Life Without Life

Chapter 25:

Katherine storms out of the castle gates, out of the village, out into the meadows, and finally into the Western Mountains. She only stops her horse once by a stream to take a drink. Only then does she hear the faint sound of a weeping girl.

As she walks towards her, the girl relinquishes her crying and looks up. Katherine is very surprised to be face to face, again, with Emily-Elizabeth! For the longest time, she had waited to meet her again. Now she has the opportunity to resolve some "misunderstandings".

"Please, Emily, tell me why you look so forlorn?" she asks in her sweetest, most delicate voice.

"I do not wish to speak to you." Emily-Elizabeth turns her head to look out at the mountains.

"Please, Emily," she pleads once more, "I wish to know more about you. I wish to learn about the life of your past."

"What do you care about peasant life? You are not a peasant. You would not even wish to become one if you could!" Even with Emily-Elizabeth's protests, Katherine seats herself beside her.

"If you must know, I must tell you, for you have a higher nobility than I. I was born into a poor family, peasants as we were often called. I am the second oldest of five children, though the census has me as the oldest of four. My eldest brother, Kenneth Berkeley, was cast out of my father's house when he was only fourteen.

"Barely a young man, he ventured out into the East Woods and my family never heard from him again. By that time I was twelve and never really thought that by the next year both my mother and father would be dead." Her eyes fill with tears, yet still she persists to tell her story.

"It was a shock to us all how my mother died. Some say she was raped and killed, others say she was killed by pillagers passing through our lands. At the same time, our good Baron was at war with an opposing kingdom. My father was forced into battle and there he died on the battlefield.

"From that moment forward, I was forced into a life I did not want. By that time I would have been married and by this time I would have had a family of my own. All that changed, all my plans hopeless, all my expectations ruined. I had to remain at home, my parents' home, and continue where they left off- - caring for my two younger brothers and my one younger sister." She stops then and glances, teary-eyed, at Katherine, who is in such a state of shock, she cannot speak a single word.

Emily-Elizabeth continues: "We had a great life, the seven of us. Can you imagine, five children living in one house! Well, at one time there were only three of us: my brother Kenneth, my brother John, and me.

"Since I was the only girl, I always played boys' games, but when the youngest boy, Thomas, was old enough to play, I was thrown out of the game. I was often told by my brothers that a girl's place is either out in the fields or in the home. I would go home crying to Mother saying that I wished I was a boy over and over again."

"Emily, I had no idea of the life you had. I am truly sorry about your parents."

"Do not be so. For it is what I believe fate has meant for me."

"What are you to do with yourself now? I do not see your brothers or your sister anywhere."

"My brothers have gone off in search of their own adventure. My sister, she died."

Katherine gasps in surprise but quickly says, "I had no idea. Again, I am truly sorry. May I ask how she died?"

"She caught the Plague when it swept across our land only a few months ago. Being the youngest and most vulnerable, she was affected but the rest of us were spared."

"You are free to join me on my journeys through these distant lands if you choose to."

"Nay, that is quite all right. I will be fine on my own." Katherine and Emily-Elizabeth say their good-byes and depart, each in a separate direction, each with a different adventure laying ahead.