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Well this is it… My very first collumn.

I intend for it to be a collection of vague and hopefully interesting stories and bits and pieces out of the head of… well… me.

I’d welcome any comments or suggestions, you can email me at priestess@netspace.net.au

Without any further ado… and no further fuss, I give you:

The Wayfairer – Part I

Edwina Verter always watched her serving girls closely. The patrons that frequented her husband’s tavern were rough men, vagrants and drifters and workers from the mines a few miles distant. These men spent their lives away from civilization, and when they returned to it, even in such a small way as visiting ‘The Wayfairer’, they often forgot their manners. In particular of late though, she had been watching one girl closely above all. Her name was Sara, and the eye of every man in the tavern followed her as she moved among the tables. Despite this, Sara never received the same treatment from the patrons as the other girls. Where they had their buttocks slapped, or were pulled amorously into the lap of a dirty miner, Sara received only polite smiles and nods from the patrons. It was like she walked apart from the raucous life of the tavern. Edwina had come to think of Sara as somewhat like a daughter, she realised as she watched the dark haired beauty cross the floor with a serene smile upon her lips. Although they were perhaps only ten years apart in age, Sara seemed not to understand, or even see, the ugliness of life.

She had made the choice to take Sara in, against the wishes of Meles, her husband, almost a full year ago. The summer sun had beat down mercilessly on the day Sara had staggered into the lonely inn, at the crossroad between the mining districts and the main road to the capital. Her smooth, pale skin was badly blistered with sunburn, and was lashed, like she had been whipped.She stood unashamedly in the doorway of the inn naked as the day she was born, bar a thin leather belt that held a curved knife.

Sara claimed not to remember anything of what happened to her before her appearance at the inn. They had tried to trace her family, but it had been impossible, she had been unable to even remember her own name. While Edwina had nursed the young woman back to health, she had given her the name Sara. In herself, Edwina was not certain that Sara was telling the whole truth in terms of her loss of memory but she was a pleasant girl, and her presence alone in the common room seemed to quieten the patrons.

Edwina shifted her gaze to Meles, her husband, who was flamboyantly presenting two of their best bottles of wine to a table of four men. Something about the way that they sat made the hairs on the back of Edwina’s neck stand on end. Their clothing was garish, in bright silks and satins and made them stand out from the usual kind of men that frequented the tavern. Meles spoke quietly with the four men, then looked around furtively before he pulled up a chair from the table behind him. He poured a tall glass of wine for each of them before he seated himself beside a man with a shaven head, and a curved simitar at his belt. Meles leaned in close to this man and began to speak, his eyes all the time upon the table. The bald man turned in his chair to face the common room. Edwina followed his gaze to where it settled on Sara as she weaved amongst the patrons. The man laughed shortly, as he turned back to Meles and gave a curt nod. Edwina’s hand flew to her mouth, she felt a scream rising in her throat. She knew what these men were, they were slavers!

Edwina took Sara’s arm firmly as she passed and led her toward the kitchen.

“Edwina?” Sara asked her almond shaped eyes wide with surprise, “What is it?”

“You must leave,” Edwina hissed as she pushed Sara through the doors to the kitchen.

“But why?” Sara stammered as she watched Edwina cross the kitchen and then begin rifling through her cashbox for coins, “Have I done something to upset you?”

“No,” Edwina shook her head with a strained smile.

“Then why must I go?” tears filled Sara’s deep emerald eyes.

“You mustn’t waste time with questions,” Edwina hastily wrapped a fresh loaf of bread into a soft checked cloth, “take this, and get your things, now!”

“I-I don’t understand,” stood rooted to the spot. Edwina felt her heart flutter, she would have to tell her.

“There are some strange men in the common…” Sara nodded,

“Yes, I saw them.”

“They are slavers, Sara, and they are to take you when they leave,” Edwina clutched at Sara’s hand, “Please, I can’t bear to watch them take you.”

Sara’s breath caught in her throat. All she could think about was the possibility of being caged. Every part of her wanted to flee at the very thought of it.

“Thank you,” Sara whispered, and broke away from Edwina at a run toward the loft above the stables that had been her home for the last year. With her spare hand she held up her skirts as she ran up the steep steps, and clutched the parcel of coins and bread close to her.

Sara had very few possessions. She had not had much need for anything during her life with Edwina and Meles at the inn, they had provided her a place to sleep, and food to eat. She packed the bread into the cloth bad that she normally used for collecting vegetables from the garden. Then lifted the straw mattress that she slept upon and retrieved a small red velvet bag which held all of her savings, and added the coins that Edwina had given her to those already in the pouch before dropping it into the cloth bag with the bread. Next she reached for her most precious possession. The battered thin leather belt and the mother of pearl handled belt-knife, her only link to her previous life. She dropped it into the bag, then moved to retrieve the newly cleaned dress that hung from the rafter beside her sleeping pallet.

“Are you trying to run?” a cruel voice breathed in her ear. He took her long, black hair in one hand and pulled it, forcing her to her knees, “you are mine now,” he said roughly as he turned toward the exit, he still had a firm grip of her hair, and Sara had to scramble after him to stop her hair being pulled from its roots.

“Do not try to run again,” the man warned as he began down the stairs, “or the punishment will be much worse.”

Sara could only mumble a panicked reply, her heart thumped in her chest. The cold night air felt like heavy steel bars before her.

“Sara!” She heard Edwina cry her name as she tumbled down the last steps and fell at the feet of her captor.

“It seems you would do well to teach your wife to obey your wishes,” the bald headed man told Meles grimly. Meles glared at Edwina coldly, but Edwina held his gaze evenly. Sara’s heart pounded in her chest. Had he sold her? Had it been Meles that had sold her?

“You will release her,” A voice growled from the shadows.

“You should mind your own business,” The slaver snarled.

“I’m making it my business,” Branwen heard the scraping of metal as her captor drew his shining scimitar, a matching scrape in the shadows under the inn was followed by the flash of a sword blade in the moonlight.

“Come out of the shadows, coward,” the slaver demanded, and slowly, a tall, lithe looking man stepped into the courtyard. He held the gaze of the slaver firmly. Advancing slowly he brandished his intricately engraved sword before him.

Sara felt her hair fall from the hand of her captor, and she scrambled away from him, to where Edwina watched on with frightened eyes.

“Alright, Ranger,” The slaver spat the title like it was an insult, “I will leave, but we will meet again.”

“I welcome the day,” The ranger growled, and watched the slaver flee, his sword still brandished. It was not until the slaver was well out of sight that he sheathed his sword and turned to where Edwina and Sara stood.

“It will not be safe here for you any longer,” he spoke gently to Sara. She nodded weakly.

“Thank you,” Edwina rushed forward to embrace the man, “Thank you Lyan.”

“I go as far as Tarna, She may accompany me that far,” he said like it was an imposition. Sara stared at him, she did not know what to do.

“I would welcome knowing that she was safe,” Edwina answered gratefully. Lyan turned his eyes to Sara.

“Well?” he asked impatiently, “We must go immediately, get your belongings.”

Not knowing what else to do, Sara rushed back up the stairs to retrieve the bag that she had packed only minutes earlier. She stomped up the stairs angrily,

How dare he? She asked herself as she scooped her bag up, act like I’m a burden to him, I’d rather go alone! She also knew, that Edwina would feel easier if she accompanied this Lyan as far as Tarna. She knew that for that reason, if no other, she would go with him.

[/body] [p] Well, that’s it for this week, see you for the next installment, and please, if you have any suggestions, email me, I’d love to hear from you.

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