Chapter 8 - The Calm Before the Storm
“Where have you been?” Logan asked, threateningly rolling the whip in a circle as if he was preparing to swing at any moment. It didn’t matter where he was, Logan would use violence to punish Lenoa for any perceived mistake or fault he found with her.
“I found some mushrooms for you. They’re a good remedy for fevers. I left while you were taking a short break because I thought you must be tired from hunting,” Lenoa answered, her voice trembling with fear from the whip.
“And how did you find your way around this forest?” Logan replied insidiously, his eyes narrowing as he observed her closely.
Although nervous, Lenoa managed to speak with her head slightly lowered, “Forests are the same everywhere, and I used to live near one. It’s common sense to know where mushrooms grow. They’re a necessity.”
Logan frowned when he noticed the mushrooms in his soldiers’ hands, quietly cursing to himself. He wanted to punish her with whipping but couldn’t in front of his soldiers since she was telling the truth. As long as the territorial disputes continued, medicinal mushrooms like that were essential. Logan had no choice but to throw the whip to the side. “I see, so you’ve finally begun to think like the lady of the household after throwing tantrums and crying every day. Ha! Just try to run away. I’ll skin you alive before throwing you in front of your father.”
Lenoa trembled quietly when she heard Logan’s brutal and vulgar language, but realized it was very fortunate that she had done as Elena had said and chosen not to run away. She was absolutely certain now that she would have been cruelly killed before she left the woods. Lenoa let out a deep sigh of relief as Logan grumbled and went into the tent. She had survived, and he had not hit her a single time. When the intense fear began to subside, Lenoa began to think about Elena again. She probably had returned safely.
At that moment, Logan’s rang out from the tent, “Get in here!”
Elena. If it wasn’t for her… Lenoa took deep breaths. She owed Elena her life. As she headed to where Logan awaited her, Lenoa decided that she would never forget the woman who had saved her.
“Where did your sister go again? She didn’t go outside, did she?” Count Townsend asked his second daughter Rowena while she was sewing. His voice was full of irritation and anxiety.
Rowena raised her bright sapphire eyes and looked up at Count Townsend. “There’s no place that doesn’t need her helping hands. I’m sure she’s being careful after what you’ve told her, Father. Don’t worry too much.”
Despite Rowena’s calm answer, Count Townsend stood by the window and looked outside nervously. There had been no mishaps in his territory for more than 10 days. Nevertheless, the peace frightened him even more. Why was it so quiet? Count Townsend had taken the strange silence as an ominous sign and had locked all of his daughters in the castle. However, Elena, who had definitely been seen in the castle this morning, had suddenly disappeared.
The count wanted Elena to just take on the responsibilities of the lady of the household, but such a wish was impossible from the beginning. Although he was the lord of this territory, he spent most of his time traveling in and out of the capital or training, leaving Elena as the one responsible for taking care of the county.
As the years went by, the small farms only achieved lousy results, and trying to collect taxes from his serfs was like getting blood from a stone. Even these results would not have been possible if it weren’t for Elena. The count knew this, but habitually ignored Elena’s efforts and even blamed her for not following his orders.
His heart was now burning with impatience. Elena was already 19 years old. Considering how early the daughters of other noblemen got married, she was long overdue. But there was no noble family who wanted Elena, or rather the Townsend family, which made him restless. It didn’t help that the delay in Elena’s marriage was affecting Rowena and Marina as well. Who was going to protect his daughters when he died…?
He had to hurry; he didn’t have much time. Originally an irritable and uncompassionate man, Count Townsend’s worries had unknowingly caused him to become someone who showed extreme anger at trivial matters.
“Tell Elena that I’m waiting for her when she gets back,” Count Townsend said.
When the sound of her father’s footsteps grew faint into the distance, Rowena barely managed to relax and let out a long sigh. “I know she couldn’t help but go… but still, I can’t believe her,” she said to herself, recalling how Elena had hurriedly walked outside with wild rye bread in a basket as soon as she received a message from a child at the kitchen’s back door.
Rowena furrowed her fine brows and gently pushed the fabrics she was sewing aside. She then got up from her seat and approached the window, dragging her long dress behind her. “Come back quickly, Elena. Father is very angry.”
There was no way Elena could hear her from the village. Rowena let out another long sigh. Elena had inherited her gentle and meticulous personality from her mother who had passed away a few years ago, and she was faithful to her duties as the lady of the household.
Her father was rather negligent in caring for his land, and Elena was the one who was filling in for some of his responsibilities. The constant bloodshed meant the number of places that needed Elena’s helping hands kept increasing. There wasn’t even anyone who would act as a midwife if not for Elena. Still, Rowena thought her sister should be scared of Logan. At the same time, she admired Elena’s courage to not concern herself while knowing that Logan had a vigilant eye on her.
“Where’s Elena?” someone piped up, and Rowena did her best to hide her worried expression before she turned and looked back at the speaker, her younger sister Marina, with a smile.
Her sister, who had begun to look like a lady, was standing at the door with a blue dress on, flaunting her ever-increasing beauty. The shape of her eyes resembled her father’s, as did their color, and her black curly hair had been brushed neatly down to her hips. Rowena and Marina had sapphire-colored eyes like their father, but Elena possessed emerald eyes that resembled their mother. Marina’s eyes shone, and she smirked as if she could tell everything from Rowena’s expression.
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Lantern Against the Wind
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