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Thorns: Ch 3

I jumped off the cart, unhitched my horse and stormed right into the forest. I wanted to get lost in the thicket and run free from all the burdens of my life. I wanted to run and keep running as far, as my feet could possibly take me, but I could not run the reason was in the wagon directly behind me.

"Brook, wait!" Maple called desperately. Finnick caught my expression and stopped her. He caught sight of my expression, and understood what I needed was to be alone. Only he could understand this, he was the only one that viewed things as differently as I did. While others would try to comfort and console, we ended up punching the others arm to cheer us up. It worked better than false pity, and usually ended with a trip to the stream to clear my head.

"Let her have this time alone," he whispered softly. Maple looked up at him hurt and betrayed. She started to wail and ran into the house. Defeated, Finnick started to lead the horses into the barn. "Honestly, I don't know who to feel bad for."

I charged through the forest, letting every plant, twig, stick, root, and any other jagged thing snag my poor dress. I wished it were the thing in the box. My mind had every detail etched into it. Pearly white, flawless, a ball gown made for a princess. It was for me, for the one thing, I wanted the least.

I stumbled down in front of the brook, tears started to flow again. I stifled back my cries, even though no one would hear me, even though it hurt my chest.

"Why of all things, Lord Protector? Why an arranged marriage? Are they that desperate to get rid of me? I didn't know they wanted me gone!" I stopped, and the thought sank in. "Of course they do! They love Maple, only Maple, they never cared for me." I tore off my shoes and jacket and peered into the half-frozen water.

I closed my eyes and tried to calm down. I wasn't thinking rationally, Mrs. Myrlyn used to dote on me when I tried to play along. It was hard to be the perfect little girl, that woman wanted so dearly, but as soon as she heard, word about the fights I got into, her attention directed at Maple. I was happy to be able to be myself again after she stopped, I felt like I could finally breathe.

"Lady sovereign," a whisper came gurgling out of the water. The sound broke my concentration. I peered a little more over the edge and saw a young face smiling up. Many people were afraid of nixies and mermaids, but strangely, I felt more at ease. "Follow me and join the sea. Your throne awaits you, it waits..." a snap of a twig disrupted the voice and my mind as I pondered what this creature meant by my throne. I whirled around and searched for any sign of someone there.

"Who's there," I called, but there was no response. My mind flashed to Finnick. I gritted my teeth. "Leave me alone Finnick!" I hoped that scared him off and dipped my toes into the water. I didn't want to be bothered, but surely, 'father' had sent him out to bring me home.

Still sulking, the tears dried on my face. I whispered to myself, "There is a world far from here. That's where I want to be." I breathed softly and slid into the water. The sensation sent chills up my spine, the only form of cold I can experience I bet. I waded deeper into the waist deep water, my dress grew heavier as the fabric got soaked.

I cupped some water in my hands and splashed it on my face. The icy liquid was piercing and sharp, my cheeks started to numb and my face started to loosen. It felt refreshing and my muddled mind started to clear. I am relaxed here this was my safe haven.

"Y-you'll c-catch hy-hypothermia that way; distressed damsel," a man's voice chattered to me. My blood froze, I felt colder than the water, colder than I ever had experienced. My head whirled around to see a man lying halfway in the brook.

I ran to his aid, before my mind could process the moment. His clothes were damp and partially frozen; he had been in the water for a while, that was not good. His hands fumbled up to my face.

"I never knew angels to c-cry," he told me. I was not paying any attention to him, but grabbed his hand and pulled him stiffly out of the water. I stripped him of his jacket and shirt, and threw my jacket around him. With a supporting arm, I led him to the house. The trip was long; my dress was heavy from the damp water. I was not worried about me, so much as, I was worried about him.

Once we cleared the tree line, I shouted for help. Finnick and 'father' rushed out of the barn at once; Maple and Mrs. Myrlyn peeked out the door. My sister's face was a red blotchy mess with swollen eyes; Mrs. Myrlyn's expression too, was hardly pleasant.

Uncle Robert stepped out of the barn and lifted the half-conscious man into his big arms. 'Father' tightly wrapped his wool cloak around my shoulders and guided me into the house. He sat me down in front of the fireplace. I insisted I was fine, but no one, as usual, paid any attention to what I had said.

Uncle Robert laid the man down on the couch as my sister and Mrs. Myrlyn tended to him. They worked well together, they can bring a man away from comatose with the right equipment.

"Where did you find him?" Maple asked me handing over a warm cup of tea.

"The brook in the forest, he was in the water, but I don't know for how long. I took off his shirt and coat, but I didn't think to pick them up," I told her without looking at her. I simply stared at the flames, not feeling their warmth.

She avoided my eyes as well, and hurried from the room. I did not care at the moment, too much pressure was on my shoulders. Mrs. Myrlyn left the room and I was alone with the man. I turned around to get a good look at him.

Fast asleep and breathing calmly, I saw he was younger than what I first thought. He clutched the warm woolen blanket and breathed in deeply and slowly. His black hair, smooth and softly curled, dried against my first attempt of a pillow. He was certainly handsome, with his broad features and appeared to be well groomed, so he could not be a random no name.

My cheeks flushed red, and I turned around to face the fire again. I stripped him without even knowing his name. Sure, it was to save his life, and eventually he would have died from hypothermia, but me, a random girl, alone with a half named guy. Some people would speculate and some eyebrows would rise. I do not even have to imagine one of them.

Mrs. Myrlyn returned briskly into the room. With her face tight, and her arms crossed, she pretended to check the man. Her sharp, scowling eyes then gazed at me.

"You made Maple cry," she jabbed at me. Did she honestly expect an apology from me? This woman had some nerve. In fact, she should be apologizing to me, if only I was bold enough to use my power to bring her into the light. They told me never to use them, for they were unnatural and the town you have, Maple and I sentenced to rot in comatose for using dark magic.

Calmly I rebuffed, "You made me cry, but you don't care about tears. Do you?" I smirked, knowing I baffled her with the remark.

She sighed, "It was for your own good." She paused and distastefully sat beside me. Wow, a farmer's wife was trying to be proper; someone was in desperate need of a reality check. "You're a beautiful young lady in the prime of her life. I'm making sure you'll be well taken care of past this time." She went to brush my hair out of my face.

"If it were for my own good," I snapped. "You would let me choose, like you will let Maple choose." Her hand stopped and she placed it in her lap.

"You think we favor her more than you. Sweetheart, no Maple is delicate fragile. For her to marry not for true love would tear her apart. Brook, you refuse even to humor a boy, you beat up at least half of them during your rebellious stage!" I smirk at the word rebellious I wasn't trying then. "It would even be more devastating for her to see you alone," she tried to soothe me.

I jumped up disgusted, "it's always been about Maple! Even the reason you took us in was for Maple! You all loved her and I was just the other one. You said it's for my own good, as well as hers, but in the end, you just wanted it to benefit you." Insulted Mrs. Myrlyn rose and slapped me hard across the cheek.

"I taught you better manners! Now, this thing will happen whether you like it or not! I made a nice dress for your engagement party tomorrow night!"

"T-tomorrow!" I sputtered.

She continued without a moment's hesitation, "your chores are excused so you'll look your best; he is a high ranking noble in the favor of our beloved king!" With that, she stormed away, good riddance too.

I huffed and sat back down, the fire no longer able to reach my cold skin.

"I was mistaken, you're not an angel, but a water nymph; a mermaid," the man's voice came to me weakly. I noted briefly that he had a slight accent, one of which I never heard before.

I did not move, "I don't think it's wise to insult your savior, mister."

"I beg your pardon, madam. But, I didn't mean it as an insult." I barely peeked back at him to see if he was messing with my head. His forest green eye caught me off guard, because his other eye was a bright royal blue. "You were crying earlier, so I thought something horrible had happened to get you to kill yourself."

I scoffed at the idea, "like I would do that!" I could not seem to look away from his eyes.

"I don't know you, so anyways, thank you." He sincerely told me. He closed his eyes and leaned back. I was at a loss and watched him breathe for a moment.

I mumbled, "Arranged marriage."

I heard him shift and asked, "What?" He was puzzled.

"I found out about an arranged marriage set up for me."

"Oh, such a lucky man to be betrothed to a woman worthy of the Great Protector himself!" I glared, but his smile did not seem to be mocking me. I turned away to avoid his eyes. I heard him shift to get up.

"Don't move," I told him sternly. "Dead rising! You need to rest. You almost died! Act like it!"

"But I wish to see your face better," he pleaded. My heart skipped a beat.

"I'm tired. Stay there and keep yourself warm. Hypothermia is a bad way to go."

"I wish all of my safe fingers for you to have sweet dreams." I bolt out of the room and up the stairs. I did not dare glance over the eave; I knew his eyes down there were staring up at me.

I was safe in my room, the one Maple and I shared. I leaned against the door, my head spinning around like crazy, my cheeks felt flushed. I waited a moment for it to stop. His eyes would haunt me now they were soft and kind. He seemed to actually see me, and not despise me like the rest of the people I had met.

The room was dark, and one lone candle flickered. A ghost light placed to help me find my way around the cluttered room. Maple was already in bed sound asleep.

I tiptoed over and crawled in next to her, in her bed. She shook from a nightmare. I smiled and softly whispered, "Come on down to kelpie's grove where mermaids sing and nixies play the piccolo." I waited a moment as Maple stirred awake.

"Let embers glow and all around pixies play and fairies tag along," she whispered a song back. We both giggled a bit as we forgave each other.

"I didn't know you'd be so upset like that," she choked up. I hushed her and stroked her hair.

"It's okay," I told her, but I did not mean it. I hugged her tightly. Then my curiosity caught my better judgment. "Do you know who?"

She looked at me with forlorn eyes, "the baron, Sir Onyx."

Startled, I nearly cried aloud, "Sir Onyx! You don't mean the king's beloved 'blood hound' family!" My mind clicked the symbol on the box, the fact there was no return address, how did I not put that together before?

"Indeed, a good match mother said. You have that grand look; perfect for the many lavish parties hosted by other higher ranking people." She sounded wooden, like it was someone else saying the words.

"I don't care about the parties or rank in social status. I care about who he is. His family's real reputation..."

"Gossip and rumors, good night," she discredited the gruesome stories and tales we heard growing up, and closed her eyes.

I, also, slipped off to sleep. The day's events wore me out and blissfully I had no dreams that night.
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