She raised her head and wiped the sweat off her brow. She
was exhausted from the work but it had to be done before the rains came, or
else there would not be enough food for the winter. She hated farming, but
that's the family she was born into, and there was nothing she could do to
The evening was setting in and the heat was diminishing,
that was a good thing. It meant that the work was almost over for the day.
She sighed and looked back down to the field. This was the most boring part.
She hated farming.
Suddenly, she felt the need to look up. What was she
looking for? Anything in particular? A star caught her eye. It wasn't that it
was the only one in the sky, it was that it was flickering in an unnatural
way. It flickered again, and moved, like a shooting star and out of sight,
over the mountains.
"Loraina!" She looked to the house to see an older woman
standing in the doorway. "Loraina, come inside. It's time to come in!"
Finally! "Coming mother!" She stood up, brushed the dirt
off of her pants and headed towards the house. She was nearly 19, and still
unmarried, unusual for the time. It wasn't that she was ugly, in fact, many
thought she was rather pretty, with mid-back length golden brown hair, and
deep blue eyes. It wasn't even that she was poor, and wore rags. It was only
because since her father left, she had been forced to take up man's work to
save the family. It was a disgrace, but it was better than losing her home.
She walked inside and took off her cloak, which was
soiled in dirt, and hung it on a nearby coat rack. "Is dinner ready, mother?"
She shook her head. "No, Lori, we have no dinner tonight.
"Oh." She lowered her head and prepared herself for a
night without dinner. It happened a lot, but they survived. She walked to the
cabinet and removed a stale piece of bread and a glass. She filled the glass
with water, and headed to her little brother Timmy's room.
"Timmy?" She said, walking into the room. Inside was her
brother. He had short, scraggly dark brown hair, and bright green eyes. He
looked more like their father than Lori did, she noticed every time she saw
him. The little boy was playing with his wooden train given to him by their
father before he left. "Are you hungry?"
He looked up at her and smiled. "Hi Lori!" He said. "We
get dinner today?"
She shook her head. "Sorry. But you have to eat. Here."
She handed him the bread and water.
"But, don't you have to eat?" He asked innocently.
"You need it more. I'll be fine. I get paid tomorrow, and
I'll eat then." She smiled at him and he smiled back, taking a bite of bread.
"Are you a freak?"
She was taken aback by that question, but realized he was
just a boy and calmed. "Who said that?"
"The kids at the city. They say that because you're not
married and do man's work that you're a freak. Is that bad?"
"Timmy," She sat down next to him, "I'm the only one who
can work now that dad's gone, and because I work, most guys think that I'm a
freak, so that's why I'm not married. But just because kids say things
doesn't mean it's true."
She smiled. He was young, and open-minded. Once he was old
enough, he would take over caring for the family. But for now, he was just a
boy, and needed food and sleep. "Okay Timmy. After you eat, it's bedtime."
She turned and left, closing the door after her. She then
leaned back on the door and let out a deep breath. Working was not
had to go to work tomorrow, and get paid less than minimum wage, but it was
better then nothing.
"Loraina, are you okay?"
Lori looked up. "Yes mother, just tired."
"Get some sleep. We'll get to eat tomorrow."
Lori smiled. "Goodnight mother." She kissed her mother on
the cheek and headed to her room. She walked to her bed and collapsed. "This
is going to be an odd week, I can already tell..." she mumbled and looked
out the window at the stars. They were all out now, but the one she had seen
before was not to be seen.
With one last sigh, she turned out the light and fell
"Where is that girl?" A bulky man paced the floor
periodically glancing out the glass door and stroking his bushy mustache.
"She should have been here ten minutes ago." He pulled a book from the many
shelves and flipped through it, just as a young woman burst into the store.
She had light brown hair, and deep green-blue eyes.
She looked up at the man. "I'm so sorry Mr. Baxter! I
would have been on time, but Timmy broke the bowl and I had to clean it up
and-" She was cut off by the sharp glare Mr. Baxter had given her. She lowered
her head and was quiet.
"Lori, I know you're family needs money and that's why
you, a girl, is working here, and I allow it, but you can't be late all the
"I know, and I'm sorry. Once Timmy is old enough, you
won't have to put up with me anymore, so just bare with me I-" She was cut
off again by his gesture.
"Lori, you are the best employee I've ever had, and you
have a way with books and people. If you had been a man..."
"If I had been a man, I wouldn't be in this mess."
He gave her a look. "Lori, I can't open the shop until you
get here, and when you're late, it's bad for business. I won't reprimand you
this time, but don't be late on Monday."
She nodded. "Yes sir."
"Good, now get to work. It's gonna be a long day..."
Loraina nodded and immediately got to work. After she had
sorted and shelved all of the new books, she searched for one she hadn't read
yet and opened it. Customers didn't usually come for hours and in that time,
she read. That too, was unusual for a woman to do, but who was there to stop
her? Not Mr. Baxter, surly, he was a nice man, and open-minded. He was the
only one who would hire her, and for that she was grateful.
She sat down in a chair in the back of the store and
opened the book. She read for hours about a young princess meeting a young
knight and falling in love, saving her from her evil stepmother, and living
happily ever after.
Lori's head snapped up and looked directly at Mr. Baxter.
"Oh, uh, Hi."
"Lori, we have a customer. Show him what he needs."
"Yes sir." She put down the book and stood up. The man
who came in was a tall man with dark reddish brown hair and a short beard. He
looked like one of those mystical wizard types she had read about in books.
"Hello, may I help you find a book?"
The man smiled and his eyes seemed to twinkle. "Yes, I'd
like to buy a book called 'Myths and Legends.' Do you happen to have it?"
She nodded. "Yes, we do." She moved swiftly through the
bookcases to the one she needed. The man was right behind her. "You'll like
the book," she said, "I've read it many times."
He looked at her with a smile as she reached up for the
book. "You, a woman, reading and working? How... unusual."
Lori frowned. "Father left, I have to work." She said
bluntly. He must not have been around here, or else he would have known about
"I know. I'm sorry. I did not know it would offend you."
He smiled a warm smile. "Now... the book?"
"Oh, right..." She reached for the book again.
"Things will change for your family. Don't worry. You
have a bigger destiny."
Lori took the book from its shelf and turned around.
"Here's your..." She looked around, but the man was not there. "...book."
She walked to the entrance of the store to where Mr. Baxter
was reading the morning paper. "Hey, did that man leave the store?"
He looked up. "What man?"
"The man who you showed in."
He looked at her strangely. "Lori, no customers have come
in today, you know that." He glanced at the book she was holding. "Maybe you
have been reading too much fantasy, eh?"
She looked at the book, and then Mr. Baxter. "Yeah," she
mumbled, "maybe..." With that, she walked off to the back of the store and
began to flip through the book she had gotten. She had read it before, but
maybe there was something she had overlooked. She flipped through pages of
demons, fairies, goblins, angels, elves, and the like, until she came to a
page that caught her eye.
It had a tall red man with dark black bat wings and a tail.
"Be'lah," she read out loud, "a demon that feeds on the negative emotions of
others. If he gains enough power, he has been known to demolish entire cities,
then move on to gain more power. Rarely seen in the daylight, he has been
known to posses unsuspecting mortals and using their negative emotions to
bend them to his will."
Loraina shivered. He didn't sound like any monster she'd
ever like to meet. Ever. But it was just a myth. It wasn't real... right?
She shut the book and set it down. What was with that man,
and why the book? There was something odd about things recently. And what
was with that shooting star? She wanted some answers and she wanted them now.
"Mom, I'm home."
She set her coat on the rack once more as her mother
greeted her. "Lori! I have great news!" She said happily.
"What might that be?" Lori asked, curiously.
Her mother smiled and pulled her into the living room. "A
kind man came to the house, and agreed to pay the rent for us, and whatever
else we might need."
Lori blinked. "A kind man? Who would do such a kind thing
The voice came from behind her mother. As Lori peeked
into the room, she gasped in surprise. The man was the same as she had met
before, in the bookstore. The same hair, face, and the same twinkling eyes.
"What are you doing here?"
The man shrugged as her mother immediately got defensive.
"Lori! This man is doing us a kind favor. Do not be rude!"
The man raised a calm hand between the two and calmed the
argument. "Forgive your daughter and me." He said, "We met earlier, in a
bookstore. I left her rudely, and she is obviously angry." Her mother nodded
as he turned to Lori. "And forgive me as well. I left very rudely, and I
apologize. I had some important business to take care of."
Lori was hesitant, but nodded as well. "All right. I
forgive you." And she paused for a moment, remembering why he was here.
"What's the catch?"
"What?" He and her mother both chorused.
She explained. "The money, for the house. There has to be
a catch. There always is."
"Lori!" Her mother snapped, but the man hushed her.
"No, it's all right." He said, "It's true. There is a
"Ha! I knew it!" Lori gloated.
Her mother slowly turned to the strange man. "Well...
what is the catch, sir?"
The man smiled, and once again, his eyes twinkled. "Only,
that Lori go to the city tomorrow."
"Th-that's it?" Her mother asked, as if not believing it.
"But tomorrow's a Sunday." Lori piped in. "I don't work on
Sunday. Nobody does."
The man nodded. "Yes. While that is true, I wish for you
to meet someone. He will be there. Sunday, or not. Only then will you get
your money, I promise."
"Someone? Who?" She questioned.
"You will find out." He smiled. "Have no worries, dear,
you will be safe. No real harm will come to you on this journey. Quite the
opposite, in fact." He headed to the door, and turned. "Remember." And, with
a wink, he was gone, leaving Lori quite confused.