting used to the different etiquette here in the city, even though I've been here many months now. People are nicer here than they were in Beruna. They still have their faults, but as a whole they are a bit kinder.

"He must be stressed."

"Wouldn't you be if you had to unite a country?"

"We all would, I think," I laugh.

She nods, and I wait in patience until she finishes. I'm as ready as I'll be, and I see no need to add some of that dark stuff to my eyes. It's bad enough Lilia got a pink lip stain on me.

Once she's done, I move to walk outside, but she stops me with a hand on my arm.

"Rose, are you certain you're alright? You seem very tired more and more. Sometimes I've gone to check on you at night, and some nights you're not there."

"I'm alright, Lilia, really," I insist as I slip my arm free.

"Where do you go at night? And why is there a dagger in your room now? I'm worried about you, as a friend. Can you tell me what's going on?"

"I'm alright!" I insist firmly. "I got that dagger because I remembered my parents warned me to keep some sort of weapon around, just in case."

I hate lying, but I'll do anything to protect Tanssi Kuun.

Lilia fixes me with a piercing stare for a moment, but I stay steady and meet her gaze. To my satisfaction, she nods after a few moments.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to assume. I was just worried about you."

"I know. It's alright, you're forgiven," I answer mildly as we link arms again and head out.

"Well that's certainly a relief. But honestly, would you think it prying if I asked where you go some nights?"

"I love to dance, but I'm rather self-conscious. I like dancing at night, because people can't see then." It's half-true, after all. The half-truth rolls off my tongue a lot easier than the lie about my dagger did.

"Ah, I understand."

I almost sigh in relief, but I manage to hold it in. I've got a good amount of practice holding things in, thank goodness.

A brief silence follows before Lilia brings up something entirely uncomfortable for me as we finally leave her hut and start off down the street toward the city square.

"So. The faire." Could the mischief in her voice be more obvious?

"What about it?" I ask carefully. I make a point to look down at the uneven cobblestones under my feet as if I'm afraid of tripping.

"What made you decide to go?"

Oh no.

"Well…I…um…er…"

"Stunning vocabulary Rose, really."

I roll my eyes and pray I can distract her. But I've not the slightest idea how.

"Thank you too much. I practice all day, you know."

"I'm sure you do. Is it a boy?"

"Well if you want the truth, he's a bit older than 'boy'," I grumble, eyes still on the ground even as I silently curse the warmth prickling at my cheeks..

"I knew it!"

"Congratulations." Heavens forgive my insincere humor.

"Who?"

"Careful Lilia I'd like to keep this arm. I might need it later," I say as I wriggle my arm in her now deathly tight grip. She was the one to insist on this dress, after all. I think she'd like to keep her own dress from being wrinkled. It even matches the flower she put in my hair.

"Who?!"

I sigh and accept that the sooner I tell her, the sooner she'll leave it lie.

"The blacksmith, Darin."

"Well, it's about time!"

"I beg your pardon?"

"He's a quiet, reserved one too. It's about time you both got out. And what better way to get out than with someone as equally guarded?" she reasons.

"Thank you for the encouragement, I suppose." Really, I don't see why it's a big deal. He's a young man, and I'm a young woman, and that's all there is. Nothing else complicated, I'm sure of it. Even if there was, I'd have neither the time nor the patience for it.

"You're welcome."

I make a point of not responding when she pokes me in the ribs with a positively devious sparkle in her brown eyes.

Before much longer, we reach the city square, where the faire is already in full swing.

Sure enough, Darin is here. But the bigger surprise is this:

So is the king.


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