Night Phlox

My foolish dreams

The Halfway House

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I wanted to write a little something to go with the previous post, but I got a little carried away so decided this deserved its own place. I quite enjoyed writing it, it’s always fun to explore new characters. Just to be clear, Cerysa isn’t a main character in my novel, but the Halfway House exists, and may have a role at the start of my second book. The aim of this piece is just to give a snapshot of life in the Kingdom. Enjoy.

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In the middle of the Great Forest, there was a tiny inn. The only one in the whole forest. The halfway house, they all called it, so Cerysa’s family called it that too. Those words were etched into a sign, hung from the roof of the pub but with no breeze to swing it. The trees stifled the air here. Often, Cerysa climbed into the canopy just so she could feel the wind again.

From her sentry point amongst the branches, Cerysa spied some visitors. The sky was already deep blue; no doubt they planned to stay at the Halfway House tonight. They came from the Golden Rim side of the forest, the first in many weeks to travel from west to east. Everyone wanted to go to Goldrim, yet few wanted to leave. Most who travelled that way had been kicked out by the Rimguard, usually for petty crimes that they were unafraid to retell. That was the way it worked on Goldrim: one strike and you’re out.

Now they were closer, Cerysa counted three men. They walked quickly, anticipating the ale that awaited them at the inn. The leading man called something out to his companions, nudging them, and they started to run, racing towards the pub. Dust flew from under their feet; churned up from the bone-dry ground. There had been no rain for months. The forest was turning into a desert, and that didn’t feel right to Cerysa. Could it happen? Could all this lush greenery dry up into crunching branches, could the soil turn into sand?

The men were out of breath now, the leader halted their race.  He was bald and muscular with a square chin that made him look rather stupid. The other two had long hair, one blonde and wiry; the other was dark and much taller. They all looked in their mid-twenties, and their clothes and clean skin showed their wealth. Perfect patrons, Cerysa thought.

As swift as a squirrel, she darted down a couple of branches, and then dropped from the tree, barren pine needles falling as the branch sprang back into place. Cerysa landed deftly, though her momentum caused her to stagger slightly. Much worse than normal, she said to herself, annoyed.

Busy brushing the dust from her clothes, Cerysa missed the startled faces of the three men. By the time she’d made her way onto the path, the men had overcome their surprise.

“Good sirs,” Cerysa said sprightly. “Welcome to the Halfway House.  We have the finest ale in the Forest, wine from Veldland and warm beds from just a single gold coin—“

“—And how much for you?” The bald man asked, his chin jutting forwards when he spoke. His wiry friend laughed.

Cerysa wasn’t intimidated by him.  She’d first been accosted like this when she was eleven, and a further eight years of experience had taught her how to stay in control of these situations.

“Much more than you can afford,” she said. “Even the three of you together.”

The man glanced towards the windows of the inn. Like they always did at this point, he was judging the distance.

“Not far enough away,” said Cerysa. “They’d hear me scream, and then my two brothers would come out here and slice you to pieces.”

She smirked at them. Men were so simple. It didn’t take many words to shut them up. And even those who weren’t scared by her words would think again when she placed a dagger at their throat.

“How much were those rooms again?”

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Written by Freya

Sunday 1st May 2011 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Novel

Tagged with , , ,

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