Young Adult Fiction posted September 25, 2015 Chapters:  ...7 8 -9- 10 

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Every game has pitfalls

A chapter in the book A Copper Coin

Hold your breath

by Silence_is_golden233

10th of Marna, 1682. 14th year of Q.E.

The rosters for farm work were up in the Inn already. People had been filtering in all week to add their names to the columns under each farm. There were those for grain and others for meat or dairy farms. She had interest in one in particular however its sign up sheet was already full with a waiting list. Her stomach dropped as she spotted Noah's surprisingly neatly written name on the waiting list. She hurriedly jotted down her name underneath his and asked for the day off. The Innkeeper took one look at her face and gave it to her, the cool mask slipping just enough for him to see the confusion and irritation.

The skinny girl made an effort to saunter to the docks as her skin crawled from the amount of scrutiny her presence garnered. It didn't take long for word to spread among the sailors and boat builders, a girl was milling about. Needless to say, when she spotted Noah repairing the rigging on a vessel...his friends naturally informed him of the admirer on the dock. Wolf whistles and jeers followed the tanned adolescent as he scuttled down the ropes like a spider. He ducked as one older boy tried to ruffle his hair, his boots thumping down the gang plank as he looked at her with a curious expression.

"What brings you down here on a work day?" he scanned her and found a distinct lack of letters on her slender frame.

"Is there a place we could talk alone?" she returned smoothly, arching one dark brow as he frowned and dragged her away from the docks, into Lovers Lane. However she took him further down the lane and into Madam Ghut's Apothecary. Unbeknownst to many, the wily old witch had enchanted her shop and residence. The old woman had let slip when Skye had been helping around the shop one summer, enchantments against listening and mind reading. The wrinkled wise lady just pointed to the storeroom as she looked up from a poultice jar and saw the pair on the back landing.

"Bes' place for conversations, go' a muting spell in there." her raspy voice barely had time to register in their minds before Skye had dragged Noah into the dusty little room. She turned to face him and let the mask fall, a slight smile appearing on his face only rankling her further.

"How did you figure it out?" she asked calmly, only for him to reach out and tousle her hair.

"Apparently you're not the only one with a brain Skye." his enigmatic reply made her frown deepen as she digested this little tidbit.

"What do you intend to do once you're there? Surely you know they'll be intending to kill any workers once the harvest is complete!" her frustration and uneasiness grew as he nodded and then shrugged it all off. She slammed her hand against one of the shelves, causing him to jump in surprise and cautiously put a hand on her shoulder.

"Skye...we have a plan, the Alliance intends to smuggle a sample of whatever it is on that farm, to the Queen's Guard." he tried to reassure her and she covered his hand with hers, looking up at him with such despair that it stole the breath from his lungs.

"I can't lose you too....if I lost you, my world would cease to function." she admitted, her voice raw with fear as he drew her close and rubbed her back.

"The Alliance will take care of this mission...I might not even be called to the harvest." he soothed, struggling to wrap his head around this minute change. They were young enough to understand the finite nature of death, understand the danger of leaving things unsaid. Yet she had retreated and hidden away anything more that she felt for him.

"If you are called to harvest...take me with you." Skye murmured into his chest before looking up and capturing his dark blue gaze. His expression turned into a conflicted mess as she tried to piece it all together, only for it all to change in the time it took for her to close her eyes. Noah's hand slid up to the nape of her neck and then around to the left side. His caloused thumb brushing against her cheek before he lowered his head slightly.

"I promise to take you with me, but only if you promise to stop shutting down your emotions." he offered the trade, knowing full well the amount of conflict that was already underway within her thin frame. Yet she smiled and nodded once before wrapping her arms around him and embracing him. They both pulled back at the same moment, only for her to reach up and touch the nape of his neck in return.

"You are too tall already, lean down so I can kiss you." she grumbled slightly and he laughed as she returned to her old self, if only for a moment. Noah leaned down just enough and the dark haired waif pressed her lips against his clumsily, causing him to chuckle softly and lift her up off the floor. Her startled squeal said it all as she pulled her lips away from his and swatted his shoulder lightly.

"Put me down you string bean!" she commanded and Noah quirked an eyebrow as the corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly. He gave her a goofy smile in return and released her, the soles of her boots landing on the rough stone floor with a soft thunk.

"As you wish....potato." he teased, only for them to freeze at the sound of footsteps and male tones. They crept closer to the door and hid behind some shelves that jutted out from the wall. Each of them put their hand over their mouth, a habit from when they used to eavesdrop in their younger years. Skye's heart leapt into her throat as the door barely muffled the sound of in depth conversation.

".....mage learned nothing from the fire..." A shiver went down Skye's spine and a chill sunk into her bones as there was some discontented grumbling. Despite the distortions of the magical spells on the voice, she definitely didn't have to guess its owner.

"...the crop?" Another voice rumbled, his accent making his words sound like molasses.

"....growing better than we expected. It will be ready for dispersal soon." A third voice chimed in, only for the familiar voice to add another tidbit.

"....before the rains. The Alliance will be no more once the rats are all dead. We'll be late for the snake fights if we aren't careful." Then the three men left through the rear door, having assumed that Madam Ghut's enchantments would keep their discussion within the shop's walls for all eternity. Snakes were exotic animals and highly treasured by the Queen, snake fighting was illegal as she saw this practice as cruel and shameful. Even more shameful if one was to bet on which snake would win the bout.

The pair waited until Madam Ghut came to the store room and opened the door with a grim smile on her face. Her faded hazel gaze regarded them knowingly before she let them out of the room, ducking in briefly to retrieve some dried herbs and a sprig of fresh lavender.

"Madam...was that-" Skye began only for the old woman to glare at her fiercely and clear her throat as they came to the shop front.

"No names! Be careful no' to say too much o' nothin' to no one, even me." she instructed sharply, causing Noah and Skye to exchange glances.

"Any advice Madam?" Skye asked quietly, earning a considering glance from the wise woman before she coughed and motioned for them to come behind the counter. Her foot was pointed towards a faded imported carpet and the pair ducked behind the counter just before the bells tolled for midday, signalling the start of the noon rush for food or drink.

"Follow the tunnel an' don' forget to hold you breath at the narrowing, should lead you to something interesting. You can both swim....right?" Madam murmured, flicking the corner of the carpet up with her shoe. They lifted it gently and it revealed a trap door underneath, lifting it up revealed a ladder leading down into an inky abyss.

"Light?" Noah piped up, earning a mischievous grin from the wise woman.

"You'll no' need light...nature provides." she laughed, urging them down the ladder one at a time. Skye's mind raced as the square of light above her shrank rapidly. They were hidden underneath the trapdoor and the carpet just in time. The distant sound of the bell on the front door and muffled conversation faded as they continued their blind descent.

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