Dawn of Deliverance - Chapter Two
Julianne carried a tray of loaves into the town hall, carefully stepping over the piled up clothes at the doorway. Her foot caught in a fold of cloth, and she stumbled into a heavyset man who caught her, saving both her dignity and the food.
“Thank you,” Julianne said. She tried to read his mind to grab his name, but his shield was strong.
“Couldn’t have that food on the floor,” the man chuckled. “I’m starving!”
“Sorry, love!” Tansy called out, making her way free of the cluster of people around her. “Those clothes are waiting to go out to wash, I’ll pick ‘em up right quick.”
The tiny woman pranced over to Julianne, dressed in a black leotard and sparkling cat ears perched on her head and waving for long hair for maximum benefit to the men watching her. She stopped to inhale the fresh rolls before she scooped up the pile of clothes. “Smells delish!”
The members of Madam Seher’s theatre had fled the city of Muir two weeks ago, to seek refuge from the New Dawn. They were targeted when Rogan realised they were attempting to lead a revolt and free the rightful leader of Muir, Lord George.
George had fled with the theatre troupe, but his daughter Adeline was now missing. Though the young woman had a quick mind and strong will, Julianne was worried about her safety.
“Harlon’s bringing down some meat and eggs,” Julianne said. “Is there somewhere where I can put it down?”
“Over here, Juliane!” Madam Seher called out. She stood by a makeshift table, made from an old door resting on a frame Francis had knocked together from scrap wood. “Oh, thank you dear. Just what we needed.”
“Harlon?” Julianne set down her tray, then waved over the people in the hall to attract his attention as he walked in. “Over here!”
Harlon carefully shuffled through, careful to keep his precious platter steady and away from the curious faces that turned to sniff the wafting aroma of sausages and steak.
“Here you go.” He set it down, staring at the food longingly.
“Go on, Harlon,” Julianne said with a laugh. “Grab something for the walk back to your ma’s.”
He grinned like an eager child, then dug his thumbs into a bread roll and tore it in half. Slipping a juicy steak inside, he bowed to Julianne before ambling off.
“How is he?” Seher asked.
“Good, thanks to you.” Seher had proven to have an innate talent for mental healing. Since fleeing to the small town of Tahn, she had worked with the villagers who still suffered most from the lingering effects of the New Dawn’s magic.
For Harlon, who had suffered with constant night terrors and a deep depression since the New Dawn had been ousted from Tahn, the change was immense. Seher’s mental magic had healed some of the scars the Dawn’s mind control had left, and soothed some of the guilt he still felt.
He wasn’t cured, but he was now mingling with the townspeople instead of hiding inside, and he was sleeping again.
“You’ve done enough for us,” Seher reminded Julianne. “It was time I paid a little back.”
“Stop nattering, old woman.” Tansy thrust a plate at Madam Seher. “Last time the Tahn’s brought food, you were so busy feeding us you forgot to eat. Don’t you even think I didn’t notice!”
“I’ll leave you be, so you can eat.” Julianne shoved some food on a plate and scooted away before Madam Seher could protest. “Bye!” She waved at Tansy, who wrinkled her nose and wiggled her fingers in farewell.
Heading out of the hall and across the street, Julianne knocked on a freshly painted red door. When she’d first seen it, the door had been a soft sky blue. Now, any semblance of that colour—the colour worn by the New Dawn—had been scrubbed off or painted away.
“Lord George?” Julianne called tentatively.
“Eh? Who’s that?” Floorboards creaked and the curtains twitched. A moment later, the door swung open.
“Young Julianne!” Lord George beamed at her, his smile widening when he saw what was in her hands. “Oh, I say, you’ve bought breakfast!”
He shuffled back, leaning heavily on the thick cane that supported his damaged knee. Julianne pointed at it. “How’s the leg doing?”
“Oh, it’s well enough I suppose.”
His wince of pain as he sat showed the lie in his words, but she didn’t press the matter. Lord George was a proud man, and one that many depended on. He wouldn’t show weakness if he could help it.
“Did you bring some for yourself?” he asked, and clicked his tongue when she shook her head.
“I ate at home,” she explained.
“Not the point, not the point at all. You’re going to sit there and watch me? Well, at least sit down and pour yourself a drink so I don’t feel like a glutton.”
Julianne stepped through the room into the tiny kitchen. He didn’t really need one—the villagers had fawned over him, delivering meals and checking in multiple times per day to see if he needed anything. She brought the water pitcher back with two ceramic cups.
“Here,” she said. “I got you one, too.”
“How is that rabble in the hall? Not making a mess, I hope. I did ask them to quiet down, but you know what those theatre types are like.”
Julianne hadn’t known, but she was starting to get an idea. The performers had descended on the town in need, and showed their gratitude in the only way they knew how—by performing. Every glance their way was rewarded with a twirl, or a jump, or a bit of magical illusion to delight the watcher.
Tansy, who seemed to possess at least a dozen cat costumes, was often seen strolling through the town with a trail of children, several of whom now sported little pointy-eared headbands and fluffy tails of their own. She would launch into random cartwheels, or walk an entire street on her hands, just for the giggles and stares.
The children loved the theatre troupe, and their parents loved not having the children underfoot. Used to living in tents and caravans, the guests had managed to keep mostly out of the way, but feeding them was an event in itself.
“You look worried, dear. Everything ok?” Lord George patted a napkin on his face, his bushy brows furrowing in concern.
Julianne forced a smile—not hard to do, as she genuinely enjoyed the old man’s company. “Everything is fine. I’m just thinking over all the things I have to do today.”
“Ahh, of course. The curse of leadership. Always busy, always another thing to do and another problem to solve. You don’t need to humour and old thing like me. Go on, off you go.” He ushered her off the chair.
“Don’t be silly, this is the only moment of peace I get in the morning!” She leaned down to peck him on the cheek. “I adore our breakfasts together.” Still she let him herd her out the door, mindful of the long list of things that needed her attention.
George patted her arm and thanked her for delivering him the food. “And if you have trouble with that rabble outside, you just let me know. I’ll pull them into line.”
Julianne knew that ‘pull them into line’ would involve a few kind words, and the entire ‘rabble’ falling over themselves to accommodate his wishes. Though far from perfect, Lord George had done his best to run Muir well.
He had introduced free schooling for the poor, and the itinerant travellers that often passed through the town. A free kitchen run by the local clergy—shut down after the New Dawn had sunk their claws in—provided food to those without money, and to the workers leaving home early or returning late after a long day at work.
“Goodbye, George,” Julianne called, shutting the door behind her. The steady thump of wood on floorboards faded as he made his way back to his chair, cane at his side.
Now, where the bloody hell is Danil? Julianne wondered. She sent out a general probe, hoping he was in town. Ahh, there you are.
Help, he sent back, alarm clear in his thoughts. I’m being accosted by an angry hooker!