Chapter I:
High upon a hill on a monstrously rough and jagged terrain rests a large wooden building, made of the blackest forest wood and large enough to contain fifty men. This building is the ill reputed tavern ‘The armless bandit’, well known for fostering gangs and being a building you do not visit unless you know the one who are waiting for you inside. On this particular night it is quite lit-up due to the huge crescent moon which is radiating its light like a gigantic magical, white lamppost in the sky. This moon light makes the taverns outside look uncharacteristically beautiful, paired with the powerful gusts of wind from this high up hill blowing and moving everything in its surroundings, it makes a serene and enticing sight. Enticing more so because of the obvious brutality and danger of the terrain, twined with the beauty of the single, standing building bathed in the lunar light.

Inside this tavern it is unusually quiet and empty, not even the bartender is at the bar. There are a few randomly placed candles which lights up small spheres of the interior. The wind can be heard inside but not felt. The wood is well build and completely detaches all inside from the outside weather and world. On one of those tables furthest from the door, a steel pitcher can be seen on a table, just behind this steel pitcher is a silhouette of a man. In this dark corner he is barely visible, except for the head of his black and unmarked robe. His face is silhouetted due to the hood of the robe. He is sat patiently waiting while looking at the pitcher in front of him, although you wouldn’t be able to tell that by looking at him as his eyes cannot be seen in the darkness of his hood. The noise of the outside world suddenly gets much louder to him as someone opens the front door of the tavern and because of the powerful wind accidentally slams it as this intruder of the peace tries to close it to seek solace inside from the weather. The slamming of the door causes every candle to almost blow out for a split second as their light is tilted by the sudden wind, giving him a moment of pure darkness, and then the flames rebuild and the room is once again partially visible rather than completely shrouded in blackness. The man who has just entered takes a quick investigation around the tavern with his eyes only, not moving his body, while the robed man watches him from his dark corner. The man at the door makes a small sigh of acknowledgement and begins to walk towards the dark corner with the confidence of a man who not only knows where he is going but also of a man who’s eyes have adjusted to the dark. He approaches the opposite side of the table which the robed man is sat at, he looks into the dark corner clearly able to see the man sat within, the robed man makes a hand gesture to signal that the man may sit.

The man speaks with a hoarse and out of breath voice, “I apologise for being late, my friend.” The man pulls a chair out and tugs his hood down to reveal a bearded face of a mature, gentle looking man. He sits himself on the chair he has pulled out and places his hands together waiting for the robed man’s reply. The robed man continues to look at the steel pitcher and doesn’t show a single sign of hearing him or even being aware that he is being addressed, until a strong and well articulated voice comes from the darkened space, “You’re here now, that is all that matters.” The bearded man instinctively and without thought wrings his wrist with one of his hands as if he is uncomfortable and shows a small hint of fear. “Yes, I guess so…”, he politely waits for a reply to avoid angering the man who has been sat waiting for him. The robed man sighs and replies with complete calm, “Well? What are your thoughts?” The bearded man regains his confidence because of this calm attitude that has been put forward, he leans his hands on the table and replies, “What will become of her?”, the robed man leans himself forward to join the other man in his forward posture, but is still perfectly silhouetted, “I will take her.”, “You will take her but what will become of her?”, the robed man clears his throat and replies as quick as a snap “I said, I will take her/”, before he can utter another word, the bearded man smacks his fist off the table and interrupts him with a raised voice while bearing his teeth with bit back anger, “Answer the question!” Becoming aware of his outbreak of anger, he sits himself back into a relaxed position without taking his eyes off the robed man but making himself physically less hostile. 

He sighs and speaks from his silhouette, “In six years I will take her as my own, she will be educated and looked after as a wife.” The bearded man leans back, “Okay”, he shows signs of being uncomfortable, intimidated almost. He rubs his beard and slants his jaw to the side in distaste. “I don’t really have much choice do I?” “All men have choice, Free-will is man’s gift and power.” “You know what I meant…I’m reluctant but this sounds like the best plan for her future.” The bearded man feels a quick change in the atmosphere, as if his talking partner is smiling and he is overwhelming aware of this. “I agree, good sir.” The robed man reaches his hand out of the silhouette towards the bearded man, revealing a tanned, aged hand adorned with an onyx gold ring on his little finger. He holds his hand out in an open position so it can be shaken in order to agree and make the deal, he keeps his hand out, waiting. The bearded man seems reluctant but then takes the hand into his own and shakes it with confidence and a firm grip, more to show his own physical power than out of respect, which the robed man returns with surprising ease, making him uncomfortable. Neither of them speak, they both release each others firm grip, the bearded man stands himself up and pushes his chair under the table while the robed man returns his hand back to his dark corner where it can live in the shadows. The bearded man watches him and places his hood back upon his head, leaving just the end of his beard visible out of the shadows and darkness. He nods his head at the sat man, gracefully turns and heads towards the front door, opens it with ease due to the wind calming, gently steps out and closes it behind him, leaving the robed man in complete silence, other than the occasional creaking of the wood. 

He reaches his tanned, ringed fingered hand towards the steel pitcher to grab it, he takes it, brings it close so both of his hands can hold it, he then gently and slowly raises it to his lips and takes a sip of the liquid inside it for the first time this night. He had poured it himself, finding the barkeeper missing when he entered the tavern. He places the pitcher down on the table, stands, rummages his hands in one of his pockets, he pulls out a gold, shiny coin, he places it on his thumb in a flicking position and smiles to himself and then flicks it into the liquid. He makes a self satisfied grunt, blows out the candle on the table, and proceeds to approach each table candle and bringing the taverns interior into complete darkness. After he has done, nothing can be seen, and the only thing that can be heard is footsteps on wood, and then the opening and closing of a door. A slam followed by the odd creak of wood and harrowing wind.

Chapter II:
From the darkness of sleep comes a faint and irritating noise, disturbing the sleeper, the words becoming clearer and clearer. “Lucia? Lucia?”, this makes little sense to the hearer, what is being said is not understandable to the ears, and then it starts to make more sense, her name, her name is being called. “Lucia. Lucia!”. Her eyes open, the darkness is taken in a flash of light and the blurred vision of a bald, bearded man appears, slowly more defined, she realises it is her father, she smiles at his confused face and speaks with the croaky voice that one has upon awakening, “Good morning.” He raises one eyebrow and replies “Good? This morning? It most certainly is, it would be even better if you was actually up!”, Lucia sits herself up and rubs her eye with one of her hands, “I overslept?” “As always”, her father walks into the doorway of her room, stops, turns and says with a smile “Come downstairs, breakfast is ready.” “I’ll be right there.” Her father leaves the room and she can hear him walk down the wooden stairs. She stands up and stretches, leans over her bed to straighten the sheets. 

As the sound of her father putting things in bowls and banging pans echo from the kitchen, she takes her night clothes off and opens her wardrobe and replaces them with clean clothes. She clears her throat to get rid of her morning voice and then very casually makes her way down stairs, her feet and body being so light she barely makes the wood of the stairs creek. She enters the kitchen to see her father, he has his back to her, pouring something grey into a bowl, “Your food is on the table.” She looks and sees a small bowl on the table full of grey porridge. She walks towards the table while wondering how her father had heard her coming down the stairs and enter the kitchen. She takes her seat, “And how am I meant to eat my breakfast? With my face? Or hands?” Her father puts the pan down and carries his bowel to the table, “What?” “I have no spoon!” “OH!”, he picks up two spoons from the counter and passes her one with a smile and sits himself down. “Enjoy, my dear”, they both smile at each other and fill their faces with food, clearly hungry. Her father stops eating and speaks while licking his teeth, causing him to sound rather stupid, “Are you excited for today?” She looks up at him with her innocent huge eyes “Oh yes! I couldn’t sleep I was so excited….That’s probably why I overslept.” “Indeed” He laughs to himself and eats the last spoonful of his porridge. 

She also takes her last spoonful and holds it up to her face, slants her face as she looks at it, she then licks the last of the porridge off and eats it. “I am excited to see him, it has been a while.” “It has been many months yes.” He takes his bowl and stands up from the table, takes her bowl too while she keeps the spoon in her mouth, he takes the bowls while his spoons spins in the bowl making an annoying grinding noise he walks towards the counter, and begins to do something with his back towards Lucia. “Well, I’m going to go out and get some wood and then come back to drop it off, then I will go to the local town to buy some food for dinner”, she takes the spoon out of her mouth and stands, walks over to her father and passes him the spoon “Okay, I’ll put some nicer clothes on and read until he gets here, call me when you get back so I can see you off.” “Okay, my dear” She pats her father’s shoulder in a childish way and makes her way upstairs to get better dressed.

In a dense forest, which is plotted with twirling and twisting great trees all around, a small path through the trees which is open and easy to traverse lies. A small wooden carriage is being pulled by two jet back horses of the muscliest stock. A man is sat on the carriage steering these great beasts of travel while casually looking around himself at the passing trees and then looking ahead to the endless winding path that comes in and out of view as he is pulled further and deeper into the forest. Inside this wooden carriage is a man leaning back on his seat, looking very relaxed, looking almost exactly like the calm body of a happily sleeping child, except his eyes are open, darting across a page of an incredibly old looking book in his hands. The book is orange with age, the pages when he turns them or holds them too tight make a crumpling, almost scratching noise. The man seems rather happy to be sat still and reading, wearing rather formal clothes, very well dressed and neat, his hair is shoulder length but pulled back into a ponytail which is held in place by a red silk ribbon. His hair looks slightly slicked with water or wax but not dirty, it shines when an occasional light ray pierces the carriages curtain due to the wind lifting it up or pushing it aside for an instant. 

His hair is greyed and obviously used to be extremely bright blond, but has lost its colour with age. His face is handsome and manly but not overly squared or angled which prevents him looking aggressive and primitive. He looks in his early thirties, except for when he is reading and something delights him or confuses him, causing him to smile or frown, his aged smile and frown lines which show his real age of being in his early fifties. He begins to become a little impatient and finds the reading increasingly tedious. So he sits himself upright, in a less relaxed position, places a finger in the book to keep his page and pulls he carriage curtain across with his free hand as he leans forward to peek outside. His pupils enlarge from the sudden change of light. A curious look begins to creep onto his face as he looks at the passing trees, staring at their beauty. One in particular in the distance catches his eye, because of the distance he has plenty of time to stare at it. This tree is slowly being absorbed by a parasitic vine, creeping up its trunk, making the ree look as if it has snake sized veins all over. He continues to look around the forest with his eyes darting back and forth looking for more beauty to capture, if only for a second. 

His face and shoulders relax as he breathes out a sigh, the type of sigh a returning lover makes when he first sets his eyes on the love of his life being away for some tragic reason. He looks back into the carriage, places the book on the side, which many small boxes with bows tied onto them are sat on. He leans his head out of the carriage again, reaching his hand on the top of the outside of the carriage in order to stand, keep his balance and prevent him from falling out. He reaches his other hand to the top of the inside of the cabin and knocks his knuckles against it to get the drivers attention. The driver leans his body to the side to face his attention seeker “Yes, sir?”, somewhat shocked by the sudden drivers face in his own face “Erm…Yes, how much longer would you say it will take?” “Not long, sir, not long at all.” The driver gives a somewhat self conceited smile. “Very good, carry on my good man.” “Yes, sir.” The driver leans back to his original position and continues to look ahead at where the path leads. He releases his hand from the outside of the carriage and flings his body back into his seat. He sits patting his feet on the floor of the carriage and then reaches forward, grabs the old orange book which makes a rustling noise like an Autumn leaf crushed in a child’s hand. He leans back and begins to read again, waiting for the driver to stop so he knows he is finally there. 

Lucia is sat upon an open window sill, big enough to seat a fully grown man or three. Auburn wood is the base, she is sat horizontally across it, so that her face and feet are out of the sun light that shines and blazes through the window glass, making her chest and legs clothing seem brighter than it actually is. She is wearing a full red, crimson almost dress. The top looks almost like a suit, the collar splits and opens on both sides to reveal the frilly white material that pokes out against her extremely pale skin. The crimson in contrast against her skin makes her look angelically pale. She is sat in silence, reading, unmoving. Looking asleep with her eyes open. She occasionally raises one of her feminine hands off the book and to her bottom lip, as she thinks and considers whatever it is that she is reading. If she was a man with a moustache she would no doubt be twirling it in contemplation and the same goes for if her chin was endowed with a hefty beard. A distant but familiar click of a door and the drop of a bag is heard from downstairs, “That’ll be dad.” She thought to herself and gently closed her book, lay it on her stomach and stretched her arms up to correct the position of her spine which avid readers acquire as punishment for their knowledge gained from countless hours sat in the same position. 

She stood herself up and walked over to her desk with book in hand, and gently placed it down in its usual spot. The spot which her currently reading list of books are always kept, in a neat pile that although she burns through with her constant reading, never seems to lower or lesson. She all of a sudden dives onto the floor like some sun basking reptile to look under her bed and reaches for something, dragging it out from under. Two very small but beautiful boots, made of the blackest leather, they are well made but still somehow soft and feminine looking. She slides them both onto her feet and fastens the ties around the buckle like a belt neatly placed upon the boots. She stands up, places her feet together and then separates them as she begins to walk out and down the stairs to greet her father. As she places her foot on the first top step of the stairs, her father, who can be seen next to the front door is in the process of turning towards her, with his lips pursed as if about to speak, a small enlargement of the eyes signals to her that he had no idea she was there until he turned. “Oh, I was about to call you as I am done and about to leave.” She playfully walked down the stairs one overly expressed stepped step forward at a time until she finally got to the bottom and spoke. “Okay, perfect timing, I have the urge to go for a walk so I’ll see you off.” She walked over to him and gives him a tender hug and then she gives a little sniff sniff at the air just in front of him “You smell like freshly cut wood, I love that smell so much.” “As do I, fortunately a man can’t have a job with a smell he hates. That would kill me!” They both gave each other a small smirk laugh but are interrupted by a sound, the sound of approaching feet, many feet stamping at the road, stamping it down with their weight. The sound not recognised makes no sense to either of them, but the clopping of feet begins to become more defined, as less a noise and more a particular sound. “Ah that must be our guest…If that’s even the correct word.” “Dad…Do you want to say hello?” “No, I’ll just head out of the back and get going and leave you two to it. You haven’t spoken or seen each other for a while so it’s only fair, give him my regards.” “Will do.” “Well, I’ll see you later my dear.” He smiles and strokes her face with the side of his finger and then turns his back beginning to approach the back door to leave. His heavy, dirt crusted lumberjack like boots almost stomping without his intending on it. The horrible but familiar scream of the back door that is years overdue an oiling is heard just before the soft close of that door. 

As Lucia opened the front door with the familiar creak that always had sounded from it since she could remember, two jet black horse were pulling into view. They carried on slightly passing her and stopped as the driver tugged on the reins. A wooden carriage was being pulled behind it and stopped a few seconds after the horses did. She closed the door behind her and waited with a playful anticipated grin holding her hands behind her back and twiddling her thumbs while she waited. Front the carriage there was a small bang on the inside of the roof and a voice boomed from inside “I thought you would tell me you we here when you were going to stop! You fool! You made me drop my book with the sudden stop!” Lucia tittered to herself, forcing her hands to stay behind her back rather than to put them to her lips, as she imagined his annoyed face. The driver looked at her and pulled a face as if to say “Not my job.” She glanced at him and almost burst into laughter. The curtains were suddenly pulled to the side, she could see all of his body except for his head as he stood. He crouched down with a grin, which wrinkled most of his face, showing his true age. He just stared at her and she smiled back and approached him, she presented her soft, pale hand to him to hold. He took it in his firm grip and lowered himself out of the carriage, none of his weight was put onto her hand, he merely took it for the pleasure of the touch, and she only offered it for the exact same reason. 

He didn’t let go, but placed it upon his lips and smiled while he looked up from his lowered head, kissing at her knuckles. “Fancy seeing you here, Janus.” said Lucia unable to keep her words back. “Oh I thought I should drop in as I was passing.” said Janus with a ridiculously childish smirk upon his lips. “Oh shut up, we both know why you’re here, for me.” “Indeed, my lady.” They embraced each other for a long while, just enjoying each others soft embrace in each others arms. He pushed back from her chest and held her at arms length to speak “Is your father in?” “Oh, no he left to the next town.” “Ah, okay.” They stood looking at each other, both waiting for one to speak. “Shall we go for a walk?” said Janus “I would love that.” “Then let us go.” “Am I preventing you?” Said Lucia, playing with him. “If you stay that attractive then yes.” He said, just to see if his power to make her blush was still as strong as ever, it was. Her face burnt but she didn’t look away but repaid him with a smile. He slide on his heels so they were both facing away from the front door, he wrapped his arm around hers, like a snake that end by embrace every finger in between his own. As they began walking Janus made a nod at the carriage driver, he jumped from his seat and begun taking items from the carriage and putting them inside the house. “The woods, I would like to walk through the woods, like we did last time.” “I would like that too.” she replied as she gently squeezed at his hand and smiled up at him. 

They began walking towards the entrance of the local woods in silence. When you have complete confidence in someone you’re around, you do not need to speak, and sometimes do not even want to, as their mere presence is enough to make you happy. They walked under huge arching trees, they arched at such an angle that it looked like the trees from the right had grown all the way up and around just to bury their tip into the ground again on the left side. Of course this wasn’t true but it was hard to make out where one tree end and another also ended, they all seemed to mesh into each other and were impossible to tear apart just by looking. They walked, umbrella-ed by the trees and began talking to each other, slowly their pace and casually looking at each other occasionally as they walked. “So, only a few months.” said Janus “Yes, I am excited and…well nervous.” “Why nervous?” she put her free hand to her face to rub it while she became exactly what she was talking about; nervous. “Nervous for the future, not in a bad way.” “I understand, it will be a sudden change.” “The day I become a woman I also become yours, it makes me nervous, I do want it but I am sure you understand my feeling.” “Oh of course.” said Janus with a soft smile and a small stroke to her soft, pale chin with his free hand. “Tell me Janus, what exactly is the plan that day?” “That is exactly why I am here my dear.” “Then tell me.” he beamed a smile at her while he spoke softly with a hint of excitement “Well! The day you become sixteen, I will arrive here like today, but you will be returning with me. Of course every need and want of yours will be supplied for. And anything for father needs will of course be given to him, as he would be my father too. The day after you arrive at your new home: Mine. You will become mind, truly mine, by marriage.” 

She remained silent as she thought to herself, he didn’t speak or interrupt her thoughts, knowing what she was doing. “I see.” she finally said. “What of it?” “I am happy with that plan.” she said softly so only he could hear her and leaned her side on him as they walked. “Good, then that is how it will happen. Oh and your father will be picked up on that day to brought to our house in order for the marriage to go ahead, of course he cannot be left out!” “Indeed!” she said while stroking her fingers tips on his fingers as they walked. “Then you will finally be mine, all mine” she softly said yes and carried on walking with him. They looked around casually, cherishing each others company and generally being curious to all that they passed and was in their sight. They came to a small river running past the trees, they stopped and admired it, stood, staring. Lucia pointed out a recently fell log and they both decided to sit upon it, he held her close, sitting back like he was about to sleep except with his head up while she rested her head on his chest and watched the waters. They sat in silence stroking each others skin and admiring the sights and sounds of nature. 

He was silent with his eyes closed, she could only just hear him breath, she thought that he was asleep. He looked childishly calm and relaxed when he had his eyes closed, with the sun gently breaking through the leaves and laying upon his face, as if to trail a path towards his lips for her. She admired him, his age and still so handsome. If anything his age in fact made him more handsome. It gave him the look of power but mixed with a tenderness that is rare in mature men. The balance was the attraction. She leaned her face close to him, looking at him while the sound of nesting birds and other woodland creatures sing their songs and make their various noises. She gently sniffed the air and could smell a faint smell of vanilla, he always smelt faintly of vanilla for some reason. She moved her face until it was close enough to breathe on his, he opened his eyes to look at her as he has noticed. She kissed his cheek and returned her head while he leaned his head up to yawn. As he yawned his re-wrapped his arms around her and watched the waters flowing by, occasionally a small animal would pass, a frog, a water spider, a few ducklings with the mother at the head, leading the way and turning to look at them to make sure they are still together and all there every now and then. 

He rested his hand on her lap and began to speak with a sleepy voice, slightly deeper due to the rest. “By the way, you look good in red.” “Oh thank you.” she said with a small smile, forgetting that she was even wearing it. “The crimson brings your pale out even more, which is beautiful compared to white, but when compared to red…It is another kind of beauty.” She blushed, her cheeks turning as crimson as her clothes and her black hair and pale skin in contrast made her look ill, but oddly attractive. Her reply was a kiss on his lips, he didn’t speak back or thank her, he knew that she knew he had thanked her by not stopping her and cherishing it. “Are you hungry, my dear?” “A little yes, are you?” “I am, and I brought food with me, would you wish to escort me to my carriage?” he said with a smile, waiting for her to laugh at his pompousness. She let out a small sigh with a smirk “Yes.” “Then let us go.” She nodded with a childish smile. They removed themselves from their seat. Leaving Janus’ clothes a tiny bit damp and moss on Lucia’s bum, he excuse himself as he patted it off her dress with purposeful sideways rather than downwards pats, in order to very clearly and evidently touch her behind. He placed his arm in front of her and curved it in the air, she took it and wrapped her arms around it, with which they both began walking back while telling each other amusing things that had recently happened to both of them. Such as recently when Lucia’s father had leaned over the fire to throw more wood on it and burnt the tip of his beard off. Making his beard dis-levelled, she said it didn’t matter because now it looked like he made the beard shorter at the chin just to be stylish. Janus joked about maybe doing the same thing to be more handsome and attractive to all. Janus spoke of the time one of his maids had made a cake with almonds, which he was allergic to, she didn’t know. He took a single bite and before he even managed to swallow it he threw up all of his previous dinner on the table and floor, all over his own writing and notes. While she stood in shock just watching and unable to move. He eventually stopped and managed to lift his head up from his vomiting position and ask her with watery eyes “Could you help me, ma’am?” they both burst into laughter at how utterly ridiculous the situation was and how such a mature man is never seen doing such things unless of a certain drunken type or incredibly ill. So the image of a handsome, well spoke and well presented mature man throwing up all over a cake was humorous to them both, even more so to himself. He laughed at his ego with a small tear. 

They reached the carriage which the driver was sat on top of again, he was laid back across the roof and smoking some kind of pipe, the amount of smoke that was coming from it seemed more like the smoke from a fire than from burning tobacco, and it smelt like it too. Janus made a small leap into the carriage causing it to tilt, almost sliding the driver off the roof. Lucia was sure that he did it on purpose as she could hear him rummaging around as if he had lost something or was looking for something else and Janus was not a forgetful person. The driver sat himself up and crossed his legs, placing his hands on the sides while he huffed at Janus and puffed at his pipe. Janus jumped back out after a long sliding noise was made inside, he put his hand inside and pulled a basket out and placed it on the dry path. Climbed up the drivers side of the carriage and took the driver’s gloves from out of his pocked as he sat smoking “What have I told you? I pay you enough, buy some actual tobacco not that useful fake!” the driver looked at him as if to say “My money, my waste.” and carried on puffing away. Janus climbed back down and passed the gloves to Lucia “Put that on my dear, so the basket weight doesn’t tear into your hand as we walk.” She put the glove on her left hand and placed the gloved hand on the right basket handle. Janus did the same thing but with the other hand and side. She thought how he looked like an upper class valet with that glove on, or maybe a royal butler or even a regent. He didn’t seem to notice as he pulled it up and she did too a split second after him. It weighed almost noting to her, she wondered why he hadn’t carried it by himself but then she noticed a certain pleasure that he was getting out of seeing her work with him, even if he was carrying pretty much all of the weight and she was just holding the handle, it still pleased him. 

They walked around the woods this time, which lead to a small bench over looking a little cliff, it was technically a cliff but it seemed more like a slightly steep jump to Janus, not much of a cliff to say the least. It was blistered with pointed rocks which goats used to keep their footing as they climbing it, again not exactly climbed, more like walked slightly upwards. They placed the basket down on the floor in front of the middle of the bench, Lucia made a sigh as she placed it down to which Janus frowned at her “What?” “Oh nothing, thank you for helping me carry it.” he smiled with sincerity and a hint of sarcasm. “You’re welcome of course.” They both sat on opposite sides of the bench looking out at the terrain. There was white dots in the distance, bleating and moving, smaller white dots following bigger dots and the occasionally black one. The sun had dimmed slightly as the clouds blocked its light more often than earlier. Janus curved his back to be able to reach the basket lids, he pulled one up and slid his hand in, not looking inside but looking up as if thinking and wondering with his tongue tip outside the corner of his lips. He looked like a curious little boy delving his hand into the depths of a tree hole. “Just open it and look inside.” He looked at her confused “But then there is no fun in finding out what I have in my hands.” “Didn’t you choose the food? You know what is in there.” He was silent and carried on regardless and then finally opened both of the lids properly so he could see what he was doing. “Oh….Some of your food may have my finger marks in now.” he said while passing her a sandwich that had a very clear hole in it from having a finger speared through it. At this she burst out laughing “You fool.” Oddly he seemed vaguely pleased by her accusation and smiled, placing a perfectly un-pierced sandwich into his mouth. And staring at her, daring her to notice, she did but ignored it, knowing she was being set up. He finished his sandwich before Lucia even got into her second tiny bite. He took some meat out and started eating it, she noted how when it came to meat he ate like a dog, all in one go, almost no chewing, like he could not wait to even grind it in his teeth as he desired it to be in his stomach immediately. 

They sat and ate and talked and laughed. This was interrupted by Janus staring over her shoulder rather than listen to her, he shifted himself closer to her as she asked him what he was doing, he merely said “Turn around.”, she did as he pointed something out “You see that?” “No?” “Look! Right there, how strange!” “Where!” “Right there!” he shouted as he placed a cold material across her neck, she jumped at the sting of the sudden freeze of metal on her neck. “I got you this.” he said as he made a noise of fingers messing with metal, followed by a small click. She looked down to see a metal chain of gold resting around her neck and falling down to just above her breasts, each ringlet of metal was decorated with a different colour gem. She blushed the instant she seen it as he wrapped his arms around her waist and gave her neck a gentle kiss. She was struck by a sudden noise which struck him too, they both turned around to see a goat with its head in the basket, licking the left overs. “…Okay.” Said Janus as he moved and gently pushed it away without any real concern. “The oddest things always happen when you’re around.” “Don’t blame me, I’m not a goat!” He pulled on his ribbon which was keeping his hair in a ponytail to make sure it was still secure. “It is getting late, lets head back.” “Agreed.” They both smiled at each other as they both stood and picked the basket up in the same fashion, having not taken the gloves off all of this time. “Thank you by the way” “What for?” he seemed genuinely puzzled “The necklace.” “Oh you’re welcome my dear.” he said with a big grin as he remembered, she leaned herself over to him as they stood still, leaning over the basket and kissing his nose, he kissed her back on the chin and they both, as if by instinct began walking together. 

They walked back in silence as the sky slowly became orange and slightly darker that it was before. Janus placed the basket in the carriage again, which was now facing the other way around as the driver must of turned it around while they had ate. The driver was missing from his usual spot, although the stench of his presence was still corrupting the area, although the smoke had passed on and left. Janus returned to Lucia standing by the front door of the wooden house with her. “Thank you for today.” “But of course my dear, it was my pleasure.” She stroked his hand and placed her other hand on his chest to rest on it while she leaned closer to kiss him, he tenderly made contact with her lips using his and kissed her as he pulled her close. With that they were disturbed by the noise of the driver climbing back up his carriage to his seat, very obviously having just went to the toilet on some poor tree with the way he sat down with such childlike glee, with a face of being released of something, to Janus’ and Lucia’s mine, no doubt urine. Janus looked back to Lucia, looking down, only able to see her forehead as she rubbed her face into his chest. “I best be going my dear” “Yes” she made no sign of moving. “Pass on my regards to your father.” “I will.” Still she made no sign of moving, so he laid his hand on her head and gently stroked at it, then slightly pushing back on it to force a hint of separation. She moved back and smiled at him. “Oh and I left a few gifts for you, they should be in the house, if this man is any good at following orders, which isn’t entirely out of the question.” he said while pointing his thumb over his shoulder at the driver. He didn’t notice. “Then thank you for them too, my dear.” “You’re of course welcome.” he placed his hands on her shoulders, palm down and kissed her forehead, he turned slowly, as if with deliberate and dramatic slowness and walked towards the carriage, put a foot into it and made a small hop upwards and forward. 

The curtain ruffled as he moved behind it, the noise of him taking a seat and shuffling around could be heard. He pulled the curtain to the side and held it there, leaning forward to stick his head out and up. “Excuse me fair chap but I wish to employ you as driver, do you think you could do such a thing and take me home?” The driver looked down at him, feeling superior by his position of high ground and replied “Yes of course maaaaaaaaaaa’am!” extending the ma’am to signal sarcasm. “That’s sir to you, I am no woman.” “Of course my master, you’re jolly right sir.” Lucia got the idea that both were acting rather than being serious, but she could never tell which was etiquette and which was sarcasm. She smiled at their pompousness and watched as Janus put his head back inside while quite clearly rolling his eyes. He gently rapped his fist on the ceiling and with that the driver whipped his reins at the dark horses, instantly they began to move at a pace between walking and running. He stuck his head out of the curtain side and waved. She returned the wave by holding her hand up and looking at his eyes, staring. He leaned back inside and pulled the curtain back to cover. She thought to herself that he was no doubt reading as he always did when he wasn’t in company or so he told her, but of course she could not know such a thing, as when she had the chance to study him, he was of course in her company. 

She stood watching them gallop off into the distance until she could only hear them, rather than see them. She turned and went inside, as she walked in she caught her reflection on a mirror in the hallway, she studied herself, how the crimson clothes brought out her almost luminous paleness, like a petite angel, the gold of the necklace and the flash of the gems adorning her. She felt that she wasn’t looking at herself, all of these things together seemed to somehow make her someone else, she looked older and far more beautiful than she had ever noticed. She admired herself for a few silent minutes and then gave herself a small grin and made her way up the stairs. As she entered her room she spotted a few small packages on her desk. She unwrapped them and found several books and a few of them blank for writing, a few pens and pencils and collection of ribbons. She took one, navy blue and excessively long and went back downstairs to the mirror, she tied her hair back, she liked that the ribbon was far too long and left it like that, although she knew that they were meant to be cut down to size, it suited her, so why should she? She thought to herself. She made her way back upstairs while the ribbon followed her like a attentive long blue snake in the air, replicating all of her movements and flowing side to side as she went. She picked up the first book in the pile from Janus and sat herself at her window sill, she began reading and sighed to herself. Although she was reading and taking in every word, every second thought was already fighting for attention, that second thought was always Janus. 

She was woken up in a slightly darkened room, a sound of a slamming door had shook her from her sleep. She moved slowly, rubbing her hands at her face, not quite sure what was going on. She looked down at the open book on her lap, she had obviously fell into sleep while reading. She sleepily raised herself and placed the book on the side of her desk, yawning with her hands covering her face and moving like a child that had just learned how to walk, wobbly and clumsy. She went to the landing, accidentally banging her hand on the walls as she went, placed her hand on the staircase rail and very softly and slowly sliding her hand down it as she clumsily dropped each boot covered foot on each step. She clambered all the way down and rested her body against the door border of the kitchen, pushing it off to peek in. Her father was stood in the corner, removing his work clothes and placing them on the back of the chair, all the time with his back to her, he removed a small bag from his waist and gently flung it onto the table, making a metallic clang as it came into contact with the wooden table. It was evidently full of coins. He took a satchel and opened it, pulling out a leather water holder, he opened it and pour amount onto his face and taking his already dirty clothes and rubbing the dirt from his hands and face on the clean patches. 

At this she spoke “You’re so messy.” He turned with wide eyes, watery face and dirty beard “And you’re sneaky!” She entered the room, pulling a chair out and sat herself down “I’m also so sleepy.” she said as she yawned, not able to cover her mouth as she was stretching during the yawn. “You’re sleepy? And you have done no work? You don’t have the lumberjack blood that I do!” She looked at her pale hands, soft and tender, clearly not the hands of a hard worker, but a soft lover. “No, no I don’t.” He smiled at her as he pulled clean clothes out of the satchel and started to dress himself. “It doesn’t matter, you needn’t have it when you’re not destined to be one.” She laid her hands on the table and without intention but just out of the desire to sate her idle and curious hands, she pulled the bag of coins closer and pushed and prodded her fingers into it. “I guess my body and personality suit a wedded situation better.” “I hope so, you’re intellectual. You never struck me as physically strong.” “You’re only saying that because I am a young female.” “It has nothing to do with that.” He said as he walked past her and stroked his hand on top of her head with affection. “Did you say you were tired?” “Yes.” He rummaged around the kitchen “Do you want something to wake you up a little?” “Not if it is your black coffee, I hate that stuff. It’s like….Drinking blackness.” He frowned and set about making some anyway. She continued to play her hands at the bag of coins, occasionally making a jangling noise, she laid her chin on the table and listened to her father busying himself. She could hear water steaming and the clashing of cutlery, and then the pouring of liquid into a mug. He cleared his throat as he sat himself down across from Lucia, with a mug of black liquid in hand. She could taste it from where she was sat, the smell was so strong she felt it was upon her lips. 

“Just being in the same room as that has woken me up!” He sniffed the air and made a self satisfied smile before taking a sip. “Ha, you see my plans always work out.” “Except for the beard.” “Oh be quiet, I make one mistake in your entire life and you never forget it.” “It’s nice to know you’re not perfect.” He lowered his mug to the table, leaving his hand on the spout “Oh?” “Well.” she shuffled her bum into the seat to get comfy “All of my life I thought you was perfect, infallible, while although that is comforting as you’re my father, it also makes one unconfident. So to see you make a mistake reminds me that you’re just like me. Which pleases me more than a perfect father ever could.” “That’s a very cryptic compliment, but thank you, my pale little angel.” “That’s okay.” she said while looking at the table. “How was your trip? I see you made some money.” “Oh yeah.” he took the bag of coins in his hand and threw it into the air, catching it with a sideways swipe. “I did indeed! Seems now summer is almost over that the next town cannot get enough wood from me, they are stocking up you see. Which leaves a man who lives surrounded by nothing but trees and a small pale woman quite well off.” “Because of the trees or the angel?” “Both.” he pushed his mug forward, sliding it towards her “Have one sip, it is enough to keep you awake for a while.” “Okay.” she did exactly that, sipping it very slowly and swallowing it instantly to avoid tasting it, as she did she pulled a pained face and put the mug back on the tables surface. “Oh it’s not that bad!” he took it in his hand and returned it back to him. “It’s bloody horrible!” she tucked her arms into her sleeves and wiped the material on her tongue, to remove the taste, he watched her rolling his eyes. “There must be something about the maturing of tongues that like the bitterness.” she looked at him with narrowed eyes “Or maybe you’re just too old to taste the horribleness anymore?” he laughed to himself, sipping more for himself. 

“I have a question.” “Then ask, fathers are here for advice.” she played with her sleeves. “Since I can remember I have been promised to Janus, how did that happen?” he finished the last sip of his drink and laid the mug carefully down, clearly thinking. “It seemed like a good choice. Obviously he was younger than and was a already quite a successful landowner, and I was rather poor and alone after your mother died during childbirth. He made the offer to pay for all of your raising in return to marry you at sixteen, a father can’t really argue with a fine, well established man willing to do so much for his child and securing her future.” “I see.” she pushed his chair back, allowing it to rub across the floor, making a noise similar to nails being scratched down a chalk board. She flinched at the sound and watched him washing up after himself. When done he placed his hand on her shoulder “I’m just going to rest for a while.” she put her hand on her father’s which was resting on her shoulder “I will start making some food for us.” “Okay, thank you.” He leaned down and kissed the crown of her hair and left the room taking his satchel with him. He could be heard walking through the house, which stopped with the sound of a bed or chair creaking, sitting or laying him self on it. She rubbed her forehead in thought and stood herself up, approaching the counter she started looking for things to cook as she was ravenous herself, so she could not imagine how hungry her father must of been. She wondered if Janus had returned home yet. 

Lucia served up a simple stew and freshly cooked bread, instead of making a meal she piled everything into the same pot and cooked it together, making a stew of anything and everything that she could find and was still edible. She placed both bowls on the table and left the room to wake her father, she found him sleep on a chair in the hallway, she thought to herself that he must of been so tired that he couldn’t make it to his bed or the chairs in the living room. She gently pushed his shoulder to which he instantly folded his arms and flicked open his eyes, looking up at her. “Food is ready.” she took her hand off his shoulder and went back to the table, taking a seat at the bowl of stew, the other bowl directly across. He entered the room rubbing his chin and sat himself down as if he had no control of his own body weight, the way that unaware people sit, like children unaware of how to control their own body so they fling and drop their body weight around by accident. They both began to tuck in, being ravenously hungry, they ate and dipped the bread in, quickly being left with nothing but stew, they scooped and swallowed it down without even chewing, they were too hungry to bother themselves with such things. Lucia finished first, dropped her spoon into the now empty bowl with a clang, which he quickly followed by doing the exact same action, as if to symbolise being finished. They both sat happy and full, Lucia leaned her elbows on the table while her father placed his hand under his clothes to rub at his full belly. He looked glanced over her shoulder, seeing through the window that it was now dark. “Later than I thought.” “The food.” “No the…time.” she caught the direction of his sight and followed it, turning only her head and waist to look behind her and turning back with a frown. “Yes, it seems it is.” they sat happily in silence glancing around the room casually, she stood herself up on her chair and hoped off to the side, turned and took the bowls in her hands, as she walked the spoons span slowly around the bowls, making an annoying noise, but having both hands full, she did nothing but hurry her walk to the kitchen counter, which made the spoons spin faster and louder. She placed them down and narrowed her eyes while looking at them, as if to curse the spoons for being so annoying. Her father showed no sighs of noticing, leaning his chin down and looking as if he was going to fall asleep again. She placed her hand on his head and spoke softly “I am going to rest, you should do the same…And not on this chair.” He smiled with his eyes closed and very quietly spoke “I will…In a minute.” “Goodnight.” she said as she made her way out of the room and up the stairs. She entered her room and slowly undressed herself as she walked, placing her footwear under her bed with a slide from the side of her foot. She placed all of her clothes on the back of her chair at her desk and tip-toed across the room to the door, closing it and tip toeing back, she didn’t dare place her entire foot on the floor for how cold it was, instead she almost skipped on her toes to her bed, diving into it, she landed on her sheets and had to awkwardly move her body onto the pillows in order to put the sheets up and over her, going in head first, spinning her body and poking her head back out, resting on the pillows. She was a tiny bit out of breathe, as she lay there listening to her breathing become slower and gentler, she heard the footsteps of her father coming up the stairs, stepping across the landing and making a big thumping noise as he very clearly just threw himself on his bed, probably fully dressed thought Lucia. She was left with nothing but her now slow breathing to listen to, she wasn’t thinking, her mind was blank, and her body tired, she listened and fell into a deep, resting sleep as she listened.

Chapter III:
Two months passed, each day filled with reading, random little adventures and the occasional letter from Janus, speaking of his anticipation for her birthday and their re-unitement. Sweet written words of adoration and hope for the future, even reading his mere ink on the pages, she could not help but blush at the attention and affection he showed her. A day didn’t pass without her imagining that fateful day and her future. She went about her usual daily routine of reading, making food, going off for walks and writing small letters, her days were always dogged by the thoughts of Janus and she often lost track of what she was doing as she thought about him. Her father was always out working or trading, or just generally making money in some way. As her birthday got closer the moments of being lost in thought became more common. The days crept forward with anxiety and anticipation. Although the days seem to creep forward slowly, it was somehow like a snake in the way that it creep but all of sudden was here.

She was woken up by the distant sounds of cooking, the sizzling of meat, the impact of metal against metal, and the sound of bubbling, boiling waters. It gently woke her up as it sounded so distant. She had slept well and felt good, giving a small stretch under her sheets and a big, open mouthed yawn. She slid from under her sheets, which didn’t change the bed in the slightest, as when in the bed, she was not noticeable there except for her head, being so slim and petite. When she was much younger she used to place her head under her pillows and hide, her father could never find her, she still could, if she attempted, do exactly that now. She dressed herself in baggy clothes, not willing to get properly dressed yet. She yawned again but felt fully awake, the sun was poking its aura over the distance mountains and was beginning to light up the surroundings. She left her desk covered in papers, some written on, more not. Now was not the time to clean up but to seek out the noise, she could feel the light burn of her stomach, already waiting and yearning food from after the sleep.

She slowly and almost silently walked out of her room, placing her whole feet onto the floor to wake her up with the coldness of the floor, her almost weightless body making almost no noise as she stepped. Gently taking the stair’s wooden banister in her hand and slowly sliding her hand down across the surface of it as she stepped, making no noise except for the occasional creak of the steps which were damaged from over use and her father’s repeated weight only being applied to certain steps as he walked up them in threes unlike most people that she had observed using stair cases. He was a patient man, but for some reason not so when it came to stairs and steps. She reached the bottom and entered the kitchen with a yawn, but stopped as she swallowed the smell of the food as she yawned, making her mouth instantly water with delight. “Good morning!” her father turned while poking the cooking meat with a wooden utensil, “Good morning my birthday girl. Hold on.” She sat down and waited. He scrapped the meat onto a plate which was filled with boiled vegetables and came over to her, leaving it on the side. “Happy birthday!” he leaned down rubbing her hair and kissing her forehead “I made you breakfast.” “I was hoping it wasn’t just for you, the smell has made me so hungry!” He replied with a cheesy grin and a laugh, he took two plates and laid them down, hoping into his seat. “Deer meat! Tuck in!” she didn’t wait for him nor reply, she instead instantly began eating the vegetables while she cut at the meat, it was cooked but bloody, her lips were so wet with saliva she couldn’t stop licking them as she ate. He seemed to be acting the exact same way, something about the smell of the meat made them both so ravenous. They took their time to put a vegetable on each slice of meat they ate, trying all of the combinations and each being as delicious as the last but in a different manner and way.

They sat full and happy looking at each other, suddenly her father raised himself from his seat and left the room holding up his finger as if to say Wait here or I have something to tell or show you. He came in with the sound of rustling papers, he held in his hands a pile of wrapped in paper objects, he leaned down and gently placed them all onto the floor as he sat himself on the floor too, sitting crossed legged and looking up at her. She removed herself from her seat and joined him. “Happy birthday, just a few gifts for you!” “Oh, oh, oh, oh, thank you!” She returned a cheesy smile to her father in thanks and began pulling and tearing and opening and ripping all of the papers to reveal what was her true gifts. As she did her necklace swayed from side to side, gently caressing at her neck. Which her father watched, admiring it. Knowing that he did not give it her so it was obviously from Janus, which he concluded the day after his visit, as he didn’t notice it as he was too tired during that day. She unwrapped books, countless books, she always felt that no matter the book, it was a great gift. It was like giving the gift of a small slice of someone else’s mind to adventure into. There was small rolls of ribbons and materials for her to use on her clothes or through her hair. Although she always wore the same blue ribbon that was too long, no matter how dirty or ragged it became, it would be hand washed and returned to her hair. If she did wear other ribbons, it was with the blue one, rather than replacing it. She placed them all in between her legs as she sat crossed legged too, separated from the ripped papers at her side. Her father watched and then spoke as she was pushing all of the ripped paper aside from the gifts, “I know you can never have enough books so I randomly selected as many as I could find.” she smiled at him, beaming “You know me well, thank you.” She sat herself up and crawled over to him and hugged him tightly, taking in his comforting smell. He stroked her head and looked down at her “I have left a small bag of money in the hallway, that is for you to spend on what you wish, on the condition that you spend all day in town and letting me make your cake un-bothered by you.” “Paha, of course!”

She stood up and picked all of her gifts up, taking them to her desk upstairs which looked more like a bookcase than a desk now, with random balls of ribbons everywhere. She came back down to pick up the wrapping papers she had torn, but her father had already picked them up and was feeding them to the fire in the fireplace. She went into the hallway and could see a small bag which had a lace wrapped around the top of it, it was inside a fruit bowl which contained no fruit, she took it in hand and slid it into her pocket, making her clothes pull down slightly on the one side that the gold was in, weighty. She went to the kitchen beating her father to the plates to move them to the counter. He entered the room and sighed at her, cleaning up on her own birthday. He crossed his arms and watched her, she turned and noticed his watching of her and approached him, hugging him yet again. “I’ll head off now then?” “Yes please my dear.” He has the flash of the eyes as if he was lying, holding back something, a surprise. She didn’t bother to point it out but instead got excited about returning although she hadn’t even left yet. She went back upstairs and dressed herself in clothes more suitable for a day of walking and potentially bad or good weather, not under or over dressing just in case. She left the house with a loud, high pitched and cheery “Goodbye!” which she extended for him to hear. She dug her boots into the ground and held her hands on her hips, ready for a long adventurous day, her blue ribbon waving in the wind.

She began walking down the road, on the side of it just in case any horses and carriages were to come galloping past. She walked on the short grass, feeling it touch and gently scratch at her lower legs, which tickled. The sun was behind the clouds and barely shining through, dulling the day, the walk to the local town was just over an hour walk away. She was happy and smiling, skipping as she went, her feet barely touching the ground as she skipped almost weightlessly. She was indeed passed by a horse pulling a carriage, at such a speed that she instantly reflected on her choice to stay off the road not just as sensible, but life saving. The horses passed with speed and power, ripping the road apart as they passed, flinging dry dirt and dust into the air. She shivered and was repulsed at the thought of such raw muscle power clashing with another body, especially a body such as her own, so small and slim, it surely would of been destroyed in an instant.

She walked for a while, still happy and lively, but the sun stayed behind the clouds, unable to light up the day, leaving it duller than ever, she instinctively stopped, not knowing why she did but did anyway. She looked up, nothing had changed, she was just about to shake her head and carry on, dismissing her sudden stop with a forward step when a sudden clang was sounded, like wood being smashed against metal. She ducked and crouched like a terrified child, she thought someone had shot at her, a cannon maybe? Impossible. With that thought something hit her face as she looked up, again, and again, it was rain drops, in that instant it was pouring with rain and the flashed began. The impact of thunder, the booming of lightening. She hopped into the trees, placing herself under one, she had heard from her father that the worst place to go during a thunderstorm was under a tree, but there was a hundreds of them she thought, what are the chances of my one being struck. She walked further into the forest in order to surround herself by more trees, calculating that the mores trees she was surrounded by, the safer. Rather than standing under the last tree before the road, which seemed dangerous and stupid to her. She found a relatively average tree, thinking that if her father was correct, than the biggest tree or the smallest would be struck first. She stood with her back to the bark and watched the rain fall, looking up to see the flashes, she counted the seconds and listened to the impacts, none were close to her. She was smiling, excited and under cover from the rain, she could admire the beauty without being subjected to it. She thought to herself how she was happy it wasn’t bright and sunny as she rarely was anywhere but her bed during storms, at least now, she could really experience and admire it. She carried on watching and counting for what felt like several minutes, but was actually a half an hour.

The rain dribbled out of the skies as if tired, tiny specks of water, barely enough to keep the skin wet for a second before the curvature of the face rushed it off the chin and off of the body again. The sky was grumbling like a hungry stomach or one that had just ate after a long time of being starved, no thunder could be heard but the grumbles, no lightening could be seen. The clouds were slowly breaking and passing as the sun pierced through them, casting them away to the west. She hopped out of her cover, feeling the tiny specks of water hit her, and slowly lessen to nothingness, as only wind hit her face again. She slowly and carefully walked her way back to the road and began walking again, she did not walk in the grass as it was wet and slippy, as she found out when she hoped onto it to get to the road and almost threw herself over her own body. She continued her path interrupted, looking out for a sign to make sure she was still going the same way, the storm disorientating her from knowing which way was which when the road was so similar all the way down. She came to a sign post that signalled that the town was only a short stroll away, although looking out didn’t show that, as the road curved into a woods which you could not see around. She continued, happily splashing her boot into very small puddles left inside the foot prints of passed horses and a long continue line of water from the carriage wheels, forming a very thin and long looking river of rain and wet mud. She occasionally placed her foot across it to stop the waters and watch it trickle over and around her boot, she thought that because of this she must be on ever so slightly slanted lands, meaning the water was running down the road rather than across, although by looking at the land, she could see no real evidence of being on higher ground and walking to lower grounds merely by looking at the plains.

Coming around the corner she heard a thundering gallop, loud with weight and power, she hoped into the wet grass, slipping over and landing on her bottom, she stayed sat in the grass on her behind while the same horse and carriage that passed her earlier shot passed again, they must be delivery carriages as whoever inside would be beaten to a pulp by the mere speed and impacts that the galloping was causing. She watched it pass, admiring the speed at which it turned around the corner and disappeared from view. Standing herself up and patting her bum to remove any grass or mud, she felt her clothes were ever so slight damp. But it didn’t worry her, as the sun was now fully beaming down, sucking up every drop of water and quickly beginning to reach such a heat that her face felt like it was ever so slightly burning in its presence. No need to worry she thought, my clothes will be dry as a bone with this heat in no time at all! The wet mud and dirt began to crisp onto her boots as she walked in the sunshine, she approached a recently cut down tree, which was now just a stump left in the ground, and knocked her boots against it which a light kick, which forced of the dry mud and dirt to fall off with each impact. She smiled at her boots, happy with their new found cleanliness and passed the corner, which lead to a small hill down where she could see a collection of buildings with road running through the middle of it. She was almost there. With that realisation and the awareness of the weight inside her pocket, she began to anticipate looking around, treating herself, but food would be a good idea first, to treat herself with a fine thing to eat was all that was on her mind as she approached the town, each step bringing her closer to a full stomach and a lighter money bag.

After only a short while she was close enough to actually make the buildings out, there was a row of ten or so buildings that looked like warehouses with shop fronts, roughly five on each side of the road. Past them was a very long line of much smaller buildings, which were evidently houses as the people outside sitting reading sat on their own lawns and fences and also the people tending to the small gardens was testament to. That line ended with a sudden barren looking patch of dirt that went on for what looked like a mile or so, where the road turned into a huge semi-circle which turned back on itself and returned to the towns only road, leading all the way back. It was a Cul-de-sac. Past the Cul-de-sac was nothing but dark, tall and wide trees which were impossible to see into, never mind past. As she entered the town, she was looking up at the houses and the people tending to them and relaxing near them, she suddenly felt her foot clip into the floor and almost threw herself forward. She stopped and looked down, there was a black material where the dirt road ended and the town road began, it was hard and smooth. As she stepped onto it, which was an inch or so higher than the dirt road, she felt the smoothness of walking over it, it was oddly pleasing, causing no impacts to her feet or hips as she walked across it, unlike the dirt road with its constantly foot-holes and not at a consistent level to walk across.

She walked past the warehouse like buildings observing them, there was a bookstore, she peered in to see a staircase that went both up and down, which excited her but she was too hungry to adventure in yet, as she knew she would be a long time once in there. On the other side she could see a woman outside folding clothes up onto a wheeled object, it was four wheeled and had a small walling of wood around each side, creating a square shaped container made out of the walls. The woman filled it with neatly piled and folded clothes, grabbed a handle on the end of the object and pulled it inside. Lucia watched, quite struck by it, it was like a wheelbarrow but far better suited for the purpose of the moving of indoor objects, rather than outside. As she stood watching another storefront caught her eye, it was different to all the rest as it was the only one to feature windows in the shopfront rather than just an open door. The windows were taller and wider than any she had every seen. The window was essentially the entire wall of the front of the warehouse. Through it she could see people sat and talking, seated across from each other to enable them to face each other. They all had some form of food in front of them. Some had bowls with liquid food, others had plates of meat or cooked vegetables or merely a small piece of paper with some kind of breaded food on top of it. As she looked she spotted a very small child with a white moustache, he was eating some kind of cake, instead of bringing the cake to his face by using his arms, he was instead holding the cake by each side with his hands and lowering his head towards it, to eat it up from the table he was sat at, thus getting it all over his face, creating his moustache. Her stomach felt like it was falling for a split second and then grumbled at her for watching.

She patted it and continued to walk, smiling and peering at the people in their gardens as she passed. She thought she might as well see the town before eating, then she could sit, relax and fill herself up. Many of the gardens were quite plain, but the odd few were adorned with beautiful small trees, they looked like the giant trees of the forest but as if they had been shrunk and planted in the garden, other had hedges with flowers going through them, like a beautiful virus or infestation. By now the land was pretty much fully dry, so many people were out sitting, reading, gardening or just generally walking around and conversing with each other. She reached the end of the houses and could see the end of the road, from black road, to dirt road, and then grass followed by nothing but trees. She walked very slowly towards the end of the road, placing her heels on top of the end, pivoting herself on it and looking out, like a sailor looking out from the edge of a peer. She could see a figure in the distance, taking a shiny object into the air and bringing it down and a fell tree. It has no bark and had obviously been selected, cut down and dragged her for chopping into firewood. He hacked and chopped, throwing his axe down and picking up what wood he had cut up, carrying it over to a small stump with a hand axe resting inside it. He placed all of the wood next to it, taking the axe out with a single pull of his shoulder muscles, picking up a piece of wood and placing it on the stump and holding it in place as he brought the hand-axe down into it. Splitting it into two with a single chop that looked so effortless to her. She watched for a short amount of time, it made her think about her father, she wondered how he was getting on with the cake. She thought to herself that he had probably already done it and only sent her out so he could get it done in a hour and have the entire day to nap. She smiled at the thought.

Inside the kitchen at her home was her father dressed in his typical dark clothes with white patches and blotches all over him, interrupting the blackness of his clothes. As he noticed each patch and blotch of white, chalk like substance on his clothes, he looked down, dipping his chin into his throat and patted his hands at the patches, making more, spreading them further across his clothes and making him whiter than before. He tutted at himself and decide to forget about being clean, he might as well get it done, mess or not, he could clean up after. He pushed his finger tips and knuckles into a big ball of light yellowness, dipping his fingers into the white power and slapping it onto the blob ball. Shaping it with pushes and pulls, light hitting and spanking. He rolled it out several times with a wooden cylinder and returned it back to the ball. He leaned down to pull a grate of metal out of the cupboard underneath him, it was a thin circle of metal sheeting, he placed it on the counter and threw the ball into it, shaping it to fit to make a base. He lightly sprinkled white powder over the top and slid it inside a hot stove. He washed his hands in a small bowl of water but left his dirty clothes on. Taking out a few small bowls he slid a big bowl of fruit near him which he had taken from out of the hallway much earlier, before Lucia was even awake. There was fruits and a few different berries, he took them out one at a time, making the berries into a jam, and slicing up the fruits, the jam would go on top of the base while the fruits would go on top of the jam, stuck in place by it. Decorated by fruit slices and covered in jam, he thought it would turn out decent at the very least. Although he didn’t really know what he was doing to be honest. He thought it was worth a try, even if he failed, at least he tried. If he did fail he would just apologise and present the failure cake for her laughter, and then tomorrow take her to a bakery and buy her which ever cake she wanted. He got everything ready, covered the small bowls of cut up fruit and jam with a small, sticky sheet of paper. He clapped his hands together as if to remove dust and crossed his arms while looking at his work, he looked down again to survey his mess and rolled his eyes at himself. He left the room to change his clothes, so he could sit around clean, reading and waiting for the base to be cooked.

The man stopped his chopping, threw his axe to the floor, implanting its blade into the ground and staying handle up. He sat himself down on the sawdust covered stump, leaned down, rubbed his arm over his sweaty forehead while removing his cap, to which he ran his fingers through his hair and popped the cap back on, covering all of his short hair. He sat relaxing staring into the distance, taking little notice of Lucia. She turned herself around, not wanting to be a nuisance to his rest and began walking back towards the town on top of the road. Casually passing the houses and getting back to the warehouses, as she approached the shop front with the huge windows from the side, a young male and female leave the shop, holding the hand of the little boy that had a white moustache before, he no longer had it, instead he was holding the right hand of the young male and the left hand of the young female, stood in the middle, skipping forward. As he skipped forward too fast for the pace of his holders, his arms were pulled back as the two holders tugged him back holding up his weight, he lifted his legs until he could swing behind them, just to skip forward again to repeat. His holders began to shout ‘wahey’ as he skipped and jumped forward to swing back, all three of them taking full advantage of the moment to laugh and be loud for the fun of each other. Lucia stood to the side of the door way, watching and admiring them, she wasn’t sure if the two young holder were his parents or siblings, but either way their happiness and fun with each other was enough to make anyone watching or passing extend a smile onto their own face and return that smile to the three who had caused it.

Lucia walked herself into the building. Instead of talking to anyone, she walked herself around to find out what it was like, she felt like she should only bother someone when she was ready to sit and eat. As she ventured around she noticed it was like a restaurant with a cafe as a front, the cafe had a doorway that led into a bigger, more open room with many comfortable seating areas for as many people as she had ever seen in one area. She thought to herself that it could easily seat everyone in this town and more. But as of now only a few people were sat, eating big meals that smelled so deliciously well cooked that she felt that not only were her lips getting wet with the thought of eating them, but her nose and eyes began to run with water, as if she couldn’t contain herself. She tried to sniff as she blushed and felt stupid at her sudden wateriness, dabbing her sleeves on her eyes to dry them with a small wipe of the material. She made her way back to the counter at the cafe where more people were eating than in the restaurant area, although she had seen no people walk past her or enter the building, it seemed fuller than before. She decided with the money that she had and the over crowding of the cafe that the restaurant would be a better choice, a solitary but perfectly made meal to relieve her of her hunger that had built up from her earlier adventure.

She walked back into the restaurant area and approached the counter. There was currently no one there but on the side lay a small bell to call for attention. She pressed her palm down onto it making a small dinging noise. A waiter made his way over from sitting down, he must of been resting as no one needed him, as he had served everyone their meals so far. He smiled at her as he made his way over, walking behind the counter and placing both of his hands palm down on the counter and looking at her “Sorry, I did not see you there.” She returned his smile, knowing from his tone and body language that he was being sincere. “That’s no problem.” He slid his hands back on the counter until they reached his waist, which he then folded them to cross his arms. “So, how may I help you young lady?” “Erm.” She put her finger to her lips to signal her thinking as she read the writing behind her, a black board marked by chalk listing meals. “Can I have the soup to start and then…” she continued to think patting her finger at her lips an pouting slightly, “And…What are prawns?” “They are a type of sea food.” “Are they nice? I am curious of the name.” “Meaty almost, rather than fishy.” “It says giant?” “Oh, young lady they are called giant prawns but they aren’t bigger than a vegetable, a carrot maybe.” “A sea carrot?” “Excuse me?” “Oh erm never mind! May I have them please?” “Of course, anything else?” “And the vanilla slice.” “My personal favourite.” “Oh, thank you for taking my order.” “My pleasure.” She looked around as if lost, as if waiting for direction or orders, she turned back to him and went to speak but he interrupted her. “Madam, you may take any seat you like, we are not busy, I will find you and bring the food to you.” “Thank you.” she said, somewhat relieved at his preemptive-ness.

She took her leave and wondered around for a very short while, looking at all of the seats. At the very back of the restaurant was a windowed section, very similar to the shop front where the cafe was. The windows allowed you to see the vast forest behind all of the warehouses and homes. There was a small seated area here which no one was sat at, it was somewhat hidden and secluded from the rest of the entire warehouse, like a secret gathering spot that could easily be missed by anyone passing by. As she sat herself down at a seat in the corner, facing a very small table, she thought to herself that it wasn’t too secluded, so hidden that even the waiter did not know she was here. As she entertained that thought his steps could be heard, he came around the corner holding a small bowl full of liquid, his hand covered by a small cloth to prevent burning his hands as he carried it, while his other hand carried a very small plate which was covered in cut slices of bread. He gently placed the bowl down and then the plate at the side of it and told her that he would be back in ten minutes in order to return the bowl and that the dinner would be no longer than that, he wished her an enjoyable meal and promptly left her to enjoy the starter. She picked up a piece of bread, dipping the end in and biting at it, to taste it. It tasted like tomato as its redness evidently shown, but it tasted odd too, as if many herbs had been mixed into it, odd but pleasing to her tastes. She took the spoon to her side and began to scoop the liquid into her mouth, it was hot, but not hot enough to burn, only hot enough to make her sigh with pleasure as it warmed her throat as it went down and even more so her stomach when it sat resting and warming it from inside. She quickly devoured everything that she had on her plate by dipping whole slices into her liquid and then instead of scooping the rest up, she held the bowl in both hands and raised it like a hungry baby, and poured it into her mouth, gulping it all down in a desperate hungry instant. She sat with a stomach full of bubbling liquid, the starter had only made her more hungry. She patiently waited for her dinner to arrive while staring out at the trees flowing and brushing against each other in the wind.

To his word, he arrived no longer than ten minutes after had he previously served her. He came around the corner holding only one plate, again using his clothe under the plate and holding with two hands this time. Lucia moved her empty bowl and plate to the other side of her table by pushing them forward, towards the edge, making room for the new plate. He gently placed it down in front of her and spoke gently “Seeming as this is your first time, you take the shrimp in your hand, crack open its hard outer layer of skin, removed it and you will be left with a soft, tender piece of flesh, you eat that but not the shell.” “Oh I see.” she said while studying them on her plate. “Enjoy your meal, madam.” “Thank you.” he nodded at her with a small smile and turned, taking the used plate, bowl and spoon with him as he casually strolled back around the corner and out of view. She looked down, there was an extremely green salad underneath the prawns, forming a bed, the prawns themselves were arranged in a circle, facing inwards with their tails outwards, all tails curving to the same direction. Which formed an odd sun like outline with the tails as the suns rays of sunshine. She took a small piece of the salad and bit into it, it was so fresh that it made a slight crunch, with the crunch her mouth filled with water from the salad, it was refreshing. But she was excited by these prawns, she took on in the tips of her fingers and awkwardly used her other hand to strip the hard skin off, it came off like pealing dried paint or a boiled egg. She was left with a clump of much softer flesh in her hand, she bit half of it and chewed on it, it was very tender and soft for flesh, but didn’t have the fishiness feel or taste of dish either, it was a nice in between. There was a small dollop of unknown orange sauce in the middle of the salad, she too the remains of her first prawn and covered it in the sauce and ate, it was slightly sour but worked well with the half fish half fleshiness of the prawn. She carried on eating, pealing each prawn, wrapping it in salad and sauce, making coats of saucy goodness for them to wear before devouring them. They were oddly filling, she had only eaten a few and already felt almost full, but she didn’t waste anytime thinking about it and instead just swallowed them all down, full feeling or not, she was not wasting this delicious meal or her money.

Just as she was finishing her last few mouthfuls, the waiter came around the corner with a grin at his timing “Perfect timing I see.” “Very much so.” she replied, giving him a smile to congratulate his smugness. “Shall I be taking this?” he said as he placed his fingertip on the rim of the plate, “Yes, please.” “Very well, the pudding shall be five minutes so you have time to digest your meal. Vanilla slice was it?” “That is perfect, and yes it was, thank you.” again he nodded, acknowledging what she had said but feeling no need to reply with words. He took the plate for her and briskly ventured back into the kitchens. She felt stuffed but she felt and thought that she might as well indulge herself rather than cancel her pudding. She waited, not counting the time nor minding how long it would take either way. She was happy to sit and relax and digest.

Just as last time, he came perfectly on time. Serving up her plate and very politely and slowly presenting his open palm to her which a fork rested on, handle towards with the fork resting on a small tissue to prevent contact with his skin. She gently took it from him and thanked him, he nodded in return and informed her that he would be waiting at the counter for her whenever she was done. She thanked him again out of courtesy and let him leave. Although she was full, the merr sight of the pudding made her hungry again, it was a pale slice of what looked like a cake slice of a cheese wheel. The bottom of it was marked by a biscuity like base. She slanted her folk and pushed it down to cut through the slice, it went through like the vanilla was made of cream, easily slicing and separating it but still keeping its form. She slid her fork underneath the slice and held her free hand to the side of the folk that it was overlapping on to prevent it falling, or at least if it did, in order to catch it. She slid the fork into her mouth and closed her mouth around it, biting slightly at the fork end and sliding it out to leave the slice in her mouth. She chewed, it was extremely sweet but was made pleasant by the creaminess. She ate it all up like a happy child, licking her licks when done. She got the urge to lick the plate but resisted it, seeming as she was today a woman she felt that she should prevent herself from such a childish act, although she felt she would of enjoyed it far more if she had just done it knowing exactly that she shouldn’t anymore. She finished but felt after all of this time eating that to sit around would kill her, so she stood herself up from her chair, stretching and shaking her head gently to rid herself of the light headed-ness that she had gained from getting up after being sat down for so long. She picked up her plate and placed the fork on it and approached the counter. Passing it to the waiter who thanked her for saving him the trip and informing her of the price of her meal. She happily paid the small amount of gold and added an extra piece, knowing that he would notice but also knowing that he would accept it and keep the extra piece for himself, which was exactly what she intended him to do. He thanked her and wisher her an enjoyable rest of the day. As she walked through the cafe, it was far less busy than before, everyone inside was very relaxed and quietly talking and eating. She passed through and stepped outside, the day was just as light as when she entered. She stood looking at the warehouses and remembered the bookstore that she had passed and looking into the entrance at as she passed it earlier. She decided that would be her next stop.

On the edge of a hilltop, a solid, varnished dark brown house stood strong. Well lit and strong enough to take on any wind which it was assaulted by. From the entrance walked Janus, signing to the people in front of him with hand movements and shouts, shouting to raise the volume of his voice to be heard, rather than with anger. The people in front of him packed away the boxes they had at their feet into the carriage. Two carriages stood one behind the other, the one in front already having a driver and horses strapped up to the carriage. This was the one that was being packed. The people all wore the same tight fitting black clothes, they looked like valets, they were all Janus’ servants. He watched with crossed arms and a smile, telling the first carriage to leave the moment it was down as he himself and the following carriage would follow when they were, which shouldn’t be longer than ten minutes. He strolled himself back into his house to sort more things out, out of sight. While the servants finished packing the last few boxes, jumped inside and tapped the ceiling to alert the driver to leave. They slowly and carefully began a light trot out of the area, down the hill path and into the forest, setting off for Lucia’s.

Lucia stood looking at the bookstore front from the cafe’s shopfront. She walked over to the other side of the road in order to get back to the bookstore, the door of the building was still open and no body could be seen from outside. She stepped in feeling the change of surface under her feet, it was carpeted and made no noise as she walked. There was two staircases, one leading up and another leading down. She had never seen a staircase leading underground before so she decided to venture down. She stepped down and looked out at the aisles of books, she randomly selected one and walked down it, as she did she noticed that a slight oppressive feeling was present here, she concluded that it was because she was now underground and the lighting was no where near as good as upstairs with the well lit areas. She randomly selected books and pulled them out, stroking their orange pages and sniffing them, she could smell how old they were and it pleased her. To her the smell made her think of a very old man writing furious while hunched over a desk, like a crazed poet that cannot write as fast as his thoughts and passion need to be able to express themselves. Although looking at the books pleased her, the oppressive atmosphere of the underground was not to her liking so she decided to go back upstairs.

When she was back on the ground level she looked up, blinking at the height of the warehouse, she placed her hand on the railing of the staircase and made her way up while staring up, if there was no handrail she would of no doubt have just walked off the staircase while gazing at the ceiling. She shook her head to prevent her staring any longer as she reached the final step. She ventured down the aisles again, at the end of them was a wall of notebooks and diaries with prices on them. She flicked through many of them. One of them had been made to look, smell and feel old, it looked like an ancient book, she instantly wanted it and decided on buying it. She took it and placed it under her arm and continued to look around at the books on the aisles. She stopped again without intention or knowing what aisle she was on and took a book from the shelves, flicking through the pages she realised it was a history book of the local areas and forests. It was illustrated with graphic and detailed drawings and painting of the landscapes, town, animal and plant life. She decided she would buy this as a gift for her dad, maybe just as a thank you for the cake he was making for her. She thought that would please and annoy him, please him because he of course loved anything from his daughter but annoyed because she had spent her gift money on him, both of these however pleased her to know. So it was decided. She placed it in her left hand and with the other book under her arm, she decided that would do, as the trip home may become burdensome if she purchased more. Maybe she would return just to buy two more books every now and then, to make a day of her trip and spoil herself on occasion.

Lucia’s father was sat reading a book, with his back lent back and his feet raised, seating his feet on the chair opposite him. He had his arms raised, holding the book up to the ceiling and was reading it like this so if he fell asleep he would drop the book on his face, thus instantly waking him. This was just in case he burnt the cooking cake base. For the past ten or so minutes he could smell the heating up of the base which started to smell appetising to him. He placed his book down on the table in front of him and slide himself out of his sitting position, stretching his arms up and to his sides as he got up and walked over to the stove. He opened it, letting the heat out and then leaned himself down onto one of his knees. He couldn’t really see it from the shade created inside the stove so he felt his hand across the top of the counter until he could feel a cloth material and pulled it to fall down. He took it in his hand, wrapping his hand in it and then pulling the cake base out, it was perfectly cooked and ready. He closed the stove and left it on to heat the house with a very small fire. He gently placed it upside down on a plate and cut around the metal container to release the base, it came out with very little effort, he placed the metal container out of the way and gently flipped the base over, pulling the small bowls of cut fruit and freshly made jam to him. Taking a small soft brush out and delicately dipping it into the jam and using it to spread it across the base until it was an inch thick. He took the small slices of fruit and placed them around the base, sticking them in the jam in random patterns and then sprinkled a light white powder over it to cover it. He placed it in a thin container made of white paper, covering it with a see through baking sheet. This covering and container was merely to stop insects getting stuck on top of the cake and wrecking it by dying inside the jam and of course making it look disgusting. He crossed his arms and looked at the container, content with himself and his efforts.

She happily returned to the ground floor of the library, sliding her free hand down the handrail as she did. She looked around while standing still, trying to spot a counter, which she couldn’t. She approached a man stacking shelves who told her that it was in the back of this floor, taking it to her and leading the way. The same man served her, explaining that he was currently the only person allowed to sell while the other workers could only stack shelves and stock as they were all new. She didn’t say anything but just nodded and pushed the books forward on the counter, which he seemed to study and then tell her a price. She paid and thanked him and wished him a nice day, which he returned with a grin. As she left the counter to exit the building he quickly went back to his stacking, the moment he reached the pile of books he needed to stack however he instantly slowed down and seemed extremely casual. She didn’t think much of it and instead just casually exited the building. She noticed that the sun starting to dull a little, afternoon no doubt.

Now that he was done with preparing Lucia’s cake and had it nicely stored and waiting for her return. He decided to go outside, going into the hall and putting his boots on and opening the back door and slamming it, as he always did by accident when he went out the back door. His boots crunched small random objects on the floor, like twigs and hay like grass. He walked himself down the path that was only made by the hundreds of previous trips of his boots down this way, keeping the grass trodden down like a small jungle pathway through slightly tall grass. He reached his wood cabin, which kept wood under a small roof in order to dry, which a small tree stump for cutting at and a very small patch of dug up ground that he used to throw remains of animals or other food waste into. Behind the wood cabin was a much bigger wooden building, about half the size of his house, this was filled with wines and cheeses, left to mature down some steps underground which the shed led too, also down there was salted meat, to preserve and feed him and Lucia over winter. Later on in the year, when Summer was near, he would plant a type of flower there to be visually pleasing. The remains and waste fuelling the land to grow them stronger and faster than any other area in his garden. At this time, just before winter, there was no point planting anything so his garden was barren except for grass and cut up wood. For once he didn’t need to cut wood, for many days now he had been doing nothing but chopping wood and transporting it to local towns, making enough money to buy food rather than grow it, it was hard work but he loved the travelling and endless chopping of trees. He took the spade which was resting on a few uncut logs which was placed under the small wooden roof, placed there to prevent it getting damp or damaged. He threw it blade first into the small patch of dug up dirt, forced his foot onto the side of it and dug it in, pulling it out to remove the soil to the side of it. He was doing this to widen the patch and deepen it, also to tidy it as when Winter does come, the ground will become so hard that he will no longer be able to widen or deepen the patch, as the ground becomes rock solid by frost and bitter, freezing winds, drying and hardening the fertile ground into a block of impenetrable rock. As he continued to spade and shovel the dirt out he slowed to gain his breath, he heard the faint knocking of knuckles on wood, it sounded like his front door being knocked. He left the shovel and spade by the side of the patch of dug up dirt and walked around the house to approach the front door from outside. He could see that the front door was open and swaying and slamming closed and back open in the window. He got close enough to put the door handle in his hand, pushed it open and closed it behind him as he walked in. The house was silent as he stood in silence himself, he dismissed it as the wind blowing the front door open somehow, he walked to the back door and noticed it wasn’t closed properly either, he knew he had closed it himself, he stood puzzled and frowning, not willing to move or make a sound.

The woman from the clothes store was back outside with her little carrier, placing clothes inside it and pulling it back in. Lucia followed her into the building while looking all around her. There was all type of clothes everywhere around her, men’s suits, men’s winter wear, women’s dresses and even random hats and accessories. She stopped following the woman, letting her get on with her work without being stalked, she stopped at a row of coats, spotting a very dark navy blue robe, she tried it on, it was baggy and didn’t leave a single part of her body exposed to rain. It was warm inside, lined with some type of very soft and dark fur, maybe that of black wolves. It seemed layered, as if wind proof, she folded it up and kept it under her arms as she held her two books in her two hands placed together to deal with the weight. Looking for a counter, she found one, which the woman who had been carrying and pulling around the clothes was at, with her trusty carrier just to the side of it, completely empty. She placed the robe on the counter and gave the woman the coins that she asked for, she had plenty to spare but Lucia was planning on keeping a few for a another trip to this town, to treat herself to a meal and some more books. The woman asked her in her delicate and gently low voice if she wanted her books packed in the box that her robe was packed into, she said yes and smiled, thanking her and nodding at her as she handed it over the counter and into her hands. She happily walked towards the shop entrance, holding the box with both hands due to it’s weight.

As she reached the entrance to the warehouse and exited the building, she stepped out and looked up at the sky. The sky had darkened yet again, it was colder than before but still bright enough to see, and the clouds did not look like they were about to erupt into rainful tears. She placed her box down by the side of the road and opened it, taking the robe out and slipping one arm in and throwing it around her shoulder and placing the other arm in. This was just to keep warm with the colder wind. She put the lid back on the box and stood up, carrying it and deciding to walk back home.

As she began to walk home the weather did not not change, the wind kept its blowing, making her face cold as she went, blushing up rosy cheeks to which she pulled her hood down on her robe to cover more of her face but still allowing her to see in front of her. Awkwardly she had to hold the books in the box in front of her, as it was too wide to place under her arms, as it would slip open and most probably throw the books into the dirt. She walked on and on, being easy to spot because of her robe by passer bys, who move the other side of the road and pass her with great haste. She thinks as she walks which keeps her mind busy for the time of the walk. Before she knows it she is among familiar trees and evidently close to home. Seeing her wooden home come into view as she rounds corners, slowly letting it come into full view and growing with every step. She was close enough to see the house fully and could see no activity through the windows. She placed the box in one hand as it was no light enough to be held with just one, although still awkward because of its size. Placing her free hand on the door handle and twisting it, entering and closing it behind her. She pulled her hood down with a sigh at the feeling of her head and hair being free from the overshadowing of being covered up. Taking the box into the kitchen and gently resting it on the table she could smell cooked goods. The other box on the counter caught her eye, she crept over, feeling like a naughty child creeping up on its younger sibling to scare it by a sudden grab or shout. She lifted the lip and could see the cooked cake, complete and delicious. This and the aroma that hit her nostrils instantly made her want to eat some, but she decided to wait to eat it with her father, so she could thank him. She went about the house to look for him, not taking her robe off, he was not sat in the living room reading or sleeping, he also was not upstairs in her room, which he never was anyway, or his own. So she concluded that he would be outside cutting wood, she thought back to walking to the house, recalling no noise of wood chopping which makes a very distinct and clear echoing noise in these lands. Maybe he was seeing to the stored food or trash patch. Maybe she could sneak up on him and actually be the naughty child this time.

She made her way to the back door, opening it and stepping forward and closing it behind her as slowly and gently as possible, watching the gap become smaller and smaller until nothing, fully closed. She huddled herself down into a crouching position and moved slowly and gently, placing the palms oh her hands on the floor to spread her body weight into all four limbs to reduce noise as she went. Creeping forward in an ape like way, keeping herself low and quiet as she went towards the wood cabin. She reached it, seeing the patch filled up to the top and smoothed over and the tools back in their place, the wood block showing no sighs of being used. From this she concluded that he must be in the food storage shed. She moved herself to the entrance of the shed, still crouching and holding one hand up at the side of the entrance and the other palm down on the floor. She looked down the steps to which she could see only the flickering of a light, the steps were visible because of outside light but the trees behind her made the light flick on and off of the steps. While past the steps she could see nothing but blackness. She gently placed her feet on each step, trying not to let her feet make any noise, they did not make any noise as the steps were made by cutting out hard clay in order to make steps out of the already placed ground, rather than place wood there.

As she reached the bottom, with the rows to both of her sides of shelves for wines and other foods and the occasion barrel which would store liquids and flesh, she could see all the way to the back of the storage room, only because a candle was lit on a wooden table, one that always held tools, random equipment and usually papers. She could see no person or figures except for that of a shadow being cast onto the walls from the candle light, it looked like the outline of someone’s face and hair, being blocked by something lower, something wider. She slowly approached close to the shelves on the side of the shadow, so she could sneak up on him, as it only made sense that it would be him. She held her hands at the shelves and instead of stepping, slid her feet through the dust and dirt without leaving her feet, slightly gliding over the surface as she went. She reached the corner and peeked around it an inch at a time until just one of her eyes could see, she couldn’t make it out in the light, she could only make the shadow of someone facing away from her. She felt nervous as she wasn’t sure who it was, she couldn’t make it out, or was it even a person, she thought maybe it was a hunted animal or maybe someone had visited her father, out of confusion and not wishing to risk scaring a stranger, she cleared her throat to make herself known. Nothing.

She stood herself up, guessing it just must of been her mistake. With the lack of light, being underground and having such a long day, maybe she was making figures up out of anything, she guessed it must of been an animal or probably something stupid like a jug or something not even vaguely human like. Out of curiosity she put her hands to it, it felt like clay, like wet clay that has just been shaped. It was most definitely that of a humanoid shaped face, as she felt with her hands, wet with clay, a bust maybe? But of her own face? Maybe her dad made a statue head for her? She became excited and knowing that she should leave it as it would be a surprise ruined but not caring, she was far too curious, she took it over to the candle light. She could only see clay like surface, the bust lacked hair as she looked. Holding it from the back she realised from the light that she had it backwards. She turned it around to revealed what it really was. She could see an almost blank, featureless face on the bust, the clay was still wet on the top but it had been applied with different amounts in different places, it was unlevel. She wiped her hands across it instinctively which rubbed away the wet layer. But with this she noticed something odd, the eyes were not made of clay, but looked merely filled of clay. It was a terrible bust attempt if she ever seen one. It was a mess and must of been abandoned. She wiped at it more and more until only the hard layer was left, but with this she noticed a rubbery feeling and blood. There was blood on her hands from wiping at it, she noticed there was no longer clay, but tough, rubbery skin. She rubbed near the eyes to reveal pale skin and more blood, revealed clay filled eye sockets. She instantly realised with horror that it was no bust at all, but a face, a head, a dead persons head. Horrified but just as curious as horrified, in a panic she rubbed more and more at the face, taking the clay off, revealing teeth and no cheek flesh, which had been cut. No nose but just the clay filled hole and blood. No ear, but again just clay and blood with red flesh.

As she did all this she become painfully aware of recognising every single feature, missing or not, she could fill in the gaps. She held it, squeezing her hands in towards it from both sides, panicking in horror. Not only was it a dead head, but she knew it. She threw it in revulsion and instantly emptied her stomach on the floor. She could not stop, bringing her to her knees and throwing up everything she had eaten, until she was throwing up nothing but her own guts, feeling like they would at any moment pop out of her throat as she gagged and gagged. Her hands were filled with dust and covered in dirt and sick from wiping her face and being forced to hold the floor as she threw up. She dragged herself away from it and towards the entrance. Managing to stand she regained her strength and will by the mere urge to be away from this room. She managed to run up the stairs like a galloping horse, she ran out of shed and straight passed the wood cabin, she attempted to run and step over the dirt patch but didn’t judge the distance, instantly stepping into it and her leg being swallowed by the newly placed ground. As her foot went down it was stopped by a solid object, she ripped her leg straight out of the dirt and pushed it out of the patch area, standing like an animal who has just been attacked, regaining composure in a panic of survival. Having one leg caked in dirt like clay she ran the fastest she could, not back into the house but away from it, down the dirt path road away, anywhere but away.

Janus was now well on his way to Lucia’s, it was later than he wanted, it was beginning to get dark but at least he was only five minutes behind his other carriage now. He sat patiently, anxious and unable to read in the light. While his servants ahead kept their eyes on the road, leading Janus’ second carriage by directing the first. He need only wait a while longer. While it began to darken, his front carriage lite a torch to light up the area, it wasn’t needed but soon would be, as when it began to darken, it would get to a certain point and then suddenly be pitch black, and these torches could last for hours.

As she ran for miles and miles in panic, in the distance she could see a light, a flame, moving towards her, she ran faster and harder towards it. The clay on her leg had begun to harden, her boots making her taller being so covered in muck. She couldn’t care less, she needed to get to the light.

As the servants in the first carriages looked forward with their torches they could see something in the distance, and hear it as it began to make shrieking noises. It was too small to be a horse and its feet were not making any noise, but the noise was animalistic. They readied themselves fearing wolves, carried on leaning forward to see it. As it got close enough to be withing sight of strained eyes, one of the servants took his hand of his weapon and jumped down to which the driver shouted “What are you doing?!” stopping the carriage with his speech. The man looked up at him with a disappointed face and returned a tone of anger “It’s a person, you fool!” He took the torch and held it up, clearly illuminating himself to whoever it was to show them he was there. It was a woman, caked in clay, she came into view and as quickly as she had, she ran into the man with the torch, rapping herself around him, pushing her face into his body and wrestling him to the ground, making him fall and drop the torch. The other servant picked up the touch and went to grab his dagger from his belt to which the man wrestling with her scream out “Don’t! I think it’s Lucia!” The man returned a confused what, wrestling her out of the other man’s hands to look at her. “You’re right!” “Signal with the torch to the carriage!” “Yes.” he replied in a feeble voice, and carried on repeating that one word while he did so. After a very short time the carriage came into view stopping at the clear signal of the torch. The man had now took all the power out of her body movements by wrestling with her and controlling her body by holding it in place. She no longer moved but for little hand movements, she was either out cold or could no longer move, or maybe, thought the servant, she had just given up. He picked her up in his arms easily, she was weightless, as if her losing of power and will to fight had left her body light and empty. The driver from the other carriage asked what was going on while the man carried her to the carriage, he did not reply, instead he forced himself in Janus’ carriage and while he sat waiting, suddenly shocked by the sight and having Lucia literally dropped into his lap. Janus said nothing to the servant until after a long pause after putting her in a comfortable position on himself and shaking the shock out of him, he whispered “Turn back.”

They did exactly that, taking the carriages and turning them to return, everything was silent but the night’s animals. Other than the trotting of their feet, even he horses made no sound. Janus’ sat stroking her face and holding her as if she was some powerless baby. His eyes were wide, he barely blinked nor breathed. He whispered over and over to her, not knowing if she could hear him, merely saying “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Feeling even himself, like he was muttering sweet nothings. He wiped and stroked her face, occasionally leaning his head down to rest his chin on her head or to kiss her forehead. He was curious as to what was happening, he felt like he was inside a dream. He shook his head withe the thought “But that can wait, for now, she needs me. Conscious or not.”

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