Chapter 4 – Follow me, Brownie

“Oh cut it out, Red Feather, it’s not THAT bad!” Chelsea shouted across the wagon.

Red Feather looked at Raymond and squinted a little bit. Raymond understood through the bald man’s facial expression that he implied that Chelsea was one of the residents whom he would describe as scandalous and vulgar, or at least delusional. Red Feather seemed a bit condescending, but all Raymond knew was that his father trusted this man. Besides, how could anyone not listen to a bald man who wears a white robe?

The wagon came to a stop again and the driver announced that they made it to Caerise Corner. The women helped Raymond with his bags as he exited the back of the wagon then they all split and went separate directions. Brownie and Red Feather, however, walked together toward a lake opposite Raymond’s direction. He headed straight for what looked like the front gate, it was very tall, white, fancy looking and had bells on the top corners.

When Raymond arrived at the gate he realized he was standing on the inside. If he were to pass through it, he would exit Caerise Corner into the heart of Ascalon City. The city looked beautiful through the gate, the buildings and walls shared the same white and fancy theme and the grass inside was kept well cut and fresh green. Raymond noticed that everything started to seem a little shady and he noticed the dark rain cloud he spotted earlier in the distance moving closer to him.

“Young lad!” a loud male voice rang out behind him.

Raymond turned around and saw an old man wearing a brown cap with a feather in it. His cheeks were wrinkled, saggy and flapped below the level of his very short chin.

“That bald, Red Bird, Red Beak or whatever guy over there told me you might be in the market for one of my houses!”

“Ah! I might very well be!” Raymond shouted to respond.

The old man started to gleefully march toward Raymond. He had a bounce in his step and clinched his fists and swung his arms as he took each step. Raymond glanced over the man’s shoulder and noticed Brownie had broken formation with Red Feather and headed toward him and the old man instead.

“Now then lad!” the old man started, “I have one house I just can’t sell because those damned villagers live so close to it and make a lot of noise in the wee hours of the night.
“But, that Red Guy fella said you wouldn’t mind.”

“I might not mind it at all.” Raymond smirked, “Provided I was offered the proper price reduction for the noise.”

“Of course!” The old man yelled enthusiastically, “I can sell it to you for only 200 gold coins right here and now.”

“It’s a deal!” Raymond smiled. “… if the house is livable that is.
“Let me see it.”

Raymond was not particularly good at bargaining, but in his own mind he felt like he was doing a good job here.

The old man lead Raymond to the house. It was not far from the gate and sat alone at the end of a U shaped dirt path. The house had a dense forest behind it and a line of trees in front of it that separated it from the rest of the neighborhood. Even in the afternoon, the neighborhood showed no sign of activity, but a faint sound of the city crowd could be heard through the trees. The house itself was hardly anything more than a rectangle with a flat roof, two floors, a balcony and a porch. It had stairs under both ends of the balcony leading up to the second floor. Both floors looked identical on the exterior with a simple door to the left and two windows to the right.

“It’s built as a duplex, but I am selling it as a whole.” The old man chuckled.

Raymond glanced over the old man’s shoulder again and saw Brownie still walking in their direction, but the old man distracted him by tapping on his back and directed him into the doorway of the house. Raymond looked around. Each floor was just as identical inside as they were outside. They had two rooms, a small one with a bed and a larger one with a table in the middle and a window on both sides. Under the windows two large sitting pillows lay and wooden cabinets lined the walls that did not have windows.

The house was boring but it looked like it would serve Raymond as a good place to start. He reached into one of his bags and pulled out a handful of coins and counted them until he had precisely 200.  He gave them to the old man who then handed him the keys and walked back to the city with a smile plastered on his face leaving Raymond alone in the house. Raymond settled in on the bottom floor and dropped his bags on the table. He knelt down on the sitting pillow under the window that faced the back yard and dense forest. Between the first layer of trees he saw Brownie sitting with a book in the shade.

“What is she up to?” Raymond thought to himself. “Does she not realize that it is probably going to rain soon?”

The storm continued to close on their location. Raymond wanted to help Brownie, but he did not know what to do. He felt uneasy about the prospect of locking himself in a small house with a strange woman, especially on the first day of his arrival. Suddenly, he thought of a solution. The house was a duplex, he could just have her hide out on the top floor. What if she stole something though? Then again, there was nothing to steal up there but two sitting pillows and some heavy furniture.

He decided to try to get her attention without confronting her. He walked out the front door, hung a right and swerved around the side of his house until he faced the woods. He then proceeded through his back yard into the forest passing Brownie along the way. He waved at her and smiled and then proceeded deeper into the forest. At that point he thought she should have responded to him, but she did not. Then he realized he had no clue what he had hoped to accomplish in the first place, its not like people have ever felt the need to explain themselves to waving passers by. Now he would look silly returning in the same direction so he needed to find a way to make it look like he had a reason for coming outside. In an effort to make it look like he was exploring his back yard woods he decided to take a sideways path through to return home from a different angle and pretend to look around the entire time. However, he looked back at where Brownie sat and noticed she was missing.

“Are you looking for the village?” A soft voice sounded behind him.

Raymond jumped and quickly turned around to find Brownie standing behind him.

“Yeah, I am.” Raymond lied.

“It’s this way.” She began walking deeper into the forest.

Raymond followed for about a minute but Brownie stopped. She looked around, then she looked back at him.

“Something must be wrong with me.” She said.

“What?” Raymond asked.

“We should have been able to see the village through the trees for some time now.” She responded. “At least that’s how I remember it.”

“Uh oh, well I know the way back.” Raymond comforted her, “It’s about to rain anyway, I have some shelter for you and your book.
“Follow me.”

<< Chapter 3 | Chapter 5 >>

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