Chapter 2 : II
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Rowena sighed as she ran a spine-brush across Eldritch's mare, a beautiful, proud roan creature called Gormlaith; she was quite content to ignore the sounds of Eldritch's wife Morag for a few minutes longer as she tended to the animal. The night wasn't as dark or as chilly as the tone of Morag's voice made it seem, and even in her damp, dirty dress from earlier, Rowena felt quite happy to sit in the small barn with Gormlaith, especially while their guest was being made comfortable.
'You'll catch your death of cold, girl!' Morag shouted, her highlander accent even thicker than Rowena's. Sitting a little straighter, Rowena peered through a gap in the wooden planks, seeing Morag standing outside their small, misshapen home, hands placed behind her back as they pushed firmly upon her spine. She smiled a little as Morag cursed softly, looked skywards and mumbled as she waddled back into their home to finish preparing their meal.
Gormlaith neighed softly, nuzzling her blazed face against Rowena's cheek and snorting in the smell of her dark hair. Rowena's gaze broke away from the vision through the planks of wood and returned to the animal by her side, stroking her fingers along the smooth plain of its cheek. 'Sorry Gormlaith, my mind was distracted,' she smiled and offered the horse a chunk of bread she had stolen from her cousins meal that morning that she had hidden in a piece of cloth. Gormlaith ate it gratefully from the palm of the young sorceresses' hand, then took to hoofing the dirt underfoot as it retreated further into the barn for warmth.
A soft rustling came from behind Rowena, piquing her interest as she turned around, a small blade being uncovered in her hand. 'No need for that, lass, I be not your enemy.'
Rowena nodded and shield the blade back in her belt harness, casting her eyes down politely as Godric Gryffindor, Knight of England, walked into the barn along with his mighty stallion. 'I'm sorry, My Lord, I did not expect you nor your mount to be staying with us. Eldritch should have entrusted me with this secret sooner and I would have been better prepared in preparing a stall for your horse for the night. As it is, I'm afraid it is not prepared but he can have Gormlaith's stall if it is acceptable to My Lord's eye?'
When her words were met with silence, Rowena tilted her head slightly to better glance upon the man who would be staying the night before continuing his journey north, surprised to see his look one of contemplation and curiosity. She quickly lowered her gaze for fear of being uncouth around a man of higher rank than her.
'Your worries are not warranted, Rowena Ravenclaw. Fionnlagh will be well cared for under your keen gaze, I am sure. Let your cousins mount keep her stall; the unused one beside it will be more than comfortable for Fionnlagh tonight.'
Rowena kept her gaze low as Godric led his horse into the small barn and placed his ride in the vacant stall. She waited patiently, listening to the night owls outside as he placed ample hay for bedding and water for drinking into the stall, beginning to feel the chill in the air that Morag had warned her about creeping into the barn. She shivered and sat deeper into the hay surrounding her for warmth, an action not unnoticed by Godric's eye. She blinked, and as her eyes reopened and focused upon Godric, alarm shot through her mind as a large, warming fire sprang to life amidst all the hay.
'My Lord, we must leave the horses and away! There is a fire-'
'It will not harm you or I, or the horses,' Godric said calmly as he lowered a plank of wood across the door to the stall, preventing Fionnlagh's escape. 'The flames are harmless and shan't take flight across the barn; sit close to its warmth, it will scare nights cold embrace away for a while.'
Sceptically, Rowena gazed upon the burning flames, and at her horse hoofing the ground contently, quite at ease with the fire burning nearby which made Rowena's dark brow furrow in thought. How could it be so that Gormlaith was quite content to stand by it as it raged ever higher, as if it was never there at all, and Rowena feared for the safety of the animals and the barn, and feared her cousins foul temper if harm should come to any of it?
'While they can feel the warmth, the horses cannot see it burn,' Godric said softly, answering her unspoken question calmly as he turned around, arms folded tightly across his chest as he gazed at Rowena with interest. Humour laced his lips that were quite well hidden behind his bushy facial hair.
Rowena's gaze left the rising flames and focused directly upon her companions instead, incredulously. 'How can this be when I can see it as clear as night differs from day?'
Godric left his post and neared where Rowena sat as she eyed the flames warily and began to retreat from their warmth, not trusting the enigma. 'It is so, Rowena, because it is enchanted.'
'Enchanted?' she asked, looking at the flames in a new light, and suddenly fear clasped her heart as realisation dawned upon her mind. 'No, this cannot be so! The flames – I didn't realise! Eldritch should never have told you! I did not mean to do this, it cannot be helped, My Lord!' Rowena scrambled across the hay ridden floor and clutched onto the bottom of Godric's tunic, fear evident in her eyes. 'I beg of you, kind, gentle sir, please do not burn me in the town as a witch!'
For several moments, only the sounds of the night owls outside, the horses contented neighing and the crackling of flames could be heard after Rowena's plea. She was sure her life would be over in a matter of moments as her eyes closed in fright, cursing Eldritch for his betrayal of her secret and wishing she had let him win in the race from earlier that day to prevent her trust being broken. However, as her grip tightened upon the hem of his tunic, Rowena gasped as a gentle hand rested upon her shoulder, pushing her away.
With frightened eyes, she slowly tilted her head back to look at Godric, her long raven hair hitting the back of her knees from where she knelt. 'It was not you who conjured this flame, dear girl.'
Startled, Rowena released her grip and sat back upon her legs, kneeling before him in complete surprise; Godric soon joined her upon the hay and they sat staring at one another in silence until Rowena's voice decided to return to her. 'My Lord, you did this?'
'How can this be so? You're a Knight of England, the King would never accept a sorcerer for a servant, least of all a man trusted to defend his kingdom!'
Godric nodded in agreement, his eyes crinkling slightly with good humour as he reached into his pocket and extracted a long, thin piece of crudely carved yew that he twirled fondly between his calloused fingers. 'Unless he be unaware of the secret of sorcery, of course.'
He smiled kindly. 'Do not curse your cousin Eldritch, Rowena, for it was not with bad intent that he sought my council. He wrote me, three weeks past, seeking my help. It might be news to you, but I have known your cousin for a long time. We met in battle, many years ago and he saved my life. Once I was well enough to speak, I gave him my word that if I could ever repay him, I would, and so here I am to fulfil my oath.
'Eldritch has spoken with me about your newfound abilities, and believes himself to be the wrong teacher for such talents and for I to be the right one.'
Rowena tilted her head and gazed at the older man with a sense of foreshadowing, not in the least bit comforted that he knew her secret, or by the new information he had divulged about his past along with Eldritch's; she was still slightly worried that he was saying all these things to try and trick the truth from her before convicting her of being a witch.
He smiled politely again, twirling the stick of yew between his fingertips as Fionnlagh grunted quietly behind him. 'Do not be afraid of being different, Rowena. Not everyone who can do the things we do are bad, or are caught by those who are scared of our differences.'
'He is telling you the truth, cousin, for I have never known this man to lie.' Rowena jumped, wide eyes upon Eldritch's unannounced arrival to the conversation. He stood by the doorway, a pouch of mead in his hands and encouragement reflected in the firelight on his eyes.
'If it interests you, Rowena Ravenclaw of Glen, you can be taught to train your powers and teach others. I can teach you these things,' Godric said pleasantly, casting a quick glance at Eldritch before they both turned to look upon the fire. Rowena looked between the two men, having so many questions to ask and did not expect to get any answers for some time yet as they continued to gaze upon the dancing flames.
'Come,' announced Eldritch finally with a clap of his hands and a slosh of the mead-pouch. 'Morag has been cooking and is weary to the bone. I hope you are as fond of haggis as we, Godric!'