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The Earl of Zerces: chapter 4
Once again, Lang became painfully aware of the fact that he was not at all dressed for woodland walking. Lang looked down at his now-pitiful and soiled robes and sighed. The Earl would pay for this; that he swore. After all, this was all his fault, the Earl’s that is. For, wasn’t it the Earl that had brought him to this god-forsaken place against Lang’s will? And wasn’t it the Earl’s fault that Lang had gotten into this situation with other worlds and strange places and blasted broom cupboards? Lang admitted, he was not happy with his life as nothing more than a prince, but that now seemed like a paradise compared to what he had to deal with now. And it had all happened in only a day! How life could change in such a short time! He had only known the Earl for a few minutes, and Lang was already cursing the man’s name!
Then suddenly, he saw her. In a clearing, on a boulder, there sat a girl, around Lang’s age. She had long, dark hair, and dull blue eyes. She wore a pretty red dress that adorned her frail, fragile frame loosely. She looked like she was made of alabaster-colored glass, and if you touched her, she would crumble. And yet…this frailty of hers only seemed to make the girl all the more beautiful. Lang was awestruck. Then, the girl noticed Lang, and looked up at him in surprise.
“Oh,” she said. “Hello.”
Lang snapped back to reality and regained his composure. A member of the royal house did not wear his emotions on his sleeve, and Lang felt sorely embarrassed for letting the girl’s beauty get the better of him. Then, Lang noticed that the girl’s ankle was slightly twisted at an odd angle.
“You’re hurt,” he said concernedly, and kneeled down to take a better look at the injury.
“Oh, yes,” the girl said rather apologetically. “I was taking a walk through here when my foot got caught on a stump, and then, well….”
Lang grabbed some pieces of bark and tore off some more of his robes. It wasn’t like they weren’t already beat up. Then, very tenderly, he wrapped up the bark with his robes into a make-shift splint on the girl’s ankle. It wasn’t especially good, but it would do.
“There,” Lang said. “That ought to last long enough for you to make it to the next town. Sorry I couldn’t do anymore.”
“Oh, no,” the girl said, starting to blush. “Th-thank you.”
“Come on,” Lang motioned for the girl to stand. “If you need any help, you can lean on my shoulder.”
The girl looked up at him in great surprise. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Know what?” Lang didn’t know.
“N-nothing,” the girl nervously blushed again, and tried putting her foot on the ground. Instantly she recoiled in pain, and sat back down.
“Hm,” Lang scratched his head. “I guess the only other option is to carry you. Come on,” he turned his back to the girl and motioned with his arms for her to climb on. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite,” he said laconically.
“Oh, um,” the girl started blushing even more, but started to comply, when suddenly…
“Elena!” a sharp, cold voice ran out throughout the woods. “Where are you, girl!?!”
The girl (Who, Lang assumed, was named Elena) recoiled immediately, and looked with fear at where the voice had come from. Then, Elena grabbed Lang’s hands and looked at him with pleading eyes.
“Please, you have to leave now,” she whispered. “You can’t let her see you.”
“Her? Who’s her?” Lang asked.
“There’s no time, just go!” Elena pushed Lang away, and continued to look at him with pleading eyes. Finally, Lang complied, and ran back out of the clearing, but he then stopped and looked back to see what was happening.
An old, nasty-looking woman had appeared, and was looking at Elena with cold, reprimanding eyes.
“What were you doing out here in the woods!?!” the woman screeched. “You know that the divination is tomorrow! You can’t afford to impurify your body!”
“Yes, mother,” Elena gloomily cast her eyes downward.
“Did you eat anything here!?!” the woman screeched again.
“Did you drink anything here!?!”
“Did you let anyone touch you!?!”
The woman began to relax, and her face started to become more comforting. But then, she noticed Lang’s makeshift splint on Elena’s ankle.
“What is that!?!” the woman shrieked at Elena, and Elena recoiled.
“N-nothing!” Elena flinched. “I m-made it my-myself! Really! I broke my ankle and had to make a splint!”
The woman’s eyes seemed to pierce Elena like daggers, but finally she let up. “Very well,” she said. “Come along, Elena.” And the woman motioned for Elena to follow her. Elena slowly and very painfully got up and limped towards her mother, but the woman made no attempt to help her. Eventually Elena managed to limp out of the clearing, with her mother’s stern, cold gaze following her all the while.
Lang was angry. What a cold, horrible old hag! Why didn’t she help her own daughter with walking? It was cruel. Then, Lang suddenly noticed something in his hand. Opening it up, he saw that a piece of paper, with something scribbled on it, lay in his palm. Elena must have put it there. Uncrumpling the paper, Lang read the words “The Inn” and “Room 12” written on it. Lang looked up, wondering what to do.