Chapter 2: Helena

Chapter 2: Helena

Minerve wasn’t a big town by any measure. It was barely on the map. A tiny dot, three days ride from the border between Lorne and Floren. But Helena loved it. She loved the chaotic nature of cities. She loved fixing their problems, creating order out of chaos. In barely a couple minutes she had a mental shortlist of a dozen problems she could have fixed in no time. The guards were slacking off, they just glanced at us and continued playing cards. There was filth scattered around the streets. And barely any light. No wonder people scattered their trash. There was nobody to judge them. Except her, of course. They walked past the Bearpaw Inn. After hearing the patrol mentioning the inn they knew it attracted the crowds they don’t want to get noticed by. The only problem, her son was staying there. She discussed the problem with Marcus, Julia and Laurus and fortunately Laurus immediately volunteered to go there alone and look for their son. Nobody questioned it. The rest would attract to much attention and Laurus can assimilate in every crowd and talk his way out off most problems. They continued down the street and arrived at the Smiling Tree Inn. They could hear muffled music spilling out of the door. Helena looked longingly to the inn. She was looking forward to sleep on a normal bed. Sure, she could sleep anywhere, but it always takes a toll on her back. That didn’t used to be a problem, but age changes everything.
Marcus talked to the boy outside, gave him a silver coin and pointed at the horses and wagons. The boy nodded eagerly holding the silver coin firmly in his hand. We should stop giving people so much money. Sure, it stops questions now, but it creates attention in the long term. What is his father going to think when his son comes home with a whole silver? I hope greed is gonna stop the boy telling his father about this exchange. Marcus beckoned Julia and Laurus after the boy took the reins of a horse and they whispered for a short minute. Julia nodded and left, probably to scout the area. Laurus was preparing to leave when Marcus grabbed Laurus shoulder firmly and spoke to him with his captain voice: “I’m serious. Don’t linger. Don’t get noticed.“ Laurus nodded and left. Marcus took a deep sigh, spilling out his worries. His eyes moved and landed on Helena. She showed him her most reassuring smile. He nodded and she entered the inn, wondering if she still got it.
She still got it. She still had the power to freeze a whole room. Time changes everything, except the nature of man. She knew the drill. Long stares, whispers, a glance at Marcus, followed by a disappointed face, a grunt and sometimes a calculating face – wondering if they can take Marcus. She used to hate the stares, but decades can change a lot. This time it was different. She got stares, but they weren’t long stares. She expected that, twenty years ago she could freeze a inn for minutes, now not even ten seconds. This time the long stares were for somebody else. Not Marcus, nor Leo, but at Veo. She looked at her with a new light. Before this moment she saw Veo as a young girl, running with a big smile and eager eyes to smiths, woodcutters and glassmakers questioning them about their methodes, hoping they would spill their trade secrets. Most did. Not many people could resist her enthusiasm. But she’s not that girl anymore. Her attitude is still the same, her body is not. A dangerous combo. She should talk to her one of these days. She needs to know how to handle and divert the attention of men. And what to do when that fails. She saw Veo looking up with a curious glaze, still holding her miniature bow, wondering why people stopped talking. When she saw the stares, her faced changed to shock. She took a small step back, trying to figure out what was happening. She’s not used to it. Most people at the military camps, where they stayed the last six years, knew her since she was a child. They didn’t stare. At least, most of them didn’t. Some young soldiers did, but when they heard Marcus was her father, they cast there eyes down everything they noticed her.
Leo coughed loudly and pulled attention away from Veo to him. That seemed to break the spell and slowly people started to pick up their old conversations, while some kept stealing short glances of Veo. Leo put his hand softly on the shoulder of Veo ushering her to a empty table in the corner.
“Thanks”, said Helena.
“Like mother, like daughter,” said Leo with a smile.
Marcus approached the innkeeper and asked for one family room, two small rooms and something to eat and drink for seven people – I hope Max is hungry . The innkeeper nodded and disappeared in the back.
“I don’t like this”, confessed Marcus.
“What?”, asked Helena.
“The not knowing. Consistently wondering what to do next.
“We will rise above it. Like we alway do. Like you promised me, twenty-eight years ago. We were in the same position then. We were on the run. We didn’t knew where we would go. And we didn’t have anything. And we rose above it.”
“But it’s not us alone anymore, Helena. We got Veo, Max, Julia, Leo and Laurus. Maybe even Andrina will suffer the consequences of my actions. Wherever she is.
“Don’t worry about Andrina. Our daughter can handle herself, you know that. You’ve trained her. And she’s not even in Lorne. The last time we heard from her she was in Floren, looking for some lost treasure.
We can’t even reach her, and why hired the best, why do you think the army can find her? If she’s ready, she will find us.”
“That doesn’t change the rest. I keep thinking: if I just followed orders, it would just effect me. I could have carried the shame. I could have lived a lie if that means my family is safe.”
“You did what was right. Never feel sorry for that. And you couldn’t have carried that shame. It would have broken you. And that would have broken me. We are a whole family now. Julia and Laurus chose to go with us. It is their decision, they could have stayed with the company. They didn’t even think about it. They would follow you anywhere. You need to stop worrying for all of us. In three days we will be at the border where we can start over. You can build that little farm you always talk about.” said Helena, while grapping Marcus his hand and giving a small squeeze. Marcus nodded, looking relieved and they walked to the table where Veo was interrogating Leo. Probably about how magnets work or some of the other stuff only Leo seems to know.
Helena positioned herself so she could watch the door. It has been three years since she saw Max. It would have been six years if he didn’t sneak out that one time. The university doesn’t allow you to leave while you’re a student. They want you all for themselves. She knows that. She studied there for one year, but those restrictions was one of the two reasons she left. Marcus was the other.
But three years ago Max sneaked away when he joined a professor on a trip to the capital. It was a surprise when he knocked on our door. It would have been the perfect night if Marcus was there. But he was on a assignment. She told Marcus everything what happend that night, but it’s never the same as meeting him in flesh and blood. That was the second them she saw tears on Marcus his cheek. Helena and Max talked till deep in the night. They talked about the classes he took, the training he got, the competitions and she talked about Marcus, about Veo and everything else she could come up with. They did write. In the first three years she received a letter, consisting of multiply pages, every month. The fourth year it changed. The letters got shorter, more irregular. She responded by asking more questions, to no avail. The last letter she got was six month ago and consistent of a couple of lines. Mostly saying he’s fine and that she shouldn’t worry about it.
She watched Julia enter the inn, take a quick glance and walked straight to us. She nodded to Marcus, indication everything seems to be safe. A young man, who had a couple beers to many, walked to Julia with a confident smile. Julia saw him and sneered, she moved one hand to the hilt of her dagger and she made sure he saw it. The man staggered and took a step back. He put his hands up and walked back to his friends. Julia can have that effect on people. And if her sneer didn’t stop the approach, her dagger wil. She once stabbed a man in the leg, who had put a hand on her leg, while she was ordering some drinks.Word got around quickly and that was the first and last time somebody of the army approached her. Maybe she needs to talk to Veo. Helena smiled at that thought and returned her gaze to the door. What is taking so long?