Everything Changes Now

The continuing saga of Allyandrah and Kru’Nah.
This week’s prompt: Her life changed at that moment, nothing would ever be the same again.
Allyandrah woke up the next morning in a comfortable bed, wrapped up in thick, warm blankets, her stomach not growling, her head not hurting, brightness filtering gently through the forest green curtains, wind howling outside. It took several minutes before she could remember where she was and what had happened the day before.
Kru’Nah’s grandfather, who hadn’t yet shared his name, had gently led Allyandrah to a room and tucked her in after sharing her tale. She tried to remember what he’d said to her. “Get us together?” she whispered. Crawling out from under the covers, Allyandrah immediately started shivering. She found a bulky woven robe hanging from a hook on the wall at the end of her bed. Slipping into it, Allyandrah opened the door and nearly tripped over the house boots set outside her room. She slipped her bare feet into the lined, animal skin boots.
Allyandrah wandered to the end of the hallway and down three steps into the room where she’d spilled her story before. The interior was made entirely of smoothed boards, the pine scent offering a calm she’d never known. As she looked toward the back of the small house, she saw Kru’Nah’s grandfather sitting at a table drinking tea, the outside of the windows completely white. He glanced over as she stepped off the last step.
“Good morning, love!” he beamed. “Come, eat!”
Allyandrah settled herself into a simple wooden chair across the thick wooden table from him and stared directly at him. “You really Kru’Nah’s grandfather?”
“Do you think I’d make that up?”
“Well, dearest one, I assure you I am not lying. I have nothing to gain from lying. Eat some food here and I will show you.” Ha passed over a biscuit and some sort of preserved fruit spread. As Allyandrah ate, he bustled into the kitchen and rustled up a bit more dried meat and some dried fruits. He brought it all back in a wooden bowl and placed it in front of Allyandrah.
He then went into the main room and opened up a drawer in the small desk on the far end of the wall and pulled out a stack of letters. Bringing them back to the table, he sat quietly and untied the bundle. Opening one of the letters, he slid it across the table. Allyandrah looked at the meaningless scribbles on the page.
“Means nothin’. Can’t read,” Allyandrah said with her mouth full of biscuit.
“Oh, of course, of course,” Kru’Nah’s grandfather said, hastily standing. He pulled his chair around the table and settled next to Allyandrah. He pulled out a pair of glasses and started reading the letter, pointing at the words as he read.
Here are more supplies.
“How do I know you’re not lyin’?” Allyandrah asked.
“Now that’s a good question, isn’t it?” he replied. “I could tell you that I’m not creative enough to do that, but that still means you have to take my word. So how do I get you to believe me?”
Allyandrah pointed at the first word. “That really say ‘dad’?”
“Yes! It does. I can show you the same words.” He stood up and grabbed all the bundles. “These are just her replies. I’m a lonely old man, so I make two copies of my letters. Helps me remember what she isn’t answering.” He then walked back to the desk and pulled two more stacks.
“Those yours then?”
“Yes, you are quite smart.”
“For a slave,” Allyandrah finished his sentence.
“No, just smart. In this house, you are not a slave, no matter what the world outside says. In here you are–” he looked expectantly at her.
“Allyandrah?” she guessed, assuming he was searching for her name.
“Allyandrah. What a beautiful name.” He smiled at her in a proud, grandfatherly way. “Alright. Since we have a squall to live through here, there’s no time like the present to teach, right? Let’s move to the couches.” He quickly got up and gathered up the letters. “Bring that bowl of food, too.”
Allyandrah picked up the bowl and followed him. He pulled the low-lying table close to the couch and spread out all of Kru’Que’Nah’s letters. Each was short. Allyandrah looked at the top of each letter. They all began with the same combination of symbols. ‘Dad’
“So that one means ‘dad’.” Allyandrah said quietly as she slowly chewed on some dried fruit. Kru’Nah’s grandfather sat without speaking as he unfolded his own letters. Allyandrah picked up one of the letters and turned it over to see the writing on the back.
She noticed that the letters on the front matched the letters at the bottom of the note. Pointing at his name she asked, “what does this say?”
“Kru’Dael’Nah,” he replied. Allyandrah sat back, thinking.
“Okay, so you’re related,” she said. “Then why’re you up here?”
“Oh!” Kru’Dael’Nah exclaimed. “Right to the good stuff! Well, like you, I’ve been banished.”
“What?” Allyandrah asked. “How can she banish you?”
“She is the queen. She can do as she pleases.”
“But weren’t you king?”
“Technically, no. She married into it. Even as her slave you don’t know this?”
“Don’t tell us much. Plus I was always out in the forests and stuff. Not much time for stories and the like.”
“Yes, I imagine you were,” he said thoughtfully.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Would you care to hear some history?”
“Got nothin’ better to do, I s’pose.”
“I’ll take that,” Kru’Dael’Nah said. “Back about 200 years ago now, Kru’Que’Nah, who was simply known as Kru’Nah at the time like my grandson is now, was ready to be married. You must be what, about 125?”
“No!” Allyandrah scowled. “89.”
“Forgive me. My alone time here makes me tactless. So this was quite before your time. How old is your mother?”
“Oh my, young isn’t she? It’s logical that you may not know this story at all then. I expected she would be older.”
“Gree-na dumped her off soon as she could. Too many others in the house, I s’pose. Ma just had Allya and me ‘fore she died. Gree-na took us in since all hers was gone by then.”
“That must have been difficult.”
“Weren’t so bad at first. Was young ‘nuf to be the playmates of the palace kids. I mostly ran around with them, doin’ stuff for ‘em and the like.”
“Presumably where you met Kru’Nah?”
“Yeah, we was close, always gettin’ in trouble. Well, I was always gettin’ in trouble. He never got in a lick of it, not that I’d let him. I always took the blame. They shoulda known I weren’t smart enough for most of that stuff.”
“I’m sure they did,” Kru’Dael,Nah said, “but who would pass up an opportunity to beat a slave?”
“Ha,” Allyandrah said angrily. “Not a one of ‘em.”
“What a sad, sorry state that is.”
“Is what it is. So she was gonna get married?”
“Right. The story. I was a palace official–,”
“Doin’ what?”
Kru’Dael’Nah smiled. “I was the treasury official, actually.”
“In charge of the money? What did you do?” Allyandrah sat up, her eyes large.
“Now, now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I was the treasury official and Kru’Que’Nah was ready to be married. I had my sights set on the son of the guard captain, but not Kru’Que’Nah. No, not her. Only the prince would do for her. If she’d had her way, it would have been the king, I’m sure. I fear she rather settled for that poor prince. She had a way about herself and wooed him. I was so busy at the time, I never suspected anything until the engagement announcement came. Imagine, finding out your daughter is marrying the prince through official announcement channels. I confronted her about it, privately of course, and she threatened me. The next year, after they were married, I was banished here. I’m sent supplies several times a year. No one writes, so I can only presume the general populace believes me dead. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting my grandson nor do I know anything about him, save his name. I only knew he’d been born because she changed how she signed her name. ‘Que’ like queen. Wasn’t enough to stick with family names, no, not for her. She needed to be her own star.” Kru’Dael’Nah winked, but Allyandrah could see the hurt in his eyes.
“I knew she’s horrible, but I didn’t know she was so horrible. I mean, sorry, shouldn’t talk bad–” Allyandrah began to slide off the couch into a submissive slave posture.
“No, no, sit. Sometimes the truth is terrible. After the king died, I’m certain it wasn’t natural causes, my couriers changed.”
“Least she feeds ya,” Allyandrah said.
“Oh, I suppose. I am still alive and without her, I likely wouldn’t be. I suppose she is doing what she can to keep favor with the Guardians. After all, they wouldn’t take kindly to her banishing me and killing me through starvation. She doesn’t care about me, she cares about herself. Keeping her place with the Guardians.” Kru’Dael’Nah grew quiet, his eyes focused on some far away point. Allyandrah took another piece of food from the bowl and nibbled on it while she waited for him.
“Y’know, I think I remember Gree-na saying somethin’ like his death was ‘spicious. Wish I could remember what he said.”
“It doesn’t matter now. The Guardians know. But that they led you to me tells me that her favor is wearing thin. I’ve lived a hard, lonely life in this little cabin for nearly two centuries, my companions are bears and vermin and the like. I think that Guardians have heard my prayers and have chosen you, Allyandrah.”
Allyandrah gasped and choked on the last bite she’d taken. “Guardians don’t care nothin’ ‘bout slaves,” she said.
“That is not true at all, love. Guardians care about us all. They’ve simply been waiting for the right moment to strike. With you and Kru’Nah, it couldn’t be a more humbling matching for her.”
“She ain’t gonna allow it. She banished me for him rescuin’ me.”
“I’m certain she sent you into the forest on purpose. I wouldn’t even be surprised if she had the fire set.”
“She wouldn’t do that! Not to the forest!”
“I fear she just might. Prudence is not her style. Only her fear of the Guardians keeps me alive, which ironically, just might be her undoing.”
“But me? Me? Chosen by the Guardians?”
“It does seem unlikely, yes, but what else could it be? These circumstances have no other logical explanation, wouldn’t you agree?”
Allyandrah nodded before she really thought about it. Besides, what else could she say? Who was she to try to figure out the plans of the Guardians? Their knowledge and way of thinking were so much higher than hers could ever be.
Her. A slave. Nothing. A nobody. Chosen.
This changed everything.

One thought on “Everything Changes Now

  1. […] The continuing story of Allyandrah and Kru’Nah Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 This week’s prompt: A camping trip in the forest with friends. One disappears and comes back different. Kru’Nah and Commander Tra’Khil led the men back into the woods toward the outpost. It wasn’t likely that they would reach it before the storm hit in two days, but they needed to try. Kru’Nah took his position at the front instead of deferring to Commander Tra’Khil. Kru’Nah needed to reestablish himself in royal form in front of these men given the rumors that had been circling already. He felt grateful for the tracks in the snow to follow as his mind was somewhere other than on marching in the proper direction. Perhaps he had left too soon after Allyandrah’s banishment, too soon after his rescue of her. He thought back to the day of the forest fire. He always kept tabs on Allyandrah as his mother worked and abused the slave more and more. He knew she was in the woods. He knew the danger of her being out there. He knew he should stay at the palace and leave her fate to the Guardians. The more he tried to leave her alone, the more he couldn’t do it. What do the Guardians care about slaves, anyway? They would have done nothing to slow the fire to allow her escape. It was then he knew his love for her was true. “Sire?” Commander Tra’Khil’s voice broke through Kru’Nah’s thoughts. Stopping, Kru’Nah turned around to face the commander. “What is it?” His voice was sharp. Commander Tra’Khil shifted his weight showing his extreme discomfort. “Sire, we’ve orders to dispose of you out here.” “To dispose of me?” Kru’Nah threw the full weight of his royal command behind his voice. Every soldier shifted in his spot as Kru’Nah glared from one to the next. Commander Tra’Khil cleared his throat but formed no words after. “I see,” Kru’Nah sneered. “None of you brave enough to comply. Then let us continue until one of you has found his bravery.” Turning abruptly, Kru’Nah marched on, not caring whether any of them followed him. Kjelger honor forbade killing an opponent from behind. For now, as long as he moved forward, he would live, though the way his heart ached after losing Allyandrah again made him wish one of these men had been brave enough. He clenched his fists as he tried to steady his breathing and his emotions. If he was going to hold his royal command, he better start acting like it. After hours of marching and the sun began to hang low in the sky, Kru’Nah found a small clearing of trees in which to camp. He’d noticed hours ago that all the soldiers had followed him, though at a further distance than they would have without his reproach. Kru’Nah didn’t care how much he alienated them. He was the prince, after all. He owed them nothing. Kru’Nah stood watching while the men scrambled to gather supplies for a fire and build small shelters. Though he assumed that just a few miles more would have been a camp they’d used on the way out, he wanted to punish them and work them harder. He was angry at their cowardice but he owned them now after calling it out. As they worked, he set himself in the first finished shelter as one soldier cooked using the now blazing fire, the boiling resin jumping and landing on his thick furs. Kru’Nah removed his hood and face covering to scowl more clearly at the men. None dared look directly at him, but he knew they were watching him out of the corners of their eyes. He waited for Commander Tra’Khil to approach him to offer penance. Kru’Nah tried to empty his mind of Allyandrah as he waited, but she continued to creep back in. He tried to think about where she could be, if she was even still alive. He believed she was, but he couldn’t be sure. They hadn’t joined their spark yet, so he could only guess. Shortly, a bowl of hot vegetable stew was offered to him by Commander Tra’Khil. As Kru’Nah accepted it, he offered the first spoonful to Tra’Khil as an invitation to sit with him. Tra’Khil ate the first bite and sat down. “Look at me, Tra’Khil.” Slowly, Tra’Khil removed his own hood and face mask and turned to look at Kru’Nah. Years of worry and work had etched lines deep into the face of Tra’Khil, betraying his age to one much older. “What is going on? Tell me plainly.” Tra’Khil sat perfectly still as he explained, “The queen is none too pleased with you right now, sire. She is more than angry about your rescue of the slave and believes your disappearance has something to do with the slave, too. She has been raging in private while appearing as the concerned mother in public. The slave is not safe anywhere with other Kjelgers, at least not the ones loyal to your mother.” Kru’Nah tried to keep his face completely devoid of reaction as Tra’Khil explained Allyandrah’s plight. “Sire,” Tra’Khil continued, failing to keep his voice neutral and spoke more gently. “It would take the influence of the Guardians to save her out here. Who knows who else the queen has sent after her, too. All we know is that we were sent for you. There could be more out searching for her.” “Where do you and your men stand, then?” Kru’Nah felt he knew the answer given he was still alive. “Sire,” Tra’Khil cleared his throat. “Speak plainly.” Kru’Nah ordered. Tra’Khil shifted. Kru’Nah knew now that the truth was coming. “Sire. What you do is of no concern to us as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the safety of the kingdom. We have heard reports from the messengers–” “Unofficial reports?” “Yes, sire, unofficial. We’ve heard unofficial reports from messengers that the people are in favor of the rescue of the slave. It has given you favor among the people, which your mother is losing.” Kru’Nah stared incredulously at Tra’Khil. “Sire, I don’t understand it either.” “Commander Tra’Khil,” a voice interrupted. “Yes?” Tra’Khil addressed the soldier. “Permission to do a perimeter check.” “Permission granted.” “Parg’Noth out to check the perimeter.” “Acknowledged, Parg’Noth.” Turning back to Kru’Nah, Tra’Khil continued. “It seems some strange things are happening around here and I have no explanation.” Kru’Nah slowly nodded. He looked around the now dark campsite and saw the men huddling together in various structures. Yesterday, everything out here had seemed so simple and now it all had a layer of complication. “What kind of strange things?” Kru’Nah asked. “Sire, it’s almost as though the Guardians are displeased and so are trying to corrupt us.” “Corrupt who?” “Corrupt us all!” Tra’Khil answered with unexpected passion. “Excuse my outburst, sire.” Kru’Nah leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Continue.” Tra’Khil’s eyes widened. He cleared his throat and looked around, then leaned in and spoke in a lowered voice. “Sire, the burning of the forest. The disfavor of your mother. Your decision to rescue a slave. The rumors of you running off with her. Do you remember the last time a dynasty had such rumors and indiscretions?” “These events are the hands of the Guardians you think?” “Sire, I don’t know what else it could be. I’ve never heard of a prince rescuing a slave from anything. And the last time a queen fell out of favor with the people?” “It does seem like the meddling of the Guardians.” Kru’Nah rubbed his face. His fatigue was growing exponentially. Could his love be nothing more than the Guardians bent on making a point? “Is that why you and your men didn’t follow the orders of my mother?” “Sire, of course. Could we willingly participate in the games of the Guardians if we knew about them? Should we not resist such interference?” Shouts from the men interrupted Kru’Nah’s response. Commander Tra’Khil shot out from under the shelter to investigate. Kru’Nah rose slowly and followed. When he approached, he saw one of the soldiers wandering aimlessly in the middle of the circle of soldiers, his arms and legs bent at strange angles. Kru’Nah’s heart jumped up into his throat and he swallowed hard as the man turned to look at him, his soulless eyes burning inside Kru’Nah’s mind. “Who is this?” Commander Tra’Khil barked. “It’s Parg’Noth,” a soldier replied. “Strange things,” Kru’Nah whispered. “Those damn Guardians!” Commander Tra’Khil roared. “Put him down! Put him down!” The soldiers hesitated for just a moment before diving in. To Kru’Nah’s horror and dismay, Parg’Noth was not the aimless wanderer he seemed to be. When attacked, he defended himself, resisting the advances of six men at once. Parg’Noth slowly made his way toward Kru’Nah, pushing down soldier after soldier, though not killing them. Kru’Nah couldn’t make sense of what was happening and felt frozen in place though his mind screamed at him to run. Parg’Noth reached out to Kru’Nah with a shriveled finger and opened his mouth just as a sword erupted from his abdomen. Kru’Nah jumped back and as Parg’Noth dropped to the ground, he whispered, “she lives.” His whisper sounded like the wind rustling through the needles of the trees in the forest. Kru’Nah shook his head, sure he’d heard incorrectly. “He was dead before he spoke,” one soldier announced. “Are you sure?” Commander Tra’Khil asked. “I am certain. He uttered nothing. No harm will come.” In shock, Kru’Nah stared at the eyes of the now dead man, his bony finger still pointed at Kru’Nah. “What happens if he speaks?” Kru’Nah asked breathlessly. “If he speaks, we are cursed to the destiny he tells. He’s like a fate-sealer,” Commander Tra’Khil replied. “How do you know this?” “We’ve lost a dozen men to this. Everything spoken comes true and the one he speaks to is sealed to that fate.” Kru’Nah’s eyes widened and he shook his head. Was he really sure that the man had spoken? Or did he just imagine it? What did that mean for him if he had? What did it mean that she lives? “Come, men,” Commander Tra’Khil barked. “Put him out of the camp and get in your shelters. We still have a storm to outrun.” Kru’Nah slowly rose, trying to remember to be royal, to be princely. He pulled himself completely upright and walked to the shelter from which he’d come. He climbed inside, feeling a distinct chill at what he’d witnessed. Two soldiers were stationed by the fire to keep it raging. Kru’Nah supposed they would change guards throughout the night. No one could afford to be sleep deprived out here. As he lay down, letting the heat of the fire warm his body, his inner chill was replaced with a growing excitement. She lives. He was sure now that he’d heard correctly. He was destined to a fate with her. Even if the Guardians were meddling, what did it matter? She lives. Even if things changed, what did it matter? She lives. A smile broke out across his face. He needed to push on, toward what he didn’t know, but it didn’t matter anymore. She lives. Part 5 […]

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