CH 1 pt 5 Scars of Flesh and Soul
By grace of moonlight I made my way down into the lower hills. Utterly exhausted, it was just after dawn when I happened upon an unexpected cottage deep in the forest. Hoping someone might yet make use of the place, I remember stumbling towards the door. I am not given to prayer in hopes of divine intervention, but if I were the adolescent angel appearing before me would have certainly given cause for belief in such things. On the verge of collapsing from fatigue and fever, I was simply grateful and leaned heavily upon her small shoulders for support.
Looking to her face, I thought she could be no more than twelve and marveled that she should be left alone in the wild. As I believed the end of my life was at hand, I wanted to thank her for her kindness, but with fever setting fire to my brain, all I could manage was a senseless jumble of words.
I do not know how long I remained under her watchful eye, for I could not keep track of the days. Neither did she seem concerned with the passage of time, but her treatment of my wounds proved effective in extending my duration on this earth. The herbal poultices she applied to my face and arm drew out poisons and allowed my injuries to heal. Sipping her broths and teas caused my fever to eventually give way. All the while, in the gentlest of voices, she soothed my worries with songs of the forest that never before had I heard.
She said her name was Antoinette and for as far back as she could remember she’d lived alone in the cottage. When I pressed her on the subject, she said the forest looked after and provided for her. As my gratitude to the girl was beyond anything I could express, or ever hope to repay, when well enough to leave her keeping, I asked if she would accompany me away from her lonely life. She refused, of course, saying that this was her home and it suited her to stay. Thinking I well understood the desire for solitude, I departed in her debt saying that if she should ever have need of me, I would come at her call. Though it was not much, as a token of my thanks I left with her the wolf hides so when the need came, she might stich them into a warm winter coat.
In spite of her kindness and gifted ministrations, my face remained bitterly scarred by my encounter with the she-wolf. Upon returning to the city without pelts or other proof that I had killed the offending wolf, even as I explained the circumstances of my injuries, I found no sympathy and was left in forfeit of my reward. As for my scars, those children who saw me on the street did snicker when I passed and those who were adults found me hard to look upon. Shunned by most as a pariah, I was also deemed unfit to continue as watchman.
Being relieved of my duties seemed an unfitting reward for my service and I will confess some resentment. Dissatisfied with their treatment of me, I resolved to return to my cabin and a life alone. Again with only the mastiff for company, I divorced myself from the affairs of other men. For this, and other reasons I will soon reveal, I did not hasten to involve myself in the events that were to follow.
End Chapter one
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