I find myself dragged to the stables after the maids have redressed me. They wait until Andrei has left to meet up with the Lord. Apparently, he requested that the two of them spend the afternoon having tea and talking. Boring stuff, he assured me. He says I will have much more fun accompanying his wife today. Andrei gives me a lecture before he leaves, not to do anything reckless or strenuous.
I wonder what the Lady has planned as I stand in between two rows of stalls. The horses stomp their feet, snorting and huffing. They’re clearly upset and I know it’s because of me. The Lady walks into the stables a moment later, tugging her riding gloves on as she storms past them.
“Good morning, Kaitlyn,” She announces with her thick accent. “I hope you are well.”
“Y-yes,” I stand a little straighter.
“Good,” She nods, approaching one of the stalls. “Today I teach you to tame a horse.”
“What?” I gulp. “I-I can’t…”
“Yes, so your boy-husband says,” She scoffs. “I am wondering why it is you follow such silly commands he makes.”
I blush. “It’s not that… Horses don’t like me. I smell too much like a predator.”
She laughs, loud and sudden. “Of course you do, girl. We are all predators to the horse. You are no different in this. This is why you must learn to gain their trust.”
I gawk at her. “How?”
She smiles. “That is the right question. Come, I have brought a young one out to the paddock. He is not yet broken. You will tame him before you go back to your time,” She states with certainty, heading out to the field.
“I will?” I squeak, reluctantly following her.
Outside in a circular pen stands a small horse, his brown coat marbled like cinnamon swirls. He rears up on his hind legs before running in circles around the pen. His mane is a darker brown, a lovely contrast to his coat. It looks very smooth as he shakes his head, mane splaying out into the air. I hesitate just out of reach of the wooden pen wondering what to do.
Lady Charlotte moves to the side, returning with a bucket of carrots. “You will gain his trust with food as you would with any man, yes?” She smirks.
I blush again. “I- I don’t… I guess so?”
“Leave the small creature outside the pen when you go in until you have gained trust,” She points to Scoria, perched on my shoulder. I set her down on the grass, projecting the urge to hunt mice to her. Her little head perks up and she sniffs the air, spinning in a circle. I stand up, watching her skulk away through the grass. That should keep her busy for a while.
Charlotte holds the bucket out to me and I take it hesitantly as she nods toward the pen. I bend down, swinging my leg between the posts and stepping into the ring. The horse comes to a stop on the opposite side, his dark eyes staring back at me as he stomps his hoof, kicking up dust.
“W-what’s his name?” I ask, trying to stay calm.
“I have called him Artem,” Charlotte calls out, leaning on the fence. “It means ‘energetic’ in my mother tongue.”
I swallow hard, taking a carrot and tossing it to the ground at his feet. He stares at me with suspicion, ears flicking before lowering his head to sniff it. I let out a breath of relief when he takes it between his lips. Taking a small step closer, I toss him another one. He tail flicks each time. It takes about five carrots before I am within arms reach of him.
I decide to try holding one out for him to take from my hand. I hold my breath as he sniffs it, his soft upper lip brushing my palm as he takes the carrot. As he finishes that one, I reach for another. He sees where I reach and decides to investigate. He must realise there are several more in the bucket, because he makes a loud noise similar to a snort.
Without warning, his head swings into my chest, knocking me onto my back with a cry. The bucket slips out of my hand as I throw it out to catch myself, the carrots rolling across the dirt. I rub my head, propping myself up off the ground.
“Hey!” I gasp, seeing him eating the rest of the carrots greedily. His head swivels to look at me, then he throws it back with a loud whinny, his front hooves lifting off the ground.
I scream, squeezing my eyes shut. I knew this wouldn’t work. I wait to be stomped on, curling inward as I try to shield my stomach, except… I don’t feel anything.
Clapping comes from my right. “You did well, Kaitlyn. We try again tomorrow,” Charlotte says with approval. I open my eyes and jump, the horse’s hooves still there, hovering above me. Charlotte crouches down, taking me by the arm and pulling me to my feet with my eyes still trained on Artem.
My heart pounds in my ears as I look at him, frozen in mid-attack. “What did you do?”
“Freeze him,” She shrugs, ushering me back out of the pen. She collects the remaining carrots and the bucket before following me out. With a wave of her hand, the horse is set free. It grunts and sniffs the ground, looking for the carrots, but none are left behind. With that, he begins to circle the pen in agitation.
“Oh,” I take deep breaths, hugging myself, hoping the shaking passes soon. I’m relieved I didn’t burn anything.
“The way you curl, you don’t protect your head,” Charlotte muses, tilting her head. “You carry a baby, yes?”
My jaw drops, “H-how did you…?”
She laughs. “I have five children, I know these things.”
“Five!” I gasp, “Where are they?”
She looks up at the sky, “Visiting their grandparents, far from the capitol. It is safer there.”
“Safer?” I frown. “Isn’t this a peaceful time?”
She hums, her blue eyes feel like they’re piercing through me. “Only on the surface. A king waits for a son and the country holds its breath. If she fails again, there will not be peace.”
I wonder if she has any idea how true that is. “Oh… I see,” I bite my lip. “So… What is next?”
Her head tilts studying me curiously. “Would you like to gather food for tonight’s dinner?”
I raise my eyebrows, “Sure…”
Lady Charlotte takes me on a tour of her favourite places. She’s surprisingly liberal with her magic, taking us to get wine in France, cheese in Italy, and fresh fish caught on an island in the south pacific. She visits other islands for vegetables, fruits, crustaceans, and even birds. The only thing she doesn’t buy is meat. For that, she gets her bow.
I’m given one too, and a quiver and she takes us to a place she refers to as the New World. I assume she means the Americas, though they aren’t countries yet. She tells me to take the lead to find something for dinner as she steps us into the middle of the wilderness.
Between Scoria and I, we find the scent of deer rather quickly. There are a few of them, judging by their tracks. The stag is the first one that comes into view. I knock an arrow. Before it knows what hit it, the stag falls limp to the forest floor. A second arrow shoots out from beside me and the doe behind him falls immediately after. The bushes rustle, and a pair of young fawns leap out toward us in a panic.
Charlotte uses her power to freeze them in mid air. A sense of guilt washes over me as I realise we’ve just murdered their parents.
Charlotte stands up, crossing the space to check the kills. “Both are clean. This is good,” She smiles at me.
I hover by the fawns, probably no more than a couple weeks old. “What about them?” I ask, fearing the worst.
She purses her lips. “Without their mother, they will be eaten by wolves,” She wanders over, her eyes watching me. “Would you like to save them? We can bring them to the manor and raise them there.”
“Can we?” I gasp, hopeful.
She nods. “I will make it so. Come, these will need to be prepared soon. Let us return to the manor,” She holds her hand out to me.
When we appear back at the house, servants take the doe and stag away to be cleaned and prepared. Charlotte leads me through the grounds to the stables where she places the still frozen fawns inside an empty stall. I watch on as she releases the spell on them and, startled by the change of surroundings, they leap about the stall. Eventually, they calm down, shaking, but no longer in a frenzied panic.
“There. We will have food and water brought to them. You can come and check on them as much as you like,” She smiles, placing her hand on my head. “Let us wash up and see what those silly men are up to.”
I’m given a basic gown, not too heavy and easy to move in. I like it much better than the fancy dress from the other day. The maids brush out my hair and make two braids, wrapping around my head like a crown, leaving most still hanging loose. I’m led to a study where several bookshelves line the walls, and there are couches set in the middle of the room in front of a large desk. The men sit opposite of each other on these couches, engrossed in their conversation.
Andrei briefly glances in my direction while he speaks. At first, I think he’s not going to say anything but then he stops mid-sentence, eyes darting back in my direction as he takes in my new appearance.
He stands, a glass of wine in one hand, and smiles. “Kaitlyn! You’re stunning! How was your morning?” He asks, eyes still wandering over my attire and lingering on my hair.
I smile, a light warmth on my cheeks under his gaze. “It was… eventful,” I choose the word carefully as I cross the room. “How about you? Are you having a good time?” I ask, glancing at the Lord.
“Splendid!” Lord Edward grins, raising his glass to me. “I do believe we could talk for days on end, don’t you Andrei?”
“Oh, yes, I do agree. There’s just too much of history to cover,” He winks at Lord Edward with a chuckle.
“Would it be alright if I join you for a while?” I ask, glancing between them. Andrei looks to Edward with a hopeful smile.
Edward grins, “But of course. Please, have a seat! Perhaps you’ll decide to try some wine today?”
I pause as I sit next to Andrei, glancing at the pitcher on the table. “I wish I could, but I shouldn’t. Thank you.”
“Shouldn’t?” His brows raise. “Why not?”
I bite my lip, looking at Andrei. I lean closer to him, lowering my voice. “I think maybe we should tell him. The Lady already kind of figured it out…”
His eyes grow wide and he puckers his lips with a nod. “Okay, I’ll tell him?” He asks, reading my discomfort. I nod, grateful.
“Well, Kaitlyn and I are expecting,” He says simply to Lord Edward. I notice the way Andrei’s smile broadens warmly as he speaks, the way his eyes sort of glimmer at the mention of our child.
“Expecting?” Edward repeats, confused. He looks at me again and I pointedly lay my hand on my belly. “Oh! Oh my! How wonderful!” His face lights up. “My apologies. Can I get you some tea, perhaps? Some snacks? Did you have anything to eat while you were out with my wife?”
The door creaks open, drawing our attention. Charlotte walks in, dressed similarly to this morning. A few servants follow her with trays of snacks and tea. “One step ahead of you, as always, my dear.” Charlotte smiles as she sits next to him, kissing his cheek briefly.
“What would I do without you?” Edward laughs, taking her hand in his. “Go ahead, eat. It will be a few hours before dinner is ready.”
I take some crackers and cheese, looking to Andrei. “We got this today, in this tiny little village all the way in rural France. You would have loved it there,” I tell him, holding out a piece for him. “Try it. It’s really good.”
“You went to… France?” He looks at me in bewilderment. “I wish I could have gone!” He takes the cheese gladly and pops it in his mouth. His eyes roll back and he hums. “This is delicious,” He says once he’s swallowed.
“Lady Charlotte took me all over to different places,” I grin, taking a bite of cheese too. I look to her. “Can we bring Andrei next time?”
She smiles, giving me a curt nod. “So long as you try again with Artem, I have no problem with this.”
I blush, biting my lip. I was hoping she wouldn’t bring that up. “O-okay.”
“Artem? Who’s that?” Andrei asks curiously, reaching for another piece of cheese.
“A horse…” I mumble.
Edward bellows a laugh, “Charlotte, my love, what have you planned for our dear guest? Is that not the horse you’ve been taming of late?”
“Yes,” She takes some slices of meat. “The girl should learn to tame a beast.”
“Is that really necessary?” Andrei asks. “Taming a horse can be dangerous. I would know,” He frowns slightly.
“There is no danger,” Charlotte waves. “Tell him,” She looks at me.
I purse my lips, wondering if she’s testing us. I feel like no matter what, I’ll get a lecture from one of them. I sigh, meeting Andrei’s curious gaze. “She can make things freeze in mid-air. The horse got upset and she stopped it before it could hurt anyone,” I try to make it sound less serious.
“The horse got upset? If the situation was handled safely, you wouldn’t need to use such tactics,” He frowns. “Why should she need to tame a horse anyway?” He pauses and then a questioning look washes over his face. “Wait, she can freeze things? Like… stop them? That’s a time thing, isn’t it?”
“No,” She corrects him. “I freeze them in place. It does not stop their time,” She takes another bite of food, talking with her mouth full. “It is simply unacceptable that a woman with such power and promise fears a beast such as a horse.”
“Not if you know her history. Everyone has their fears. No one is perfect,” Andrei argues.
“History does not define us,” Charlotte scolds him, like a mother would. “You would let her be afraid her whole life, rather than to overcome this thing?”
I glance between them, the tension rising. I don’t like this. I rest my hand on Andrei’s arm in an attempt to soothe him. “It’s okay. I can do it. It’s just a horse, right?”
He looks at me, eyes filled with simple concern. “If you’re okay with it, then it’s fine. I’m just worried about you pushing yourself too hard,” He says quietly. “Besides,” He whispers, “She’s wrong. History can define us. We wouldn’t be who we are today without history. It’s what makes us who we are and decides what we become,” He says with a hard look.
I’m not sure if I like the sound of that. Where does that leave me, given my history? I chew the inside of my cheek. I take a piece of meat, holding it up for Scoria to grab.
A moment of strained silence passes through the room until Edward clears his throat. “So, what else did you ladies do today?”
“Kaitlyn and I went for a hunt, across the great sea,” Charlotte hums, taking a sip of wine. “She took down a mighty stag with one bolt.”
“You did? Congratulations. I presume this stag is to be our feast tonight?” Andrei asks, patting my hand with his.
“Yes,” Charlotte chuckles. “Although, after we took down the stag and his doe, we found they had two young ones with them. Kaitlyn looked so sad, we simply had to bring them back with us to be raised on our property.”
Andrei raises an eyebrow. I scratch my cheek, bright red now. “It wasn’t fair to let them be eaten by wolves.”
“That’s the law of the wild,” He hums. “If you’re going to hunt, you have to expect them to have young, especially at this time of year.”
I pout, looking up at him through my lashes. “But you didn’t see them. They’re so little.”
“It is best not to argue with a woman on these matters, my friend,” Edward laughs. “The instincts of a mother will always win out over any sort of sense we lesser creatures might make.”
“Lesser? Hardly so. I’ve seen baby deer before. My first kill in Norland was similar and I was only twelve. My Viking father insisted I take the leap into manhood. His wife was much harsher than he, though. She took both the mom and the baby out. You do what you must when you’re preparing for the winter.”
Edward nods thoughtfully, “Indeed, but we are not preparing for winter. I don’t see such harshness in your lovely wife. You have a kind heart, Kaitlyn.”
“Trust me, she can be,” Andrei mutters beside me. I glare at him.
“Oh my,” Edward snickers. “I am telling you, my friend. Women are frightening when they are carrying children. Heed my advice and apologize quickly!” He whispers loudly, teasing us.
Andrei smirks. “I’ll be fine. I trust her,” His eyes slide to me I and see the hint of a smile behind them. I toss a bit of cheese at him, turning to Charlotte to change the subject just as I see him move in a blur. When he sits back down, he’s chewing. I roll my eyes.
“So, I was wondering… We have a friend in our time, a Guardian, and he’s having trouble controlling the element,” I start, struggling to balance how much detail to give. “We were wondering if you two had ever met any mage or Guardian who’s element could take control over them.”
The couple share a look and Charlotte turns to speak. “An element who can take control? I have never heard of such a thing. What element does this?”
Andrei rolls his lips before answering. “Lava is the element.”
“I see,” She hums. “A very rare element. Only on the islands far to the south do they practice with such volatile magic.”
“Do you think we could go there?” I ask impulsively. “Maybe they will know something that could help us.”
Charlotte hums. “Yes, I think we should. Tonight, when it is early morning there.”
“Okay,” I look to Andrei. “Maybe we should rest then, so we’re not tired. I could use a nap.” I’m feeling strangely tired today.
“I would imagine so, after all your adventures,” He smirks. “If we’re in 1536 then that would mean there are likely many tribal nations still occupying the south. We’ll have to keep that in mind.”
I nod, “I’m sure we’ll be okay. Lady Charlotte travels all over the world.” I take his hand, “Can we go?”
Andrei watches me closely. I can tell he wants to see the history, but he’s torn between my safety again and what we need to know to help Heath. “Yes, of course. We can go. I just want to make sure you’re safe. We don’t know much about them. At least I’ll be able to understand them no matter what language they speak, thanks to the time gimmick,” He smiles. “But first, rest,” He agrees.
I grin, excitement bubbling in my chest. Exploring the world is fun, especially without the risk of an attack from Mortecai and his minions. Andrei and I say goodbye to the Lord and Lady, for now, retiring to our room to rest for a few hours.
By Krystyna Yates