She woke with the same feeling of unease she had a week ago, before the storm had started. It had lasted four whole days all the while threatening to bring down the roof on their heads. Blinking her eyes open, she wondered why the feeling was back now.
Someone was knocking at the front door, pounding more like. It was a wonder it was still standing; like everything else in the large room they’d called home since their exile, the wooden front door was worn out and very nearly useless.
Kicking back the scraggly bed covers, Gillian carefully swung her legs off the bed. She found it curious her father had began to snore very loudly all of a sudden, as though trying to assure her he was really asleep. She shook her head.
She made her way to the front door all the while tugging at the neck of her night gown.
“Coming, I said I’m COMING!” Gillian bellowed. After unlocking the door, she flung it open, her hazel eyes spitting fire.
“Listen here you-” What? Strange man who looks like he can snap me like a twig?
She had been expecting one of the snotty young servants of the nobles in Luthoria. Lately they had been bringing messages for her father, all the while sniffing at him with disdain. Her father had never told her what was in the letters but she knew they worried him. The last time he’d been in that state, they had been sent packing from the capital.
Gillian tilted her head as far back as it was willing to go. The man stared down at her, his brows arched over narrowed brown eyes. He was dangerous, this man.
“Yes?” Gillian finally managed, trying her best not to look scared out of her wits. Her hands were shaking so badly she had to curl them into fists to make the tremors less obvious.
She needn’t have bothered. He was looking over her head, which was a good distance below his broad shoulders, and assessing the house.
The collapsing fireplace looked like it hadn’t been used until lately. After the storm had passed, the weather had become unnaturally cold, he had experienced this first hand. A low round table which he suspected was termite infested, sat in the middle of the room holding the remains of candle wax.
Towards the back of the room, a large curtain had been hung to act as a make shift room divider. Moth eaten, blue linen curtains hung limply over the two small windows, positioned at each corner of the rectangular room. Their fall from the royalty wagon had been quite hard.
Gillian bristled at the once over, dying inside of embarrassment. It was almost enough to make her forget to be afraid, almost. Suddenly, he looked down at her as if he’d only just noticed she was there.
“I’d like to speak with your father,” he said, his words clipped and without a trace of warmth.
At the sound of his voice, Gillian felt her blood run even colder. She took a step back before she could stop herself. Her foot slipped on the slippery material of her long night dress and felt herself fall backward.
His hands shot out and grabbed her around the waist as her arms flailed uselessly in the air. Her father emerged from behind the large curtain still in his bedclothes. Taking in the scene, the old man opened and closed his mouth several times but no words escaped his lips.
Cyan released Gillian with ceremony and walked into the house.
“I hope I’m not intruding, Elder Thomnis. I’m here on business from the capital,” Cyan said.
Quickly recovering herself, Gillian looked from Cyan to her father, confused. They had no business with the capital except for their monthly provision of food supplies. However the stricken look on her father’s weathered face suggested that there was something other than yam tubers at stake.
“What do you want with us?” Elder Thomnis asked, his voice ringing with false bravado.
“Theodore Linc sends his regards,” Cyan said pausing to let his message sink in. Thomnis had abandoned all pretense and visibly shuddered; his eyes darted between Cyan and the door.
“I haven’t said anything to anyone, I swear it! I still have some gold-”
Cyan held up his hand, recoiling as though he had been struck, Thomnis fell silent at once. Men like Thomnis always assumed other people could be bought. Gillian stared at her father as if she’d never quite seen him before. He was an accomplished liar and tight-fisted to the core. Even if he did manage to have some gold left, why would he want, no, offer, to give it away?
“Father, what have you done?” Gillian cried, running to her father’s side. He cringed and backed away from her, his eyes apologetic.
“You,” Cyan said pointing at her, “are coming with me.”
“Over my dead body,” Gillian spat at him.
“No,” Cyan corrected her, “It might be over his dead body but either way, you’re coming.” Cyan said shrugging his shoulders.
“He’s an old man-”
“It makes no difference to me,”
“He’s never done anything to anyone-”
“Even you are not that naive,” Cyan snapped with impatience. Looking straight at her father he continued, “Linc sent me here to collect. He has heard talk of… well, he just wants some insurance and he begs that I remind you to keep your mouth shut.”
“What kind of respectable person threatens to murder an old man?!” she cried with desperation. He laughed harshly.
“Whether that old man stays alive or not is currently up to you but if I were you, I’d worry about my own neck just now,” Cyan returned.
In spite of herself she had to agree with him, she was the one being dragged off not her father. She didn’t have the faintest idea what was going on but clearly this man hated her father. He would have no qualms carrying out his threat.
“So if I go with you…?”
“Then your father can get back to his beauty sleep,” he drawled.
“A-alright,” she forced herself to stammer, “I just need to get a few of my things first. B-but you won’t hurt him while I’m gone-”
When he narrowed his eyes at her, she fell silent then turned and disappeared behind the curtain. His attention falling back onto the old man, he regarded him with disgust.
“You, Sir, are a pathetic coward,” his voice dripping venom, “What kind of man sacrifices his only child-”
“No,” Thomnis whispered in horror, gazing through the open door behind Cyan.
Cyan swiveled around just in time to see Gillian’s skirt disappear behind the well. He spun on his heel and strode purposefully towards her. From her hiding place, Gillian’s raised her head to peer back at the house.
“Going somewhere?” Cyan asked, his long legs eating up the distance with ease.
Barely stifling a scream, Gillian picked up her skirts and fled towards the forest. Cyan stood by the well for a few minutes to give her a head start. He picked up his bow when she had finally reached and disappeared into the forest.
After securing the quiver of arrows on his back, he went after her, flying on the wings of the morning breeze.