Chapter 3- Advantages

Cecinah was getting used to running away. She had never known a real home, but wasn't jealous of the children who did. Able to get by on her own she figured life on the street wouldn't be so hard, especially with all those empty houses to search for food. But the nun's advice to find someone wealthy seemed firmly rooted in her mind, and the traveling men didn't fit the criteria she had been told to look for. So after the sun's amaranthine-painted departure from the sky and the men were definetly asleep, Cecinah set off for the nearest town; it's oil lamps and campfires even visible from where they'd stopped. Fearing wolves she carried a stick and assured herself she was ready to use it on anything that blocked her path. Owls hooted their nighttime song and forest animals scuttled amongst the brush; confused about the enormous graves that had been dug. Each was big enough to hold dozens of people, and even from where she stood the air was rank with the stench of decay.

A twig snapped, and Cecinah froze as an icy finger of fear stroked her spine. Now the stick seemed incredibly flimsy, and she rolled it between her hands. Whatever was coming stepped out from behind a tree, his face illuminated by a rusty latern. The creases around his mouth split with concern. "Are you lost, little girl?"

She nodded, feeling a familiar tingle in her golden eyes as they met his brown ones. His expression softened futher; showing rotten and stumpy teeth as he smiled. "Well you're in luck-"

An arrow hissed through the air and caught his shoulder, sticking out grotesquely as if he were an oversized pincushion. When he screamed with pain Cecinah jumped backwards, and her skirt catching on a log she ended up in a musty pile of dead leaves. The earthy scent made her eyes water and the ground was beginning to shake with hoofbeats. From the ground she saw the wounded man begin to slink away regardless of the crimson trail he was leaving; foolishly thinking he could outrun the chestnut horse that had burst out of a thicket of trees and was getting closer by the second. It was too dark to see it's rider but from the sword that glinted by the fallen latern's light she assumed it was a bandit good enough to kill a knight; and therefore deadly. For the sake of self-preservation Cecinah took off the opposite direction, not caring about the rocks that dug into her bare feet.

After making good distance, red-faced and heart pounding realized that she felt a shred of concern for the old man, and curious about his fate she hesitanty turned back. Keeping in the the brush and sneaking from tree to tree she eventually reached the area and found the horse tied to an oak; riderless. The sword rested in it's scabbard and in it's polished blade she saw a latern wielding figure behind her. He was bent over the dead man, making long brutal slashes in his face with a hunting knife. Knowing it was the rider and escape was impossible she picked her way slowly over the leaves, and taking a sizable branch from the forest floor sneaked up behind him and brought it down in his head. Instead of crumpling as she'd hoped he merely let out an exclamation of surprise.

"Hey!" He whipped around, and seeing her trembling form smiled warmly. "I don't mean any bad."

She spoke up, keeping most of the waver out of her voice. "T-then..what about him? You would have cut me up too."

The man's voice had a thick accent, and filled with so much warmth and comfort to her it was the sound equivalent of piping hot cheese melted on crusty bread. "How could I harm you when I had little 'uns myself? That man...took them away from me. I'm Sir Benedict of Frostdale...my estate is a short ride away."

Cecinah sank to her knees and clasped her hands behind her head; eyes downcast with respect. She glanced at him just long enough to feel the farmiliar tingle, perfectly predicting his next statement.

He slung the lantern across his back and attached it to a hook on his belt, which curiously kept it from hitting his legs as he walked. "A good child such as yourself shouldn't be left alone in the woods, filthy and starving as you probably are. My housekeeper could give you a bath and food...would you like that?"

Nodding, she was secretly pleased at how happy her smile made him.