- The Searchby Catherin Elizabet Belle
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The Lady's escape ends in a countrywide search.
The Search
: The Search by Catherin Elizabet Belle

Once upon a time a lady dwelled in a tower of darkness bound by contractual agreement of the realm. Desire and loneliness were her constant companions. Upon rare occasions she escapes. On these brief jaunts into the forest she finds solace in the solitude with only the animals of the forest as companions. This is her story penned in her own style.

Chapter I

When betrothed I find the Master domineering, dictating, and selfish. In the two years, I have met his requirements except one. I am relentless in my defiance. The only punishment thus is my constant guard and never to travel outside the castle walls. A pleasant castle, my life filled with silks and satins, the finest cuisine, are the things he offers.

Ladies of the realm dream of love, caring, sharing and romance. My ladies-in-waiting spoil me with each passing day, fragrant warm oil massages, tender ripe strawberries or black cherries as I languish among silk pillows and flowing drapes. Soft music sweetens the cool breeze flowing through the open windows. There are jewels to adorn my favorite gowns of pure silk when the Lord orders me to attend his social events. None of these things fill the ache deep in the abyss of my heart.

In the night's stillness, I creep into the small forest against the castle walls deep in the garden. I sit on a rock listening to the animals searching for their supper. The owl flies through the trees his keen eyes searching the forest floor. Swooping with his sharp talons he grabs the small rodent and soars to his nest high in the aspen. Beyond the walls of my prison, trees lie in silhouette against the pale glow of the silvery moon, a coyote's lonesome howl reaches my ears. A single tear slides down a warm cheek as his loneliness touch mine. Time eludes me sitting in the quiet of the night. Near dawn when I enter the castle through the garden gate behind the servant's quarters and on tiptoe scale the stone steps to the hall near my quarters. Lara sleeps against my door. Touching her on the shoulder I ask, "Why are you here?"

Alert at once she stands answering, "My lady, I heard you go out. I guard your door so no one will discover you are not in the castle."

Nodding in approval we enter the room. As Lara lights a candle she says, "My Lady, let me help you." I relax as she helps me into my night dress. Lara has been with me since I was a little girl. The one thing I brought from my home; and the only one in the whole of Black Shadow that I trust.

The hours turn into days until one morn my presence isn't required. To plan my venture into the forest outside the castle fortress, I dress in the attire of a page. I slip a dagger into my boot and a rapier at my waist. Tonight, the moon hides behind the wisp of clouds and shadows deep and eerie darken the forest floor. Ensconced in a black cape of home spun pilfered from the stores used for the villagers, I make my way down the servant's stairs. With the scones shielded by Lara, I enter the garden. In the shadows and careful not to let the gate hinges squeak, I step into the grassy walkway between the castle wall and the moat. Fear holds my breath captive as I move around the edge of the moat searching for the small boat one of the servants hides when he visits a maiden. At last, I find it tied to a bush overhanging the moat. The small craft pulls easily to the bank, I place my small valise in the bottom; climbing aboard I row in silence to the other side near a clump of small bushes. I watch the castle for evidence someone saw my crossing; no lights or guards are visible as I make my way to the shadowy tree line across the open field

Beneath the stately oak gazing toward the castle I watch to see my absence is discovered. I stand a few more minutes knowing it will be the last time I shall gaze upon my prison. Seeing no one moving around I follow the deer trail into the ebony stillness of the woods. Not far into the forest, the sound of rustling leaves halts my steps, I listen.

I continue my stroll enjoying the solitude and the calmness among the trees. As I stand on the edge of a pond of crystal water the light of the moon glimmers on its surface. I lay my knapsack and the valise beside a gray rock perching atop the boulder knees to my chest the cloak keeping the chill at bay. As the echo of my steps fade, the silence of the forest seeps through my mind soothing the wariness begot by a passionless world.

As I watch the clouds drift from the moon its, golden glow glistens off the surface of the placid pond shimmering like diamonds on silk. Growing weary with the calmness in my soul I lay in the shadow of the rock wrapped in my clock. As I hear the echo of the coyote's lonesome howl sleep closes my eyes in slumber.

Startled awake I glance across the pond where two golden eyes glow in the shadows alone the edge of the water. I dare not to move I watch as the bobcat laps at the cool water sending ripples racing across the once placid pond. As soft breeze rustles the pine needles the cat listens then slithers into the gray shadows of the early dawn. Fearing to attract his attention, I stay prone wrapped in my cloak. At a reasonable lapse of time I stand working out the stiffness from sleeping on the damp ground. At the edge of the water I stoop dipping my hand into the cool elixir bringing it to my mouth. So clean and refreshing I wonder if the pond is spring fed.

I open my knapsack to see what Lara placed there for me, fresh cheese and bread. I move back to the edge of the trees leaning against an aspen as I nibble the repast. It is strange that I feel at peace here with the sound of the owl's wings as he returns to his nest from his nocturnal hunt. The sun's rays turn the shadows to gray soaring higher, soon its glow will chase the darkness away and warm the earth with its heat.

Lara will be frantic when I do not return to the castle as I did not tell her of my plans. I shall continue my travel among the forest of vibrant green oaks. Deeper into the woods I wonder fascinated by the different pines, aspen, and oak scattered along what might have been a deer trail. Within the hour I reached a small glen a glow with the warms rays of the sun. As I lay basking in the heat, a commotion garners my attention. Raising my head, I jump grabbing my sword, side stepping the vagabond charging from a gap in the trees across the clearing. His weapon misses my shoulder by a mere inch as I turn to meet his attack. "En Garde"! the shocked expression on his face when I counter his attack brings a wee bit of excitement to my heart. I dare not relax my guard; as I advance toward him he moves shifting his position advancing toward me. Back and for the we go, parry, lunge retreat; parry, lunge, retreat. The assailant makes one false move as I lunge forward my sword plunges through his heart. He drops his rapier falling to the ground a stunned look upon his countenance.

Exhausted I dare not stay rapidly moving through the trees. The path narrows as I move farther low-hanging branches pull at my cloak. Ducking under a low limb the going is more difficult as the brush thickens, impassable is a better word. The birds become silent as I draw near their melodic singing.

Pushing my way through the tangle of fallen limbs my hands and face become scratched and itchy with specks of blood oozing from the wounds. Dropping my knapsack I find it hard to turn in the knot of limbs and brush to retrieve it. Hour after hour I trudge through this tangle of nature's fury exhausted I don't think I can go on when I fall through the brush and gaze on a small cabin.
My hands and face become scratched and itchy with specks of dried blood oozing from the wounds as I push my way through the tangle of fallen limbs. My knapsack falls to the ground. I find I hard to turn in the knot of limbs and brush to retrieve it. Spent from the battle, I curl up in the tangle around me laying my head on the knapsack; I sleep.

The sun creeping through the branches feels warm on my face as I open my eyes remembering the snarl that held me fatigued as dark fell across the land. As I manage to sit, I pull my knapsack to me and take some bread and cheese for sustenance.

Struggling to get out of the brush, I push and crawl leaving my clothing in shreds. At last reaching appoint where I can stand I move further into the woods.

Hour after hour I trudge through this tangle of nature's fury. Exhausted I don't think I can go on when I fall through the brush and gaze on a small cabin.

With a sigh of relieve, I approach the cabin. Stepping on the porch, I rap on the door; I rap again; with no answer I turn the knob and to my surprise it opens. I enter with only the pale glow coming through the window, no one is here. In the cabin is a bed, a fireplace, a table with chairs opposite the bed. An ebony lush bear rug lies in front of the dark hearth with no warmth of fiery embers.

Near the hearth a wood box sits with a bucket of kindling. Placing my knapsack on the table, I lay a few pieces of kindling in the hearth then lay two logs on the twigs. I search the cabin for a tender box; alas none. With my cloak around me to ward off the chill I sit on the bear rug near the fireplace. The chill seeps deeper into my weary bones as I lay curled and sleep.

As my eyes open, the sun is sinking in the west casting a brilliant glow of reds and orange glistening through the window. Watching the colors fade to gray I rise knowing I must return to the castle. The silent hearth serves to remind me how cold I am as a shiver resounds through my body. Picking up my knapsack I move toward the door, gazing across the glen I ask, "Where am I?"

In the lengthening shadows pondering my choices, I opine that the castle is north east putting the setting sun on my left and move that direction. As I reach the tree line, I find no easier entrance than where I push through the undergrowth. Limbs snag my cloak,tug at my hair, and scratch my arms until blood oozes from new wounds. The forest is ebony no light from the moon creeping through to the forest floor. A breeze rustles the pine needles as I push and pull and stumble in exhaustion falling to my knees. Sticks poke my legs as I pause in my trek I hear critters moving through the forest. Damn I'm too tired to move. I wrap my cloak close lying against a fragrant pine with a sob I am lost; I sleep.
The night passes uneventful the gray dawn stretching across the trees as I open my eyes. Chilled from the night air pulling my cloak tighter I reach for my knapsack. I nibble part of cheese and bread longing for a hot fire and a cup of mead to warm my insides. The sweet chirp of birds reminds me I'm alone. I wonder could I find the way to the small cabin. The brush crushed getting here should guide me there if I follow it. My hands and face sting with scratches from the scrub, I look not to the return trip. But alas, I must try.

With knapsack in hand, I move down the trampled trail whence I traveled last night. Wisps of hair flies around my dirt-streaked face, my tunic and breeches ton and dirty soaked with perspiration. My body aches. No one must see me they would think me a runaway servant. I must find the cabin! Calm yourself. Pausing, I take a deep breath to relax following my own instructions to stay calm, serenity steals through my soul moving down the smashed trail. I feel the heat of the day glancing skyward I see the sun high in the sky. I stop to rest my tongue is dry and my lips parched, thirst haunts my mind.

My journey continues the shadows lengthening, I enter a small clearing. The cabin, the one I left last evening right before me. With relieve and run to the porch darting through the door coming to an immediate halt. Everything as I left it twenty-four hours ago the hearth still without warmth.

My knapsack is empty I scrounge the cabin looking for food to eat. There's a small pantry, yet I find nothing edible. The water pail is near empty; I step outside looking for a source. Listening to the night, I hear water running and move in that direction. Fifty yards in front of the cabin a trail leads into the woods. As I follow it, I hear creatures moving through the forest floor and the sound of water gets louder. Tripping over a root, I fall headlong into a small clearing only twenty feet wide dropping the pail. In the darkness I grope through the leaves and pebbles for the pail, relief overwhelms me when the tips of my fingers touch the rough metal. I stand entranced by the painting before me. At the end is a small waterfall that takes the breath away with its beauty; the flow of the water starts ten feet above the pond. The crystal elixir, the rocks, the green pines and the moon glinting off the water sends a halo around the pond.

I walk to the pond filling the pail and start back up the trail to the cabin. Reaching the cabin, I drink my fill of water, sitting in front of the cold hearth. Weariness overtakes me and sprawled out on the bear rug, I sleep.


© Copyright 2011 Catherin Elizabet Belle All rights reserved.
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