This was written as only a part of a larger story delivered weekly in a serial format.
Previous episodes: Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5
Riders at Dusk
Chunks of carrot and potato fell from Fallon’s knife, joining the herbs, and seasoned meat in the stew-pot as the broth boiled. The smell infused the small house. It wouldn’t be long before the aroma reached Raelle outside.
Winter was fast approaching, replacing the life giving rains of summer that rolled off the slopes of the Storm Mountains with a chill that would soon turn the valley and village white.
The crack of wood splitting sounded from outside. Raelle now insisted on doing the most strenuous chores, claiming that it was good for her training with sword and shield, and refusing his help whenever he offered. It was an adjustment that Fallon made with a struggle, but there was work enough to keep them both busy on the farm. Even if his daughter had taken most of what he considered the man’s chores from him. It was his job to care for his daughter, and if that meant allowing her to be strong, then that was what he would do. And she was strong. Stronger even than him now, though her lean body didn’t show it.
He was proud of his daughter. She was strong, beautiful, and could take care of herself. But how had it happened. It seemed like yesterday she was begging him in the Village Shoppe for a shield they had no need for. A smile split his face as the memory lingered. His little girl. That was so long ago, but seemed only a few days. That little girl was now a young woman that pulled the eye of every boy in the village, many of whom had had their feelings, or worse, hurt when they tried calling on Raelle a bit too exuberantly. Best of all, Fallon had done none of the hurting himself.
Raelle added the wood to the stack, looking over it at the mountains in the distance. There was enough there for three winters already, but she liked the feel of the ax in her hands and the cool winds that blew down the mountain slopes wicking the sweat from her skin.
The sun dipped low, turning chill air cold and casting long shadows over Raelle as the large crescent ax fell. It stuck into a green piece of hardwood with a thud. She began to pull it free as the clop, clop of hooves sounded on the road.
She watched two cloaked figures ride slowly past from the cover of the shadowed woodpile. They worried her every time they rode past, which was more often now than ever. She had spied them out three times that week alone, always at dusk or later and hiding behind dark cloaks.
The smell of her father’s stew reached her. Her stomach volunteered a noise as the figures disappeared down the shadowed road. She wished, not for the first time, that they lived further from the road and wondered if she had been the only one to smell the cooking.
Raelle pushed the door open and leaned the ax against the frame before going to the wash basin in one corner of the small house to clean up.
“Bringing the ax in again?” Fallon asked. “Everything alright?”
“Saw those riders again. They make me nervous.”
“I would imagine you have more to worry about from the village boys. Hope you don’t take the ax to them though. Their fathers are hard enough to deal with without that,” he chuckled through his graying beard.
“I like having the ax close. It’s the best weapon we have if something were to happen.”
That was true enough Fallon supposed. He had not been able to secure Raelle a real sword. She learned the sword with poor wooden imitations of the real thing. Even after several decent harvest, the funds just weren’t there, so Fallon taught her everything about the sword he new with what they had. Raelle adapted it to the ax as best she could so as to have a real weapon if she needed it.
“One of these days,” Fallon said smiling, “you’re going to have to pick one of those hay-brained boys and settle down. I’m getting to be an old man, and you have a life of your own to live.”
She wrinkled her nose at the thought. “For now, I’ll settle down with a nice bowl of stew. It smells wonderful, and I’m starved.”
They sat and bowed over steaming wooden bowls thick with meat, carrot, and potato. “Thank the ones above for the Spring and Summer Rains, the Fall Harvest, and the strength to pass the test of Winter. All said.”
“All said,” Raelle repeated as they caught the sound of a horse’s whinny.
Fallon looked at his daughter as she moved toward the ax.
The door burst from the hinges, spraying splinters across the room. Raelle fell back, splinters digging into her face and arms. Two figures stepped through the ruined doorway.
This is the sixth installment of a serial lovingly named Warriors. It is my goal to have a new episode every week. So far I’ve met the every week goal, but I’ve slipped a few days here and there putting the post close to the next week. It will happen eventually, I know. Please bear with me if I’m not as punctual as I would like. Another portion will be posted soon with a target word count between 500 and 1,000.
If you missed the previous episodes, I have links at the top of this post!
I hope you enjoyed this portion of our story! I look forward to seeing you as we continue the journey and welcome any comments you may have.
Thanks for visiting!