Falling Into the Woods Ch. 03byRedHairedandFriendly©
"There it is..."
His voice seemed to come from a far off place. Falls's eyes took in the sight before her. A castle stood strong and sure; a village, much like those she'd seen on the History Channel, or stared at in books, bustled with activity. Flags bearing some sort of Coat of Arms flew in the wind. "Where the fuck am I?" she whispered. She wiped her eyes as if by doing so she would free herself from the vision before her. It didn't.
Lucas fumed silently as he tried to understand her words. Blade moved once his Master gave a soft nudge. The horse took a worn path that Lucas had traveled many times in his youth. "I will find someone to care for your needs and I will personally retrieve your belongings from Rosetta's cottage. The... shack. I believe that is what you called it."
Falls nodded her head in silence. Her gaze shifted from the top of the castle's turrets to the village they were approaching. "Where is Wolf's Den? and Island?"
"Isle of Wight," he told her, "Britain has fallen. You are not well are you?" He would turn her over to the old nurse that had cared for him and his siblings. She was a distraction to him. Her words foreign and the fragrance of her hair... well, he did not want to think about that; nor did he want to dwell on the taste of her lips, or the way her ass pressed against him during their ride to the keep.
"It's Falls Britain," she muttered, "Where's Mittsburgh?" She swallowed the lump in her throat. Her fingers shook and she spread them on her thighs, hoping to calm the fear that was growing inside her.
"Mittsburgh? Is this a friend? Perhaps your village?"
"It's the town... village I come from. It should be around here. I only slept one night in the woods and then three in the cabin. I can run fast and hard, but not across an ocean. Where the fuck am I!?" she demanded, her voice full of anguish and growing panic.
"Stop shouting! You are with me. I will not let anything untoward happen to you."
"Lucas Aquila, son of Lucilius, grandson of..."
"Yeah, yeah. I got that. I need an aspirin," she muttered, then grew silent again as they came closer to the village and the poignant odor of an unclean environment made her nostrils flare.
"What are these things you speak of? Where are your people?"
"I'll answer your questions when you answer mine," she told him, "I want to know where Wight is on a map. Where is Wolf's Den in relation to Mittsburgh?"
"Wight is an island not far from the main land. The villages you mention are not near Wolf's Den, nor am I familiar with their names. Brittain, the village..."
"Britain, not Brittain. I don't believe you and I are speaking of the same place... not that that matters, I don't think we're even speaking the same language."
"Then Britain is also a place I am not familiar with, however Brittain is. I have not visited the small island in some time. The last I believe was when I was a small lad. It was to attend the burial of an uncle. A man of great importance. He is still missed to this day. I remember how most everyone seemed to be wealthy; a surprise to me, for here in Wight it is the keep that provides the wealth for the people. Yes we are profitable and..."
"Please stop," she begged, her hands moved to press against her temples. Falls felt her stomach twist as they reached flat ground and moved down a wider path that served carts as well as many travelers at the same time. Men and women either walked or rode past them. Some nodded their head in greeting, others avoided looking at Lucas and the woman in his arms, most however openly stared at them.
She stared back; each face and the way the individuals were dressed brought her closer to the edge of panic. "Lucas, how long is this fair of yours?" she asked, still hoping that she was stuck in some Rein Fair carnival. Everything around her screamed that she was far from Mittsburgh, far from Connecticut and quite possibly far from the USA, but how?
"Yes, fair. Party. Celebration. Carnival?"
"Ahhh... yes, celebration. My sister and now Bethany, Princess of Mercer will be wed in three days time. This 'fair' as you call it will conclude two days after. It's already been going on for several weeks... several costly weeks."
"Wow! You must be rich to pay for all this. Hell, even the village looks real and the stench... good grief! You went all out." Falls couldn't believe the smell of the people and then she realized it was not just the people. They passed a large pool of water where several bathed at once. "Holy crap! No wonder it stinks around here!"
"You do not smell like a rose, either Falling Britain." Granted she smelled much better than the most villagers, but he was used to the daily washes he'd grown accustomed to when wooing Bethany. Now it was common practice for anyone working within the walls of the keep to bathe every day, if not every other. The villagers, he had not so ordered, for he knew it was more a chore for them then for those within the keeps walls.
"Falls Britain," she whispered and pushed back a stray strand of hair, "May I ask you some more questions?"
They were leaving the village behind and traveling up a smaller pathway that took them through a small woods, then on the other side Falls saw the castle grow larger than she had imagined it to be. She waited for him to answer her; her jaw slack as she took in the sight of several horses topped by several men, all seemed to be armed. "Welcoming committee?" she whispered.
Lucas stopped Blade and waited for the group to approach. "Brother, where do you believe you are going? There is a wedding taking place in three days time."
"According to Mother and your former betrothed, there are two weddings taking place. I am to collect and escort Princess Bethany's grandmother. Her parents are furious with her, but since you seem to have deserted..."
"Deserted? Is that what she is saying?" Lucas laughed, "Titus was deeply rooted in her this morning. I only stepped away and allowed true love to conquer all obstacles. That is what every Princess... every woman, wants; is it not?"
Falls couldn't help but notice the change in her champion's voice. Obviously true love was not something Lucas was fond of. She wondered who this Bethany was and if 'rooted' meant exactly what she figured it did. "Titus said as much. That is why no one believed Bethany and I am now on my way to Glendale to bring Lady Daniella. What baggage have you there?" Lucas's brother asked, nodding his head toward Falls.
"Baggage?" Falls said with a lift to her brow.
"Ahh, it speaks."
"Yes, sadly. I have found its chatter an annoying habit," Lucas muttered.
Falls growled and jabbed her elbow into her companion's stomach. "I'm Falls Britain and..."
"No!" Falls screamed; the men reached for their swords, glanced around themselves and looked for what enemy had called the woman to scream.
"Cease woman! Men still. There is no enemy," Lucas turned to his brother, "Maximal, this is Falls Britain," he saw the look of confusion pass his brother's face, "Yes, that truly is her name. She is one of Rosette's kin."
"I thought they were all dead," Maximal replied. His gaze ran over the bundle that sat in front of his brother. She looked normal, though her state of dress was quite odd. There was a sense of hidden terror that lurked behind her eyes. He wondered how close to insanity she was. Rosette herself was a known witch, so would her kin not house the same oddities? "Stoner has been gone from these lands for several years now. What makes you think she is one of them?" He didn't like the idea of strangers frolicking around Wolf's Den. If Wolf's Den had them, then there was a good chance Raven's Claw did as well... that was something he would not stand for.
Falls chose to not say anything about this Stoner family. She was tired of defending her name. All she wanted was for this Rein Fair nightmare to end. "Look damn it, my wallet and purse, everything I need is back at the cabin. If you'll go get it, I'll gladly..." she thought a moment, then smirked, "take my leave of you."
"Falls, you are not going anywhere. Your village is not even on Wight. So until someone comes looking for you, you will be my guest...that is after you bathe. Brother, gather up these things she speaks of and bring them back to me along with Her Highness's grandmother. Be safe, there may be others like her crawling about." Lucas nodded his goodbye to his sibling and his men, then led Blade through the group of massive beasts, both men and horses.
He continued holding Falls tight against him. He knew the silence she was suddenly overwhelmed with would be short lived. Her words proved his assumption to be correct.
"There is no one else 'crawling about.' I ran into the forest alone and it looks like I woke up there alone."
Lucas crossed the lowered portcullis and looked down at her as the horse made its way behind the walls of Wolf's Den. Again villagers as well as different levels of nobles moved about the grounds. Some sold wares. Some traded, others openly stared at their Lord and the lady he carried. "I am sure your people are looking for you. We will take care of you until they can be found. Maximal will most likely meet up with one or two; hopefully he does not cross swords with them before they identify themselves. But we are at peace, so most likely your kin will be well."
Falls rolled her eyes. "Okay, so we're going to keep the role play up," she shrugged her shoulders and tired to slip into what she could only call a more 'proper speech,' "My kin, Sire will not be seeking me. My mother found fit to banish me from our... lands. I have friends, however that will tend me. If you could but trouble yourself to deliver me to the nearest bus station, I will be quick and rid you of the troublesome burden that is myself."
Lucas stared down at her upturned face. His brows were furrowed as he tried to understand her speech. The way she spoke only confirmed to him that she had to have struck her head and had completely lost her wits. A soft groan of annoyance left his lips. No, he decided, he could not just give this woman over to someone with less patience than him... but who? Who could he trust to treat her with tenderness that only the insane deserved?
Falls cleared her throat and Lucas shook his head, clearing his thoughts. "Yes?"
"Are you going to take me to the bus stop? Or make me walk?"
Before Lucas could answer her question, a young boy appeared and Lucas drew Blade to a stop. Falls looked down, chuckled at the boy, then turned to stare at what she knew had to have been a very realistic replica of some ancient stable. There were no glass windows, or signs of modern conveniences that she knew ranchers were more than capable of providing their treasured beast. She saw no fresh paint; no beautiful woodwork proclaiming the name of Wolf's Den. All she saw was a structure that had been served to do exactly what it was supposed to do... house livestock.
"Good grief, when you throw a party you go all out. This is ridiculous. You have an entire village set up to resemble something from old English and you have your own castle, again seemingly out in the middle of Eastern USA. The only one I know of is the Baltimore and believe me this crap wouldn't fly there. But, come on," she pointed down to the small boy, "you even made the little kids play dress up for your Rein Fair wedding? Give me a break. What's going on?"
Lucas was past trying to reason with the woman. He slid off Blade, grabbed Falls by the waist and pulled her from the high back of the great beast. He ignored the feel of having his hands on her in such an intimate manner. She turned in his arms and faced him, a look of unknown emotion crossed her face. He refused to try and examine, fearful it would only confirm that she was mad.
"Falls Britain, you are ill. I am going to take you to my mother. She is a wonderful woman and has great patience, almost as much as I do. She may be a bit distraught over the ending of my betrothal, but she would not want me to marry Bethany since the Princess's heart belongs to another. She knows all the villages here in Wight as well as those beyond its shores. You will not lack for anything here. Until I find out who you are... you are a guest of Wight."
"Look Lucas baby," Falls said, through clenched teeth, "I'm not going to freeload off of anyone. Never have; never will. I just need a bath, food, and some clean clothes. I'll be your servant for the day, do laundry, sewing, though I suck at that, and I'll even cook, but I'm not going to be a bum."
"A servant? I could not ask that of you, nor could I agree to such a thing. I do not know your rank. You could be a Princess, a Queen even and if your people were to see you on your knees servicing my needs..."
Falls mouth dropped open and her face grew red. "Servicing your needs! I never said that. I said I would scrap and clean. Hell, I'll even toss in your boots, but I'll be damned if I said anything about servicing your needs and playing your whore!" Her voice dominated the space around them.
Lucas stepped back, dropping the grip he had unknowingly still held on her waist. "Whore? I said no such thing!" he approached her and quickly covered her mouth with his hand, "I meant you would not become a servant and cater to my whim. You could make a fine whore, I'm sure, and your mind is not so far gone, in my opinion, that you will be forced to make that your life. You will be a guest, that is all; under my protection you will not become a whore," he paused, smirked and then winked, hoping to relieve the tension he felt sizzling between them, "unless you desire me so greatly."
He allowed his hand to fall from her lips. "You are not from here. That is obvious from the way you dress and the way you speak. You confuse me. This is something I do not like. I am not prone to headaches either, yet since I have met you I feel as if I will be afflicted by them often."
Falls glared at him. Her pulse raced as she tried to not panic. Tears welled up in her eyes; she knew they were about to fall. She took a deep breath and whispered, "Please, just take me home. I just want to go home." Falls began to tremble; her knees buckled and fear set in. She leaned into Lucas and sobbed as the weight of all she'd been through finally overtook her.
Lucas blanched as the woman cried. His hands went to her back and he patted her as if she were a small child hurt and confused. "I can not," he whispered, "I do not know how. I do not know where you came from, nor do I know how you got here." He leaned back, pushing her slightly away from him, and looked down into her watery eyes. "Falls Britain," he reached up and wiped at her cheeks, feeling the salty tears that had been shed, "come let us go inside. I will have proper fitting clothes placed in a room for you. You will be fed. I give you my word. You are safe within the walls of Wolf's Den."
Falls shook her head. She had no choice. The only option she saw before her was not one she wished to entertain... to make her way back to the woods and just sit there for hours, hoping and praying that she'd go to sleep and wake up in her bed, hearing Darrel and her mother rutting like wild beasts. Even that was better than what she was feeling now. At least there, she knew what to expect.
They entered the castle. Lucas watched her intently, focusing on her face, trying to read her expressions in case she showed any signs of madness that could harm his family, or even herself.
"Lucas, this is amazing. It's like a museum. This stuff is hundreds of years old."
Lucas lifted a brow. He said nothing as he watched her move toward some of his mother's more delicate possessions. A few servants stopped what they were doing and stared at the oddly dressed woman. He noticed, scowled and they scurried away. There were no guests in sight and Lucas was more than happy about those circumstances. He would have a hard enough time explaining Falls's oddities to his people, let alone his noble guests.
Falls picked up a small figurine. Her fingers caressed the smooth surface. "Marble?" she asked, though was not really looking for an answer. She looked for a date on the bottom and shook her head as she made out a small series of numbers. "376...wow," she picked up another, "548... wow, I bet this is ancient too," she said as she stepped over to an intricately designed tapestry. Her fingers brushed against the material.
"No, we finished it just last month; does it look old to you?" a voice called out, followed by steps that echoed softly along the stone floor, "Lucas, mother is not happy. She has wept for several hours. Is it true? Titus claims he will be marrying Bethany and not you."
"Yes, he speaks the truth. You however are being rude. This is my guest, Falls Britain." He held up his hand at the look that passed his sister's face, "yes that is her name. She is kin to the Stoner family that lived in the cottage Rosetta abandoned," he leaned in close and whispered, "She is not right in the head."
Falls rolled her eyes. "If you are going to whisper, you should learn how to do it right," she muttered, then stepped over to the couple, "I am not any relation to Rosetta. I'm from..."
"Please Falls, wait until you meet Patterson, before you speak of where you are from."
Falls's brows rose slightly. She looked at the woman before her. She was dressed in a long gown, one she would have sworn was as old as the tapestry behind her. Yet, it looked practically new, untouched by time, or damaged by the elements. "Who is Patterson?" she asked, glancing toward Lucas.
"Patterson is the man who will be marrying my sister. Falls, this is my sister Athela."
Lucas stepped back, sweeping his hand out toward the women, allowing them space to greet each other. "Lady Britain, it is a pleasure to meet you," Athela greeted. Her gaze scanned Falls quickly; her face paled slightly as her eyes rested on the jeans that Falls wore. "Yes, you need to meet Patterson," she muttered under her breath.
Falls returned the inquisitive glance. The woman's gown was of green and gold. The bodice was tight, two firm white globes threatened to spill out. Her hair, the color of wheat was curled in what Falls would describe as Shirley Temple corkscrews. "This is just too much," she whispered, "You guys don't mind wasting a fortune for this wedding, do you. That dress is amazing. I bet it's a replica of some Queen from the 1700's. Very Cool... but damn I bet this is expensive," she turned to Lucas, "no wonder you have a headache. Your credit card is probably smokin'."
Athela looked worriedly at her brother and then the woman. "Lucas, why don't I take our guests to one of the rooms, where I can see her settled and..."
"Athela. I told you she had a sickness. It is not safe to leave her with you."
"I am not sick!" Falls screamed. She turned to Athela, her hands clenched in fists that rested on her hips. "Look, this brother of yours found me, dumped me in a stream. Wouldn't let me get my purse. Made me leave my ID back at the cabin of some woman named Stone. Who I am NOT related to! I want a phone. A car... damn I'll even take a fuckin' horse right about now. I want to go home!"
"Calm child, I meant no harm."
"Child!? I'm not a child. I'm eighteen and ever since I turned eighteen, lit that fuckin' candle and fell asleep this has been some weird dream that I haven't woken up from!"
Athela bit her lower lip. "Falls, please stop shouting," she looked around, pulled on the young woman's arm and jerked her slightly toward her, "if you will but calm down, I can help," she whispered.
Lucas shook his head. "She needs rest. Maximal will be bringing her things when he returns with the Princess's grandmother."