Hood – Jenny Elder Moke

I sabelle took great pride in herself that she did not cry once during the whole wretched, messy ordeal. Not when the soldiers barked their orders at her to stand down; not when they grabbed her up like a common criminal and threw shackles on her wrists; not when they shoved her in this moldy makeshift prison cell that once served as a potato cellar; not even when the strips of light leaching in from outside grew longer, and thinner, and then disappeared altogether. She held her head high, gritted her teeth, and glared malevolence at the warped wooden boards of the door and the rough voices of the men beyond. And when even they faded away, and she began to fear they’d forgotten about her or planned to leave her behind, and fear twisted itself into panic, she would not give in. She thought of her mother in full prioress regality, stern and powerful and threaded through with iron, and wished for her strength. But as the night wore on, the cold stealing its thin fingers up her ankles and calves, she just wished for her mother. She’d almost forgotten the door was there by the time the heavy bolt screeched open, a stab of torchlight blinding her after hours of complete dark. She curled into herself instinctively, the shackles dragging and clanking against each other as she raised her hands to block the light. She steeled herself for another round of brutal questioning from the soldiers, summoning what little well of strength she had left. But after hours of fear, hunger, and churning panic, it only took one word to undo her. “Isabelle!” She lifted her head, her face twisting. “Mother?” she whispered, and promptly burst into tears. Marien swept across the small space, enveloping her in warmth and softness and the smooth, sharp scent of lemon verbena. “Shhh, ’tis all right, child.” She kissed the top of her head, murmuring into her hair.

“Oh, my Isabelle. Oh, you willful child. Are you hurt?” “I am so sorry,” Isabelle said through a hiccuping sob as her mother lifted her hands to unlock the shackles around her wrists and examine the angry red welts underneath. “I am so very sorry. I can explain, I swear it. I know you forbade me from leaving the priory while everything is so tumultuous, but the people in Kirkleestown were starving, Mother. I knew we had the grain, but Sister Catherine would not let me share it. She said the sisters needed it to keep up their strength, but there was plenty to go round! She was just being greedy—I know it is an unkind thing to say, but it is true. She would rather watch these families starve than open her heart. So I thought if I could go hunting, even just for a brace of rabbits, I might be able to help feed them for the night.

” “Hush now, child,” her mother said, not unkindly. “I know your heart, my love. I know what you meant to do. But I am afraid it is worse than that now. Something terrible has happened.” Isabelle shuddered, not from the cold in the air but from the chill in her mother’s voice. “What do you mean? What has happened?” Another light appeared at the cellar door, drawing her mother’s attention away. Isabelle knew the man holding the torch, a kindly farmer who had often come to the priory for her mother’s healing teas in the past year since they had opened their doors to the people of Kirklees. The flames threw deep shadows along the creases in his brow as his gaze flicked into the darkness behind him, his fingers worrying at the fabric of his woolen leggings. “Please, mistress, we don’t have much time,” he said, his voice wobbly.

“They’ll be back soon, I expect. If they know I’ve helped you—” “Yes, of course, thank you, Frederick. The Lord shall bless you for your service.” Marien turned to Isabelle, eyes dark like an oncoming storm. “We must go. Quickly and quietly.” “But, Mother—” Her mother shook her head. “There is no time for explanations.” They hurried out of the cellar into the field beyond, which Isabelle now realized was part of the land Frederick tended. The farmer stayed behind, his torchlight growing dim as they ran through the freshly plowed and seeded barley fields.

Her mother moved like a wraith, swift and silent, her footfalls light and instinctive. Isabelle tried to match her movements, but her own steps were clumsy and loud in comparison, the fear and fatigue dragging her down. Night transformed the woods into a stranger, webbed in shadows and clawing branches, tearing at the thick wool of her habit and snatching tendrils of her golden curls with sinister whispers. An owl swooped low with a keening hoot as they moved through the trees, Isabelle’s heart pumping hard at every unexpected sound. More than once she caught a toe on a root or ran a shoulder into a lowhanging branch. But her mother, if it was possible, seemed even more at home among the trees, flitting between pockets of darkness like a shadow, making it difficult for Isabelle to even keep track of her. Where had her mother learned to move like that? They emerged from the woods beside a wide road, the deep ruts of passing wagons glittering in the half moonlight. Isabelle took a deep breath, trying to free the knot of tension coiled in her chest from their breakneck pace through the trees. But the coil only tightened at the empty stretch of road in either direction. “Mother,” she whispered, her voice feeling large in the quiet night.

“Where are we? Where is Kirklees?” “We cannot return to the priory,” her mother said, searching through the limbs of a nearby tree and pulling down a tidy bundle made of Isabelle’s cloak, which had been secreted away in its branches. A cascade of orange-and-yellow leaves scattered to the ground, their edges curling and brown. “Why can we not return?” Isabelle asked. “Where would we go instead?” Her mother did not answer as she loosened the cloak and withdrew Isabelle’s quiver and bow, the polished wood gleaming gray in the moonlight. She removed a burlap sack with a small tin from the folds of the cloak, the earthy fragrance of the salve within the tin stirring Isabelle’s senses. Marien rubbed the remedy into Isabelle’s raw wrists with quick, gentle strokes. “Comfrey?” Isabelle said hopefully, trying to distract herself from the twisting in her gut with an attempt at their old game. Her mother gave a patient smile. “Yarrow root, dearest. Comfrey has a much more floral scent.

” Isabelle shook her head. “Of course. I should have remembered that.” “God calls us all in our own ways, dearest,” Marien said as she worked, reciting the maxim that had framed Isabelle’s childhood. “This will help the pain. The wounds are thankfully superficial. You should have enough salve to last you until you reach your destination.” The simmering dread that had been souring Isabelle’s stomach all day turned to a full boil. “What destination?” “I cannot keep you safe in Kirklees any longer,” her mother said, quickly wrapping Isabelle’s wrists in white linen. “There is no one here we can trust, not now.

The truth will come out soon, and I cannot protect you from it.” She tucked the rest of the salve and more linens in the burlap sack before sweeping the cloak around Isabelle’s shoulders. She cinched it tight against the chill night air, Isabelle following her motions perfunctorily, slinging her bow and quiver over her shoulder in a daze. Her mother hesitated, taking Isabelle’s face in her hands. “You are in grave danger,” her mother said, white puffs of breath obscuring her face. “You must leave Kirklees tonight.” Isabelle’s voice pitched up in protest. “All this because I…embarrassed some lowly soldier? I know what I did was wrong, but he was no better. Those people were no threat to them. It was rusty threshers and makeshift cudgels against broadswords and crossbows.

They never would have stood a chance. I know the people attacked those soldiers, and the soldiers must defend themselves, but the villagers were only hungry! I cannot imagine if King John knew the true state of his people starving here that he would approve of such brutality. Surely, if we speak to someone in charge, perhaps if I promise to apologize—” “It is far beyond that,” her mother said with a firm shake of her head. “I wish I had more time to explain, but they will be after you as soon as they realize you are gone. You must leave now, immediately. Cover your tracks, leave no trace. Just as I taught you.” “For hunting, not for…being hunted,” Isabelle said, numbness settling over her despite the rapid pace of her heart. “Mother, these are soldiers! Not rabbits or poachers. I could not possibly outwit them, even with your help.

” A quiet breath slipped out of Marien. “I cannot go with you. You must go alone.” Isabelle’s jaw sagged. “What? I cannot go on my own. I have never even been outside Kirkleestown!” “If there were another way, any other possible way, I would do it,” her mother said, stroking her cheek. Isabelle wished she could curl up and take refuge from this nightmare in her mother’s even tone and sure hands. “But why can you not go with me?” Isabelle begged. Marien would not meet her gaze. “Because I have other business here.

I cannot leave, and you cannot stay. You will have to be strong, my child, even when the worst comes for you. You will have to be braver than you feel.” “What do I have to do?” Isabelle whispered, her voice trembling on the edge of exhaustion. Her mother gestured down the main road out of Kirklees. “Go south until you reach the town of Huntingdon, three days’ journey from here. Stay to the woods and keep out of sight. Do not seek help from the towns or travelers you pass along the way. Find the Blue Boar Inn at the split in the road, and ask for Thomas. Tell him that I sent you.

He is an old family friend and you can trust him. He will know where to take you.” She hesitated again, a tremor going through her hands. “Tell him the Wolf has returned.” Something in her mother’s tone and the crease of fear deepening between her eyebrows chilled Isabelle more than anything else that had happened that day. She clung to her mother’s hands, all pretense of bravery abandoning her. “Mother, please—” But a solitary shout went up from the direction of Frederick’s farm, slicing between them and severing their conversation. They cut their gazes to the impenetrable darkness of the woods, but nothing emerged from the shadows. Yet. Isabelle held her breath, willing herself into quiet stillness as they waited.

Another shout rose, and then another, drawing closer. “You have to run, Isabelle,” her mother whispered, her voice vibrating. Isabelle tried to move her feet, but they wouldn’t obey. Her chest fluttered with little breaths, her head spinning. The next shout came close enough that she could make out the words clearly. “Find the girl!” “Run, Isabelle,” her mother whispered harshly, pushing her toward the road. “Run!” And so she ran.

.

PDF | Download



Thank you!

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chapter1.us © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x