Chapter 2

The rattle of hinges and the grind of wood pulled Julian from his shadowed dreams, a hint of dusty gold light falling across his face before a black shape cast darkness over him again.

He blinked open his eyes, his face itching and skin crawling. Straw was mangled in his hair, and probably caught just about everywhere in his clothes.

"And what is this?"

Julian lept forward.  He fumbled for his sword and nearly stumbled into the wall behind him, still drunk with sleep.

She took her hands from her hips, taking a pitchfork from against the wall and tossing it from palm to palm. Her sleeves where rolled above her elbows, revealing her well-musled arms. Fire-red hair curled around her face and down her back, lit from the morning sunshine behind her it appeared she was wearing some strange halo. "Looks to be a straggler. Thinkin about snatching a couple hens while you were at it?" She paused, as if waiting for an answer. Since none came, the young woman asked coyly, "Hm, hm, hm; what to do with this one?"

He couldn't help to grin grimly to himself--she was certainly one not to mess with. A young milkmaid with an attitude. Maybe I should have just slept in the trees, Julian thought to himself  Raising his hands, he replied most innocently,  "Sorry, Miss. Didn't have much money in m'pocket for an inn, and this place was warm 'nough. Didn't take anythin and wasn't lookin to. If you let me, I'll go now."

The lady narrowed her eyes, stepping aside only slightly as Julian moved forward.  As he was about to move by, she abruptly stopped him, "Aren't you that mysterious stranger from last night?"

At first, he blinked a few times, curious. Then, cocking his head, he smiled slightly, "Perhaps."

"Hm," she said shortly. Lowering her pitchfork, she continued, "You said you don't have much money. You must be hungry, yes?"

Julian's smile widened, "That would be lovely, Miss. But you shouldn't--,"

"Oh, don't worry, I won't be too kind. I can do these chores first," winked the fiesty girl, strolling away in something of a swingy fashion. "And do you really talk like that?"

"Like what?" Julian grinned, following after her. She retrieved the cow with her wide face and bulbous udder from the stall, pulling the stool forward to start milking.

Turning in her seat, she contorted her face in an amusing fashion, making her eyes big and round as the moon and shaping her mouth and nose in an odd way. She threw her voice, deep and low, having good fun mocking him, "Didn't have much in m'pocket, Miss, and this was warm 'nough."

He couldn't help to laugh out loud. "Maybe I over did it a bit."

"A bit?"    

The End

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