“Really? You work directly with my- the King.”
Dally cast Rebecca a cautionary look, but nodded. She cleared the corner to see if anyone was within earshot. She leaned in very close. “It helps to have been the one who got the princess out of the castle alive. That earns you a lot of trust.” Dally smiled, a touch of sadness in her eyes.
Rebecca nodded and closed her eyes briefly in an attempt to block out her few splintered memories of that night. She had been less than two years old. Many of the pictures of fire and death she was sure she constructed from what the Lieutenant had told her about that night. He answered every question, but volunteered very little.
She was too young to really to have her own memories, but she swore she felt the flames and choked on smoke as she ran through a dark forest. This is ridiculous, because Dally would have carried her in her arms. There were escape tunnels that led to the forest. She wouldn’t have run through a burning forest.
When Rebecca opened her eyes, Dally puckered her lips tightly. Her aging nurse locked eyes with her. Rebecca wondered if Dally could see her questions written there.
“We haven’t talked about that night.” Dally glanced over her shoulder. “You weren’t old enough to know what was going on. Do you remember anything?”
“Just smoke, fire, running, and screaming.” Rebecca said.
Dally pressed her graying hair to the side of her head. “Yes, there was all of that.” The old nurse closed her eyes. She drew Rebecca closer to the wall. “There had been strange things going on all week. People and things missing or in the wrong places. When I heard the yelling and running, I panicked. I grabbed you and ran straight to the hidden passage in your parents’ rooms.”
Dally paused to wrinkle her forehead and check around the corner again. “I followed it out into that nightmare forest. I think we only survived because those cursed trees took pity on us. They understand the need to run from fire. I’ve never been so scared. It was the Lieutenant who found us the next day. He saw the fire and rode straight into Waldren’s Wood without the slightest thought for his safety, hoping to find his friend and sister, but finding only us. He had been spying so long for the king, he didn’t even know that you’d been born. You were all the family he or the King had left.” Dally leaned in to whisper. “Double precious.”
This is a character sketch exercise I wrote in connection with my novel, The Villain’s Assistant.
Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn