I went through my routine--preparing my
morning meal, stoking the fire and straightening the tower--but no matter what
I did, I could not get out of my mind the overlapping images of this
man--Nick--that haunted my sleep. In some dreams he was kind. In others he was a
monster, intent on hauling me back to his cave.
I slipped into the storeroom, trying
not to look at the door to the stairs, and refilled the bucket of water from
the tap in the room. Thankfully I did not have to use the well pump today.
The roof collected rainwater, funneling
it to the tap for use. The well pump, while always full, almost broke my arm
when I attempted to pump the water up, since the tower was so high.
Fortunately, there had been plenty of
rain in the last month to keep the supply full. As I filled the pot over the
stove--Mother insisted on water being kept warm at all times—I remembered a
piece of one of my dreams of Nick in which I was smiling and laughing with him.
“These dreams make no sense,” I said as
I took a few ladles of cold water for washing myself.
Shivering, I scrubbed as quickly as I
could, and took the now dirty water to the window to throw out.
“Is he a wizard or a friend?” I muttered.
I hurled the water out the window then
gasped, dropping the empty bucket on the floor. There, sticking out of my
windowsill, was an arrow.
Scrambling for my dagger, I did not
take my eyes off the thin rope that hung off the end of the arrow. I crept to
the arrow and the rope. As I got closer I realized it remained fairly still. I knew
from experience that would not be so if someone was climbing it.
It did not as much as twitch.
I squeezed the dagger handle and
stepped to the side of the window. My heart hammered in my chest.
“Nick?” I whispered and, holding the
dagger like Mother had shown me, grabbed the rope in one hand. It was far too
light to be holding someone. I feared another arrow would come my way if I
showed myself, so I knelt on the floor and started pulling the string--for upon
close inspection, it was most certainly not any kind of rope--through the
It glided in easily at first, but then
became stuck. With a jerk, it popped inside. There was a bundle tied to the end
of the string. The small piece of linen, secured by the string, rattled in my
hands and I could feel several items inside jangling together. With trembling
fingers, I picked at the knot and, eventually--despite the thick knot and my
clumsy fingers--managed to open the bundle.
Three lovely green stones tumbled out,
hitting the floor with a clatter. I held one up and a faint amount of sunlight
passed through it, just enough to illuminate the inside of the stone, to show
the gold and green tones within. All three were small enough to fit in my palm
and I rolled them back and forth in my hand, marveling at how they warmed.
“How beautiful,” I whispered, stroking
One slipped out of my hand onto the
cloth they had been wrapped in. I reached down to pick it up and realized
something else was inside. A piece of parchment, rolled up and sealed with a
tiny drop of wax. I held the stones in one hand and broke the seal of the
letter. Opening it, I found a note written with strong dark slashes.
Near my castle, there is a dark
river that is cool even on the hottest days and on its banks I often find
stones that have washed up from high in the mountains.
This morning I found these. Green
as the new spring leaves. Green as your eyes.
I knew at once they were meant
One stone is for you, for your
beautiful green eyes.
One is for me, for being so
fortunate to be gazed upon by those green eyes.
And the third is for the hope
that I may come again, and you will lower your hair for me.
My hand trembled, and I stared at the
words, reading them over and over. He wanted to come back. I glanced at the
window. If he came, I would have to allow him to come up. I would have to lower
I did not know if I could.