Originally posted 10/21
The wind stirred the trees
overhead as Corbin followed the makeshift path through the forest. Only
his family and a few visitors used the trail, but not often enough to
keep it from disappearing into the undergrowth. It was maybe his fifth
time since the start of the season. His father's workshop had been too
busy to permit the long walk to the nearest village of Bellfield. After
countless days and nights working the forge, the fresh air and sunlight
were welcomed. He breathed in the sweet scent of the dew kissed grass
as countless birds sung out their songs.
It was still
early in the summer. There was a bit of a chill in the air before the
sun broke through the clouds. It was a perfect morning to have
breakfast in the field with Arabella.
She stopped by
about midday the day prior. Corbin didn't know how long she had been
there. She always tiptoed into the shop when he was working and would
watch silently until he stepped back from the furnace for a break. He
wasn't at the furnace this time, but neither did her hear her come in.
His mind was elsewhere as he studied the dagger he finally finished.
The dark blade took longer to forge than he expected. Now that it was
done, and the black stones set in the hilt, he wondered if he wasted all
that time. A soft kiss on the back of his neck startled him. He
didn't flinch. He immediately knew it was her.
hadn't visited lately, and he missed her. Even his father mentioned the
shortage of fresh pie. Arabella brought one each time she came by.
She joked that it was payment to the smithy for letting her snatch
Corbin away. She brought two pies that day. One to make up for her
absence. The second was an advance for the next morning, her planned
picnic for breakfast.
Corbin played it off as if he
couldn't spare a moment away, but she never slowed. She was ordering
his company. No excuses. She reasoned that he had not left the shop
for weeks and that they needed to discuss wedding details. He knew she
had the entire event planned along with a village full of women to help,
so his input would be minimal. He waited until she gave him that look
with those big brown eyes, then readily caved. Why couldn't the summer
pass more quickly and usher in the autumn so he could stare into those
The field was still a ways away, but he
could already feel her presence. He smiled at the thought of hearing
her laugh as she would tell about the recent happenings in Bellfield.
She would make a point to try to straighten his hair. He would act as
if it pestered him while secretly savoring the touch of her fingers as
she combed it into place. It would not stay, and he wondered if she had
caught on by now and it was just as much of a game to her as was is to
him. The picnic would not last long enough. He would want to spend the
entire day hiding with her in the field. And he knew he could not.
brought a peace to him that he had not known for some time. Since his
mother died three winters ago, then his brother disappeared last spring,
it was just Corbin and his father, Jamison. The forge became his
refuge. He and Jamison didn't talk much, but they understood each
other's busyness, and respected it. Days would pass between
conversations, and those mainly consisted of pending orders and
discussing supplies. But Arabella's coming was a distraction, one he
had grown fond of. He still didn't talk much. He didn't have to. She
didn't seem to mind his quiet nature, and he could listen to her all
day. He didn't know why she took an interest in him two winters ago,
but he was grateful for it. She saved him.
As he came
to the edge of the forest, he could see the tall bell tower standing
atop the hill across the field. His great-grandfather made it long ago
when the village was settled, before the Elves set off to find a new
land to call home. His father replaced the weathered bell with a new
one when the neighboring king declared war on Baldorah two decades ago.
It only sounded twice that he could remember. Arabella mentioned her
want to have it rung for their wedding like the old one did for happy
occasions. He doubted it would happen. It was now reserved for warning
of threats against the village. The Officials were not likely to make
His eyes scanned the field. All his
thoughts quietened when he spied her in the middle. He chuckled to
himself. She wasn't going to give him a chance to sneak up on her.
Arabella had a blanket laid out and was sitting on one side of it with
her basket nestled in the middle. He stepped out of the forest. She
waved, jumped to her feet, and ran to meet him.
stopped a short distance from him and held open her arms. Corbin let
out a laugh at her usual antics and went along with it. He wrapped his
arms around her and lifted her off the ground, spinning her around for
one full turn. When he set her back down, she looked up at him with the
smile that could melt his most sour moods and ran her fingers through
"Did you even try fixing it today?" she asked.
He shook his head.
"What am I going to do with you?" she said.
closed his eyes and faked a sigh, bowing his head as she fussed at his
blond hair. When she finished, she planted a kiss on his cheek. "Good
morning," he said as he looked to her.
She let him pull her close again. "Good morning. Are you hungry?"
Corbin returned her kiss and twirled a lock of her brown hair around his finger. "Starved."
a laugh, she took him by the hand and led the way. "It's a beautiful
morning," she said after a few steps. "I couldn't be any more perfect."
meant to agree with her when she looked up at him, but something caught
his eye. A young boy appeared on top the hill and dashed to the bell
tower. Corbin paused and peered at him. He felt Arabella go still at
The bell sounded out clear and shattered the peacefulness of the new day. There was nothing else to be heard over its ring.
held tight to Arabella's hand as they hurried up the hill. It seemed
bigger than he knew it to be from all the times he played on it as a
child. Finally reaching the top, he gazed down at the village stretched
out below. Villagers ran frantically through the streets as they
searched for cover. Arabella gasped and hugged herself to his side
under the protection of his arm.
Corbin looked to the
far side of the settlement and immediately saw what caused the alarm.
An army of horsemen poured out of the eastern forest. Their armor
glinted in the early morning sunlight. They formed a intimidating row
as they stood side by side in a line that could easily swallow the width
"What do they want?" Arabella asked in a trembling voice.
didn't answer. His eyes were locked on the red banners the horsemen
carried. They were from the neighboring kingdom, the realm of King
Darien, the enemy.