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|The Fate of Lady Ursa -Excerpt|
May 14, 2013
Originally, I had an entire chapter chronicling Ursa I's journey from the day she discovered the threat to her son until what we know of her in Air. This was entitled 'The Fate of Lady Ursa', but unfortunately it did not find a place in the final project and was scrapped, though many of the events that occurred are mentioned in.
One of these scenes was just too good to pass up. I figured it would make an excellent bonus scene, so pop the popcorn, and settle back, dear reader! This is only one of many things Ursa I encountered during her years of banishment.
The Fate of Lady Ursa -Excerpt
The market did not open for another hour. As the merchants wandered leisurely to their booths and began making preparations, they noticed the lone, desolate woman. They wondered about her, but no one approached her.
Ursa studied the stalls as a crowd slowly began to form in the market. She was starving, but she was not examining wares. She watched the merchants, looking for someone with little or no help, with too much business to handle.
After several long moments of study, Ursa chose one.
She rose slowly, and approached it. The poor merchant –an elderly man– was beset by customers, and he had no help. Ursa waited until the crowd thinned, and asked politely for one mango.
As the merchant hurried to fetch it, hobbling along on his weak and stiff legs, Ursa said quietly, "It looks like you could use some help."
The old man wheezed a small laugh. "You're telling me!" He passed her the mango, ripe and sweet, and took the copper pieces she proffered. "Lumen's gone for the week, and he's family. I can't get anyone else to work for me!"
"Perhaps there's something I can do for you, while Lumen is away?" Ursa offered.
The old man looked her up and down. He could see the desperate look in her eyes and wanted just as desperately to help her. "I wish so, child," he said sadly. "Unfortunately, I haven't got the money to pay anyone. I'm dearly sorry."
Ursa did not show her disappointment. She smiled kindly, nodded.
The old man spotted another woman browsing his wares, and his face lit up. "What about you, Hama?" he asked. "The inn's a little short-handed, isn't it, since Shira ran off."
The old woman looked up sharply. Her hair was full and dark, just beginning to gleam silver, but her face was worn and haggard. She may not have been old, but Ursa could not help thinking of her so. Hama glanced at Ursa, appraising her. "Well, young miss Shira did leave me in a bind..." Her smile was sweet, but her voice was unenthusiastic.
"Young people these days," the merchant chuckled. "Keep running about. They just don't know what to do with themselves."
Hama smiled at him. "Yes..." She looked at Ursa. "And what are you running from, child?"
"It's not what I'm running from that matters," Ursa said quietly, "But what I'm running toward. I'm working my way east. To reunite with my children."
"Well that's certainly a good cause, Hama," the merchant nudged. "What do you say? Let the lass work for you awhile and earn money to see her children?"
Hama slowly circled Ursa, examining her, looking her up and down. "Yes... Yes, I suppose you'll do." She smiled at her new hire.
A creeping feeling slithered over Ursa that there wasn't an ounce of empathy in that smile, but the merchant grinned broadly.
"Come on, then," Hama said. "You can start your work load by helping me carry this order up to the inn."
Ursa worked several long weeks for Hama, the innkeeper. Despite her odd, even cold first impression, she was really a kindly old woman, with no family, who delighted in cooking peculiar dishes and telling tales.
Ursa stayed in a small room at the back of the inn, on the first floor. It was the room Shira used before her, she was told. Some of the young woman's things were still scattered about; Hama said she'd left in a hurry. 'Perhaps one day she'll be back for them," the old woman said with a chuckle.
But there were other things, with different names inscribed on them, or stitched into the hemline. Ursa sometimes found it eerie, but Hama explained it was insanely impossible to keep a good chambermaid on hand. There was always some young buck passing through, on the way home from war or some farmer journeyed in for a rare seed, and they were always stealing the young girls' hearts.
Ursa supposed this to be true. Young love was such a funny, unpredictable thing.
Three weeks she spent with Hama. But not a day more. Ursa would have liked to; the old woman was the first company she had kept in months, and she hated the loneliness of the road. But that day, in the market, Mr. Yau told them a story.
"There's been talk of some kind of giant roaming about!" he whispered fiercely to Hama. "People have only seen him at night, but he wanders about in fields, and empty village streets, as if looking for something."
"There are a lot of people looking for a lot of things, Mr. Yau," Hama said. "Have my dates come in yet?"
"But this man," Mr. Yau insisted, bringing up a basket of dates for her. "They say he's over seven feet tall!"
Ursa's heart lurched.
Hama laughed. "Such tales you tell, Mr. Yau!"
"It's true! And they say he's got a dark aura about him. They say, that in the middle of his head" –Mr. Yau poked a finger into his own forehead– "he's got a third eye, and with it he shoots beams of energy with his mind!"
Hama scoffed now. "Now I know this talk is folly!"
Mr. Yau's look softened. "I'm worried about you two ladies, up all alone in that inn. What if something were to happen?"
"We'll be fine, Mr. Yau," Hama said, picking up the basket of dates. Ursa's arms were already full of other wares.
"With all this talk" –Mr. Yau shook his head– "maybe I ought to come up tonight."
Hama chuckled. "Good day, Mr. Yau."
Ursa knew she had to tell Hama. She couldn't keep the truth form her any longer. The innkeeper had been so kind to her these last weeks, and Ursa would not repay that by disappearing into the night like all the previous chambermaids.
That evening, Ursa came into the kitchen as Hama prepared the meal. Ursa stood beside her, putting on a pot of tea.
"I have to leave," she said quietly.
Hama didn't look up. "Oh? So soon?"
Now Hama shot her a look. "Tonight? Wouldn't you rather wait until day?"
Ursa shook her head. "It's safer to travel at night."
"Then perhaps you'd like to wait just a few more," Hama said. "The full moon will rise soon."
Ursa frowned. She had wondered if the innkeeper would convince her to stay, but this attempt seemed...odd.
"More light to travel by," Hama explained, sensing her confusion.
Ursa shook her head. "I can't wait that long."
Slowly easing herself down into a chair, Hama asked, "And why the sudden rush, child?"
Ursa hesitated. "Mr. Yau...His story..."
One skeptical eyebrow crept high on her forehead. "The seven foot giant who blows energy out from his brain?"
Ursa nodded. The kettle began to sing, and she quickly took it off the fire.
"He's an assassin," she said quietly. "He's after me."
Hama did not reply for a long moment. Then, "What crime did you commit, child?"
Ursa stared down into the cups of tea she'd just poured. "I protected my children." She swallowed hard. "A man died because of it."
Hama leaned forward, and there was a disturbing light in her eyes. "Was it an accident?"
Ursa turned to her, staring at her. "...No."
Hama sat back, appraising her with a new interest. She shrugged. "If you must leave, you must leave. But why tell me all this?"
"Because you were so kind to me, and I'm very grateful."
Hama laughed. It was a harsh, grating sound that hurt Ursa's ears.
"You –you said all the others left without saying goodbye," Ursa explained, her voice uncertain as the old woman's laughs sent chills up her spine. "I didn't want to do the same."
"Hmm..." Hama eyes examined her just as they had at their first meeting, examining every detail with the kind of scrutiny one might consider a komodo rhino for purchase. "Are you sure you won't stay till the full moon?"
"Yes. If he's that close, I won't risk endangering you. I'll run again."
Hama shrugged. "Very well," she said, and her voice went suddenly cold. "Don't let me stop you."
Ursa looked back one last time at the inn that in so short a period had become a home. Hama had given her her pay without another word, and led her out. The sudden coldness of her demeanor surprised Ursa, but she guessed the old woman was more hurt by her departure than she was letting on.
Ursa sighed, pulling up the hood of her robe. As she walked away from the inn, toward the dark forest beyond, she glanced up at the nearly full moon.
A chill passed over her heart.
Ursa paused suddenly, not really knowing why. She felt...odd. Her limbs trembled, and her insides jarred uneasily.
Ursa held out her arms, studying their tremors, wondering what was wrong.
Her right arm jerked suddenly. Of its own accord, it pulled at her body, toward the mountain in the distance.
Ursa screamed. She yanked her arms back, stumbling away. As quickly as it had come, the feeling passed.
Ursa's legs crumpled. She sat for a long moment, staring into nothing as she slowly calmed herself.
What had just happened? She had no idea. And she had no intention of finding out, either.
Ursa climbed to her feet, and quickly entered the forest, leaving the inn, Hama, and that eerie mountain behind.
Hama clutched at the window frame, panting with exertion. She glared down at the back of the young woman as she disappeared into the forest.
"You were lucky." She glanced up at the moon, so close to full, yet not nearly close enough. She clenched her fists, seething. "In a few days, someone won't be as lucky."
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