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Alluring Antiquity by daydream_it_to_life

Format: Novella
Chapters: 6
Word Count: 20,525
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Violence, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 01/20/2010
Last Chapter: 08/03/2012
Last Updated: 08/03/2012

Summary:

Gorgeous banner by PhoenixAlthor@TDA!

Thrust into the past, Rowena Potter has to make due with what she is given. With no way to get back to her time, she realizes she will have to forget her family from the future and meld herself into the past which turns out to be much easier than she thought. How alluring antiquity can be.


Chapter 1: Diagon
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She scanned the shelves, skipping the titles she had already read in search of new material. She was half way down one of the aisles before she found one that caught her eye. She smiled slightly as she gently pulled it from the shelf.

Founder’s Four,” she murmured to herself. She tucked it under her arm and made her way back to the front of the shop, weaving past the heaps of encyclopedia’s that cluttered the floor. The dim lighting made it hard to maneuver, and a dull thump followed by a hiss of pain could often be heard as the seventeen year old moved through the store. It was a dingy little place, but one of her favorites nevertheless. She could always count on it to find new literature.

Approaching the counter, she gently placed the new book down and waited. The old woman finally looked up, blinking at her owlishly before squinting, her hands quivering as she adjusted her glasses. She leaned forward slightly before a large grin spread across her face.

“Rowena Potter, is that you? My, you’ve been away almost the entire year! The store has been quite lonely without you, my dear,” the old woman said kindly. Rowena smiled regretfully as the old woman peered down at the cover of the book she had just put down.

“I’m afraid I still had schooling to do, Mrs. Fresher. I was at Hogwarts. But, no worries, I’ve just graduated and you’re sure to see me more frequently, I’m sorry to say,” she replied with a smile. Mrs. Fresher grinned up at her.

“Oh, my little Ro has graduated from Hogwarts already! You haven’t given up singing since we last talked, have you? Oh and that would be 17 sickles, dear,” she added, carefully wrapping up the book in tissue.

Rowena frowned slightly. “But the tag said 25 sickles. You aren’t trying to give me another discount are you, Mrs. Fresher?”

The old woman waved a hand dismissively. “Oh nonsense, that thing has been on the shelves for quite some time. I’d give it to you for free, if I thought you would accept it.”

Rowena smiled gratefully as she slid the coins across the counter. “Well thank you, it’s greatly appreciated. And you should know the answer to that question, Mrs. Fresher. I wouldn’t give up singing for the world.”

She laughed and smiled, patting Rowena’s hand warmly. “That’s my Ro. Well take care dear, and don’t forget about this old woman! I’ll be waiting for you to return. And let me know how that book is. Founder’s Four, I thought you’d know all about them by now, seeing as one is your namesake.”

She smiled as she grabbed the package, tucking it into her bag. “I’m afraid I know almost nothing of them, if I’m being truthful. Take care, Mrs. Fresher,” she said with a small wave.

The bell jingled behind her as she stepped out into the brightly lit street, blinking her deep blue eyes as they adjusted to the new lighting. The light bounced off of her raven black hair, which fell in waves down to her lower back. She sighed at the crowds mulling loudly through the streets and stepped into them, immediately being jostled as she headed towards the Leaky Cauldron, where she planned to floo home.

After a minute in the crowds however, she sighed in frustration. She could barely make out which stores were on either side of her, let alone navigate through the streets. Spotting a small gap in the crowds, she darted through and slipped into an alleyway. She watched the people surge by for a moment, shaking her head in wonder at the amount of witches and wizards in Diagon Alley that day. The younger students must be quickly taking advantage of the summer before they would have to return for the new term. She sighed longingly, thinking of the beautiful grounds and peaceful lake that she would never return to.

She had been a Ravenclaw herself. In almost all of her spare time, she would sit by the lake, reading a book or practicing her spells. She did not get along well with the others students. It was not that she hated them, or vice versa. They simply found her unsettling. She acted and spoke with a maturity that far exceeded her years, preferring to spend her time in solitude. When she got past her awkward stage and the boys’ hormones began kicking in, many of them ignored her strange sophistication for she was actually quite a beauty, and approached her in their cocky manner, throwing one liners and hoping they would get lucky.

She did not return their interests. At times she would simply stare at them with erudite eyes, knowing their perverse intents and remaining silent until they mumbled out an excuse and left her to her studies.

She smiled as she reminisced and turned, colliding with somebody. She stumbled back and tripped, landing on her butt painfully and biting her lip to hold back a groan. Almost immediately a hand extended down to her and she accepted it gratefully before being pulled to her feet. She straightened out her bag and clothes before looking up into the face of one of the boys she recognized from school. He was eyeing her in a manner she quickly recognized.

She offered him a tight smile and inclined her head, saying, “Thank you for helping me up, and I beg your pardon for my clumsiness. Now if you’ll excuse me..” She tried to step around him but he moved into her path, a small smirk gracing his lips as he ran his eyes over her. She crossed her arms, frowning irritably.

“No, no, the fault is mine. I tell you what, let me make it up to you. We could have a drink in the Three Broomsticks, what do you say?” he asked, winking at her. She bristled angrily but kept her voice collected.

“I say you would do well to reign in your ego and deflate your head. And if that does not sound pleasing to you, then I suggest you go find some bimbo that would give you your quick fix. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she said tersely before envisioning her home and spinning on her heels, apparating away with a loud pop.

She appeared in her living room, huffing angrily.

“Ro? Is that you?” her father called from the study. She sighed and set down her bag on one of the sofas.

“Yes, Dad,” she yelled, tucking a curl behind her ear.

“Could you come in the study? I wanna talk with ya,” he replied. She walked down the hall to the last door. A warm glow came from the crack under the door and she knocked twice before opening it slightly, poking her head in the room.

“Yes?” she asked. He looked up from his writings, a goofy grin on his face. Her father was Albus Severus Potter, and he looked just like his famous father; Grandpa Harry.

“Rowena, we’ve got a graduation party all set out for you. It’s going to be at your Auntie Luna’s, despite Aunt Hermione’s objections. Those two fight over you like hounds over meat,” he said with a laugh. Rowena forgot the incident in the alley as a smile spread across her face. Auntie Luna was not really her aunt. She was just one of her grandparents’ good friends, and Aunt Hermione was technically her great-aunt Hermione. But she complained that it made her feel too old, so it was just aunt.

Rowena couldn’t believe they were fighting per se. They had been through too much together, but she was sure there had been some dispute between her two favorite people. Auntie Luna was always experimenting. Most of them turned out to be frivolous and unhelpful, but sometimes she really latched onto something. On the other hand, Rowena was always spending time with Aunt Hermione, learning all of the spells she could and listening to her tell stories of when she was younger.

“I wouldn’t say fighting, exactly. Thank you though, for organizing the party. It’s appreciated. Do you know who will be there?” she asked, tilting her head inquisitively. He chuckled and shrugged his shoulders, lifting his hands in a “who knows?” sort of gesture.

“Look at who your grandfather is, Ro. People are still making quite the fuss over that old fart, and I’m sure that a lot of people will be there that even I don’t know,” he explained. She sighed, frowning slightly but nodding all the same.

“I understand. I only hope I don’t run into too many few many unfamiliar faces. I don’t understand why we even really need this party, Papa. I don’t exactly have friends.” She said it calmly, the statement not really bothering her. Her books and knowledge were her friends, and she knew that people felt disquieted around her. Nevertheless, her father frowned sympathetically. She bridled at the pity that showed on her father’s face and held up a finger as he opened his mouth, stopping him from uttering even a sound.

“Papa, please. Do not start.” She smiled reassuringly. “I am happy. Now, I have a bit of cleaning to do, and I am impatient to get it finished. But before I do, could I ask when this party is so I can be prepared?”

He sighed but nodded, knowing he would not be able to best her. “Alright, Ro. It’s this Saturday, at one.”

Surprise flickered across her face. “But Papa, it’s Thursday. That only gives me two days to prepare.” Her eyebrows pulled together slightly, appearing disgruntled. “That means I’ll have almost no time to read my book until after then.”

Albus laughed. “I am sure you can manage, Ro.”

She smiled slightly and nodded. “I suppose I have no choice. Happy studies, Papa.” She pulled away from the door, closing it gently. As she walked back down the hall, she mulled over what she might expect at the graduation party. She truly had no friends to boast of, and wondered who would turn up.

She retrieved her bag from the living room before re-entering the hall and pulling open one of the doors on the right, revealing a spiral staircase that climbed upwards. Shutting the door behind her, she climbed up the stairs until she reached another door. Through that was another short little hallway, which contained only two doors. She pulled open the one on her left and stepped into her large bedroom.

Bookshelves covered most of the walls which contained a myriad of heavy looking tomes, all perfectly kept. Her bed was off to the left, pressed up against a small portion of the wall that did not contain shelves. Next to it was a small, bedside table containing a lamp and an alarm clock. Unwrapping her new text, she walked over to her bed and set the book on the table in the place she always set whichever book she was currently reading.

She trailed her fingers across the shelves as she walked by them, reading titles at random. As the names flitted through her mind, random bits from that book floated through her train of thought. It was her way of reviewing. When she reached her vanity, she stared at the image reflected at her.

People always told her she looked as though she were twenty, not seventeen, and as she looked at herself she could see why they thought that. She never wore makeup because her long, dark eyelashes made the need for mascara unnecessary. She had a natural blush to her cheeks, and her lips were a deep red even without lipstick. She frowned slightly as she tucked another unruly strand of hair behind her ear and turned away from the mirror quietly. She did not see the value in appearances, and turned away from people who judged because of it. Shallowness was commonly seen in the present world, and though she could not escape it she could at least try not to mingle with those that were associated with it.

She walked to the opposite room, where the wall was cut into slightly. A large window with billowy curtains occupied the space, cushions and pillows sitting below it on the window seat. She gently picked up one of the pillows and sat, leaning back against the wall. She pulled her feet up and tucked them close to her, hugging the pillow as she gazed out of the window. Her view contained no civilization, only trees that she gazed into thoughtfully. She quickly slipped into one of her reveries, thinking deeply about whatever happened to cross her mind, oblivious to the world around her.
________________________________________________________________________________________
I know, I know. "Guuurl, watchoo thinkin' startin' another one? You can't even keep up with the ones you got!" And you're right. I can't. But I got too excited about this one. Yes, it was fluffy and short and all, but it's just the first chappie. x] I promise it will get more interesting. At least, I hope you'll think so. Cause if not, I would be a bad author, yeah? So gimme thoughts. What do you think of Ms. Rowena Potter so far? Would you be friends with a little miss proper like her? =] Well thanks for sticking with me you guys, and I'll get the next chapter out as soon as I get the chance!

daydream_it_to_life



Chapter 2: The Fall
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A/N: Okay, I know I should never do it, but I switched from third person to first. Third is just too hard for me for some reason. I'll have to practice that some other time. ;] I know, even this chapter is pretty short. Bear with me, I really am trying to get better at that! Well, enjoy? =] daydream_it_to_life

~*~


“Well?” Mom was dancing beside me, hopping from foot to foot and practically glowing as she looked at my reflection. Her mood was infectious, and I could not help but smile as well as I twisted to get a better look at the back.

“It is very beautiful, Mum. Perfect,” I said as I turned to face her, smiling. Her blond hair was down today, and wild from running back and forth across the store, throwing dresses at me before I even had time to blink. Her blue eyes, which I had inherited, sparkled as she grinned at me.

“Well, I certainly hope you think so. It’s the best one in the store, hands down. And how did I manage to find it? Because I’m the best, that’s why. Bloody super mum, and don’t try and say any different because you’d be wrong.” She turned towards the mirror again to study the reflection, her face smug. I looked back at my reflection with her.

It was a simple gown, deep blue in color, which Mum said was to bring out my eyes, and cinched at the midsection with a black ribbon. The gown was strapless and fell in liquid ripples all the way down to the floor. Smiling again, I looked at my mum’s reflection as I spoke to her.

“Thank you so very much, Mum. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Her eyes brimmed with tears but as she tried to wipe them away, more took their place. I turned to face her as a tear slid down her cheek, horrified. Whenever my mother cried, it nearly broke my heart. Stepping forward, I hugged her tightly, and another lance of pain went through my chest as I realized how much taller I was than her now. I was no longer a little girl. She sniffed and placed her hands on my shoulders, gently pushing me back and smiling a watery smile. “Careful now, Ro, I don’t want to stain your new dress. You..you look so beautiful. My little Rowena is all grown up.” She tried to laugh and wiped at her eyes. “Listen to me, doddering on like I’m an old woman. I’m still kicking, aren’t I? Now, we need to get you home. You’re getting up early tomorrow, and we can’t have you looking tired for the party!”

I gave her “the Look” but stepped back into the changing room and pulled the curtain close, calling out to her, “It’s my graduation, Mum, not my wedding.”

I heard her mumble something I couldn’t quite make out, and simply shook my head with a small smile as I pulled the dress over my head.


~*~


It was Saturday morning. I sat on a small stool in the center of a white tent, waiting quietly as I heard the voices of the crowd outside grow. I frowned as the noise kept growing larger and larger. I did not know nearly this many people. Like I had told my dad, I had never been one to make friends. I acted “strangely” to other people. In my opinion, it was others who were different. If I said “pardon me” after bumping into someone, they looked at me as though I had just turned into an elephant. “Thank you” got a similar response.

The flap of the tent opened, interrupting my thoughts and my mum, Grandma Ginny, and Aunt Hermione filed in. They immediately swarmed over to me and I found myself forced to stand as my mum fussed over my dress, Grandma over my makeup, and Aunt Hermione over my hair, which was done in some fancy updo. I did not want to know how many bobby pins they had put in earlier. I took a deep breath but remained silent, even though I thought none of this was necessary. I knew it was important to them, and so I kept my thoughts to myself. Instead, I decided to talk about something else.

“Where is Auntie Luna? I have not seen her yet,” I looked around curiously as I asked, as though she would have magically appeared in the tent without me noticing. “What time is it, anyways?”

“Almost noon,” Grandma said as she grabbed my chin, tilting my head at different angles. “You know, you’re hardly fun to put makeup on. You don’t even need any.” She released her hold on me and placed her hands on her hips as she inspected me. I did not know what to say, and so I stayed silent as the three older women continued to fuss.

My mum suddenly stopped buzzing around my dress and straightening, giving me a Look of her own. “Why is there a wand shaped bump on your hip?”

My eyes flickered down to my side before going back up to her frustrated face. “I do not go anywhere without my wand, Mum. It is not that noticeable, is it?” She huffed but said nothing more and Great-aunt Hermione broke the tension.

“How have you been doing with that new spell, hon?” she asked. I smiled and relaxed slightly. This was a topic I was comfortable with.

“Oh, it’s been working rather well, thank you. Though I have been having some difficulties with casting it nonverbally. Perhaps you could help me practice it sometime?”

We chatted about spells for a little before they all three excused themselves from the tent. I tried to get them to tell me why I was not allowed to leave with them, but being stubborn and determined women themselves, they wouldn’t allow any information.

When the flap closed behind them, I rose and walked over to the small couch that they had placed in the tent. I glanced over to the entrance of the tent one last time before lifting the cushion and smiling as I pulled out the Founder’s Four and sat down, running my fingers over the worn cover. My mum had told me I was not allowed to read at all today. What she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her.

I flipped open to the table of contents to find who interested me the most. I already knew and I skimmed down to find the page number. The pages crinkled slightly as I turned to the proper section. A bold headline tilted the page: “Rowena Ravenclaw.”

The first page was filled with basic information. Name, hair color, eye color, etcetera. I blinked when I discovered we shared the same birthday before continuing on. According to this book, nobody knew where she came from. They suspected she told the other founders, but it was never recorded anywhere as though it were a secret.

I frowned slightly as I read this. Where did she-?

The murmur of voices came from outside my tent.

“I’m sure she won’t mind,” I heard my mother say. Slamming the book shut, I rammed it under the cushion and took a step away from the couch just as the women entered again.

“Alright, Ro,” Mum started, a smile on her face. “We’re going to go out there. Count to, ohhh, about thirty before you follow us.” I frowned and took a step towards them.

“Mum, what are you-?”

“Thirty!” she called out before they bustled out of the tent.

I stared after her. What were they planning. Sighing, I began to count.

When I reached thirty, I stood in front of the entrance, heart hammering in anticipation. They were making me do a grand entrance. It was the only explanation. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, calming myself. Slowly, I opened my eyes and lifted the flap, stepping out of the tent.

A wave of cheering, clapping, and whistling hit me as I stepped out into the bright sunshine. It took me a moment for my eyes to adjust and even then I blinked rapidly, not believe it.

There were hundreds of people. Hundreds, and all lined up to make a path from the tent entrance to a platform. Petals swirled through the air but I did not have time to find out where they came from. I could only look at the sea of faces, overwhelmed.

Who were these people?

I saw Mum standing on the platform, gesticulating wildly and miming that I begin walking. So I did.

I walked down the path at a normal pace, not wanting to linger. People cheered for me the whole way. It seemed to take so much longer than it probably did as I made my way to my mum. A few camera flashes blinded me and I clenched my jaw at the thought of the media. Now, not only would the hundreds of people here experience my party, so would the whole Wizarding world.

I lifted my chin, my back straight as I kept walking, tense with frustration. I did not want this. Not this many people.

After what seemed like a lifetime, I reached the platform and climbed up the steps before standing across from my mum. She grinned at me and whispered, “Oh stop being so angry. You’ll thank me for it one day.” I decided not to reply as the cheering quieted.

Mum’s voice echoed across the crowd, magically magnified. “Rowena Rae Potter. Soon, you’ll be making your way in this world. Today, your years as a child end and the many years of adulthood that you will experience begin. I cannot say how proud I am to have you as my daughter.” I remained rigid, this time in surprise as she smiled warmly at me and the crowd cheered again. She waited until they quieted before continuing. “I tried to find something appropriate to give you to signify this day. But you’re the kind of girl- no, woman, that does not particularly care for material items. Even so, I only find it appropriate that you should have this.” I stared at Mum in shock as she slipped the Lady Ring from her finger. It had been passed down to every girl in my mum’s family. She couldn’t be..

Reaching forward, she took my right hand in hers and slipped the ring onto my third finger. “Congratulations, Ro. I’m so proud of you.” The crowd erupted again and tears filled my eyes. I quickly wiped them away, trying to maintain formality, only to face my mum, tears streaming down her face. At the same time, we stepped forward, hugging each other tightly.

“I love you, Mum,” I whispered. Her answer was a sob.


~*~


An hour later, I was still wandering through the crowd, as was expected of me. A constant stream of congratulations came from the strangers that had attended and I politely accepted them. The words were empty to me, however. Meaningless words from meaningless strangers.

“Oof!” I rammed into a hard body and stumbled back before a hands reached out and grasped my forearms, steadying me. I looked up into the face of a man who looked about five years my senior. He had reddish brown hair, and deep green eyes, which sparkled with amusement as he smirked down at me.

“Are you alright?” he asked. I pulled my arms from his grasp and straightened, thinking back to the alley on Thursday, even though it had been a different man.

“Yes, I am fine, thank you.” I turned and began weaving through the crowd in an attempt to escape. I heard him call out from behind me, “Wait!” but I kept going and quickly lost him through the sea of people.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon my Auntie Luna. She was wearing some strange dress that was covered in sparkles. I smiled warmly at her.

“Auntie! I was wondering when I would see you. You have been hiding all morning. Were you in the house?”

She smiled at me with a dreamy expression. “Of course. There was a swarm of rumpets right by my door, and I couldn’t leave until they ate all the yodeldees and left.”

I nodded at her, even though I knew there was no such thing. “I understand, Auntie.”

She nodded, not taking her eyes off of me before leaning in and whispering in my ear. “Also, I was working on another experiment. I finally finished it this morning, and I would really like to show it to you.” She pulled away, and blinked at me.

Excitement shot through me. “I would love nothing more than to see it.” And escape the crowd for a moment at least.

She smiled happily and took my hand before pulling me behind her, heading towards her house in the distance. “I do wish you could have seen the house that I lived in when I was growing up, but it was sadly destroyed by an Erumpent horn,” she told me in that daydreamy voice she had. I nodded. I had heard the story.

She led me through the front door, and from there down into the basement where she conducted all of her major experiments. She stopped so abruptly that I almost plowed into her from behind. She pointed across the room and looked at me over her shoulder. Her whispered, “there” echoed through the room.

I followed her finger with my eyes and tilted my head at the strange machine I found myself staring at. The rim was made of metal and was like an oval in shape, as tall as I was and about as wide as a door frame. I looked in the center, expecting to see the stone wall on the other side through the gap. Instead it was filled with a light blue. I blinked rapidly as a white fluffy thing that looked like a cotton ball floated slowly into view. I took a step closer, peering closely and realized with a jolt that I was looking at what looked like the sky.

“Auntie Luna, what is this?” I stepped around her and traveled across the room, stopping when I was still a few feet from it. I heard her move to me, standing at my shoulder.

“It’s a time machine. I’m still not sure why it only shows a view of the sky. That’s what I was working on.” I looked at her in disbelief. A time machine?

“How can you be sure it is a time machine? Could it not be reflecting the image of the sky because you somehow programmed this to make the sight of that circular window that you have in your bedroom?” I asked curiously. She only smiled at me.

“Are you thirsty, Rowena?” she asked. I blinked once, thrown off my the change in topic before realizing that I really was thirsty.

“Yes, actually, I am,” I said. She smiled again.

“I thought you might be. Saying thank you over and over again to pesky people. I’ll go get some water, and I will be right back,” she said and I watched her climb the stairs. Turning, I studied the machine again.

A time machine. Was it possible? I moved around to the back and peeked at the center. It was a plain gray color; the back of the machine. I came back around to the front and hesitantly stepped closer, muscles tensed in caution. Lifting my hand, I slowly reached out towards the blue color. Where it should have hit the back and stopped, it kept going. I pulled my hand back sharply in alarm. How was it possible?

Placing my hands on the metal frame, I shuffled forward until my feet were right at the edge of where the blue and the ground met. Slowly, I leaned forward and looked down.

Lush, green land was spread out thousands of feet below me. A blue line cut it’s way through it; a river. In the distance was a collection of small brown dots outside of a grey line. Huts outside of a wall, it seemed like. On the inside of the wall, I couldn’t really see much. It must be too high to see beyond it. However, I could see formidable grey towers rising from near the far wall. The word “castle” came to mind.

I didn’t even realize I was leaning forwards, trying to see better, only my grip on the frame keeping me in the room, until a bird flew right in front my face, squawking loudly. I yelped in surprise as it shot by me and back into the room. I spun around to face it. But the sudden turn upset my balance. The bird barreled back from the room into the strange sky behind me. On its way out, it accidentally clipped my face with it’s wing. That was all that was needed to ruin my balance completely.

My feet left the solid ground as I pitched backwards. The air immediately began to twist and spin me like I was nothing more than a rag doll as I plummeted towards the ground. A scream ripped from my throat. Blue, white, and green flashed around me as I spun, not being able to see anything clearly as I began to pick up speed. The bird’s squawks became more distant as it got further away. My scream continued.

Chapter 3: Violent Arrivals
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I tumbled head over heels through the sky, clamping my jaw shut to cut off my scream as adrenaline shot through me. An image of skydivers flitted through my mind and I thrust my hands and legs straight and off to the side, trying to stabilize my flight. I rocked slightly before remaining still, for the most part. Now, I saw the green of the hills as they got closer and closer.

My dress clung to my front and then billowed out behind me. My hair whipped around my face, clinging to the inside of my mouth as I tried to breathe. I brought my right hand to my face to get the hair out. Almost immediately, I spun to the right and rolled a few times before I frantically stuck my arm out to the side again, re-stabilizing.

The ground got ever closer, and I knew deep in the pit of my stomach that I was going to die.

The river below caught my eye. I was almost directly lined up with it. Hope flickered through my mind before logic pressed the thought away. At this height, water would feel like cement. But it was at least worth a try.

The river was only slightly to my left, and growing ever larger. As I stared at it, calculating, I realized it was a lot bigger than I had originally thought from the height above. Probably about a mile across. A brown line ran alongside the left of it; a dirt road, perhaps.

I lowered my left arm very slightly and raised my right, mimicking the motions of a bird. It worked and I glided to the left, guiding myself over the river before I straightened my arms out again. Closing my eyes, I began to say my goodbyes in case this didn’t work. I knew it wouldn’t. And so to my mother, father, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, cousins: I love you. And I’m sorry.

I opened my eyes and another scream erupted unbidden from me as I saw how close I was to impact. Panic shot through me. Time was up. I was going to die.

Abruptly, some invisible force tugged up on my shoulders. Pain lanced through them and my muscles screamed at me as they involuntarily struggled against the very laws of gravity. My feet now hung below me, the river about 20 feet below them. Water traveled down it at a steady pace.

Just as suddenly as it came, the force weakened and disappeared tiredly as though it had expended all of its strength on that one tug. The hope that had cropped up in that one moment of deceleration was shot through with panic again as my invisible friend disappeared and I fell once more towards the waters. I took a deep breath in preparation for the collision.

I broke through the water and sunk deep into it before my momentum was expelled. Icy pain stabbed at my skin and the frigid water clutched at my throat, squeezing my lungs and pressing the breath out of me. Panicked, my eyes opened and I began to thrash around, clawing towards the light that shone through the waters from above. The current swirled forcefully around me, pushing me along and making it more difficult to reach the top. I was nothing more than a twig compared to the sheer force of the antique waters, moving along like they had since the beginning of time.

Finally, mercifully, my head broke the surface, I gulped down the air as I moved further down the river with the current. Looking to the left, I realized with trepidation that I was in the very center of the river. I would have to swim half of a mile to reach either shore.

Determined, I began the laborious task of struggling against the current to reach the bank to my left. The water quickly leeched all the warmth from my body, and it did not take long before exhaustion began to weigh down my limbs. My eyelids began to droop, and it became much more difficult to keep my mouth above the surface of the river, causing me to sputter more frequently as the water entered my mouth. My muscles began to clamp up against the biting cold. The bank was so close...but I would not be able to reach it.

Something in my mind told me that this was a bad thing. I ignored it. I would be glad to rest. Giving up would be so easy. I was tired. My limbs were failing, and I was ready to let them rest. The old river would not mind sharing its bed with me, of that I was positive. I could easily rest on its bottom for eternity, the world changing around me and the river as time passed on. I was ready to stop fighting.

But my unruly body disobeyed me, and kept struggling towards the bank. I tried to tell it to stop, to just give up. But for some reason it kept going. It made me angry. One last surge of warmth ran through to the tips of my fingers and toes, and my focus sharpened. The anger was now directed at myself. I was not going to give up. I wanted to live. The warmth was fading fast and I gave a few more desperate, powerful strokes.

My feet touched a sandy bottom, and I pushed against it weakly, half-walking half-swimming. Soon my hands sunk into sand as well and I used it to crawl out of the river and onto the muddy bank beside it, coughing up water and wheezing, every breath painful. My legs and arms gave out beneath me and I fell onto my stomach, exhausted. My vision flickered, the grass at the end of my nose going in and out of focus. Everything went black.

~*~

The first thing I noticed was the warmth on my back. If felt nice. But why was the rest of me so cold? I was laying on something squishy. My mattress maybe. But then why was it wet? Next I noticed the pain which contrasted with the pleasant warmth on my back. My shoulders burned and ached, and my head throbbed. My mouth felt fuzzy and sticky, the thirst enough to actually be painful. Lastly was the sound. Heavy, strained breathing. It took me a moment to realize this came from me.

My eyes shot open as I remembered. I saw the grass at the end of my nose, and slowly pushed myself up. I was still laying on my stomach, and my back and neck ached painfully from the awkward position. My throat was sore. Probably from screaming. The sun was still in the sky, but lower. I did not know enough about its cycles to guess the time.

I crawled back over to the river and washed my hands in the cold water before splashing some on my face, chasing the rest of the sleepiness away. Cupping the waters in my hands, I drank deeply, repeating this until my thirst was quenched. Squinting, I watched the river for a moment. It looked peaceful. Winking at me as the sun glanced off of it, it teased me for being so foolish. Silly, girl, it said. My strength is not to be matched. I watched it glide past for a moment longer before shaking my head.

Standing, I turned away from the taunting river and looked down at myself. The blue of my dress was barely recognizable, caked in mud as it was. My feet were dirty and barefoot; I must have lost the shoes in the river. My arms were brown with dirt and mud, the pale skin of my clean hands contrasting with them. Reaching up I touched my hair. It was snarled and tangled, no longer in an up-do. Filled with mud, it snarled down to the small of my back. The pins must have been pulled out during the Fall.

Alarm shot through me. If the pins had been pulled out...I placed my hand on my hip and breathed a sigh of relief. My wand was still there, strapped into the belt I was wearing underneath my dress. I was not entirely helpless.

The river was just behind me, and ahead of me I spotted the dirt road. It was about 100 feet away from the river. I would inspect it later. First things first.

Sighing heavily, I sat down on a drier patch of grass a few feet from the bank of the river. Number one was to recount what I knew. There was a village around here somewhere. When I had first spotted it from Auntie Luna’s basement, it had seemed relatively nearby to everything else. But that had been from a height thousands of feet high. I knew the landscape was filled with rolling green hills. There was a river that cut through it, and a dirt road following said river. I was wearing my graduation dress, which was incredibly dirty and not practical for traveling. I had no shoes but I did have my wand. And most importantly, I was in a different time.

With no people in sight, it was impossible to guess what age it was exactly. But until I found out, it would probably be safer to leave my dress dirty like it was. I had no idea what the fashion of today was, and the sooner I found out, the better. It would be easier to fit in that way, and I didn’t want anybody asking questions I could not answer.

I tilted my head back and looked up into the sky. I didn’t know what I expected to see exactly. A small hole grey hole in the sky perhaps, my Auntie Luna’s face peeking through and asking me what I was doing. Tossing a broom down and telling me to fly back up. But all I saw was the blue expanse of the sky, a few wispy clouds floating through it. How would I get back?

I clenched my fists and set my jaw. Thinking about my family would get me nowhere now. I needed to plan. I rose and looked back down at myself. I had a feeling that a strapless gown would not be something I wanted to be wearing. Reaching behind me, I undid the black ribbon that was tied around the dress. Pulling if off, I wrapped it around my shoulders in a shawl-like fashion instead. It was the best I could do.

I walked over to the road and kneeled to examine it. There were ruts carved into the dirt, and I automatically thought of carriages. Hoof prints pocked it as well. I stored the information for later and rose to my full height. Readjusting the ribbon to cover my bare shoulders, I began to follow the road, hoping I was heading in the direction of the town.

~*~

The cloud of dust was getting closer. I had seen it about an hour ago, and it had been making steady progress ever since. I glanced behind me again to check on it. I could now make out the form of two horses with riders upon them making their way in the same direction I was headed. It was they that was causing the dust to rise up behind them. I could tell that their pace was set at a trot. One of the riders was stooped over strangely, and the other was rather small.

I looked forward again and decided to keep walking like nothing was amiss. I was just another weary traveler on the road. The sound of hooves got louder until they were upon me.

The hoofbeats slowed as they approached and I kept my eyes fixed on the ground in front of my feet. Please, keep riding, keep riding, I am just another traveler.

They trotted in front of me before I heard a male voice, at the depth of about a tenor, call out, “Ho, there!” to the horses, who stopped directly in my path, forcing me to come to a halt as well. My brain began to work immediately on a story. I kept my eyes focused on the hooves of the horses in front of me, who were still prancing anxiously as I flipped through different scenarios, planning to fight or run. Or simply lie my way out of the situation.

“A woman traveling alone is an uncommon sight. May I ask to where you are traveling, and why you are without a steed and escort?” one of the riders asked. I had no choice but to look up.

The one who had spoke seemed to be around the age of sixteen. He still had a somewhat boyish look about him, though through his shirt I could see he was surprisingly well filled out, corded with muscle. He was dressed in a brown tunic, cinched at the waist with a leather belt. From it hung a dagger, and on his back was a bow. He was wearing lighter brown pants, and boots that came up to his knees. On his face was an expression of curiosity and also what could only be superciliousness.

The other rider was an older man. He was stooped with age, a long white beard reaching down to touch the pommel of his saddle. Wrinkles lined his face, and he was squinting at me with suspicion. He was dressed in similar attire to the boy, but was wearing a leather vest and he did not carry a bow.

When I looked back at the boy, I realized he was waiting for an answer. I thought quickly, my mind spinning up an excuse. I said the words as they came to me, hoping they sounded true.

“I did not expect my journey to be so long, and so I believed there was no need for a male escort. As for my horse,” I paused briefly, searching for an explanation. “I cannot say myself. I picketed her when I bedded down two nights past, and when I woke she was no longer there. The road has been hard on me since I lost her. She was a fine mare.” I tacked the last bit on at the last second, and arranged my expression to one of remorse, trying to add a bit of personality to the character I was creating.

The boy seemed to buy my story, though his eyes still burned with curiosity. “From where do you hail?”

I tried not to glare at the man-boy. The one question I could not answer was the one he had to ask. I did not even know what time period this was, though from his language and attire I was guessing medieval. I did not have one strand of information that I could pull on to make a name.

The old man continued to stare.

I looked around me as though that would give me inspiration. The boy waited for a response, staring down at me. “I come from..a small village, about a week of good riding that way.” I pointed back the way they had come. I looked back at his face, and he was squinting in the way I was pointing.

“Surront?” he asked. I nodded and kept my expression hard, unreadable, though I could not help but feel smug at his acceptance. He nodded once, and looked at the old man, who was still just squinting at me, studying. After about a minute under his gaze, he bobbed his head. The younger one nodded again in reply before turning back to me.

“Very well, miss,” he said. “My uncle and I would escort you ourselves, but we must make haste towards Noring. My father will be expecting me. Fair thee well, miss.”

He turned his horse and was about to spur it on before I automatically stepped towards them. “A moment, please, sir,” I called out. I might as well get some information. The only problem was knowing what questions to ask. He looked back over his shoulder at me. I curtsied in an attempt to flatter him which, if his smug expression was anything to go by, worked. I instantly regretted it, wanting to wipe that smirk off his face.

“Please, sir, how much further is it until Noring? I am eager to arrive,” I said as politely as I could manage. He looked back in the general direction of this “Noring” and then back at me.

“I would say it is around three leagues from where we are now, depending on how quickly you can walk,” he replied. My heart sunk. I knew enough about the medieval era to know that a league was how far you could walk in one hour. Three more hours until the town. Despite my thoughts, I curtsied again. When I rose, I saw him raking his eyes over me, this time in lasciviousness. Anger surged through me and I tightened my makeshift shawl around my shoulders and gritted my teeth.

“Thank you, sir,” I ground out, struggling to make it sound sincere. He smirked again and inclined his head towards me before spurring his horse on, his uncle just ahead of him.

~*~

Even though I had deliberately slowed to let them get further ahead of me, the dust they left in their wake did not improve. It lingered in choking clouds long after they had already passed by the spot, leaving me constantly coughing, stumbling through the inescapable dust. It coated my skin, and my tongue. I would frequently make my way over to the river to wash out my mouth, spitting out the dusty grime in disgust.

For a time, I decided to just abandon the road and walked in the shallows of the river, the water a relief to my feet, sore from walking barefoot for so long. It was then that I saw Noring as an outline in the distance. It would still be a while until I reached it, but at least there was an end in sight.

I walked for a long time, alternating between walking by or in the river to making quick checks to make sure the road still followed alongside it. The miles slowly passed by in this manner. My stomach gurgled uncomfortably, protesting. I had not eaten since that morning. Two hours later, I was almost upon the town. The sun had sunk low in the sky, dancing just above the horizon, painting the sky in bright, beautiful colors and the temperature had dropped considerably because of it. I moved to the road now. It had turned left to travel up a large hill, Noring resting at the top.

I smelled the hovels outside of the town gates before I reached them. The stench assailed my senses in pungent waves, making me gag and my eyes water. It was the smell of unwashed human bodies as well as waste. One particular scent made a memory crop up.

I was a still just a little girl, taking a walk through my neighborhood when the smell had hit. Being curious, I had gone to investigate only to find a cat. I had thought it was asleep, due to its slight twitching. I stooped closer only to find the source of the twitching. The stomach was bloated, and maggots crawled through the fur, causing it to move around and wiggle.

My stomach squirmed at the memory and I fought to keep the bile down. The smell of rotting flesh, that was what it was. I shivered.

I passed the first of the hovels. They seemed abandoned. As I got closer to the wall, sullen faces would peer out at me, only to disappear when they saw I was as poor as they. Children would stand by their mothers, sucking on their dirty fingers and dressed in little more than rags, watching me with solemn eyes. I remembered the cheerful children that I was used to seeing back home and my heart ached. I averted my gaze and followed the road up to the gates.

The portcullis was closed and two pikemen stood on either side of it. They straightened as I got near, eyeing me with contempt.

“State your name and business,” the one on the right said. I curtsied deeply, reciting the story I had thought up just for this occasion.

“The name is Agnes, if it pleases you, sirs,” I said, smiling shyly. “My father, who goes by the name of Bartholomew, sent me here to meet my new husband. He told me I should find him at one of the inns.”

They looked at each other and back at me. The one on the left spoke this time. “Your father sent you to Noring without an escort?” he asked, sneering. I curtsied again.

“My father paid who we thought was a respectable man to take me here. He turned out to be a spineless coward. He stole my horse and other possessions during the night. I only managed to keep these rags and this.” I showed him the Lady Ring my mother had given to me just that morning. He eyed it suspiciously and looked to his partner, who straightened up again.

“A fine story, indeed. I regret to inform you that the portcullis is closed until the morning. You shall have to wait until then,” he stated with a smirk. By his tone, he did not sound regretful at all. I managed to keep my face composed but inside I felt panicked.

“But sir, where shall I bed for the night?” I asked. They looked at each other again and laughed raucously. The one on the left smirked and took a step closer as the other leered at me. I lifted my chin and stood my ground, straightening.

“You could bed with me, my Lady,” he whispered and winked. His friend laughed loudly and I glared at him before looking back at the one that had spoken.

“You are simply vile, you unworthy pig,” I spat before spinning on my heel and stalking away, their laughter echoing behind me.

“I shall you see you in the morn, m’lady!” one of them called out. I kept walking.

My anger carried me to the edge of the hovels before I slowed, my anger diminishing only to be replaced by unbidden panic. I really did need a place to sleep. I gave a furtive glance towards one of the abandoned looking hovels before glancing behind me. Nobody was watching.

I walked quickly over to one of the ramshackle homes, gaps showing between the wooden planks that made up the walls. The sun had disappeared beneath the hills, leaving only a dim light that made it difficult to make out anything besides shapes.

I looked behind me again before grasping the wooden board that leaned against the hovel. Grunting, I shifted it over far enough to leave a gap that would allow me to step inside. Another wave of the stench hit me. I gagged again and buried my nose and mouth in the crook of my arm as I stepped inside cautiously, squinting.

I waited for a moment as my eyes adjusted to the even dimmer light inside. I scanned the hovel. There was no furniture to speak of, and nobody inside either. My eyes alighted on a lump in the corner. I took a hesitant step forward, heart pounding and peered closer.

A face peered back at me, empty eye sockets gaping, questioning. Scraps of leathery flesh clung to the white bone that shone underneath, and maggots crawled along it. Bile rose in my throat and I stumbled backwards. I hit the wall of the shack before spinning around and stumbling through the opening of the hut. Outside, I dropped to my hands and knees, vomiting violently as disgust and horror crawled through me. Somebody had died in there. And nobody had ever even known.

When my stomach had emptied itself, which didn’t take long, I scrambled to my feet and ran as fast as I could away from those gaping, questioning holes. Sobs ripped through my chest as I ran.

I ran until I reached the river. Collapsing by its bank, I cried for the poor person I had never known. I sobbed for him, for his family, for the poor peasant children, and yes, I even cried for myself. For my home. For my bed that I longed to be in. For my family, who would never know where I disappeared to. I cried until I finally drifted off to sleep under the stars.

A/N: Penny for your thoughts! =] I'm sort of horrible at writing those kinds of scenes. Like the falling one, and her being miserable, but we do things for a challenge, right? x] This chapter was longer at least! Though, I understand, things are moving slowly. And a warning, they probably will move slowly for a while. There's just so much to write about! Well, I hope you guys like it, and reviews would make me very happy! Thanks!

daydream_it_to_life


Chapter 4: The Market and Songs
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I opened my eyes blearily and pushed myself up so I was leaning on my left arm, using my right fist to rub at my eyes. It took me a moment to realize why I was laying next to a river, the water gurgling past and the sun peeking out from behind the hills, instead of on my mattress, wrapped in warm, comfortable sheets, curtains drawn to keep out the glaring rays. The events of the previous day flashed through my mind; the graduation party, Auntie Luna’s experiment, the Fall, the long weary trek down the road to Noring, the guards, the remains of a human body, decaying and forgotten...

I did not have to fight back any tears this time as I rose to my feet. The time for crying was over, and would get me nowhere, besides. Now it was time to find clothing, money, lodging, and-

My stomach clenched painfully. Food. It seemed to have gotten past the gurgling stage, too hungry for that now. Now, I was just overwhelmed by an empty, hollow feeling, weakening and distracting me.

I looked down at myself. I was just as dirty as, if not worse than, yesterday. And this time, I felt dirty. I was aware of every particle of dirt that clung to my skin, hair, and clothes. My tongue felt heavy and sticky, and my teeth felt slimy as I ran my tongue over them. I shivered in disgust at myself. I needed a bath.

I looked at the river. Its ancient presence ignored me as it flowed through the hills at a gentle pace, more important matters on its mind. I took a deep breath and turned in a slow circle, studying my surroundings. There was nobody around yet, as the sun had barely risen.

I snuck another furtive glance behind me before moving forward quickly, afraid I would lose my nerve. I stepped into the river, still wearing my clothes and walked out into the cold waters, shivering as an icy finger trailed up my spine. I looked down, watching the waters part around my waist before joining together again and continuing on their way. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in for too long, like I had yesterday, or else I was bound to get sick. And so I took a deep, preparatory breath, steeled myself for what was to come, and plunged underneath the surface.

I shot myself back up through the water almost immediately, gasping as icy daggers stabbed at me. I wasted no time, peeling off my dress and scrubbing furiously at it for a moment. I tossed it over onto the bank, as well as my underwear and the small belt, wand attached to it. I began to rinse the mud and grime off of me as best as I could. And, despite my own disgust and self-consciousness, took care of other bodily needs. It was not long before I was forced to walk back to my articles of clothing, shaking violently from the cold.

I picked up my wand and stared dumbly at it. I was a witch. And I had almost forgotten that I had my spells to help me. I pointed the wand at myself and murmured an incantation. A warm stream of air flowed from the tip, and I dried myself and my clothes quickly in this manner, feeling uncomfortable as I stood naked under the sky.
When properly dry, I quickly dressed myself, blushing even though I was alone.

Despite the “bath,” I still felt grimy. My teeth were fuzzy and my tongue slipped over their slimy surface, a feeling only a nice brushing could get rid of. I glanced at my wand again, and an idea slowly formed in my head. Opening my mouth, I pointed my wand inside and cast the spell nonverbally. Scourgify.

My mouth burned deeply for a split second, pain searing through my gums, and I yelped, jerking back from an invisible enemy. However, even before the loud yip had escaped my lips, the pain had subsided. Blinking, I ran my tongue over my teeth again and smiled in satisfaction. Perfect. I cast the spell on my body as well, the burning sensation sweeping over all of my skin like a wildfire. Instead of leaving destruction in its path, the painful inferno left perfectly clean skin behind, which glowed slightly as though I had just been rubbed raw by sandpaper. Finishing, I once again examined my attire.

My dress looked worn and tired, as though it were a mirror of my own feelings. It was a deep blue again now that the grime was washed away but limp and shabby, like I had been wearing it for weeks instead of just one day. Even so, it was too noticeable. I needed to make it suitable for my status in this community until I could buy a new outfit in Noring. I flicked my wand, casting a transfiguration spell to change the color to a neutral, brown color before scooping up a handful of mud and spearing it across the front. It would be wise to look like just another peasant for now. After all, I had no money. I was just another peasant.

Nodding in satisfaction, I placed my wand back into the belt that was hidden under my dress, strapped around my waist. Casting my gaze towards the view of Noring, I began the trek up the hill. Since it was early in the morning, the traffic was again scarce. A few of the peasants living in the crude hovels turned their heavy stares onto me before shuffling off towards their homes. My stomach lurched at my memory of the skeleton and I stared ahead of me instead.

I approached the gates warily, remembering the guards. Much to my disappoint, the same ones were posted, holding their pikes loosely in front of the now open portcullis. They smirked as I approached, and anger shot through me again.

“My Lady!” one of them called out with a smug smile. “We meet again. I cannot deny I spent the better portion of this past night thinking of you finding a place to bed. I am due for relief shortly, and if you are still feeling weary, I, Sir Egric, would be more than willing to help you forget your pains.” He smirked as his friend laughed at his feeble jest and my temper flared.

“Why, Sir, that is most kind of you, offering to relieve my pains. You face is rather painful to look at. If you would cover it with a rag, I’m sure my spirits would be lifted,” I said in reply, smiling sweetly. His smirk was wiped off his lips and he stared at me angrily, in shock.

“Guard your tongue, you filthy peasant! You will learn to respect men, and I will be the one to teach you that valuable lesson,” he snarled, stepping forward. I ducked beneath his pike and sprinted through the tunnel, aiming for the next open portcullis ahead. From behind me, I heard his angry voice call out, “Halt, peasant!”

I paid no attention to his words and hurried onward, knowing he would not be allowed to leave his post. Surely he would be punished if he left it simply to catch a mere commoner. As I stepped through the second and final portcullis, I paused to take in my surroundings.

Despite the early hour, people were already mulling about. The streets were hard packed dirt, and small houses lined the edges. Most of the people here were dressed similarly to me, and pigs wandered around aimlessly. A dirty stable was situated directly to my left, and pig pens were crafted out of crude wooden posts, attached to almost every house. The people emerging from the houses were all headed down the same street. Glancing about, I hurried into the mass.

The street continued on a short while before suddenly flaring out into an immense circle. Hundreds of peasants wandered about, and the air was alive with the sound of vendors calling out from their small stands, people chatting, pigs oinking, chickens squawking, cows lowing, bells ringing. The circle was incased by buildings, consisting of taverns, shoe-makers, tanners, and more.

My stomach clenched again, hunger still clawing at me. I sighed and placed a hand on my middle. I needed food but for food I needed money. And, I needed clothes. My eyes roved over the market and finally alit on a tailor. Tightening my makeshift shawl around my shoulders, I stepped into the crowd.

It took longer than I expected to maneuver my way through the mass of bodies. Some of the vendors would reach out and grab my arm to try and pull me over, shouting about what wonderful wares they had. Each time I wrenched my arm from their grip, gave them a hard smile, and slipped away. I was sure my upper arm was beginning to bruise, and so it was in relief that I finally reached the tailor, pulling open the door and stepping inside.

The door slowly closed behind me, and as it shut the clamor from outside diminished slightly. The interior of the little shop was quite plain; everything was wooden. A wooden bench in the corner, with fabrics laid out on it. A wooden chair to sit on, a wooden stool to stand on. The lady that occupied one of the chairs, stitching up a fine piece of cloth with a needle, seemed almost wooden herself. Her face was lined slightly, her mouth set in a stern line. Her fading hair was set in a tight bun atop her head, not a single hair out of place. Her hard eyes were fixed on me.

“How can I help you, miss?” she asked. Despite her appearance, her alto voice was like the silk that sat nearby on a bench. The words flowed out of her mouth, yet were still delivered shortly. I could already sense the wisdom that the woman held, and that nothing would be able to get by her without close evaluation. I straightened my posture.

“Please, madam, I have been trying to acquire a simple dress. I would make one for myself, but I am afraid I am new to the village and have no possessions,” I said, saying my own words in kind; short but sweet. Those were the first truthful words I had spoken in a while, and it was almost a relief to say them.

“You’ve no possessions. You have shillings, I hope?” she asked, barely glancing at her work as she kept her stony gaze on me. It was as I had expected. The woman had caught on too quickly, already guessing my state of poverty. I returned her stare, ready to begin to bargain. It would do me no good to lose nerve or back down now, or to be frightened by her steely eyes.

“No, I am afraid I haven’t. But I am willing to strike a bargain with you, madam,” I stated confidently. It would only help my situation if I pretended like I actually had a clue what I was doing.

The woman’s expression didn’t change as she continued to sew, her stitches quick and precise. Her silence was unnerving but I did not allow my discomfort to show on my face. Finally, “What is your offer?”

I inhaled deeply before speaking. “I am willing to pay full price, madam, after I come up with the coin. Only, I need to have this dress immediately. It is my intention to leave this store wearing it. In return, I will leave you a personal item so you can rest assured that I will return with the payment,” I said. The words came forwards easily, sounding natural, but I did not have the means to back them up. Unless..I twisted the Lady Ring around my finger, the movement almost unconscious. It was the only object of real value that I carried, besides my wand, and there was no way in the name of Merlin that I would show it to anyone.

I sighed, and clenched my hands together. Parting with it would be difficult. But getting around without proper clothing would be even more so.

Her black eyes moved down when she saw my motions, eyeing the ring on my finger with her hard expression. Her gaze rested there for a few moments, calculating, before venturing back up to my face. “You seem of good character, miss. I trust your word,” she stated slowly, keeping her eyes on mine. On the outside, the statement was complimentary. But her eyes were conveying a completely different message, one that I understood perfectly. They bored the message into me, Do not try me. You will return, and you will bring the payment. Or the world will know of your lies. That is the message her eyes sent. On the outside, she only said, “I will accept this bargain.”

A satisfied smile made its way onto my face and I inclined my head to her out of respect. “Thank you, madam. A simple brown would be preferable. It does not have to fit perfectly, of course.”

She gave a sharp nod and rose out of her seat in a single, fluid motion, surprising me again as the movement contrasted so drastically with her face. She moved smoothly over to the bench and set the article she had been working with on it before disappearing into another room in the back.

I waited patiently for her return, taking in my surroundings again. The room was immaculate, and smelled faintly of pine. How this was possible I did not know. It seemed everything else in this town smelled awful, like dirty bodies and unbrushed teeth.

The tailor reemerged quiety from the other room, holding several different articles of clothing in her arms. She set them on another table and looked up at me.

Motioning to the stool, she said, “To stand there gawking is to look foolish, miss. Onto the stool, if it please you.” She stared at me as I simply stared back, shocked. Was there a hint of sarcastic humor in that statement? Shaking my head to clear it, I stepped up onto the wooden stool, minding the edge of my skirt. I was so intent on not tripping, I was not quick enough to stop the tailor as she snatched away my shawl, revealing my bare shoulders underneath.

If possible, her gaze got even harder, darkening. “What clothes are these you are wearing? Why are your shoulders uncovered? Have you no dignity?” she asked harshly. “Though it is what men and many women believe, women should not go giving themselves away to men without a band on their finger!” She threw my makeshift shawl on the floor angrily, and I realized what she was saying, my eyes widening.

“No!” I exclaimed, shaking my head, horrified at her assumptions. “No, you are mistaken. I am not a harlot, madam! I came across difficulties on the road. I would not be wearing this if it was my choice, which is why I have come to you for assistance.” I watched her with bated breath as she stared hard at me, hoping she would not refuse to help me. The tailor seemed a woman that would not tolerate frivolity in girls, and one that would not offer her services to the people she did not want to endure.

After a few uncomfortable seconds, she nodded once again. “Very well, I believe you. Though you have a pretty face, I did not place you as one that would be a part of harlotry. You seem a kinder lady than that. Now, let us get on with this business.”


~*~

It took an hour total for her to make all the proper measurements and adjustments to the outfit. I now stood in front of her as she eyed me one last time with a practiced eye. The clothing had not been what I was expecting. I had hoped for a one piece dress, a plain brown. Instead, I was wearing a full sleeved white shirt with a deep blue vest on top of it, laced up in the front. On the bottom, I wore a brown skirt which extended all the way to the floor, covering up the simple leather shoes that were on my feet.

The tailor nodded once, “It is satisfactory. I will expect payment soon. Now, the item if you would, miss.”

I looked down at my hand, at the glittering ring that rested on my finger. Sighing, I slowly slid it off. It was only a ring, but it held the weight of my entire family. My whole life was in that ring now. Once I parted with it, I was alone in this strange place. It had only just made its home on my hand, and now it was leaving again. I comforted myself by saying it would only be for a day, until I came up with the money. I already had an idea on how to earn it.

I stepped forward, wobbling slightly. The lack of food was really beginning to affect me. She held out her hand expectantly, and I paused, looking up to her face, my own expression pleading. “Please, madam, do not let any harm befall this ring. It is very dear to me. I do not know what I would do if it were lost.” My piece being said, I forced myself to let go of the ring, and let it drop into her open palm. Goodbye for now, my Life..

She stared at me for a few moments longer before speaking. “I give you my word to keep the ring safe, as you give your word to bring the shillings. What is your name, miss?”

I straightened, regaining my composure and gave a curtsy in thanks before replying. “I am Agnes, daughter of Bartholomew,” I said, using the names I had made up for the guards at the gate. It would be wise to keep my story somewhat consistent. The look she gave me was bordering suspicious, as though she knew it was a lie, but she nodded nonetheless.

“And I am Mabill,” she stated simply. “I hope to see you soon. Fair thee well, Agnes.” It was with those departing words that I returned to the street, leaving my old clothes behind for her to do with them what she would. I had no more use for them. Just a part of my Life that I was shedding.

Hunger now was what was on my mind. It must have been around noon, and I could not ignore my need any longer. The only problem was, I had no money. And when you had no money, there really was only one solution: stealing.

The thought of thievery made me feel dirty, and the idea was repulsive. I could not help but to feel disgusted with myself for even thinking of it. But if I did not steal, how would I go on? I would die. Besides, there was no need to take an excessive amount of food, just something to fill my stomach. A loaf of bread perhaps. And I would be sure to pay the vendor back, once I had the means. I straightened, resigning myself to it. I was only losing time by sitting here fretting.

Wandering through the mass of peasants, I began to look for a suitable stand. Before long, I spotted a vendor, waving bread wildly about to anybody that passed. Luckily, he was facing the other way. I would have to be quick. My stomach clenched, this time in anticipation and nervousness. It was now, or never.

I pretended to be observing a different vendor’s goods as I strolled by the bread bin, hoping to look casual. I imagined I looked like right suspicious, but apparently I succeeded at fitting in, because I received no wary glances from passerby. Quickly, I reached out to my side, hands sweating, and with nimble fingers plucked a small loaf from the top of the bin. Resisting the urge to look around cautiously, I held the loaf and my hand in the folds of my skirt to hide them. I walked away at a normal pace, praying that nobody would cry out for me to stop, calling me a thief. I could see it, the guards coming at me at a run, smirking evilly as they grabbed my arms, sneering as they talked about having their way with “the lady.”

Thankfully, none of this happened, and I managed to slip away without notice. As soon as I was far enough away from the vendor to feel safe, I whipped the bread out and tore a bite out of it. It was plain, coarse, and dry but at the moment, it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

It didn’t take me long to devour the loaf. It wasn’t the immediate relief that I expected. In fact, my body was protesting, clenching uncomfortably as the food hit my empty stomach. I tried not to pay attention to it. My body had needed the sustenance, and eventually my stomach would stop its complaints.

Money. Shillings. Pence. Whatever the currency was here, that was now what I sought out. I could not make shoes, I could not sew, I could not magically produce crops out of nowhere and sell my wares. That was a man’s job only. No, I could not run a shop or a tannery. But I could sing.

If there was one thing I hated doing, it was singing for a crowd. Books and knowledge were things I did not mind presenting, for they were facts and were unquestionable. My voice was something that could be critiqued, laughed at, scorned. But here, in this unfamiliar era, it was the only thing I could do to survive.

Searching around a bit, I managed to find my way out of the marketplace, leaving the pressing crowd behind me. My goal now was to find the richer part of town. Peasants wouldn’t have the coin to spare for a performer, but surely the wealthier lords and ladies had some they could dole out to a peasant girl.

The amount of people thinned out for a while, and I knew I was getting close. There would be no need for peasants to mix with the wealthier folk. The houses began to gain grandeur, and the streets became cobbled. Rich lords gave me looks of contempt and walked by with their heads held high in the air. I tried to refrain from glaring out from them, shoving my own chin proudly up into the air. I hated dealing with pompous gits.

Soon, I came across a sort of courtyard, similar to the marketplace but smaller, with cobbled stones and benches. Wealthy marketers and the like were sitting or standing, and a babble filled the area as they talked. Here. This was where I needed to perform.

I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself too quickly, so I stood off to the side. Suddenly, I remembered I would need something to collect coins in. Glancing around, I spotted a pebble and knelt behind it, my back to the courtyard. I pulled out my wand and took a furtive glance around before murmuring an incantation, transfiguring the small stone into a medium-sized pouch.

Quickly, I tucked my wand back into my skirt before anybody spotted it. For some reason, I didn’t think witches would be taken kindly to here. I positioned the pouch neatly and rose, leaving it on the ground. Turning, I faced the courtyard again, moving so that the pouch was sitting a little ways in front of me.

Nerves made my stomach flutter again as I stared out at the courtyard, with the rich conversing with each other, ignoring the peasant lady standing not far off. These people would eat me alive with their derision, high expectations, and wretched attitudes. But I needed money. I needed to get the Lady Ring back. I needed to earn myself a living here.

I took a deep preparatory breath, and began to sing.

I started off quiet, a simple tune, pulling songs from my memory that sounded somewhat medieval. Nobody took notice of me. And so I raised the volume, my soprano voice carrying out further across the courtyard. Slowly, a few people began to pay attention.

They stopped their walks and watched me with interest for a few minutes as I went through my repertoire of songs. It made me even more nervous, uncomfortable, and I tried to avoid eye contact as they gazed at me with hard eyes. A few couples passed by like this, listening for a time before continuing on with their day. But then, a young girl dressed in finery approached, with whom I assumed to be her maid.

The brunette girl stopped and listened to me, her doe-like eyes large and curious. I switched songs, singing a silly one about a peasant and his pig. She listened, and when the song was done, she giggled and looked up to her maid.

“Her voice is beautiful, Lia. Could we not pay her for her craft?” she asked, surprising me with her maturity. The maid looked back at me, her expression kind. She had to be about my age. She gave me a small smile and nodded.

“Of course, Mistress Ellyn,” she replied to the little girl, who smiled and glided up, dropping two small coins in the empty pouch. I curtsied deeply to them both.

“Thank you for you kindness,” I said, an excited smile on my face. My first time getting paid for singing. The young girl grinned up at me and pulled her maid away. I struck up a new song.

After about twenty minutes, a crowd began to gather. Lords and ladies, all circling around me to listen, many dropping coins in my purse. I curtsied to each and every one of them, grinning as I continued to sing.

I was getting more comfortable with people watching me, and I would often make eye contact to try and engage my audience into the song. Some of them even looked excited when I met their eyes, glad to be included. I kept the performance up for about two hours. My mouth was dry, my throat was tired, and I was getting hungry again. I would have to stop soon.

As I was nearing the end of my final song, I caught the eye of a man, maybe five years older than I. He was only one among the twenty around me, but something about him threw me off. He was dressed even finer than almost all the other lords, a fine hat atop his head, and he wore a curious expression. It was almost as though he were intrigued, eyeing me as a buyer would eye a seller’s wares. A small smirk formed on his face as he saw I was watching him and I quickly looked away, not wanting my temper to flare.

When I finished my song, I gave a deep curtsy to the crowd, smiling. “Thank you for you kindness, my Lords and Ladies. I regret that I must retire now, though I assure you I shall return on the morrow,” I said in the most gracious voice I could muster. Some of them nodded, or gave a small smile, but most turned and walked away, heads held high in the air. Some remained, as though they were seeing if I truly was done. I dropped my gaze and knelt, tying up the top of my almost full pouch to show that I really was leaving now. Footsteps signaled their departure, and they broke out into conversation, discussing my performance. Slowly, their voices and footsteps faded.

“You have a lovely voice, maiden. I am sure even the King would have you sing for him in his hall,” a voice said from above me. It was a male’s voice. I rose quickly, clutching my purse to my chest. It was the man that had been staring at me earlier. He was giving me that look again. My eyes narrowed.

“You are too kind, Sir, though the King may think differently. But now I must be going,” I said stiffly before spinning around and walking away. I hated when men gave me that look. I realized that now I would have to be more careful around here. I was a peasant woman, dirt on everybody’s shoes. Nobody would care if a man were to grab me and take me where he would. I could not risk that.

Maybe, if they thought I was an ugly old hag, they would not bother me. Maybe I needed a hooded cloak to cover my face with.

I stalked back down the street that I believed would take me to the marketplace, and felt the man’s eyes on the back of my head as I hurried away from the yard.

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Hey guys! So it's been a while. Forgive any grammatical mistakes or any poor writing in this chapter. I only wanted to get something out for you guys! Things are a little uninteresting at the moment, but hopefully her new life here will pick up a little bit during the next chapter. We'll see. ;] If you're still here, thanks for sticking with me! Reviews are very much appreciated. XD Thanks guys!

daydream_it_to_life


Chapter 5: The Shadowed Nightingale
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A month I had now spent here in Noring, and it was the longest month I had ever endured. Everyday, I thought about my family at least once. Were they still existing, living on in what had been the present; now the future? Or did they have yet to be born, nonexistent now that I had traveled back in time? Was I truly living, or was I a freak of nature, alive while truly being dead? These thoughts tormented me. Every moment felt like a fabrication, a joke, and in just a second I would wake up to discover it had all been a dream. But no such thing happened, and the days wore on.

It seemed I had found my place in Noring. I was a commoner, spending my nights in The Hearty Mug Tavern. Everyday I made my way back up to the courtyard where the wealthy lived and sang, and everyday I made enough coin to get by. I had already repaid the tailor, Mabill, got the Lady Ring back, and bought a hooded cloak from her, black as night. Despite the summer heat, I was never seen without it. The cloak was charmed by my own hand, allowing me to pull it down over my eyes and still see through the fabric. I could see all that happened around me but all others could only see my mouth. From this, I had somehow gained a reputation and a title; the Shadowed Nightingale. The crowds that came to listen to me had steadily grown, until soon I attracted quite an assembly. It was truly surprising that they were so keen on my voice, and I knew that all in attendance came for it, including the men; after all, they weren’t there for my looks. After that first day, nobody had seen me with my hood down.

Night had already fallen today, and I was seated at one of the many tables in the tavern. With me were three other women; Agatha, Katherine, and Cecily. We had met during my third night at the tavern, and they had accepted me warmly into their company. The women did not bed here, as they had their own homes and husbands, but they often came for a drink. They were witty and clever so I had no objections to associating with them.

I lifted my mug to take a drink. It was not ale but water. Of course, in these medieval taverns, healthy water was not served. It was thanks to the augamenti charm that I was able to even have access to it. Every night, I paid the price of a full drink to the tavern keeper, Edmund Rampston, but would accept only the mug. He asked no questions, and for that I was grateful. As long as he got the money for it, it mattered not what I did with my cup.

“Agnes,” one of the other women said, using my fake name. I looked up from my mug to see it was Cecily that had spoke. “See that puffed up peacock? The creature’s had ‘is eye on you this whole time. I wonder what a gent like ‘im is doin’ round here?”

I turned my gaze to the corner where she was pointing and sure enough, a rich looking man was sitting alone with his tankard, a smirk on his face and his amused stare resting on me. It was him, that man I’d talked with a month ago. My grip on the mug tightened.

I managed to keep my voice level, his expression making me want to pull out my wand and hex him. “Who is he?” I asked in a monotone. “Do you know him?”

I looked back at the girls in time to see Agatha shrug her shoulders. “Can’t say I do. By the looks of him, he could be working up in that fancy castle under the King hisself.”

Katherine nodded seriously. “He could, couldn’t he? After all, the King probably needs somebody to taste his food. And the man’s got a bit of a constipated look about him. Perhaps he caught something nasty.”

All three of them burst out laughing and I smiled. The simple smile wasn’t for lack humor. Katherine could always take a somewhat serious situation and add a bit of comedy to it, lightening the mood immediately. No, it wasn’t because I’d found the joke lacking in any manner. After two days of being stuck in Noring, struggling to make a living and trying to fit in, laughing had become difficult for me. In fact, I had’t laughed since then.

“Well, I’d best be off. My ‘usband’s bound t’ be waitin’ for me back at the ‘ouse,” Cecily said, setting her own mug down on the table. “Agatha, Katherine, I don’ like the thought of you walkin’ back on your own. In fact, I don’ like the thought of me walkin’ ‘ome on my own.”

“I’ll be agreeing with you. I should be off m’self,” Agatha agreed and rose from the table. Cecily followed suit, as did Katherine.

“Well, I’m not a fool, am I? I won’t be making the journey home on my own either. You’ll be alright here by yourself, won’t you Agnes?” Katherine asked, turning her attention to me. She was looking a little above my eyes, more to where my eyebrows were. Most people seemed to always be a little bit off but that was understandable. After all, none had seen my face after that first day; how were they to know where my eyes were located?

I nodded and gave her a somewhat dry smile. “Must you ask, Katherine? I believe you know the answer to that very question.” The tavern was full of suspicious folk but I had been staying a month here. The girls had also seen me prove myself fully capable of chasing off unwanted men. They approached at times, with foul breath and drunken behavior. If I could not chase them away with sharp comments and angry words, discreet, nonverbal confundus charms under the table usually did the job.

“I suppose I don’t, do I?” Katherine said with a toothy grin. “You have a great night and perhaps we’ll see you on the morrow.” And soon, after bidding their farewells, I was alone again.

Lifting my mug, I took another drink of cool water. Such a refreshing drink and all it took was a simple charm. Clean, cool water; something that those folks by the gate did not have.

I did not let myself forget their pain and their suffering. Every day I would visit back there again, enduring the pestilence that hung heavy in the air, polluting the air with its foul breath. Mingling with the pungent odor was the occasional cry of a small child or the wail of a woman as a loved one passed into the void. The sound of a sickly cough as it wracked through the body of a child accompanied the sight of a sibling standing beside her brother, silent tears streaming down her face. She knew his fate and that it was fast approaching. No, I would not let myself forget.

Those peasants ached daily, tormented, and yet people like him walked around in all their finery with smug smiles on their faces. I traced the rim of my mug, scowling. Could one truly be so ignorant of the cries of those people? One would truly have to be devoid of all their senses to not be able to feel it. They would have to be blind, deaf, and unable to smell.

“The Shadowed Nightingale,” a smooth voice mused from in front of me. “Quite mysterious, and intriguing. You are the Shadowed Nightingale, are you not?”

I looked up through the charmed fabric of my cloak to see who it was, though I already knew. He was gazing at me through his deep green eyes again, resting one hand on the table as he leaned casually against it. My own eyes narrowed even though he wouldn’t be able to see them.

I straightened and crossed my arms, gazing out in front of me rather than at him. “So they say,” was my short, terse response. Hopefully he had enough brains to get the hint and bugger off.

Ah, no, I expected too much of him. Out of my peripheral vision, I watched as he pulled out the chair that Agatha had occupied, sitting to the right of me. Or at least, as right as he could at a round table. I was beginning to sorely miss the company I had before.

“Tell me, my little Nightingale,” he began conversationally. If possible, I scowled even harder than before, stiffening more. His little Nightingale? What a pompous little-

My thoughts were interrupted as he continued, “The people say you go nowhere without your midnight cloak, and that the hood is always pulled low over your face. Tell me, why?”

My mind was quickly working out a way to try and make him leave. It seemed he didn’t remember me from a month ago or the way I looked, as I did not have my cloak during our first encounter. Maybe if he thought I was homely, he would go. “An accident left my visage marred. I wish for none to see the damage done.”

“Oh really?” he asked, his tone mocking. I couldn’t help it any longer. I turned my head, snapping my eyes to him as my they narrowed in further suspicion. He smiled smugly as I did so. It was then that I noticed; he was looking at my eyes. Not above them, not below them; it was like he knew exactly where they were located. He leaned back in his chair, folding his arms behind his head. “Ah, you have finally decided to acknowledge my existence. Much better.”

I gritted my teeth to stop myself from making more comments. It usually ended badly, as it had with the guards when I had first arrived in Noring. They, of course, had not bothered me since. My hood prevented that.

As I kept my silence, he leaned forwards again. “What is your drink of choice anyways?” he asked, suddenly changing the topic. I did not answer again. If he knew it was water, that could lead to unwanted questions. Such as where I got it from, and how. After all, the daily drink in these times was ale, ale, and more ale.

He reached towards my mug, his reflexes quick. “No!” The protest burst out of me against my will and I reached out, stopping my movement as he did. He was watching me with a curious expression, the mug halfway between us. He smirked again and raised an eyebrow.

“Defensive, are we not? Very well, if you do not wish me to look at it, I will not,” he replied, surprising me. He lowered the cup slowly, keeping our eyes locked, even if he didn’t know it. My gaze flickered down as the mug tapped the table. It was halfway off of the edge. I did not have time to tell him before he released the mug and I jerked forward as though to save it.

It hit the floor with a clatter and the cold water within splashed out over the wooden floor. “Oh, how clumsy of me,” he said, voice coated in fake innocence. I glared fiercely at him, my lips pressed into a hard line. The man smiled and looked down at the liquid that was pooled on the floor. His expression turned confused and his smile faded. “Is that water?”

I froze. He had noticed. “No,” I stated firmly and slipped out of my chair to kneel beside the mess. Quickly, I took the edge of my cloak and dabbed up the water. Usually I would use the Drought Charm, but with a muggle watching so closely that would be impossible. Here, in this time, I would be burned at the stake.

Something tugged gently on my hood and it slipped off my head. My black hair tumbled forward in waves, falling in front of my face like a curtain. I froze, staring at the floor in horror. Nobody could see me like this!

I frantically reached up with both hands to pull it back over my face. Warm, calloused hands closed around my wrists, effectively stopping them. My automatic response was in panicked defense. I jerked backwards, falling on my rear and hitting my chair, while twisting and struggling to pull my hands out of the person’s grasp. But it was like iron; I was caught. Again, I jerked back, this time smacking my head again against my chair with a dull thunk. I hissed in pain but continued to struggle. “Let-!”

“My Lady, stop!” For the first time, I listened and actually froze. I should have known; it was only the pompous man. Of course.

I snapped my head up to glare at him. He wore a surprised expression and was gripping my wrists. He crouched on the floor now too, forced out of his chair when I had yanked backwards. “Let go of me,” I warned in a low, dangerous voice. He only responded with a satisfied smirk.

“I knew it,” he stated, keeping my wrists in his grip. “I knew you were the woman who I saw sing in the courtyard, two fortnights ago.”

I continued to glare venomously at him. “Congratulations on figuring that out,” I said sarcastically. “Now if you would kindly release my wrists, sir, you are making a scene.”

“Only if you will keep your hood down for a while,” he said smugly.

“Fine,” I hissed, looking around to see if we had caught anybody’s attention yet. “You have my word, now release my wrists!” Still smirking, he finally did so and I pulled them away quickly. He was a foul disease that I did not want to catch. The man rose and sat down in his chair as I snatched my cup up from the floor. Getting to my feet, I returned to my seat as well, scowling at him.

“You know, beautiful maiden,” he began, chuckling when I glared at him again. “You do the world an injustice by hiding a face such as yours.”

“And you do an injustice by showing a face such as yours,” I shot back instantly. I could hold my tongue no longer. The man stared at me, his face hard. We stayed that way, ocean blue meeting forest green in our own contest of staring. After a few moments, a grin spread across his face and he chuckled.

“Fair cruelty, your words pain me! What is your name?” he asked.

“Agnes.”

He shook his head, “No, it is not. The name sounds false on your lips and it does not fit your visage. Tell me, what is your name?”

“Agnes,” I repeated firmly.

“Your real name, Lady!” he said, his eyes hardening slightly. I returned his intense gaze as I thought.

I had been going by this fake name since arriving but was there truly a reason for it? Yes, I told myself firmly. It allows you to blend into the background. An unremarkable name for an unremarkable person. But by the set of his jaw, I could tell he would not back down. Somehow he knew that I was no Agnes, and I knew he would not rest until I told him my true name.

I sighed and could not help but to glance around me in search of eavesdroppers. I did not know why my real identity was so important to me but it was. Maybe I hoped to keep my old life as Rowena separate from my new life as Agnes.

“So it is not Agnes. What of it? My name is Rowena. Now it is only fair for you to give me yours. Personally, I would not mind referring to you as the Knave,” I stated scornfully. “If you would prefer a different name, I suggest you tell me it now.”

He chuckled again and leaned back. “What is your surname?”

My eyes narrowed. “I have none. Your name, sir.”

He raised an eyebrow in amusement. “You’ve no surname? Peculiar. As for my name, I shall keep that to myself until I see fit to tell. If you wish, you can refer to me as the Knave until then,” he said with an amused smirk.

“But you-,” I began to protest but then stopped, allowing a small smile to curve my lips upwards. “Very well, Knave.”

He chuckled, ruining the effect of this new title. I scowled slightly which only caused his smile to widen. “Now, Rowena, I am curious-”

“You seem to be curious quite often. You should be careful of that. It will kill you one of these days,” I interrupted.

He smiled, “Perhaps. But at least then I might die satisfied with my knowledge. And I desire to know a particular piece of knowledge. Namely, where you got the water that was in your mug?”

I crossed my arms again, adopting a hardened look. “It was not water.”

“And I am a ghost,” he responded. The Knave was beginning to irritate me. He was too perceptive for his own good, and I was not amused by it. Again, I remained silent, staring at the now empty mug.

“Ho there, Edmund Rampston! What does this maiden usually purchase?”

My head snapped up as the Knave shouted this across to the tavern owner. I stared at him briefly in horror before turning towards the tavern keeper as he replied.

“The Shadowed Nightingale? She usually just orders a..” Edmund trailed off as he caught sight of my face. His expression, usually indifferent, turned interested; almost to the point of lasciviousness. “An empty cup,” he finished, leaning forward over the counter.

I swelled slightly in my seat, my temper beginning to flare. I twisted back so that I was looking forward and reached behind my head, throwing my hood over my face again.

“Interesting,” the Knave replied. “Thank you, sir.” He turned back in his seat, his expression thoughtful and also slightly suspicious. “Now why would you-” He stopped talking and I continued to glare straight in front of me, still angry at Edmund’s reaction. Now he would treat me differently every time I payed to stay in a room.

“How do you see?”

Again, he was too perceptive. My eyes flickered towards him, his expression skeptical. “Excuse me?” I asked, shocked. Nobody had ever bothered to ask me that before. Everybody just assumed I could still see somehow.

“How do you see?” he repeated, crossing his arms. “Your hood is always up.”

“Through my eyes, I should hope. Most people do, you know. Though I suppose sometimes you see out the other end. After all, you talk through it on occasion,” I said nonchalantly before rising.

It was time for me to take my leave. I had already said too much. Or perhaps, too little. He had already asked too many unanswerable questions and was only bound to ask more. I had already wasted enough of my life talking with him, and he was getting suspicious. Unanswerable questions to strange happenings meant witches to these people. I could not risk being caught.

As I moved towards the stairs that would lead up to the rooms, I heard a scrape, signifying that the Knave had risen as well. Again, a calloused hand caught my left hand, holding me back. Thankfully he did not grab my right hand for the Lady Ring rested on it, which would lead to more questions.

I spun to face him. He was wearing that smirk, which almost never seemed to leave. His eyes, though amused, were wiser underneath. They were questioning me, thinking, riddling me out. And again, for the umpteenth time that night, my eyes narrowed.

“You are full of jokes, aren’t you, Rowena?” he asked with a chuckle.

I arranged my face to a kinder one and gave him a sickly sweet smile. “Yes, I hold them here, in my hand. But look! When I release your hand..” I yanked my hand out of his and looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. “Then I have let go of the biggest joke of them all.”

I spun back and made it up three steps before a loud laugh came from behind me. I scowled. Some of my sharpest insults were making him laugh. I made it up two more steps before the Knave called out from behind me again.

“Oh, and my Lady, Rowena, you wished for my name. It’s Godric. Godric Gryffindor.”

I froze. Godric Gryffindor...it can’t be.. Fighting the urge to collapse right there on the stairway, I almost sprinted to my room, slamming my door behind me and locking it securely. The man, the one with the green eyes and reddish brown hair, the Knave...

His laughter haunted my dreams that night, taunting me for the sick game I was playing. What would happen when the real Rowena came along?

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A/N: Hey, guys! So it was a semi-quick update? Yes? No? x] There was a little bit more humor here, or at least attempted humor! So now we know who the mystery man is: dun dun dun. But THAT wasn't expected or anything. =] A little more action; not a lot more, but a little. And it will hopefully start picking up even more from here! Time for some plotty-ness. Thanks for reading everybody, and I'd love you forever if you left me a review as well! xoxo

daydream_it_to_life


Chapter 6: The Outer Ring
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 Life continued on, and I tried my best to avoid Godric Gryffindor. How could it be? The discovery of his existence threw my head into a chaos that I had been managing to avoid in my new life. I ate, I sang, I slept. With the Knave about, my head was once more filled with questions. Did Hogwarts already exist? He looked too young to be a Founder already. How had he become so rich? How could Gryffindor, the brave and kind Head of Gryffindor, be such a pompous pig? It was unspeakable! Was Helga Hufflepuff really some slender seductress? Was the real Rowena a stupid hag? Was Salazar Slytherin a sweet, fun-loving guy? My whole idea of the past could very well have been a complete and utter lie.

 

The thoughts of Hogwarts brought back the thoughts of my family, and I was forced to harden myself against the idea. Five weeks had passed in this new time. I was gradually coming to terms with the fact that this was not a dream, and that nobody was coming to rescue me. I would die in this era, and that was that.

 

Cloaked and hooded, as per usual, I glanced up to notice that the sun was sinking further towards the top of the wall as I wove through the crowd in the peasant’s market. I was making my daily stop to the hovels. A satchel I had purchased from Mabill not five days past gently bounced against my hip. Its contents were simple; a fresh loaf of bread and a few old rags that Mabill gave me for only a few shillings. It was time to start helping those in the hovel in any way I could. I used the coin I earned in the market sparingly for myself, buying only that which was necessary. The rest, I would spend on those who could earn nothing.

 

I swept out of the portcullis, ignored by the guards posted at the outer ring. My cloak was such a blessing to have. It didn’t take me long to come across somebody I could help. A mother held her small daughter, rocking back and forth and weeping loudly. The child was clearly sick. Her lips were cracked from dehydration, her frame was frail from lack of food. Here would be where my assistance for the day would go.

 

The mother only looked up when I knelt before them, reaching inside my cloak to open my satchel and pull out what I had brought. Tears streaked the mother’s face, lined with years of a hard life, and she stared at me with only partially seeing eyes. A strange cloaked figure, whose mouth was the only part of her face that could be seen, was bound to be somewhat startling. But the mouth was wearing a kind smile.

 

I held the bread out to the mother, and she fumblingly took it from me with astonished fingers. No questions asked. Questions were not necessary when one was starving.

 

“Feed her. Feed yourself,” I said softly, and then snatched a filthy and empty pot from beside them. It was bone dry. Rising swiftly, I turned to march towards the river. I was not going to actually use its waters, for fear of germs. But I would need it for a guise.

 

A few moments later, I was kneeling by the deceivingly gentle waters, pot in one hand and wand in the other. “Scourgify,” I murmured, swiping the inside of the pot clean. “Auguamenti.” I kept my wand hidden somewhat beneath my cloak. It had become a habit to do magic subtly in the past weeks, even if nobody was around.

 

The pot filled, I slipped my wand into my belt, grasped the pot firmly, and rose to my feet, turning to head back to the girl and her mother. The sight of the Knave, standing directly ahead of me on the bluff, stopped me in my tracks.

 

He was staring at me, trying his best to hide any emotion on his face, and was looking utterly out of place with the hovels forming his backdrop. The slight widening of his eyes betrayed his astonishment. At seeing me here? My eyes widened as well. Thankfully, my cloak hid any emotions from his view.

 

“That water did not come from the river,” he said, sounding stunned and yet somehow, excited. Of course. He was a wizard too. But he would not suspect me. Would he? I took a moment to gather myself, and then stalked past him.

 

“Do not be ridiculous, Knave. I knew you were simple, but now I believe you are completely without intelligence. I believe it is quite clear that I got this water from the river,” I lied easily, making my way towards the hovels.

 

“And I think we both know you are being untruthful, Lady Rowena,” he said smoothly, easily matching my stride. I refused to even glance at him as we walked.

 

“Do not call me that where there may be listening ears, Gryffindor.”

 

“Godric,” he corrected. I narrowed my eyes but chose not to comment. On a first name basis with one of the Founders Four? I think not.

 

“Do you not have better things to be doing? Licking the King’s boots, perhaps?”

 

I could hear his amusement in his voice. “Your tongue is as sharp as ever, Lady Rowena.”

 

We had reached the hovels. I abruptly turned away from the road to go once again to the mother and daughter, kneeling before them, and gently placing the pot in front of her. The mother was holding the bread, and I belatedly realized that it would be too difficult for them to swallow without water. Well, that problem could now easily be solved.

 

I could feel Gryffindor standing a few feet behind me, and could practically sense both his discomfort as well as the mother’s. But as I dipped the rags I had brought into the water and began washing the grime from the little girl’s hands and face, the mother quickly forgot about the rich lord and took over.

 

As we worked together, I began to sing quietly, a soothing sort of melody. It calmed me, as I myself was on the verge of tears. So much suffering, and so little that I could do. The sun was dipping even lower into the sky by the time we had finished our work. Cool rags rested on the girl’s forehead, and her stomach was filled with bread and clean water.

 

The mother released an endless stream of gratitude and countless thank yous. I only smiled and nodded before finally rising to my feet and heading back towards the portcullis, walking passed a stunned Godric on my way. I did not spare him so much as a glance. He was a lord, a rich man who cared not for these people as I was choosing to. He and his finery had no place here.

 

As I reached the portcullis, the guards posted straightened and hailed me down. They truly were a nuisance, the lot of them.

 

“I require passage into the city,” I said stiffly.

 

“Name and business.”

 

“I am the Shadowed Nightingale. A citizen of Noring.”

 

The two guards glanced at each other. “The portcullises are about to close. No passage into the city.”

 

“Let us through, guards.” The voice of the Knave came from behind me and I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. The sound of him set me on edge. I despised this man, who had turned my perception of Godric Gryffindor into a mockery. He was not the man he was meant to be.

 

“Lord Godric!” they exclaimed, clearly humbled. “Of course, go right on through. The both of you.” Beneath the protection of my hood, my eyes rolled towards the heavens. Such an important figure deserved to be let in, but not a mere citizen of the great city. Corrupt, that was what the city was. And I hated it.

 

I stalked through without waiting for him. He easily caught up to me.

 

“Lady Rowena, a word. What was that back-”

 

“No,” I hissed firmly, cutting him off.

 

“No other person visits the Outer Ri-“

 

“Leave me be, Gryffindor.” I did not wait for a reply. In the bustle of people closing up shop and beginning to return home, it was easy to lose oneself in the crowd. I slipped between a pair of people, ducked, and darted behind a few crates near a vendor. I heard him shout my name once but clearly he was not going to lower himself to a status akin to that of a town crier, shouting out to the rabble of the city. I would not have to put up with his comments, his arrogance, and his lack of a heart. It gave me some small comfort to know this.

 


 

I should have known it was too good to be true. That night, I sat again at my table with Agatha, Katherine, and Cecily, listening to their banter and smiling into my mug filled with water. Their humor was crass but their company was enjoyable. More so, at least, than the other folk that filled the tavern.

 

More so, at least, than the voice that cut into their conversation. The smile dropped instantly from my face without even having to turn to view the intruder.

 

“Excuse me, my ladies. I require a word with the Lady Agnes,” the voice said, coming from behind me. My grip on my mug tightened. Was he following me now?

 

“Yer only lookin’ fer a place to sheath yer sword, ye mangy mutt. Shove it up yer own backside and get lost, says I.” I couldn’t help but to grin at that. Thank goodness for Agatha’s rude mouth. But the effect was clearly lost on Gryffindor. Curse his stubbornness.

 

“Lady Agnes, I have an offer for you. From the King.” He still stood behind me so I could not gauge his expression to riddle out a lie from truth. “I would be exceedingly grateful if you would join me for a, shall we say, spell, if you would.” His choice of words could not possibly be a coincidence, and neither was his mischievous tone of voice. My three comrades glared at him but I steeled myself.

 

“Excuse me, lasses,” I murmured, excusing myself. They appeared as surprised as I felt. This man already suspected me and so I should avoid him at every turn. But I could not risk him dropping hints to my company that would suggest any sort of witchcraft. That sort of thing could turn camaraderie into killing in a matter of moments. Witches were drowned or burned at the stake here. Either option would be unpleasant. And so I followed him to another table in the room, glaring at his back, as he had left me no choice but to grant his request.

 

Sliding into my seat, I watched as he sat roughly in his and lounged back in his chair, watching me with a smug smile. Of course he would wear a smirk. He had accomplished his mission after all.

 

“Speak quickly and then remove yourself from my sight, Gryffindor,” I stated coldly. His eyebrows raised infinitesimally.

 

“You know, I should very much like to see you smile one of these days, Shadowed Nightingale,” he said with lazy confidence, smiling over at me. I didn’t so much as twitch a finger. After a few moments, he chuckled. “Very well. As I said, the King has an offer for you.” He waited again. He was waiting for me to become impatient, and snap at him to hurry on with it. Oh yes, I could tell he wanted that, for his own amusement. I would give him no such satisfaction. A few more moments passed in silence. He smiled.

 

“But before I tell you about his offer, I would like to ask you, my lady. What were you doing in the Outer Ring?” Of course he would ask about that. He had no right to pry into my business, none at all.

 

“I belong there more than you.”

 

“That is hardly an answer.”

 

“You hardly deserve one.”

 

“I have never seen you beyond the wall before.”

 

“And you think I am to believe that you visit there often?”

 

“What were you doing, Lady Rowena.” His voice was hard, without the amusement. It sounded like an order.

 

“I visit each day and it is none of your concern what I do with my time.”

 

“It is dangerous beyond the wall.”

 

“I can take care of myself.”

 

“The sights there are not for a lady.”

 

“The sights there only exist because those who have the power to change it sit in all of their finery and do nothing! The corrupt swine that carry the title of Lord!” We were attracting attention now. I ignored the gazes we had drawn to see a flicker of something in Gryffindor’s eyes. Regret? Pain? Sadness? Perhaps all three. It confused me enough to render me silent as the flicker was replaced with anger.

 

“You do not understand half of what you speak of, Agnes,” he spat. I blinked in surprise. This was a side to Gryffindor I had not yet seen. This could potentially be useful. “The King invites you to sing in his hall, and to live there as his personal performer. I return on the morrow for your answer. Good night, my Lady.” His voice was filled with sarcasm and anger, and he shoved back his chair with a great force as he swept himself from the Hearty Mug, leaving me speechless in my chair.

 

Something about the Outer Ring had set him off. Something bothered him about the hovels, and apparently he had information I did not. No doubt from sitting at the King’s feet as a personal hound or some such thing.

 

As a previous member of the Ravenclaw house, I could not help my thirst to learn and my drive for knowledge. I could not help that every ounce of my being wanted to accept the offer solely to find out what I could by being in that castle.

 

But performing there and living there would bring me in what would no doubt be nigh constant contact with Gryffindor. It would be a great change in the past, and a development that was not there previously. If he insisted on continuing his interrogation of me, one word of mine could change some deep set ideal of Gryffindor’s. One word of mine could completely rewrite the past.

 

But my hunger for knowledge was strong and a feast had been laid before me for the taking. All I had to do was take a seat.


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