LJ Idol Exhibit B| week six| 1247 words
Out of the blue
Deep in the forgotten forest, there was a lake that held the colors of the sky.
A furrier named Edmond found himself there one day, slowly pulled by the thirsty horse that led his wagon. He saw only trees at first, but then something flashed and gleamed between the lowest branches. The horse moved unerringly forward, finding breaks in the pathless terrain, and then they stepped into a clearing that offered unearthly beauty bound in a silence like that of a cathedral.
Edmond hardly dared breathe, but his horse would happily have pulled the wagon right down into the water. Unhitching the horse, Edmond led it to the lake's edge to drink. Something drew his eye out near the middle, a soft gathering of billowing folds that seemed almost—
He rushed into the lake, swimming with half-remembered strokes toward the uneven bundle of fabric floating just ahead. It was a woman—a fragile girl, dangerously close to death. He towed her back to shore and laid her at the grassy edge. She was breathing, he noticed, though her moonbeam-pale skin was most awfully cold.
"Fair maiden!" Edmond beseeched her.
The girl's eyelashes trembled, and then finally parted. She gazed at him in a daze, her eyes so dark he found not the slightest hint of color.
"Come," he said. He lifted her up and placed her in the wagon, tucking an old bear pelt around her. "You may come and stay with me, and my own dear wife shall make you well."
The girl said not a word on the journey out of the woods and toward the furrier's home. She sipped gratefully at the cup of wine he offered her, but then simply closed her eyes as the wagon bounced and swayed along.
The furrier's wife, Tilly, exclaimed over the girl, building up the fire and seating her close to its luxurious warmth. Steam hissed and rose from the girl's clothes, until it seemed she could bear it no longer. She rose unsteadily and made her way to the door and out into the shade of the surrounding trees.
"Poor dear," Tilly murmured. "She must be exhausted. Her mind is fraught with confusion."
Tilly brought out fresh bread and a few wild strawberries to tempt her, and then tried simpler foods when those sparked no interest. The girl would only eat only wine and broth.
They plied her gently with questions—her name, her people, how she had come to be left for drowned in that distant lake. The girl simply smiled wanly and shook her head. By nightfall, both Tilly and Edmond were nearly certain she was mute. Their son Thomas returned from a day's hunting just before supper, but even his arrival could not entice the girl to speak. She sat quietly at the table with them and watched them eat. Candlelight glittered in reflection from the depthless blackness of her eyes.
She would have slept in the stable that night, but the horses grew shy of her. Thomas slept there instead, insisting that he would hardly notice the difference. She took his place in the cottage, bedding down on the pallet just inside the kitchen.
Days went by, then weeks, but the girl was as silent as ever. She helped with the household chores as best she could, ready and willing both day and night. She might have been content, but she never seemed quite happy. Her smiles were faint and elusive, and they always stopped short of reaching her eyes.
The furrier inquired among his customers and the people at the nearby villages, but no one was missing a daughter, and he had no name to offer them. When he saw how longingly his son looked at the girl, he decided it better to stop asking.
She was a pretty thing to be sure, and certainly in better health than when Edmond had pulled her from the lake. Her hair was black as midnight, her eyes hardly less so. She still had skin paler than the finest of pearls, but it only added to her beauty. Thomas could not take his eyes off of her, and she in turn offered him coy smiles and her unwavering attention when all others were gone.
One morning, the furrier awoke to a cold house. The girl usually lit the fire before dawn, but there was no sign of her in the kitchen. She was not in the garden or the stable, nor was Thomas. Edmond's wagon and draft horse were missing as well.
Edmond calmed himself with the thought that they might have sought a few minutes to themselves, as young people often do. But by the time the sun rose above the far edge of the distant forest, he could contain his worry no longer. The mud formed by the previous night's rain showed the path taken by the wagon. He saddled Thomas's horse and rode away in search of his son.
The tracks led across the meadow and into the woods, and continued on once they reached the forgotten forest. Edmond followed them farther and farther into the dark realm of towering trees, until he glimpsed a shimmer of light through the branches ahead. He slowed the horse to a walk, and let it pick its way through the trees and to the lake.
Edmond's wagon and horse waited near the lake's edge, but there was no sign of the girl or his son.
"Thomas!" he shouted, answered only by the eerie quiet of the air inside the large circle of trees. "Thomas!" Edmond ran along the edge of the lake, calling for his son amid the rocks and thick-branched trees.
He heard something suddenly, a soft splash of water. Something appeared on the surface of the lake, a sodden clump of rags with a streak of dark orange that matched the color of Thomas's hair.
Edmond gasped, and then plunged into the water, swimming desperately. He reached a trailing piece of cloth and yanked on it, pulling it closer—
Thomas. It was his very own Thomas, floating face-downward in the water and as still as the grave.
Edmond quickly righted him, hoping he was not too late. But Thomas' chest did not move and his eyes did not see, no matter how frantically Edmond patted his son's face and shouted at him as he pulled him toward the shore.
Edmond laid his son down on the ground and tried to revive him. Seconds lapsed into long, terrible minutes as he pummeled Thomas' back and pleaded with his son—with God—for everything to become right and good again.
Finally, Edmond sat back and wept for his son and for the lost future his son would never see. His knees grew weary with cold and damp as he stroked the wet strands of Thomas' hair and the chilly contours of his face. It was afternoon before he loaded Thomas into the wagon and began the sad and hopeless journey home.
Autumn came and went in the forgotten forest, followed by the icy spread of winter across the land. Then spring warmed the surface of the secluded lake, and the grass near the edge grew greener with each passing day.
The creature that lived deep within the lake began to feel the old, familiar stirrings of need and hunger.
One afternoon, a knight rode into the forgotten forest and came upon an astonishingly blue lake hidden in a secret grove of ancient trees…
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