Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Gideon grimaced as I lifted the hem of his shirt to take a closer look at the blade inflicted wound. The edges around the bloody entrance were jagged and browning, telling me all I didn't want to know. My father's blade had been rusted. A good cause for infection.
I winced at his pain, trying to be as gentle as my farm hands would let me. I worked in silence, washing the wound with the warm water his mother had brought me. The poor old woman almost had a heart attack when we rode in, her son soaked in blood. His own, no less. I felt for Celine but was glad to have her assist me.
"How bad is it, Elly?" He asked, disturbing my thoughts.
"The wound itself wouldn't be hard to treat and recover from. My main concern is the rust that more than likely flaked off his blade," I paused, my face twisting in thought, "I can't stitch it now. I need to wash it regularily and hope for the best. You do, however, have to stay in your bed for at least a few days."
He grunted in answer. I knew that he wasn't worried but his carefree attitude would kill him one of these days. If my father would have hit his heart, his dying words would be something like "Oh I'm fine, quit fussing." I rolled my eyes at the mere thought.
I smiled at him before taking the bowl of bloodied water down the few steps to the forge below. Dumping it outside, I kept myself mostly inside, my eyes scanning the surrounding area intently. I doubted my father would take the effort to bring me home but I didn't know what the man would do and I was scared. Petrified really. If he caught hold of me, I would surely see my brother again faster than I anticipated.
"Elaya," I turned to face Celine as she approached me from behind, "I am very sorry for John. I know how this must affect you."
She took both of my hands in hers and squeezed them. Sadness washed over me again at the reminder of my brother. I looked away, trying to hide the tears in my eyes.
Celine spared a hand to turn my head towards her, "Don't hide from me, Elaya, there is no need. I am here for you. Always have been and always will be." She pulled me into a hug, her head barely making it to my shoulder. I stayed in her arms, not willing her to let me go.
I sniffled, my voice breaking against my will, "I won't even be able to say good-bye."
A hard sob escaped my lips as she hushed me. I would say that my heart was broken but in truth, I felt empty. A heavy blanket of despair held me down, suffocating any life I had. The hard, cold truth was I was alone. No man or woman could fill the gaping hole that had suddenly left its mark in my soul. Not my heart but my very soul.
"Maybe not in person but he's listening to you. You will have peace of mind, don't you worry my young one." She whispered soothingly as she rubbed my back. No matter what I thought or felt, her words eased my mind. I knew what she spoke was true but to have them spoken helped it seem more real.
I nodded my head and sniffled before pulling back, "Thank you, Celine. I don't know what would have become of me if not for you all these years."
"I do," she said with a smirk, "A complete wreck, you would have been." I smiled and wiped away at my cheeks. The woman was, of course, right as usual. She had a way with words. Even on the darkest day, she could make you think of the sunshine past or to come.
"Anyways," she said, rolling her eys towards the upstairs, "I better go see how Gideon is."
"Of course." I said, a knowing smile on my face.
I watched as Celine walked past the silent forge and up the stairs beyond. Once the woman was out of sight though, my mind began to spin in every direction. Where was my life going to go? Gideon and his family would house me if I asked but part of me knew that living here would never rest easy in my mind. I would be haunted by the prospect that at any time, my father could find me and rightfully drag me back to the farm. Akela was rightfully his and he could take him. He would take him.
No. I knew in my heart that I had to leave and sooner rather than later. It was the only way I could escape my father without my brother. Without my brother, I was nothing but a target here. No matter what was said to the townsfolk not far from here, they feared my father more than they valued me. I couldn't blame them for that. My father could destroy them without plausible cause and probably get a medal from the King for it.
A man who used his power earned is what he was.
I sighed, mentally and physically exhausted. The shortness of breath I had all day wasn't helping my case either. Although not in a full attack anymore, I still couldn't find enough air to rid myself of the headache that formed behind my brow.
I picked up the emptied bowl and turned to head back upstairs to their house. It was probably a good idea to stay with Gideon. Knowing the stubborn man, he would be foolish enough to attempt such tasks as chopping wood. Again, I rolled my eyes at the prospect. He may have been a blessing but sometimes he seemed like a child that had to be watched at every hour of every day. Now was such a time.
Entering back into his room, I grunted in frustration, "Gideon get yourself back into this bed now!" I called out to the rest of the house. I was gone not even twenty minutes and he was already being difficult.
I heard a snicker from around the corner and I swung around dramatically to face him, "Gideon, now."
"You think you're the boss of me, Elly? That's a laugh." He snickered again, his face showing clearly how he was enjoying what little power I actually had over him.
I smirked and turned to call to the other room, "Celine, your son is already trying to run away from his bed. Could you kindly assist me in getting him back where he should be?"
I looked at Gideon who's smile had dissolved into the death glare. I smiled sweetly.
"You're a cheater." He stated, his voice full of fake steel.
"A woman never cheats. She just uses her brain. Something you, as a male, have no capability of doing." I smiled sweetly again. He knew I was fooling around which I was thankful for. If he took everything I said to heart, he would probably march me to my father's himself.
"What's this?" Celine exclaimed as she bustled back into the room, "Gideon get your behind back into that room and stay there."
He chuckled, "Or what?" He was testing her.
She raised an eyebrow as if to dare him to continue that line of thinking.
He raised his hands in surrender and chuckled, "Okay, okay, I'm going."
Gideon stood up and winced. He grabbed his side and held it for a minute before grinning and walking. Despite his grin, I took his arm and took some of him weight for him. He chuckled awkwardly at my nearness but I put it aside. He would have to live with me helping him for the next few days.
I helped him into his cot as gently as I could. I could feel his body stiffen as he moved, pain no doubt stifling his agility.
"Thank you, Elly." He said tiredly. He laid back on the rough bag stuffed with hay which served as a pillow and closed his eyes. I smiled but stayed silent as he quickly fell into sleep. He, no doubt, was tired and bruised from his tumble with my father.
I exited his room, silently pulling the canvas back over the doorway to give him privacy. He may have known me my whole life but he was still a grown man, aware all too well of a woman's presence. I never thought much about it but John would bug me every so often. Not that I had to worry about hearing that anymore.
I sighed deeply, shaking my head of the despair I felt constantly growing in my mind. A door had been slammed shut in my and another opened. One much less desirable than the last. One of hope and love shut; one of despair and vengeance opened.
"Celine!" My stomach flipped in surprise as I heard Hugh, her husband, bellow from the forge below, "She's not welcome here! Get her out!"
I faintly heard Celine try to soothe him and reason it out but by his tone, I knew where this would end. I was not welcome. Though I couldn't understand why. Hugh had ever before had any issues concerning myself. If anything, he'd always welcomed me.
The pounding of his boots on the stairs sent me to the other side of the room. I wanted as much distance between myself and the old man as possible. The pounding...the voice...it was all too familiar for me to want to be in close proximity to him.
He's not my father, he's not my father, I silently repeated over and over to myself. Hugh's face came into few and it curdled my stomach as angry disbelief stole over his features.
"I will not house a murderer, Elaya. Get out." His voice was like ice settling over my heart.
"I don't know what you speak of, Hugh," I exclaimed, exasperated by the very idea, "I am Elaya, the one and only. I'm not capable of such a thing."
By now, Gideon stirred from his room, puzzlement on his face, "Pa, what is this?"
"What this is, is common sense. If we choose to house her, son, death hails upon us all when Bernard seeks his retribution, which he will."
Celine, fully had enough of the riddles he was speaking in and demanded, "Stop it, Hugh. Speak plainly or don't speak at all." Her steel once again surprised me. For such a small woman, she was cram-packed with order and respect. One wouldn't dare go against her if she demands something.
Hugh glanced her way as if she were a simpleton and said, "John. His blood is said to be on her hands and I have no intend of getting in the middle of it. I will not risk my family and townsfolk for one girl," he turned to face me, true sorrow in his eyes, "I'm sorry, Elaya, but you must understand what will happen when Bernard brings in his past partners."
"But I'm not a murderer!" I cried out, "How can you even think that?"
"She's right, Hugh. This notion that she murdered her own brother is complete and utter nonsense. You of all people shouldn't believe the tales her father spreads." Celine harshly reprimanded him. I never thought Hugh could look like such a child with his strong build and blacksmith hands as he hung his head with shame.
Gideon was surprisingly silent as he studied the situation.
Hugh shook his head sadly, "Nevertheless, the townsfolk do. If she shows her face in that town square, she will be stoned as a murderer with the three of us in the same situation. Those are the cold, hard facts that she faces."
Gideon straightened himself and made his way to stand beside me, "You are mistake, Pa. This is what we face. You can cower in your fear but I will not watch as my best friend's sister is stoned for a crime she didn't commit. I will not dishonour him in such a way."
I could see the ire come in and fade from Hugh's eyes at Gideon's words. I didn't know what was going on with him. He was disrespecting and fighting men better left alone.
"I will not allow you to throw your life in the crossfires of a man bent on destroying her. He will not even hesitate to cut your throat if you try help her," he pointed to Gideon's abdomen, "You are lucky he landed that hit. If he really wanted, you would be dead. Do not test his mercy, Gideon."
Celine scoffed, "Merciful? Is that what he is?"
"Yes!" Hugh exclaimed, trying to reason with his wife, "The time we have had since she's walked through that door is a mercy. He is giving us time to make our choice and it's made. She will leave. I will not argue." His tone hardened as he spoke. My blood stilled as the desicion settled into my heart.
Gideon crossed his arm in front of me protectively before growling, "Your choice is made as well as mine. You will stay and we will go."
"Gid, don't be dumb," I said, realizing the severity of the situation, "There's no reason for the both of us to suffer under my father's scrutiny. I will go but if you would be kind enough, Hugh, as to let me take a few supplies for my way?"
As Hugh nodded, I pushed Gideon's arm out of the way. He let me go by but I knew that I hadn't had my last words with him. It would take some time to make him leave it be. I couldn't be the death of him. It would kill me long before my father or his partners would.
Celine stayed silent as she packaged a loaf of bread with some cured meats and apples. Her lips were drawn in a tight line, the only give away of her anger. The woman was my life...my mother since day one. A role my own mother was never able to fulfill.
A tear slipped my eye as I took the leather satchel from her. She pulled my arms around her and cried silently into my shoulder. She squeezed me tight before releasing me. Her round, loving eyes were tear stricken as she felt the loss of her daughter. I didn't feel shame as tears struck my cheeks repeatedly. I straightened my back and gave Hugh a sharp nod, understanding his choice.
I didn't look at Gideon before turning to the cold forge below. The darkness of night awaited me outside as I made my way to Akela. If I was taking anything away from my father, it was only Akela.
I had just mounted the powerful beast as Gideon found his way through the door, another satchel in his hands and a warm cloak around his shoulders.
"Elaya, don't you even think that I am leaving you. Shut your mouth and accept it." He said, cutting me off.
"Your mother needs you here." I argued stubbornly. He was not dying because of me.
"She knew from the moment Pa walked in what my choice would be. She's accepted it. Learn from her." His tone was borderline demanding but still soft enough for me to overlook.
I stayed silent, knowing there was no point in arguing with him.
"Good," he said, the smirk I could hear in his voice, "So, where are we going?"