But, with luck, it'll be interesting anyway.
You do get to meet the Quest family, and find out a little bit more about other things - that should make it all good. :)
Option one won (I like saying that...dunno why, but it's just fun). Apparently there are some nice people out there who want nice things to happen to the characters! Well, I hope this episode is sufficiently nice as well as interesting.
“Susana!” Eumin gasped, his arms tightening around her in return.
With a squeal of delight a little girl dashed out of the house, bursting through the low gate, followed more slowly by a short, fat little toddler, stumbling along with a grin far too large for his face.
“Dad!” the girl cried, flinging herself at Eumin.
Eumin caught her up with a laugh, swinging the boy into his arms in another moment.
“Dad come home!” he shouted gleefully, wrapping short arms around Eumin’s neck. “Dad come home ‘gain!”
I exchanged a smiling glance with Leonora.
The boy caught sight of Leonora. “Aunty Le’nora!” He squirmed to the ground and toddled over to Leonora.
She picked him up with a grin. “How are you, James? Did y’ miss me?”
He chuckled. “Dad back now,” he remarked, eyes shining.
Leonora replaced him on the ground and he turned to me. After a moment he whimpered and then fled to Eumin, clutching at his father’s leg.
“Don’t worry, little James,” Eumin smiled, ruffling his hair.
The girl slid to the ground, staring at me curiously. “Who’s she, dad?”
James’ wide solemn eyes met mine and he looked up at his dad again. “’Nother aunty?” he suggested hopefully.
Eumin and Susana laughed. “No, not actually. This is Louise,” he smiled. “Louise, meet my family, Anastasia, James, and, of course, my wife Susana.”
Susana stepped forward impulsively and wrapped me in a quick hug. “I’m sure you’re mostly to blame for bringing him back in one piece,” she remarked, patting my shoulder.
I smiled, inwardly remembering the multitude of times Eumin had saved my life in the short time I’d known him. “Something like that,” I agreed.
“Well, you’d best all come inside,” Susana exclaimed, her hand finding Eumin’s arm. “It’s getting late anyway and I’m sure you’re all hungry.”
“You can say that again,” Leonora agreed, swinging little James up onto her shoulders.
The house was just as quaint and neat on the inside as the out. The front door led to a room lit by wide glass paned windows. A table stood in the center of the room, covered by a clean cream-white tablecloth with a fresh posy of flowers giving it a friendly homelike touch.
On the far side of the room a glowing pile of coals lay in the hearth, an occasional flame flickering to life before dying again. A large pot hung over the warm embers, wisps of steam trailing up from whatever lay within. Susana ushered us into the room, hurrying over to the fire and stirring it to life.
“You just sit down, and I’ll fetch you some dinner,” she said, beginning to gather up pans and cooking utensils.
Eumin sat at the table, smoothing out a crinkle from the tablecloth. “It’s good to be back,” he breathed.
I pulled a chair from under the table and sat, smiling as Ana and James moved to stand beside their father, hugging his arms tightly.
In minutes Susana had served up a delicious meal of steaming stew, setting the bowls before us. The savoury aroma swirled up to me and I breathed it in, my stomach rumbling softly to remind me just how hungry it was.
Eumin offered a heartfelt prayer and we all began spooning the wonderful stew into our mouths.
I scraped the last vestiges of food from the bowl, licking my spoon thoroughly. “That was good,” I murmured, leaning back in my chair.
“I second that,” Leonora agreed, setting her spoon down in the empty bowl. “I’d almost forgotten what a brilliant cook you were Susana.”
The cook smiled. “I could never believe a thing like that,” she replied. “You forgetting that would be as bad as forgetting your own name.”
“Good point,” Leonora obliged, a grin breaking across her features.
“So,” Eumin pushed his plate forward. “What’s the situation here?”
“Only one more assassination while you were gone,” Susana said, gathering all the bowls into a stack. “The king’s men have come no closer to discovering who it is. They can’t even find any pattern to who is getting killed – this time it was the youngest son of the Sáliner province sheriff.”
“But they’ve all got the same mark?” Eumin twisted his lips grimly.
“Aye, the black scorch mark on their wrist is always there, no matter who dies,” Susana carried the bowls over to a long bench beside the fireplace, returning to the table and sitting beside her husband. “There is absolutely no trace the king’s men have found to track him by.”
Leonora ran her fingers through her hair. “We’ll find one,” she said definitely. “Or more, Louise will.”
Both my eyebrows shot up. “Me? How am I meant to do better than all the king’s men?”
“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” James chanted loudly, before hiding his face in his father’s sleeve once more.
“You will,” Eumin replied, ruffling James’ dark hair. “You will.”
“But what about your journey?” Susana asked. “I’ll have to hear the story before the night is up.”
Eumin stood, stretching, and picked up his chair, placing it by the fire. “It’s quite a story,” he said.
We all rose to follow his example, but as I went to pick up my chair I felt a nervous tap on my arm
Ana stood beside me, brown eyes looking hopefully into mine. “Can I show y’ somefin’?”
“Sure,” I smiled. I didn’t really need to hear the story again any way, I was part of it.
She took my hand and led me to a door, reaching up to lift the latch and push it open. “This is my room,” she said, flopping down onto the bed.
“It’s very nice,” I remarked, trailing my fingers along a beautifully carved chest at the foot of the equally imaginative bed.
“Dad made that,” she said, sitting up and tracing the engraved words Anastasia Quest embellished on the smooth brown lid. “He likes doing wood stuff when he’s got time. But he’s away a lot nowdays.” She sighed, trailing her fingers across a delicate flower design on the chest, “I just hope the bad assassin man will go away so dad can stay home more.”
I looked at her sad eyes. “That’s why I’m here,” I said.
She looked up, frowning curiously. “What d’you mean?”
“That’s why I’m here. To get rid of the bad man,” I repeated. “So your dad can be with you every day, and so no one has to worry anymore.”
“How will you do that?” Ana asked, tilting her head on one side.
I swallowed. “I’ve got to find him first, and then…then I’ll…” I trailed off realising that I had no idea what I actually was meant to do. I couldn't kill him, that was certain. Surely there’d be some way to…snap him out of it? I sighed heavily. “I don’t really know what I’ll do,” I admitted. “But I’m going to stop him somehow.”
“Maybe you should get Capt’in Wielder to help you,” Ana suggested, her face lighting up at the idea.
“Captain Wielder?” I repeated. “Why him?”
“Well,” she chewed her lip. “He’s a good sword fighter. The best.”
She nodded seriously. “And he’s got a fast ship. The Rift is only slower than the king’s special ships.”
“But he’s a pirate,” I reminded her.
She nodded eagerly. “So no one ‘ud dare attack you. And if they did, Capt’in Wielder would just pull out his sword and go yahah—” Ana swung her arm in a circle, wielding an invisible sword. “—and beat ‘em all! But he wouldn’t hurt ‘em.”
“He’s a nice man,” Ana replied resolutely. “He al’ays fights careful so he can disarm ‘em, an’ then he gives ‘em back their sword and drops ‘em off on land.” She bounced on the mattress, an excited smile on her face, “And he’s al’ays polite to ladies too.”
“How d’you know all this?” I asked, smiling at her animated gestures.
“Well…” Ana hesitated a moment. “He’s famous. Everyone knows ‘bout Capt’in Wielder.”
“I saw him today,” I told her. “His ship was chasing ours just before we got into the harbour.”
“Did he fight anyone?” She asked eagerly.
“No,” I shook my head. “He wanted to fight Leonora, though.”
Ana smiled enormously. “Oh yes, he’s al’ays following Aunty Leonora around. He wants to see if he can beat her too.”
“So I’d gathered,” I remarked, sitting down on the bed beside the lively Ana.
She brushed the dark curls from her eyes, blinking up at me. “D’you think he could?”
“I really don’t know,” I shrugged. A yawn crept up my throat and I suddenly realised how tired I was. Closing my eyes, I leant back against the wall with a sigh.
Darkness…despair…there is no hope.
I snatched myself from the dream, breathing hard. What in the world was happening to me?
“You alright?” Ana frowned up at me.
“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” I lied, trying to steady my heart. I rubbed my forehead, trying to push away the haunting darkness.
“Pst, kid, you going to open this so I can come in?” someone hissed from the other side of the darkened window.
1. Ana’s face froze with horror. “I…Louise…you…” she trailed off, looking from me to the indistinct face outside the window.
2. “Ed!” Ana scrambled off the bed and over to the window, pushing it open with her small arms. “I told you, not this week.”
3. One glance at Ana’s scared face, and I knew all was not well. “Who is that?” I whispered at her.
So there we go, that wasn't too bad considering there wasn't actually much happening, so to speak. I have discovered a major fault with writing the story (and this blog post) on Thursdays but not publishing it 'til Friday. I always get excited about sharing the story with you all, and write things like 'can't wait to hear all your votes' but then I have to wait another whole day before you can even read it! Ah well, I live. But I do look forward to all your comments and thoughts. :)