This story is by Marie Elrich and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Leah hated visiting the market. If she did, she could run across him. But Sister Celene from Saint Mary’s Orphanage wouldn’t take no for an answer. When Leah arrived at the market, she quickly made her way through the crowds to the booth of the cloth merchant. She hastily made her purchase and carried it carefully in a basket. Relieved she hadn’t seen him, she walked towards home, her boots clacking against the cobblestone.
Suddenly, Captain Daryl appeared from nowhere. He stopped her, his tall body blocking her from moving around him.
Great. He’s here. Leah groaned inwardly.
“You’re buying silk today? How can you afford something like that?” Daryl questioned.
Leah ignored his question, trying to squeeze around him. He stepped in her way.
“I doubt you would look good in anything that fancy,” Daryl continued, “And who would you wear it for? You don’t have a family.”
“This cloth isn’t for me,” Leah retorted defensively. “It’s for a girl at the orphanage who’s been selected by a member of the Norten house.”
“Wow, you’re moving up!” Daryl whistled. “One day a house might have sympathy on you and marry you to one of their sons.”
“I highly doubt that,” Leah replied.
“Really,” Daryl commented, leaning in inches away from her face, “Even if one lord’s son was willing?”
Leah stepped back, shuddering. I’d rather marry a barbarian! She thought. Aloud she said, “As you mentioned, I’m an orphan, so nobody would be interested.”
“Someone feels high and mighty, for refusing a lord,” Daryl growled. He crossed his arms over his chest and widened his stance. Leah trembled. She didn’t want to face his punishment. Not again. She was about to bow and apologize when she saw the boy.
With blonde hair, bright green eyes and pointy ears, he was an elf, and that made him a target. He was leaning by the apple cart, looking carefully at each one, his ribs sticking to his shirt.
“What are ya looking at?” Daryl questioned.
Leah immediately stopped and lied, “N-n-othing.”
Daryl arched an eyebrow and looked in the direction Leah had looked. He saw the boy and called out to his guards, who had been loitering around other booths. Leah dashed away as soon as Daryl left her, only looking over her shoulder once.
The boy’s green eyes haunted her.
Leah didn’t stop running until she reached St. Mary’s Orphanage, a triangular building attached to the church. When she entered through the doors into the living area, she was immediately surrounded by children.
“Miss Leah, Matt pulled my hair!” Sally protested.
“Well she pushed me,” Matt retorted.
Leah ignored the children, putting her basket on a chair and walking stiffly towards her bedroom, the children trailing. Sister Celene noticed something was wrong and intercepted the children, speaking to them.
“Kids, Miss Leah isn’t feeling well. Why don’t you all go get ready for dinner?”
“Aww, but Sister Celene….” Sally whined.
“No buts Sally. Go on and wash up!” Celene commanded.
The children dragged their feet and left. Leah collapsed on her bed and Celene came by her side.
“What is it, Sister Leah?” Celene asked.
“I saw another arrest,” Leah replied. .
“There, there, it’s okay,” she said, patting Leah’s hand.
“It’s not okay!” Leah cried. “I stood by and did nothing to stop it.”
“As you should,” Celene replied. “It’s too dangerous to do anything. It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”
Leah sat up and looked at her, stating, “But what if the Lord made it so that we are to help? What then?”
“One can never know God’s will,” Sister Celene replied, her gray-blue eyes narrowing.
Leah stared at her in disbelief.
“But you can try praying to him and see what he says,” she added. “Why don’t you go to the Altar and see? I’ll take care of the children.”
“Really?” Leah asked, eyes wide.
“Yes,” Celene assured her, and Leah gave her a hug.
“Thank you Sister! I’ll help you twice as hard when I get back,” Leah promised.
“Yes, yes,” Celene said dismissively.
Leah smiled, stood, grabbed her cloak and walked across the yard to the church. She entered through the side and went to the altar. The altar was covered by candles and had a crucifix in the center. Leah lit a candle and knelt by it. She began to pray, her whispers barely audible.
Lord, Help me to know what I should do about the people who are captured by the royal guard. I’m frightened of the guards, of Daryl especially. The last time I did something wrong in Daryl’s eyes, he made me clean their bathroom. I’m sorry for my cowardice, Lord. You say you are with us always. If so, what should I do? Sister Celene, who is undoubtedly closer to you, says we should stay out of it. I’m tired of staying out of it. But I don’t know what to do…
She wasn’t sure how long she repeated her pleas, but sometime during her conversation with God, she heard something in the church. She felt like she should stop praying and start listening.
“You’re wrong David,” a female voice said, “We can’t free them tonight.”
“Tonight is perfect. I can feel it, Abigail,” a male voice replied.
“How do you know?” the one called Abigail questioned.
“God told me,” David answered.
“God told you?” Abigail retorted, “Did he also tell you he has a third person to help us with this operation? Hmm, did he tell you that?”
“Yes,” David argued, “Someone here at the church.”
“That’s why we’re here?” Abigail exclaimed. “I thought it was just to make an offering. Or a confession or something.”
“Um, excuse me?” Leah walked into the sanctuary, where the voices were coming from.
Both people jumped. Abigail and David had black hair that curled in coils around their heads. Abigail’s hair was shoulder length and David’s hair was close-cropped. Siblings, Leah realized.
“See, I told you He had someone to help us!” David exclaimed, walking forward with his hand out. “My name’s David. What’s yours?”
“It’s Leah. And help you with what?” Leah asked.
“Help us free the magical prisoners,” Abigail replied, eyeing Leah. “You don’t look like you’ve done any espionage in your life.”
“I haven’t,” Leah stuttered. She realized that Abigail meant the elves, fairies and their kin who were being imprisoned by the royal guard. Leah gulped and thought, Thank you God.
“Are you ready to go?” Abigail asked Leah.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s ready,” David took Leah’s hand, “We need to go.”
Leah followed, her heart beating in her ears. This was crazy. She was going with complete strangers to free magical creatures. They walked out of the church towards the street. The sun had set, so the only lights were the oil lanterns on the street. She could still turn around and go back to the safety of the orphanage.
“So, what skills do you have?” Abigail asked Leah.
“Skills?” Leah wondered.
“You know, infiltration skills, sailing skills,” Abigail began.
“Uh—” Leah stuttered.
“Stop it, Abi,” David snapped.
“What, I’m just asking why God provided her!” Abigail protested.
“We’ll find out. Just trust him,” David answered.
Abigail lowered her voice, “Do you know anyone in the royal guard?”
“Know?” Leah repeated. Her mind leapt towards Daryl’s confrontation with her just hours earlier. Her eyes widened and her heart beat quickened.
“Good. You can distract them while we get the prisoners out.”
Distracting Daryl sounded horrifying. What would Leah do? She could still turn back. The chapel was a few yards away now and these people could be crazy. She was about to do so when an image of the boy came to mind.
Blonde hair, pointy ears. Green eyes, just like hers. She gulped and said a prayer. A peace settled her heartbeat and her shallow breathing. She only had one more question.
“What will happen to the prisoners? Where will you take them?” Leah asked.
“We have a ship waiting in the harbor. The captain has agreed to take us to the magical lands,” David replied.
Leah nodded in reply, because they’d arrived at the prison. The prison was a simple building serving as the office front, and three buildings containing cells that formed a square. The cells faced outward so all could see how the convicts suffered.
Abigail pushed Leah towards the front door of the prison. Leah stumbled forward, but paused. Abigail and David both had tools which they would use to open the locks of each cell door. She took a deep breath and wondered how insane she would be to do this. The words, “Be Strong and Courageous for I am with You” came to her mind, filling her with calmness she knew wasn’t of herself. She pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Captain Daryl and his guards were sitting around a table playing cards, smoking something foul between their lips. They had several mugs of whiskey and when Leah entered, Daryl loudly called out to her.
“Oh, you’ve come at last!” he exclaimed.
Leah’s heart quickened. She walked awkwardly over to him, and he wrapped his arm around her waist. She suppressed a shudder.
“Guys, this is the girl I was talkin’ about. Isn’t she pretty?” Daryl said, his voice slurred.
The other men grunted.
“She’s the reason we caught that elf earlier. She looked over and saw him before I did. Means she’s smart too, just perfect for me,” Daryl told them, taking a swig of his whiskey once more.
“But why’s she here?” one of the more sober guards asked.
“I-uh-” Leah stuttered, “Came here to visit Daryl. To thank him for sa-saving me from that elf.”
“Ahh, you did?” Daryl whined, tightened his grip around her waist.
Leah tried not to panic, and she knelt by Daryl so that she could see the card game. She watched them play round after round. The jailbreak felt like it was taking forever.
“Teach me how to play,” Leah said.
“You’ve never played BlackJack before? Well then, let me explain it to you…”
Before Daryl could explain, a guard called out, “Sir, the prisoners are escaping!”
“What!” Daryl exclaimed, standing swiftly.
He tipped slightly to the side. Leah supported his arm.
“Go after them, what’re you waiting here for?” Daryl motioned, and his men stumbled around to get dressed in their armor. Daryl sighed. He leaned into Leah, his alcoholic-breath on her face.
“It seems awful convenient that you came in here just as the jailbreak was going on,” Daryl whispered dangerously.
Leah’s eyes widened. She should’ve known it wouldn’t be so easy.
“I don’t know what you’re implying,” Leah answered.
“Right,” Daryl replied, and he leaned back, tipping slightly.
Leah wondered what she should do-should she run?
“I warned you what would happen to those who disobeyed a Lord,” Daryl said.
“You aren’t a Lord,” Leah retorted, feeling courage well up in her breast.
“But I do have power,” Daryl snapped. “I will find a way to get you.”
“Really, with what evidence?” Leah questioned, hands across her chest.
Daryl’s face became red and he growled, unable to speak.
“Then I’ll just be leaving.” Leah took a deep breath. “After all, I just came to visit you.”
With those words, she exited the building and practically skipped back to the church. David and Abigail were long gone with the children, and Leah could see the guards stumbling around with their lanterns, knocking on doors to see if they could find them. Leah knew they wouldn’t find David and Abigail.
She walked into the orphanage and Sister Celene greeted her.
“Did you get your answer?” Celene asked.
“Yes,” Leah said with a smile.