I woke up and scrambled out of the top of a bunk bed, hitting the ceiling and falling to the floor in my attempt to not be tardy. I had slept in again and frankly I didn’t wish to be late again. Last time I slept in my Grandpa had poured, not a glass, not a pitcher, but a full five gallon bucket on me. And then he made me pick it up.
The thump alerted the residents of this crazy excuse for a house that I had finally woken up. I knew they heard that as I heard some laughter and my Grandpa in his mischievous voice say, “Luna is up! Just thought I would let you all know.”
I grimaced. Even if you fall on the floor from the top of the bunk bed literally every day, it doesn’t get any less painful.
I ran around my room searching through clothes that had been scattered around the room. I briskly clothed myself in a long sleeve shirt, dark faded jeans, and some leather boots and ran out the doorway of my room and stumbled down the stairs. The stairs lead to the front door of the house and then from there, there is a small hallway and the entry to the living room.
I went down the hallway to get to the kitchen and dining room but paused first in front of the mirror that hung in between two doorways. This isn’t the worst I have looked. My wavy brown hair was frizzy and sticking out and up at weird angles, my eyes were squinting because of the light, and the rest of me looked like I could have just walked through a twister. Not a bad day at all.
¨Ah the goddess of beauty finally graced us with her presence!” my Grandfather said mocking my disheveled appearance from behind his newspaper as I walked into the kitchen. I smiled at him and replied with an equally sarcastic ¨You’re welcome.¨ I sat at the table where all but my Grandma were present. There plates of sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, and pitchers of water and milk set on the table. My mouth salivated at the smell of all those wonderful flavors.
As soon as my Grandma sat down with the last plate of fresh made hashbrowns, I scooped as much food that I think I could fit on the plate and shoved as much bacon and scrambled eggs as I could humanly swallow. My grandparents took no heed to what my parents would have called ¨savage behavior¨. There was no class on this ranch. At least, when there were no visitors. This was the last free area in the world and we planned to keep it that way.
In this empire, there were few places like this. At least, that is what my grandparents said. I had never really been outside the ranch except for the one time we went to Vlere, the closest city to the ranch, when I was young to pick up Midnight from a seller. The ranch consisted of the house, which looked like a country house from the early 2000’s, the barn which I painted white just last summer, and acres upon acres of land that varied from beaches to forests. The ranch had been passed down for five generations.
The “few stations of peace”, places not over run with the Government and it’s cold buildings, were few and far between. The Ranch was called Speckled Oaks, but I just called it the Ranch to keep it simple.
Outside the Ranch were either cities run under The Government called The New Republic or waste lands incapable of holding any life. The cities, or at least Vlere, consisted of mostly tall silver buildings that looked like fingers reaching for the sky. Grandma and Grandpa always said that city was known for its beauty. But I saw no beauty in the cold buildings. They were just that. Cold. I suppose there could be beauty there. Perhaps it was just my prejudice against that city specifically that tainted my view.
My parents lived in Vlere. They had sent me to my Grandparent’s ranch at a young age. I never remembered them, their looks or their voices. My grandparents always avoided the subject of my parents. The only thing they ever said was, “They would be proud to see you now.”, and then they start talking about the weather or something.
I started to fill up my plate again and my grandparents just laughed that jolly laugh of theirs. “By the gods, I don’t think we can enough food to satisfy her.” my Grandmother commented. I just smiled in response in between bites.
Despite calling them old from time to time, they did not appear to be as old as they were. They were both in their mid eighties but looked and acted rather like the were in their late forties. They both had knowing brown eyes and graying hair, my grandmother in streaks and my grandfather widely blended in to his normal black colored hair. Both of them were wrinkled as most old people are but they were relatively young looking.
In an instance, they both turned serious and I knew all was not well. They waited a second, made eye contact, and looked down. “Luna, we need to talk.” My grandmother opened saying. She made eye contact with me and sadness saturated her eyes.
“What about?” I asked meekly.
“It is about your parents.” Grandfather said, each word filled with some sort of regret. Whether it was for telling me or my parents, I could not tell.
“Could we talk about this later?” I asked, quieter than before. Both of them stared at me shocked. It soon wore off but they also seemed relieved.
Frankly, I didn’t want to know what happened to them. They had left me all these years with people I had never met. I love the ranch and everything in it but the memories of my parents just didn’t fit in with how I wanted to live.
“I am gonna go for a ride today, I’ll be back later in the afternoon.” They said nothing but stared at each other as if they could read each other’s minds.
I packed a couple snacks for my ride, threw on a pair of leather boots and went outside and followed the path to the stables. I yelled a jolly goodbye before I left to my Grandparents and they responded, but with less enthusiasm. That slightly bothered me, but I let it fall away as I approached the stables.
There had been an unsated desire that grew within me from when I was a small child. I wished to ride. I wish to be free and escape and the best way to find that was to ride.
The barn doors glided open and I was greeted with some nickers. The barn had six stalls on the left side and four stalls on the right with a tack room and feed room. I walked up to the first stall on the left and gently patted the nose of my Friesian mare, Midnight. She had already been fed this morning so I didn’t have to worry about it. My grandpa usually feeds the horses when he wakes up, which is usually around 6 in the morning. I threw the saddle and blanket on the back of the horse as I had done for so many days before this and strapped the bridle on. Then, with expert speed, I slung myself on the saddle and rode out of the barn, slamming the door on the way out.
The feeling I get when riding Midnight is unlike anything I could ever describe. Adrenaline pumped into my veins masking all fear and worry. It even brought a feeling of peace, steadiness, and rest on my mind. Nothing rivaled this feeling. We rode at a fast pace until the house and barn were specks in the distance nearly level with the growing green grass surrounding me. I slowed Midnight down to a trot and we traveled down a path that I had ridden down many times before.
About a couple miles from my house, there was a grove of a few dozen ancient oak trees with a crystal clear stream running through it. Grandpa had said he used to play there when he was a young boy. I had a wandering spirit and I liked to explore, but I always came here when I wanted to think.
As I approached the grove, I dismounted Midnight and soothed her. She always got a little antsy when we approached the Grove. After she calmed down a bit, I walked her to the Grove.
Once, I reached the first tree, which happened to be short and sturdy enough to keep Midnight there, I tied her to a low branch.
I walked into the Grove and sat by the base of a tree close to the river. From there, my mind flew. Most of it was about my parents. One thing was for sure, I did not want to leave this Grove. The knowledge that my Grandparents possessed… I didn’t think I could ever bear to know it. There was always a weight that came with mentioning them that i was sure there was something dark they were hiding. For all I knew, they could be New Republic spies. Perhaps that is why they left me. Maybe I was an inconvenience in their busy lives.
I hadn´t realized it, but while pondering, tears had started forming in my eyes and created streams of salty warm tears down my face. They could never had loved me. If they saw me now…
I figured that was enough on that subject. I never could focus on that subject for long. In an attempt to wipe away all thoughts of my parents, I thought of a story I had loved ever since I was a child and mentally told it to myself.
It was the stories of the gods.
Once upon a time, there was a centaur. He lived in a small village and farmed for everyone there. One year, there was a drought brought about by the gods and his family and friends were starving. Instead of accepting his fate, he went to the gods and begged them to spare his village. The gods said they would if he found their beloved…
Suddenly, from the stream burst forth a column of water. It startled me and I flew back against the tree. The column was several feet high and a few feet in circumference.
Mist swirled and floated everywhere from the top of the column, isolating the rest of the Grove from this one place. In just a few seconds, it disappeared as it appeared, falling back into the stream. In its place stood a man. He had wavy blond hair moved to the side to stay out of his eyes. He was fair and muscular and wore a wrinkled blue t-shirt with a white running envelope and jeans that were ripped at the knees and faded. He also had a satchel slung over his shoulder, holding what looked like scrolls. In short, he looked like a mail man that woke up with 5 minutes to get ready.
I stood there, unable to move. Who could this man be?
Before I could mentally ask myself any more questions he opened his mouth, his melodic voice saying,
¨Greetings Luna. My name is Ryder and I have a message to deliver to you.¨