Earlier this month I featured a guest appearance in The Lioness and the Spellspinners from a recurring character, and I thought I’d do another today. Marjoram, my Good Fairy, has a tendency to push her way into every story, including this one…but today I thought I’d share the first scene of another character, familiar from The Storyteller and Her Sisters. Although he’s ten years younger here!
Karina didn’t really mind going out to the vegetable garden with Forrest. Honestly, it sounded better than sitting inside and peeling turnips or unsnarling yarn.
She ought to be getting into town, finding out how to get away from this rock. But everyone had work they needed to do this morning, Richard had promised to give her a ride in the afternoon and that was soon enough. She’d get there earlier walking, but her ankle still felt tender and it would be easier to find out about a ship with someone local to help. She still wasn’t entirely clear on how she was going to pay for passage, but…she’d work that out. Or she’d find out about the ship with Richard, and then sneak aboard later when neither he nor the ship’s captain was looking. That would serve too.
In the meantime, it wasn’t so bad sitting in the sun, leaned up against a convenient rock. There hadn’t been many sunny meadows in her past. None at all, in fact.
The quiet was new too. It wasn’t silent, with the distant murmur of waves, bird cries and occasional scurrying of small animals in the underbrush. Repairing a fence involved some knocking together of wood and other sounds. But behind all that there was a deep quiet, a quiet of empty land with far fewer people on it than she was used to.
It wasn’t quiet like this at home. At home people were all jammed in on top of each other and someone was always making noise. Shouts and conversation and creaking carts and a hundred other sounds. Except maybe in the very deepest, darkest part of the night. And that was a wary quiet, not a peaceful one. That wasn’t a quiet you lingered in. That was a time to get your work done and get gone, quick, before anyone else found you out in the dark.
No, it wasn’t bad sitting out here. She had pulled the hood of her cloak down over her face, with an announced intention to take a nap. She did doze a little…and she also spent some time watching Forrest work on the fence, under the cover of her hood’s shadow. It was a good view.
Arm muscles like that, she had known Farmboy had to be good at something besides knitting.
Forrest was knocking the last fence post into place when a new arrival came into view around a fold of hill. Karina kept her hood pulled down and studied him covertly, an automatic habit and safeguard—though probably unnecessary here, since the stranger looked to be all of ten years old.
On the other hand, she had met some dangerous ten year olds. She had been one.
This one was a boy with a shock of thick dark hair, and nicer clothes than anyone else she’d met on this island. She didn’t know or care much about fashion, but she could recognize expensive when she saw it. The tunic was good material, and the embroidered pattern around the hem was either gold thread or a convincing imitation. As he came closer, she observed the smudges on the knees of his trousers, and mentally raised his social class even higher. Poor people with one grand outfit didn’t get smudges on it.
“Hello there,” Forrest called as the boy wandered up. “New to the area?”
“Does it show?” the boy asked with a cheeky grin.
Yes, Karina decided. It was in the clothes.
“Not really,” Forrest said, although if his family really dealt in knitting and cloth as much as seemed evident, he probably had noticed the clothing too. “I just know everyone from around here.”
“Good, then you must be able to tell me how to get back to the town,” the boy said, with an easy confidence that marked him as someone who usually led a comfortable life where most people were helpful and polite.
“About three miles that way,” Forrest said, pointing.
The boy wheeled and looked that direction, though the folds of hills hid this town Karina hadn’t seen yet. “Really? I thought this island was too small to get lost on, but apparently I was wrong.”
“It happens. I’m Forrest, by the way.”
The boy hesitated, kicked a bit at the dirt with one very well-made leather boot. “Dastan, and yes, the royal one. But I’m only seventh in line, and don’t start bowing or anything, all right?”
Forrest grinned. “If you say so. Welcome to Daygeor. Sleeping Beauty over there is—”
“—wide awake, thank you,” Karina said, straightening up and pushing her hood back. “Is there going to be a search party out looking for you?”
“I don’t think so,” Dastan said, scratching behind one ear. “Not until dark, anyway.”
“So you’re actually encouraged to just wander off alone?” Mad. Completely mad.
“I don’t know if I’m encouraged exactly,” Dastan said with a thoughtful tilt of his head. “But that’s kind of the point of coming out here. We’re supposed to meet people. And anyway, our governess is back at home and nobody else watches as closely.”
Maybe if you had twelve princes, you figured you could afford to lose a couple to, oh, kidnapping or assassination or the like. Or did they really consider this island to be that safe?
“She’s not as unfriendly as she seems,” Forrest said in a loud whisper to Dastan.
Karina glared at him. “I am exactly as unfriendly as I seem. Possibly more so.”
Forrest gave a ‘what can you do?’ shrug to Dastan which was intensely irritating, and said, “I was just finishing here. If you come up to the house, we can give you a ride back to town.”
“Thanks, but you don’t have to do that,” Dastan said with a shake of his head. “I got here; I can get back.”
“And we can give you something to eat,” Forrest added.
The prince’s face lit up. “Now that you mention it, breakfast was ages ago.”
“I’m sure Mother’s got something cooked up for the midday meal, and we can always put another plate out.”
Yes, that much was obvious. You couldn’t get past that woman’s door without having food pushed at you. Though just at the moment, Karina didn’t object so much. Breakfast did feel like it had been ages ago. She’d been eying the vegetable patch, but it was too early in the season. Every vegetable she liked didn’t look ready for picking yet.
They walked back to the house, Forrest and Dastan talking back and forth about the island and Karina minding her own thoughts. When they arrived, Mistress Lynette treated the appearance of a strange young prince much the same way she’d treated the appearance of a strange young woman. There was welcome and food, and a good deal less formality on all sides than Karina would have expected. Marileigh’s royalty was clearly not like the royalty at home.
Look for the rest of the story this fall!