If you ever listen to the village gossip, you learn many things.
You might learn that the butcher’s daughter ran off with the ironsmith. You might learn that the crops are struggling. Or you may even learn that there are rumors of the Midnight Stag — again.
Katarina scratched her leg with her toe, trying not lose her balance in doing so. She slowly let her foot back down onto the wood floor and held her breath, trying not to yawn from boredom when suddenly the conversation turned.
“Oh Cynthia dear, they say that he’s back!”
“Why the Midnight Stag of course! Who else?” Katarina perked up and strained her ears to catch their voices.
A deep sigh. “Who started it this time?”
“Oh, I heard that Isaac saw his shadow on the cliffs last night when he went for water.”
“When will the children ever stop making up fancies?”
“Oh, you know it’s not the children! It's that old man — the Storyteller — that started it all. Calls him the ‘Stag of Storms.’ Some kind of prophet he says. Says he’s a messenger from and to the ‘Creator.’”
Cynthia scoffed. “Tell the priest and he’ll prove you wrong.”
“I didn’t say the old man was right, Cynthia! I don’t believe him any more than you do!” She sounded annoyed.
“Then stop spreading the lies, Hannah. Something bad will happen if you don’t.”
Hannah grumbled something Katarina could not catch, but she didn’t mind. After sitting for an hour, she had finally heard something interesting. Something beside the usual seamstress's talk. Isaac had seen the legend, the Stag of Storms, the Creator’s messenger. That’s all that mattered. She held her breath and inched out from out of the cubby in the wall, pushing the curtain aside and dropping out the window into the alley behind the house. Time for another visit at the Dragon’s Inn.
Just as she had thought, the boys were playing behind the inn, kneeling in the dust over a match of marbles. Above the sky was dark, blotted out by the ever present storm clouds.
“What you doing?” Katarina asked approaching.
“Nothing a girl can join,” one of the boys sneered.
“Come on Wats,” she smiled. “You know I love marbles.”
“Yeah, but they don’t love you. Get lost.”
She frowned. “More like you don’t like me because you just know I’ll win.”
“I could beat you anyday,” the boy boasted. “No one beats the great Watson!”
“Except last week when she beat you to the well and back.” Isaac sighed.
“Isaac!” he snapped. The boy shrugged and collected the clay marbles he had knocked out of the arena.
“Just saying,” he murmured. “Katarina can hold her own. She even works, unlike you, to su—”
Katarina kicked him. “Hey, I came to talk to you, not to Wats, and not about me.”
“What? He your boyfriend Katarina?” Watson snickered.
“Nope, Wats. Just wanted to ask him a question.”
“What? If he’ll marry you?” Wats jeered, elbowing one of the other boys, who giggled as well.
Katarina set her jaw and pushed up her tattered sleeves. “Say that one more time — I dare you.”
“Hey! Hey!” Isaac jumped up and grabbed Katarina’s arms. “No fighting.” Her jaw flexed and her eyes flared, but she slowly lowered her fists.
“Oh! She listens to her boyfriend, boys!” Katarina tensed, but Isaac just smiled and pulled her to the inn’s back door.
“Come on Kat, let’s go get some biscuits from the kitchen.”
The kitchen was warm and glowed with the open fire’s orange light. Isaac’s mother, Elizabeth, sleeves rolled up and wearing an apron, bent over the huge bowl hanging over the flames. Her thick brown hair was pulled back in a messy bun and her face was red and rosy with the heat.
“Mama, do you have some extra biscuits from breakfast?”
She turned and smiled. “Of course! Greetings Katarina Susan's daughter! How are you?”
Katarina smiled back. “I’m fine. Thanks.”
Isaac grabbed two warm biscuits from the pan and passed one to Katarina. She took it and nibbled on it slowly, pacing herself and hoping her stomach wouldn’t grumble at the delicious smell.
“So what have you been doing lately Miss Katarina?” The girl shrugged but Isaac spoke up.
“Mom, she just got a job at—” Katarina started coughing and kicked his leg.
Elizabeth turned with her spoon in hand. “I didn’t know! Where did you get it?”
Katarina scowled at Isaac. “The seamstress’s shop.”
The woman smiled but she looked sad. “That’s great!” There was pause and Katarina, cheeks burning, angrily tore at the rest of the biscuit. Elizabeth sighed, wiped her hands on her apron, and began to give Katarina a hug. “I”m sorry about your Grandmother, if you need to me help—”
Katarina tore away. “No!” she growled as she ran out into the streets. Isaac bolted out the door and after her.
“Kat! Kat! Stop!” he yelled. Katarina shook her head and began to run faster. “Kat!” Isaac grabbed her arms and spun her around. “Kat! My mother didn’t mean to offend you! She was just trying to help!”
Katarina choked back a sob. “I don’t need help. Why do you think I got a job?”
Isaac took her by the shoulders and forced her to look at him. “Katarina. We’re your friends. When trouble comes that’s what friends do!” The girl shook her head, tears streamed down her dusty face. She smeared them with her sleeve and turned away. “Please!” the boy pleaded, “Let us help, Katarina! Let us buy some medicine, or—”
“No,” she whispered hoarsely. “No medicine with heal her.”
Isaac bit his lip and looked down. “I’m sorry, Katarina.”
“Don’t be,” she snapped and hunched over as it began to rain. Isaac didn’t move for a second. “Katarina,” he said softly. “Don’t you want to go home?”
Katarina shrugged. “I like the rain.”
Isaac sighed and walked over to sit down against the stone building. “I guess the boys will be looking for us now their game will wash away.” Katarina nodded but didn’t answer. For a couple minutes they sat silently just watching the ally fill with puddles.
“You said you wanted to ask me something.”
“Oh.” She thought a moment. “Isaac, do you believe the old man’s stories that you tell me about?”
“All of them — the sun and stars, the Dethroner and the true king, the gifted, and the Midnight Stag sent as a messenger from the Creator?”
Isaac looked up at the black sky. Rain droplets splattered his face and rolled down it. “Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “Somewhere there’s Light Katarina. Somewhere. I guess we just have to find it.” He turned to her and smiled. “Like helping one another. He said that’s a reflection of the Light.”
Katarina smiled sadly back. “Thanks Isaac.” She gazed to the sky and then pushed herself off the muddy alley street. “Well, I have to go.”
“Mama says you can come any time, Katarina.” She nodded and slipped away into the mist, hugging herself to fend off the growing cold.
Light. You just have to find it.
Written by Evelyn Kelly
Illustrated by Jeremiah K.
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room
Welcome to The Flabbit Blog! Here you will find writings by the many members of The Flabbit Room, most of which will be set in the world of Ildathore.