Chapter 27

 Sidrea           

It took two days by horse, three and a half by wagon, five to walk from her home in the mountains to the prairie castle. But Sidrea was far too old, and frail as a dried leaf, for such a journey. After nine days, she was close enough that she thought she saw the town and castle in the distance. It looked like a large black smear. She thought she was more than a few hours by wagon from town, probably more than a day’s walk for her.

One more step. Just one more, she told herself.

Her left foot wavered. She could barely lift her foot it was so heavy. It dropped back to the prairie floor. Sidrea froze. She concentrated on keeping her balance. She felt like a babe learning to walk. Somehow, she managed to stay up right.

“One more step,” she said again.

Only there would be no more steps. Her legs would hold her no longer. The small pack, now empty of dried meat and fruit, fell from her shoulder. Her legs buckled. She doubled over, and like slow motion, fell to the ground. For a long time, she lay gasping for breath. She’d landed harder than was save thankfully nothing seemed broken.

Eventually, she tuned to lie on her back. The sun was at mid-morning. Why was she so very tired?

With a little jolt, she woke. The sun was now directly above. She’d slept without realizing it. Something poked at her back. A small rock, no three, but she could not reach them. She rolled onto her side.

Old age was for mortals. At one time, she’d been the most powerful witch in the world. Then she could have spoken, and in a blink of an eye, she’d have been in the castle, as if walking from one room to another. But there were no transporting spells left in her. Now she could only do the simplest of spells, nothing that could transport her, so she’d walked. If she lived through the night, she’d force herself back onto her feet and continue her walk to the castle.

If she died in her sleep her bones would be picked clean by wild beasts. Anyone who came upon her would never know who she was. What a dismal end to a once glorious life.

No. She would not die. Not when she was so close and she’d have her retribution. There was nothing he could do to stop her. She’d be queen of the land. She’d have her youth and would never again be weak. A laugh tried to escape her lips, but her mouth was too dry.

With great effort and a few grunts, she pushed herself up on one elbow, waited to secure her balance then heaved herself up to a sitting position. She sat with her back to the dried lakebed. It hurt to see it like that, when she remembered it full of water and life.

The day was still warm, but not for long. Prairie nights were always cold. She spoke one word of magic, “Fire.” A small flame sprang up. There was no more energy left to make it larger or bring forth more fires to surround her with protection from night predators.

Where had her magic gone? It was all his fault – the lost of her beauty, power, and her exile from the kingdom. This was why she’d returned, to regain her energy, her magic and eternal youth. Then she’d lay claim to the kingdom. It was hers by right.

But for now, she must sleep and hope she wasn’t eaten while she slept. What was out here? Wolves don’t attack humans. Would a cougar travel this far from the mountains? Would vultures see her, hover over her and pick out her eyes before she was fully dead? If only her magic was still strong. If only she could reach the castle before end of day.

Sighing, she reached for her bag, arranged it as a pillow and rested her head on it.

“I hate being old.”

Something shocked Sidrea awake. “Waa?”

“Sidrea?” A man’s voice called her.

She forced her eyes open. “Where am I?” Why wasn’t she at home in her bed?

“Why are you here?”

Sidrea looked around, confused. “Where am I?”

“Old One, why are you sleeping here in the prairie?” The voice was insistent. If only it would leave so she could sleep.

She tried to focus on the one speaking. Slowly, he came into view. She knew him, but couldn’t remember. He was someone she should know. Then it came to her. “Karth? What are you doing here? I am not able to help you just now.” She waved him away as she closed her eyes. She was so tired. Sleep swept over, her taking her back.

From far away, Karth laughed. “No, I don’t need your services, but I think you need mine.” He shook her again.

Help her? Why did she need help? Then she remembered. She was sleeping on the ground. She was trying to get to the castle.

“Oh.” Opening her eyes, she tried to sit, but her muscles would not obey. She lifted a shaky hand. “Help me.” Her voice was soft and feeble.

Carefully, Karth held her hand as he placed his other arm around her body and pulled her up.

Sitting next to her, he asked, “Now, why are you here?”

“I come to the castle to advise the witch,” she said.

“Which witch? There are now several within the walls.”

“Tamerad.”

“Ah. That one. I’ve not met her” Karth looked around as if he might see Tamerad coming towards them. “How did you get here?”

“I walked.” She released a dry cough. It pulled on her chest, causing her to gasp.

Karth jumped to his feet, hurried to his horse and returned with a canteen. “Here,” he said.

Grateful, she drank deeply.

“Why didn’t you use magic to come instead of walking?” he asked.

“I am too weak for such spells.”

“You are too weak to walk here. You could have died.”

“I am surprised I still live.” She cackled so quietly she almost couldn’t hear it.

Karth smiled. “Come, you will ride my horse the rest of the way and I will walk at your side.” He stood, stomped the fire out, and with great care helped Sidrea to her feet. He easily lifted her and placed her on his horse. With a hand on her leg to help her keep her balance, he walked along side.

Sidrea was in town, fed and comfortably sleeping in Karth’s bed before the town gates closed for the night.

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Published in: on September 7, 2011 at 12:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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