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Rated: 13+ · Campfire Creative · Fiction · Fantasy · #1596326
The outlaws of Brackenhurst Forest's quiet existence comes under threat..
[Introduction] Brackenhurst Forest has always been thought to be haunted, wise men and women throughout the land tell children stories of the ghosts and ghouls that inhabit the forest. Stories of the people who have foolishly dare enter the forest, never to be seen again... Nearly every person who travels through the forest has a tale to tell, and most make offers to the so called ‘ghosts’ rare jewels, gold cups and plates, a sack full of food, all in the hopes of making it through alive. At the time our story is set Brackenhurst forest was one of the largest in England and to travel from South to North (and vice versa) of the Country a journey through Brackenhurst is unavoidable. But ghosts and ghouls have no need for gold cups or loaves of bread, do they?

Outlaws, strays and nomads have lived in Brackenhurst for many years, an exclusive and elusive band of outcasts who live their lives in the vast and beautiful forest. They care deeply for their home and in return are rewarded; bountiful trees to make into houses, copious plants, berries and fruit for fresh food along with hogs, deer, rabbit, chicken and birds which are hunted every now and again for a more filling meal. The outcasts don’t destroy the forest or kill the animals that live there needlessly; due to their quiet and careful existence they have never been discovered. They accept the terrified traveller’s gifts and often take valuable items back to family and friends whenever possible to feed and clothe them.

But a new power is to threaten their whole existence. The King has just died leaving in his place his arrogant, mean and vain young son Oliver. Oliver never being very superstitious has started to gather a group to start a new project of cutting back the forest to make more room for castles, alehouses and brothels, the more the merrier for him. For the first time the inhabitants of Brackenhurst forest feel their whole way of life being threatened, their group seems to be growing due to the new King’s harsh taxes and general lack of empathy as those who know about them begin to drift into the woodland. How can they survive if their home is taken away from them? They can’t stand and fight as most have a price on their head or are supposed to be dead. Join the Brackenhurst inhabitants as they fight for their home and their lives.
The story will focus on the younger generation of the outcast group, I have listed a brief character summary and a bit of background for each character I’ve kept it vague for you guys to really develop it some more. I want to start this before Oliver has come to power so the last few weeks of the King’s life to get into the swing of the story build the characters, their stories and relationships up. There aren’t really any rules, pretty much no massive changes to other people’s character’s stories if you want to take a relationship or storyline involving someone else’s character in a radical direction just drop them an e-mail to make sure it’s okay.

Beatrix – is just starting to come out of her shell. When she first arrived Beatrix was very quiet and kept much to herself. Banished from her village and disowned by all of her family apart from her father because of her compassionate nature, some of Beatrix’s best friends were lepers and foreigners; she constantly put herself at risk to get food, drink and clothing to them. Aiken4LOTR

Elina – and her mother were chased out of their village by an angry mob who accused Elina’s mother of being a witch. Elina has inherited her mother’s astounding ability to create all kinds of mixtures and medicines; she just seems to have an inbuilt knowledge of what will create the perfect mixture. Professor Q

Katelin – and her brother Fabien both have prices on their heads for a crime committed in self defence. Katelin knows Fabien loves her but often feels incredibly guilty for him being an outlaw for something that she ultimately did. The siblings have been in the forest longer than any of the others and she is therefore a skilled hunter, fighter and above all a survivor. Dominique

William – the newest arrival to the forest. He has always worked closely with the King and he has watched him start to weaken and has seen his son Oliver begin to slowly exert his authority over the castle staff. William was gambling with him one night (and winning) when on the last hand he won all of Oliver’s money, the Prince suddenly turned on him accusing him of cheating and threatened William that unless he left without a backward glance he would kill him and every single person he cared about. William left and tried to keep a low profile lodging in taverns and people’s spare rooms so he could still see his family, but Oliver must have heard this as soon enough posters went up in every village, on every door with his sketch on and a reward for turning him in.

Fabien – knows the forest so well he could navigate through it with his eyes closed, a definite advantage when hunting or laying traps for travellers. He feels no resentment towards his sister for what happened; to Fabian it was a blessing in disguise as their life in the forest has been the best thing that has happened to him. He misses his parents every now and again but he has matured so quickly that even that doesn’t affect him too much. Dr Matticakes Myra

Jonah – came from a very poor family who could no longer afford to pay village taxes, the soldiers who are slowly beginning to come under Oliver’s command were ordered to hang anyone who couldn’t pay as a show of power to the villagers. One of those people happened to be Jonah’s father. Jonah attacked three of the soldiers before he was stopped by the remaining soldiers. They beat him until they thought he was dead then dragged his corpse along with the hanged villagers to the edge of the forest; where Katelin found him. .Wolfie.
Name: Katelin
Age: 19 summers

Appearance: Katelin stands at a sturdy 5”4, she isn’t tall and willowy, nor small and stocky but falls somewhere right in the middle. Running, climbing and hunting have all shaped her body into a certain muscled definition so although she might not be very tall she is fairly strong and able to stand her ground. Her long dark blonde curls fall just past her shoulders but are normally pulled back from her face because running through the forest with hair in your face isn’t very practical. Generally, on a normal day Katelin looks pretty disgusting, she is usually barefoot and wearing dirty, ripped clothes, mainly men’s clothes, she is constantly covered in bruises due to many activities that as a lady she shouldn’t really be doing. However, on the rare occasion that the group celebrates (birthdays, the odd marriage) Katelin can quite easily astound others with her beauty and really enjoys getting dressed up despite her faint awkwardness.

Personality: Katelin is extremely sure of herself; she trusts her instincts greatly and will often act on her gut feeling. When plotting and executing the traps they set up all around the forest Katelin is ruthless, she feels the rich who travel through the forest have a duty to sacrifice their possessions to the outlaws. Despite her quite hard and determined edge Katelin is a loyal, caring and quite affectionate friend. In normal society she never would have formed the kind of friendships she has in the forest, it isn’t proper to be such close friends with men, she would never have dared swim with men before she became an outlaw, but in the forest it is part of her normal life. As well as Katelin can track and hunt she is quite useless when it comes to cooking and domestic tasks, the day she found Jonah she was more than able to haul him back to camp but from there she simply had to assist the other women in helping heal his wounds and nurse him back to health. Katelin loves her home in the forest, she feels more comfortable and accepted amongst the outlaws and strays than she ever did in normal society, she likes that in a way they can make their own rules and be true to themselves without judgement.

History: Before Katelin and Fabien lived in the forest they were fairly highly ranked in society, their father was a very skilled tailor and supplied much of the upper class with fabric for their own personal seamstresses but more often than not he actually measured, made and fitted the clothes personally. As her father became more successful they moved closer to town in order for his livelihood to really become fully established. It was there that she attracted the attention of the King’s highest ranking Constable, Richard, he pursued her relentlessly and although she was polite, something that took a great deal of effort, she never encouraged him or led him on. One night Katelin and Fabien were both invited to a kind of ‘after hours’ informal gathering that was to be attended by all the young and glamorous socialites of the Kings court. Richard was extremely drunk even when Katelin first arrived, he didn’t approach her all evening but, it seems, waited for her to excuse herself to use the toilet, where he lay in wait for her to finish and forced himself upon her. He was a very strong man from all the army training and Katelin did not stand a chance, it was only when he was finished and stood up to leave that her hand happened upon a large, sharp rock which she smashed into the back of his head. Fabien, who had seen Katelin excuse herself and then watched Richard follow her, had waited for fifteen minutes thinking Richard would just try to talk to her but then became worried and had gone in search of his sister. He found Richard, blood gushing from the back of his head, towering over the seemingly lifeless form of his sister; he pulled his sword and killed him before he could even turn around. Fabien hadn’t even paused to try and hide the body he just picked up his sister and fled.




Katelin’s bare feet hit the leaf carpeted forest floor as she ran silently through the trees, during the past year of living there her eyes had naturally become accustomed to picking out low hanging tree branches and uplifted roots ready to snatch your feet from under you. Dodging lithely through the thickening trees Katelin no longer needed to consciously think about what direction she needed to be heading in she just let her instincts guide her home. Home she thought, never could she have imagined that she would be calling a small wooden hut in the middle of Brackenhurst Forest her home. But then she never thought she would be the kind of girl who was forever in old, tatty, men’s clothes and constantly covered in dirt. As Katelin neared the clearing she slowed from a run to a walk and wiped a light film of sweat from her brow and gave a surreptitious sniff in the direction of her armpits. Wrinkling her small nose slightly she decided she’d have to bathe today especially given it was Fabien’s birth day today which would mean putting on a dress and being fussed over by the other women. She was clearly considered somewhat of a project by many of them, it obviously distressed them to see a pretty face hidden by a constant layer of mud, and many of them still wore dresses on a day to day basis, something Katelin had firmly given up within a week of arriving in the forest. As Katelin ambled towards home she prepared herself for her very old but what she considered very necessary routine. Seeing the large cedar tree coming up on her right hand side Katelin suddenly threw herself to in its direction, to anybody watching it would look as if someone had reached out and pulled her roughly out of sight. Katelin sat calmly on the padded forest floor her back pressed up against the trunk and closed her eyes, breathing in and out slowly and very quietly. She tuned her ears into the sounds of the forest all around her, she had learned to almost push her hearing outwards, to focus on areas nearby and had she knew exactly what she was listening for. Patiently, for around fifteen minutes, Katelin sat so still and quiet that a couple of deer had emerged and were wandering comfortably around her a definite good sign for Katelin that no one was following her and that it was safe to enter the clearing. Letting out a long breath Katelin slowly stood up from her position at the base of the tree, the gentle action alerted the deer and they dashed off but it wasn’t such a swift movement that it startled them too much. Smiling to herself Katelin almost skipped off into the clearing which housed her and what she liked to think of as her new found family.

The wide, open space was fizzing with activity, celebration days were always exciting days for the group as they didn’t come around all that often. A lot of the older members of the group never wanted to celebrate their birthdays so it was only the younger generation who ever bothered and even then most of the festivities were quite tame. Katelin watched as various people went about their daily business, small groups of women, men, boys and girls were coming back to the clearing after a day of food gathering. Small and larger baskets in hand they returned with their goods, some also dragged sacks which were most likely from the edges of the forest where wealthy travellers had left them as offerings to what they believed were the ‘ghosts’ that inhabited Brackenhurst. Towards the left hand side of the clearing the cooks of the group were starting to prepare food for the evening and some where setting up the two long tables and benches at which they would sit for their evening meal. Katelin smiled and greeted people as she headed towards her hut to pick up some soap in order to go and bathe. The hut she shared with Fabien sat on the outer edge of the main clearing, not for any particular reason, there is no such thing as privacy among the group but just because it was a spot the siblings both agreed upon. Fabien was sat on the ground just outside the hut, his head bowed looking at something in his lap but at the sound of her approaching footsteps his head whipped up and a smile broke across his face.

“Where have you been all day?” he asked cocking his head to one side slightly.

Katelin smiled right back at him and gave a small shrug of her shoulders. “Oh. Just here and there. Running mostly.” She grinned and placed a hand by her hip to feel the solid weight of a package in a drawstring bag resting there, Fabien’s birthday present.

Fabien stood up and stretched out his body. “Very well. If that is your story.” He laughed and winked at her. “I hope you’re about to go and bathe you actually smell quite horrible.”

Katelin jutted her chin out slightly, “not that it is anything to do with you but I was coming here to get some soap and clean clothes.”

He chuckled lightly and wrapped an arm round her shoulder as she drew up alongside him. “Usually I would agree that it is none of my business, but here I must disagree, because when one smells as bad as you it becomes my business!” Fabien sprang gracefully away as Katelin swung her arm out to hit him.
Joining in Fabien’s laughter after overcoming her initial indignation the pair entered their small, homely hut and Katelin set about gathering what she needed for her trip to the spring. She clucked her tongue as she surveyed her possessions, picking up her makeshift bag (a used potato sack with a strap attached) she placed a new bar of soap, her hairbrush, her makeshift towel - a wide strip of doubled over linen, clean under garments, a petticoat and her finest silk dress in cornflower blue. Swooping to give Fabien a kiss on the cheek Katelin set off in the direction of the hot springs and waterfall to have her bath and ready herself for an evening of good food, drink and dancing.
Name: Elina Olgadóttir

Age: 26 summers

Appearance: Elina is beautiful in a subtle way; it takes time for people to see it, but once they do, they can't imagine that they ever thought her plain. Her beauty is so intrinsically tied to her personality that people find it impossible to separate the two. She is relatively tall, at 5'9, and very buxom, with very generous curves that bespeak of health and childbearing ease. Her strawberry blonde waves fall to the middle of her back and she either keeps it down or tied up in a braid wrapped around her head. Naturally pale-skinned, Elina has gained something of a tan in her months living in the forest, and her complexion is now rather ruddy, though she has developed a spray of freckles across her high cheekbones and the bridge of her slightly upturned nose. Wide, cat-shaped blue eyes sparkle with warmth, mirth, and witty intelligence; it often appears that Elina is laughing at something within her mind. Full-lips curve naturally upward, so she looks like she always has a small smile on her face, and while she is a pretty girl, she is not extraordinarily beautiful. People don't stop and stare when she walks into a room. Hers is a beauty of hearth and home, and very comforting to people. They naturally feel at ease around her because she even looks like she'll take care of them. Elina is almost always found in a smock and apron of some sort, pretty typically low cut in the fashion of the time, and bound with a simple bodice. Often, she wears an apron with several pockets sewn on; it's for when she collects herbs. Mostly, though, it's just the dress.

Personality: Elina is a comforting soul. She has an innate kindness within her that makes everyone feel at ease when she is around; even the animals don't seem to mind her presence, even going so far as to seek her out. Despite this, Elina is very playful, with a very mischievous sense of humor that often has people roaring in laughter if they get what she says. Very intelligent, Elina is smart enough to read people and the patterns of nature, which aids in her ability with herbs and natural medicine. As a small child, she was taught exactly which herbs did what and in what combination, and her prodigious memory has allowed her to retain that information over the years. Her mother was truly magical; Elina has inherited but a small portion of that ability. Luckily, what she has inherited is relatively safe for her; no one seems to think she is a witch because of it. Elina is a strong force, too, especially when it comes to hearth and home; no one gainsays her in many things, and her opinion is often sought out because of her ability to discern the truth in all sorts of situations. She is definitely a maternal figure in the village, despite being such a young person.

History: Elina doesn't discuss it much because it's such a typical story. Her mother was a midwife and healer, renowned for her skill with herbs and cures. Elina and her mother lived alone in a midsized village just outside of the forest. One day, Olga had the misfortune of losing a patient; a woman giving birth turned septic and died, despite everything Olga did to rescue her. The husband accused Olga of being a witch and killing his wife on purpose. He was a village Elder, and held a lot of sway, so the villagers all turned against Olga and her young daughter. Olga died, but Elina managed to escape into the night, making her way into the forests. For a few years, she lived on her own, using her knowledge of the flora and fauna to survive. Shortly after her twenty-fourth birthday, Elina found the village. Upon learning of her skill, she was immediately invited to stay. In the two years since her arrival, Elina has become something of a female Elder herself. She is well-respected and well-loved.


Name: Beatrix Hilden
Age: 21 summers

Appearance: Reflecting her caring demeanor, Beatrix’ appearance is marked by soft features that give her an elegant and graceful beauty. Standing at around 5’6,” she has smooth russet complexion and a lithe, willowy build that extends to her light, dainty feet and long, slender fingers. She has a narrow, straight nose that is balanced by the kind glimmer in her striking auburn eyes. Beatrix’ full, supple lips are often forming a small but tender smile. Lengths of wavy raven locks are usually woven into an elaborate braid or allowed to cascade freely down her back. As one of the village’s gatherers, Beatrix tends to wear simple clothing that enables her to carry out her duties of collecting travelers’ gifts and various foods from within the forest, as well as tending to the small garden she has planted. Typically, she wears a long, form-fitting tunic either laced up the front or cinched with a sash. This is then paired with modest leggings and ankle-boots.

Personality: Overall, Beatrix is a shy and gentle individual. She is decidedly reserved and prefers to remain a careful observer when appropriate or necessary. And though she is timid, it would be a mistake to confuse her quiet ways for naivety or passivity. On the contrary, Beatrix—or Trix, as Fabian has recently taken to calling her—is enduringly compassionate in nature and always ready to come to another’s aid. Though she doesn’t yet know how to defend herself—whether with fist, sword or even words (which Katelin hopes to remedy)—Beatrix never ceases to stand on the line for the sake of her new family in Brackenhurst. She is a warm, kind-hearted woman who the others can always rely upon and trust. While her passionate heart is her greatest asset, Beatrix also has a strong mind. She is rational and steadfast, often serving as a constant source of comfort and honesty for the people of the forest. Beatrix cares deeply about those who share Brackenhurst as their home and, as of late, she has slowly begun to come out of her shell. And once she opens up, Beatrix usually finds that she quite enjoys the company and conversation of others.

History: Before her life in Brackenhurst, Beatrix lived in the small rural village of Rahn, located on outskirts of the city. As farmers, Daphne and Edward Hilden were able to provide for their children. However, life in Rahn was hard for many of its residents. The town was merely one for those passing through. Strange visitors were always lurking, and it was dangerous to be out at night. The little wealth the village amassed came from the pockets of travelers visiting the inn and tavern. Most of the townspeople were quite poor, making the income of Hilden family a true blessing. Many of the town’s visitors were foreigners and lepers, just as unfortunate as Rahn’s citizens (if not more). In an effort to help those whose suffering was worse than hers, Beatrix began to steal crops from the family farm at night and snuck out to meet the people sleeping in the streets. She put herself at risk to bring them food, drink, and clothing. Eventually, Beatrix’s family was told about her behavior by some concerned townspeople. And although Beatrix remained miraculously healthy despite her contact with the often sickly travelers, her mother thought she was a risk to the family’s business and well-being. In the wake of stricter tax laws and farming quotas established by King Oliver, Beatrix was sent away. She was banished by the townspeople who thought her misconduct encouraged the lepers to stick around, and she was disowned by the people she loved. When Beatrix left, those she had been helping told her to seek refuge in the forest.

*****

With a burlap bag fashioned with rope and slung over her shoulder, Beatrix carefully walked along the edge of the forest. She had already zigzagged her way throughout much of the thick woodland , gathering the tokens of fear and reverence left by the few brave souls who dared to step into the shadows of Brackenhurst. The other villagers would be so pleased by the collected assortment of various fruits and trinkets. They would, most assuredly, contribute to the day’s celebration. At this thought, a small smile crept onto Beatrix’s face. Gently rubbing her thumb over the worn surface, she examined the silver locket resting in her palm. Though it was not really hers to give, she had no other gift with which to present to Fabian. Despite this, she felt it was right and hoped dearly that he would like it. Marching on, she began to head back to the clearing in which she and her fellow strays and outcasts resided.

As she neared the site, the constant low hum created by the people’s excited voices and activity reached her ears. Stepping into the clearing, she watched her new friends and family lay out the prepared food and decorations for the party. While it was a modest display, mostly makeshift, it was also a brilliant one, crafted with care and affection. After dropping off the bag of collected gifts to the elder members of the village (minus the locket), Beatrix ambled over to the garden. She knelt down in the dirt and examined the growth of the most recently planted vegetables. Then, slipping a hand into her pocket, she retrieved a small sachet she had found earlier on the forest’s edge. This gift, in particular, regularly appeared at the base of an aged willow tree hunched over a small creek. Every time she found and opened it, the pouch contained a different type of seeds. As Beatrix dug her hands into the soil and dispersed the seeds, her mind remained aware of the tree’s location on the eastern border of the forest. Though it was leagues away, the closest town was a small rural place called Rahn. While the sachet no longer carried a message, the first gift clearly had the letters EH scrawled upon a piece of parchment stuffed inside with the seeds.

After sprinkling some water over the planted seeds, Beatrix stood up and dusted the dirt off her leggings and hands. Since she had completed her assigned duties for the day, it was time she return to the hut she shared with Elina. She had to wash up and get herself ready for the party. Her dirty tunic and disheveled hair would not do for such a rare and wonderful occasion.

Name: Jonah Farson
Age: 20 summers

Appearance: Jonah stands about six feet in height with a lean build. As a boy he was teased for being too skinny and lanky, but time and age has put muscle on his frame. He keeps light brown hair pulled back out of his face at the nape of his neck. Hazel eyes look out of a sharp and serious face, his nose slightly crooked now and a scar running over the corner of one brow thanks to the harsh beating he survived. His hands are callused and rough, once from labor and now from using his bow.

Personality: Generally quiet and serious, Jonah isn’t prone to laughter or foolishness. He values the traits in others but tends to keep to himself, preferring to watch others enjoy themselves than to join in. He is fiercely loyal to the outlaws and the forest they protect, but he isn’t quick to let anyone close. Still haunted by his father’s death, he carries with him nightmares and a need for vengeance that he keeps close to his chest. Most view him as quiet and polite, always willing to help those that took him in.

History: Jonah was the only child of Samuel Farson, his mother dying while giving birth to him. If his father resented him for it, he never allowed it to show, doing his best to raise his only son. Unfortunately he didn’t have much of a legacy to leave him. With no land of their own, Jonah’s father worked as a serf on the local lord’s farm, laboring day in and day out for little pay. Once he was old enough, Jonah joined him, but even between the two of them it was often a choice between eating or paying the steadily rising taxes. Unable to pay what they owed, Samuel was dragged from their home to be hung along with several other villagers. Jonah attacked the three attempting to drag his father away, but it didn’t do either of them any good. He was beaten within an inch of his life and then dumped with the rest of the bodies in a ditch just outside the forest.


---


The arrow feathers brushed against Jonah’s cheek, the string pulled taut as he aimed the bow. He focused on his breathing, on keeping it even and steady. He ignored the burning of his legs from crouching in the same position so long, ignored the strain in his arms and the sweat slowly making its way down the back of his neck. A snuffling from the underbrush gave away the position of his quarry, followed by a snort and then the crunching of sticks and leaves as the hog came into his line of sight.

He hadn’t been born a hunter. He’d been born into the life of a servant, and his body still held proof of that. Long days under the sun had tanned his skin and lightened his hair. His hands were callused and scarred, but that had made it easier to adapt to holding a bow instead of a plow. It was one of the changes he didn’t regret, because all of the alternatives were so much worse.

He wasn’t over his father’s death yet. It had been two summers and he knew he should have been, but he still woke up in the middle of the night with the smell of death still in his nose and the sight of his father’s vacant eyes burned into his own. His memory of that day was hazy. He remembered the guards. He remembered trying to stop them and he remembered the beating once it started, but the rest became a blur after the hilt of a sword cracking over his forehead. It was a haze of sensations, of pain and the sound of flesh cracking against flesh. He remembered at some point that he opened his eyes and found bodies pressing down on top of him and flies buzzing around his head, of trying to crawl out of them. Then nothing, not until he’d opened his eyes buried beneath the covers of a soft bed.

Katelin had rescued him. That’s what they told him later. He’d found it hard to believe that such a small lass could drag his lanky frame back to their village, right up until she’d punched him in the shoulder for calling her a liar. Then he’d believed it.

He tried to blink the thoughts away, because inevitably they would lead him to a dark place. It lingered within him, the longing for vengeance that he couldn’t shake and wasn’t sure he wanted to. In his head he knew better. He knew that he would likely never find the guards that killed his father, and even if he did they were only following orders. He could never take his grief out on Oliver, the one who at the end was responsible for stringing Samuel Farson up like a criminal because he’d chosen to feed Jonah instead.

It didn’t change anything within him. It didn’t dull it, just made him bury it in his chest with the hope that time would ease his pain.

He let out a breath at the same time he released the string of his bow. The arrow whistled through the air and he didn’t look away when it found its home. He pushed himself to his feet, padding lightly across the forest floor to the wild hog. His knife slid from its sheath and he tried to assuage the guilt he felt at its death with a quiet prayer for its safe passage to the other side.

“We give thanks for your sacrifice,” he said quietly. They took only what they needed from the forest and used every part of what they had to kill. They would use the meat, the bone for tools, and the skin for leather.

He hauled the beast up over his shoulders, casting a glance at the sky afterwards. The sun wasn’t visible through the canopy of trees above him, but the cast of shadows on the forest floor and the faint glow of green through the leaves gave him an idea where it sat in the sky. He’d been hunting for the celebration tonight, but he hadn’t left himself much time to clean up before Fabian’s birthday. He wasn’t much for company, but he understood why others would be and he enjoyed watching from the sidelines. The sound of music and laughter, the smell of a roast, and the sight of swirling dancers would be a welcome sight, even though he never joined in.


Name: Fabien
Age: 24

Appearance: Of middling height at just 6' and broad shouldered, Fabien has a similar build to his sister, neither strikingly tall or overly burly and a physique shaped by their new life in the forest. His curly hair is a lighter blond with shades of auburn like their mother's, which he tries to cut short for practicality although he often forgets to redo it and it grows very fast - often leaving him with a mass of wisteria style knots on his head. His eyes are their father's, much admired for the bright circle of cobalt that bursts out from the pupil into otherwise cool grey-blue of his irises. His eyelashes are auburn, as are his brows, though they've lightened due to spending so much time outdoors. His skin is unsurprisingly tanned and his body defined by hours of outdoor work and activity. His upper body and arms are particularly toned as due to teaching the inexperienced the basics of sword fighting and archery, lessons he was taught whilst at court. However, he remains narrow waisted thanks to genes and straight-backed thanks to years of posturing in class. Unlike his wayward sibling, he still enjoys washing regularly, aware that it's healthier as well as preferable, and although he's relaxed his dress by necessity, he is his father's son and does like being well-presented. Of course, he's quite content to muck in, become filthy as hogs and wear they same ratty clothes as everyone else, as long as he doesn't have mud in his hair when he goes to sleep at night, he's happy.

Personality: Quieter, though no less social or determined than Katelin, Fabien is on the cheerful side of irony, with a dry wit and a good sense of humour that's born chiefly from his education. Due to this he's taken to helping the children of outcast learn their numbers and letters, when he's not out hunting and helping lure idiot nobles into their traps. He's rather good as a teacher due to his easy going nature. It was this insoucience that made moving to the forest easy to him - he's calm, relaxed and versatile in almost every situation. His is a subtle determination, usually overshadowed by his good spirits, he doesn't feel the need to complain about much. However, he does have a fierce streak that overwhelms him when it comes to those he loves and cares for. This side of him is passionate and deliberate and dangerous. This, he believes is what stripped his sister of the life she should have had and he has a mild guilt lingering in his consciousness that blames his furious retaliation on the fact that Katelin has gone from lady to ladette. Rationally, he knows that they're happier here and that he could have done nothing else but that doesn't stop him from sometimes wishing he'd been more collected. Those he meets are often struck by how well they like him yet how little they know about him, as he's rather too good at talking around people to find out about them. This is mainly due to his curiosity and lack of interest in himself, this can be misconstrued as self-deprecation, but it's really that he simply doesn't find himself as interesting as he finds other people. Since arriving at the camp he's been collecting the stories of all those around him and is somewhat of a bardic figure, telling humorous tales and recollecting adventures for those in need of entertainment.

History: Having grown up alongside his sister, he was an amiable young man cutting through the courts by the time it came for them to flee. He received a well-rounded education in literature, languages, philosophy and numbers, riding, sword fighting, history and archery. All of these were taken alongside the sons of courtiers, though his fellow students made sure to remind him that he was not of the same circle as them. He often thanks them for doing so, as to imagine being lauded among them makes him wonder if he would have one day become as corrupt and brutish as the man that he murdered. However, he had believed that he'd one day either inherit his father's trade, which didn't hold much appeal, or join the merchant vessels that his father owned. He even considered the navy though he quickly dismissed that when he realised he'd be under so much sway of the aristocracy and royals. His respect for the upper class was greatly diminished even before Richard forced his hand, as being older and a man made it much easier to see the onset of inherent corruption, the supercilious nature of the new King and the movement towards a more totalitarian rule. Whilst he respected the monarchy and its system, he had been in awe of his father's stories of the constitutional rule that had been instigated by the old King, especially by the circular rooms that constituted his advisory committee. Oliver's dismissal of that committee and his seizure of more and more money and power, had unsettled Fabien, the first tendrils of disillusionment making themselves pronounced even before the final weeks of their courtly lives. He loves the move and knows, ultimately, the change was the best thing that could have happened as it removed any remnants of rose-tinted nostalgia from his mind, hence he and his sister chose to drop their surname on their arrival and welcome to the camp.


*

"I'm getting old," he laughed, rubbing at a sore spot on his chest, "If you little scallywags can place one on me."

The three young boys he was teaching today grinned, one of them beaming with pride. This was his class for the day as these were the newest boys of the forest to arrive with their families and needed to catch up to the rest of them before they could join in with his other students. They didn't have to know that he was only keeping to the same moves that they knew and would let them point him every once in a while until they graduated from short sticks to wooden swords. When they were new, it was about making sure they felt excited, about making sure they wanted to learn, rather than focusing on skill alone. After all, a disinterested student was prone to laziness and arrogance and that would find them a mound of earth with worms for company.

"You know what, let's call it in." Fabian added, smiling and ruffling the hair of the boy whose grin wouldn't subside until he'd told his mother, "I want you to keep practising your parry and lunge movements and you'll be joining the other group in no time." The boys looked vaguely disappointed before he continued, "You're doing really well and you'll be able to boast about getting a point on me at the party tonight."

As their smiles brightened, he shook his head to clear the curls that had fallen into his eyes and then waved them away, stabbing the wooden branch he'd been using into the ground as he moved in the opposite direction. It was strange to think that those boys were already fugitives, already needing to know the things adults did. He didn't find it saddening, although he admitted that it was disheartening to think that Oliver had exacted so much change over the country that their once small community grew in number month by month, instead he rather thought it was wonderful - that people felt comfortable enough, safe enough to join them in Brackenhurst even with small children to care for. Sometimes he and Katelin would wonder, deep into the night, whether the growth of their new family could continue. Was it safe to invite so many strangers to their woodland haven? Could they trust everyone? That had been sorted when they'd made it a principle to blindfold potential new members on their arrival so that they could not lead the way to the encampment, at least until trust was established. In most cases, this was completed within days, everyone had a viable reason for their predicament and those who were perceived as less-than-reputable had their stories followed up on the outside. So far, that had only happened once and it turned out the reason for the man's lack of willingness to explain was because he'd had a relationship with another man who had been hanged. Many, like that man, would only pass through Brackenhurst, settling in with their group until safety could be guaranteed with other family or passage out of the country. Fabien felt pride when he thought of what their world offered and a fierce need to protect it.

Striding back through the camp, he waved to a couple of returning hunters as they carried two rows of dead birds between them and shook his head. All of this activity for a party, he couldn't quite believe it.

“Happy Birthday!” Called out a voice behind him and he swung round to greet their resident ‘witch’.

“Elina,” He said with a chuckle, swooping into a grandiose bow that made her laugh, “I wish you wouldn’t say it so loud.”

Rolling her eyes and shaking her head, she approached and gave him a brief hug, “Why ever would I want to say it any quieter. This whole event is for you.”

“Because I’m almost as old as you and I don’t want the rest of the world to know it.” He teased, knowing that she had poked fun at the festival for the same reason as he, “Are those fruits for the table?”

“What else would they be for? Have to have some fruit with your fowl and your rabbit and whatever else they’ve killed for you.”

Elina was one of his closer friends, perhaps because they were a mite older than the others of their group but not as old as the parents and original outcasts. It might also have been for their similar manners, both affable and relaxed, teasing and patient, they were simply good companions and when he wasn’t with Katelin or the lads, he’d often find himself in conversation with the motherly woman at his side. He enjoyed her company, he liked that neither of them would talk about themselves but about the people around them and he knew, that although half the camp was intrigued by their genial relationship, they would always remain as likeminded confidantes.

“Do you think your sister will want a bath today?” She enquired without prompting, “Because when I heard the women talking earlier, they seemed quite affronted that they hadn’t seen her all day despite their preparations.”

He laughed again, “I daresay she knew exactly what she was doing when she left the camp today and she will come back with a boar or something equally ridiculous to add to the campfires...” He paused thinking about the state she’d last been in, “I hope she does wash though, the smell is becoming quite intolerable.”

A pretty smile lit up Elina’s face and he found himself admiring her beauty for a second, wondering who the lucky guy would be that would finally work their way into her heart, “You know, you’re not a bouquet of roses right now either, you should probably heed your own advice.”

“I am, I promise.”

Their conversation continued a while longer but eventually they parted ways, he to the hut where he and Katelin resided and she to help the other women with the preparations. The whole area was buzzing with excitement and everyone he passed gave him greeting whilst busying themselves with some addition to the evening celebration.

Twenty-four summers, had it really been so very long? He shook his head, clearing it of the thought before heading down to the pools where the currents ran slow and the springs warm. Languishing in the water, he relished the way the knots in his hair came free, how the stickiness of sweat dissipated and his skin tingled as dirt was scrubbed off by the honey-wax soap. He’d wash up, dress, indubitably discover his sister even more dirtied and unrecognisable than before and then be dragged off into the merriment of the evening. He smiled, that didn’t sound so bad at all, even if he was slowly becoming old.
Katelin shifted slightly on the wooden stool and wondered if she would ever regain feeling in her backside. Her skin tingled, her scalp was tender and the threat of a head ache loomed between her eyes. Katelin realised she used to experience this on a regular basis during her short time at the Kings Court. If only her peers could see what she had become, or rather degenerated into; a girl who runs around in men’s clothing, covered in filth for days and often stinks like the horses stable.

“You are nearly ready my little duck.” A shapely, dark-haired woman promised placing a reassuring hand on Katelin’s shoulder.

Anna Wakelin quickly adopted Katelin when she and Fabien arrived in Brackenhurst and Katelin had remained firmly under Anna’s wing ever since. Despite being fiercely independent Katelin often had days where motherly attention from Anna and time spent with her were all she needed to make an awful day turn completely around.

“Up you pop then, let’s get this dress on you and you can leave.”

Katelin stretched as she rose from the stool and satisfyingly felt her bones click and life return to her derriere. Anna and another woman named Clara held the dress open close to the ground in order for Katelin to step easily into the gown. They slipped the dress up her body and she wiggled her arms into the tight sleeves as they buttoned and laced her in. Anna eyed the young girl and made, what Katelin thought, was an approving noise at the back of her throat. She stood back from Katelin and held up a large piece of broken looking glass.

Katelin watched as the beauty in the mirror blinked exaggerated, wide eyes and touched a hand to her braided hair. The delicate plaits were interwoven with red ribbon whilst the rest of her dark blonde curls fall shimmering down her back. A deep red dress encased her small form, the feel of the material beneath her fingers transported Katelin’s thoughts back again to her time at Court. Being fussed over, primped and preened was a regular occurrence and not one that sat particularly well with Katelin. Of course a small part of her relished the approving looks she received, but for every approval there we those of disdain, those who saw her and Fabien as outsiders, and of course those, like from Richard, of lust. Katelin shivers at the thought and averts her eyes from the mirror feeling ashamed.

“Happy my duckie?” Anna asked, an edge of worry to her tone. Katelin blinked and shook her head, pushing away the unwanted memories.

“Very happy. You ladies make magic happen.” Katelin said gratefully.

Anna lowered the mirror and rested it against the side of a tree. “No magic my love. It is good to remind you of the beauty you bury beneath mud every day.” Katelin laughed despite a blush spreading across her cheeks. “Now off you go so I can get myself ready.” Anna instructed and made a small shoo-ing motion with her hands. Katelin smiled and turned to head towards the clearing before quickly swivelling back to Anna to wraps her arms around the older woman before picking up the package that contained Fabien’s present and leaving.

***----------***

The clearing felt alive in the way it always did when there was a celebration and it caused Katelin to draw in a sharp breath. An enormous fire blazed in the centre, the flames almost seemed to lick the night sky they reached so far. Smaller fires smouldered at the edge of the clearing, their main purpose clear from the mouth watering smell of roasting meat that floated in the air. Two long wooden tables strained under the weight of fresh food, vegetables, breads, cheeses, pastries and meats added to the delicious smells assaulting Katelin’s nose. The inhabitants of Brackenhurst buzzed excitedly around the clearing, a small group of people were readying their treasured instruments for the music that would soon fill the area. Many were still assembling chairs and benches so everyone would have somewhere to sit that wouldn’t dirty their finest clothes, the floor they all normally happily sat upon would simply not do tonight.

Katelin’s eyes fell upon one of the young boys who had shimmied up a tree to secure some celebration flags which had long ago been acquired from the King’s castle by an inside ally and were always brought out for any celebration. Small but bright lights began appearing amongst the trees on the edge of the clearing. Katelin’s face broke into a wide smile when she realised what the lights were – fireflies. It was something she normally organised for celebrations, she would take some of the children out into the forest and they’d capture them in old jars and keep them for a few hours to decorate the clearing.

“What a beautiful smile.” Fabien said, emerging from the forest to her left. Katelin’s smile only widened as she embraced her brother.

“Happy birthday.” Katelin said simply, even though it was the first thing she had said to him that morning. “I know we are quite past giving gifts but I happened upon something perfect.” Katelin explained bashfully and handed him the velvet, drawstring bag.

Fabien’s eyes widened at the extravagance and eyed his sister, as well as the bag, thoughtfully. “Kate, this looks a bit excessive ...” He began but Katelin held up a small hand to silence his protestation.

“Just open it. The bag held some jewels a traveller left in fear of the forest spirits. It is just keeping the present protected.” Katelin assured her brother despite the worry tugging at her mind.

Seemingly pacified Fabien proceeded to open the velvet bag and pulled out his present in one swift motion and his eyes widened and swung up to meet his sisters. Katelin smiled nervously as he continued to examine the present. The deep green cover of the writing pad looked almost black in the dim light in which they stood but as Fabien opened the cover, the crisp white sheets of parchment were clear to see.

“You tell such wonderful stories and no one tells them as well as you.” Katelin began to explain. “I thought you should write them down, so that others, in years to come can experience them too. It will also keep writing fresh in your mind, I know you sometimes miss how we used to learn. There is a quill and a small pot of ink in the bag too, the big pots were too expensive-“

Katelin’s nervous rambling were cut off by Fabien pulling her into a warm embrace. “I love it. Truly Katelin.”

Katelin let out an enormous breath and relaxed into her brother’s hug and internally berated herself for worrying about a birthday gift when there were far more important things to be concerned about. The siblings pulled apart, both smiling widely as music began to fill the clearing. Although, for tonight any worries other than dancing, a delicious meal and the company of her closest friends could wait.
Sunlight deserted them scant minutes into the party, but the clearing never went dark. Bonfires danced, and so too did the people of Brackenhurst. And as the moon rose above the horizon, they greeted her with drums and fiddles, pipes and voice. Outlaws and outcasts, witches and undesirables, human all, and celebrating together that, though they lived in exile, they lived nonetheless.

The food was piled in abundance and the wine flowed freely, and for that Elina was proud. She'd spearheaded the food drive herself, spending weeks beforehand gathering the herbs and spices with which to flavor whatever the hunters brought back that evening. They had boar and rabbit, venison and one, now celebrated hunter, had brought back a brace of duck. Together with the other women, Elina had baked, chopped, stewed and simmered everything to succulent perfection, flavored perfectly with what she'd gathered from the forest's bounty. Always concerned with the health of her fellows, Elina had supplied both fresh and candied fruits, wild mushrooms, and leafy greens. From her garden and what fields they'd managed to till, she brought wheat and carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. From the goats came milk and cheese, rich, creamy, and sharp.

Together, it was a proper feast. But it was not what fed the secret smile that pulled at her lips as she danced with the others around the fire. No, that would come later, when the celebration was in full swing, and it was the proper time to reveal surprises.

Like everyone else, Elina knew that this was more than just about Fabien's birthday, but she couldn't help tailoring her special surprise to him. She wanted to celebrate his life because she loved that he was a part of hers. And because everyone's life was worth celebrating. But mostly because she loved him very dearly, the closest of her friends now that her old ones were gone. Her old life, really, and everything in it.

Elina preferred to remain positive, to look forward instead of back, and to appreciate the beauty of the moment. She loved and she laughed, and had come to be very happy with her place in the forest settlement. But there were times--times that she refused to burden her fellows with--that she awoke in the night, panting with fear, sweating and exhausted from terror, the sound of her mother's dying scream in her ears. They'd been run out of town with pitchforks and fire, their friends and neighbors transformed into bloodthirsty beasts, rampaging crusaders: witch hunters. Her mother had died on the flames, and Elina had stumbled into the forest, bruised and frightened, with only her mother's lessons to keep her alive.

Laughing, Elina grabbed Fabien's hands and pulled him into a lively reel. She'd taken great care with her appearance that night, much more than she usually did. Her dress was of the finest, softest silk, which she'd gotten from one of the many merchants traveling through the forest, trading her skills as wetnurse for the yardage she needed to make a beautiful dress. Elina was not vain, but everyone liked looking beautiful sometimes, dressing up and cleaning up. And she liked the looks. It made her feel...good.

The dress was of the palest green, low cut and bound with her only corset, displaying her figure to its greatest advantage. She'd left it sleeveless, against the fashion of the time, but perfect for the vigorous dancing the evening would entail, and hand embroidered it with a swirling pattern in coal-dyed thread. It came down, swirling, to her knees, again against the fashion, but perfect to show off her shapely legs. Paired with black slippers--also a trade item from the merchant--and no jewelry (Elina never did like the feel of metal against her skin), it was her most prized outfit. She had never worn it before, but if her dear friend's birthday wasn't a good enough occasion, what was?

Her hair was plaited, two small braids wrapped around her head and woven through with wildflowers, leaving the rest to flow freely down her back. And she'd lightly painted her face, using cosmetics formed from the herbs, leaves, and berries so prevalent in the forest. It was nothing too heavy, though; not even enough to look as though she was wearing it at all. The other ladies had also pilfered her stock, and Elina couldn't wait to gossip with Fabien about how some of them looked like they'd slathered an inch worth of the stuff on their faces.

Fabien laughed, and so did she, twirling around one another and the other dancers, and all of them around the great burning fires that lit up their village as if it were the middle of the day. His hands were warm and comforting, and his feet sure. Around them, Elina knew the house Fraus were watching them and gossiping, planning for their wedding, wondering what their children would look like. And that made Elina laugh even more, that nothing changed, even here, even exiled to the middle of the haunted forest. She didn't know who she would marry. Perhaps it would be Fabien, perhaps one of the other men who gave her looks, but Elina did not think about it. It would happen when it happened, and no one would make her marry until she was ready.

She did know that she loved Fabien very much, but she wasn't sure if it was the kind of love that quickened her breath and caused her heart to beat, or the warm love of brotherhood. For now, it was enough to dance with him, to feel the heat of exertion in her limbs, the freedom of the dance, the beat of the drums thrumming in her blood.

They broke apart when the song ended, breathless and laughing. "Wonderful, Fabien!" Elina gasped. "Who knew a great lumbering beast like yourself had such grace?"

"With such a partner, even the worst dancer appears graceful." Fabien smiled, cheeks red from wine and dance, and pulled away, offering his arm to escort her from the dance floor and over to the tables. Elina declined the wine, wishing instead for water, and glanced around her. This was the perfect time to reveal her surprise. She'd traded a year's worth of ointments and poultices for the sugar and eggs and good flour, the yeast and cow's milk required to make it, and the ice chest to keep it until tonight.

Fabien had told her, once, what his favorite dessert was. A custard pie served at the King's birthday, from which he'd been allowed to partake, full of fresh fruit and enveloped in the lightest of flakey crusts. Elina didn't know how, exactly, the King's chefs had prepared it, but she knew enough about food and cookery to make a guess. Everyone else would get honeyed apples, because there just wasn't enough custard to go around, but Elina figured that it was Fabien's birthday, so he should have the best dessert of them all.

"I'll be right back, Fabien. You sit down right there and don't move. I have something for you."

Fabien did as he was told, but covered his face with his hands. "Oh no, not another one. You all keep bringing way too much attention to this."

Elina chuckled and ducked down to kiss his cheek. "You'll like this one. I promise." Laughing, she danced her way through the crowd, a smile for everyone pulling at her lips. She twirled once with Jonah and tossed him into the arms of a tipsy Beatrix, laughing all the while, and thanked everyone who called out to her about how beautiful she looked. Once clear of the party, she slipped into her cabin and, cheeks glowing with the expectation of giving, picked up the cake. Slipping back outside, she danced her way back into the fray and then up behind Fabien, who was talking to his sister. Reaching up and over, arms on either side of him and the rest of her pressed against his back, Elina put the cake down in front of him.

"Happy birthday, Fabien! I know it's not much, but I also know you don't want too much fuss. I hope you enjoy it, love. And may you have many years to come, filled with such sweets as these."

© Copyright 2009 Dominique, Professor Q, Aiken4LOTR, .Wolfie., Dr Matticakes Myra, (known as GROUP).
All rights reserved.
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