A Sort of Fairytale: Chapter 4

Previously: Chapter 3

Rating: U (universal).

* * * * *

When they had first discovered the clearing in the woods, with its little babbling brook running through it and the dappled sunshine streaming in through the foliage, Katia, Guillaume and the others with them had all imagined that it would be their final resting place.

There had been five of them that day: all were outlaws, with increasingly large bounties on their heads; all were running from the tyrannical rule of Lord Barnabas; and all had a score to settle. Somehow, one-by-one, they had found each other.

It had been late summer when they had finally stumbled into the clearing that would become new home. Weary from many battles, each of them had been glad of the rest. They had built a small hut by the brook and, with their combined skills, managed to store enough food for the winter. Hunting and the occasional raid on a town outside the forest had seen them through, and set them up long enough to build more huts.

And so, over the last five years, their encampment had grown. Piece-by-piece, they had acquired more runaways, refugees and outlaws, and, piece-by-piece, they had built up the compound even more. A stockade had been added for safety. With so many people living inside, they had started a guard roster. There were few couples amongst the group and no families to speak of. People learned to share space and many of the residents occupied pallets in the large long house they had built the summer before. Big enough to house a cooking hearth and tables to seat all, it was lined with beds that saw use throughout the day and night.

In fact, Katia was one of the fortunate few to have her own house, a small hut built into the low slung branches of a strangely shaped tree. The tree had a main trunk that ran straight for only three feet or so, before it took an almost horizontal swerve backwards for a good three feet and then straightened again. At the juncture, two large branches jutted out on either side, themselves eventually arcing skywards. It was the strangest-looking tree any of them had seen, but it made a perfect support for a platform and hut, topped by a thatch roof. A set of wooden stairs led to a small deck in front of the hut. It wasn’t much, but it was Katia’s home.

The compound was also home to a variety of small traders’ huts, a blacksmith and a smoke house. There was incredible diversity in background and skills amongst the population, but they all had one thing in common: they’d all been forced out of their homes and villages, and were now trying to make a home for themselves in the woods.

It was to the main hut that Katia now strode, wincing a little at the stiffness in her legs. She was at home in the saddle but rarely rode all day, especially so hard. The hut was warm but light, the hatches in the roof opened to the beautiful afternoon outside. A small crowd was gathered around a pallet in the corner. It parted to let Katia through.

Marta was kneeling by the pallet, Katia crouched next to her.

“How bad is it?”

Marta grunted angrily. “He’ll live, but he’ll never walk properly again.”

Katia bit her lip and looked sideways.

Marta continued her assessment out loud. “Most of the rest is superficial. I’m guessing it’s the pain in his legs that has him passed out.”

Katia regarded the bruises that covered the unconscious form of her friend and snorted, “Superficial, my arse.”

Marta looked up at her, the blonde’s face screwing in an half-angry, half-exasperated look. “When you’re a healer, you can decide what’s superficial or not.” She looked up at the crowd that was around them. “Oh, for God’s sake, he’s going to be okay, so give me some damned room.”

Katia stood up and waved her hands at the gathered people. They slowly scattered, leaving just the young blonde healer and the weary outlaw.

“When you’re done here, I have someone else for you to look at,” Katia said. She had removed her helmet before walking into the hut and now swung her long chestnut hair free of the ribbon that constrained it.

Marta did not look up from the man she was tending, asking, “Someone else get hurt in the raid?”

“I think most of our injuries are pretty minor.” Katia sighed. “We lost Paddy and Dominic.” She noted that Marta’s hands stilled, but the young blonde didn’t turn around. “No, I brought someone back with us. I think they’ll need a fair amount of medical attention.”

That got Marta to turn around. “You brought someone back?”

“I’ll explain later.”

“You’ll explain now.”

Katia had been the unspoken leader of the whole camp since the beginning. She had the intelligence to make decisions that benefitted everyone and the strength to keep them together. Everyone regarded her with significant respect, even the steely and somewhat frightening Guillaume. In fact, it was only Marta who would even consider speaking to Katia in that tone of voice, let alone try telling her what to do.

Katia grinned, somewhat wearily. She was used to the headstrong blonde, who had fast become her best friend when she had arrived four years ago.

“I think Trevor needs a little more care than your curiosity, Mar.”

Marta turned back to her patient with a grumpy grunt and Katia took that as her cue to leave. She needed food, a bath and a damn good rest. She climbed the wooden steps to her hut and pushed aside the leather curtain that covered the door.

The girl she had rescued lay on a small bunk set into the wall. The man who had placed her there had carefully laid a cover over her and then left. Katia stared at the unconscious form. It was the first time she had really had the chance to look at the girl and it half-pleased and half-nauseated her.

She was a slip of a thing, no weight at all, but Katia estimated the girl be nearly the same height as herself. The girl’s hair was grimy and knotted, but Katia could see the colour peeking through, and guessed it would be a burnished gold, somewhere between red and blonde. Her face would never have been called classically beautiful, but it was nice and, Katia could not help feeling, vaguely cute.

What bothered her were the purple, red, black and green marks that literally covered the girl like war paint. She’d been beaten almost beyond imagination. And, although she was now covered, Katia could well remember the gashes that covered the girl’s legs.

She was tempted to pull back the covers and check if she had any more serious injuries, life-threatening ones. But the girl’s breathing was even and not shallow. While she was unconscious, there was a pink flush to her otherwise pale form and Katia was fairly sure she was okay. Best to leave it to Marta.

Grabbing her bathing supplies, she took one last look at the unconscious form.

She decided she’d call her Red, at least until she knew the girl’s real name.

* * * * *

Next up: Chapter 5 [U]

13 Comments

  1. dev0347
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 1.54pm | Permalink

    Either you’re up incredibly early or you’re using the scheduling feature!

    While I was away, I was watching QI and gained this little titbit: Robin Hood’s tights were not Lincoln green, but Lincoln graine, which is actually a shade of scarlet. It made me think of this and you!

    Anyways, Red’s a good nickname. And I’m glad the poor kid’s finally getting treatment.

  2. Fort
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 2.32pm | Permalink

    Just noticed this update. Got rather surprised at suddenly noticing it, but was excited to see it.

    I like that we are learning a bit more now. I can picture their settlement, I love that you confirmed Katia as the ‘leader’, and I liked the bit about Marta being the only one who would speak back to her like that, and that they were best friends.

    And then Katia assessing and analysing Eleanor. Looking forward to when Red wakes up.

    Thanks for this one, Clom.

  3. Fort
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 2.39pm | Permalink

    Also, I now think I understand the mystery that was dev telling you to look under scheduled haha. Guessing it’s a new feature of the site that allows you to tell it when to post.

    Excitement haha.

  4. ballgirl10
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 3.12pm | Permalink

    Love the description and depth you bring to your characters.

  5. dev0347
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 5.38pm | Permalink

    Please note: I don’t want anyone to read from my comment that this fic is set in Medieval Times. I am reliably informed by the Boss that it is fantasy and not Ye Merrie Olde Englande (or Ye Merrie Olde Anywhere Else, for that matter).

    Let us assume that it is set in the fictional land of either Devland (my favourite) Sezjeland (okay, but doesn’t have the same ring to it) which is – just like Tatooine – in a galaxy far, far away.

  6. Streak
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 6.01pm | Permalink

    Okay i didn’t read it yet but I’m commenting before you know I forget or something…

    And I’m sure it will be so good as usual :)

  7. breezy
    Posted 18 February 2009 at 6.10pm | Permalink

    I suppose Spashley is on it’s last legs, and even though that makes me sad, I’m glad your still writing something I’m interested in reading. I very much look forward to updates of this story.

  8. Freddikins
    Posted 19 February 2009 at 12.45am | Permalink

    ERROR!!

    Paragraph 18
    “No, I brought someone back with us. I think they’ll need a fair amount of medical attention.”

    The they’ll should be she’ll…they’ll makes our heroine seem like more than one person. =] sorry, that just jumped out at me.

    I was given so many mark downs for that on most of my essays. It is a pretty common mistake. =]

    Anyway, I was so excited when I saw you updated this. This past week I’ve been waiting for it. you’re only on the fourth part and I’m already addicted to it.

  9. blue
    Posted 19 February 2009 at 8.25am | Permalink

    Interesting interaction between Marta and Katia

    friends, relatives or more?

    ERROR!!

    Paragraph 18

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they

    Done obviously for a reason!!!

    [An editor adds: Thank you for addressing this. Saves me from getting all snippy and saying that I think my knowledge of both grammar and syntax is superior to that of most high school teachers – Dev]
    [An author adds: And superior to most Freds too – Clom]
    [An editor further adds: I had assumed that our readers would draw that inference – Dev]

  10. peanut
    Posted 20 February 2009 at 6.26am | Permalink

    [A reader adds: Everybody makes mistakes. Don’t worry, Dev. You’ll always be our grammar goddess.]

    How about posting 10 updates of this in a row? :D
    I really love it! And everytime I finished reading one chapter I wanna know what happens next :(

  11. Clom
    Posted 20 February 2009 at 11.12pm | Permalink

    Dev didn’t make a mistake. Freddikins did. Let us make that VERY clear.

  12. Noodles
    Posted 21 February 2009 at 9.22pm | Permalink

    I wanna start a petition for a lenghty chapter, like VERY lenghty. Not that these weren’t long enough, you just….I always want more. I want to hold out and read a couple at a time, but I have no will power. Like, at all.

    A strong woman like Katia owns my soul.

    It was nice to get the camp in my head. It was easy to suspect Katia was the unofficial leader, but to know her force can be done without the fear of a leader was especially enlightening.

    Now she has Red whatever will she do. Avenge her treatment? Kill her father? Hmmm, fall in love?

    Can’t wait for more.

  13. Packingforthecrash
    Posted 22 February 2009 at 4.03pm | Permalink

    She was at home in the saddle but rarely rode all day, especially so hard.

    O_O

    It’s the PG, it’s all the PG, I’m telling you!! *grumbles*

    So…

    I love weird trees!! And I couldn’t help but keep altering my mental image of the huts in the wood, it started as itsy bitsy but now my image is pretty big! *laughs*

    I like Marta (besides the name). I like the ones in the shadow more than the obvious heroine. She seems like a feisty one, me like!

    It’s funny how you manage to make me imagine facial expressions without describing too much or at all in the story, that’s good writing.

    But all you write is good writing.

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