Another Wednesday and another piece from the universe I’m trying to create 🙂
This one isn’t as slick as I’d hoped, could do with some more tweaking, but see what you think!
“Hurry up, hurry up!” Lea said, unable to stop her voice from cracking in fear. She could hear both boots and clip-clopping hooves marching ever closer, and knew within moments there would be a loud, insistent knock on the door of their house.
“Hush now! I’m going as quickly as I can,” her husband admonished, pulling the last book from the shelf and dropping it into the chest that lined the wall under the front room’s window. He then closed the wooden lid with a creak and Lea threw the plain blue blanket and cushions she had been holding over it. Now, it appeared like nothing more than a simple wooden window seat.
Lea reached onto the shelf and dragged the remaining three books, which were gathering dust, to the centre and her husband reached over her to flick a cloth over them.
They both then turned and scanned the room, eyes searching for any signs that would mark them out as betrayers of the faith, but found none.
Just as Lea was breathing a sigh of relief – she even dared to believe that maybe the boots and hooves would pass by – the knock, even louder and more insistent than in her nightmares, came.
“Open the door, in the name of the king!”
Lea exchanged a glance with her husband.
“Say nothing. I will speak,” he said firmly, and then strode towards the door. He pulled it open, and flinched despite himself, before drawing himself up to his full height. A soldier on horseback, flanked by four on their feet, stood there. Their silver helmets gleamed in the harsh noonday sun, as did the hilts of the curved swords at their waists.
“Good afternoon, Rahim,” the man on horseback said, inclining his head in greeting. He then dismounted, handing the reins to one of his company. “Routine visit, you’ll understand, of course. Given your…background.”
Despite the fear that was coursing through her, Lea felt a stab of anger. There was nothing ‘routine’ about this. There was nothing ‘routine’ about the hush that pervaded the once thriving town, now that the sounds of marching had halted outside their door. But she held her tongue.
“Good afternoon, Captain. Of course. However, you understand that I have seen the error of my ways, and now attend the town temple daily? I was there this morning, as a matter of fact…you can ask the priest.”
Lea’s breath caught in her throat, and her eyes darted from the soldier to her husband’s face. Both were equally impassive.
“Alas, Rahim, if attending the temple daily were enough…you’d be surprised what we discover in the homes of temple goers…”
Without waiting for a response, he and one of the foot soldiers walked right inside the house, barely leaving time for Rahim to step out of the way.
The captain caught sight of Lea. “Good afternoon, Lea. I hope you are well.”
Lea arranged her face into a placid smile and inclined her head, touching her breast and then her head in a gesture she had only started using again recently. The captain matched it, and then they began searching.
Each second felt like a minute, and each minute felt like an hour. Lea crossed over the room after the first few seconds to stand by Rahim, taking a small comfort in his being near her, even if he could not take her hand or speak.
Eventually, the soldiers finished, yielding nothing. The hidden chest remained untouched. The captain nodded to his colleague, who had been silent throughout, and now left to go wait outside.
Then, the capatin walked right upto Lea and Rahim and said in a low voice, “We will be back. We know it’s you that has been writing this filth…”
He produced a piece of paper, and Lea had to use every ounce of self control she possessed to stop herself from crying out loud. She managed, but knew that her face had drained of any colour.
“…and we know that those that read this filth gather somewhere. We will be watching this house tonight. If you’ve any sense, admit your wrongdoing before you are caught. The punishment will be lighter.”
“Captain, I’ve no idea what that is. By all means, watch this house as much as you please. It will be a waste of the good king’s time. We have nothing to fear.”
The captain narrowed his eyes, but did not reply. For a moment, his hand twitched, and Lea thought he was reaching for his sword – but then a second later, he had strode out of the house, slamming the door behind him.
She counted to sixty until she could no longer hear the receding marching, both of them standing absolutely still in their positions, before exhaling slowly. Then she turned to face her husband, and fell into his arms.
As she clung to him, she could not stop herself from sobbing. “Rahim, please. I’ve listened to you until now, but no more. I don’t care about resisting anybody anymore, or anybody in this town, not if it means…not if it means…well, I only care about us! We have to leave, I don’t care how risky it is…”
Her sobs came harder, in deep shuddering gasps, and all the while Rahim held her, saying nothing.
As soon as she had calmed a little, however, he said – “Lea, we can’t leave now. We have to keep fighting, our friends are relying on us. We will just send word to not come this evening – it will be all right!”
Lea let out a wordless shout of anger and wrenched apart from him. Then she steadied herself, and took a deep breath. It was time to tell him.
“Rahim, I wasn’t sure until this morning, but I am now. I have to tell you something. It might change your mind…”
She reached out and took his hand, and then placed it on her stomach. She looked at his face – it had been completely composed until now, through the search and through the soldier’s parting words. However, now, it drained of colour – just as hers had several minutes earlier.
There was a short silence, and then he said, in a shaking voice she had never heard before, “Your brother…he made it safely, yes?”
Lea breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes. He managed to write just before the interceptions began. They made it across the sea, and across the forest, safely. I have not heard from them since but – there is no war, there. It has to be better than here.”
Rahim nodded. “We…we can’t leave tonight. They will expect it. But, tomorrow…”
Thanks for stopping by 🙂