Welcome to White River: Part Four
Election day dawned, and Portia stretched lazily as she sat up in bed. Charrie had told her last night that there wasn't much stress to the day.
"It's straightforward. You're the only candidate. So it's a for or against vote. Now, you've got the backing of the interim mayor behind you and the council, so chances are you've got a good shot." The last sentence had dripped with sarcasm. She had more than a shot. The voting was a formality as far as she was concerned. She wasn't prideful about it. She just knew that most of the town had finally accepted her. Now the only problem was proving that she was worthy of the title of mayor. That would be a battle of it's own.
Leanna O'Fallon cornered him just as he finished voting. He knew she would.
"You. Alley. Now." She ground out, her teeth clenched tight. He followed, knowing that there was no way he was going to get out of this. She looked mad enough to stare at a pot and make it boil.
"When are you going to tell her?" She began, crossing her arms.
"Tell her wha-?"
"That you're leaving." She cut him off, staring at him.
"She's got a town to run now and you're going to go off and leave her all alone because you're too afraid t-"
"LEEANNA." He raised his voice a few notches. She took notice and stopped talking.
"My sister is sick."
"Oh. I-I didn't..."
"It's not bad enough for me to rush to her bedside, but she's been sick a while and hasn't wanted any family to see to her. She finally asked to see me a few days ago. I got a letter."
Leeanna's anger melted, and the look on her face quickly changed to one of concern.
"Will she be okay?"
"It's not deadly, if that's what you're asking. But it has taken her away from me in more ways than you know."
"You still need to tell her." She stated.
"I know. But I hate having to do this to her. It'd just be easier for her if I just left." He replied.
"You're not a coward Charrie Riddle. You need to tell her what you told me. Besides, if you left for a while and came back to take care of your shop she'd never speak to you again." Leanna rested her wing lightly on Charrie's shoulder.
"She apparently sees me as some sort of hero, Leanna. She doesn't know about what I do, or about who I am."
Leanna was silent for a moment. Then she released a small sigh.
"Charrie. Portia's not as innocent as she appears to be. She's seen war. She's lost people she's cared about. I don't think that telling her anything about who you are could scare that girl away. She was a general for Fyora's sake." She chuckled for a moment, then sobered.
"I just want to protect her. She's had so much happen already in her life." He buried his face in his hands.
"You care about her." Leanna stated.
"When she first came to town she was trying so hard to be strong...to not look lost or intimidated. But I could tell she was. I just...wanted her to feel like White River was home. I wanted her to be safe."
"Sounds to me like you have a lot to discuss with her."
"No time like the present." Leanna quipped, as she grabbed Charrie's shoulders and began to steer him out of the alley.
Portia sat in the Rusty Wheel Inn, drinking a pint of grog at the long counter. It wasn't as good as the Kadvo from back home, but it still tasted wonderfully fruity and had a tang of berry in it. She and Valerie had been talking back and forth, swapping stories. When Charrie entered the room Valerie headed towards the back room with a smirk and a wink.
He came and sat next to her for a moment, and they enjoyed the silence.
"I realize I never told you much about myself." He stated, tracing patterns in the wooden counter with his long fingers.
"I am sure I told you too much about my history." She replied, smiling.
"No, Portia. I enjoyed listening to you. I got to see how to got to be the lovely ixi sitting beside me."
She snorted, then took another sip.
"Tell me then."
"Tell me about yourself. You know all about me. I don't have any secrets left to hide." She gestured to the room, semi-empty save for Valerie wiping down tables.
"I grew up in the Haunted Woods. Just outside of Neovia."
"A traditional place I suppose, for a halloween ixi." She replied dryly.
"It wasn't much. It was just me and my sisters against the world. I was the middle child."
"It must have been wonderful to have siblings. I never had any." Portia replied.
"Phoebe was the eldest. She made a majority of the money before I came of age. She was talented with magic, potions in particular. She was one of the best witches I ever knew. After I came of age I started my business in order to put food on the table."
"What about your younger sister?"
"Her name's Helene. Her joy and love of life is what gave Phoebe and I the ability to work so hard."
Portia set down her drink, and placed a hand on Charrie's shoulder.
"I can tell that you love them, and that you care about them deeply.”
"I-I do. I’d go to any lengths to protect those I care about…” he paused, “Even if they didn’t understand my reasons.”
He moved swiftly from the counter before Portia had a chance to respond.
She went to find him the next day, and was surprised to find that nobody had seen him since he’d left the inn. She’d thanked those she’d asked, surprised and somewhat pleased at the grateful reply of “You’re welcome Mayor.”that dropped from their lips.
She was surprised to find his shop dark, but upon trying the door it opened freely. The air was stale, causing her to cough for a second as her eyes adjusted to the darkness.
“Charrie?” She called out. Perhaps he was in the back? She decided that the theory she had concocted was more hopeful than the silence that had answered her. She moved past the displays and entered the back room slowly, feeling for anything that could trip her.
She spotted an oil lamp top of a roll top desk, and moved towards it, grabbing a set of matches that lay nearby. She trimmed the wick quickly and set a match to it, lighting the room in a wash of soft light. “Thank Fyora that Carrie didn’t forget to change the oil.” She muttered, a slight smile crossing her face at the thought of him.
She searched around, resting her eyes on the fireplace, the bookshelves beside it, and finally the desk. She rolled up the top with a grunt, and surveyed the interior. A flash of white caught her eye, and she spotted a letter peeking out from one of the inner shelves. She grabbed it quickly, scanning it.
“Portia.” It read, in Charrie’s slightly flowery script. Her hands trembled as she broke the small wax seal holding the envelope in place and began to read.
I have had to leave White River on some important business, and I expect that I will not be back for a few months. Now that I am no longer the mayor, I can see to some important personal matters that I should have taken care of months ago.
I know that this may be a shock to you, and I wish that it could have turned out differently. I would have loved to have seen you become the mayor that I know you can be.
I know that you may think that you do not have it in you to do this job without me, but the truth is…you already know how to do the task ahead of you. White River is your home now, and as such you must do what you can to protect it. Just as you protected Ursus from it’s enemies, so you must do with White River.
I will return, although I do not know when. Don’t worry about locking the shop, the lock’s got a spell on it. It’ll only open for you or me. If you could flip the sign to closed, I’d appreciate it.
Oh, and before I forget…let me be the first to say “Welcome Home”.
She stood at the top of the lighthouse, leaning against the railing. She’d removed her hat entirely, letting the wind blow her scarlet tendrils free. She looked down at the rooftops of the town below, taking a deep breath in.
She made a promise then, in her native tongue, letting the old Ursian words settle deep in her soul. The words were the truth upon which she would lead. Had Nicholai been listening, he would have smiled.
“Eto moya rodina.”
“This is my homeland.”
Authors Note: This is the last chapter I'll be writing for this story about White River. But don't worry. You can expect to return real soon. If you cannot wait that long, check out /~Provost. You can learn more about the town while you wait.