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Always The Bridesmaid

Chapter Text

Rederring, Cornwall - 1577

“More! Now!”
Few words could ever describe the life of the newly titled Sir Rupert more accurately.
“More! Now!”
Those words, ringing like bells throughout the hallways, rooms, kitchens, nooks and crannies of Ruddigore Castle were heard as regularly as the screams of those who dared defy Sir Rupert.
“More! Now!”
Demands greeted by the bringing of wine, food, women, sacrifice, music and money.

A favourite of Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s ‘spymaster’, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd had been granted the first baronetcy of Ruddigore, and had risen to the challenge with anything but modesty. He was a hunter, a womaniser. Indeed, there were as many stags’ heads adorning his bedroom walls as women adorning the sheets within. He was a man at the prime of his life, tall, broad shouldered, dark-featured and practically God-like in his stature and appearance. The lifestyle of Sir Rupert was well known in court, the reputation of his feasts and parties preceded the man himself; tales of nights where hundreds dined on the fattest oxen, sheep, swine, the nights laced with orgies, the sweetest wines and plumpest fruits were all too known in the upper echelons of society.

Yet there was something about Sir Rupert. Something that surpassed the rumours and reputation he had, the lesser known obsession he held. Witch hunting. Sir Rupert was a sadist and he stopped at nothing to fulfil the desires that stirred within him. He took the idea of the ‘hunt’ literally, riding out on horseback with nothing but rope and a wooden club: He selected his victim not by choice, simply whoever wouldn’t keep up with the fleeing crowd. Even his most loyal subjects were subject themselves to the hunt. Once a week, every week. Without warning. Merciless.

He would then hold private court sessions - these trials were nothing but for his own amusement. He held his trials gorging on the grease and oil of his fattened livestock, laughing, joking, drinking. He enjoyed seeing the fear in their eyes, and when each victim realised their fate, he would stand, march over to them and kick the trembling legs from under them. The elderly, the mad, the lepers, the crooked, each of them condemned and forced to beg for their lives for pure entertainment, crawling at the feet of the crazed, merciless baronet while he stood over them and simply laughed.

Then would come the execution. Sir Rupert favoured burning, and as with the trials, these were not public affairs. In Ruddigore Castle itself, there was a small secluded courtyard that allowed him to oversee the execution. He lit the fire himself. In doing so, he would stare into their eyes and gorge himself on the terror and tears of his victim; standing back and letting the screams fill the courtyard and enwrap him in the sweet music of death, screams like the discordant piccolo floating over the smoke, and what smoke it was too. Breaths, deep breaths of acrid burning flesh, filling his lungs with raw torture, pain and distress as if he were enthroned in the very depths of hell itself.

This went noticed yet unchanged for years, his household keeping quiet, for they knew a similar fate would befall each and everyone one protested. Unchanged that is until January, a Tuesday falling on the 22nd. The sun rose early over the moors of Rederring, a heavy frost had frozen the ground and a bitter wind was coming off the sea.

“Enough of this, enough of this wind! Adam, what do you suggest?” Sir Rupert’s bark was less of a request than a demand. Adam himself, had been by Sir Rupert’s side for many years previously and had a certain understanding for the fancies and intrigues of the Baronet.
“Sir, might I suggest riding inland with our backs to the wind? There are plenty of cottages housing weaker prey who aren’t well suited to the survival needed on the coast.” Tall, intelligent and still in his prime, Adam had sworn to obey Sir Rupert in every endeavour, but he made no secret of the fact he enjoyed the thrill of the chase as much as his master. Agreed on a course, each man mounted his horse and armed with nothing but the bare essentials, they set out.

Adam continued to talk on their journey, mostly about the inane trivialities of ruling, which didn’t interest Sir Rupert in the slightest. His mind was elsewhere. The heat of the horse below him, the damp of the sweat steaming off its neck, the rocking from the trot was enough to send him into a lustful stupor, his brow damp from the heavy fur that clung to him and his lips wet, despite the wind.

They had barely been out an hour when they spotted a small shack on the side of the moor. Surrounded by thick pine trees it was a chance find and intriguing enough to warrant investigation. They dismounted and grabbed their hunting tools, slipping through the front door in upmost silence. There were the remnants of a small fire in the centre of the main room, though it had long been extinguished, but most particular of all was the smell. Despite this being the house of a nobody there were such… aromatic smells. Smells of spices, ginger, cinnamon, and many more neither man could name. Before either man had a chance to comment on the peculiarity, they caught site of her. A woman of no less than 80 and no more than 5 feet in height. She appeared, frail, yet fearless with black, sunken eyes, standing in the doorway, staring at the men, as if she had been expecting them.

“Perfect.” muttered Sir Rupert, pupils dilated and visibly excited at the prospect. She didn’t fight back, she didn’t say anything, she merely submitted, wholly. They attached her to the back of the horse and made sure they rode at a speed she couldn’t match, leading to her skeletal legs often giving way underneath her. Of course, when she fell, the horses wouldn’t slow and she was dragged a good deal of the way leading to a substantial amount of bruising, bleeding and pain. Yet, she continued saying nothing. Never did she cry out, fight back or protest. She continued, unwavering, unblinking, staring at Sir Rupert with intensity, such intensity.

After getting back to the Castle, the trial was as one would imagine. Sir Rupert would conduct his version of justice without lenience, mercy or care, kicking the elderly woman repeatedly trying to get her to rise to his taunts. And yet, she didn’t even raise her hands to protect herself, she didn’t flinch, she just watched. Watching Sir Rupert without so much as a word, argument, cry, scream, tremble or fault. But she smiled, relentlessly grinning, flashing her toothless mouth and rotting gums, occasionally laughing at the proceedings. Not a jovial laugh, but a chilling titter, enough to send shivers up the spines of the bravest of men. All men except Sir Rupert who saw it as nothing more than mockery. He grew angrier and his torture grew more severe. Until, after a trial lasting until the sun had set on the horizon, enough was enough.

He dragged her out into the courtyard by her ankle and strung her up. Without hesitating, he set her alight. The flames grew so bright they matched the blood-red colour of the sky that evening. But there it was: the smile. This wasn’t enjoyable any more, he wished her gone. In the fire, her eyes, her whole face glowed a hellish red, she lifted a flaming hand and in a screech so utterly shrill it caused him to clutch his ears, she broke her silence.

“EACH LORD OF RUDDIGORE, DESPITE HIS BEST ENDEAVOUR, SHALL DO ONE CRIME OR MORE, THIS, EVERYDAY, FOREVER. THIS DOOM HE CAN’T DEFY, HOWEVER HE MAY TRY, FOR SHOULD HE STAY HIS HAND, THAT DAY, IN TORTURE HE SHALL DIE.”

And with that, a cloud of black smoke billowed through the courtyard. The fire was gone, she had disappeared, no remnant left behind except for those words in his memory. Scarred on the very flesh of his brain. And the realisation that he had not only condemned himself, but his entire lineage. From now until the end of the Earth itself.

Chapter Text

Years Later...

Rederring, it is said, remained as it always had been. A quiet coastal village on the moors of Cornwall, nobody left, nobody new arrived, it was just one of those places. The fishermen would leave in the morning, the children would go to school, the market would open, the elderly would meet in the tea-shops, life was just simply ordinary.

Amongst those unspectacular residents was Hannah. A young woman of 22, she came from a good home, her father the headmaster of a local grammar school. She lived comfortably with him and an older sister, Rosa. She had never known her mother, her father had simply said to the two of them that she had passed away when they were young. Hannah was a quiet woman, a woman of charity, kindness and selflessness.

Year after unremarkable year passed in Rederring, the sun would rise and set, spring would do just that, the sun would burn through and the chill of winter would creep up on the village, just as it always had. Until late one October, that is.

The sun rose much as it always did in the morning, the wind whistling through the browning leaves of the trees full of the scents and sights of the harvest. Hannah hadn’t much planned for the day and as she came down to breakfast with her father and sister the routine conversation began as ever.
“Morning my dear, how did you sleep?” her father asked. He was a well spoken man, moustached and beginning to show the signs of a youthful face weathered by years of the stiff upper lip.
“Not too bad papa, yourself?” she replied, her voice timid yet assured. Her father, caught up in the business of some letter didn’t provide a response so much as a murmur of concurrence, not out of rudeness so much as routine.
“And what errand of charity is it today, sweet Hannah?” her sister asked. Rosa’s voice, as was true to her name was gentle, sweet and as full of poise and grace as Rosa herself.
“Oh, we’ve a new neighbour, a young man and his wife… Mr and Mrs Gadderby, I believe. I was going to look in and offer a tour of the town, not that there’s much to see mind other than the port and the Castle.”
“How delightful! I’d have loved to have joined you but alas, I fear I’ve been summoned to look in on Aunt Ruth. She hasn’t been quite the same since that dreadful business at sea.” The girls giggled. Their Aunt Ruth was somewhat of an eccentric, a reputation not helped by her taking off on what she claims to be a duty of hers, but none of them really understood what she meant.
“Well, I ought to get going, I shall be back in time for tea, so long papa, Rosa, dear.” A further murmur from her father, a smile from her sister and the click of the door behind her as she left for her duties of the day.

There was no hiding the smile on Hannah’s face as she stepped into the chill of the Autumn morning. Though, it wasn’t merely the beautiful morning that put the smile on her face, for she knew on her way to the village, the same young gentleman as every morning would pass her on his way to conduct business. He was a striking youth, full of the promise, charm and charisma of a gentleman and what’s more, he returned the smile to Hannah each and every time he saw her. They had never said a word to each other, of course, that would be improper, but there was that knowing look between them that said more than words ever could. He was much taller than she, and he possessed the image of the perfect gentleman. How could she ever give voice to the racing heart and nervous excitement she felt? Each time was the same, they would pass, he would smile, tip his hat and she would give a titter, blush and look away; though she’d never seen his reaction, she hoped it merely gave him more cause to smile.

But there was something different this morning. She saw no sign of him anywhere on her walk, and his absence seemed to be marked with a strange silence, as if when he was there, fanfares and choruses followed in his wake. She still heard the carolling of the birds, the rustle of leaves and the faint pumping of blood in her ears, but they were muffled by the pang in her chest caused by the gentleman-shaped void in her morning walk. She continued, the few villagers she did pass were courteous, but their smiles weren’t as… captivating.
“Stop it, Hannah. That’ll be quite enough of that.” she said aloud. It relaxed her, it calmed the nerves, dried the palms and slowed the heart. For now. What about the next time she saw him? A thought she suppressed throughout the remainder of the day. At least she would have done.

Hannah had a spot, high above Rederring on the side of the cliff. Even if she had had the easiest of days, she would escape for time with her thoughts. These weren’t particularly profound or interesting thoughts, but they were hers. This evening in particular, she took the rocky slope upwards onto the small mound where she had a perfect view of the ocean and village below; it was cold,but the sun was casting a beautiful golden hue over the sky and sea alike. The silence enveloped her and she found herself drifting in her thoughts, letting the wind flow through her auburn hair - she dreamed of flying. She always had done. Though she found her flight interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind her. It was him.

“Might a young lady permit this particular gentleman to rest beside her?” He said, and oh, his voice. Just as she had imagined, so… golden. She smiles shyly, nodded and gestured to the space beside her. And for a time, they simply sat, smiling to themselves, watching the last few moments of the sinking sun. Hannah had been taught not to speak until one was spoken to oneself, lest she been seen as improper, and so they sat in companionable silence. Yet Hannah heard sweet music, tremendous music for her soul to dance to, and it seemed to be the young gentleman at her side emitting it.
“I’m sorry, I can’t keep this to myself any longer!” he exclaimed suddenly, catching her off-guard. Before she could move he was crouching in front of her and staring into her eyes with an intense gaze.
“Forgive me, I don’t even know your name, but I fear I may be in love with you,” he said, breathlessly and wide-eyed, “every morning, I dream of seeing your face, even if just for that fleeting moment, I don’t even need to walk in that direction in the mornings, but I make the journey every day, often just to turn round again after in the hope I might catch your gaze. And it’s the silliest thing, because, I’m sure you must think me odd, well, this whole situation odd, but you see, there is something about…”
“Shh.” whispered Hannah. She placed her gloved hand on his lip, smiled the smile he so longed to see, and with the smile still decorating her face, replied:
“Well, sir. This was most unexpected. I would hasten to apprise you that beneath this… very model of decorum, I am most glad.”
Silence. And an eruption of laughter from them both. Once the laughter had passed (a good few minutes later!) Hannah looked down to see the gentleman was holding her hand. Her smile faded as she looked into his eyes, her expression turned into one of disbelief that this was happening.
“Sir, I don’t even know your name!”
After a short pause, “Anthony.” he replied.
“Anthony!” she gleamed; finally, a name put to the face that had taken residence in her thoughts by day and dreams by night. She looked back at him, and this time she took both of his hands and held them tightly as if she never planned to let go.

Clearly some time had passed while they were in their own world and as the sun had set, a chill set in as the world grew darker. Anthony suggest they leave before the dark set in and their journey home was too difficult. They returned to the village, hand in hand. In a single night, Hannah’s entire world had changed, the butterflies in her stomach were flitting and floating as if they were hosting their own celebration for the night’s events. They reached the front gate to her cottage just as dusk set in.
“My father’ll be worried, you know? I should say good night.”
“Right, yes, of course. Well, I hope it shan’t be long before I see that smile again. Goodnight, dear Hannah.”
“Good evening… Anthony.” she replied, smiling coyly. He opened the gate for her, kissed her on the cheek and stole away into the night, as was befitting the man of such intrigue.

“Hello papa! Sorry I’m a little late, I got caught in the village helping at the hall!” she called into the living room.
“Oh, quite all right. Is it just you? I don’t suppose you’ve seen your sister today have you?”
“Rosa? No, not at all I’m afraid. I’ll tell cook to start supper.”
He murmured in reply, as he always did.

Chapter Text

Even though a year had passed, Hannah had never really recovered from her sister’s disappearance. Nor had her father, whom she was convinced had died of a broken heart above all else. No suggestion, no clues, it was as if she had simply vanished from Rederring without trace.

But this was a time for celebration. For this particularly glorious Monday was in fact Hannah’s wedding day. After the search for Rosa had been called off, Anthony had proposed to her on the cliff where they first met, having just managed to ask permission from her father before he passed away. Anthony had been tremendously helpful following her father’s passing, forever being the model of chivalry and understanding qualities she so loved about him. He wasn’t merely a gentleman, but a gentle man too.

The sun streamed through the cottage windows, the scintillating scent of fresh roses dancing through the soft breeze. Hannah had gathered a few of her childhood friends to help her prepare, something that had become quite the tradition in Rederring. Marriage, accompanied by the bands of sailors weddings attracted, was one of the strong institutions of the village and couples came from all over to celebrate their nuptials at the beautiful Church of St Dunstan.

Before setting off on the journey to the church she asked for a moment with her maid of honour, and best friend, Margaret. Margaret was a fiery young girl, full of the zest of life that she often seemed unable to control. As the girls sat together at the table, Hannah felt tears beginning to form in her eyes.
“I…” she began.
“I know.” Margaret replied.
“To think, this is meant to be the happiest day of my life, and it just doesn’t seem… fair, I just wish…”, her voice cracked and the tear escaped and ran down her cheek.
“Hannah, dear, I know that your papa should be the one walking you down the aisle, that your mother should be calming your nerves and Rosa, oh Rosa, I know she should have been with you today. I can’t pretend to be a replacement, but, you’ve Anthony now, and he loves you, so very much.” Margaret clutched at her hand, squeezing it tight as if trying to ring the very tears out of Hannah.
“Yes, you’re quite right. If it weren’t for you and Anthony, well, I simply don’t know what would come of me. Golly, this is all so silly, these tears, I’m frightfully sorry.” Hannah said, wiping the tears away with a handkerchief Margaret had retrieved.
“Come now, we must celebrate. And it’s almost noon, they’ll be waiting for you!”

The girls gathered their things and climbed aboard the carriage Mr Oakapple had kindly lent them. They set off on that famed road where she and Anthony had first crossed paths and a sense of calm fell over Hannah. Though this was quickly replaced by one of giddy excitement, nerves and pure terror at the thought of her future with Anthony beginning this very day. They pulled up to the Church; Rederring was basking in sunlight and warmth and the villagers had gathered for the service in their Sunday best. For the first time in months, Hannah smiled. So much more than that though, Hannah smiled not because she had to, but because she was genuinely happy for the first time since Rosa’s disappearance, a memory that always bought a twinge to the stomach whenever Hannah remembered.

It was almost noon, the village had settled in the church, Hannah and Margaret had made the final touches to the wedding dress she had, the same one that belonged to her mother, and as the clock struck twelve, the congregation rose, the organ blared and it was then she caught sight of him. He was more handsome than she had ever seen him, and as she walked along the aisle she saw all the things she loved about him come into view. His broad shoulders, his square jaw, his eyes a striking Poseidon-blue, his dark hair swept off his face, and his smile… absent. It was then she noticed, his eyes weren’t full of wonder, but of dread, his mouth pursed, not gleaming, his whole stature tense. Hannah grew uneasy, and yet the congregation stood and smiled so suffocatingly, surrounded by cheer and merriment, and as she looked at every person there, it dawned on her, none of his family were here. The empty pews at the front gave her further cause to panic, and as if without realising it, she had reached the front of the church. She caught his eye, and went to reach for his hand to hold while the service began but search as she might, the hand she sought was nowhere to be found.
“Father, I’m sorry.” Anthony began. Silence fell over the church, the candles flickered and Hannah felt herself tighten in frightful anticipation.
“Anthony…” she muttered, her voice so tense it came out as nothing but a croak.
“Hannah, please. I… I can’t.” The silence of the congregation became unease, the large church felt even more stifling as before to Hannah. Her corset seemed to press further and further into her chest as the panic began to set in.
“I can’t marry you. That is, I can’t condemn you.” he continued.
“Anthony, stop this, at once, I don’t understand. What do you mean? What do you mean ‘condemn’? What, what is this?” Hannah said breathlessly.
“Hannah, I cannot marry you, though I thought myself brave and selfish enough to go through with this, I can’t, I simply can’t. I’m not who you think I am, I’m not the man you want me to be. I wish I was, I wish I could be, but…” his voice trailed off.

Hannah looked back round at the empty pews where his family should have been, and then back to the other side of the church, and her family. And for a moment it was as if she saw them out the corner of her eye, but then the reality set in, the pews lay empty, her family gone, the crushing reality that grabbed at her heart as she stared back at Anthony.

“Hannah, you are a child of this town, you know its ways, its folklore, legend, tradition. I fear, then, you know why we cannot be married. I am not Anthony, I am not a kind, gentle innocent man. I… I am Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, and…”

After that she heard nothing. The nightmare unleashed itself in her mind, the stories of the terror that his family had inflicted on Rederring. The murder, rape, pillage, arson, burglary, kidnap, cruelty, torture that his accursed line had subject Rederring to for years and she was stood opposite the very man who had kept that damned curse alive.

She ran, unaware of the furore of howls and shouts of a congregation-turned-mob. Hannah had been convinced that she had no more tears to cry and yet the tears fell and fell and felt as though they burned her face. She couldn’t breathe. She had lost everything. It was if an eternal night fell over her soul, all she could see, all she could feel was darkness, fear, as if she was empty. A vessel for life’s horrors to take physical form. It was if she was living, breathing and feeling the very screams she heard. She ran and kept running, tripping and crying, and gasping for every breath she could muster. The sunlight of Rederring had gone now, the town encased in dark clouds blown in from the sea. She stumbled towards the cottage, each step along that road an agonising reminder of what she had, or more what she had lost. She arrived at the cottage, slammed the door behind her, closed the shutters, forbidding whatever sunlight there was left to grace her and the blackness she felt inside of her.

Hannah was a broken woman. The tears had dried, the heart had splintered. She knew she could never go back to the life she had lived, and she felt a certain resolve in herself. She would leave this place, escape the horrors she had lived through in the hope of finding a better life. Not necessarily a good one, not a comfortable one, in her mind, she didn’t deserve that. But one no longer haunted by the memories and torments of her past.

She was a broken woman, but from now on, she was a new woman.

Chapter Text

As the months had passed since that day in Rederring, the sun had turned to rain, the scented breeze into gales and the everlasting lush greenery into brick, iron and soot. Hannah had embraced her downfall from eligible young lady to anonymous spinster on the streets of Exeter. Far away from her childhood cottage, Hannah found herself in a cramped room with six others above a butchers shop along a back alley in the city. Owning nothing but the clothes she wore and the food she ate, Hannah earned what money she could selling flowers at the markets.

As far Hannah herself, she was unrecognisable. Her once straw-blonde hair had withered, thinned and discoloured, her face had become gaunt with the endless hunger, the fair complexion she had once possessed weathered by the cold, dirt and hunger. She had adapted well to her new life, all characteristics of country life had been quickly replaced by the grey industrial camouflage that graced the faces of every man, woman and child. Her only real comforts were the gin and Ann, with whom she sold flowers with at the markets. When she had started work at the markets, she had found comfort in the colours of the flowers in contrast with the darkness of the world around her, but as the weeks dragged to months and the snow turned to rain, even the flowers seem to lose their vibrancy.

“Mornin’ ‘annah!’ called Ann across the courtyard. Her voice carrying a thick west-country accent, Ann was rather a plump lady of late forties, who, despite all else, still had a certain optimism and zest for life that rather eluded Hannah. Hannah returned her a smile of stained, dark teeth, a far cry from those with which she had arrived into the city with. She and Ann walked out together with their baskets, stopping occasionally for whatever food they could conjure before returning to the cold, busy streets.

Truthfully, there wasn’t much more to Hannah’s new life than that described. Her life continued, week after week with the painful monotony she had become so accustomed to, her trudging feet, broken heart and trivial chatter synchronising into one moderate tempo that plodded along day by day. After a few months, Hannah had realised, that, she wasn’t living for anything. When she had left Rederring, she had promised herself that although life was to change, she would still endeavour to make it worth living, but it appeared she had lost that, along with everything else she had ever had which she had cherished to some extent.

In time, Hannah came to find herself out of her job, and soon, out of her cramped room too. She had managed to save a little and spent the days walking the streets looking for work, and at night, she would walk the streets and find it. Hannah could have never hoped to, nor did she hope to, earn much doing what she had to do. In the months that had followed her losing her job, she had lost the last of her teeth, her eyesight was fading, she became sickeningly haggard, grey and lined. Hannah would just about earn enough to buy her food, but as for accommodation, she found the steps to the church as accommodating as anywhere she was likely to find. Hannah found solace in that small enclave by the church, the warmth of the candle light and fragrance of the incense filled her mind with the wonders of home. Seeing the flowers in the pews reminded her of the cottage she had shared with her family back in Rederring, and the twinkle in the vicar’s eye was so like her father’s, that unique sparkle that said ‘I understand, I care’. For a moment, she could see her father staring back at her.
“My child,” he began, quickly interrupted by a crash of thunder: “You ought to come in, the storm’s approaching.”
In that crash of thunder, she saw the vicar once more, and although she felt she probably ought to have been filled with a sadness and longing, she had found comfort in her memory, comfort in the care of the vicar, and for the first time in what must have been days, comfort in hot food and hot tea. And in those few hours, like the clouds in the sky that faded and returned the sun once more to the Earth below, so did that vicar for Hannah, banishing the clouds and pouring light once more into Hannah’s life. Where once there had been terror, fear and rain, there was sun once more. It was still a hazy sunshine, but in his kind words she had found a new selflessness in herself. In truth, Hannah sometimes wondered whether her desire to help others was so she could put off helping herself any further than she had to, but all that didn’t matter for the time.

The church, over the coming weeks, provided Hannah with the charity, love and kindness which she had so been needing to see from the world. It was easy to forget, in a world of poverty, harshness, heartlessness and hunger that such people still existed.
“What will you do now, Hannah?” asked the vicar.
“Home.” she said. Her voice, while getting better every day, remained shaky. Yet that word, ‘home’, was uttered with such defiance that Hannah allowed herself the first smile she had smiled in weeks.
“Home.” she repeated.
“And when you’re there, dear?” he asked. Hannah looked up from her sewing, her eyes flicking up to meet the glimmering stare of her protector.
“Charity, Father. Well, maybe not charity, but I hope to do good. Not for the neediest, not necessarily, but for life’s overlooked. For the bridesmaids of this life, who are there and without whom, wherever it was, wouldn’t be right, but who are merely life’s onlookers. I wish to hope those who enter and exit life’s great stage observed, but not watched. I fear you think me rather foolish Father, but…” She paused, looking up to the sun catching the colours of the stained-glass window.
“But, it’s like the disciples,” she continued. “Each has a story to tell, each has a name, an opinion, secrets, a soul, Father, even if it goes unnoticed for the benefit of He in the centre of the stage. For if the stage’s centre cannot be enjoyed by all, then a community of onlookers is far better than each person facing the expanse of the wings alone.”
“My child, that’s quite a mission! Are you sure it’s wise to take on such a challenge so soon after, well, so soon after everything?”
“Oh, that’s not all father. I wish to find a child as well, just the one, a girl, a daughter. There must be a bride amongst these bridesmaids, Father.” Her teacup rattled as she placed it down, giving a slight nod to the vicar.
“And without further ado Father, I must thank you for all you have done for me, but I fear I must be off. One day, I hope, I will be able to repay you, in this life… or the next.”

And on that, they said their goodbyes. The father was kind enough to give her enough money from the church’s gift plate fundraising to let her establish herself once more in Rederring, should she choose to return. And return, she did.