Everyone knew about La Gaudiere; the inn was a sanctuary for those in need. Or in trouble. Rinn mothered every stray that came through her door; and few weren’t welcome to her neat and friendly home. Yet the rules were to be followed and nobody should put the others at risk.
Everyone also knew she was partial to young women in need; whether it was because she once was counted among them or because of some other reason that nobody knew and not one would dare ask. For Rinn could be scary in her wrath.
The stranger entering the village, wrapped in a nondescript cloak and spine bended in an attempt not to catch anyone’s attention, had heard about Rinn’s La Gaudiere. She knew her need might seem mundane to those usually welcomed by the Old Mother but to her it was enough to wipe a smile off anyone’s face.
She tentatively nudged the door of the inn open only to be pushed backwards by a giant of a man, as he stumbled into her. She fell with a gasp, just as the man swore loudly.
“You shouldn’t oppose the Count old cow, he’s a powerful man.”
Alys recoiled against the wall, making herself invisible. Of course they guessed she’d come here.
“I’m opposing no one you great oaf. Your young woman hasn’t come to my inn. And even if she had I wouldn’t deliver her to someone like you. If he’s so keen on finding his “beloved”, he might as well come and fetch her himself.”
The giant – she knew him to be the Count’s henchman, William the Butcher they called him – went away grumbling it wasn’t over. But not noticing her.
“You can come in kitten.” The woman said after William had disappeared. She had seen her then. “He was here for you, wasn’t he?”
She extended a hand to help her up. Alys took it gratefully and got up.
She didn’t address the second question: she would rather people did not know who she was. But benign as she was Rinn was no fool. She smiled and let her inside.
“He will come back I imagine. He’s right in one thing though. I can’t oppose the Count. He’s too powerful and not a good man: one of the few people I’d never welcome here. There is no hidden quality to him.”
“I can’t stay then?” Alys’s tone betrayed her despair.
“Tonight yes. Tomorrow I’ll arrange for you to be taken some place safe. No one deserves to become another one of this man’s victims.”
“You believe the stories then?”
“Of course I do… If I can save one of his brides from certain death, I will.”
And with these words Alys knew hope something she’d almost given up on since her father sold her to the Count to save his hide.
In response to Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Wordle Prompt #160.
1. Mundane 2. Neat 3. Vent 4. Spine 5. Wrapper 6. La gaudiere (n.)) the glint of goodness inside people, which you can only find by sloshing them back and forth in your mind until everything dark and gray and common falls away, leaving behind a constellation at the bottom of the pan—a rare element trapped in exposed bedrock, washed there by a storm somewhere upstream.) 7. Nudge 8. Partial 9. Tentative 10. Backwards 11. Oppose 12. Smile