(( This week’s weekly prompt is a story set at a full moon. I decided to continue last week’s story about Malwen, as she exists in Naren. This is part of her backstory. ))
Sayda Daijou had fallen asleep fairly quickly in the rocking transport wagon. She opened her eyes to find it was still dark. Malwen had woke and was lightly fussing. She was hungry. Sayda already knew her baby had different cries for different things. Those mages couldn’t have possibly taken care of her properly. She loosened the strings on the front of her blouse enough to expose one nipple to the baby’s eager mouth. She looked towards the seat at the front of the wagon. The man who had taken her silver for passage to Westerfair was still up front. He had told her as they set off that his name was Boyd. His friend and workmate, called Stig, slept on a hard cushion just behind the seat. Sayda had hoped he would offer it to her, but he hadn’t so she had to make herself a place to sit on the wooden crates full of goods that they were transporting; fruits and vegetables, as she had been told. They were an express transport. It was winter, so it was less likely that the goods would go bad, but the northern areas often supplemented their stored goods with fresh goods from the south. Boyd had been talking about how busy they had been this winter when Sayda had first dozed off.
The man was silent now, the full moon outlined his silhouette at the front of the wagon. The only sounds were the horses’ hooves and the creaking of the wagon wheels as they turned over the road to the next town. Sayda looked down at her baby, the moonlight giving her just enough light to see her daughter with. Her little Malwen had magical ability, a rare feat in a family with no mages. Neither her nor her husband’s family had any that they knew of. Sayda frowned as she thought that maybe there had been, but since they were taken away to Thril Gandir, they had been forgotten about. Well, they couldn’t take Malwen. Sayda wasn’t allowing that to happen.
She felt the wagon halt and looked towards the front again to see Boyd speaking to someone. Stig had woken as well, and was turned around on his cushion to face whomever it was they were talking to. She felt the wagon lurch forward again, but then slowed to a stop a few seconds later. Boyd climbed down to the ground, and Stig turned towards her. “We’re just changing the horses. Boyd and I can take turns resting, but the horses can’t. Our next stop won’t be until daylight. We’ll also be stopping for breakfast then.”
Sayda nodded feeling the baby’s mouth slip off her breast. She pulled her blouse back up and put the baby against her shoulder, lightly tapping her back. “Do we have time now to leave the wagon? Also is there an outhouse nearby?”
“It’ll take a while to change the horses. You should have time. There’s an outhouse just the other side of the barn.”
Sayda looked down at Malwen, “Would you mind holding her for a few minutes? I won’t be gone long.”
Stig shifted uncomfortably for a couple of seconds before holding out his hands. “I guess I can hold her for a bit. No sense taking her into that smelly, small building.”
“Thank you, Stig” She said, handing over the baby. She crawled out and down off the wagon. The night air was chill and she wasn’t dressed very well for it, so she hurried around to the other side of the barn to find the outhouse.
On her walk back, she heard voices shouting out. They didn’t sound like Stig or Boyd. Perhaps, the owner of the barn was upset about something. She walked around the corner, stopping as soon as she saw who it was. One of the mages from the night before, and his adahi were questioning Boyd, and rather loudly. She didn’t get a chance to hear what they were saying before she felt a tug on her sleeve. She looked back around the corner to see Stig, still holding Malwen.
He whispered, “Ma’am, I think they’ve come for her.”
She glanced back at the mage. He was looking straight at her.
She whispered without looking back at Stig and moving her lips as little as possible, “Please, run the other way.” Then she pretended to be holding something and ran away from where Stig was. She didn’t look back, but prayed he had listened to her.
“Seize her! That’s the woman who stole the baby!” she heard the mage cry out. She heard a horse whinny back where the others were, but she kept running. She pulled up her skirt with one hand so that she wouldn’t trip as she ran up an incline. Then she stopped, just in time, knocking a few rocks off the cliff to the river below. She looked back to see the adahi, the mage’s protector and controller, on the horse getting closer, though he had slowed to a trot. He must have realized she was trapped. She turned back looking at the drop. If they caught her a mage could read her mind. They could do that. She was sure. What else could they do? Why hadn’t this one done any of that translocation thing she heard they did? He could just move her to him or him to her. Was he reading her mind now? She hoped not, but she knew it would happen if she was caught, and then they’d know who had Malwen.
The adahi was close enough now that he stopped his horse and dismounted. He began walking towards her. She still pretended that she was holding something, though in reality, it was just bunched fabric from her light cloak. Malwen would be safe if they thought she died. She could pretend to throw something over the cliff, but they would still take her in, and it wouldn’t be for murder. They’d still read her mind, and then they’d know that Malwen still lived. The adahi was too close.
“You can’t have her.” Sayda growled pulling her bundle of bunched fabric closer to her. She glared at the adahi before whipping around and throwing herself off the cliff, all the while acting as if she was cradling a baby close to her.
She stood no chance. The fifty foot drop was deadly, and although she landed in the water, it was shallow. She died on impact. The adahi and the mage searched around the river, only finding Sayda’s body. Boyd’s mind was read, but having seen the same things the mage had seen, he didn’t know anything, but he could confirm that the woman was Sayda and the baby’s name was Malwen. They discovered he had been lied to and told that she was fleeing abuse, and so they let him go.
They didn’t find Stig, who had found a spot out behind the outhouse that was fairly sheltered from the wind and cold. He whispered lullabies to the baby, holding her close to keep her warm, as he waited for the visitors to leave.