They were on opposite sides of an enormous cavern with a bridge swinging precariously between. Ropes held together wooden planks and if they were to be re-united they’d both had to advance with caution. Yet it felt to the Skyrider, for every step they took towards one another, the wooden planks creaked and threatened to give way beneath, or fell away completely. Soon there wouldn’t be enough bridge left to risk a crossing. The next two days had passed in quiet. Malcolm’s ability had given him a nosebleed and she’d been alarmed at the strength of it. He’d fled to the barn though and she hadn’t followed. Elyna had been confronted again with a sense of loss. He was respecting her space and distance and it didn’t give her the feeling of relief she had expected. It felt as though another plank slipped away, unmarked and unnoticed.
He’d started work on the new bedroom as promised. Left to her own devices Elyna fed the horses in the paddock, taking care to only carry small amounts of feed back and forth from the barn. Her hawk was often perched on her shoulder and the chickens had a tendency to follow anyone who walked around in front of the house. She prepared meals for them both and hot drinks. Despite the snap of cold in the air the suns were bright and cast short shadows on the ground.
Ben and Malcolm’s crew had visited and she’d kept out of their way. Her own crew had visited briefly because she was no longer an active serviceperson of the Iron Hand. It was too close to the arrival of new life but they had wanted to wish her good health as they passed through.
She would have sworn that with every passing day the baby moved less. It seemed content though with an annoying habit of reacting or waking up whenever Malcolm spoke in earshot. She no longer needed to listen out for his footfalls because the moment he said something, the baby seemed to recognise his presence before she did.
Elyna had made fresh bread and it steamed gently as she withdrew it from the oven. Beyond the window it was a crisp, cool day and the shadows of night were spreading rapidly across the ground. She lit the candle on the table as the bread settled. She hadn’t seen Malcolm for a break or so and couldn’t help but wonder where he was. It was infuriating, having him so close and with nothing to say to him other than polite exchanges. As though they were strangers in different spheres, or different islands perhaps. She turned to the bread and cut it into thick slices. Then she paused before collecting a wooden platter and layering a few slices on one side. A knife dipped into butter was scrapped along the other edge and a wedge of cheese tucked beneath. She held it infront of her like a child bearing a gift and stepped out into the night. Dry leaves rustled in the distance. The trees keen to shed the weight of summer.
The young woman heard movement from the barn, the sound of knives scraping across a belt and she wrinkled her nose. She detested the way the noise was an assault on the senses. Did it matter though? Determined she set her shoulders back and set one hand beneath her bump to ease the weight as she approached and stepped through the large double doors and into the darker space. It smelt of sweet hay, straw and horse dust. Something she could happily inhale all evening. Since Ashan, the scent had always cast her back to the night she and Malcolm had first made, mad, passionate love and it hadn’t mattered that the straw tangled in their hair or scratched delicate lines on bare skin.
“Mal?” she squinted in the darkness as a tall figure stood up from a bale of hay and brushed dust from his breaches. Even in the dim light she could tell that the male was too slender to be Malcolm. He’d regained his weight from Ashan if not a little more. The young woman took a step back towards the door and kept her eyes fixed on the unwelcome visitor. It was his companion though, who approached from behind and wrapped an arm around her thoat.
Elyna’s scream split the night and set pigeons flocking from where they’d been roosting in the rafters.