Born To Be With You

Today, I am 26 years old.

A lot of people, experiences and places have shaped me into the woman I am today, but right now I just want to talk about one. There’s one person in particular has had a very special role in my life – a soulmate.

I used to think of soulmates in the romantic sense. My daydreaming heart couldn’t help but long for the day when I would meet the man who would complement me in every way, whose presence in my life would be as natural as breathing, who I couldn’t bear to live without.

I am no longer waiting or dreaming about my soulmate.

Now I have come to understand the term “soulmate” differently. No longer is it exclusively a romantic term, one that can only be given to my significant other. In the most basic terms, Wikipedia says that a soulmate “is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity.”

There is no one with whom I have a more natural affinity with than my dad.

Dad and Tiffany, 1992

Dad and Tiffany, 1992

We are truly kindred spirits. I suppose it started twenty-six years ago, when my tiny little body was placed in his arms for the first time. Dad has told me many times about that day – but only when we’re feeling mushy and sentimental, of course.

When I was a baby I sat in Dad’s lap or lay in my rocker at his feet while he watched basketball. (Giving Mom a much needed break.) When I was a little older we watched Batman and Gargoyles. And for most of my young adult life, we’ve watched nearly every superhero show out there, our favorites always being the Superman ones. (Next up we’re going to trying the 80’s series Moonlighting. We loved Castle, so hopefully this will be in the same vein). Dad turned me on to classic rock music – Elton John, Billy Joel, John Mellencamp, the Eagles, the Beatles, etc. by listening to the oldies station every morning on the way to school. (I still hold the record for being able to guess what song was going to play next on the radio…once.) And every Sunday we listen to Casey Kasem’s America’s Top Forty from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. I cherish all the time spent with him – every laugh, every hug or kiss on the cheek, the endless teasing, and pure contentment.

Dad can fix or build anything. Be it a car, a sink, the wall, putting those super tiny stickers on every accessory that came with my Barbie grocery store (like 100), the DVD player, a catapult for a science project….the list goes on. If he can’t do it, then he learns how. But by now I’m just convinced he can do anything.

And I do mean anything. Even help a young woman navigate through the ups and downs of love. I have long since discovered that I can talk to my dad about anything and he will listen. Just listen. And give his honest opinion when asked for it (and sometimes when it isn’t asked for). He’s there to help me pick up the pieces or smile with me over the good times, and help me figure out the confusing ones. Even if it is “girl talk”, Dad’s got my back. I’ve gotten some of the best advice I’ve ever received from my dad, and I know I will carry it with me all my life and someday pass it on to my own children.

It’s not always smooth sailing, though. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, and there has been some intense disagreements in our past. But I think working through those difficult times has only made our relationship stronger.

Dad and I would be terrible people to watch movies with, because we are constantly commenting on what’s going on, or making guesses about what’s going to happen next, or laughing at something at just happened, or making fun of each other for something we said. But that’s the fun of it. Half the time we don’t even need to say it aloud, because we’re both thinking the same thing.

Dad and Tiffany, 2015

Dad and Tiffany, 2015

I wouldn’t trade this camaraderie with my dad for anything. In fact it is one of the most treasured things in my life.

My dad is amazing. He’s smart, clever, funny, skilled, athletic, loves his family more than anything, and underneath it all, is a softie. (shhhh, don’t tell anyone).

And he’s my soulmate.

***

This post is inspired by a past WordPress Daily Prompt, which was:
Got a soul-mate and/or a best friend? What is it about that person that you love best? Describe them in great detail — leave no important quality out.

A Little Encouragement

Hello again, my lovely Readers! Did you miss me? I hope you are not too disappointed I haven’t been posting everyday like last week. It was good fun, but I’m afraid I can’t always keep up with it. Still, I have been thinking about Stella and Griffin’s story the last few days and I think I’m ready for the next installment.  (What did you think of the little backstory on Roy? There is much more to tell, you know, but all in good time…)

The encounter with the Taken definitely left its mark our trio. Let’s see how much, from Griffin’s point of view. Enjoy!

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Aesthetic.

Found via Pinterest.

Found via Pinterest.

A Little Encouragement

Nothing has been the same since we saw the Taken.

Bart and Stella ceased their nonstop chatter. In fact, they hardly spoke at all. Stella was quiet and shadows passed over her face as she rode. Occasionally some other emotion flitted across her face, but it was gone so quickly I might have imagined it. Her mind was far away.

I’ve had been avoiding Bart, who hasn’t stopped trying to catch me in quiet conversation ever since I agreed to help Stella save Roy, whoever he is. I assumed he must be her fiancé, though I have not seen any promise band around her finger nor chain around her neck. I knew Bart was anxious to talk about the Soul-Eater and what happened in Fellforough Woods, but I was not ready yet, and I was not going to change my mind.

As we packed up from our midday break for lunch, Bart cornered me. I cast I quick glance at Stella, but she was murmuring something to her horse and didn’t look our way. I almost wished she would. I frowned and turned my attention to Bart. I’d eat dirt before admitting I missed her sarcastic jabber.

Bart wasted no time once he saw that he had my attention. “Griffin, you have to reconsider.”

My eyebrows went up. I’d never insisted on it, but Bart rarely called me simply by my given name. He called me either “Master” or “Master Griffin.” If I hadn’t been convinced by the dire look on his face, his use of my name did the trick. I sighed deeply.

“If it really is a Soul-Eater, we have to take Stella back. It’s too dangerous. Remember what happened last time…”

I held up a hand and cut him off. “Quiet!” I said sharply, glancing back at Stella again, but she was still oblivious. “I know very well what happened. As if I could ever forget.” I closed my eyes for a moment, hearing terrible screams echo across my memory. When I opened my eyes and looked at my hands, it was as if I could still see the thick black blood staining them.

“Then you know your promise was a false one.” Bart’s words pulled me back into the present.

“No, I do not.” I shook my head as a protest started to form on Bart’s lips. “We didn’t know what we were dealing with last time. We…I made mistakes. There has to be another way.”

Bart’s shoulders drooped and he gave me a look that was full of too much understanding. “Master Griffin…”

“No.” I cut him off again. “I’ll not discuss it further. There has to be another way.”

“Another way to what?” Stella asked, strolling over to join us. Bart froze and looked at me.

I looked at her a bit stupidly and said the first thing that came to mind. “Another way to make you smile.”

Surprise bloomed over her features and she snorted, her brow contracting in a questioning sort of look. Bart was now staring at me as if I had grown a second head. I forced myself not to grimace. The words had sounded ridiculous and insincere. I shook them off. “That is, you’ve done nothing but mope all day. I can’t stand your inane chatter, but it’s a damn sight better than your miserable face and brooding silence.” it came out a bit more gruff than I intended, but to my satisfaction, annoyance flickered across her face before settling into the smirk so often directed at me. She dipped into a curtesy.

“By all means, I wouldn’t want to spoil your view while riding,” she said, her voice filled with sarcasm. Briefly I wondered if she spoke like that to anyone other me. How did she speak to Roy, I wondered? Then she smiled at Bart and hoisted herself up into her saddle, looking a little less miserable than before. The shadows haunting her face had receded for the moment. I watched Bart give her his wide grin in return and shook my head as I mounted my own horse. Things weren’t going exactly as I’d planned, but then, nothing so far had gone to plan this trip. I snorted. The afternoon was looking up.

 

Cross My Heart

Hello again, Readers! I did promise that I wouldn’t fail to give you an update in Stella and Griffin’s story, especially after Thursday’s exciting read (if you missed it, you can check it out here), so here you are. I know some of you are just dying to know about the mysterious Roy, who we now know has become one of the Taken, his soul captured by the Soul-Eater residing somewhere in the South. Today I’m going to give a little back story on our dear Roy, which will hopefully satisfy you. It’s been a little hard for me, I guess because I’ve liked having Roy as this golden enigma and to reveal him seemed like a task I wouldn’t be able to live up to. I’ll let you be the judge if I did.

The WordPress Daily Prompt word of the day is Capable. Since I am currently listening to a radio dramatization of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the quote that immediately came to mind upon hearing this word was this quote from Miss Lucy Steele:

“Though you do not know him so well as me, Miss Dashwood, you must have seen enough of him to be sensible he is very capable of making a woman sincerely attached to him.”

Let us see if the same holds true for Roy.

Found via Pinterest.

Found via Pinterest.

Cross My Heart

For as long as I can remember, there has been Roy.

Long before my little sister Dawn arrived into the world, bold and bright and made for friendship, my devotion had already been given to the boy down the lane. His mother was friends with mine, and she liked to gossip when she came to get her flour from my parents’ mill. She would bring along Roy, who was a year older than me, and we would play together.

I was shy, my mother told me. But Roy was a determined little boy and drew me to him like a flower turns to the sun. “Roy,” was one of my first words. We grew up together, playing in the mornings under the watchful eyes of our laughing mothers, until we were old enough to be trusted on our own for a short while. Our play moved from the kitchen floor to the backyard to the little woods not far from my home, to the village streets and the green in the center of town. We were inseparable and our adventures were many. Dawn trailed after us, laughing and trying to keep up, but I often wanted to keep Roy to myself. Still, my sweet sister never seemed to begrudge me for it. She was too bright and bubbly, and she made friends so easily, that she was only ever neglected by me.

When I was nine and he was ten years old, Roy announced his dreams of travel, of seeing the far off sea and the mountains in the north, exploring and visiting all of the king’s country. “They’ll sing songs about me!” cried Roy, climbing up the tree in the village green.

“And me!” I shouted, climbing after him. “You can’t go anywhere without me!”

“Never!” Roy declared, leaning out of the tree above me, holding on with only one hand. The other he had placed over his heart. “It would be no great adventure without you, Stella.” He grinned wickedly. “After all, who would be my page boy?”

I gasped angrily. “Roy!” and he laughed and climbed faster. I scurried up after him, ignoring Dawn’s cries for us to be careful from the ground below. Though I was the oldest, Dawn had more of the maternal instincts. At last I was close enough to almost reach his foot. “I am nobody’s page boy!” I shouted, reaching for him. He laughed and dangled his foot just out of my grasp. Then he was swinging on the branch above me and dropped down past me to a large branch on my right. My eyes were wide, in awe of his recklessness, which to my eyes was all fierce bravery.

I looked down at him. He was still laughing, his sea-green eyes crinkled up in the corners and sparkling. I loved when he laughed, but that was not what I was thinking at the moment. I gave him my most determined glare. “I’m braver than any page boy,” I told him. Then I jumped.

I remember that moment with stunning clarity – the laughter on his face slipping away into something like fear and his hand reaching out for me. I landed on the branch next to him, and for one gleeful moment I was sure I had shocked and impressed him. But then the branch cracked.

Everything after that piercing crack was a blur. Roy shouted my name and Dawn screamed, and I felt Roy grab at my dress but I was already falling down, crashing through the lower branches of the tree – we had nearly climbed to the top – and then there was empty air and the ground and pain all over. There was a thumping in my head that I thought was my heart but must have been the sound of running feet. My sister’s scream had alerted the other adults in the village square and through the dimming light I saw faces all around and heard voices I didn’t understand. The last thing I remember is hearing my name. Roy was still shouting it. I tried to answer but I couldn’t. My lips wouldn’t work. Then everything faded to black.

When I woke up again, I was in my own kitchen, in a cot near our fireplace. I hurt all over. Somewhere I could hear the murmur of voices. I tried to sit up, but couldn’t. “Roy?” I called. “Mama?” Instantly my mother appeared at my side, her face drawn and pinched near her mouth and eyes. I felt tears well up in my own eyes. “Am I in trouble, Mama?”

Her face softened and she brought a soft, cool hand to my forehead. “No, my bright little star. But you gave all of us quite a fright, falling like you did.” I tried to sit up again but she pushed me back down, gently. “Rest, Stella. You hurt yourself very badly. You need to lie still and rest while you heal.” I noticed then that my right arm was in a sling, and there was a large bandage on my foot. Bits of gaze were wrapped around the rest of my arms and legs, some of it stained pink. “You will have at least one scar, my wild child,” my mother said.

I didn’t say anything for a moment. I was trying to remember what had happened. “Where’s Roy?” I finally asked. “And Dawn?”

“Your sister is in the mill with your father. I told her to go do something useful. She was going to wake you with her nervous pacing.”

“And Roy?”

My mother frowned very slightly but then gave me a small smile. “I told him he could come see you again in the morning. He did not want to leave you either.”

The next morning did not come soon enough. I was still in a lot of pain and slept fitfully in my cot by the fire. Twice my mother got up to put a cool, damp cloth on my forehead and check my bandages. She seemed concerned about fever and infection, as did the local healer. I was given some bitter tea to drink.

I was still half asleep when Roy arrived, but at his appearance I forced myself to wake up. Roy didn’t look like his usual confident self. He held his hands behind his back and he shuffled forward, a contrite look on his face. “I’m sorry Stella,” he mumbled. “This is all my fault. These are for you.”

Before I could utter any word of protest at his declaration, he pulled out a handful of wild flowers from behind his back and held them out to me. “Thank you,” I said, reaching across my body with my left hand to take them from him.

“Your bone was sticking out,” he blurted.

I looked at him, eyes wide. No one had told me the details. Only that my arm had been broken, my ankle sprained and my ribs cracked. Dozens of little scratches covered my arms and legs.

Roy looked like he was bursting to tell me this, like he had been saving it all night. “Your bone was sticking clean out of your arm, and you didn’t even cry.” He stressed the last part so I would know how important it was. “You didn’t cry at all. You just said, See? I am brave. I am brave. I am. There was blood everywhere and Dawn was crying and you just looked like a fallen warrior. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.”

I was still looking at him in shock. Roy returned my gaze, looking serious and earnest. “You are the bravest person I know, Stella. I think I will have to be the page boy instead.” His mouth twitched then, and suddenly we were both laughing, even though laughing made my sides hurt terribly. I started coughing, and Roy fetched me a glass of water.

“How about neither of us be page boys,” I said. “We will both be grand adventurers and they will sing songs about both of us.”

Roy gave me his brightest smile, my favorite. “Perfect,” he said.”And I’ll never go anywhere without you,” he promised. “Cross my heart.” He echoed the gesture with his finger, signing an x over his heart.

I did the same, crossing with my left hand instead of my right. “Cross my heart.”

 

Off The Record

Happy Friday, my dear Readers! Can you believe that I’ve posted something every day this week? I can’t. And to think, it all started with one late Friday Fictioneers post. To those of you who have been enjoying Stella and Griffin’s adventure, thank you for sticking with me! Today’s Friday Fictioneers will not be part of their story, but never fear, I will continue it.

Today we have a photo from C. E. Ayr. As always, I give special thanks to Rochelle for providing us with our weekly prompt. Enjoy the story!

Copyright C.E. Ayr

Copyright C.E. Ayr

Off The Record

Joseph Decker had worked at the train yard all his life. Over the years he’d seen countless trains and cargo pass through the yard, from dirty coal to silk parasols. It was all the same to him, just another shipment that needed to be recorded.

All except the dark car, which never came on the same train twice. When it did come, Joseph knew to turn a blind eye. The men that came for it were strange. They gave Joseph the creeps. He had glimpsed their “merchandise” once, and never wanted to look again.

Some cargo was best left unrecorded.

More Than Shadow

Thursday already, Readers! And I’m back with another excerpt of Stella and Griffin’s adventure. Did you enjoy the change of perspective in yesterday’s story, “Three’s A Crowd“? Today we might just see those elusive and dangerous Devil Men. Are you ready?

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Someday.

Found via Pinterest.

Found via Pinterest.

More Than Shadow

The night after being attacked by the bandits, we saw them.

They were just shadows in the corner of our eyes at first. I felt them before I truly saw them. I was riding next to Griffin, with Bart following with our pack mule. Conversation had long since died, and we were eager to find a place to rest for the night. Though it was late summer, the air had the chill one expected to come with frost. The back of my neck prickled as though invisible fingers were brushing across it and I whipped my head towards the woods.

I sucked in a sharp breath and my hand shot out to grip Griffin’s arm. I tried to speak but couldn’t. Our horses halted but I didn’t hear anyone give the order. Shadows were becoming solid in the woods around us. They had a human shape but no features were distinct. Only their eyes stood out, a bright, filmy white.

Our horses pawed the ground and whinnied nervously. My heart was beating so loud and fast I almost missed Griffin’s quiet words. “Stay calm. Nobody move.”

There was no worry of that. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. Remaining calm, however, was a more difficult task.

We stood there, as if frozen, watching the shadows move slowly through the woods on either side of us. My only relief was that they were not moving towards us. Yet.

All of the sudden the silence which had become thick and heavy in the chill air was rent by a piercing shriek. Red flashed across my vision and pain bloomed in my head. I released my grip on Griffin’s arm and my reins and covered my ears, but that did nothing to quiet the keening now coming from the shadow people all around us.

The horses were going mad beneath us, and through my blurred vision – there were tears in my eyes – I saw Griffin grab my fallen reins to keep my horse from bolting. All the sorrow I had carried before suddenly crashed over me again, filling me inside and out. The keening seemed louder in my ears. I looked to the woods again, watching the shadow people hunch over in their misery. I wanted to join them. Dimly I heard someone calling my name and for a second I thought it was Roy, calling me across the void.

“Stella! Stella!”

Someone gripped my shoulders and realized I had slipped down from my horse and was making my way towards the woods. The hands spun me around but I turned my head over my shoulder, back towards the woods, towards the shadows. They were moving away now, disappearing into the trees. I belonged with them. I needed to follow. The wailing got louder.

“Stella!” the hands shook me then, forcing me to face him, and when I did, Griffin crushed me to his chest, his large arms surrounding me and his voice a rumble in his chest. “It’s going to be okay,” he repeated over and over. “Calm down.”

Suddenly I realized the loud wailing was coming from me and my cheeks were wet with tears. I tried to pull away but Griffin held me fast. My wails stopped, dissolving into sobs. When I finally stopped crying, Griffin released me and I pushed away, my cheeks heating with embarrassment over my display. I hiccuped. “I-I’m sorry,” I stuttered, not meeting his eyes. “I don’t know what came over me.”

“It’s okay Miss Stella,” Bart pipped up. He was standing not far away, holding onto all the horses and the mule. They seemed calmer now as well. “It was horrible for all of us when they came. Never heard anything so terrible in my life.”

“But I don’t know why I was so affected,” I said miserably. I looked up at Griffin. He was watching me with a grim expression. “I suppose I really am just an encumbrance to you. You could have been pursuing them if not for me. You could have even now been capturing one of the Devil Men.”

Griffin was silent, and I looked down at my feet. “Those were not Devil Men,” he said finally.

My head snapped up. “What? Then what were they?”

If possible, Griffin’s gaze became even more grim. Instead of answering my question, he asked a question of his own. “Do you recall me telling the bandits that I received my sword from the king after I defeated the beast of Fellforough Woods?”

“Yes,” I said, not seeing how this was connected to the shadow men we had just seen. I looked to Bart for some sort of explanation, but he was looking at Griffin, horrified recognition on his face.

“You don’t think…” he started, but trailed off.

“Yes Bart,” said Griffin. Bart blanched. My curiosity was burning now. I didn’t know much about the Fellforough Woods. They were located far away in the northern part of the kingdom. My village was located in the south, and we only received travelers from the north maybe once a year.

“Well, what is it? What do you think?” I asked. Some of the despair that had been clinging to me since the arrival of the shadow men fell away.

“I believe what we just saw – the shadow people – are the victims of the Devil Men, as you call them.”

My mouth fell open and I immediately looked to the place where they had disappeared. Roy.

“But how?” I asked, jerking my head back towards Griffin. “And what do you mean by as we call them? What happened in Fellforough Woods?”

Griffin sighed. “You speak of the Devil Men as a pack of demons. I do not think it is so. I think what plagues you is the same type of beast that dwelt in FellForough. A beast of shadow and darkness. A Soul-Eater.”

“A Soul-Eater…” Cold gripped me. “But then the victims…”

“They’re called the Taken,” Griffin said. “They wander as we saw them because their souls are gone. They are neither dead nor alive. They are lost, part shadow and part human. Eventually they will be nothing but a wail in the wind.”

My knees could no longer support me. I fell to the ground, the despair that had been receding rushing forth again. “Then there is no hope,” I said, my hands clenching into fists in my lap.

“Don’t say that, Miss Stella,” Bart said consolingly.

“There was never much hope for the Taken,” Griffin said. Bart shot him a dirty look. Griffin returned it with a stern glance. “False hope helps no one, least of all the Taken.” He turned his stern gaze towards me and it softened ever so slightly. “But not much is still a little. I could not save the Taken in Fellforough. But perhaps with your help I will find a way here.” He held out a hand for me. I took it slowly and he pulled me to my feet with surprising gentleness.

“You promise to do everything in your power to help me save Roy and the rest of the Taken?” My eyes locked on his, searching for sincerity. I found it.

“I will,” he said. “And I promise you, you will see Roy again.”

I released the breath I had been holding. A smile spread across my face and I threw my arms around him. “Thank you.”

Bart looked positively alarmed by this turn of events. He mouthed something to Griffin that I didn’t catch and whether or not Griffin answered him, I couldn’t tell. But I didn’t care. At last I had real hope. I would see Roy. We would save him. All would be as it should be.

I released Griffin and went to my horse, taking my reins back from Bart with a smile. He weakly returned it and stepped over to where Griffin stood. They whispered quietly, appearing to have some sort of argument. That was unusual, especially for Bart, but I couldn’t focus on it. My mind was too full of everything I had just seen and learned. There were dark roads ahead, but I would face them.

For Roy, I would face anything.

Three’s A Crowd

It’s Wednesday already, Readers, can you believe it? And keeping up with the theme of the week, I am continuing Stella’s adventure to find the Devil Men and her Roy. (If you haven’t read any of her story yet, start with Nothing But Sorrow) But today we’ll hear a different side of the story…a bit from the illustrious and heroic Griffin the Great.

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Cling, which is exactly what Griffin thinks of Stella…

Enjoy.

Found via Pinterest.

Found via Pinterest.

Three’s A Crowd

It had been four days, and the girl was still with us. Stella. I frowned at her name. To my disgust, she had been annoyingly useful. She always woke before dawn and had her bedroll packed and ready to go before either I or Bart had barely begun to stir. She usually started some sort of breakfast too. Bart adored her for this because he was completely hopeless at cooking. I thought her cooking was pretty good for the rations we had, but I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that.

She had insisted on taking a turn at keeping watch, but I refused. I wasn’t going to sleep while a woman watched over me. She stayed awake anyway, sitting in silence with me or Bart. It was annoying. And distracting.

Surprisingly, she hadn’t complained once. I ignored her most of the time, but Bart chattered away incessantly. The two of them were talking now, something about sisters or cows, I wasn’t really listening. The feeling of being watched was growing in the back of my mind. I scanned the woods around us, but nothing stood out. Finally, I growled, “Will you two be quiet for even a minute?”

The girl snorted; not at all attractively. “Shall we change our conversation to praise of your valiant deeds, noble Sir? Would that please you?” I gritted my teeth. She continued. “By all means, let us not only speak of your glorious exploits but sing of them too!” Her voice practically dripped with sarcasm, and Bart looked between us with wide-eyed fascination.

I turned roughly in my saddle. “Listen. If I ask you do to something, I expect you to do it without question. These woods are dangerous, and our journey is not a safe one. If you’re not going to listen…”

I was cut off and she was prevented from retorting by a sudden volley of arrows from the trees on our left. One grazed my arm and another hit my horse. He screamed and reared, nearly unseating me. “Whoa there, easy boy,” I said, trying to calm him. Thankfully, the arrow wound wasn’t deep. I pulled it out, then turned him about and saw that Stella hadn’t been so lucky. Her horse had also reared, sending her tumbling to the ground.

“Miss Stella!” Bart had jumped off his mount to help her. I scanned the trees and counted four hooded men – bandits. Two had bows and were preparing to shoot again. Bart was completely focused on Stella, so I spurred my horse forward and pulled my shield down from my back, ready to take any arrows headed their way.

“Get her out of here!” I commanded. The other bandits were moving in, pulling out swords. They were coming in on all sides. “Bart!”

But he had seen them coming and pulled out a sword of his own. Stella had a look of shock on her face and not a little bit of fear. She climbed back up on her horse and searched for something to defend herself. One of my spare swords was strapped to her horse’s saddled and she pulled it out. I could tell it was too heavy for her, and I hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.

“Now, now, we don’t want any trouble,” one of the bandits leered, dragging his eyes over Stella.

I narrowed my eyes. “Little late for that, don’t you think?”

The bandits laughed. “This doesn’t have to get any uglier,” the bandit who had spoken earlier said. He must have been the leader.

“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed. “I can kill you all without much fuss.”

The bandits started and one moved forward, his sword raised, until his comrade stopped him. The leader stared up at me, ugly sneer on his face. “Yeah? Who do you think you are, then? The bleedin’ king? Some kind of wizard?” He spat at me. “You’d be dead before ya managed to take out even one of us.”

My lip curled slightly at the flying spittle, but made no other reaction as the bandit and the rest of his men guffawed. The two with the bows edged closer. One was still leering at Stella. I needed to end this. I glared down at him. “My name is Griffin,” I said, my voice ringing out into the woods. “Sometimes known as Griffin Lionheart, or Griffin the Great.”

I watched with satisfaction as the sneer fell from the bandit’s face. He paled.

“The Hero of the Vale!” Bart called out behind me.

“Storm-Chaser,” added Stella.

The bandits were murmuring among themselves now, casting dubious looks at me and my companions and then at their leader. I nudged my horse forward a few steps and flicked out my sword, halting mere inches from the bandit leader’s face. “This sword was given to me by the king after I defeated the beast in the Fellforough Woods. Would you like to find out how I earned the name Shadow-Destroyer?”

It was enough. The rest of the blood drained from the bandit’s face. The others didn’t wait on him, they just turned and fled. When he turned to follow, I stopped him with the sword, holding it to his neck. “Not so fast. This part of the kingdom is under my personal protection,” I said. “If I hear reports of your continued thieving and looting, I will come back for you, and not one of you will be spared.”

“Yes, Sir,” the bandit muttered. I let him go, and he wasted no time in scrambling back to his friends.

It was difficult not to sigh in relief. I hadn’t been sure that would work, but I was hesitant to risk fighting with Stella involved. Not untrained, that is.

We gathered our fallen belongings and started down the road. I was enjoying the quiet until Stella broke it with a cheeky laugh.

“So we really could have been singing your praises and been just fine! Sent the bandits running before we even saw them!”

Bart, the traitor, joined in on her laughter. I just grunted in response. This was going to be a long quest.

A Rough Start

Hello again, Readers! (What’s this? I’m posting 3 days in a row? How can this be?!) Well, Stella’s story has taken root in my mind, and now I can’t stop writing. So here’s another installment based on today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word: Uneven.

If you haven’t read the first two stories about Stella, read them here and here.

Found via Pinterest.

Found via Pinterest.

A Rough Start

I awoke hours before dawn, a habit from working in the mill with my father. Quiet as a mouse, I dressed and grabbed the knapsack I had packed the night before. My eyes drifted to where my little sister still lay sleeping in her bed, and before I could change my mind, darted over and lightly kissed her forehead. “Goodbye,” I whispered. Then I was gone.

All was silent in town, the sun just barely beginning to peak over the horizon. I stood outside the village inn peering into the dim front room. No one was stirring. In the corner near the fireplace I could see a man, slumped over and still holding his mug. I crept around to the stables and was relieved to see Griffin’s horse still there. “So much for him setting out at the crack of dawn,” muttered. Griffin’s horse neighed in response.

The sun was nearly all the way up before Griffin himself strode into the stable, cursing. I jumped, having expected him to send a stable boy, not come himself to saddle his horse. He stopped dead at the sight of me. “You.”

“Me,” I said defiantly, refusing to be intimidated. “I told you. I’m coming with you.”

“And I told you. No, you’re not.” He brushed past me to get to his horse, nearly knocking me over in the process. My nose wrinkled as the stench of ale reached my nostrils.

“No wonder you’re so late,” I muttered. Griffin ignored me. He ignored me the entire time he saddled his horse, while I followed him from the stable and when he yelled for his page boy, Bart.

Bart was a gangling youth, thin with straw colored hair and a worry line between his brows. His eyes, however, were a bright blue and had a spark of intelligence in them, and kindness in the corners. I liked him immediately. He stumbled to a stop when he saw me waiting next to Griffin’s horse, and his worry line increased. “What are you doing here, Miss?” he asked, struggling with what appeared to be a few week’s rations and a barrel of ale.

I stepped forward and took a couple of the bags. “Stella,” I replied. “It’s Miss Stella. And as I told Mr. Lionheart last night, I’m coming with you.”

Bart’s eyes widened comically. “Oh no! No! You can’t Miss, it’s too dangerous!”

“I’ll take my chances.”

“But…”

“Bart!”

With a quick pleading look at me, Bart hurriedly set down the barrel of ale and ran to assist his master. I watched him go. “I am going,” I told the horse. I took a seat on the barrel. “One way or another, Griffin is going to take me with him.”