Sunday, October 23, 2011

Story of the Day - Shattered Remnants (Prologue)

 Originally posted 10/21

Prologue

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.

She 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 eyes everyday?

 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.

Arabella 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 an exception.

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.

Arabella 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 his hair.

"Did you even try fixing it today?" she asked.

He shook his head.

"What am I going to do with you?" she said.

He 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."

With 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."

He 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 his side.

The bell sounded out clear and shattered the peacefulness of the new day.  There was nothing else to be heard over its ring.

Corbin 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 of Bellfield.

"What do they want?" Arabella asked in a trembling voice.

He 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.

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