Chapter 6: A Slight Reprieve

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Darkness enveloped me. Cold seeped into my bones. Unable to maintain my hold on Elba and Myrah's hands, I let go, unsure of where the portal would take me. I spun around, tossed back and forth until my body ached in places I never thought possible. Several minutes later, I landed on the outskirts of a field. Elba and Myrah were nowhere in sight.

A dilapidated cabin stood in the distance. Several loose chickens ran around its front yard.

I pushed myself to my feet, keeping an eye on a large black dog lounging in the shade to the left of the cabin.

The dog shifted and focused its eyes on me. Its eyes narrowed.

"Eno?" a soft-spoken voice asked. "Where are ye, boy?"

A boy around the age of six appeared near the rear of the cabin. He clutched a long, trailing leash in his hands.

The dog stirred, its tail whipping to and fro.

"There you are!" the boy cried, rushing toward the dog and throwing its arms around the dog's neck.

"Don't ye be pettin' that mangy dog!" a female voice scolded from within the cabin.

The boy ignored the woman and buried his head against the animal's shoulder.

Seconds later, the cabin door swung open. A rotund woman stepped out, her ruddied cheeks puffed out with anger. She scanned the yard, her eyes soon falling upon me.

"Who are ye?" she asked, planting her fisted hands across her generous hips.

"I . . ."

She raised an eyebrow. "Well? I don't have time to dilly-dally, girl. Where'd ye come from?"

I cleared my throat and said, "I've been traveling from Vespa Vale. Can you tell me where I am? I came across your cabin unexpectedly."

The woman's severe look lessened. She uncurled her hands and swatted at several flies hovering above her head.

"Why, yer in Tourney's Creek, darlin'. It's a stone's throw away from the Vale, I gather. Come on in, child. Put up yer feet, and have a bite to eat."

Startled by her sudden change of demeanor, I slowly crept toward the cabin.

"Ye have a name?"

"Yes. I'm Eveliana."

The woman smiled and held out her hand. "Blessed be. I'm Gertrude."

We shook hands.

She pointed to the little boy hugging the dog. "That's me son, Daniel, and the dog is named Eno. Wretched thin' showed up one day outta the blue. He hasn't left since. I s'ppose it's a blessin'. Lots of bandits out there, ye know."

I nodded. "Aye, I do. 'Twas set upon by a few of them before I got here."

Gertrude waved a hand at the door. "Come, come. No sense in invitin' bad tidings. Come on in, Daniel. Brin' that dog, if ye must."

Daniel grinned and tied the leash around Eno's neck. He hopped to his feet and tugged the dog in the cabin's direction, disappearing into its depths seconds later with the dog following in his wake.

I squared my shoulders and made my way into the cabin.

Gertrude walked inside and shut the door behind her. She set about in dropping several random ingredients into a bowl lying in the middle of the table.

Daniel jumped up and down, clapping his hands with excitement. "You makin' pancakes, Momma?"

His mother smiled and cracked an egg above the bowl. "Aye, baby. Somethin' to fill our bellies, I wager."

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