Lyra stretched, catching the rich smell of bacon wafting in from the next building over. She loved the memories she’d made there in the past couple of days, an auspicious start to a new life. A brief effort of will warmed the mug by her bedside. She inhaled the fragrant aroma of the mint-infused water, and her mind drifted back to her first day in this odd little town. . .
“. . .Hon? You alright there?”
The soft voice drifted to Lyra’s ears, barely audible over the comforting babble of the nearby creek.
The voice came again. “Ya sleep out here all night by yerself?”
She cracked an eye behind a lock of hair to get a peek at the owner of the voice. A pleasant-faced woman in a well-worn cream-coloured dress stood a respectful distance away in the misty light, staring intently at the supposedly sleeping Lyra.
The woman spoke again. “If yer hungry, we got breakfast in town for folk who want it.”
Lyra didn’t sense any hostility from this woman. She opened both eyes, stretching languidly and reaching up to adjust her hood. . . and froze.
Lyra’s hood had slipped down in her sleep, leaving her exposed to the brisk morning air. She stared at the other woman, struggling to contain her terror as recent experiences flashed through her mind.
“Well, can ah offer ya somethin’ t’ warm ya up? Ah got me a right cup o’ coffee here, if yer innerested.” The woman held out a cup filled with a dark beverage that smelled of earth and fire.
Lyra shook her head and pulled her flannel blanket closer around her; though Lyra felt rude for refusing, there were bitter tones to the smell, repulsive to her sensitive nose. She’d make it up to the woman later.
“Don’ talk much do ya? Well, if ya see fit t’ come into town, ya might wanna cover up your. . . well.” The woman tapped the side of her head. “Ah’ve got me one more trip to the lodge, but ya kin follow me if ya like. Ah’ll introduce ya to th’ others o’ yer kind.”
The woman started to walk off, apparently utterly unconcerned by Lyra’s appearance. She had merely said hello and offered “coffee” and. . . breakfast? And others. . . like Lyra?! Did the woman just mean people with unusual appearances or. . . ?
“Wait,” Lyra whispered. “Where is the King?”
The woman paused, looking uncomfortable with the topic. “Th’ King. . . ah. . . that ain’t mah story t’ tell. Ya’d best be talkin’ to your folk ‘bout that. P’raps some might be at breakfast.”
So, the woman in the cream-coloured dress knew something. Well, breakfast certainly sounded good, and her supplies were running low. Thus it was that Lyra steeled herself to interact with society once more. She gathered up her meager belongings, just as the sun peeked over the mountains, sending buttery rays of light dancing through the morning mists to pool on the forest floor. Lyra smiled in spite of the woman’s words, eyes glittering in the golden dawn.
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