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The Mysterious Tale of Bryn Martin MAG
They found her lying in the snow. She had been wrapped in a blanket and left in a clearing in the woods. Hooves had been pounded into the ground, circling her. She couldn't have been more than a few days old when James Daly found her shivering in the wilderness.
He had been on his way home from a fishing trip with his three-year-old son, Creedon, who sat frozen with fear, holding the cold infant in his arms. The small town sensed something unusual as James's old pickup rattled in that afternoon. Everyone's eyes followed it until it jolted to a stop outside the Kilner Group Home. Heads stuck out shop doors to watch curiously as James came around the truck and took her from the boy's arms. As soon as James and the boy disappeared inside the house, gossip spread. Some said the baby was James's from an affair with the mayor's wife in the next town. Another swore that he had accidentally shot the mother in the woods while hunting; one claimed he had killed her on purpose.
Those were only the beginnings of a vicious cycle of rumors that would surround the girl her entire life. That's what happens when you're different. And Bryn Martin was different. Everyone in Kilner knew it from the moment James Daly brought her into town.
The locals were content to allow Bryn to wander the town, assuming that at seventeen she could watch out for herself. The occasional traveler still using the old highway through town would try to help her find what she was looking for, but after hearing her answer, they would quickly realize how different she was.
With a cardboard crown perched on her head, she spent her days looking for “the tower.” Anyone who probed would be told the story of a prince locked in a tower guarded by vicious centaurs. Most people just smiled and nodded, but the younger kids and teenagers would play along and pretend to give her directions.
Lately, Bryn had been drifting into the woods surrounding Kilner on her search. One night she didn't come back. Creedon Daly found her tangled up in a briar bush on his way home from what he claimed to be a fishing trip. He had to use his knife to cut her free, leaving her curly red locks dangling pitifully in the brush. Bryn seemed to shrink standing next to Creedon's tall, limber frame, but she knew she could trust him, or at least his father, the one who had found her in the woods all those years ago.
She watched Creedon the entire ride home. It unnerved her that she couldn't find his eyes in the darkness. Between the messy curls casting shadows on his face and the way he always seemed to angle his head down, his eyes were black pits.
The quiet town was wide awake and forming search parties to find the girl when Creedon's pickup rattled through the center of town. No one said a word, all just watched the moon reflect off Bryn's pale face through the open window as Creedon drove to her foster home. The next day everyone's gaze lingered on her longer than usual, keeping track of her until she was out of sight.
After that, no one spoke to Bryn, not even Creedon, who had taken to bringing her home from the woods every night. She always studied him carefully as he drove. They had a strange bond considering they had never said a word to each other. But they were both outsiders, and outsiders have a way of finding each other.
When they arrived at her home on the fifth night, Bryn paused for a moment after shutting the truck door.
He looked up, startled.
“Oh, um … you're welcome.”
Bryn smiled then. He stared at her for a moment. She never smiled. She always walked around town with a mystified look on her face as she searched for her prince and his tower.
Suddenly he coughed and shoved the truck into drive, pulling away quickly. Bryn watched his taillights disappear.
The next night, she kept walking after Creedon found her, winding back and forth before finally heading to the spot where he parked his truck.
After she climbed in, slowly, he offered her his keys. She took them and slid across the bench. He pulled open the door and slid into her slightly warm seat.
He watched her the entire ride, jerking his head away when she glanced over at him. He'd look back to see her smiling at the road in front of her.
No one knew what Creedon did out in the woods all day, but he always went out with a truck full of wood and returned with none. He gave different stories: fishing, camping, hiking, hunting. Since graduating high school, he'd managed to do absolutely nothing as far as the rest of the town was concerned.
The question was on the tip of Bryn's tongue as she shut off the truck. He had come around to her side and pulled the door open.
She didn't move. Snow started to fall as they took each other in. Bryn brushed his curls off his forehead, then jerked her hand back and looked away. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him move. His fingers ran across the top of her crown, tracing the jagged points.
She couldn't help but jump when he slid it off her head. He set it on the dash, and then they were kissing, his hands running through the short hair he had cut free from the briar bush a week before.
When they finally pulled themselves apart, Bryn put her crown back in its place with shaking fingers and quietly made her way into the sleeping house of her foster family.
Creedon's truck was parked on the road when she arrived at the woods the next morning. A thin layer of snow revealed fresh footprints leading into the trees. Taking slow, hopping steps, Bryn followed the trail through the brush.
She saw it before she saw him.
“Is this what you've been looking for?”
A tall wooden tower stretched into the trees. She looked up to the window at the top, where Creedon's floppy head peered back down, wearing a crown just like hers.
She nodded, beaming.
“Do not fear, fair prince, for I am here to rescue you from the evil centaurs.” She raised her hand as though she had a sword, and, as if on cue, the sound of pounding hooves came from the woods.
Her laugh was cut short as she heard them. Her face paled.
“What is it?”
She began muttering a long string of “no”s that Creedon could not hear, and she plugged her ears with her fingers in an attempt to block out the noise.
When the two horses burst into the clearing, she screamed. The smile flew from Creedon's face with the fleeing birds as he realized that something had gone wrong with his plan. The horses began to circle the tower rapidly, as he had trained them to. Bryn didn't move.
Her eyes were closed and her ears were covered when the first horse struck her. She didn't make a noise, but her lips were whispering incoherent words. The second horse stepped on her knee. When the first came around again, its hoof hammered into her chest. After that, the horses were moving too quickly to see what was happening.
All of this occurred in a matter of seconds. Creedon, unable to do anything from the tower, leaned far out the window. He called for the horses to stop, he called for Bryn, and he called for help.
Suddenly, the tower shifted. Already off center from leaning out the window, the shift shoved him out. During his short fall to the earth, he thought about the night that he and his father had found Bryn in this clearing, surrounded by the strange hoofprints. And about how this was entirely his fault.
The hollow thud of his body striking the ground spooked the horses, sending them galloping off. His neck snapped, but it happened in such a way that he appeared to be looking at Bryn. Her body had been destroyed by the horses, and the snow around her was crimson, but somehow one hand was stretched out, pale and perfect. Creedon's hand had fallen just inches from it, his fingers reaching for hers.
When the townspeople found the tracks leading from Creedon's truck the next morning, they assumed that nothing that bad could have happened to Bryn if she had been with Creedon. When they stumbled upon the bloody scene at the tower, no one knew what to say. The way the bodies seemed to be reaching for each another sent shivers down their spines. The two crowns sat perfectly together at the base of the tower.
It only took one look at the structure, the hoofprints, and the crowns to see what had happened. Bryn had found what she was looking for. And it had killed her.
The incident was never reported to the police; the closest station was three towns over. The story was never published in the newspaper; no one wanted to exploit the town pet like that. Instead, word was spread through town by the gossipy mouths of teenagers, single mothers, and old men in bars until everyone knew the story of Kilner's star-crossed lovers.
The tale was told differently depending on who you asked, but one detail was always the same: They found her lying in the snow.