Charlie had awoken to lines of poetry, printed on a piece of parchment, laid gently upon the pillow beside her. It was still warm, and Charlie smiled,
reaching to the pillow and pulling it into her chest. It smelled like him. Perhaps only bits ago, Oliver Venora had lain here asleep, wrapped up in the warmth of the blankets and Charlotte Warrick.
After some time, Charlie pulled herself, blinking the sleep from her eyes. He had gone to the Temple, an early morning visitation of faith and trust in the Seven. Charlie stood from the bed and padded naked to where she had laid her clothes the night beforehand, dressing quickly before stealing away downstairs. Her riding boots treaded the way through the house that she had, in only a few trials, become so familiar with.
The kitchen was empty, save for Jirelle, who pottered about the stove. There was still a pot of fresh coffee, and Charlie poured herself a mug, inhaling the warm liquid eagerly. "Good morning, Jirelle," Charlie said warmly, smiling at Oliver's housekeeper. "Good morning, Charlie," was the reply, and warmth billowed through her, not only a result of the coffee she had imbibed. Jirelle, it seemed, had taken her word, and promised to call her by her name. "Would you like breakfast?" Charlie shook her head. "Not yet. I'm off for a ride, but when I return, I'll have breakfast with Ol--Lord Venora."
They lapsed into a warm and comfortable silence, as Charlie finished her coffee, before placing it in the tub with the remnants of dishes Oliver must have left before he had left for the Temple. Charlie bid Jirelle a farewell, and she received a warm smile in return. Moving quickly through the quiet house, she breathed a sigh of satisfaction as she walked to the stables in the morning dew. It was cold, and it had snowed overnight, blanketing Notrerevé. The serene still of the morning woke Charlie's sense.
"Good morning, girl," Charlie whispered, moving to Alana as her fingers tangled through her mane. The horse whinnied in response, and Charlie grinned. "Not too cold, are you?" Taking a moment, Charlie reached across the pen for the brush that she knew was there. Slowly and tenderly, Charlie brushed away the tangles through Alana's mane, repeating the process until none were left, and her mane shone lustrously. "Better, yes?"
Turning from Alana, Charlie reached for the saddle and bridle, well worn leather showing its near daily use. A few soft and tender touches to the nose of Alana calmed the mare, and Charlie took it as sign that Alana was ready, as she lowered her head towards Charlie. Quickly, with practiced ease, Charlie took Alana's muzzle in her hand, an insistent press of fingers against teeth causing Alana to open her mouth. The bit went in, sitting against Alana's molars. "Good girl," she whispered tenderly, as she slid the crown of the bridle over Alana'a ears, and pulling the buckles of the bridle so that it sat snuggly against Alana's head. Then, the saddle. Charlie placed the saddle pad against Alana's withers, then the saddle on top, before buckling Alana in. "There. Ready for a ride, girl?" she said grinning, before quickly placing her feet in the stirrups and hoisting herself up.
Easing Alana from the stables slowly and gracefully, she rose a hand in greeting to the stable master. It was only when she had passed out of the estate that she broke into a trot, laughing as she did. The wind through her hair on such a cool morning was the greatest wake up call she could imagine. Nothing else could make her feel this way; nothing else made her feel as alive. As she rode, she went with no direction, but found herself riding toward the Temple anyway. Perhaps she could give Oliver a ride back...
And then: the snow turned red, and with horrified eyes, Charlie saw, in the bloom of burgundy on white, a body face down. A body she knew. Quickly, she halted Alana, and dismounted so quickly she nearly staggered, but with a limping run, Charlie went to the bleeding body, panic and fear spreading through every vein.
The cry was desperate.