The devastation had been complete. The fire, along with the an woods and varnishes, had utterly destroyed what had moments before been his only home.
The villagers had tried valiantly to fight the blaze, but the bucket chain couldn’t stretch from the river unhindered. Kyle’s home was far from the town and the river that ran through it.
After what seemed like seconds but was, in fact, hours, had passed, now the small cottage was a blackened mess of smoldering wood.
The villagers had left with condolences, but none save the Millers had welcomed them to their home, the offer to share until a new cottage could be made. Laurell had thanked them and explained that it seemed a sign for him and Kyle to leave and visit his home in the Malanda forest.
Laurell knelt next to the charred remains of one of his ornate chairs. The twisted charcoal back pieces, once so straight and regal.
Kyle sat in a desolate state facing the forest. His back turned to the beloved home.
“Well, that’s that then.” He picked up a twig and tossed it.
“What troubles me, Kyle is that preacher is nowhere to be found. I first thought that he would be hiding from the villagers, but now I’m not so sure.”
“Do you think that the ORC came back for him, and burnt our home because we help him?”
“It’s quite possible. Grab what you can Kyle. I think it’s time we got some answers.”
“Wait, we can’t just leave, not now. I’ve got to talk to Kora, tell her…”
Laurell cut him off sharply.
“Now is not the time for a childish crush! Our home is gone, burnt to the ground, all that we had was in there, Kyle.”
Laurell kicked at the warped chair back, cracking it into pieces.
He turned and held the bridge of his nose with an elegant finger and thumb.
“I’m sorry Kyle; I did not mean that I’m just…upset. Go, see Kora, I will be waiting here.”
Kyle looked to the only father he has ever had and saw the hurt in his posture.
Laurell always held himself aloft and proud to the point that people often shunned him because of it. Now his shoulder and head were slumped, and a down cast expression haunted his face.
Kyle stood up and walked the distance to his mentor. He put his hands on his shoulder and forced Laurell to look him in the eyes.
“As long as it’s me and you, we’ll be just fine.”
Laurell smiled sadly and put his arms around his shoulder.
“Go, tell her you.”
Kyle patted his shoulders and turned towards the village, and set off at a run.
Kora was outside her home, washing off the soot and dirt from her clothes when he had found her.
The Miller’s house was a double story cottage, with a thatched roof. Mud and clay walls held windows with flower box arrangements. Geese, ducks, and chickens ran rambunctious in the grounds. The Miller’s grain mill perched upon the river side, just over the fields to the west.
Kora looked up and saw him approach; she wore only her shift but seemed unashamed by her nakedness. She let the wet clothes fall into the water bucket and ran to embrace him.
“Kyle, I’m so sorry. What happened?”
“Laurell said that it must have been a ember from the fire. It probably popped out on to a piece of cloth and spread from there.”
Kyle let the hug linger before putting Kora at arm’s length. He studied the face he had come to love. He knew that he would never forget the merest detail of her face but wanted to look at her one last time. He also knew that he might never see her again.
“My father said that you were, but I didn’t want to believe him, why can’t you stay, here with me?”
“Laurell needs me; he’s just lost everything.”
“I need you Kyle, and don’t forget that you lost everything too, but we can start fresh you and me. We can make our life together.”
“And what, live here with your father?”
Kyle’s gesture to the fields and the house he stood before.
“How could I ever be a man if I’m to seek his aid in providing for my family, for you.”
He pulled away and spun from her, she hugged her body but not from the lack of clothes.
“It wouldn’t be for long. You could help out on the mill. Father and Roger can teach you, after a while, we could build a house together. I know it would take a few years, but then you can ask for my hand, and we can start our lives together.”
Kyle face reddened with anger as he pointed towards the village.
“And have all of them thinking how I couldn’t survive without your father’s hand outs. I was supposed to win the tourney, win your hand. We were going to live in my home, where I could provide. That was my plan. Now it’s all gone.”
“So now you’re just going to go running off into the forest because you have to start again?”
“I told you, Laurell needs me.”
“And I told you, I need you to Kyle, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.”
Her face reddened from anger. The pair locked gazes, neither willing to succumb to the other. A silence spread over the fields; the duck’s quacks replaced their voices, almost mockingly. Kora anger cooled and she closed the distance between them, pulling at his waist, she drew him close.
She stroked his face.
“I thought we…”
She trailed off as his shoulders slumped.
He looked up into her blue eyes as her hand fell.
“I don’t think we should… see each other anymore. It’s not going to work; I don’t have anything left here anymore.”
Kora bit her lip as her eyes finally gave up the torrent of tears that overwhelms them.
“You have me.” She whimpered.
She reached a hand back towards his face but didn’t touch him. She turned and fled into the house.
Kyle Knees buckled, his tears reddening the dirt.
Laurell stood looking into the trees. The few remaining scraps of his life in Corbin now rested in a pack on his back.
In his left hand, he hefted a long stick. Absently feeling the knots under his finger tips.
The wind changed ruffling his hair and brought a familiar smell on the breeze. He turned to see Kyle approach. His eyes puffy and red. He knew what had transpired, he could tell in the dipped head and slagged shoulders.
Kyle seems to come out of his daze, noticing where he was for the first time. Laurell smiled a tight lip smile and gestured to a pack on the floor. His long bow and quivers next to it on the grass.
Kyle nodded and slung on the items.
Laurell gripped his shoulder and looked him in the eyes.
“Are you ready?”
“I think so.”
Laurell skipped off into the trees; Kyle looked back over the remains of their home, the remains of his life.
“Good bye Kora.”
Kyle turned and walked into the forest, it wasn’t long before he broke into a gallop and was soon at Laurell’s side.