Before the Island: The Meeting

So this is what the sky looks like,” Aurora thought to herself.  “How long has it been since I went outside the castle?”  She stepped through the gates and looked up.  The light blue sky was dotted with clouds, and the summer sunlight kissed her skin like a long-lost friend.  She took a deep breath and shifted her gaze forward.  Ahead was the village square where merchants set up their stands every morning for business.  It was just after noon, and the square buzzed with organized chaos.  Buyers haggled over goods, while wagons were pulled every which way by both animals and people.  Aurora’s happiness dissipated as she realized she would have to navigate through this mess.

Now I remember why I don’t come out here very often.”  She clutched her satchel close to her hip, and slowly walked toward the square.  Her green dress shifted back in the warm afternoon breeze, and her long blonde hair was pulled back into a braid down to her waist.  It swished behind her like a horse’s tail while she walked.  It was considered suicide to walk into the middle of the square without some kind of cart to pull you through the chaos.  Instead, Aurora walked along the edge of the square.  Just out of reach of any dangerous traffic, but also far enough away from the merchant’s stalls to avoid being harassed with their goods.

The carpenter’s workshop was her destination today, because she needed to drop off a jewelry box that was accidentally broken by her mistress.  Usually her fellow ladies-in-waiting volunteered for tasks such as this, but Aurora was the only one in the room when her mistress needed the chore done.

“Go just past the square down the road a ways, and veer to the right,” she reminded herself.  Soon the large, open hut materialized in front of her.  It was filled with men that had seen many days of hard labor.  They carried logs bigger than her from one tool station to another, while sawdust floated through the air.  The sounds of wood-cutting, sanding, and sawing gave her a new sensory overload, and she momentarily forgot the purpose of her visit.

“Can I be of service to you, ma’am?” said a burley man with long black hair.  He was standing in front of her holding a partially-carved tree trunk over his shoulder.  Aurora snapped to the present moment and curtsied.

“I have a jewelry box that needs minor repairs,” she said as she held up her satchel bag.  The man grunted and started to walk toward the hut, motioning for her to follow him.  He set down the tree trunk before continuing through the hut’s wide-open doors.  Inside, there were small desks nailed to every wall that were completely covered in wood shavings and small carving projects.  It was dark, but all the windows were open to let in as much light as possible.  There was only one man stationed at a desk; he sat facing away from them along the back wall.

“He can take care of that for you,” said the man.  He quickly left the hut, picked up his tree trunk, and walked away.  Aurora was left feeling a little dumbfounded.  She had grown up with the strict etiquette of interacting with nobility, but out here, those rules did not always apply.  Who would introduce her?  Was she even allowed to be alone with him like this?   The man didn’t even know she was in the room.  How was she to make herself known?  She stood in the doorway for a few moments, trying to devise a plan.

“Just walk out and walk back in really loudly, so he’ll hear you,” she thought.  She slowly started to step backwards out the doorway, which was a huge mistake.  She forgot to orient herself to step out the door cleanly, and bumped the entire right half of her body against the frame.  Unfortunately, this was the side of her that had the satchel with the jewelry box, and she heard the box collapse with a very audible crunch.  The bump made her loose her footing for a moment, and she scrambled to regain control.  Her hands reached for something to hang on to, and they found a shelf about two feet above her head.  She hung there for a moment, and tried to push herself back to a standing position.  She succeeded, but at the expense of knocking a broom into the nearest desk.  This started a domino effect along most of the front wall, knocking over tools, projects, wood shavings, and just about anything that wasn’t fastened to the desk or wall. Aurora jumped back but was too stunned to do anything else.

I’m done for,” she thought. “They’ll throw me out of here, the box won’t be repaired, and I will have to-“

“Are you alright?” said the man.  Aurora was so busy panicking that she hadn’t noticed him jump up from the crash and run over to her.

“Yes,” she squeaked, “I-I’m alright.” Her breathing started to quicken.  This was something that only happened in her worst nightmares.  “I’m so sorry-”

“What’s going on in here?” yelled the man that showed Aurora in the hut.  He poked his head through the doorway, and his eyes widened with anger when he saw the mess.  “You responsible for this, girlie?”he pointed a dirty finger at her.  Aurora struggled to get words out, but nothing came.

“No, Eric,” said the man.  “It was my fault.  I lost track of my whereabouts and knocked over the broom.  No harm done, though,” he talked with such an even tone that all Aurora could do was look at him in disbelief.  Eric’s demeanor seemed to soften a bit.

“Well, don’t do it again!  I want all of this cleaned up by nightfall!” Eric roared before heading back outside. Aurora relaxed and turned to look at the man.  She had never got a good look at him until now.  He was wearing a long-sleeve white peasant shirt with a brown vest and matching brown trousers that were tucked into his black boots.  He had somewhat long, wavy brown hair and blue-green eyes.

“Now,” he said.  “How can I be of service to you?”  Aurora stared blankly for a moment, then suddenly remembered the jewelry box.  She held up her satchel and pulled out what was left of it.  Originally, the lid was scratched with one of the four sides coming undone, but now it was reduced to a pile of chunky splinters.

“It’s beyond repair now,” she said softly.  “I’m so sorry for wasting your time, I should be on my way before I destroy anything else.”  She curtsied and turned to walk out.

“Wait!” the man touched her shoulder.  Aurora felt her whole body tighten under his hand.  She turned back around, she could tell by his demeanor that he felt her tense up.  He wriggled the remains of the box from her grip and looked it over. “There’s still hope,” he said thoughtfully.  “It will take more work than usual, but I know a few tricks.”  He looked back up at her.  “Come back in three days and I’ll have it finished.”

“Are you sure?” said Aurora.  The thing was so damaged she couldn’t tell it was once an intricate jewelry box.

“Of course,” he said.  “Why do you think I’m the only one working with all the small carving projects back here?  Have faith in me, and your box will be fine.”  He gave a slight bow of his head to her, and sat back at his desk as if Aurora’s accident had never happened.  Again, she was left not knowing what to do, since she wasn’t properly shown out.  Since she did not have any more business there, and the man clearly was done talking to her, she curtsied to no one and made sure she turned completely around before leaving the hut.

**********

“Are you here for your jewelry box, miss?” Eric asked Aurora outside the carpenter’s hut a few days later.  He seemed to be in more of a somber mood today.

“Yes, sir,”she said.  “And I would like to thank your carver in person, if you don’t mind.”  The recent events had left her wondering about the man she met a few days ago.  Why did he cover for her mistake?  And could he really have been able to fix the box?

“He’s out today visiting his family in his home village,” said Eric, and he turned without another explanation to grab the finished box.  He handed her the satchel bag with the box inside and continued on his work.  Aurora knew better this time, and hurried back to the castle to see the finished product without any prying eyes.  Her heart pounded as she ran into her dormitory. thankfully, none of her fellow ladies-in-waiting were there.  She sat on her small cot and took a deep breath.  She reached into the satchel and felt smooth, polished wood.  When it was out of the bag and in the open, Aurora was stunned.  Here was the jewelry box, completely repaired, and looked better than when her mistress first received it.  She turned it around to look at it from every angle, and it was perfect.  The dark walnut  was completely smooth to the touch, and was given a fresh coat of red paint.  Little lines were etched on the lid, with a new metal clasp to seal it shut.

“I should check the inside to see if he put any work in there,” she thought to herself.  She undid the clasp, and instantly felt guilty of having such a thought.  All of the walls were finished with an expensive-looking red fabric that wasn’t there before it broke.

“How did he do this?” she said to the box.  But what shocked her the most was a little piece of paper folded inside.  She took it out and unfolded it.  The paper read:

“Didn’t I say I could fix it?  Come to the midsummer festival next week, I want to see how that necklace looks on you.”

-Christopher

“Christopher,” Aurora murmured to herself.  She looked in the box again and saw a little wooden sun that could fit comfortable in her palm.  It was attached to a loop made of strong animal sinew.  The front side had small details that showed off the sun’s pointed rays, and Aurora could only guess how painstakingly long it must have taken to make such small carvings.  Turning the necklace over, her heart skipped a beat.  She read “Aurora” carved in the back with beautiful writing.

What did all of this mean?  No one had ever shown her kindness like this.  Aurora hoped to have her questions answered today, but instead, she only received more, and was left with a sickly unknown feeling.  To have these questions answered, she knew, would change everything. But was she willing to change?  The thought soon drowned in the sea questions she simply could not answer.

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