6. BLACK AS WET COAL

February 23, 2019


Yssir couldn’t love. He stroked Mionaith’s arched back, her soft arms and the pebbles of sweat on her neck. She bent her head to the side and let her long locks fall over her shoulder. Yssir propped himself up on his elbows, bringing his mouth to her lips, but she turned. There was a cold darkness within her distant gaze. She pressed her lips into a line and rolled out of his grasp.

Mionaith rose to stand up, leaving Yssir lying alone among the furs on the floor. She pulled the neckline of her nightgown higher. Then she braided her black hair.

Yssir sat up, rubbing sleep and misery from his eyes. The sleep went away, but the misery had no cure. Mionaith tied her braid with a leather string and dressed quickly. Yssir stood up with a grunt and pulled on his pants. Mionaith wordlessly threw him a tunic from the chair on the opposite side of the room while wrapping the thick leather belt over her skirts.

“I can find her,” he reassured her, like he had all of last night, wiping her tears and kissing her cheeks.

Mionaith shook her head slowly. “That’s not enough. We’ll have to find her.”

She looked down into her hands and walked in front of his broken mirror to tie another piece into her hair, twisting the loose strands behind her ears and braiding them together. Yssir stood behind her. He gazed at her slender, pale hands. This woman had such clean nails and soft fingertips. The curves of her body like pillows of satin.

“Stop gloating and get dressed,” she said, but she always enjoyed him staring.

She wasn’t smiling, though. Yssir planted a kiss on her shoulder and pulled the dark grey tunic over his head. Mionaith turned and tied the laces into a neat bow. Yssir smiled while he tied his own hair into a leather strap at the back of his head.

Hands rising to cup his stubbled chin, she leaned into him. A kiss on the corner of his mouth. “We have to go.”

Mionaith handed him the crossbow and picked up two small daggers for herself. Their feet shuffled down the stairs in the same rhythm. Yssir held the door open for Mionaith, who strapped one more hidden dagger onto her leg, hidden under her wool skirt. She stepped outside and Yssir locked the door of the stranger’s house.

The air outside was sharp and the wind fickle, clouds moving across the sky in patters that resembled spilled milk on a kitchen table. That was, if the milk had been left out on the table for three weeks and turned grey.

Yssir didn’t reach for Mionaith’s hand this time when they walked across the street. He couldn’t let his mind wander. He kept his gaze focused and mind clear. “I sent the boys out last night.”

“And?”

“They say your girl is all packed up and ready.”

Mionaith nodded with her lips in a tight, thin line. “Good.” 

Yssir had expected a smile. He shrugged off the disappointment and opened the Rude Robber’s door for her. Flute melodies and Hruod’s singing filled his ears. 

Mionaith hesitated before stepping in. He couldn’t read her gaze, but something wasn’t right. Suddenly she smiled faintly and nodded. “We’re going to need all the metal we can get.”

“Be waiting here for me,” Yssir said. “Tell my men that I’ll wait there for them.” He looked to the rising slopes of the mountainside. Cliffs shining with ice and snow tumbling down from the ledges. She nodded and closed the door. 

Yssir frowned as he walked. “All the metal we can get?"







A Raveling Night by E.M Redshaw

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