She wasn’t sure what woke her. Maybe it was the birds chirping or the sunlight coming through the window. She touched her head and felt a little groggy. The ceiling seemed unfamiliar. She was lying in someone’s bed…but who? And where was she?
Suddenly, a vision of a masked man in a dagger flashed across her mind and she let out a small scream before sitting up. The man? Had he gotten her? Was she dead? The last thing she remembered was falling from the edge. She must have died then. Was this heaven? Or hell?
A coughing fit hit her as she sucked in the air. She had never quite breathed air like this before. It felt so…thick.
She looked around and the room and the furniture was something she had never quite seen before. It looked very old and well used. Definitely not a room in a castle. Yet all the tables and chairs looked spotless as if someone had taken meticulous care of them. The room had a warm feeling to it. She somehow felt comforted by the atmosphere even though her mind was racing and she had a million questions.
She noticed there was a wooden ladder at the corner. So it appeared she was in the basement of whoever’s house this was. A mix of aromas were coming from the upstairs, and she felt her stomach grumble. Whatever was cooking smelled amazing, even though she had no clue what it was.
And then she could make out faint voices. A woman’s and a man…no it sounded more like a boy. Curiosity getting the better of her, she got up and moved towards the ladder. She found her shoes neatly placed in the corner and wore them, before climbing up.
When she was above eye level, she sneaked a peak and could make out a kitchen and a woman with her back to her cooking something on the stove. It smelled really good.
“Hey, you’re up!”
The voice came from her right and she swung around to see a grinning boys face looking at her.
In her surprise, she had slipped form the ladder and ended up at the bottom on her back.
“Are you ok?’ said Theo, poking his head through the hole at the top.
“O-ouch. Yeah I’m fine.”
“Theo, is your friend awake?” called a voice that could have only belonged to the woman.
“Yeah ma, she just fell from the ladder.”
“Oh dear, well don’t just stand there. Help her!”
“O-Oh yes ma.” And Theo jumped through the hole, nimbly landing on the middle part of the ladder, before launching himself next to her.
“Hi, I’m Theo,” he said, smiling at her.
“Uh…Hi. I’m…Leanna,” she replied, getting up gingerly.
“Come on, you must be hungry, we got food.”
And he jumped up the ladder. Leanna hesitated for a second, before deciding that her hunger outweighed any misgivings she had at the moment, and followed him up.
“Well, hello there dear,” said the woman, rushing up to her and examining her face and arms, like she was some fragile thing. “I’m Mrs. Hensley. How are you feeling? You were cold and shivering last night when Theo brought you in.”
“Hi…I feel quite alright thank you,” she managed to say, before turning to Theo, “You brought me in?”
“Yeah, I found you at the mine gates. You were…floating.”
“Oh you can talk later, right now it’s time for food,” said
Leanna looked half amazed as Mrs. Hensley laid out an assortment of dishes in front of her. She helped herself to the stuff she was smelling earlier.
“Oh, slow down child haha, you eat as fast as Theo.”
“It’s because your cooking is so good ma,” said Theo, in between bites.
“Wow, what is this?” asked Leanna, holding up her plate.
“Why…those are just eggs my dear?” replied Mrs. Hensley, a quizzical look on her face.
“Eggs?” said Leanna, “I’ve never seen eggs like these before. Which bird lays such eggs?”
“Uh…chicken,” replied Theo, looking at her with the same questioning look. “You mean to say, you’ve never had chicken eggs before?”
“We have very few birds,” she replied sternly, “and killing their unborn children would severely impact their population. And we don’t have these…what did you say? These chickens.”
“Well, that’s too bad,” said Theo, getting a second helping, “because they are delicious.”
Leanna gave him a dirty look, and refused to eat the rest of her eggs. She had a generous helping of potatoes, bacon and milk though.
“So, you’re saying, I was floating in the sky, and you caught me?”
They were sitting at the table, the dishes cleared. Leanna felt much better with food in her belly and was now trying to put together the pieces of last night.
“Yes, and your necklace was glowing bright blue. It looked like magic or something.”
“I see.” Leanna hung her head. So she had survived the fall. And it seemed she had her necklace to thank. She clasped it firmly in her hand. “My mother gave me this necklace before she died. I never knew it had any powers.”
“Where are you from dear? Any towns nearby Ipscroft?” asked Mrs. Hensley.
Leanna thought carefully of her answer. She knew they would have no idea where she was from. “You wouldn’t know where I am from. It’s a place far far away from here. And I plan on returning there as soon as I can.”
She stood up, a determined look on her face. “I thank you for your service, Groundspeople. Please take me to your leader so I can discuss how to get back to my cas…I mean, my land.”
Theo and his mother looked at her curiously. Theo was pretty sure she had called them Groundspeople, whatever that meant.
“What do you mean…speak to our leader?”
She looked at him, surprised, “surely you have a leader. I might not be from here but even I can tell this is not the house of any aristocrat.” She waved her hand dismissively around the room.
“Now look here you, don’t you go around putting us down,” said Theo, getting red in the face. He suspected it before from her clothes and demeanor, and it was confirmed to him now. She was obviously one of those rich city brats. Probably from one of the influential families in the south. He saw some of them from time to time, particularly in the summer. They came down, in their fancy cars and wagons, to get away from the busy city life and to enjoy a cooler climate. Of course, as soon as they did get here, it didn’t take them long to start putting Ipscroft down, and lament about how primitive the town is. The older folks bit their tongues, happy with the tourist money flowing in, but Theo would have none of it. They could go back to their city and take all that city money. Good riddance.
“Now Theo, be polite to our guest,” said Mrs. Hensley, cutting his train of thought. “I think she means you should take her to the town center and talk to the Mayor’s office to see if they can help her. I’m sure the poor girl’s family is worried for her.”
“I have no family,” said Leanna, tears welling up in her eyes. She was all alone now. Her father was dead and she only had one family member left. And as she thought of him a wave of anger swept her body as the realization hit her. The assassin. Her father’s death. And him. Of course — he did this.
“Oh there there,” said Mrs. Hensley, coming over and hugging Leanna. She froze at the unexpected gesture, and then gradually, her body gave out and she fell in her arms, breaking out into hysterical sobs.
Theo, unsure of what to do upon seeing a girl cry, squirmed in his seat, determined to look anywhere but at the scene in front of him. He didn’t have to wait long. Leanna, having released the emotion boiling inside of her, wiped her tears and composed herself, a new steely determination in her eyes.
“Groundsman — you will take me to the Lord Mayor, yes?”
“The names Theo, and…fine, I will,” said Theo grumpily, giving into to his mothers’ stern glare, from behind Leanna.