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Posted:|| June 17, 2016 Views: 70|
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 to do something for me, telling no one."
The Lass rushes to her side vowing, "Whatever you wish, Madam, it shall be. 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 and insist that I gave instructions not to be disturbed. You will consume the small repast as though I had eaten." As she takes 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, and I can find her. I must at least 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. She steps into the narrow passage, the torch held high as 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. There she closes the door behind her and pushes herself through the brambles that covered the entrance. 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 and halts her motion. There she waits and until 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."
He takes the basket from her and attaches it behind the saddle; then lifts her a stride. "We will travel at night, less chance of being seen."
"How far, Sire?"
He replied, "Five day's journey with haste, staying off the roads." Moving into the trees as darkness engulfs the pair, critters scurry through the undergrowth to escape the stomp of hoofs. Jonathan leads toward his own holdings, The cabin, the waterfall, and the cave are on my land but only a few miles realm of Black Shadow Castle's.
Jonathan keeps a steady pace, staying off the major roads. Four hours into the journey he halts and asks, "Lady Lara, a few minutes' rest?"
Her voice low, she replies, "Nay, Lord Jonathan, I wish to reach the Lady at the post-haste moment."
Without a word puts spurs to his steed, moving deeper into the forest with the Lady Lara right behind him. The Lady is an excellent 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. He halts. The Lady moves beside him before he speaks, "We will rest the horses for thirty minutes." He dismounts going to help the Lady, only to find her standing beside her horse. A smile sneaks across my face at her agility and determination as she is a lady of width. At a large oak I sit with my back against the trunk, soon Lara joins me. In a short time, we are on our way traveling into a thick forest where we are less apt to meet anyone.
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 does not wish to return to Black Shadow Castle ever. Her determination was intense." After a drink I continue, "There's no honor in forcing 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 yet a 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. I say, "We will rest for an hour." The lady dismounts and sits against 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 doze.
Aroused by the snort of the horses my eyes survey without seeming to move, I catch sight of a wolf in the underbrush twenty feet from where I am seated. I quiet the horses as the beast wanders away. He wasn't interested in the tasty horseflesh. As I return from the horses, Lara is standing. "My Lady, when you are ready, we will ride."
She gives me a smile and says, "Jonathan, a few minutes and I will be ready."
As she moves into the brush, I caution, "Don't wander far my lady, our visitor might still be near the camp."
Laughing, she calls out, "If you are speaking of the wolf, he'd not want this old carcass."
I did not agree with her but did not offer the opinion. The horses saddled, we are ready to ride as I wait for her return, I wait. She traipses out of the forest saying, "Let's continue, Jonathan?"
The eastern sky is turning a pale gray as the sun begins its morning jaunt across the heavens. Once again, we keep a steady pace 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.
With a sip of the sweet nectar I say, "Ah my Lady, it well suits the occasion." We stay in the saddles with the horses sitting in the shade of a gigantic oak eating the small repast.
As the Lady finishes her meal, she asks, "How much further to the cave?" In her eyes is a deep longing behind the simple inquiry.
"We make good time, my Lady, but I fear you will grow weary if we keep up this pace."
"Nay! Nay, my Lord! Let us hasten."
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 horse's flank as we move ahead. With respect for her determination, I put spurs to my steed and move forward, setting a faster pace as we moved into 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 on the ever-narrowing trail as I look for a suitable shelter. By midnight we will reach my own lands but still a respectful distance from the castle and the only shelter is ten miles at the cabin where I found Lady Lenore and we dare not stop.
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 a day's journey from the cave.
The search for Lady Lenore need not cross my lands. Being I told the Lord Darwin that I had traveled there stopping at Kent before arriving at Black Shadow Castle. Thus, we had encountered no one until I saw one of my hunters approaching. As 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?"
As he doffs hat, he says, "Aye, me Lord, I have been trailing a wolf. He has led me a merry chase."
With a smile I ask, "Jacob, has he killed any of our stock?"
He shakes his head and replies, "Nay, Sire."
With thought on the matter I say, "Jacob, leave the wolf and return to Fantasia. I 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?"
With 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 a day from Lady Lenore."
The rising moon in the east illuminates the night as we rest. I listen to the flap of the owl's wings as he swoops through the woods, searching 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 started 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." We move through the thick undergrowth, following a deer trail.
When we arrive, Lara dismounts and steps forward, wrapping her arms around the Lady Lenore. A dark shadow crosses her face and I swear I see a tear touch her cheek as she whispers, "I have no other place to go. I must stay here. Don't you understand?" Raising her eyes at me, she continues, "I can't, I can't go back to Black Shadow Castle."
Lara, her imploring eyes gaze into mine as she says, "Lord Jonathan, you must help her."
I stand, awed by what they ask. If I honor it, I will place my lands and people in great jeopardy. My army is small compared to Darwin's. But how can I refuse the Lady? Turning I move toward the outer chamber without saying a word, but as I reach the entrance, I 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.
As I place it on the ground by the bed I say, "Lady Lara, be ready to ride at dawn." I turn to Lenore saying, "I will talk with you when I return. Do not go beyond the falls. It is imperative you heed, or each of us face death."
With the pallor of doom permeating the cave, the ladies retire for the night, knowing not 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."
Lenore runs to Lara, who wraps her arms around the Lady as she weeps. With time she regains her composure saying, "It will be as he says, Lara, I promise."
As I enter the cave the next morn, Lara is ready, and Lenore is 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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