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Posted:|| June 17, 2016 Views: 66|
Chapter 5 of the book The Search
A Trek to the cave.
"A Secret Journey"
by Catherin Elizabet Belle
In her chamber Lady Lara's lady-in-waiting helps her to undress and climb into her bed. "Sara I will rest, please serve tea at the usual hour." Settling into her pillows she calls, "Sara, you have been with me a long time, girl"
"Yes me lady, five years." A puzzled look on her face twisting the cloth in her hands she asks, "Are you dissatisfied with my services, madam?"
"Oh no lass, I will ask you do something for me telling no one."
The Lass rushes to her side vowing, "Whatever you wish, Madam, it shall be done. What do you wish of me?"
"Sit here beside me, Sara. I will leave at midnight through the old tunnel under the moat." As Sara gasps Lara continues, "You must bring my meals here to this room insisting I gave instructions not to be disturb. You will consume the small repast as though I had eaten." Taking the lass's hands in hers Lara says, "You must do this until I return."
"Oh my lady, are you going, to the Lady Lenore?"
A flash of mirth shines in her eyes as she ponders her answer, "Nay lass, but I must search for her. She has been my ward since she was a wee babe. I know her better than anyone I know I can find her. I must try."
"Me Lady No one will know you are not in your chambers." Crossing herself she says, "This I vow."
At midnight dressed warm in a dark cloak carrying a basket of cheese and breads she slips through the darkened halls descending to the lower chambers. Deeper into the bowls of the castle she hears the scurrying of mice and hastens to the hidden door to the tunnel under the moat. She struggles to open the heavy door despairing until at last it breaks free. Stepping into the narrow passage the torch held high, she moves through the dank smell in the darkness. Relief washes over her at the glimpse of the sliver of pale moonlight ahead. As she nears the end extinguishes the torch, with a sigh steps into the cool night air. As the door closes behind her, she pushes through the brambles. As the moon slides behind a cloud, she looks to the forest striding across the open field in search of the waiting Lord Jonathan and the horses. Near the woods, she sees a movement halting her motion she waits and is relieved when she hears a familiar voice.
"Here, Lady Lara, in front of you."
With haste she moves to where he is standing saying, "Oh, Lord Jonathan you are a pleasant sight."
Taking the basket from her he attaches it behind the saddle lifting her astride. "We will travel at night, less chance of being seen."
"How far, Sire?"
"Five days journey if we make haste staying off the roads." Moving into the trees the darkness engulfs the pair with critters scurrying through the undergrowth to escape the stomp of the hoofs Jonathan leads them toward his own holdings. The cabin, the waterfall, and the cave are on my land but only a few miles from the territory of Black Shadow Castle's realm.
Jonathan keeps a steady pace moving along animal trails staying off the main roads. Four hours into the journey he halts, "Lady Lara, would you like to rest?"
Keeping her voice low she replies, "Nay, Lord Jonathan, I wish to reach the Lady at the earliest moment."
Without a word puts spurs to his steed moving deeper into the forest with the Lady Lara right behind him. The Lady is a good rider with good stamina we could reach the cave early. The sky in the east is turning gray with the coming of the dawn and soon will turn to a shining day. Reining in, he lets the Lady move beside him before he speaks, "We will rest the horses for thirty minutes." He dismounts going to help the Lady only to find her already standing beside her horse. A smile sneaks across my face at her agility and determination as she is a lady of some girth. Moving to a large oak I sit down with my back against the trunk, soon Lara joins me. In a short time we are on our way traveling into a more dense area of the forest where we are less apt to be seen.
It is nigh on mid-afternoon when we come upon a small stream, dismounting we allow the horses to drink their fill. Lara hands me a repast of cheese and bread as we sit beside the water she asks, "Jonathan, why did you not tell Lord Darwin of the whereabouts of the Lady Lenore?"
Thinking before I answer, "Lara, she said she would not return to Black Shadow Castle ever. Her determination was intense." Pausing for a drink I continue, "It would not be honorable of me to force the Lady to return to the Castle."
A strange expression shadows the eyes of the lady before she says, "Yes, I see."
Before the conversation went any further I say, "Let us be on our way, Lara. We have some distance before reaching the cave."
On this jaunt we ride into the night with a full moon visibility is good, stopping near the witching hour I could see the lady was tiring as she is slumping in the saddle. Reining up I say, "We will rest for an hour." Dismounting, the lady moves near a tree wrapping her clock around her she is soon fast asleep. With my sword at my side I allow my head to rest on my chest as I too doze.
Aroused by the snort of the horses my eyes survey the area without seeming to move catching sight of a wolf in the underbrush twenty feet from where I am seated. Moving to quiet the horses the beast wanders off like he wasn't interested in the tasty horseflesh. Good riddance.
As I return from quieting the horses, Lara is standing. "My Lady, when you are ready we will ride."
Stretching and giving me a smile she says, "Jonathan, permit me a few minutes and I shall be ready."
As she moves into the brush, I caution, "Don't wander to far my lady, our visitor might still be in the area."
Laughing she calls out, "If you are speaking of the wolf he would not want this old carcass."
I begged to differ with her but did not offer the opinion. Saddling the horses to ride when she returns I wait. She traipses out of the forest saying, "Shall we continue, Jonathan?"
The eastern sky is turning a pale gray as the sun begins its morning jaunt across the heavens. Once again a steady pace is maintained along a well-traveled deer trail riding until the sun is high in the heavens I halt.
Lara hands me a piece of cheese and bread from the saddle saying, "Eat Jonathan." And she follows her on words nibbling cheese and bread. From a small flask she hands me a small vial of mead.
Taking a sip of the sweet nectar I say, "Ah my Lady that is well suited to the occasion." We stay in the saddles with the horses sitting in the shade of a big oak eating the small repast.
Finishing her part she asks, "How much further to the cave?" In her eyes is a deep longing behind the simple inquiry.
"We are making good time, but I fear you will grow weary if we keep up this pace."
"Nay! Nay, my Lord! Let us make haste."
Pondering the distance we have come and the trail ahead I answer, "Continuing the hard journey, we could arrive there in two days."
She nods touching her horses flank moving ahead. With respect for her determination I put spurs to my steed and move forward setting a faster pace as we move through the ever thickening woods.
Toward evening gray clouds darken bringing a stiff breeze and drops of rain drift through the heavy foliage. Lara wraps her cloak tighter around her tucking her head in the hood continuing down the ever narrowing trail as I look for a suitable shelter. By midnight we will reach my own lands but still a good distance from the castle and the only shelter is about ten miles at the cabin where I found Lady Lenore and we dare not stop.
Continuing the journey we rest every four to six hours giving the horses a respite and Lady Lara a chance to stretch. I know she is weary, but we are only about a day's journey from the cave.
The search for Lady Lenore need not cross my lands being I told Lord Darwin that I had traveled the area stopping at Kent before arriving at Black Shadow Castle. Thus, we had encountered no one until I saw one of my hunters approaching. Reining in until Lady Lara rode up beside me I say, "Lara, drop back into the darkness of the trees." Without a word she does as I ask. As the rider approaches I hail him, "Jacob, what brings you this far from the castle?"
Doffing his hat he says, "Aye, me Lord, I have been trailing a wolf. He has led me a merry chase."
Smiling, "Jacob has he killed any of our stock?"
Shaking his head he replies, "Nay, Sire."
Giving the matter thought I say, "Jacob, leave the wolf and return to Fantasia. I will be in the area and will pick up his trail."
"Aye, me Lord, I will return at once," turning his steed back whence he had come, he pauses saying, "Good hunting, Sire."
As he moves into the forest Lady Lara moves up beside me, "Who was the rider?"
Keeping my eyes ahead I reply, "A hunter from Fantasia looking for a wolf; he will return to the castle." Turning to her I continue, "Let's ride we are about a day from Lady Lenore."
The rising moon in the east illuminates the night as we rest. Sitting against a tree I listen to the flap of the owl's wings as he swoops through the woods in search for a rodent on the forest floor. Off in the distance a coyote's lonesome howl echoes through the night as Lara sleeps. I imagine the sound of the falls, but it's an illusion we are too far for the sound to carry.
As the sun starts its ascent, I saddle the horses while Lara nibbles on cheese and bread. I settle for a tankard of mead which she was so kind to supply. "We should be there by noon, Lara"
"Oh, Sire I am most eager to see Lady Lenore. I've been with her since she was but a wee lass." Mounting her steed we move through the thick undergrowth following a deer trail. The bramble pulls at Lara's cloak, but they hide the secret cave making it difficult to find. The heat of the sun creeps through the thick trees as we approach the outcropping I hear the sound of the falls gushing down the incline into the deep pool.
Pulling up I dismount with Lara following I say, "Lara, we will lead the horses behind the waterfall. The outcropping is wet and slippery, stay close to the wall." Leading I move through an unseen opening between the boulders onto the narrow ledge behind the falls, Lara trails me.
Taking but a few minutes we soon enter the first chamber, "We will leave the horses here, follow me." I light a torch moving down a narrow passage which broadens out into the area where the Lady Lenore is waiting. Stepping into the cavern seems empty, but off to the right I see a movement and call, "Lady Lenore, Lord Jonathan, I have brought the Lady Lara."
Before the sound of the words die, she rushes past me into the arms of her Lady-in-Waiting, with Lara embracing her saying, "My poor baby! You must tell me all."
As they move to the bed I start out the narrow passage when Lady Lenore says, "Jonathan, are you leaving?"
"Nay lass, I thought you might like your privacy with the Lady Lara. I won't be far, unsaddling the horses, giving them a good rubdown and bag of oats."
Bowing she replies, "Tis kind you are Sire."
Busying myself in the other chamber while the two ladies talk trying to figure out where to take them, they are too finer ladies to live in the cave. Removing the saddles from the horses and giving them a bag of oats, I walk to the back side of the waterfall catching water in a pail stored for that purpose. Returning I hear the Lady Lenore calling from the inner chamber, "Lord Jonathan, please join us."
Walking to the rear I ask, "You called Lady Lenore."
"Yes, Sire, after much discussion, we believe it imperative that Lara return to Devon Shire at once." She walks to within three feet and continues, "But, I will never return to Black Shadow, so I cannot return to my home."
Shocked at her remark I say, "My Lady, you can't stay here!"
Putting her hands on her hips and glaring up at me she asks, "And why not?"
Pacing from one side of the cave to the other irritated I say, "The cave is not fit quarters for a Lady of your stature."
A dark shadow crosses her face and I swear I see a tear slide down her cheek as she whispers, "I have no other place to go. I must stay here or be found. Don't you understand?" Raising her eyes to look at me she continues, "I can't, I can't go back to Black Shadow Castle."
Lara steps forward wrapping her arms around the Lady Lenore as her imploring eyes gaze into mine she says, "Lord Jonathan, you must help her."
I stand awed by their request. If I honor it, I will place my lands and people in great jeopardy. My army is small compared to Darwin's. How can I refuse the Lady? Turning I move toward the outer chamber without saying word, but as I reach the entrance, I stop look upon the ladies removing my hat in sweeping fashion I say, "Your wish is my command. It will be as I say. Do you understand?"
Both ladies curtsey saying, "Yes Sire."
I continue to the outer chamber standing behind the falls as the spray touches my boots I make plans for the return of Lady Lara. Ah, but the Lady Lenore is another matter. An hour elapses before I return to the cavern carrying the satchel that Lara had brought for Lenore. Sitting it on the ground by the bed I say, "Lady Lara, be ready to ride at dawn." I turn to Lenore saying, "I will deal with you when I return. Do not go beyond the falls. It is imperative you heed or we will all face death."
With the pallor of doom permeating the cave the occupants bed down for the night not knowing what the morrow holds. The silence echoes through the cave. Near the witching hour I move to saddle the horses as Lara prepares to leave she says, "My lady, you must do as Jonathan says. Do not leave this cave for anything."
Lenore runs to Lara who wraps her arms around the Lady as she weeps. With time she regains her composure saying, "I will do as he says, Lara, I promise."
Returning, I see Lara is ready and Lenore sitting by the crude table. "Lady Lenore, I will return as soon as I can." Turning to pick up the valise I continue, "Lara, we must go now." I leave the cavern leading the horses through the exit hidden by the boulder at the falls, we mount moving through the gray dawn toward Devon Shire avoiding the more traveled trails.
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