The wind whipped past Ronnie chilling her to the bone, as the snow whirled and twirled around the night like a waltz of a never-ending dance. It was not a normal winters eve for it was nearly the middle of spring. Ronnie pulled he black woolen cloak father down around her chin so to try and keep herself warm. She knew in her mind that the village had to be getting close but how close she had no clue. The snow seemed to fall even harder with each step she took. Over taken by the cold she collapsed to the ground. Her mind raced knowing that she needed to continue on, for if she did not, she would never see her dear Phillip ever again. Clutching the small package under her cloak she began to wonder if her life was really worth what was in this little box. She did not even know what was in it and did not know if she would ever live to find out. Was this the end, after everything she went through to get so close to returning home and delivering the package to the rightful owner. Ronnie tried to stand could not feel her feet no more, she began to crawl her way in the snow slowly toward what she believed to be the village. She began to think back to how it all began.
Being the oldest one of the few children of the village she had many teachers. On this snowy spring day she was being taught in sewing, for Mother Mattle thought that everyone needed to know how to stitch their way through anything. Longingly, she looked out the window, wishing that the snow would end and that the warmth of summer would finally come. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.
"Yes, who is it?" inquired Mother Mattle, as she approached the small plain wooden door of her home.
Through the door came a small meek voice of a younger child, "it is I, Marquis."
Mother Mattle opened the door and quickly closed it behind him. "what is it that you need my child? It is not your day to be here for lessons."
Marquis meekly blurted out, " Tobias, need Veronica right away and has sent me to fetch her."
Ronnie looked up in wonder. She knew it must be important for her friend to be calling her by her given name, although all the teachers insisted on calling her Veronica. She preferred to be called Ronnie and had argued many of time through out her childhood to be called so. Waiting for Mother Mattle to dismiss her from her boring and idle lesson in the area of stitching. Looking intently now at Mother Mattle, " Well, I guess then I have not a choice in this matter. Off with you and take haste, for it must be of importance to interrupt my lesson with you," Mother Mattle stated in detest, at ending the lesson just as it had merely begun.
Ronnie quickly folded up her work and placed it in the seat of the fine wooden armchair, grabbed her woolen cloak from the hook near the small door and darted out with Marquis hot on her tail. The two friends headed down the small street as quickly as they could. Running past several small houses as they went, with the wind whipping th snow past them they did not take much time to sop and talk . They finally reached the brick home of Tobias, pausing at that moment to knock. "Enter," they heard through the well-carved door.
Tobias, looking up from the papers that he was mulling over, said "Ah, Veronica, you are finally here and I see you young Marquis as well. I called you here for I need you to retrieve a very important item that has gone missing from our village. For you see, without this item winter will never end."
Ronnie questioned, " why me Tobias?"
" Well, you are well trained in your classes and have all the knowledge in every area needed to complete this task." Tobias paused walking across the room to the bookshelf full of books and papers. Finding the paper that he needed he headed back to the table he had been sitting at and motioned Ronnie to come and look. "This here is a map of the near by forest and it will help you find Harshish. He is the one that took what I am sending you for. Which, according to my findings, from talking to travelers and a few of the animals that live in the forest, they have told me that he can be found in this area." Tobias pointed at the map, at what would look like a swampy area. " Now, my dear, Harshish is not like you or I , although he once lived among us, which is how he knew what he needed to take from our village. He is a very wicked man and loathes people. He is crafted in the arts of magic and it is said that he has enchanted the forest around were he lives."
"What is it he has taken?" Ronnie questioned.
"Well, that my dear is what I am getting to now," Tobias answered. "Somewhere in Harshish's home is a small black box, you will know it when you see it. This box is carved of cherry wood. I would know, I made it myself." Tobias smiled at the thought of his won handy work. " Now, Veronica, I need you to go there and get this box and bring it back to me, for without what is in that box, spring will never come and it will remain winter." Looking into Ronnie's eyes Tobias could see that she understood the task she must do. " I see you understand what you are to do. Now go to Philip the blacksmith's apprentice he will make you ready to be on your way for you must leave at once."
Ronnie stood there for a few minutes collecting her thoughts, blinked her eyes and headed towards the door. She turned one more time not knowing this might be the last time she would ever see Tobias and Marquis again, smiled and went out into the snow.
Now the blacksmith shop was centrally located in the village and you knew when you were getting close to it because the heat from the house melted the snow around the edges. Ronnie had noticed that the earlier falling snow and wind had stopped for the time being as she walked somewhat fast towards the blacksmith's. She did not take time to stop at the door and knock for she could hear that someone was busy hammering away at some odd project. Ronnie could remember spending many of hours fondly watching the apprentice Philip hammering away at different projects. He would call them art but the blacksmith would call them junk. Today, would not be one of those days that she would get to gaze at the wonderful things he had been making.
Ronnie could feel the cold of the snow climb up into her legs as she continued to drag herself on towards the village. She once again turned her mind back to that day. "Ah, you are here Ronnie," Philip said. Ronnie was always well pleased to hear Philip call her name. It had always seemed like honey on her lips to hear it. Philip put down his hammer and left his anvil. Walking toward her he took her up into his strong arms and gave her the gentlest loving hug. " I am so glad to see you. We must get you ready for you have a ways to go. Many things may happen along the way and you must have what you need."
Philip gave her one last squeeze and headed over to a large simple wooden wardrobe that always seemed quite out of place in the shop. He opened it and began rummaging through it.
"Let me see?" Philip said. " I think these will do... Mother Mattle had sent over your measurements days ago."
Ronnie stood slightly embarrassed at the fact that Philip knew her measurements. Philip turned around and handed her a pair of leather leggings and a leather stitched, fitted tunic. " Put these on." he said then headed to another area of the shop.
Ronnie went into the small interior room where Philip spent his time when he was not in the shop. She had never been in here before. She glanced around, taking in everything she saw. To the left of the door was what looked like an unmade bed with a small table and a half burned candle upon it. Opposite of that was a small metal table and a couple of metal sculpted chairs. Other than the few linens, that was pretty much it.
Ronnie walked over to the table and placed the doe skin breaches and tunic on it. Then she quickly began to change into them. She could hear Philip out in the work shop busily working on something once again. She pulled on the breaches and tunic they both fit like a glove. Ronnie folded the clothing she had taken off and carried them with her out of the room. Philip again stopped what he was doing and looked up at her, "Oh good they fit perfectly."
Ronnie smiled shyly at Philip, " they feel really soft." which was all she seemed to be able to say.
Philip retrieved an object from the workbench that he had been at. " Well I finished this up today. If goes over what you are wearing and then this tabard will cover that." Philip handed her what looked like tiny links of chain. He helped her in it. This chain mail top was long sleeved to protect her arms and it hung just above the knee and had slits from the knee up to the waist. He also helped her into her tabard, which she thought was rather ugly. I was a mossy green color with a gold embroidered edge.
Philip stood back and smile, "my dear you look wonderful. You now need a weapon." Philip walked over to were he kept his assortment of weaponry. He picked up a rather nice looking broadsword, turned toward Ronnie and looked at here. Then he turned and placed it back were he had taken it from. Instead he reached for a quite elegant dagger that was in a tooled leather sheath. He walked over to Ronnie and pulled it from its sheath. It was beautiful. The blade glowed somewhat, as if filled with magic. The pommel had a green agate stone inlaid on the end and the guard has a pattern of ivy leaves. " This is my favorite one. I think it should suit you well and I know you will wield it well. Last I had talked to Nickolas, your blade mastery teacher, he said you were doing very well with all types."
" Yes he had said I was doing remarkably for my age." Ronnie boasted.
The snow seemed to whip around Ronnie's body as she lied there in the snow. Her thoughts still on the events that brought her to were she now lied. She tried to pull her legs up against her to try and warm them but to know prevail. She began once again trying to pull herself closer to her destination think of her dear Philip and the final things that he had said to her.
"Ronnie you look more beautiful than ever." She blushed at what he had just said. " Wait right there, I have one more thing for you." Philip giddily ran off to the living area and returned quickly. Ronnie looked at him puzzled. " You know I am quit fond of you and you are only 10 years younger than I." She shook her head in confusion wanting him to get to the point. Philip continued on, "Upon your return I would hope that you would become my wife."
Ronnie stood there quite in shock and not quite sure what to say. She was merely 18 and not yet done learning all she felt she needed to learn. Philip reached out his hand to hers, holding a beautiful ring that had small green and blue stones inlaid all the way around it. He smiled his best smile waiting her answer. "Philip," she finally said, " I would be honored to be your wife." At that, Philip placed the ring on Ronnie's finger.
"Now go. There is a travel pack made up for you near the door with all the other things you will need." Philip paused; looking at her fully, with her dark auburn hair hanging lose around her face and shoulders. He thought she was the most beautiful creature on earth. He took her in his arms on last time hugging her deeply wishing to kiss her lips. Then said softly, " Be safe my love and hurry back."
Ronnie headed to the door, turned and looked back at Philip one last time. She said, " I love you too Philip." She then picked up the pack and slung it over her shoulder and walked out the door.
Ronnie stepped out into the cold and felt as if she was walking on air. As she headed up the street she felt her head was slightly cold, she turned to go back to the blacksmith's to get her forgotten wool cloak and was surprisingly greeted by the warm smile of Philip as he handed it to her. " I think you may need this too." He quickly kissed her then ran back to the shop.
Tears began to roll down Ronnie's cheeks at the thought that she may never get to hold or kiss her Philip ever again. The tears she shed seemed from crystals of ice as the touched her cheeks. She began to loose sight of things, as the cold seemed to continue to creep up her body. She desperately tried to move quicker toward the village that she thought was just ahead. Ronnie's mind thought about Surfur and how they met and how she had trusted him.
Ronnie walked on for several miles headed in the direction that Tobias had told her to go. She recalled the map that he had shown her several times in her head so that she could have an idea on how to approach the cabin she must enter. She found the path that lead into the swamp where Harshish's home would be. She figured now would be the best time to take up camp. The day had passed on and night had begun to fall. Feeling the chill of the night air she collected up some wood from the edge of the woods. Ronnie managed to build a small lean too so as to not be totally in the elements and to help keep the warmth of the small fire that she had made. Feeling a bit hungry she dug int the pack that Philip had prepared for her pulling out some dried meat and unleavened bread. She began to nibble drifting off into deep thought. Feeling a bit uneasy she began to feel as if she were being watched. " Hello is someone there" she called out, but there came no reply. Ronnie began to hum and sing trying not to feel afraid. "hmmm the once was a fair maiden, who love to dance among the flowers."She began but stopped. For she knew for sure someone was there. " I know you are there I can hear you. Al tho, your step is quiet and your breathing low. I know you are there." Ronnie stood up pulling her dagger from its sheath. She stood ready to the quick, just encase the intruder would make its move. The beast that had been outside her small encampment now was stepping in. Its sleek form stepped into the light its whiskers twitching every which way. Its green eyes fixed on Ronnie. It stood about six hands high with thick black fur. It seemed to flash a pleasant smile at her and then began to speak. " I mean you no harm. I merely saw your fire and wondered what would be out so late in this cold."
"Yes," it nodded.
"How can this be?"
"Well, I do not really know. I just always have."
"Well then who are you?"
" I am Surfur, which is the name my mother gave me."
Ronnie felt a little at ease knowing his name. She sheathed her dagger and sat back down. " Well Surfur, I am Ronnie, care to join me." She gestured him to take a seat near the fire under the lean too.
Surfur bowed in his cat like manor, "Glad to meet you and I would love to warm myself here."
He sat down lavishing in the warmth of the fire. "What brings you out so late?"
Feeling oddly comfortable with her newfound friend Ronnie began to tell him all she was to do.
" Would you like to help me?" she then asked Surfur.
"It would be and honor."
Come morning the two companions headed out forth towards the cabin. The weather at the moment seemed to be fair. Ronnie could see Harshish's cabin just up ahead. It seemed rather dark and foreboding. The pathway leading up to it seems little used. In fact it looked as if no one was there at all. Ronnie looked at Surfur quiet confused. "This seems far to easy" she whispered to Surfur. They crept slowly up to a window and peered inside. The window was too frosted to see in. She glanced at Surfur as he darted around to the other side. Ronnie made her way towards the wooden door of the cabin. She noticed that it was a jar. Now she seemed even more confused. Looking down at the ground she could only see in the snow her footstep. Was this the place she began to wonder? Ronnie reached for the handle of the door pushing it open slightly some more. She peered into the cabin seen that there seemed to be no movement from within. She pulled her dagger from its sheath and slowly entered ready for anything at any moment.
Once in side the small cabin she could see that no one was here. She began to look around for the cherry wood box that she had been sent there to retrieve. She thought to herself, ' there sure is a lot of things in this small place. The one room cabin was truly filled with many things of all sorts of enchantments. In the middle of the room was a small oak table which had books stacked upon it as well as a few dishes that looked as tho they had been left from meal from the night before. To the left of the door was a meager cooking stove, which also seemed to server the purpose of heating the place. Ronnie walked up to a seemingly vast library of books on a rather oddly large bookshelf that seemed quite out of place. She also noted too that there seemed to be no bed in this one room place. Searching the bookshelves she found what she was looking for and clutched it in her hand. She heard a noise from behind her and quickly turned. There stood looming before her Harshish. She gasped in horror at the sight of him. His face was slightly deformed from the age of time and the power of the magic that was within him. " I can not let you take that." he said with a laugh. Ronnie lunged at him with her dagger only to miss. Harshish laugh increased. Ronnie could hear the wind outside pick up as she stood back up to compose herself. She took another swipe at Harshish and missed again, thinking to herself how could this be that she had missed every blow. Then through the door way in stepped Surfur teeth all a snarl. Harshish seemed none to afraid of him to Ronnie's confusion. Surfur lunged at Ronnie taking her by surprise. She reacted quickly sinking the dagger deep into his chest the weight of him sending her to the floor. She managed to scramble her way out the past them and out into the now ever a looming storm that had seemed to begun with the insentient cackling of Harshish behind her.
She could hear him in there chanting words of enchantment as the storm twisted and turned about her. The strong wind blew against her body all but knocking her over as she tried to make her way back to the main path. Not knowing what direction she was actually going for she could not see much of anything in front of her. In her mind she could still hear the cackles of the old man and his words of enchantment. She continued on into the blustering winds and snow. The snow seemed to beat on her weighing her down with every step she took. Then she seemed to find the main path. She headed in what she thought to be the direction of her home village. The cold ripped through her body, for in that instant the temperature dropped and everything in her shuddered.
Ronnie lied there in the snow as it whipped past her now almost frozen body. She could no longer feel her legs, or much of anything. Her mind turned to the little box that she held in her hands. Wondering just what was in it. She fumbled with it for a moment, trying to open it. Knowing that this would be the last thing she would see on this earth. Was it worth it. Her fingers seemed to slip at every attempt to open it and then finally it open. She slowly raised it up so to look in it. Her eyes were all but frosted over. Looking into the box, she once again could hear a distant cackling. Her heart sank. The box was empty...