Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(5)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(5)
Jeff Wheeler

He released her suddenly and she nearly fell over. Phae chafed her arm and hurried away from him. As soon as she was free from the barn, she sprinted to the main house and slammed and locked the door behind her. She was shaking violently with fear and unspent anger. Her heart raced, making her dizzy.

Rachael saw her from the kitchen and her eyes crinkled with worry. They shared a room together and had become friends. “Phae?”

The commotion in the kitchen surrounding Trasen’s return quieted. All of the older children were there, the teens such as herself, gathered around to hear Trasen’s stories from his wanderings with Holt.

Dame Winemiller looked concerned. “She’s pale. Are you sick, Phae? Come into the light.”

Trasen sat on the edge of the table, the center of attention, and he quickly leaned off and approached her, his eyes suddenly serious. “Phae?”

The door handle jiggled and then a heavy fist began pounding against the door. Phae stifled an involuntary scream, her eyes burning with tears.

The pounding increased and Phae backed away from the door, staring at it in horror, as if a legion of soldiers were battering it down. Trasen opened the handle and Master Winemiller entered with a scowl of annoyance for being locked out of his home.

“Will someone tell me what is going on?” he said, gazing from Phae to Trasen to his wife, completely bewildered at everything happening at the moment.

She struggled to control her feelings, but seeing him brought a semblance of sanity back into her mind. Master Winemiller could fix anything. He was not an educated man, not like the Archivists of Kenatos, but he knew the ways of the world and he was wise and fair. He was very slow to trust anyone.

Phae pulled Trasen with her and dropped her voice low so that only the two men could hear. “There is a man in the barn. A stranger.”

Winemiller scowled. His wrinkled forehead furrowed even more. His skin was so weathered by the sun, he almost seemed he could be part-Vaettir. There was a liberal amount of gray in his goatee and hair. “A stranger?”

She nodded, out of breath from the shifting emotions. She felt like shaking her hands, but she was afraid fire might start gushing from her fingertips if she did. “He’s a Vaettir lord, but he’s dressed like the Rikes of Seithrall. He said his name is Aransetis. That the Arch-Rike wants me dead. He said many things. I’m frightened.”

Dame Winemiller’s voice came from the kitchen. “What is happening? Is she sick? I can bring a towel. What is wrong with Phae?”

Phae gazed at her adopted father’s eyes. He did not look surprised. In fact, he looked as if part of him had always been expecting news of this kind. He patted her shoulder. “He is in the barn?”

Phae nodded. “He bid me find you. He wants to speak with you.”

Master Winemiller nodded as well and turned back to the half-open door, but Phae caught his sleeve. “I don’t want to go,” she pleaded. “Don’t make me leave. I…I…”

Winemiller rested his hand on her shoulder. His eyes were smoldering with buried fury. “You will not go anywhere, Phae. You will not do anything until I come back.” He looked at Trasen. “Bolt the door while I am gone. Stay with her.”

The mood in the house was somber. The older children thronged the kitchen table, around Dame Winemiller, who was surprised and shocked to learn a stranger had come to the vineyard and no one had bothered to tell her. When she learned it was about Phae, she frowned and shook her head, stroking Phae’s hand repeatedly and trying to assure her that all would be well. The words were said with a tremor in her voice that belied the assurance she was trying to bestow.

Phae rose from the table and paced the kitchen, clutching her stomach, looking at every face as if it might be her last chance. There were so many memories imbued in the home. She saw all the cobwebs in the nooks and the crumbs scattered beneath the table as well as the good times, the laughter, and the teasing. Trasen beckoned her over to the hearth. She joined him gratefully.

“Sit a moment,” he said, offering her a seat on the stone next to him. His eyes never strayed for long from the front door. He had been watching it like a cat since Winemiller had left.

She eased down, feeling her emotions close to the surface. She hated it when her feelings ran away with her. She was always the one that others came and confided in, always able to soothe a hurt or mend rifts between the children.

“I wasn’t expecting my fortnight leave to be so interesting,” he said in a conspiratorial voice. “Guarding caravans of peaches will seem downright boring compared with this.”

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