Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.
The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Three: Return to Rennou (Continued)
Previously: Gina’s sword had led them to Rennou, the place of her disgrace.
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Gina jumped up onto the Great Porch. “Puff? B’frona?” She ran across the scarred platform, grabbed the big dragon-tail door latches, and pulled open the double doors.
Zack found his sister standing in front of a magnificent lespin-wood staircase, shouting, “Puff? It’s me!” She walked half-way up the stairs and called several more times, then sat down, perplexed and confused.
Gina lurched forward. For a moment Zack thought it was a threatening response to his question, but then he realized it was the sword urging her to move again.
They left the Manse is silence.
The sun had been down for half an hour. They walked toward the other end of the village, taking in the ramshackle scene. It wasn’t an abandoned place, it was a place of abandoned hope. Something had shattered its economy—grain withering outside the town, vegetables rotting in marketplace barrels—but more than that, something had shattered its hope.
“Cursed,” said Gina.
“And it’s my fault.” Just then she spotted a girl walking in the opposite direction. “Do you know where I can find B’frona the Miller’s boy?”
The girl turned and stared.
“Is he still with the widow F’lenn?”
The girl nodded toward the eastern end of the village: “The Millhouse.”
“They’re living in the Millhouse?”
“The widow’s house burned to the ground.” The girl started off again.
The girl kept moving.
Gina remembered the road as if she’d walked it yesterday. The sword urged her forward. She fought the urge to turn and run in the opposite direction.
The first thing she noticed was the glow from the second storey window. It would have been so much easier if no one was there, so much easier to leave and never come back, but the sword and an aching desire to see Puff and even the lonely little B’frona, left her no choice.
As they approached the mill, they heard the grist wheels braying. Gina’s heart jumped. Was Puff here happily licking shrennel flour off the grinding stones? Will he recognize me? Two months have passed.
A heavy wooden lever clacked into place. The rynd stone slid away from the runner and ceased its spinning. Gina stepped under the grinding shed’s cantilevered roof. There, finishing the day’s work by torchlight, was a reedy rawboned teenager. Gina couldn’t make out his features. Is he from the village? He finished stitching shut a heavy cloth sack, then tossed it into a corner and started walking toward the irontree staircase. He spotted Gina and Zack and said, “The mill is closed for the night.”
He had lanky limbs and oversized hands, like a hound that hasn’t yet grown into its paws, but his features were fine, his cheekbones strong, his hair walnut brown and curly. He was heading toward handsome, even if his attitude wasn’t. He seemed familiar. Could he be a relative of B’frona’s?
“J’nah?” The young man walked up to Gina and held the torch near her face. “So,” he said, his voice edged with anger, “it is the great girl knight herself, the Dragonmeer of Rennou…
…returned at last.”
Thoughts: Have you ever discovered someone carried a grudge against you that you’d been completely oblivious to?
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