Chapter 1 - waning gibbousHe woke, dirty and naked, curled in the hollow of an old oak tree's roots. For a while, he lay there, shivering: the October air was cold on his bare skin, and he was painfully hungry. There was no blood in his mouth, so he must not have fed after all. His memories of the last few nights was a blur of blue and silver moonlight.
He didn't know what to do. His sling and steel knife were lost somewhere in the woods, along with his clothes. It was too late in the year to find anything but thorns on the brambles, or anything but twigs in the birds' nests. As for going home to the mill... Even if he knew where home was, that would have been impossible. The mill could never be his home again, not after seeing the fear in his mother's face as he changed, the anger in his sister's eyes as she brought a flaming brand from the fire down on his flanks. He'd been able to make do in the summer, wandering from town to town along the river, always leaving before the moon reached full, and hiding in the woods in the meantime. But now he was lost, and the woods were bare. He couldn't hear the river, and he had no way of knowing how far he'd run while he was an animal.
He had no plan.
He had no way to go back.
There was nothing he could do.
The cold wind stirred up the leaves around him, and he started to cry.
He didn't know how long he lay there before he heard a voice call out.
"Hello? Is someone up there?"
He staggered to his feet, not caring that he was naked. "Here! I'm here!"
A woman in a brown dress and cloak came into sight. "Who's there?" And then, as she saw him. "Dear Lord, what happened to you?"
"And dressed like that, in this cold? Here, take this." And her cloak was wrapped around him. "What's your name, lad? And how did you get here?"
"I'm John, the miller's son. From Bridgeford." She didn't react, so she must not have heard the stories. Maybe news didn't travel that far. "I'm cold."
"I can see that. Well, never let it be said that Kara Brewer is cold to a man in need! Come with me: it isn't far to walk." He stumbled along behind her, dizzy but glad to hear a kind human voice again. He followed her heals, and her voice as she babbled cheerily along.
The house she led him to was small and smoky, but blessedly warm, with clay tiles on the floor and a sheepskin laid out in front of the fire. Thank... thank heaven... He swayed in the doorway, and she caught him as he fell to the floor.
"Easy! Are you alright?" The woman's voice seemed far away.
"Idon'tfeelwell." He slurred. The world rocked in his vision.
"Here, lay down for a bit." She guided him over to the sheepskin, soft against his bare body. "Let me fix you something to eat."
3 chapters, created 10 years
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