Hunted by Moonlight Chapter Six

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that your decades of experience and knowledge were contained in that eye. I’m so sorry for your loss, but how extraordinary! We should write to the academy in Founding. Top minds will want to examine you—”


Author’s Note

A bit of a slower chapter after last week’s tooth and claws.


Chapter Six – Solenne

Her aim left a considerable amount to be desired. 

Solenne frowned at the target, then at the arrow planted into the hay bale behind the target. She knew that learning to shoot with her off-arm would be work but she did not expect to be so embarrassingly bad at it. 

“I don’t understand,” she muttered, retrieving the arrows from the bale. “I used to be decent with a bow and arrow.” 

“You also used to shoot with your other hand. Your body is relearning a skill,” Luis said. To demonstrate, he switched his stance and his bow to his right hand. He notched an arrow and drew back his left hand. After taking a moment to correct his stance and line up to the target, he released the arrow. 

It sailed through the air and hit the target slightly off center. 

Luis gave a woop. “Can you believe that? First try. I’m sorry, Solenne, but I am ah-maze-ing.”

“Cheater,” Solenne said. 

“Yes, cheating with my superior skills and techniques.” He nodded and gave her a sympathetic, if exaggerated, frown. “Poor Solenne. It must be hard to be so old and incapable of learning new skills.” 

“Oh, hush.” She switched back to her dominant hand. The muscles in her arm ached as she drew the string back, but every part of her ached at the moment from exercise. Repetition would build her strength and relearn the skills she once had. 

The arrow flew straight, hit the target, and bounced harmlessly off. 

“That is not possible,” she said, frustration growing. Desire to toss the bow to the ground and stomp on it until the frame snapped surged through her, but equipment cost coin. She could only trade so many tonics and liniments. 

Speaking of, she rolled her shoulder and flexed her hand. 

“Did you hurt yourself?” Luis asked. He took her hand, removed the glove, and gently rubbed her wrist. 

“It’s nothing.”

“Lies,” he tutted, but released her hand. “You are using the muscles in your hand for all your strength, instead of your arm muscles. Do not do this.”

“Don’t stand this way. Don’t shoot the ground,” she said, voice teasing. 

“You are very good at hitting the ground.” 

They retrieved the spent arrows and cleared the evidence of their practice. The upper fields were currently host to the flock of sheep, leaving the lower field empty and far enough away from the house that no one, namely Godwin, could spot them. Of course, that would require Godwin leaving his bed chamber, a feat he had not done since his injury. 

Solenne did not like the way her father sulked. A fever had kept him in bed but the illness had passed. It had been weeks since the accident. He should be up and about, especially with the next full moon only days away. 

“It will grow easier,” Luis said, interrupting her thoughts. 

“Will it?”

“Repetition. Build your strength. Get calluses on those soft lady-like hands.” 

She huffed with amusement and held up her hands. The pads were red and she knew she needed to ice her wrist. While her hands were not as rough as they had been before Godwin ended her training, they were far from soft and lady-like. She worked. It showed. 

Luis stashed the equipment in a disused cottage near the edge of the forest. Once, the estate manager had lived there, back when the house had a larger staff and people were not too frightened of living near the forest. Empty except for dusty furniture, it provided a dry spot to wait out of a rain storm or hide away from her responsibilities for an afternoon. Solenne had not enjoyed that luxury in some time but she remembered sneaking books away from the library and reading in the old chair by the window. 

As they approached the house, she carried her basket as if she had been gathering herbs in the forest. No one questioned her. 

Travers cornered her as she left her work room, a jar of liniment in her pocket. “The master asks to speak with you, Miss Solenne,” he said. 

The scent of sickness hung in the room. Godwin sat in a chair by the bedside, brooding in the dark. A quarterstaff rested against his legs, as if he had used the weapon as a walking stick. He probably did, rather than ask for help.

Solenne set down a pitcher of fresh water on the bureau. She then drew back the curtains and opened the window to air out the room.

“Can’t you let a dying man sleep?” Godwin grumbled.

“You’re not dying, and you stink.”

He gave a tired chuckle. “Ah, the sweetness of your gentle ministrations.”

She regarded the pale figure of her father. He seemed thin, swallowed up by days spent in bed. A brief fever had burned through him. The doctor confirmed that infection had not set in but Godwin, sadly, would not regain his sight.

“You’re hiding,” she said.

Godwin made disgruntled noises, none of which expressed denial.

“But it is good to see you out of bed. I can send up hot water.” The house had a heated bathing chamber on the ground level. However, traversing the several stairs that lay between Godwin and a hot bath would be difficult.

“I’ll go downstairs. I know you’re itching to have a chance to clean in here,” he said.

“True.” The bed desperately needed fresh sheets after fever sweats and fitful sleeping.

“I received a letter,” he said.

“Oh.” Anticipation zipped through her. Solenne focused on keeping her voice light and unworried as she poured water into a clean glass. Her smile was pure artifice as she handed it to her father, along with a pill left by the doctor.

“It seems Aleksandar will be returning to us in our hour of need.”

Solenne turned her head to hide her genuine smile. Aleksandar’s return meant nothing. She meant nothing to him. He had said as much. It was entirely unwarranted, unreasonable, and unforgivable how excited she felt thinking about his return. Ten years had passed. She was not that girl. He was not that man.

She knew that.

She knew, yet her heart clung onto the delusion to the point of pain. Aleksandar would be married by now, possibly with a child—children—and she was practically an old maid with few prospects. Well, Jase seemed interested but Solenne couldn’t say for certain. He laid the charm on thick, most likely more interested in the family’s old photographs than her and decided that the quickest way to gain access to the Marechal library was through the spinster daughter.

Godwin thumped the quarterstaff against the floor, snagging her attention. “It seems I wrote to him,” he grumbled.

“Drink,” Solenne prompted, pushing the glass into his hands.

He held her gaze for a long moment, the glare louder than any accusation. Finally, he took a mouthful and swallowed the pill.

“Funny how I don’t remember writing.”

“You had a fever. I’m sure there’s plenty you don’t recall,” she said, voice placid. She stripped the bed, tossing the soiled linens to the floor.

“I would never ask that coward for help.”

“We don’t have a choice, do we? Sending Luis to hunt alone would be suicidal,” she retorted, heat seeping into her voice. She refused to let anything of the sort happen to her brother because of Godwin’s pride.

Silence stretched between them as she remade the bed. Finally, with fresh sheets and a well-worn but clean quilt in place, she turned her attention to Godwin’s clothes. He had worn the same sweat-stained shirt for days and it stank. She tossed a clean set of clothes onto the bed.

“You must think me worthless to ask him to come here, after what he did,” Godwin said, breaking the silence.

Solenne had heard this tirade before. Godwin blamed Aleksandar for the death of their mother. It was an accident. He was inexperienced. Her mother took unnecessary risks. Amalie always had. Frankly, Solenne was sick of it. Sick of Godwin’s self-indulgent pity, his anger at losing Amalie, and his suffocating need to control his children.

“Marechals hunt monsters. We all know that,” she said.

“And now I can’t. You’re replacing me.”

“For the love of—” She rubbed the back of her neck, aware that most of her hair had escaped from her bun. “I don’t think you’re useless, Papa.”

“I am blind.”

“In one eye. One!” She grabbed the quarterstaff from him and swung with no real force. He blocked the staff easily, then wrenched it away. It smacked into furniture. “Not so blind after all.”

“Do not taunt me, girl. I am useless out there.” He waved a hand toward the window.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that your decades of experience and knowledge were contained in that eye. I’m so sorry for your loss, but how extraordinary! We should write to the academy in Founding. Top minds will want to examine you—”

“Enough of your sarcasm, girl,” he snapped. With a weary sigh, he rubbed the mostly white stubble on his chin. When had his iron gray turned white?

“There is a wolf out there with the taste for blood,” she said. Hopefully, her words would remind him that the situation was bigger than his pride and his injured eye.

“Am I such a failure?” he asked.

“No, Papa.” She abandoned her tidying and knelt at his feet, her hands on his knees. “You want to keep us safe, to keep everyone safe.”

“It is our duty to guard the Veil,” he intoned, practically chanting the often-repeated phrase.

“Luis cannot do this on his own.”

“He’s not much of a fighter,” Godwin said.

Solenne fought back the urge to argue. Luis was an excellent fighter, but there was more to him than the love of the hunt.

He patted her head, just as he did when she was a child. His rough hands knocked free the last of her hair from the bun, but her appearance was the farthest thing from her mind. In the silence, he was just a man, worried about his family and his declining health. She recalled all the good memories, the laughter and joy that sparked in Godwin with ease before sorrow and grief took that away.

“Do not think I haven’t seen you practicing archery,” he said, breaking the silence.

He had seen that? They had chosen a field so far away and been so careful. A servant must have reported their activity or Godwin spied Luis carrying the equipment, probably Travers. He had an uncanny ability for knowing when she was up to mischief. 

No, she decided. Godwin didn’t know, not for certain, and waited for Solenne to deny it.

As angry and frustrated her father made her, Solenne could not bring herself to lie to him. “You’ll have to leave this room if you plan to make me stop,” she said. Not that she would.

“No. Practice in the courtyard. I want to see,” he said hurriedly, almost as if he were ashamed. Then, he added, “I was wrong to end your training. But your arm—”

“Is fine and the other is perfectly functional. I’m not swinging a broadsword, but I don’t think I’d be able to do that anyway.”

Another pat, then he motioned for her back away. Leaning heavily on the quarterstaff, he heaved himself to his feet.

“There’s no shame in seeking help. We’re strong together. Don’t you always tell us that? Strength in numbers,” she said, gentleness returning to her voice. 

Six days until the full moon. She hoped Aleksandar arrived in time. 

Copyright 2020 Nancey Cummings


Read chapter seven

What are your thoughts on the story so far? And when-o-when are Alek and Solenne going to meet again?

4 thoughts on “Hunted by Moonlight Chapter Six

  1. I just about disliked her father till there at the end when he softened and admitted he was wrong all those years ago. Maybe their relationship can be repaired.

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    1. When I start editing, I may work on making Godwin more likable. He’s a man hit hard by grief and his response to feeling out of control is to have a stranglehold on everyone in his life. I feel like that’s an understandable position and he can be redeemed from there if he works at it. I do, however, like Solenne a lot more of standing up to him. She needs to do more of that.

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  2. It will be interesting to see how Solonne’s training goes and how Alek treats her when he finds she is training (again).

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