Hi guys! Me again, with Chapter Four of this story that is actually getting to be so amazing right now. I am in love with it and it’s characters already.
So, it should be JagsOnline who is doing the next chapter, and if you’re reading this, please contact us so we can sort out permissions and schedules and all that 🙂
Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
I decided that no matter what happened, I would try to make sure that this strange boy was well cared for. He would obviously be no use to me in the woods with his bumbling movements and endless barrage of questions, but I vowed I would not stop until someone in the village had taken him in.
We had reached the edge of the wood. Suddenly I realised that we would have to jump the stream, a feat I had accomplished daily for as long as I could remember, but to this stranger who couldn’t even walk across a flat dirt path without stumbling, this would be a serious challenge. I knew there was a more easily accessible path of stones across the stream, but that was a good quarter of a league further to the east, and I wanted to get home before sundown. Even now as I lifted my head to look through the leafy canopy, the light levels were fading towards the west and the typical azure blue of the sky being replaced by gloriously vibrant hues of orange, pink and purple.
“Come on,” I said, “we have to jump the stream.”
Sadly, none of those words seemed to strike a chord in Teak. He kicked a mound of dirt with his feet, eyes firmly fixed on the ground. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean.”
An apology. The most basic sign that there was some kind of emotion in this boy. That alone was motivation enough for me to flash him what I hoped was a genuine smile. “Look, I’ll do it first, and then you follow. Okay?”
He gave a meek nod, and I turned my back on him, praying that he would understand and imitate what I did.
I hopped across the stream with ease and whirled around to watch him. His brow furrowed for a second or two, but he copied my movements and joined me on the other side of the stream, albeit with less grace.
“That was good,” I smiled at him, and I almost thought that he would return the simple gesture of human kindness.
Instead he said, “Is this the path?”
I sighed and nodded. “Come on, we’re nearly there.”
I started down the dirt path, checking over my shoulder every now and then to make sure my somewhat dimwitted companion was ambling behind me.
I wasn’t really sure what to do with him. Making a decision myself seemed foolish, but at that point I didn’t have a choice. Merienda would take him in, I mused. And she’s a healer, so maybe she can figure out what’s wrong with him.
No, that probably wouldn’t be best. Especially because I didn’t actually know if there actually was anything wrong with him.
I’ll take him straight to grandfather, I decided. He’ll know what to do. The sooner I can be rid of this infuriating nuisance of a boy, the better.
Suddenly, I felt a small tug at my sleeve.
“Where are we going?” He asked, falling into step beside me.
“This is my home,” I replied simply, and continued walking through the farms on the outskirts of the village.
“Home?” For what seemed like the thousandth time that day, I turned around, except this time I saw Teak look up at me with a faint glimmer in his eyes that I didn’t recognise.
“What’s a home?”
A pang of shame and sadness for this poor child hit me in the chest. Until now his ignorance had been frustrating, irritating and at times hilariously amusing, but now it was just miserable. My cheeks burned and I stared down at the earth. I realised I was blinking back tears, and looked up at Teak, that same blank face registering no emotion.
“Come on Teak,” I said, voice cracking. “You can stay here as long as you need to. I promise.”
“Wait here.” I told him, pushing open the wooden door to our cabin. “I’ll be back.”
He nodded, but his eyes were focused on a pair of starlings darting over the treetops.
I hoped he would stay put, but then I couldn’t really think of anywhere else for him to go.
“Grandfather!” I called, walking through our tiny kitchen into the living room. I found him sat in his favourite rocking chair by the fire, reading. He was always reading, when he wasn’t carving something. Honestly I didn’t understand why he didn’t spend more time outside. “I’ve found something.”
He didn’t even glance up from his book. “Alice, if it’s another rabbit, I’ve told you you can’t keep it.”
“It’s not a rabbit,” I said excitedly. “It’s a boy.”
His hand froze on the page he was turning. He looked at me through his thick-rimmed glasses, the only piece of metal other than my knife I had ever seen. “What did you say?”
“I found a boy in the forest. I’ve brought him back with me.”
His eyes widened. “Where did you find him?”
“I found him…” Suddenly I realised that I had wandered a little too close to the forbidden south mountains. But it was too late to lie now.
“I found him in the forest just before the south mountains.”
“What does he look like?”
I was surprised that he didn’t say anything about me almost crossing the borders, but I wasn’t going to dispute that. “Well, he’s dressed all in black with a white shirt and black boots, and-”
He instantly rose from his chair, knocking the book onto the floor. “Where is he?” He took three long strides towards me and stared deep into my eyes. It was a hard, searching look that I had never seen in him before, and I was almost afraid.
“Alice, take me to him this instance.”
“Okay,” I said warily. “Do you want your cane?”
He suddenly stopped, was silent for a few seconds and nodded with the same warmth I had grown accustomed to seeing. “Thank you.”
I quickly ran to the coat stand and took his ornate wooden cane. Once he had it he hobbled faster than I had ever seen towards the back door.
The sun had long set over the western woods, and Teak was sat on the bottom step of the porch, gazing up at the crescent moon as if he had never seen it before. Come to think of it…
“Grandfather,” I murmured as he closed the door, the boy on the porch still completely transfixed by the moon and unaware of our presence. “This boy isn’t like anyone I’ve ever seen. I think there’s something wrong with him.”
He ignored me, and advanced down the porch towards the boy. I watched him visibly shudder as he studied Teak from head to toe.
“Alice my dear, I’m afraid you’re right. There is something wrong with him.”
And then my grandfather, the calmest, kindest and most rational man I had ever known, pulled a thin metal sword from inside his cane and pointed the blade at the back of Teak’s neck.
OOH IT IS GETTING EXCITING! Hope you enjoyed 🙂