Insris Jade

Lotus: Flowers

lotus

Jade woke as the mattress shifted. Her eyes did not open to let in the early morning light, but she smiled. Rolling over into the warmth of the sheets where Drew had lain, she curled up with his pillow. Every morning she woke with the briefest of fear that she was on a cot in a camp with petty sorcerers circling like vultures, or in a fat stranger’s bed just because of the generous coin, or back at the House behind locked doors beneath a pile of warm bodies of people who could have cared less if she were dead. Every morning she woke here, and she kissed Drew as he kissed her, and it was perfect. Then the kitten, who had waited for Mister Harlowe to head out for the fields, hopped onto the bed and stretched out along Jade’s stomach.

She woke an hour or two… most likely two later. Malt stretched out his little paws, head resting between her breasts as he considered Jade through sleepy eyes. She petted and scratched him, then shifted the kitten off of her so she could slip out of bed. Jade dressed, no matter how reluctantly (for it would not do for any of Drew’s field hands to see her in such a state), and raced Malt downstairs.

This was the part of the day that keenly reminded her that she was a housewife. Lists were made, plants were watered, and the house was cleaned. But she always kept it clean. Jade had scrubbed the rooms top to bottom after moving in, and now she made small changes. Not that Drew probably cared, but she made them gradually to acclimate him, and asked with the bigger ones… she really did want to have that rug replaced. Something that she picked. Something that helped make it more their place than his parent’s.

Jade had just discarded a cook book in favor of making something simple… like another type of sandwich, when she heard the dogs tumbling about the porch. Sighing, she buttoned up the front of her shirt and adjusted the sash of a belt around her waist before stepping outside.”

“Listen here, you two –” She stopped. Jacomys and Jamettus froze to stare all too innocently at her. Covered in dirt, the flowering vine from her new little garden hung between them, the object of her play. A flicker of panic ran through her. Running from the porch Jade rounded the house.

A hand pressed to her stomach, Jade took in the sight of the ruined garden. The flanking flowering vines had been torn down, and the little gardenia had been ripped up and gnawed to bits. Jacomys and Jamettus had followed her, and now sat, watching curiously as Jade slowly fixed the bit of fence Drew had erected. She cast them a burning look, and both of the hounds whined a little, ducking their heads as they laid down.

Setting the gardenia to the side she searched it’s hole, her bare hands sifting… then clawing the soft earth aside. It had to be there. If they had disturbed it or moved it… gods, if the hounds had drug it out… then she found it, and gasped a sigh of relief. The rock was still there, the stone’s charge remaining undisturbed and hidden beneath it’s weight.

She sat there for a moment, staring at the dirt that had stolen in up under her nails. She felt sick. She wanted to cry. Every day just before noon it struck her. It still ached and hurt a little, but then anger and frustration temporarily burned the memory away like the fire that had consumed the old sheets. It wouldn’t do her, or anyone else any good. There would be no tears. No confessions for something that probably wasn’t even her fault. She would just need to find another plant to fill the space. Smoothing the dirt to fill in the hole and head up as confidently as ever, Jade carefully gathered the shredded remains of flowers and went to go change and wash the dirt from her hands.

Lotus: Seeing Things

PicMonkey Collagedoor

It had been three days since the caravan departed south from Mistrand, and House Dæreabi. Three days south into the plains of Gathod where one of the many Easterling armies had made camp. Inaris surveyed the sea of men and horses and dirty red tents, and the haze from fires that hung in the air to mar the endless blue sky with a look of contempt.

“You do not like it?” asked the sorcerer that rode beside her, his dark brown eyes regarding her with amusement. It had been his idea to not let her ride with the others in the wagons, but on a horse. She wore no bonds, nor had she been searched. He was baiting her. He wanted her to run.

Turning her nose up with an air of indifference at the scene, the girl’s piercing blue eyes betrayed the anger she kept quietly to herself. “I do not see why I should.”

“Do you miss it? The Blue Door and your Mistress?”

“What do you care?” she asked bitingly.

Eglathor gave a cold laugh, turning his head to motion further south as he led the small train of wagons into the heart of the camp. “Your father and his riders are positioned ten miles to the south. Would you like to see him?”

“That depends,” Inaris responded, taking the chance as he looked away to study the tattoo of The Eye that enveloped his forearm.

“On?”

“If he is alive and well, or not….”

Eglathor looked to her, a venomous smile twisting the man’s mouth. “What an ungrateful daughter.”

Frowning, she began to ask what he meant by that, when the sorcerer motioned for a halt, stopping the line before a great white tent trimmed in blue that stood out like a beacon in the dark sea. Heavily guarded, two lines of women and men of various ages and races turned their heads to look at the new arrivals. A servant, his head wrapped and face concealed by a panel of yellow cloth, came forward to take their reigns, and Eglathor dismounted as others clad in various forms of murky orange or blue robes and scale armor emerged from the tent.

“We were wondering when you would arrive,” called one of them, extending a hand to Eglathor. “This is the last of them?”

Eglathor greeted several of the men before looking back to the wagons where several dozen unfortunate souls were unloaded by guards. “It is. But now that they are here I must go.”

The first man’s gaze drifted to Inaris, and she felt her insides crawl. “So soon? It is our loss… and this one?”

Eglathor smirked wickedly as he followed the man’s look and caught her eye. “A special case. She may be useful.”

Inaris was glad that she still sat in her saddle. She did not want to give them the satisfaction of seeing her tremble.

“How is it I get the feeling she will be more trouble than she is worth?” asked the man, turning his gaze back to inspect the others that were led to kneel along with the former group.

“She won’t be,” Eglathor responded as he walked away. Rounding Inaris’ horse, he gave her a dangerous look and offered her his hand which she accepted as she stepped off of her saddle.

“You are not to be staying?”

“Do not look so eager to see me go,” he said with a lifeless chuckle, reading the look she gave him. “But I will be taking this with me…” Pulling up the length of her skirt, his hand slipped up her thigh and nimbly removed the dirk she had strapped to her leg days earlier. “You are a clever girl. See that it does not get you killed before I can give it back.”

Understanding the threat in his tone, Inaris drew away, realizing her fists were clenched, and turned to join the others before the guard approaching her could bark an order for her to move.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“A whole tin of it?”

Jade smirked and tossed her feathery bangs out of her eyes. “Yes, a whole tin. That will give me enough to put two coats on the door.”

The vendor chuckled, shaking his head as he hefted a crate onto the counter. “Whatever yeh say, Missus Harlowe. Though, I aint never seen a farm house with a blue door.”

“Oh, no! No, Avery, it’s for my old cottage. Thought it would add a little charm.”

“Eh? Ah! Bema, thought I’d have to worry about m’ wife seein’ it and wantin’ to paint ours yellow. You know she loves yellow? Thinks it’s a cheerful –”

Jade smiled pleasantly, nodding as the man prattled happily on about the ungodly amount of yellow that filled his house. Turning to lean out of the way of a man hefting a fat stack of hide down the walk, Jade suddenly frowned, looking past the thick mid-day crowd milling up and down the north entrance to the Scholar’s Stair. Across the way, past a parade of bonnets and beards she saw the back of a man’s head. He was not a tall man, but his hair, pulled back into a immaculate tail was black as night. The odds of someone else having hair like that….

Turn around. Turn around.

“Missus Harlowe?”

Jade blinked, looking back to Avery and his tins of paint. “Hmm?”

“Sumthin’ catch yer eye?”

Jade looked back, searching for a frantic moment before catching sight of the man across the way. He turned… and a huff of relief escaped her before she could stop herself. It was the butcher’s oldest boy.

“I thought I’d recognized someone, but I must have been seeing things.”

Avery chuckled. “Bree’s a small place. Bet yeh know just about half of everyone by now, least by face. But here. I got several different tins you can look through.”

Jade chuckled along with him, and shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I think I will pass up the blue paint. Perhaps… hmm, perhaps you have a shade or two in red?”

Lotus: Soft Spot

“Need me to come by again some evening?”

Jade sat on the middle beam of the fence, arms and chin resting on the top. “No… Thanks, though, Tom. I don’t wanna risk you getting caught and into trouble with the Mistress at this point, but I think things should work out now.”

The young man raked aside a bit of soiled straw, looking a tad disappointed. “‘Course Miss Jade…. Ya know, it was kinda fun sneakin’ in and all, pretendin’ to be the gravedigger. Didn’t know there were so many card games, either!”

“There are more, but you’re too nice for me to teach ’em to you,” she responded with a playful wink.

Tom’s cheeks flushed, and he gave a sheepish shrug. “Well… Ann really liked the flowers. Helped a lot in explainin’ that we weren’t doin’ anything.”

“I’m glad she did. And I don’t solicit cute things like you, Tom, you know that.”

He gave her a curious look. “Why not? I mean, you wouldn’t — well, you probably would believe all the boys who talk big like they are gonna go hire one of you girls. Ann… well, she said if I wanted to try it once… with you it’d be all right.”

Jade scoffed. “Shit, Tom. You believed her?”

By the look on the young man’s face, he had.

“She’s just saying that because she’s nice. You take her up on it and you’ll break the poor girl’s heart.”

“Oh…”Tom replied softly, and Jade could see the light come on. “Oh! Well, why in the  — Why are you females all so damned complicated?”

“Because you wouldn’t like us half as much if we weren’t,” she responded with a grin. “Men can be just as complicated, you know.” Jade gave her feathery bangs a toss and added, “And so we’re clear, I’m not doing this for me. He asked me to.”

Tom forked another pitch-fork full of dirty straw into the wheelbarrow. “Then why you lie to your friend?”

Jade frowned. “Because it was the best way to get it done.”

“Was it a good friend?” The young man stopped working for a moment to study her. “Ain’t never seen that look on your face before. You’re really sorry you told him all that, aren’t ya?”

Jade hesitated for a moment before nodding. “If I’d had a traditional wedding he was one of two people I’d thought about asking to walk me.”

Tom gave a low whistle and shook his head. After a moment he gave her a curious look and stabbed his pitchfork into another clump of old straw. “Why didn’t you have one?”

“Because I wanted to be Mrs. Drewett Harlowe,”she said, her grin somewhat sheepish. It was nice to let that out once in a while, and it was easier than she cared to admit for her feelings on the matter — for the man to slip out.

“Hah!” Tom exclaimed, grinning as he worked. “You’ve got a soft spot!”

Jade smirked and threw a shoot of straw at the young man, sending it sailing out to bounce off of his shoulder. “Shut it. I got several, so don’t rat on me.”

“But he’s the biggest one. Why you still workin’ if you’re married? Thought you quit.”

“Because I got bored and hot ‘n bothered,” she replied with a shrug. “Sure he wouldn’t mind sometimes, but Drew’s got too many important things to do than entertaining me all of the time. Besides, our entertainment comes at –”

“Ah, ah! Nuh-uh! Just — No! I don’ wanna know that!”

“What?! You’re the one with all the questions!”

~ ~ ~

Elgathor glanced over his shoulder to where Talagol rode a dozen yards back. The war-lord had not been pleased about having to leave his armour behind, but neither of them would have survived half a day into The Mark if they had remained in their Easterling attire. Now night was once more upon them, and they had had the fortune of joining up with a caravan making it’s way north up the Greenway.

“Who did you say you were looking for?”

He looked back to the … brigand? Mercenary? Eglathor did not like him, whatever he was, and had not taken care to remember his name. “My daughter,” he responded easily, a perfectly convincing look of concern on his face. “She had become separated from us when the enemy made a push south.”

The mercenary grumbled. “Bloody gits. Comin’ out of every nook and cranny –“

“What part of the north you from?” came the sudden question from the commander leading the column up the ruined road. He looked back at Eglathor with a wary, watchful gaze that said he did not miss much, if anything.

Eglathor reined back a glare at the man the men escorting their caravan called ‘Vrax’. Something about him made the sorcerer want to coil up and strike, but even at the other man’s greying age he dared not risk such a fight. “Trestlebridge.” By the gods, it’s the only other town I know of in this forsaken corner of the world.

His answer seemed to suffice, though, and Vrax nodded curtly. “No one coming south by that description. If the lads had seen her they would have talked about it.”

“Oh? Well, I suppose I cannot blame them, so long as it’s just talk,” said Eglathor with a chuckle and a shrug. “She gets her good looks from her mother.”

“Lucky man! I sure hope ya find ‘er,” said the first man who’s name had been forgotten. “Good to see a concerned father with a soft spot for their daughter.”

Eglathor grinned into the growing dark, and nodded. “Yes, yes I suppose I do.”

It Feels

It feels so strange, this caring. Sure, I cared a little, but I’ve found myself doing so more now than before. It is dangerous. I cannot give in. Not too much. Not to the wrong people. Surviving was easier when I only cared about me, but I am not surviving now. I am living.

~ ~ ~

It’s been so quiet and lonely since they’ve gone. I never knew that was what I was before, and now there is no going back. I should visit the temple more, and the Warf, but there are new reasons to fear the alley’s. So I will read my books, and be here for when the Lady needs me.

Shake it off, silly. Go clean something.

~ ~ ~

How some people can separate themselves from certain situations, I will never understand. I never could, though, could I? I will be strong for him, and for them. Because I should be. Because I want to be. I will give everything, because they have given me more than I ever hoped to have. 

And now suddenly I smell the funeral pyre beneath a red Angmarim sky. I close my eyes and I see the cold rain hitting the empty road and the empty shell of what I was. I am not afraid. I do not fear. I am petrified.