A Writer's Tale #3: The Sheriff's Showdown
Right away, I noticed a difference in the way people looked at me and treated me. I wasn't an anomaly anymore. I was one of them, blending in with the average person, as I did on the frigate in my plain grey jumpsuit. No one hooted or whistled, and certainly no one stared beyond the normal amount of eye contact in passing. I relaxed into my new role as Laura, simple guest from the bluffs.
"Yoo-hoo!" Called a voice that made me cringe involuntarily. Sure enough, like fluffy pastel-colored clouds trimmed in lace, Tru and Pru sailed toward us, almost blocking our way with stately grace.
"My, my!" Sighed Tru. "Shirley Coldwell, you're a sight for sore eyes! It's been some time since we've seen you up and about, bless your sweet heart!"
"And who is this?" Pru squinted over her shoulder at me. Her eyes flew wide. "No! Not the newcomer we saw walking through town with the sheriff, is it? Why, I hardly recognized you, dear!"
"Land sakes, it is!" Tru responded. "Well, looks like the Coldwells have civilized you right up--and don't you look just stunning in that dress!" She smiled and took my hand. "Larissa, is it?"
I fought to keep my cool under so much social pressure oozing from every pore of these two stuffy ladies. "Laura, actually; just Laura."
The two sisters shared a glance. "Well, Miss Laura," Pru angled her attention back on me, "I think it would be just lovely if you would care to join us at our quilting circle happening the day after tomorrow."
Tru nodded. "Oh, do say you will! What fun we would have!"
At least they couldn't pressure me into something I had no interest in joining. "That's very kind of you ladies," I said, "but I'm afraid I've never quilted before, so I wouldn't be doing much--"
Four eyebrows lifted like a quartet of startled birds.
"Oh! Don't you worry about a thing dear!" said Pru.
"Yes, why--Miranda Constable's little girl is completely unsuited for needlework," Tru agreed, "but her mother finds little things for her to do--sorting fabric swatches and tidying thread, for example."
Pru smiled at me and took my hand again, petting it gently with her fingertips. "Do come; we'll find a place for you yet in Phantom Gulch's society!"
I pulled my hand away, steeling myself against the shudder that raced up and down my spine at their brazen condescension. "I'll think about it," I responded.
Shirley and I sidestepped the two sisters, well aware of the way they stared after us for as long as we remained in their sight. Subtly, Shirley directed me down a side-street lined with crates of fresh produce transported from other cities.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The Last InkweaverAt this point in the story, Matthias, Callista, Terra, and Rowinna have all escaped the bounty hunter, and they tried going out to the village of one of the fellow prisoners... only to find out that the village had been razed sometime in the past, and so there is nothing left there. They are forced to move on with very little supplies and not a whole lot of direction... when we come to this scene.
"Yikes!" I spun away from my seat with a yelp.
Terra bounded to her feet, too, but for the opposite reason. "Oh! How cute!" She broke a small piece off her apple core, holding it in the palm of her hand as she approached the quivering animal.
"Careful!" I warned her.
"Leave it be, Terra," Matthias grumbled.
"Shush!" she whispered over her shoulder.
The squirrel stood, tense and sniffing, until Terra was only inches away. In a blur of movement, it spun around and launched onto the craggy boulder behind it.
"So close," Terra murmured, and she set about clambering over the rocks as the tiny squirrel with the bushy tail scurried easily up to the top.
"Terra, don't!" I called up to her. "It's not worth it!"
She stood on a small outcropping just higher than Matthias' head. Her deft fingers hunted for holds in the uneven stone.
"I've almost got it," she said, swinging her foot around to find purchase on a higher cleft. By spreading herself flat along the surface of the rock, she could shift her weight gradually enough to haul herself up. At least, that was apparently her theory.
"Hey!" she called down to us as she worked herself up to her hands and knees. "I think I can see the town from he--eeeee!"
A single high-pitched wail, and Terra disappeared down the other side of the rock.
"Terra!" I screamed.
Rowinna and Matthias ran with me to the other side. There were more boulders piled there, and lots more tight spaces. Terra's body lay crumpled in one of them, her arms folded against her face and her feet wedged underneath her. I wanted to grab her arms and help her up, but Matthias held out his hand.
"Wait," he said. "We should check her injuries before we move her and end up making it worse."
With slow, calculated movements, he bent down and felt around back of Terra's head. I heard him hiss as he pulled his hand back. Rowinna and I saw red stains on his fingertips.
"Blood?" I gasped.
Terra groaned and shifted a little.
"Terra!" I picked up her hand. "Are you all right?"
"Oh," she moaned. "My head hurts!"
"Can you move?" asked Matthias.
Slowly, her hands twitched and her arms shifted. "A little," she mumbled. "It... feels like swimming..."
"She doesn't know what she's talking about," I spoke up. "Terra's never been swimming in her life." The coast was too far away, and there wasn't another body of water for miles around Mirrorvale.
"We need to get her laid out on the ground," Matthias said. "Help me support her arms and her head." He took one hand and I took the other, and Rowinna supported Terra's head. We lifted her up, slung between Matthias and I like a large, floppy doll. One foot had stuck pretty deeply between two rocks, and at entirely the wrong angle for a foot. When we were free of the rocks, Terra wearily lolled her head and tried to mutter, "I'm fine, I can wa--" But the moment that second foot touched the ground, she cried out in pain.
"Here." Even in the blistering cold, Rowinna took off her own blanket to spread out for us to lay Terra down. Matthias ran back to our little camp on the other side to grab her blanket to cushion her bleeding head.
"So... tired..." Terra slurred.
"Don't fall asleep!" I begged her, leaning close and clasping both her hands. "It's too cold--you're hurt! You need to stay awake! Stay awake, Terra!" I shook my head. "Oh, if only we had some medicine!"
The satchel slid off my shoulder, and I heard it give a small clank inside. Quickly digging in there, I pulled out a small cooking pot and a pestle. The minute I saw them, the staff with the Wordspinner emblem flashed across my vision. The Story-Healer! "... a Story-Healer’s Tale could grow an herb for any ailment..." Naten's strong, deep voice rang in my ears. I picked up the pot and the pestle.
Matthias wrinkled his brow at me like I was crazy. "Where did you get those?"
"They were in the satchel," I said. "I need to go find some healing plants."
"In this weather? In Greyfrost?"
I shook off his derision. "Just wait here. I'll be right back.">>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>