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My Name is Honor: Chapter 3
Just as the sun was rising, as Kaya and I were in the kitchen preparing the day's bread, the sound of hooves came through the open window. I recognized the rhythm of Carrick's horse, but there were more. Setting the last of the loaves to rise near the window, I peered out into the dim light. I could just make out the shape of Carrick on his horse, and plodding along behind him were several cows and sheep. I caught glimpses of black-and-white flashes darting in and out of the herd as Carrick's pair of border collies pushed the animals on, bringing attempted escapees back and nipping at stragglers. Then came another shape into view, another man (almost certainly Orin) on a gracefully-moving and very lively horse which seemed to almost float over the ground as it trotted along bringing up the rear with the great hulking form of an equally graceful Wolfhound keeping pace beside it.
So, Carrick's proposal to move up the date had been accepted, and here was the proof. The traditional gift to the parents of the bride, usually some sort of livestock, the gift that wasn't his to receive. I felt a rush of indignation as I watched them approach the pasture where the animals would be turned out.
"Careful, Girl!" Kaya's sharp reprimand brought me back to the kitchen, where I realized I'd been angrily kneading the ball of dough I had been supposed to leave to rise. It would be ruined now, and I braced for the corrective slap, certainly the one thing she would still strike me for was ruining bread. When it didn't come, I turned to look at her questioningly to find her already gone back to the other side of the kitchen to prepare more dough.
Outside I could hear the Collies yipping excitedly as the cows and sheep were driven through the pasture gate.
"Nora!" Kaya's voice again, and that wretched name, like a dagger through my ears.
I turned to find her standing behind me, holding the finished dough in her hands, looking at me expectantly.
"If there's anything you could manage not to ruin, let it be this bread. You know how your fa- how Carrick is about his bread."
Carrick and Orin were dismounting now, coming toward the house.
"Do it yourself." I said flatly, stepping aside to give her space at the counter.
Her face passed through several shades of red, eyes narrowed to slits, something in her look told me not to push her but I returned her gaze placidly and smiled. I found inside myself none of the anxiety and fear I had once felt in the wake of her anger, only cold, sterile empathy tinged in hate. When the door swung open, Kaya quickly recovered her composure and greeted her husband as was expected. Orin trailed in quietly, ordering his hound to stay outside.
"Stay, Archu." He spoke firmly and the dog obeyed, promptly planting himself outside the door.
Carrick eyed his wife and then me before speaking. "Orin's parents have accepted the change, you will be married in two days." He stated matter-of-factly.
I nodded stiffly, a bit surprised. Two days? I was prepared for a week, even looking forward to it if only to escape this house, but two days? Orin was trying unsuccessfully to suppress a smile as we exchanged a glance; he knew something I didn't. I could read it in every line of his face, every blink of his eyes, even if Carrick and Kaya couldn't. Carrick invited him to stay a while and rest for the ride back while Kaya and I finished preparing breakfast.
After the meal cleanup, I walked with Orin to the barn to fetch his horse, Archu trailing his master devotedly. He waited until we were well out of earshot to speak his mind.
"Are you ready?"
"Yes" I told him without hesitation. "Whatever it is that you're thinking, I'm ready."
"You know about your parents then, eh? How did you get them to tell you?"
He turned to me solemnly "I'm so sorry, Nora. It can't have been an easy thing to hear."
I shook my head vigorously "It's better than living under the belief those two are my parents. And don't call me that."
"Call you... Nora?"
"My parents, my real parents, wrote my lineage before they were killed, it had my name, the name they gave me. My name is Honor."
"Honor" he repeated it, smiled "I like it."
As he led his horse, dancing beside him at the end of the lead rope, out of the barn, Orin took my hand.
"Be ready tomorrow. Can you get away in the evening?"
I nodded "Yes, when Kaya sends me to fetch meat from the smokehouse. It's right near the edge of the woods."
"Perfect. I will come for you there." with this, he kissed my hand and swung up onto his horse. The stout bay stud snorted impatiently as Orin flashed me a smile and then he was gone in a swirl of dust and drumming hooves, Archu in pursuit.
The rest of that day I stayed to my work, avoiding eye contact with Kaya and Carrick, afraid my eyes would betray the raw, burning excitement I felt. I helped prepare the evening meal, only to find Kaya had set only two places at the table. I was not included...and it suited me just fine. I knew by the way Kaya's eyes bore down on me that I was expected to take the hint and go up to my room in the loft. I returned her steely gaze and took a bowl from the cupboard, filling it with the lamb stew steaming on the table. Her eyes widened as I tore an extra large piece of bread from the loaf. Carrick would be furious, I knew, the bread was not to be broken before he sat down to eat. I turned back to Kaya, who looked like she might explode any moment.
I don't need to infuriate her so... why am I doing this? I questioned myself Because she is an evil, deceitful woman and deserves this and so much more came the answer.
"The stew smells delicious, Kaya." I said brushing past her on my way to the stairs.
"You are a plague upon this home" she spat.
I turned back to her and flashed the best smile I could muster. "To be a plague on liars and murderers is a pleasure, thank you."
She was still sputtering when I reached the top of the stairs. Moments later I heard Carrick come in from the field, and the fervent, hissing explanation from Kaya as to what had happened to the bread. He demanded she throw it away and bring him a fresh loaf. I listened a while longer and finally dozed off on my lumpy straw mattress, wistfully dreaming up what sort of plan Orin might have for us.
When I woke hours later in the cool stillness of the night, I knew at once someone was in the loft with me. The hair on my arms stood on end as I heard a breath, weight shifting in the shadows, then she spoke.
"You know, because of you I'll never have my own daughter." Kaya's voice came softly across the room. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw her standing at the top of the stairs something like a specter in her long white nightshirt and ivory skin. She moved toward the window, looking out over the barn and fields.
"My dear husband felt so sure nurture would overtake nature and we could make you our own. By the time we realized you would never be anything but poison, I was too old. I thank the Gods every day for my two wonderful, obedient, devout boys, but to have had a daughter...well I'll never know, will I? Because of you." She rounded on me, eyes fierce under the faint glow of the moon.
"I didn't stop you from doing anything. If you wish to place blame, speak with your husband, not to me." I managed to make my voice casual, as if I hadn't a care in the world. The truth was, she was behaving strangely and it made me nervous. How long had she stood and watched me sleeping before I woke? I felt a chill at the thought and sat up straighter, swinging my legs over the side of the bed.
"You are a vile, ungrateful little vermin who invaded my home. I wanted nothing to do with raising the bastard child of a couple of traitors! but-"
"-But your husband insisted. Go bother him with it." I interrupted her, not wanting to hear any more of it.
She was upon me in a moment, moving faster than I believed she could, and stronger than I ever imagined. I hadn't seen the little paring knife in her hand, but now felt it at my throat.
"I should have killed you in your crib. I should have never allowed such a cancer to grow in our home. And now, here we are about to be rid of you, and I still feel I would rather see you dead. Your children will no doubt be ruined, no matter what Carrick thinks, Orin will not be enough to balance your diseased blood. It's a wonder we were able to find you a match at all, I daresay the only reason Orin's parents agreed is that he was a sickly child and not likely to find a match either. I thought I could go along with this charade, but I simply cannot, you must be put down, the line must end with you." She traced the knife lightly along my cheek, a crazed light in her eyes. I had pushed her too far with my insolence in the past few days. Already consumed by hate, she hadn't far to be pushed and this was where it ended up.
"Kaya, murder unless sanctioned by the Council or in self-defense is forbidden." I said, trying to keep my voice steady as the little blade drifted back to the soft skin of my throat.
"Do not dare quote Council law to me! My family has produced seven apostles to the Council! Yours betrayed the Gods themselves and were slaughtered in the woods like animals. I don't need you to tell me what is forbidden!" her voice was rising now, my attempt to dissuade her from violence using her devotion had failed.
"Don't you see? this is self-defense. I am defending humanity itself from being contaminated any further! I finally realize that you cannot be allowed to go out into the world to procreate, can you imagine the damage?" She shook her head "No... it cannot be. Carrick doesn't seem to see it, but I do, and I am not afraid to fulfill my duty to the Gods and Council. I will do what should have been done long ago."
She's lost her mind completely. Was it the bread? I shouldn't have taken it. I didn't need bread, it was only to get under her skin, and now here she is about to get under mine quite literally.
She blinked, looking at me curiously, the knife pressing harder against my throat. I met her gaze, but she didn't seem to really be looking at me, more beyond me; through me. Her eyes narrowed as if she were enraged by what she saw. I felt her hand twitch, but not until I felt the warmth flow over me did I realize she had really done it.
The familiar wave surged within me, the world around me turned red, and in a blink I found myself pinning her to the hardwood floor, knees on her arms, hands around her neck. My blood dripped into her eyes as I hung over her. Every beating I had ever received at her hands, every slap, every admonishment, played through my mind.
She meant to kill you this night, she is no innocent, but she's failed...she didn't do it right. Take her life instead, squeeze it right out of her scrawny neck...
The voice spawned by years of abuse hissed in my mind as Kaya sputtered beneath me, unable to struggle free. Her face shifted from red to deep burgundy, eyes bulging, lips turning blue in the moonlight, another voice within me whispered back.
Let her go. She has wronged you all your life, but this will never make it right...
I fought the internal battle a moment longer before she stopped struggling.
I stared at her and she stared at nothing. Eyes open, she gazed off into infinity, never to view the living world again. It felt like hours before I finally staggered away from her body, first staring at my hands that had just taken a life, and then grasping at the clean gash in my throat to slow the blood. It wasn't much, not near enough for her to have hit the big vein. I tore off a strip of sheet and tied it as tightly as I dared around the wound, and sat down on the bed, trying to order my thoughts on what must happen next.
Carrick had always been a heavy sleeper, but it was still a wonder to me he hadn't been roused by our tussling. Still, as I crept down the stairs I took care to make no sound. In the kitchen, I took an old potato sack and tossed in a loaf of bread, a few jars of preserves and slipped outside, a plan rapidly forming in my mind.
Carrick's border collies, Tressa and Trevor, stirred from their straw bed as I sneaked into the barn, careful to not let the door slam behind me. The horses shifted in their stalls, two heavy drafts and Carrick's beloved saddle horse, Fiona. She was an ornery mare, devoted solely to the only rider she had ever known. I turned longingly to the pair of drafts that I had dubbed Frick and Frack years ago, who were a pair of gentle, sweet-natured giants, but were only broke to drive and wouldn't have the speed I needed. After a brief struggle, Fiona was saddled and I was beginning to feel light-headed and sick. I touched the cloth around my neck and found it wet with blood.
After changing my makeshift bandage, I led Fiona out of the barn, whispering to her.
"You don't like me and I don't like you, so lets just get this over with so I can let you go."
The mare snorted as if it were to most preposterous thing she'd ever heard, and nipped at my backside as I climbed up onto her back. She bucked once, twice, three times, nearly throwing me in my current state. I grasped the left rein, pulling her nose around to her side, forcing her around in a circle as I had seen Carrick do when he broke her. Finally, she settled and I delivered a solid kick to her side, sending the little mare bolting down the worn dirt path towards Orin's family's farm.