A stroll in the woods.
“You know this isn’t your job, right?” Sean’s voice reached me from inside the shelve. I carefully unfolded myself in order not to throw a vase and beamed at him.
“I know, but I’m bored out of my mind. I’ve never had this much free time in my hands.” I dusted my skirt and took a few steps back to admire my artwork in the supply’s cabinet of the infirmary.
After waking up, I needed another three days for my back to heal fully. They showed me my back and it didn’t look that bad; three thin stripes adorned my left shoulder all the way to my scapula and four more ran through my right shoulder blade and five inches down my back. The relief of surviving was enough to see my new scars in a positive light and they didn’t bother me at all.
Lord Ditka forbade me from leaving his property until news that confirmed I wasn’t a threat arrived. I was hoping he’d let me get a room in town once I healed but this was more like domiciliary arrest.
However, I wasn’t comfortable leeching off his good will. Yadira, the other nurse, introduced the head butler, Mr. Brown, to me and after an animated conversation and some technical questions he agreed to let me help as a maid in the property. He didn’t let me do much, the lack of trust of his master in my persona only allowed me to do basic chores that I finished in the first half of the day, leaving me with tons of free time. I couldn’t wander by my own, much less leave the property beyond the gardens without two guards following me around; and that’s the main reason of my constant presence in the infirmary during the evenings over the past week.
Sean sighed, rubbing his temple for dramatic effect. “What am I going to do with you?”
“Thank me because you secretly love my organizational skills.” I waved him off, directing my attention to the sink filled with used instruments that needed to be sterilized.
“I’ll tell you what, help us with the cleaning and bedding and I’ll convince Yadira to let me go early.” I was about to protest, not seeing the benefit for me, but he lifted his hand to shush me. “You do that and I’ll give you a full tour around, how does that sound?”
“Outside too?” I asked a little too eagerly, jumping a little in my tiptoes.
“Yes, outside too.” Sean laughed, flashing me one of his bright smiles.
Without another word I turned around and started with the task at hand, excited to explore a little and maybe start digging around about my unanswered questions.
Sean kept his promise and led me beyond the gardens of the castle. The building was made of gray rock, giving it an ancient feeling. Green vines with colorful flowers adorned the outside walls and a heavy wooden double door big enough to let three men enter side by side without touching guarded the entrance.
At first, I was a little worried the knights that always followed me would stick around in our little escapade, limiting our stroll and conversation. Much to my relief, once they saw me exit the infirmary with Sean, they left us alone. I’m pretty sure he must’ve told them something, but I wasn’t about to complain or inquire; I was free for the first time in days.
We walked side by side in comfortable silence for a while, enjoying the fresh air of the woods. The fall season was coming to an end and the few trees that kept their leaves were completely orange or yellow, painting the landscape with beautiful colors.
“We don’t have these views back home” I confided in Sean. I didn’t talk much about the Seven Lands or my time in Lancaster Manor; and everything I said I was careful to leave out details of names and places. I trusted Sean but I understood his loyalty to his lord and didn’t want to put him in a hard spot if I gave away too much information about myself.
“You know, you can trust me more. I won’t say a thing.” I chuckled to myself, amused by his ability to know exactly what I was thinking.
“My mom died the day I was born.” I decided to trust him a little, even if his actions weren’t enough to convince me, my ability to see his emotions said everything I needed to know. “I don’t even know her name, she just appeared one day in Lancaster Manor and in a matter of hours she was no longer there…”
Taking me by surprise, Sean pulled me against his chest in a comforting hug, his big hand stroking my hair gently. “I’m so sorry, Enid.”
“It’s fine, I don’t remember her so I don’t miss her.” I pulled away enough to see his face and smiled reassuringly. I got that kind of reaction a lot when people found out I was an orphan, but I didn’t care that much anymore. I grew up with loving female figures and never lacked anything in my life. I’d been very lucky and was grateful for that. “I suspected my father was dead too, but a sorceress showed him to me next to my mother’s grave. If I could only find that place… I’m sure it must be around here, that’s why I came.”
Sean smiled back at me, a bit of sadness tainting his warm aura, and squeezed me back into the hug, resting his chin in the top of my head. We stayed like that a little longer. I was moved by his actions; we’d met not that long ago but his concern was genuine.
“Did they treat you well? The people you grew up with.” His deep voice held concern and I tightened my arms around him.
“Yes, I had a very good life back there. I’d have stayed if I weren’t so curios and damn stubborn.” I answered playfully using one of his favorite phrases to describe me. Sean laughed, lifting the little tension that was building up with his concern, and stepped away from me breaking the hug.
“Come, let’s walk some more.” He motioned for us to continue down the path.
As we walked, stories of our childhood were shared. The previous tension and awareness of the past week was gone and I realized I didn’t know much about him either. Sean was the younger of three siblings, his mother was a nurse at the duke’s castle as well and he had inherited her power, while his father had been a knight and now was one of the trainers in the academy.
I was surprised when I found that in Sion, they got their powers at the age of sixteen; figuring it was one of the reasons why this was such a powerful empire. In the Seven Lands our powers had little meaning, being more like a tool than anything else; they give more weight to the coming-of-age part, the party and the possibility to marry, anyway.
The sky started changing colors, matching the ones of the forest, and we turned to head back to the castle when something caught my attention. “What’s that?” I pointed a little far ahead, in the top of a hill, shiny and unnatural sparkles were visible. Sean turned and followed the direction I was pointing at with his gaze.
“That’s the private graveyard.” That knowledge stirred something within me, I wanted… No, I needed to go to that place. “If you set aside the macabre graveyard part, it’s actually beautiful up there.”
“We should go” I suggested, taking a step in that direction but Sean griped me gently from my wrist to stop me.
“It’s getting late, Enid. If a storm surprises us, we’ll be stuck there for hours.” He reasoned, I reluctantly abided and, with one last glance to the hill, turned to go back with him. “Maybe next time.”
“Right, next time.”
I hope you like this episode. I wanted to show you how the relationship between Sean and Enid is developing.
I’m truly sorry about the late update. Yesterday was an important day to me and didn’t have time to check my laptop until now. So I scheduled the chapter to be updated yesterday evening but I must have done something wrong because it obviously didn’t update.