Chapter 20 - To The Gable

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Jeanine rose from her cot, grabbing her bow and quiver of arrows. She was careful not to make a sound as her bare feet crept over the dirt floor. She threw on her boots and left her little cottage behind, heading deep into the hills beyond her nestled little village. Many stars still dotted the night sky, but in little more than an hour, the sun would be upon her.

Dawn was the best time to hunt wild game and she intended to get a decent head start. She followed the same trail she always did, the one leading up into the Eastern Barrier Range. It was so engrained in her mind that there was no need to watch the treaded path.

It hadn't always been this way. Nearly eight years ago she was an immigrant to these lands. She was born a city girl. Her mother and father were well-off when she was brought into the world.

Her father was a prestigious commander in the army, living and working with the kingdom's eastern troops. He was sent to these lands during the Gobelin Wars. She stayed behind in Lincastle with her mother. Though she was only five at the time, it was easy to see the hardships brought upon her mother as the war dragged on. When the fighting was finally over, they rejoiced, until the carrier arrived bearing a disastrous letter: Her father lost his right leg.

She never forgot her mother's face the day the news came. That night she watched her mother sob on the floor in the corner of their home. Long into the wee hours of the morning she cried, until the fires in their hearths burned out. The following day they packed some of their belongings and sold the rest.

Her mother hired a sell sword to escort them to Kaljah, the village where her father was stationed during his recovery. It was a difficult journey though she hardly remembered it now.

As a child, everything was an adventure. Kaljah with its population of less than three hundred was completely different compared to the life she'd known. Surrounded by harsh terrain, it took very little time for her to learn the dangers of the wilderness.

By some terrible fate, the gods let her father live whilst taking her mother. Though she loved him dearly, she would have happily switched their fates. Alas, that was the cruel way of the world. The child her mother birthed did not survive either. Had it lived, she would have grown up with a brother. Her father would have had his wish, for he always longed to have a son.

He didn't talk about her mother any more—she had become an unbroachable topic. After she died, he never remarried. What woman would want a wood-legged man? Jeanine was the only one in his life now, and a hard life it was. She did most of the heavy work, though he helped where he could—gardening, cleaning, and tending to their cow.  

She was left to the other tasks, those that required two legs, such as visiting the market, making repairs to the cottage, and hunting. She scorned everything but the hunting. It was the only time she had away from her hardships. As she got older, and with much practice, she began to claim superiority in killing wild game. None could fell an animal as effectively as she.

It brought in a steady income, too. She had a cache of silver from the extra meat she sold to the butcher. Though she did not sell all of her surplus, some of it she gave to the mouths that could not feed themselves. There were a fair few old and disabled in Kaljah. Many injured war veterans like her father took up residence in the village when the armies retreated back to Lincastle.

When her mother died, she cursed the gods for her father's decision to remain in the village. The harsh desserts directly west and the unfriendly mountains barricading them along the east made life in Kaljah a struggle. When her pregnant mother got sick, they were too far to seek the help that was needed. In Lincastle, her mother would have lived, of that she was sure.

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