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B00kw0rm0131 | 21 comments Ok so this is probably long overdue, but I figured a double point weekend is a sign that this must be done at last (especially since I'm a Wordy Writer and have hardly contributed at all. Sorry guys).

I've been into writing for the last few years and I've mostly kept it to myself but I'm working on sharing more and putting myself out there so hopefully this goes well.

I'll probably mostly be posting short stories or snippets from my work-in-progress novel (though both will likely feature the same characters as I'm always working on developing them more). Feedback and constructive criticism are welcome but please no hate.

Thank you and hope you enjoy!

message 2: by B00kw0rm0131 (new)

B00kw0rm0131 | 21 comments The Eternal Protector

The bumpy road stretched all the way to the horizon, where the relentless sun had risen that morning. Kestrel knew better than to travel it. Even if as she stood out on the hill she swore she could smell the salt of the sea, feel the cool air caressing her skin, and hear the roars of the rushing waves—

Kestrel shook her head. No. She mustn’t think of such fantasies. Torturing herself with foolish daydreams that could never become reality would only lead to a fate worse than death. She would not allow herself to travel down that path.

After taking a deep breath Kestrel turned away from the sea and the bumpy road and trudged back to her family’s little cabin near the edge of the woods. It was small—too small for their five-person family—with a garden in the front yard and a farm and livestock in the backyard. There was smoke coming out of the small stone chimney. Dinner must be nearly ready.

There were two little blonde haired, brown eyed boys laughing and running about the landscape, chasing each other with long wooden sticks and frightening the chickens.

“Alright cut it you two rascals,” Kestrel called to the twin boys. “You’ll frighten the poor chickens to death you will. Come on now, hurry up. Dinner’s bound to be ready soon.”

The two little boys merely spared her a glance before they continued playing, leaping over haystacks and logs as their wooden sticks crossed and clashed.

Kestrel sighed and headed into the cabin, wincing at the groaning of the old wood that built their new home. No matter how hard she tried, Kestrel could find no comprehensible idea why her parents moved their family from their steady, comfortable life in Tushar halfway across the continent to Dara. Tushar was a small city at the base of the mountains in Gwyneira, the northern kingdom. It was full of farmers and merchants and everyone knew each other. The city was close to the sea and the breeze always blew their way, so the air was always a mixture of the sweet snow of the mountains and the salt of the sea. This, of course, meant it was always cold, even in the summer, but having lived there her entire life, Kestrel had been used to it.

Then, one day, her parents packed up their things and announced they were moving to the port city of Dara. Kestrel had immediately protested, demanding why they would move their family from the safety of their lifelong home to the danger of Plutarch, even if Dara was a rich and thriving port city. For there had been rumors going around. People whispered about the king, about his deeds and laws and plans.

But her parents dismissed her concerns. And yet Kestrel felt no safer in Plutarch, not even in Dara. For they were only on the outer rims of the bustling city, practically exiled to the edge of the border. She couldn't help but feel resentful towards her parents for putting them in this situation for reasons yet to be told.

But the resentment eased as Kestrel walled through the door and was greeted by the smell of Mother’s roast stew. The boys must have smelled it too, for they suddenly rushed into the cabin, nearly toppling over her. Kestrel shook her head, a small smile on her face as she made her way into their kitchen (if you could even call it that) where her mother was stirring the stew, her red hair pulled back and her blue eyes squinted in concentration.

Kestrel gathered bowls and spoons from the drawers and cabinets and placed them at the table, a place for every member of their family. Placing each bowl down, Kestrel couldn’t help but feel remorseful. Her eyes trained over every mark and swirl in the wood, tracing every familiar dent and scratch, remembering. They’d used the forest for wood, used what was left of their supplies to improvise knives and axes. They’d carved each piece of furniture with their hands, using cloth from clothes and leashes from their carriage as they needed. And they’d slowly filled the house with furniture and utensils and any necessity they needed to survive. Kestrel was proud of all they had accomplished, proud that even though they had come to their new life only to be shunned and forced into a house with nothing in it but old, decaying wood, they hadn’t lost hope. She was proud but knew they shouldn’t have had to go through any of it in the first place.

Not the time, Kestrel, she scolded. Bitterness won’t accomplish anything.

She smoothed out her dress and reached into the cabinets for cups as her mother unhinged the pot of stew from the fireplace. When she finished setting out all the cups, Kestrel grabbed the rope and empty bucket from the corner and headed over to the well behind the house.

The moment she stepped outside the humid air hit Kestrel like a blow, weighing down on her like a heavy blanket. She was suddenly aware of the dampness of the cabin and its smell of mold and moss. Their old home smelled of fresh snow and rain and sweet morning dew and if Kestrel concentrated enough she could almost smell it—

She shook her head, snapping herself out of her reverie. There was work to be done. She squared her shoulders and rounded the corner of the house, going around the fence, holding her breath at the stench of pigs and chickens and cows. Two months and she still hadn't gotten used to the foreign smell. They had been farmers back in Tushar sure, but they'd had goats and sheep—animals that were quieter, less smelly, and easier to maintain. The twins used to use the livestock as armies in their little games, one taking the sheep and one taking the goats. Sometimes, when they were younger, they’d even don makeshift armor and hop on the animals like battle horses and yell war cries as they charged at each other. The neighbors had complained at first but gave up when their own children joined in, ignoring any and all protests from their parents.

Despite the scorching heat of the sun and the sweat drenching her body, Kestrel found herself smiling at the memory as she looped the rope around the hook of the well and lowered the bucket down. The action was nearly muscle memory by now and she had the bucket down the well and on its way back up in no time. Her father had taught her how to perform various tasks in the most efficient ways and Kestrel had dedicated her time to perfecting them. She wondered when he’d be back from work. He was due home any minute now for dinner less he risk Mother’s wrath.

Kestrel lowered the bucket into the well until she felt it fill up with water, then pulled on the rope to bring it back up. She turned her head and looked towards the horizon, towards the hill she stood upon not an hour before as if she could see her father’s silhouette trudging over it, making his way back to his family.

She saw nothing but heard the racking of the bucket as it hit the wooden roof above the well, where the rope was fastened. Kestrel sighed and turned away from the horizon to take down the bucket, then froze, a scream caught in her throat. The bucket was indeed filled with water, but not water alone. The sides dripped with red liquid that filled the bucket to the brim. Its fluid liquid state indicated there was water in the well, but there was also blood. Lots of it.

Her heart was pounding so fast she thought it would burst out of her chest and her breathing was so shallow and so quick that the world began to tilt and turn and black spots appeared at the edge of her vision. Her hands went slack and the rope slipped from her grip. The bucket crashed into the stone of the well and fell onto the grass, the blood-filled water splattering the budding flowers that marked the coming of spring.

Kestrel sucked in a gasping breath. She brought her trembling hands to her face, then wove them in her hair, then wrapped her arms around herself, then brought them back up to her hair. She was about to wrap them around herself again when something in the blood caught her eye. The sun was glinting off of it despite the blood and Kestrel picked it up, turning it over in her fingers.

Her heart stopped dead.

She recognized the color, the material crafted only in Tushar. She recognized each little scratch and dent from years of rough, back-breaking work.

It was her father’s ring. His wedding ring.

Kestrel let out a ragged breath and stumbled back, the ring clutched in her palm. She shook her head, slowly at first, then faster and faster as hot tears fell down her cheeks. “No,” she whispered. “No. No, no, NO!”

“Kestrel!” Her mother ran up to her. “Kestrel what’s—”

Kestrel turned and faced her mother, let her see the blood at her feet, in her hands. And then she opened her palm and showed her the ring. The color drained from her mother’s face.

“Kes… Kestrel where did you find this?”

“I—the bucket—the well—” she stuttered.

It was all her mother needed to hear to run up to the well and look inside. She choked and stumbled back, her hands clutching her face. She let out an agonizing cry, a cry that chilled Kestrel to her bones, and collapsed on her knees. She cried and cried and cried until two pairs of footsteps came running towards them.

“Mama! Mama!”

Kestrel ran over and took the two boys into her arms, shielding them from the sight of the ever-spreading blood and their weeping mother.

“It’s alright,” she said, stroking their hair. “Close your eyes now, you hear me? Close your eyes. It’ll be alright, you’ll see.”

But their mother let out another cry, one that sent the boys wiggling and fighting in her arms. She held them tighter, but couldn’t stop their curious eyes from seeing over her shoulders. So she held them as they wept and called out for their papa, ever their eternal protector. With her mother still weeping on the ground, folded in on herself, Kestrel kept her chin high, letting the tears on her cheeks dry. She had to be strong. She couldn’t show weakness. Her family needed her. And if her mother wouldn’t be strong enough to take care of them, Kestrel would be.

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