And that’s all she wrote…so far
Finally, the last installment of the fantasy romance that I never finished, featured in the posts entitled “Unfinished.” At times, I am so creative with titles that I want to punch myself in the face. Ha!
For example: 1. finding an editor that suits my budget for my finished novel, Wyldling Snare, 2. navigating the tricky waters of the publishing world, and then (God-willing)3. publishing Wyldling Snare.
I welcome any recommendations from those of you who have already jumped over those hurdles.
The Ties that Bind…gone fishing
Her heart trip-hammering in her chest, the young woman struggled with her bedsheet and nearly fell out of her cot. “What? What is it?” she cried. Always before, the big man had left at dawn, quietly, without disturbing her. This was something outside of her routine. “Are we under attack?” she asked lamely, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. He had said it was daylight, and it was. Just barely.
Early the next morning, Adele was awakened by Warner knocking loudly upon her door. “Rise and shine, initiate. It’s daylight in the swamp!”
“No,” he spoke from the other side of her door. “I have decided that you will be accompanying me out on the lake today.”
Adele slipped out of her night gown and hurriedly tugged on a fresh set of undergarments. “But why, sir?” she called out.
“Never you mind the whys, initiate, just get your butt in gear. The morning’s a’wasting.”
She was reaching for one of the three house dresses she owned when she thought better of it, and dug out a pair of trousers and a baggy tunic instead. She felt a flurry of excitement. Perhaps Warner had taken her questions into consideration and decided that it was time for her to learn the answers after all. Quickly, she brushed her honey-colored hair and tied it back in a tail.
“Coming, sir. I just need to wash,” she said as she opened her door.
Warner had already left the cottage with the wicker hamper she had packed for him the night before. Sighing, Adele went to the tiny washroom to splash her face and clean her teeth. Her stomach growled at her, and she grumbled in sympathy as she crammed her floppy gardening hat on her head and snatched a pasty out of the cold-box. There would be no time for her usual morning luxury of a cup of tea, but there was plenty of potable water in a cask on the boat. Munching on her impromptu breakfast, Adele skipped down to the dock, where Warner had already loaded the boat with his usual gear and was untying the mooring lines.
Without sparing her more than a glance, he jerked his head toward the boat. “Get in,” he grunted. “There’s a spare rod and reel for you in there somewhere.”
The young woman complied, nearly trembling with excitement. She sat down upon the bench at the stern. Her burly companion finished with the ropes and got in, pushing away from the dock with an oar. With his powerful arms, he rowed with long and even strokes. Smiling to herself, Adele breathed in the clean, clear morning air. The sun was just spilling its buttery light into the pellucid sky, where delicate clouds shone like mother of pearl on their edges. The birds were in full chatter around the lake, joyously greeting the new day. Adele dipped a hand into the lake, humming a hymn to herself. She watched as water-striders flitted away.
“Best not do that,” Warner grunted. “The lake monster will pull you in.”
Adele had snatched her hand back into the boat before she realized that he was only teasing her. She tried to cover her slight embarrassment by digging out her fishing rod.
“So, where are we going?” she couldn’t help but ask.
“‘We’ aren’t going anywhere,” Warner replied. “I am rowing the boat to the opposite side of the lake. You will stay with the boat and catch some fish while I attend to business with our contacts in the forest.”
Crestfallen, Adele fussed with the reel. “But, sir…I thought I’d be going with you. Learning the ropes, so to speak. Meeting the…our contacts.”
“Get used to disappointment, initiate,” he grated out as he strained against a current. “You’re only here to keep you out of harm’s way.”
The young woman narrowed blue eyes at her superior. “Does this have something to do with that man I met yesterday? Because -“
“Better safe than sorry, Adele.” They were in the middle of the lake, and the big man paused for a breather. “I won’t know for certain if he’s the threat until I see him tonight. Meanwhile, you will stay in the boat, and hone your fishing skills.” He took out a handkerchief and mopped a sheen of sweat from his brow. “Do you follow me?” His brown eyes were hard.
Adele stared out across the lake and said nothing.
Warner’s voice grew harder. “Do you understand, initiate?”
Adele stiffened. Her lips trembled and tears glistened in her eyes. “Yes,” she whispered, ducking her head to hide her face. “Yessir.”
His brown eyes softened a little. “Buck up, girl.” He tossed her the handkerchief. “The day will come when you’ll wish to return to blissful ignorance.”
She dabbed at her eyes and sniffled. “Ew.” The young woman wrinkled her nose. “It’s all sweaty.” She threw the handkerchief back to him. She missed, and it fell into the water.
“Not anymore,” Warner stated dryly, fishing his property out of the lake. “Now its just soaked.”
The girl laughed softly. She was silent as he resumed rowing, taking in the scenery until they reached the other side of the lake. By then, the sun was almost above the treetops. The forest was thicker and darker on this side of the lake, and the shoreline was abrupt and almost undercut by the water. Tree roots dangled from the verge. Jutting out from the shoreline was a dock constructed of greyish brown wood, nearly identical to the one by their cottage. It was the only sign of human encroachment. Warner shipped the oars and moored the boat. Adele clambered up on to the pier, bringing the fishing pole and the bait pail. “Is this where you caught those perch?” she asked softly, cognizant of the silence of the forest beyond them.
“No, and I’m not telling you where,” the big man replied, bringing out the hamper and his own pole. “We all have our secrets. You have your secret recipes … and I have my secret fishing spots.”
Over her shoulder, Adele eyed the large trees and thick undergrowth with trepidation as she wound the fishing wire tighter on the reel. Warner sat beside her on the end of the dock and ate his breakfast with relish. Birds called from the woods behind them. The young woman threaded the wire through the loops on the rod and a small brightly colored floater. Then she tied a hook at the end of the line. She dug a worm out of the pail, wound and impaled it around the hook, and then made her cast out over the water. She reeled in the slack and then settled back to wait.
“Your form needs a little work,” Warner commented with food in his mouth. “Otherwise, not bad.” He finished off his meal and washed it down with a tin cup of water from the cask.
“I learned from the best, sir,” the young woman replied, staring out at the floater.
The man chuckled, rising to his feet and brushing crumbs from his overalls. “Flattery will gain you nothing, Adele,” he admonished. “You’re staying here.”
“Yes, sir.” She twitched at the line, watching the floater bob up and down in response.
“I’ll be back in an hour or two. Save some fish for me.” She felt the wood shudder and creak under his weight as he strode away. She turned away from the lake in time to see him push branches aside and enter the forest.
Feeling a bit spiteful, Adele stuck her tongue out at his disappearing back. “I’ll try not to catch them all, sir,” she muttered, returning her attention to the floater. “It’s not as though they’re in any hurry to bite, anyway.”
Long before Warner emerged from the forest once more, Adele was wishing that she had brought one of her books along. She had a moment of excitement when she fought to drag in what she believed was a real lunker, but it turned out to be a lot smaller than she anticipated. Other than that, the fish were just not biting, and she was doubly disappointed with her foray out on the boat. She wondered how Warner managed to catch so many fish while meeting with their contacts. His contacts, really. It wasn’t as if Adele was ever allowed to see them. At first, she speculated that he might be trysting with Zifa, but couldn’t imagine why Zifa wouldn’t want to visit with her, as well. Thinking of Zifa submerged her in melancholy, so Adele amused herself with plans for the chicken dinner she would prepare for that evening. Naturally, thoughts of supper lead to a reverie involving the guest she and Warner would be entertaining.
Catching herself wool-gathering, Adele muttered a prayer, clutching at the holy symbol underneath her tunic. She blushed, wondering why the stranger affected her so much. “Duty,” she whispered to herself. “Remember your duty.”
Before she had left the convent, she had leapt at the opportunity to please the Taskmaster by being exceptionally dutiful and obedient. Being assigned to this mission with Warner was confirmation of the Taskmaster’s confidence in her. If she performed up to his specifications, she would please the Taskmaster. And then, maybe…she blushed again, more deeply this time.
Of course, Warner chose that moment to return and startle her out of her reverie. “Time to go, initiate,” he announced as he emerged from the forest. “Can’t be late for supper tonight, after all.” He grinned at her. “The chicken might be offended.”
To be continued, someday…