Late Summer

:-#-:

She had a pretty bonnet with red feathers in the band, so Caron decided she looked the best out of all the ladies at the race track.

She and Farren were surrounded by them, and their rich husbands. They’d been invited to the king’s races, like all the merchants and nobles around.

“First race,” Farren said in her ear, guiding her through the crowds to the horse pen. The well groomed, stocky creatures stamped and neighed. There were black ones, and white – no, she thought, they called them grey – and browns, and one almost fire red.

“I say he wins it,” she said, pointing at a brown horse with a white star on its forehead.

“Brimhaven?” A man to their left snorted. “He’s the slowest here. Now, Scarlet, he’ll win.” He gestured at the red.

“I think Brimstone has a lucky star,” she said, frowning.

“Then we’ll just have to see who’s right, won’t we?” Farren cast the man a dark smirk. “Brimhaven it is. Where did the book keeper go?”

“But you aren’t going to put money on this!” She turned to look at him. “What if I’m wrong?”

“I trust your judgement, my dear.” He kissed her cheek and disappeared into the crowd.

“Courting, are you?” said the man.

“We’re married.” She only blushed a little when she said it, now. Mine. He’s mine. “Are we allowed to touch them?”

“Young love,” he said, with a regretful smile. “Here!” He raised his hand. “Show Brimstone to the lady.”

A boy led Brimstone forward. She stroked his neck, delighted by the intelligence in his eyes. “Definitely lucky,” she told him, smiling. 

And he won by scarcely his own length. Farren collected his money and said, “Second race?”

She pointed at a white – no, grey – with two black socks. Dawnlight, the boy told her, when she asked to see him. “It suits him wonderfully,” she declared. Farren didn’t go to bet, but reported that Dawnlight won regardless of the money on his feet.

The third time horses were taken into the pen, Farren said quietly, “I think people are listening in.”

“Why?” she said softly. “Are you sure?”

“You have two out, and three races yet to run.” His breath tickled her ear. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say -”

“Oh, don’t. You know I can’t be.” Not Seeing. How could she be? If she was, those dreams, before the fair when she met him –

No, she told the sick feeling in her heart. I can’t be. I’m just guessing right.

She guessed right three more times.

:-#-:

Autumn

:-#-:

Farren seemed always gone, on the King’s business or his own. It had to be done, she knew, but Caron missed him so.

There were stories of monsters roaming the lands outside Canteville. If she asked, Farren would say it was only wolves, but he and Hanson went out often.

She kept daydreaming so, of dark things with claws and fangs. Fancies of what might be out there, and what it could be doing. Still, ma and pa came to stay, and it was so lovely to see them. She hadn’t know how much she’d miss her parents.

And she was daydreaming again. Caron sighed, looking around the kitchen. Nothing left. She took up the bowls of dumplings and soup.

“Careful, there,” Kean said, taking one from her hand and one from the table. “No tipping.”

“I’m supposed to serve you, pa,” she protested.

“Let my girl serve me? Never.” He gave her the fond smile she knew so well. “Not whilst I can walk.”

Not whilst I can walk. Something flashed behind her eyes, fast as lightning, and as sharp. She stumbled into the table, gasping.

“Caro?” Her pa watched her carefully. “You well?”

“I’m fine.” She flashed him a smile. “Must be catching a cold.”

“It’s being in town. Never good for the constitution. Eating’ll do you good, my girl.” He nudged her towards the sitting room.

“Yes, pa,” she said, laughing.

:-#-:

Her old dreams came back, cutting into her mind viciously. She ate breakfast and tasted stormy sea salt. She couldn’t bear to see Hanson for remembering a scar.

“Night terrors,” Farren whispered in her ear, holding her close under the blankets. “They aren’t real, Caro.”

I’m not Seeing, I’m not, she told herself.

:-#-:

“What do you see?” her pa said, after some dinner or another.

“Kean,” Alice said, troubled.

“What do you see, Caron?” He fixed his gaze on her. It was so old.

“Nothing,” she said, but couldn’t look away.

“Did your husband or your knight tell you they’re hunting monsters?” He set his hands on the table. “They are. Magic-bound beast that have killed countless livestock and half a dozen men in our village alone. Who knows how many travellers have died.”

Claws and fangs and death in the dark. Fangs. “No,” she said, through the heaviness in her chest.

“Stop,” Alice said. “Don’t push her, Kean, please.”

“We cannot have an Anhy who doubts what they See!” He thumped his hand on the table. “You’re crippling yourself -”

“I’m not.” She was on her feet. “I’m not, I can’t be, I can’t.” Then she turned and ran, up to her bedroom, cold and lonely without Farren. She flung the door shut, sitting against it. Curling her knees to her chest, she buried her face in her arms.

Why did he have to say that? He’d drilled it into her as a child. Ignoring the Sight was disrespectful. It was a gift. It could leave you. But if she was Seeing, her dreams were true, and Farren –

He isn’t doing this. He isn’t. How could he? He’s my husband, and a good man. He must be.

“Caro,” Alice said on the other side of the door. “My girl.” A sigh.

:-#-:

Winter

:-#-:

Cold winds drew in early.

Caron ignored her pa. Her pa ignored her. Her ma tried, but nothing could pull them back together. At least when Farren and their friends were there, the house was full enough that it didn’t matter.

Nights alone left her sick and exhausted.

“Let me go out with you,” Kean said, one night when the house was full.

“Pa,” Caron said softly.

“You can keep up,” Farren said, in a way that wasn’t a statement.

“You found the damned bastard’s lair, didn’t you? I can go there and See for you. You’ll know who he is.” Her pa raised his eyebrows. “I’m young enough to put you through your paces.”

“He can’t slow us down any more than the other knights,” Hanson put in.

“We’ll see,” was all Farren said.

The next morning found pa packed and waiting.

“His lair,” Caron said to Farren, leaning against him outside the kitchen door. He was warm, and the air was chill with anticipation. “That can’t be good.”

“Might be a woman, Caro.” He kissed her, dark and fierce. “I’ll come home to you,” he said, in a voice that made her burn. Then he went to check the cart.

“And I’ll make sure of it,” Hanson said, grinning at her as he passed. For a moment, she wondered what it would be like if she had never met Farren. Reached out, touched the edge of what might have been –

Banish those thoughts, she told herself.

“You’ll be careful, won’t you?” She said to Hanson’s back.

“I’ll be the best knight there is, remember?” He raised his hand, and was gone around the building.

“Bad feeling,” Kean said.

She didn’t look at him, but nodded.

“I’ll be careful for them both.” He touched her hand and followed them.

“But you have to be careful of Farren,” she whispered.

She went inside. Rob was cradling a cup in his hand, sat at the kitchen table.

“Go out to your friend, ma,” she said into the sitting room. “We’ll be fine.”

“You’re sure?” Alice emerged in her old hat and battered cloak.

“I’m sure.” As certain as the stone in her stomach. “Go on.”

For want of anything better to do, Caron went upstairs and sat against the bed, waiting long, tireless hours. Later Rob came up, solemn and worried and hovered by the door.

“Fetch the healer,” she said numbly. “Go Find Hanson. Take horses. They left the cart by the road. You’ll need it. To bring them back.”

“Caro,” Rob said, in a little, broken voice.

“Do it,” she said simply, and he went. She waited, and waited.

Her father’s death cut through her like a knife.

There was screaming, and pain, and teeth, and betrayal, and nothing. She opened her eyes to find herself lying down, curled up so tight her knees ached.

Caron gained her feet, steady as a rock, and made her way downstairs. She sat at the kitchen table and tried to breathe deep breaths, but air burned her lungs.

She threw everything she was behind the one consolation, knowing Hanson would live, that Rob was there now, and they would save him. But oh, his face – all she could See, all she could taste, was blood.

A horse whinnied. Farren was in the doorway. The fire was nearly out. She took a knife from the table.

“Get out of my house,” she said.

“What’s wrong, Caro?” Farren moved forward.

She looked him in the face, Sight burning it into her mind. “Get out.”

“Ah.” Long and sweet. “The Seer sees at last.” A slow, dark smirk. “Why should I, my dear?”

She held the knife up. “Because I will kill myself.”

“Thus saving me the bother of breaking your sweet neck.” Teeth glinted in the firelight. She couldn’t look at his eyes.

“And my son with me,” she said icily.

He stopped, staring at her. “Son,” he breathed. He took one calculated step. She raised the knife to her throat. Her hand didn’t shake.

“What grand things we could have done together,” he said, with a trace of something she once called love. “I will come for him.” And then he was gone, in a shadowy swirl of cloak. Hooves trotted away.

She dropped the knife, trembling. She had bought only time.

Caron sat in the growing dimness of the fire and didn’t cry.

 

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