She awoke in an unfamiliar place. Panic began to rise in her and she heard a voice from behind her.
“You’re safe. A travelling band of minstrels happened upon you and brought you to me.” The voice was soft and smoky and Honor sat up on her pallet and looked at the woman standing before a fireplace. She was tall and shapely in her dark blue gown which seemed to float around her as she moved.
“I am Sanguiline, the healer.” Honor blinked but did not speak. “You were exhausted and your feet were raw and bloodied. They loaded you onto their cart yesterday and brought you to me.”
“I–I should leave,” Honor stammered. “I haven’t any money to pay you.”
“It’s been taken care of already.”
“What do you mean?”
“A man visiting the tavern last night saw the arrival of the minstrels and came and offered to pay for your care. I suppose he felt pity for you.”
Pride rose up in the form of anger. “I don’t need anyone’s pity. I shall compensate you in some form for what you have done.”
Sanguiline chuckled patiently. “There is no need, little one. I didn’t do much — just applied a healing balm to your feet and let you sleep.”
Honor tentatively wiggled her toes, expecting the sharp, raw burning she had experienced the day before. Surprisingly, the pain was almost non-existent. She shot a quick look at the healer. “How did you heal my feet so quickly?”
“Well, now, I wouldn’t be a very good midwife if I didn’t know how to heal, would I?”
Holding out her hand, the young woman introduced herself. “I’m called Honor.” The women shook hands, then the healer offered to take the young woman to meet the man who had paid for her care. They found him sitting in the tavern, eating the afternoon meal with a large, raucous crowd. The men were substantial and covered in animal skins, except for him — he wore chainmaille that glistened as Honor approached.
Sanguiline bowed her head slightly and excused herself to the party. “Our injured little bird is feeling much better, Master Deceine, and would like to thank you.”
Honor shyly stepped forward and curtsied the best she was able. “Master Deceine, I am Honor. Thank you for your kindness. How can I repay you, sir?”
The big man snorted. “I am just Deceine. You owe me nothing, little girl. But you should take better care of where you choose to sleep. You were found just on the outskirts of Wyvern.”
“I do not know what Wyvern is, sir.”
He placed a meaty paw on the hilt of the great sword which was sheathed at his side and turned to her. “Wyvern is not a place for little hunchbacked girls. It’s the land where I hunt — and kill — the mighty dragons that plague our people.”
“Thank you for your word of caution. I will take more care in my journeys.”
“Your journeys?” He guffawed. “Just where might a little sparrow such as yourself have journeyed?”
“I do not know where I am, but I come from Banyon Cray. I left many years ago.”
“You journeyed here from the Cray?” he said skeptically.
“I passed through there as a young man. I know how far it is.”
“It’s where I was raised.”
“Were you traveling with others?”
“No, sir, I’ve been alone for many years — except for my friend, Eberhart the dove.”
“You are crippled. Yet you expect me to believe that you traveled so far on your own?”
“I expect you to believe nothing. I’m simply telling you from whence I came.” Honor stood as straight as she could, not wishing to be talked down to by even this great bear of a man.
“Where is your family, sprite?”
“I haven’t really a family, sir. I was raised by a guardian and a scholar, and I suppose they are as close to me as family.”
He waved his hand with impatience. “Whether they are blood or not doesn’t matter to me. Where are they?”
“I — I do not know, sir. My dove tried to bring me messages from them but I would not hear them. It’s been a long time since he’s come to me.”
“Abandoned then, are you?”
“I don’t think they could find me…I’m not abandoned. If anything, I abandoned them.”
“If I loved someone, I would stop at nothing — nothing — to find them and bring them back.” A shiver ran along Honor’s spine — Deceine’s words sounded threatening. “Seems to me your family didn’t care to find you. They gave you up to the feral beasts that stalk the wild in which you journeyed. Pitiful,” he spat.
Anger rose up inside the young woman. She bit it back, turned, and headed back to the healer’s cottage. She sat on her bed and hung her head. Sanguiline sat down next to her and took her hand, stroking it softly.
“Why didn’t Soddy and Authorious come for me? All these years and I’ve heard nothing from them.”
“I know nothing of your past, little one. I cannot answer for them. But you do not need to accept what Deceine said. He knows nothing of you or your family.”
“No, but it’s hard to believe that they care when they never made an attempt to find me.”
“You do not know what they have done to find you. They may have died pursuing you. Maybe you should go home, Honor. Go back to the safety of the ones who love you. This land is not a place for a young woman all alone. It will quickly consume you.”
“I’ve already been devoured.” Honor rose and left the hut. Walking the streets of an unfamiliar town, she pondered Sanguiline’s words carefully. She wondered what she would find back in Banyon Cray should she make the arduous journey. Would Soddy and Authorious even be there? Could she even trek that far again? What if it was all for naught?
She was so lost in her thoughts, Honor didn’t realize the great hunter was standing in front of her. She collided with his great bulk and would have fallen if he hadn’t caught her and steadied her.
“Since you’ve no family that cares to keep you safe, you can join up with me. We need a cook to travel with us. I will make sure you are protected.”
Honor considered his offer only briefly before extending her tiny hand to shake his great paw. She didn’t know if she had a life anymore in Banyon Cray, so right there she resolved to forget her past and throw in with a man who could give her a future.