For this month’s Character Encounter, I’ll introduce you to a character who, sadly, tends to get shoved to the back corner of my Imagination because she’s so quiet and patient…a fact that ticks off Lotán rather—but he’s another story. :-P And Kendra’s bonus challenge this month—having our Character bring a pet—is perfect, considering Carlo’s self-appointed status as Estrella’s bodyguard while she’s looking for her birth-mother.
Technically, the driveway isn’t really a road (I just call it the High Road and the Low Road), but the street we live on isn’t the best for walking, and I don’t do road-trips (not that I wouldn’t like to someday!), so I had to fudge it.
Now let’s get on with the Encounter!
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|(Via Pinterest) Clothes aren't right, |
but I haven't finished her PaintShop portrait yet
It’ll take me a few years, I daresay, to get used to warmish Octobers. By this time of year in North Idaho, we’d be bundled up in turtlenecks and sweaters, reaching for warm hats and wool coats to venture outside. We might even be getting nightly visits from Jack Frost. But here in Southern Oregon, while the mornings are decidedly chilly, by afternoon it’s pleasant enough for short-sleeved T-shirts.
Feeling restless, with a sense that this weather would be gone all too soon, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and do a couple laps around the driveway. Most of the velvet-ash trees had shed their yellow leaves, and the cottonwoods were about to follow suit. The black oaks had that dried-up brownish tint to their leaves, due, no doubt, from the drought this Summer. I paused by the edge of the driveway—the part I call “the Low Road”—beside our neighbor’s seasonal pond. Dead grass lay flat in Deer Hollow, with a swamp-willow hedge jutting in from the right-hand side of the hill. I wondered how the young trees would like it come Winter, when the rains turned Deer Hollow into the Naiad’s Looking-glass.
A low dog-bark to my left drew my attention sharply off the pond. At the fork in the drive—where the Low Road meets the High Road—I spotted a dark-haired girl and the biggest, shaggiest black dog I’d ever seen. It looked somewhat like a Newfoundland hound—husky and bear-like—but with the kinky-curly coat and leaner snout of a Bouvier de Flandres or a puli. The dog barked again and galloped toward me, its long fur rippling comically with each bound. He skidded to a stop right beside me, quivering all over and smacking himself with his enthusiastic tail-wagging. He whined happily and let out a couple yips, batting at me with his huge paw.
“Well, hi there, fella,” I greeted, slowly extending my hand for him to smell. One doesn’t just reach out and pet a strange dog, after all.
“Carlo!” the girl called as she caught up to him. Her olive complexion had a rosy hue to it from being in the sun, which set off her sparkling dark eyes beautifully. “Forgive me, my lady,” she said to me, curtsying a little. “I trust my dog has not frightened you?”
“Oh, no,” I assured her, secretly wondering why she would address someone wearing jeans and a T-shirt as my lady. “I can tell he’s friendly.”
The girl smiled, squatting down to ruffle Carlo’s kinky fur while I scratched his floppy ears and got a better look at her. The brown leather toe of her boot peeked out from under her dark-blue skirt, covered by a colorful apron with large pockets. Matching ribbons—perhaps cut from the same fabric as her skirt—fastened the straps of her cherry-red bodice, and her white chemise had stripes of shinier thread woven with the cotton. Her smooth raven locks fell freely, without adornment, to her slender waist, framing a perfect oval face. But it was her necklace that really caught my eye—a long string of red beads the size of mustard seeds, interspersed with larger faceted ones in groups of three and five, attached to a tiny pouch made entirely of emerald-green seed beads. The pouch sported a fringe made of more seed beads and slightly larger beads, with glass bellflowers at the bottom of each strand. And right in the center shone a large emerald, set in gold prongs and glittering in the filtered light.
“You must be Estrella,” I remarked.
The girl looked up sharply, her eyes wide and her mouth agape. “How do you know my name?” she gasped.
OK, I mused, she’s one of my Characters who doesn’t know me or that she’s imaginary. Aloud I replied, “Oh, I’ve heard a lot about you—mostly from Lotán.”
Estrella looked puzzled. “From Lotán? But that is impossible; he shuns all contact with people—save Master Jeraias and myself.”
“Well, I’m a friend of Jeraias’, so he tolerates me,” I explained, choosing my words carefully. “I’m a sort of historian, so I’m trying to get him to let me write his biography. But he’s a bit of a—well, let’s just say he prefers to scold me for forgetting about you.”
“I?” Her eyebrows shot up.
Carlo had found a sizable stick—a dead branch, really—near the oak trees we stood under and dropped it at my feet, looking up expectantly at me.
“Oh, yes, dear,” I replied, hefting the thing as far down the drive as I could. “I’ll be writing your story, too, someday, Elyon willing. But it seems I can’t write it soon enough to suit Lotán. He seems to think I neglect you—that I’m somehow doing you an injustice if I spend time with any other Char—er, any of the other people I’m writing about.”
Estrella shook her head sadly. “Life has not been kind to Lotán, but of course that does not excuse him. I am sorry he is unkind to you, Lady…?”
I hesitated. “Call me Rosaleen. Everyone in the Free Realms calls me Rosaleen. And don’t worry too much about Lotán. He’s actually halfway polite compared to some of my—subjects.”
Carlo galloped back, stick in mouth, and again laid it at my feet, this time with an excited yip!
“OK, boy,” I laughed, picking up the least slobbery end of the stick. “Go get it!” I whooped, throwing it into The Meadow at the bottom of the Low Road.
“I can speak to Master Jeraias about Lotán, perhaps,” Estrella offered. “He seems to be able to reason with him.”
“Or you might speak to him yourself.”
Estrella looked at me as though I had suggested she could fly. “You pardon, Lady Rosaleen, but I fail to understand you. I have no influence over Lotán.”
I raised an eyebrow and one corner of my mouth. “You’d be surprised.”
Just then, I heard the screen door on the front porch open and Mom and Peter talking up on the hill.
Estrella extended her hand. “If you will excuse me, Carlo and I must go now. It was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Rosaleen.”
I laughed. “Hardly a lady, dear, but thank you. I enjoyed meeting you, too.”
“Do you—do you perhaps know of a Románii troupe in these parts?” she asked timidly, her voice quivering.
“’Fraid not—not around here. But…but I do know there’s one scheduled to visit either Dunsmüir or Lochton soon. And—and I’m told there’s a fabulous dancer among them…named La Sapphira.”
Estrella’s face brightened. “Oh! Perhaps that is the troupe my mother travels with! Thank you very kindly, my lady; you have renewed my hope.”
We parted company then; Estrella and Carlo (stick in tow) continuing up the Low Road towards the forest behind our house, and myself joining my family at the Y to go fetch the mail.
(I found out later that the reason Estrella called me a lady was because she saw the world around her as though she were still in Ýdára, and that somehow, my modern clothes looked, to her, more like the purple dress I wore on my birthday.)
I really want to write her and Lotán’s story, Lord, I prayed. But I’m afraid it’ll be a while before I get to them, since “Prince Nácil” has top priority just now. But when I do get to them, Lord, please give me the right words; their story is special to me, and I want to tell it right.
I had a feeling Lotán and Estrella were in good Hands….
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