|Earth Daughter (Part 1)
Lorne tread carefully along the narrow wooden planks that led to Reyna’s home. His coat and hood were soaked completely through, the wetness seeping into his tunic and undershirt, and running along his hair to drip down his face. It was no more than anyone else was experiencing, though. He looked around the usually busy market, finding only a few braving the rain to travel from hut to hut offering wares. Many faces peered out from the dark enclosures, watching the endless dark clouds that came from the east day and night. True sunlight was a thing of the past, real warmth nothing more than a memory now. Everything was so wet that they feared a sickness spreading like wildfire.
Ten days. For ten days, the deluge had continued, the storm’s waxing and waning their only blessing. Their fields were ruined and those not yet underwater were molding. An increasing number of their cattle were breaking their legs, becoming trapped in too-deep mud. Their homes were beginning to crumble; the clay that had once filed the cracks was gone and the foundations were washing away. They simply were not a people accustomed to so much of a blessing.
Lorne slipped on the wet wood, his foot sinking into the mire almost to the top of his mid-calf boot. Grumbling a curse, he pulled himself free, continuing on more carefully. Finally he reached the shelter of the overhang on Reyna’s home. Her servants had taken the doors and windows from their hinges in an attempt to keep air flowing through, but trapped humidity hit him like a wall as he entered.
One of the waiting girls took his outer clothing and boots away to be hung by the kitchen fire. This front room was small and plain, with simple wooden floors, the usual baked bricks and thatched roofing with no adornments. A large fireplace graced the left wall, with a wool rug, two chairs and a small table. The doorway that led to the other rooms was rather dark, despite the smoking torches that graced every wall in the house. Soft, feminine sobs came from deeper within the Lady’s house.
Harmon stood before the fire, his hands outstretched. Judging by his shimmering dark hair he’d only arrived a few moments before. Lorne went to join him. The heat from the blaze was most welcome.
“Any change yet?”
“Of course not,” his friend shook his head. “At this point I fear our only hope is that her grieving will ease a little. None of the distractions we’ve brought to her have had any effect.”
Lorne knew this, but it was a failure that promised an end to their lives here. They had tried to tempt the lady to even the look of a smile with everything from newborn kittens to a potential young lover. Nothing deterred her from her grief. That, sadly, was to be expected. Even respected.
“Has my father said anything?” Lorne asked.
Harman shook his head again. “He is as hopeless as the rest of us. I have heard that he sits beside the Lady’s bed and watches her with never-moving eyes. I have heard that he has refused all food or drink until she recovers.”
“He is a dedicated caregiver,” Lorne mumbled the appropriate salute as he decided to peel off his tunic as well, unbuttoning his white undershirt. It, at least, was mostly dry.
Silence stretched between them, disturbed only by the serving girl returning with a couple jugs of good spirits for them, and to take his tunic away as well.
After many minutes, Harman asked, “What will we do, Lorne? It cannot go on like this.”
Lorne knew this as well. Their physical culture had already sustained much damage and the people were discouraged. Soon, they would either desert or begin to die. He had done everything within his power to comfort Reyna though, and as her only potential consort that was more than most.
When the Lady Millana had died ten days ago, a violent quaking of the earth had scared them all completely from their skins. The quake had done no serious damage, but on the heels of that had come the fierce storm clouds and frequent lightening strikes. Reyna had borne her birthright by herself for the first time in her young life, and coupled with the loss of her mother, it had simply overwhelmed her. And so the storms continued, then with fierce hurt and power, now with dead resignation and deep loss.
There was one option they had not tried, one for which Lorne prepared himself now. To change her mood, even in the slightest way, would mean they had a chance. Grief was not eternally linked to rain, bless the Mother. Though, he recognized that in Reyna’s current state, a change of any kind could bring about something worse. But it was a risk he must take.
Downing the rest of the spirits, he replaced the jug on the table.
“I know you,” Harman said. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking,” Lorne said as he made his way to doorway that would eventually take him to Reyna’s bed chamber. “That it’s time to remind the Lady of her responsibilities.”
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