Have fun, feel free to comment (not to not comment, though). Corrections and suggestions welcome. Please note that this part has been revised as of March 2009.
Laiva gave her room a last glance and slowly pressed down the door handle. She held her breath and gave the door a hesitant little push. The hinges, those impossible hinges she just knew her daddy forgot to oil on purpose, creaked so loud, the only thing still louder was the pounding of her heart. She gulped. There was not a chance her parents had not heard that, could they? They would throw the door open any moment, and daddy would give her that disappointed look… But nothing happened and Laiva slowly gained new hope. Maybe, just maybe she could still make it. Maybe there still was a chance.
Carefully she pushed the door open, an inch at a time, each time holding her breath, waiting, listening and fearing her parents had heard it this time, until finally the gap was large enough for her to slip through. She stuck her head out into the hall, but it was deserted. For a moment she remained motionless, listening for any tell-tale sound, but all she could hear was her own heartbeat, drowning out even the snoring of her parents.
She let the pack slide down her arms and stepped into the hallway, pulling the backpack after her through the gap. It was a tight fit, but somehow she managed without having the door creak any more. Once it was through, she shouldered it and then ventured on, taking care to place the whole length of her foot on the ground with every step. Tiptoeing made far too much noise on a wooden floor, but this way the well worn planks stayed silent.
Just as she passed the door to her parents’ bedroom, the snoring stopped; Laiva’s heart missed a beat. For what seemed like an eternity she didn’t dare to move, didn’t even dare to breath, but then there was a low grunt, the sound of someone shifting in bed and finally the snoring picked up again. Very silently she started breathing again.
After that it was only a few more steps to the stairs, and, taking to the edges of the steps to keep them from creaking, she made it to the kitchen without anything else happening. She only just stopped herself from calling out in surprise.
Even at the height of summer the stone floor was freezing cold, or at least it felt like ice to her bare feet. She heaved a sigh; that had been a very close shave.
She quickly put down the boots and pulled her socks out of them, put them on quickly and donned the boots as well. Now, that was much better. When she was little, her mummy had always put a rag on the floor for her to sit on. She had dragged it all over the place, with an unerring instinct where it, and her, would get into the way most. Mummy had only smiled and walked around her; the kitchen of an inn was large enough for that.
Even for an inn it was a rather large affair, with long work benches on two sides, an actual sink and a fireplace large enough for her to stand inside. But then a fair amount of the family life took place in the kitchen; she even had been born in here.
Laiva pulled a chair up to the fireplace and fetched the pantry key from the ledge above it. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t open the pantry door without a key, all you had to do was push just the right spot and shove, but she couldn’t risk the feeble lock breaking. Again. It was easy enough to put back together, but the noise of it crashing onto the stone floor could be heard in the whole house.
She unlocked the pantry door and pushed it open, revealing a little staircase that led down into darkness. When she was little, she had been scared of the pantry, making a wide berth around the door even when it was locked, but that was long past. Down there was just a large, windowless cellar cramped with all kinds of food and, of course, enough ale, wine and spirits to last the whole of the village for months. Old Tubby used to say that the village tavern running out of alcohol was worse a fate than death, but for one thing she didn’t quite follow him down that road – or any other for that matter – and for another that would never happen. Anyway, the biggest threat down there were probably the large hams hanging from the ceiling.
She quickly mumbled a few syllables, concentrated a moment, and a small point of light appeared in front of her, imbuing the surroundings with a warm glow; that should do. Then she went down the stairs, the light hovering in front of her.
In the narrow cleft between the two buildings, something stopped chewing at the remains of an overly curious rat, and trained its pair of big brown eyes onto the kitchen window. The waiting was almost over.
Laiva pushed bread and cheese into her backpack and replaced the pantry key, then put the chair back and went into the taproom. Instantly the smell of stale ale engulfed her, but she hardly noticed. It was a part of the room as the counter and the benches were; she hadn’t known it any other way. Except, of course, for that one time her mummy had tried to get the smell out; it had taken her litres of vinegar and then weeks to get that smell out.
She shook the memory off and went to the counter. Most of the space under it was filled with bottles and cups and glasses, but there also was the box for the change and daddy’s dagger. She didn’t consider taking the money even for a moment – that would have been stealing – but she hoped that daddy wouldn’t be too mad at her for taking the dagger. There was only so much she could do with her little hunting knife.
She tied the sheath to her belt, then went to the door and grabbed a water bottle and her bow and arrows from the board next to it. The heavy bolts moved slowly and with an air of gravity, almost as if wanting to warn her against leaving, but Laiva wasn’t going to let herself stop by a door. She kept pushing until the bolts had slid all the way to the side and pushed the door open.
The small figure of the girl slipped out, hesitated a moment, but then closed the door behind her and hurried towards the well in the middle of the village square. The winch made hardly any noise at all, but she seemed jumpy nevertheless, looking around all the time.
In the small gap between the buildings, something moved further into the shadows. It was unlikely she had seen anything – probably she was only afraid to be found out by her parents – but it was better to take no risk.
Meanwhile the girl had filled her water bottle and was hurrying north, towards the forest. When she was almost out of view, the shadows stirred and a figure emerged from it, intangible at first, but growing lighter and more substantial quickly, until the full moon revealed the form of a large wolf, carrying a large envelope in its mouth. For a few seconds it bathed its dark grey fur in the moonlight, the thin silver line around its neck shining almost like a silver necklace. Then it shoved the envelope under the door the girl had come from before trotting down the road after her.