A young woman has come to town, and she may have a dark wizard's blood in her veins.
|Stranger from Across the Chasm
The foreign girl entered the town a week before its spring festival. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be any cause for gossip. Visitors were always welcomed to the small town; “the more, the merrier” was the thought. But then word began to spread of her homeland.
“She’s from the other side of the chasm-”
“The forbidden bridge-”
“She crossed it! Actually dared to cross it!”
The young stranger took her lodging in The Weary Traveler, the older of the town’s two inns, unaware of their words and scrutiny. Or so it appeared to the town gossips as they gathered around their quilting booth under construction for the festival. The blacksmith’s oldest son Hunter did most of the work while the women chattered.
“Do you think she knows?”
“Audacious young thing, traveling on her own-”
“What ever made her cross it? Is she a fugitive?”
“Ooh, she must be! Why else would she come here?”
“But what could she have done?”
“Has anyone even spoken to her?” Hunter wondered, the curiosity that had been building as he failed to tune out their words finally reached its peak.
“Are you daft, boy?” replied Hélène Philippe, the spinster seamstress and lead gossipmonger. “She’s from the other side of the chasm. No good would come of it. Why she’d probably hex the first person to speak to her.”
“Well,” the young man replied with a smirk, “you’ve always said I could do with a good hex to keep me in line.”
“And what would your father say if she did hex you?” she asked. Waving a hand, she imitated the blacksmith’s guaranteed response, “’There goes my best help, boy. Don’t you know better than to keep company with strange women? Especially foreign ones?’”
Hunter frowned. “How do you even know she’s from the other side of the chasm? Has anyone asked her?”
“Well, just look at the way she dresses!” the apothecary’s wife, Elizabeth Ferrier, remarked. “Clearly she’s from the seaside. She didn’t come in from the north shores; you can tell them by the thick, fur-lined knee-high boots they always wear. The south-shore folk wear tops with no sleeves for how warm it is. And more often than not, they’re as bronzed as a statue.”
“Why,” the baker’s wife, Marion Black, jumped in, “if it weren’t for her raven locks, I might have thought she was Mayor Albert’s daughter, stolen as a baby.” She leaned closer and lowered her voice. “And then I got close enough to have a good look at her eyes. It was like looking at a stormy sea.”
“Well, that settles it,” the seamstress said with finality. “No one around here has eyes like that. The last person I saw with eyes like her-“
Elizabeth gasped. “That wanderer we saw when we were girls. You’re absolutely right, Hélène. He was a sorcerer if I ever saw one.”
“That was never confirmed, Elizabeth,” Marion pointed out, her slightly heavy figure bouncing in emphasis.
“He bewitched Love Milner and Marcus Annesley to follow him,” Hélène sharply replied. “What other proof was needed, Marion?”
“Do you think they might be related, that sorcerer and this girl?” Elizabeth asked.
“What’s eye color got to do with blood relatives?” Hunter asked, setting a top pole in the groove of two others.
“If they are,” Hélène the seamstress said firmly, ignoring his question, “then that girl had better move on in a hurry. The sorcerer caused enough trouble when he was here. We’re not going to let this girl do the same.”
The baker’s wife pointed. “Look, here she comes.”
The group turned. Hunter watched the raven-haired stranger walk their way. At first glance, she did look like she could be Mayor Albert’s daughter, looked just like his wife. And she may not dress like a south-shore woman, but with her skin, she could certainly pass for one.
“You mark my words, Hunter Andreas Corbett,” Hélène whispered in his ear. “She’ll turn out a magic user and bring trouble on this town faster than you can make a quiver full of arrows.”
The girl lifted a hand to catch a strand flyaway hair. Hunter saw the ring and sucked in a breath.
“What is it, Hunter?” the apothecary’s wife whispered.
“Nothing,” he said shortly, and turned back to finish making the booth. Nothing he was going to tell a soul, at any rate.
He’d seen that ring before. In a painting at school. He’d looked at it nearly every day and wondered what the principle characters of the battle portrayed had been thinking. The painting was full of sorcerers, sorceresses and common folk. But one sorcerer and sorceress – identified by his teachers as Issachar, dark sorcerer of Roth and Miara, sorceress protector of Highland – stood above all the others, facing each other in battle. Issachar’s arms were raised above him, a staff in one hand, the other reaching toward the sky as if calling the lightning down to strike the people below. And on that hand was the very ring this woman wore, its green stone glowing like fire. Issachar was responsible for countless deaths, for making that land across the chasm forbidden. For causing the existence of the chasm in the first place, if the myths were true.
Maybe the women were right after all. If this girl had Issachar’s blood in her veins, she would be far better off moving on as soon as possible. What was she doing here anyway? Why had she crossed the chasm?
originally for The Writer's Cramp, prompt of an unwelcome stranger coming to town. I wasn't able to post on time due to internet inaccessibility.