Picking up the Pieces

Once they got back to the barn, Frieda and Liesel sat down near Ainsley.  She was still very upset over what had happened.  Frieda knew, from her own experience, that it might help to talk about it with someone.  She gave the girl a faint smile.  Ainsley was about the same age as she was, with brown hair that just brushed her shoulders.  It was pinned back with barrettes on each side, but they were crooked.  Her tee shirt was a bit dirty and there was a bump on one knee that was also dirty.

“Do you want to borrow my brush?” Frieda offered, opening her little handbag.  Handing Ainsley the brush, she added, “So that you can fix your hair?”

“Thanks,” Ainsley said, taking the brush.  She tugged the barrettes out of her hair and then began smoothing her hair, while Malcolm tended to the bump on her knee.  As she reclipped her hair, she shook her head.  “I asked her wear you were and… she got really angry,” she said, looking down at Malcolm.

Heaving a sigh, Malcolm nodded.  “I’m sorry that happened, Ainsley,” he said, his voice soft.

Frieda took the brush and tucked it back into her bag.  “That happened inside the cabin?” she asked.  When Ainsley nodded, she asked, “What were you doing outside?”

Ainsley rubbed at her eyes.  Shrugging, she said, “I wanted to find Malcolm and – and Theresa was scaring me, so I sneaked out.”  She looked down at her knee, which was cleaned up and bandaged now.  “She knocked me down and… she seemed so angry!  I thought she was going to hurt me.  I just… I don’t know what happened.  All of sudden, there was blood.”

“Is your ring activated?” Johannes asked, pointing at her hand.  When she looked at him in surprise, he held up his own hand.  “I have one too, but it’s not awake yet.”

Nodding slowly, Ainsley looked down at the ring on her hand.  “My uncle – Malcolm’s father – activated it,” she said, her voice faint.  She looked at Johannes.  “You mean… my ring did something to Theresa?”

“It’s meant to protect you,” Johannes said, shrugging.  “If Theresa was trying to hurt you… it makes sense that your ring did something.”

“They make arrows,” Konrad said, his voice soft.  When all eyes turned to him, he shrugged.  “Flaming arrows, apparently.  At least, that’s why the Elder Sword back home said.  It’s why they teach the Crosses archery.”

Ainsley closed her eyes for a moment and then shook her head.  “I saw some kind of flash of light,” she said.  “Then, there was blood and… I think that I screamed.  Then, I realized that it was Theresa’s blood.”

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