Saturday, June 8, 2013

A simple little feel good story I wrote a while back. Hope you will enjoy.

                                                Second Chances

   Huddled between two refuse barrels, blood pounded in her ears from a racing heart and as her breath come in ragged gasps, Soffie wondered how much longer she would be able to evade the slavers. As an adolescent girl living on the streets, she had been one of their prime targets for some time. They were becoming more creative in their traps and only through agility, her skill with the hidden knives she carried and a little bit of luck, was she able to escape the last one. One of those knives still dripped blood from the man she had stabbed tonight.
   Two years ago, her father had taken what little savings they had and bought her a set of knives from a friend who specialized in quality weapons. He then trained her in the use of those knives. He had kept secret the fact that he was dying and knew if he didn’t train her well, she would never survive after he was gone.
   The slavers discovered the abandoned shed she called home for the last couple of months, which left her with no where to go. Fortunately nothing of value was there except memories. Knowing the foolishness of staying in one place too long, Soffie began a long, slow journey through the nightmare warrens of Whitestone’s alleys. Not that she was afraid exactly. The dark of night was her closest friend and ally. She grew up in these alleys and knew instantly if a sound or flicker of light belonged or was a source of danger.
    Her goal was the neighborhood of the lower nobility, successful merchant and the occasional scholar. She knew that particular part of the city almost as well as she knew her own neighborhood since her father had worked for many of the merchants there. Being a mercenary, the local guard didn’t trust him enough to let him join, but the merchants readily hired him whenever they had precious cargo that needed protection. They normally allowed Soffie to stay in their homes and be cared for until her father returned.
   None of the merchant’s homes were her goal tonight. She was on her way to the home of a particular scholar, Aldan Beaverson. A distinguished elderly gentleman who had regularly come by the monastery, where Soffie did odd jobs for food, asking if the monks knew of any young person needing a mentor. Each time, the Friar had glanced in Soffie’s direction but she ignored them both. She had no intention of going with a man who might have more than being a mentor in mind. The notion of having a mentor did interest her though, so after a number of discreet questions about the man, she determined that he might just be what he appeared.
   She arrived at the Beaverson House just as the first rays of the sun lit up the morning sky. Knowing that Master Beaverson was an early riser, she took a chance and knocked at the front door. The solid oak door opened without a sound and revealed a lean, elderly man who didn’t look anything like a servant. His sharp, hawk-like eyes regarded her coolly. He shook his head and began to close the door in her face.
   “Wait,” she said and stepped forward. “I have something your master wants.”
   Those eyes looked her up and down as he pulled the door back open. “What could you possibly have that the master would want, young miss?”
   Soffie eyed the old man right back and straightened up from her habitual slouch, then replied with all the dignity she could muster. “Me.”
   “Who is it, Gregory?” a deep, melodious voice called from inside the house.
   A street urchin, who claims to have something you want,” Gregory called back over his shoulder.
   “Well don’t keep me in suspense, old man. Bring the youngster here and introduce me.”
   Grumbling under his breath, ‘old man, is it,’ Gregory waved Soffie into the house, not quite slamming the door behind her. Without a word he turned and strode down the hallway. Following on his heels, Soffie took the opportunity to examine what she could see of the house. It had a masculine feel to it with a Coat of Arms, a map, and a single painting hung in the hallway. The hardwood floors had a deep, rich shine as if they were freshly oiled. To one side appeared a music room for entertaining guests. On the other side was a large room with several plush, leather chairs, arranged in front of a massive fireplace. Book shelves covered the walls to either side. The room that Gregory led her towards appeared to be the Master’s office. Everything spoke of quality, comfort, and old age.
   What she had not expected were the un-mistakable scars of a swordsman on the back of Gregory’s hands and the scar above his right eye. Sometimes her mouth had a mind of its own, so before she could stop herself a question jumped out. “Gregory, were you a soldier?”
   “He was not only a soldier, lass, but arms-master to a powerful lord. Fortunately for me, circumstances brought him into my employ,” Master Beaverson stated as he came out from behind a massive oak desk to stand before her. “Now, how is it that you know what I want?”
   “I’ve overheard you asking the Friar at the monastery for someone to mentor, sir,” she explained. “My father taught me everything he could about self-defense but he didn’t know much about letters and such. I will gladly do chores and help out as much as I can in exchange for lessons.”
   “I see.” Master Beaverson said looking down at her and wondered what had brought her to this point. “And where is your father now?”
   “He died about a year ago, sir.”
   “Bright havens, girl,” he exclaimed. “You mean to tell me you’ve survived alone on the streets of this city for that long?”
   Soffie just stood there with a defiant look on her face that brought back painful memories for him. It seemed like only yesterday another young woman had stood in front of him with that same look.
   “So, you can take care of yourself. Which brings up the question of why are you here now? I want the truth, lass.”
   Soffie’s defiant attitude fell away as she shuddered. “Slavers tried to grab me again last night, sir. I might have killed one of them getting away. Ty will never give up now.”
   Watching the face of his old friend, Gregory saw the pain of memory and loss flicker and disappear. The young lass had no idea what she was asking, but it was time for old wounds to be healed.
   Aldan, I for one think this is a good idea," Gregory announced. " Having a pretty young face to look at around here would be a pleasant change and we could use the help.”
   Besides, he thought, I am a firm believer in second chances.

                                                *          *          *

   As the months went by, life settled into a routine. In the mornings Soffie would help Gregory around the house and assist in the preparations of meals. Sometimes she would accompany Gregory to the market and he would encourage her to put to use some of the lessons in organization and planning the Master was teaching her. He also took time every morning to continue her lessons in weaponry. The afternoons were dedicated to books and learning.
   At first, Soffie was a little intimidated by Master Beaverson. They spent little time together except for meals and her lessons. The master was a powerful and self-confident man, like her father, but in a quiet and reserved manner. On occasion, she caught him watching her with a wistful expression, but the more time she spent in his company the more secure she felt.
   Only once had she witnessed a crack in his veneer of self-confidence. A few weeks after being invited to join the household, her mouth betrayed her once again by voicing a question she had determined to keep to herself. ‘Master, do you have any family?’
   Standing in front of the library window, motionless, he gave no sign that he had even heard the question. With a sigh, as if he had been holding his breath, he replied, ‘I had a daughter once.’
   ‘What happened?’ Soffie asked softly.
   ‘We had a falling out. She wanted excitement and adventure in her life and I wanted her to be a proper lady. She found a young man who promised her both and ran off with him.’ Turning away from the window, the pain deeply etched in the lines of his face, he whispered, ‘She didn't came back.’
   Soffie never asked about family again.

                                                *          *          *

   It was market day and the Master surprised them both when he announced that he planned on joining them. Close to the market was a bookseller that might have a book he was interested in. Leaving the Master contently haggling over the price of an old manuscript, Gregory and Soffie continued on to the market. Handing Soffie a silver penny, Gregory asked her to go to the bakery across the street and purchase whatever she felt they needed.
   Soffie was pleased but also a little apprehensive. This was the first time Gregory trusted her to make her own decisions. Thinking about the purchases she planned to make, Soffie never noticed the men who shadowed her to either side, but Gregory did. He glanced up the street and caught sight of Aldon strolling in his direction. Gregory flashed a hand sign they had worked out years ago and headed across the street, always keeping Soffie in sight. Aldon crossed the street also then ducked into the nearest alley.
   As Soffie reached the bakery, she was surrounded by three men and felt the un-mistakable point of a knife pressed to her ribs. “Do what you are told or your old master will die,” growled the man to her right.
   “Start walking,” the man behind her ordered. “Did you really think we would give up on you after you killed one of our own?”
   At the direction of the man on her left, Soffie turned down the alley next to the bakery. Wracked with indecision, she couldn’t stop thinking about the threat to her mentor. Over the past several months he had become more important to her than she realized, and she would do nothing that might bring him harm.
   They rounded a curve in the alley and came face to face with the last person Soffie expected to see. Before she could react, Master Beaverson stood away from the coach wheel he’d been casually leaning against. Striding toward them, he flipped back his cloak to expose a simple but well made sword and calmly announced, “You are holding someone who is very precious to me. This will not be tolerated. You men should have chosen a more honorable line of work.”
   “Get the brat in the coach while I take care of the old man,” snarled the leader.
   Someone tapped the other two men on the shoulder. They spun around to be confronted by a smiling Gregory. “Would either of you ladies care to dance?”
   Drawing swords, they lunged forward and attacked but quickly fell to the arms-master. Master Beaverson was just straightening up from wiping his blade on the cloak of the leader when Soffie rushed up and wrapped her arms around him.
   “Did you truly mean what you said to those men?” she murmured into his chest.
   He gently tilted her head back with a finger under her chin so she could see the truth in his eyes. “I meant every word Soffie.”
   Once again her mouth took off on its own before she could stop it. “Master, would it be alright if we were a family?”
   “On one condition,” he replied. “I want you to stop calling me master and call me grandfather.”
   At the questioning look on her face, he continued with tears forming in the corner of his eyes. “Soffie, the daughter I lost years ago was your mother.”
   Gregory beamed at his old friend and commented with a satisfied nod. “You never know what will happen when given a second chance.”



  1. What happens next..... I cant wait to hear...Why did he take so long to tell Soffie the truth.... So many questions and my interest is peeked.....................

  2. Hanna, Master Beaverson has been secretly researching a story about a lost cache of magical weapons that he read in one of his old books. To look for more clues he needs to go to the Great Library in the capital city of Lanridge. The three of them embark on a journey that takes much longer than any of them imagined.

    How's that. HaHa!

  3. your story is really good. id like to read some more. I hope there is a sequel

    1. Hey Andrew, thanks for the comment. I never intended it to be anything more than a short story but everyone who has read it had the same reaction, 'What happens next?' In my previous comment back to Hanna, I came up with an idea. What do you think?