A cool wind jostled the dust from reddened leaves overhead. Not many remained on their branches, thin as they were. The Culdees forest used to be lush and full, long before the humble establishment of Renaissance. This was the story that Giles often heard. Weary miners, having nothing better to do than sit in his father’s pub, told many tall tales of their years when the town was a clearing. Some claimed they saw creatures that bewitched the eyes of late travelers. Giles saw nothing like that—just shadows, cast by a sliver of moonlight.
His smile frowned, reminded of his purpose for coming.
* * *
Despite the warning of Heriot’s Pass, the miners decided to dig there. It would not be long before everyone knew of its collapse. The news reached Giles that afternoon, just as he was about to start working on that wedding dress for Lyra's rich friend. All but one managed to flee the scene unscathed.
His elder brother.
Giles dropped everything to search for the physician, careful not to look grieved. No one needed to know that their three hundred and thirty-three population was about to change to three hundred and thirty-two, before the mask. To his surprise, Lyra bumped into him, still looking for her friend. They searched and soon found the doctor, counting coins, as he left Melinda’s house.
“Thought so,” Lyra told him. “See you later.”
Giles watched the door close behind her before he chased down the physician and brought him to his brother. Given all his skill and learning, the man could do nothing.
With his final breaths, Giles’ brother shed a tear. He spoke of a girl that he loved, a girl that Giles knew nothing about. They had planned to elope that night, deep into the southern forest.
Death reaped before he could say.
Giles closed his eyes and wondered. His brother always had a girl in arm. Which one?
Anyone else would have stayed and mourned, but whoever this girl was, she deserved to know.
* * *
Just ahead stood a thin figure, cloaked and still.
The closer Giles neared, the more she turned. He wore a cloak, too, so they stared at each other, their faces shrouded by the night.
Neither of them spoke, but Giles tried anyway.
“Hello,” she beat him to it. “Thornwall?”
That was his last name, and he knew her voice.
It can't be!
Giles stopped as her face defined. “Lyra?”
She gasped, equally disbelieved. “Giles!"
As much as he loved his brother, Giles wanted to turn back and punch his dead face. Giles loved Lyra. His brother knew that, as far back as they could remember. And he wooed her, behind his back.
Tears lined Lyra's lips. “How could you?”
What did she mean? "How could I what?"
“Don’t talk to me,” she cried. “Ever!”
Giles reached for her arm. Her fist found his nose.
“Melinda is engaged, and then you flirt with me after giving her child? Just when I—”
She took off toward the town in a hard run, leaving Giles with a whirling string of questions. Melinda was with child? His brother’s child? Was Lyra the one he meant to meet tonight, or was it Melinda? Either way, a grave misunderstanding had just occurred.
He wasn’t about to lose Lyra over it.
Giles followed, but she vanished long before he reached town. A light shined in Melinda’s window, giving him an idea. He found a few small rocks and threw them at her pane.
She opened it, looking surprised. “What do you want?”
“We need to talk,” Giles insisted. "Right now."
* * *
- Betrayal is in the air.
- Relationships unravel or strengthen.
- A long-kept secret is revealed.
* * *
My heck! That was a tricky installment for the third part of The Rule of Three blogfest. I've got my work cut out for me if I'm to resolve this conundrum with just one installment left. What will happen next? Check back next Wednesday for the final part of Lady in Wanting.
Also, see my final campaign entry for a touch of sci-fi!
And I'm hosting a book giveaway. Check it out, guys!
I'm David, and don't get punched in the nose!