This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Lothar was dead. His shirt was found in the hog pen in the back of the butcher's shop. So were other bits of him, most of his body having been consumed. But it was his golden ring that gave him away since he never took it off. A small group of neighbors gathered around the pen, their faces shocked and downcast.
It had been such a nice morning. The winter days finally seemed to be warming a little, allowing for a light, snappy breeze. The ride to the market had been altogether pleasant. Normally my mother Githa would go with me to the market to show me how to choose the best meat, vegetables and other necessary food items, but yesterday she told me she was confident enough in my knowledge that I could go without her. Running an inn is no small feat and my mother and my father Albert employed almost my entire family, extended relatives included. So I wrapped my black curly hair in a scarf, put on my favorite squishy leather boots, and set out just before sunup.
I was just passing by, the cart loaded with today's supplies, when I saw my neighbors gathered around the hog pen. I reigned the pony alongside the crowd when Karl noticed me.
"Hello Loma," Karl said.
"Hello." I hopped off the cart and walked toward the pen. "What's goin' on?"
"Didn' you hear? Nomi found Lothar's body in the hog pen this mornin'. Not much left of 'im now."
This was horrible. I'd never seen something so gruesome. I could only think of one person who maybe deserved this kind of death.
Concerned by hearing my cousin's name, and not wanting to be late for breakfast prep, I jumped back in the cart and hurried home.
To my surprise, mother was not in the kitchen when I arrived. Grandmother Aila was crushing dried mint leaves while my cousins Tora and Munira were lighting the oven and our two fireplaces.
I said hello to my cousins and greeted my grandmother with a kiss on the cheek.
"Do you know where my mom is?"
"She's upstairs with Nomi and yer dad. Aunt Elfa, Uncle Agmund and Papa are there too." replied Munira.
"Thanks." I went quitely up the back stairwell so as to not wake any guests and stopped on the first landing, listening for their voices. Hearing none I went on to the third floor where our family rooms were. Assuming my parents were in their room I knocked on the door.
Dad opened it wearing only trousers and looking worn and grim, the silver streaks standing out in his long tangled hair and beard. "Oh good, you're here." Said dad, stepping back to let me in.
My parents' bedroom was spacious and usually gave a sense of warmth that had nothing to do with the fireplace, but today the tension in the room was palpably uncomfortable.
Nomi was laying chest down on the big bed, hear blonde head turned to stare out the widow. Everyone else was sitting around the table in the far corner.
"Ah! Loma." Said Aunt Elfa, swinging her blonde plait over her shoulder and standing up. "Come sit down please." I took her place next to Papa Halir and she sat on the bed next to Nomi, rubbing her back.
"You heard about Lothar?" asked my father
I nodded. "I was coming back from the market and saw where he...you know. But I don't know what happened. Is Nomi alright?" From the table I could see her staring blankly out the window, her eyes red and puffy from already-shed tears.
"That son-of-a-whore tried to..." He didn't need to finish saying it. So Nomi hadn't simply found Lothar. Nomi had always received unwanted attention from men, but I was honestly surprised about Lothar. He had always seemed fairly polite although he had made it clear he was interested in Nomi for quite some time.
"That's not the most important thing to focus on right now." Said Uncle Agmund. "Nomi is in danger. She was seen with Lothar last night at the tavern."
Putting the pieces together I realized they were right. No one would ever believe that Lothar attacked Nomi and she was able to kill him by herself. Either that or they would start asking how she was able to kill him. No one outside of the family knew about Nomi's...peculiarity. Since the start of the Great War fifteen years ago, no one trusted people who could use...magic. If anyone even suspected it's use, the entire family may be driven out of the area, or worse.
"So what did you want me for?"
Everyone was silent for a few moments except for Aunt Elfa who started sniffling.
Papa Halir sighed. "We need you to take Nomi to Otterstown to meet with an old friend of mine, Eentu, who'll be there in a few days. If Eentu is satisfied to make her an apprentice you will go with them to his home, see that she is settled and then return."
"And where exactly does he live?"
"That doesn't matter," Papa growled, "and honestly I have no idea. He travelled a lot after the war."
Self-doubt settled in my gut. "Why me? I've never been farther than Otterstown. Why not Efren or Finn?" My older brother Efren "Ren" was fairly well traveled, at least in this region, since he would go with my father to trade. Cousin Finn was Nomi's older brother and he was constantly going on about wanting to travel, even outside the South.
Mother put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed as if to pour her sympathy into me. "Efren and Finn left yesterday to visit Papa Sigurd." My father's father, Papa Sigurd, owned three ships which he used for trade up and down the coast. Which meant that I was the only cousin with even a little experience travelling. Tora and Munira were teenage troublemakers and practically twins, even though they had different parents, so no one took them anywhere. Tora's brother Laith, and Munira's sister Lia, were 9 and 7 respectively. So that left me.
Lauren Suzmeyan-Raine: I'm so glad you found a place to post your stories. I was horrified when I saw yours had been taken down, they are definitely the best 'reading' stories I've ever read. And I've made it my business to read every one I can. Well done.Lauren
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