Excerpt: Welcome Respite

*** Author’s Note: This is the first of some new excerpts of my fan-fiction, which was written during the NaNoWriMo challenge for 2016. I’m still debating on whether or not to participate in this year’s challenge, but I’ll be certain to let you know if I do!

© GDH 2016

Thunder rumbles overhead. This third storm in a fortnight heralds the changing of the seasons here in the tropical southwest of the continent. Steady rain falls and patters on the canvas tops of the merchant wagons at the trading post, the roofs of the various businesses and residences surrounding the merchant’s circle, and the carved stone top of the local transitus shrine.

Water runs down the curved stone pathway near the gated wall separating this province from the adjoining one; the extra security has been a necessity since the onset of the war. This pathway leads up the hill to a cozy cottage, which is nestled behind a stout wall comprised of well-laid stone and intricate steel latticework. Inside this cottage, coals burn low in the fireplace. A crystal glows with a soft, blue light in the corner closest to the door. This light is muted for the person slumbering in the canopied bed in the far corner, as it has been placed just behind a grand vase bristling with a large, healthy aloe-type plant.

A black cat stirs itself from under the bed, yawning and stretching as he emerges from the shadows. He looks up at the sleeping figure, then prowls to the door and exits through an opening which has been fashioned solely for his entry and egress. The figure in the bed shifts slightly, turning from her side onto her back, left arm behind her head and right arm resting across her chest.

A louder peal of thunder sounds. Sepultur’a’s eyes open to mere slits; she blinks a couple of times, smacks her lips, and stretches. The fine-woven cotton sheets are smooth on her freshly-scrubbed skin, both a courtesy of the laundry and spa in the distant city of the Orcs, far to the north. Her hair is bound in a silken snood, a small luxury item she allowed herself after weeks of wearing roughly-sewn jute under her heavy helm.

She remains in bed for a few moments, listening to the sound of the thunder, enjoying the soft noise of rain tapping on the peaked roof. The privacy and quiet is welcomed, and she smiles as she thinks again at what a wonderful gift this house is. She has heard that Canthiorn’s business is booming and thinks that paying him a visit is in order, as a hall for her own growing guild will be needed soon.

She pulls back the covers and sits up, stretching again. Standing, she moves to the fireplace and squats to adjust the flue, adding fresh kindling to the smoldering coals. As the fire takes hold, she prepares a kettle for tea and then tends to the meats which have been hanging and slow-cooking overnight. She bastes the hunks with the drippings captured, then turns them in a clockwise direction so that they will spin gently and roast to juicy perfection. Slicing off a strip of flesh, she nibbles it as she kneels near the cedar trunk at the foot of the bed. The cat slinks back inside, shaking water from his paws in an almost prissy manner, then saunters over to his mistress with a purr and curls around her ankles, clutching them with soft paws. “Good morning to you,” Sepultur’a says, rubbing one of his ears and sharing some of the meat.

After wiping the grease from her fingers, she opens the trunk and pulls out a tunic and a pair of soft, loose-fitting trousers. Her underclothes are draped over the back of the chair at her desk; she pulls them on, dons her outer garments, and pours a cup of tea. She moves to the door, opens it, and steps out onto the covered front porch, leaving the door ajar so the fresh air can circulate throughout the cottage.

A bright flash of lightning lights up the courtyard, the reflection caught in the windows of the guard-towers above. Sepultur’a begins to count, barely getting to the number five before a deafening clap of thunder sounds. The storm is nearly overhead. She sits on the steps, just out of reach of the rain, holding her mug of tea in both hands. The mug is warm as she inhales the delicate scent of the tea. She blows over the top of it and sips at it lightly, enjoying the minty taste.

The courtyard has flourished with life since she took ownership of the house, with unique blooms cropping up in various corners. The dark plant with glowing fronds of deep purple still has its place just inside of the courtyard gate. The glow is now captured and refracted by bits of crystal which have mysteriously appeared, seemingly of their own accord. Another odd plant has begun to grow near the well. She has seen many like it in the lands of the Dark Elves; tentacle-frond plants which seem to possess a rudimentary sentience. This one waves its tentacles at Sepultur’a whenever she draws water from the well, as if saying “hello” to her. On one occasion she had extended a hand towards it to see if it would respond, and the tentacles had clasped her fingers with a gentle caress.

A winged toad creeps out from a crevice in the wall of the cliff, regards Sepultur’a for a moment and then hops to the well. With a clumsy flapping of its stubby wings, it perches on the edge and sits, blinking in a slow, sleepy manner. It puffs out a bit of flame to toast a large dragonfly which buzzed within its range, then flicks out its tongue to catch the smoldering husk as it falls.

Sepultur’a leans her head back against the wooden railing of the porch, holding her mug of tea and closing her eyes, listening to the thunder and the soft sound of the falling rain. It is good to be home.

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