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–,”
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.