- 6th day of Hanotë -
Part 8 - A Night in a Barn
As evening came the trees around her became scarcer, although she still felt the urge to turn around on her saddle from time to time, just to make sure that no one was following her. She hadn’t had the courage to stop again since she’d crossed that bridge, not even to eat, and now she felt so tired that even her legs seemed to have gone numb.
At least she was almost free from that deadly silent forest, she thought, hopefully, facing the road ahead where there were no more shadowy trees to be seen, and where fields of apple trees flanked the road on both sides.
The words she had overheard being exchanged by those savage looking men came back to her, and she couldn’t help dwell on the story about that jewel, the same she’d heard in Everlyn and then in Mithir; the reason behind that terrible war
However, the sudden sound of singing birds pushed all that away from her mind and left a smile on her face. Sound again! It was so amazing that she wondered if she had somehow crossed some magical portal and was now back to the real world.
She looked for the house of the owners of those fields and dismounted her horse.
Straightening her hair as best as she could, she knocked on the old door and waited nervously.
“Good evening. I’m sorry to disturb you,” she greeted politely when an old woman came to the door, sliding the porter’s hatch to peer outside with a suspicious look, her gray hair all tied up at the back of her head. “I’m bound to Melkar and was wondering if you would be so kind as to allow me to spend the night. Anywhere will do, as long as it is warm. Maybe the barn?” she suggested, seeing as she was still being looked upon with distrust, and waited as the woman pondered for a moment, almost as if she could foresee her intentions just by looking at her.
“Follow me,” she finally told her, closing the porter’s hatch and opening the door to step outside, and Allana obeyed, pulling her horse by the reins, as they went around to the back. “You can stay here, if you’d like. I’ll bring you some blankets and something to eat,” the woman told her, opening the barn’s large door, and Allana went in.
“There’s no need. I thank you for your hospitality but there’s no need to worry yourself on my account.”
“It’s fine,” the woman replied and left her alone.
Allana looked around with a smile. At least in there she’d be protected from dawn’s chilling air, she decided tying her horse to a wood beam and gathered some straw to feed him.
True to her word, the woman returned not long after, carrying two warm, dry blankets, and a small pot with something fuming that immediately filled the air with a delicious fragrance.
Allana hurried to help her unload her charge and gratefully took the loaf of fresh bread the woman pulled out from her apron’s front pocket.
“Thank you very much,” she honestly told her and the woman nodded, still looking at her suspiciously.
“Are you traveling alone?”
Allana nodded, unloading her small baggage to take that chance and spread out her own blankets, hoping they’d dry.
“An you’re headed north?”
“To Melkar, yes,” Allana answered and the woman frowned.
“There’s been rumors that things aren’t all that safe, as you get closer to town. And a young girl such as yourself, all alone …” She left the rest unsaid and Allana gave her a worried look.
“Really? That bad?”
“Well, we’re the last farm on the road and it’s been a while since we last went into to town. Our neighbors, four houses up ahead, are the ones that take our products to try and sell them in the city. And so I heard from them that it isn’t the first time farmers go into town to never be heard from again.”
“I see … Thank you. I’ll make sure to be careful.”
The woman sighed, shaking her head like one would do before a child’s stubbornness, but didn’t insist on the matter.
“After eating your fill you may take your horse to the watering-place outside,” she told her and left.
Allana unfolded one of her maps and smiled. Just a little bit more and she’d be there!