This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Inara Reynolds - All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Book cover by Inara Reynolds
Iniquitous Part Two
As the horse continued down the road, a bright lamp in the distance broke into the inky darkness. As the carriage closed in on the light, Leonora could hear the familiar hum of gas lamps, it was someone's home and not a brigand along the road holding a lantern. Letting out a sigh of relief, Leonora directed the horse towards the gate of the estate.
The tall, heavy wrought iron gate sensed the wagon's approach. Metal clanked together as it quaked, grinding into the cobblestone path underneath it. Agnes and Matilda began to scream from the back of the carriage, causing the horse to rear up. His hooves crashed against the cobblestone floor as he rose and fell, jolting the wagon forward and then back.
Leonora held fast to his reins. "Octavius, calm yourself down, you are frightening the children." She ordered the horse as if he were a human.
Octavius pawed at the ground nervously, bobbing his head up and down. He began to calm himself. His ears remained perked forward, and he let out heavy breaths as his nostrils flared.
Leonora climbed out of the carriage. She reached her hand out to stroke Octavius' neck. Octavius turned his head and nuzzled Leonora, but his muscles remained stiff. "Dear Octavius, you know I will protect you as much as I will my wards." She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulsing her hands down his neck to soothe him. She reached up to kiss his muzzle. "Ok, I need to get these children and you out of this weather."
She looked for a way to open the gate. As her hand reached out, an unfamiliar buzz rang through her ears, and tiny bolts of what appeared to be lightning leaped out.
"Who goes there? Don't touch the gate." A voice rang out around them.
Leonora looked around, trying to find the owner of the voice. "Hello? I am looking for shelter from the storm; I am traveling with three very young children. I don't mean to be an inconvenience to you, but I was hoping you could put us up for the night, even if it is in your barn."
Leonora looked around again, not sure where the voice came from. She pulled her shawl around her shoulders in a feeble attempt to stop the rain from falling down her back. The gate swung open on its own, no human to pull it open.
"Enter and pull up to the door." The voice said again.
"Thank you," Leonora replied. She climbed back into the carriage and guided Octavius through the gates. As the back of the wagon cleared the gate, she could hear the sound of grating metal as the heavy iron swung shut.
As the carriage arrived at the door of the estate, a man came out to greet them. He was a strange man, he walked stiffed-legged, and had his face covered with a gray linen cravat. He reached out for Octavius' reins.
"Thank you for giving us shelter, sir. I greatly appreciate it," Leonora said as she helped the girls out of the carriage.
The man looked at her and led the horse and carriage away.
"Gerald doesn't speak, madam." A voice behind the group said from the porch. Leonora had heard the same voice at the gate. "Please, welcome to my home. I am Sir Harry."
He turned to the door and ushered the children and Leonora inside.
Sir Harry was a dapper gent, dressed in brown low-waisted trousers, a high-collared white shirt, a low cut brown vest, and a long brown frock coat. Brass buttons adorned the wrists of the finely tailored sleeves of his coat. His brown hair, dappled with the telltale signs of age, was casually combed forward and over his ears. He helped Leonora remove the girls' shawls, hanging them on the wooden coat stand next to the door.
"Let's get these little ones next to the fire to warm up. Their wet clothes will be the death of them otherwise," Sir Harry said, reaching out to ruffle Lucy's blond hair. The child smiled up at him, her eyes meeting his. He turned down the hallway, "Abigail, prepare nourishment for our guests, thank you."
Lucy reached for Sir Harry's hand; he gave it a gentle pat before holding it in his. He smiled at the child and led his guests into the parlor to dry off.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on this part? Creative and helpful criticism is welcome! See a typo on this first draft? Let me know!