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Fantasy Huntsman

Sub Genres
Action, Adventure, AU, Romance

Faynman

New Member
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert lived in the outskirts of the capital, to the east, where bustling flea markets, commerce, and merchants were replaced with sparse housing, tranquil silence, and wide plains of great green nothing. A long, shoddy road that had its roots in the capital led to the Cuthbert's commune: a large acre of land that housed no more than ten families. The road took travelers a full day's ride, in a tunnel of endless trees and tall grass, before seeing any sign of civilization. This, and the fact that the couple only needed to travel during harvest season, meant that it was rare for them to see visitors and just as rare for them to go out to visit. However, those who ventured down the road would find their visit quite rewarding, particularly during harvest season. The road ended in a hall of apple blossoms which greeted all those who entered with a warm blanket of pink flowers that covered the dirt like snow. Across the trees was a lake. A warped reflection of the sun shined ever so brightly on its surface, and crystal clear water reflected rays that bathed nearby fishermen and wildlife in incandescent light. This was a different world from the city. One that Laurianne had used as her place of solace for as long as she could remember.

Laurianne sat inside the kitchen of the Cuthbert home, a three bedroom cottage made of graying brick, gazing out at a prairie. She leaned her elbows on top of the desk in front of her, resting her chin on a net of meshed fingers. The quill she had been using sat firmly between her thumb and palm, and she showed no signs of discomfort as it brushed along the side of her jaw and towards the edge of her eye. She looked downwards. A half written letter laid next to a full pot of ink besides her right elbow. Written on the top left corner was a methodical ‘To My Dear Marilla and Matthew Cuthberts’, below a plethora of scribbled out sentences.

It was only a month ago that she had gotten news of the High King's decree to wed her with Baron Brigham. Unlike other girls, she hated the idea of marriage. It made her feel she had to relinquish her hobbies, passions, and desires to satisfy a man she had no love for. She reminded herself of yesterday, the night before the wedding. Her mother went to bed early for the ceremonial preparations and rehearsals at dawn. She was instructed to do the same but couldn't shake the feeling that she was holding onto her world with a finger. So she paced. She paced back and forth. Her mind reading through her list of things that made the Baron unsuitable for marriage: too short, too thin, too many freckles. Finally deciding to act, she rode for the Cuthberts at midnight. The cacophony of croaks and howls terrified her throughout the night.

She turned her attention outside the window. Grass stretched out across the horizon like a massive green ocean, and summer winds brushed the land, making the grass look like soft bristles. Losing herself, she resurfaced an old memory. She must've been no more than ten at the time. Matthew had made a comment about how manual labor was unfit for someone of her stature, and little Laurianne, as hot-headed and arrogant as she was then, had taken it as an insult and made up her mind to prove her competence by challenging Matthew to a milking competition. After Laurianne had finally realized she couldn't get a drop inside her bucket, she kicked it down and began to cry profusely. Her tears washed away the sticky coating of dried milk on her hands. Laurianne road home that day with a mission. She wanted to learn how to milk cows, till land, and sow seeds better than anyone. She worked towards this goal fervidly and voraciously consumed volumes of farmers almanacs and how-tos. During her next visit, the Cuthberts were admittedly impressed when she lectured them on harvest cycles and proper fertilization techniques. She grinned and jumped in joy when they praised her. They spent the rest of the afternoon exchanging facts. Surprisingly, she was all too eager for Matthew to point out any holes in her knowledge and made a note to herself to remember them in the future. The nostalgia made Laurianne's heart swell and filled her stomach with an unexplainable warmth. Although she was rightfully embarrassed at her old brash and childish behaviour, she joyed in the thought that there were people who loved her enough to deal with her constant tantrums. Memories like these were coming back more often now. She wondered if they’d be her last.

"Laurianne!" A muffled voice broke Laurianne's spell.

Beginning to return to reality, Laurianne blinked twice and jolted in the voice's direction. The suddenness made her knock over the ink pot. A resounding thud followed its impact. Before she knew it, black tendrils had covered the sheet of paper in front of her. Laurianne let out an irate ‘tsk’ before she pinched a corner of the sheet and lifted it up. It was heavy from saturation, and driplings oozed down to stain her desk. After a brief moment, she twisted her lips, exhaled, and turned her head to notice a large blotch of ink right beneath the dinner table. A dark trail encircled the blotch and thinned out as it reached the empty ink pot.

"Laurianne!" The voice called again.

"Coming!" Laurianne allowed the ink soaked paper to drop onto the floor as she rushed towards the front door. Two hands gripping the sides of her skirt.

“What took you so long?” Marilla stood with slightly furrowed brows and a bucket in each hand. White bumps rose over the bucket’s edge like hills across the horizon, and this made Laurianne curious. “Take these and bring them into the kitchen,” Marilla gestured the buckets towards Laurianne.

Laurianne looked downwards to see the buckets filled to the brim with eggs. Eyes widened with surprise, she let out a childlike squeal. “Wow Marilla! There’s so many. How did you get so much?” She asked, keeping her gaze on the buckets as she took them away.

A bead of sweat rolled down Marilla's cheek, and she brushed her face against the sleeve of her blouse to scratch her cheeks and the edge of her wrinkly eyes. “Nevermind that. What have you been doing?” Marilla’s hands were on her hips now like she was about to lecture. Soot coated her hands with a grayish hue and darkened the area between her fingernails. While they both wore similar attires, Marilla couldn’t look any more different from the young girl infront of her. Marilla’s peasant blouse was grimy, soaked in sweat, and filled with dark brown patches from a hard day’s work. She wore her sleeves rolled up from mobility and her raven black hair tied to a short bun. Laurianne, on the other hand, wore her pleasant blouse according to the style of today’s youths: unrolled, frilly, and clean. She had small twin braids at the top of her auburn head that trickled and merged into a long ponytail.

“I was writing a letter, Marilla” Laurianne said, turning her head towards Marilla and slightly downwards like she was expecting something.

"I have no problem with you riding in the middle of the night for a surprise visit, but I won’t let you in again if you spend all your time writing letters instead of helping me and Matthew,” Marilla said, sighing afterwards as if the delivery was painful.

"I'm sorry Marilla. Let me help you make dinner tonight," Laurianne said. Her lips curved into a slight frown. She knew Marilla would never lock her out, but the thought of the Cuthberts shutting her away in a time of need made her feel a needle stab at her heart.

"Well then if you want to prepare meals for me and Matthew, you better finish your chores quickly," said Marilla, turning to point at a series of empty buckets leaning against the barn behind her. As if Laurianne had nothing to say, Marilla began cleaning her hands with her apron and made her way towards the field.

Laurianne watched Marilla walk away into the distance. Many years ago, she hated Marilla's sharp tongue, which was the cause for a small portion of her tantrums, but she thought it endearing now. It was weird, she reflected, but she preferred to be noticed and scolded by Marilla than neglected by her mother. Feeling rejuvenated, Laurianne filled her thoughts with the pleasant conversations and catching up she'd have with the Cuthberts during tonight's dinner, which allowed her to finish her chores with haste. An occasional itch, however, nagged at her to say she had forgotten something. She’d stop to think, but all she could remember was that it was something in the kitchen.
 
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Sia

❀->–
Faynman Faynman
____________

Bolin narrowed his eyes against the gleam of the sun across a field of rich grasses. Beyond lay a cluster of cottages and barn houses. Quaint, he thought. So, this was where a disobedient princess would run to: a discrete village a good day's ride east of the capital. She'd certainly done a good job choosing it. The road was dirt, not much more than a river of brown pebbles and dust leading to the shabby commune. Baron Brigham's other dogs had certainly missed it. Raglan, Tobias, Merita. They all would have overlooked the discrete gossip of a potato farmer. It had just been a word, really. Something about a girl and the name Cuthbert, a quick slip of tongue, perhaps again over a drink stronger than ale, but it was enough. And now he was here, with the prize just within his grasp: freedom.

The word tasted of thrill. Bolin rubbed the place over his heart, feeling the folded parchment tucked away into the leather of his jerkin. Underneath that was the brand of a lion, burned deep into his skin long ago in the days of his youth. He still occasionally felt bits of phantom pain, sometimes thought he imagined the stench of burned flesh. Sometimes, he even dreamed of the day his debt would finally be repaid. That day would come sooner than expected. Princess Laurianne couldn't run forever.

There was, however, a risk with communes. He was just one man, and there were perhaps ten families -- large families -- all raising strong men and knit together tighter than an old woman's winter sweater. No matter how good of a fighter he was, it would be foolish to try and snatch the girl right from under their noses and expect to escape without any scratches. Disguising himself into sheep's clothing was a more plausible choice. Then, it was only a matter of escorting her to the edge of the woods for walnuts.

For several days, rain or shine, Bolin watched from the shadows of the forest or from the tall grasses, waiting for his opportunity. It came soon enough in the form of a mildly cloudy day, the air full with the scent of an oncoming storm. An old man dragged a fencepost down the way, his steps uneven by a limp. Bolin circled around back to the main road, taking his horse by the reigns.

Once he was in view of the man, he schooled his features into a friendly smile. "Ho, stranger. Would you like a bit of help with that fence?" He called.

What a sight I must be to him, Bolin mused to himself, but there was nothing to be done about his tall, foreign stature, the dark dye of his belongings, or the score of weapons stashed on his person, from the bow strapped to his horse's saddle to the double-scabbard at his hip and the belt of knives across his chest. The stranger's eyes narrowed, but then he glanced at the fencepost in his arms then winced at the clouds forming in the sky. The piece of wood dropped to the ground with a woody thunk.

"Fine, then. Thank you," the man decided, lips tightening with mild suspicion. Bolin took up the post, heaving it easily over his shoulder.

The silence stretched. It seemed this fellow was the sort to not say much if he didn't have to.

"You can call me Bolin. I come from across the sea," he said, attempting to make conversation. A slow nod was the only thing he gained from his endeavor. "And you are?"

Again, there was a pause, but Bolin waited patiently. "Matthew. Matthew Cuthbert."

He raised his brows at the name. "Well, it's a fine thing I came by when I did, Mister Cuthbert. Recon this weather makes your joints ache something awful."

"It does," Cuthbert admitted, and pointed off to the side, where a section of fence sagged low due to a rotted post.

The pair veered off the path, the horse following of its own accord. For the next while, the two worked together, diligently prying out nails and digging to the fencepost foundation. Matthew only spoke to give brief instruction, and as they filled in the hole and nailed the last board in with a stone, the first drops of rain began to sprinkle.

"The clouds look bad," Matthew said after Bolin had hauled the rotten post into the woods, "You should come stay with us. So long as you don't mind the barn."

Smiling warmly, Bolin took a moment to seem like he was considering it. "Thank you, sir, that's very kind. I think I will, if you're sure I won't be an undue burden."

"No, no," was the man's simple reply, and they said not a word more on the walk back to the Cuthbert homestead. By then, the rain was heavy, although fairly tame considering what was to come. With an instruction to put away his horse in the barn, Matthew limped off into the main house to tell the missus of an extra guest, Bolin's water-resistant cloak wrapped around his shoulders. Out of a gesture, he'd offered it to the man, but now, soaked to the skin as he was, he cursed, shivering and uncomfortable.

Flinging the barn doors open, he stepped inside, pulling the horse with his weight into the warm sanctuary of the building.
 
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