Helian nodded in agreement. ‘How far are we from a town?’
Zorbel pursed his lips and frowned, looking at some imaginary map that sat in the air in front of him. ‘If we go back to the road, only about five leagues I reckon. Myself and Farron could go and get what we need. If we are following dragons, it’s unlikely we will get many nights in a proper bed.’
‘And the further North we go, the sooner we will meet winter,’ Helian said. ‘Although I expect we will be heading west again soon enough.’
‘Can you get a map as well please,’ Petra added. ‘I prefer to know where I am. I have never been this far North before.’
Zorbel stood and wiped his hands on his breeches, dusting off a few crumbs.
‘You forgot some,’ Kintra said with a grin, ‘In your beard.’
The big man stroked through his beard with both hands and then leant down for her to inspect further.
‘All gone. You are presentable now!’
Zorbel nodded and beckoned to Farron.
‘Anything other than the obvious supplies anyone?’ Farron asked, bending to kiss her head.
‘If you come across an apothecary get me a basic first aid kit. I am out of some essentials,’ Petra said.
The two men left, and Kintra busied herself making more tea for everyone. (more…)
The campfire crackled throwing off sparks that sizzled out on the damp grass. They sat huddled under blankets. Helian had promised to explain himself once they stopped for the night. Now they stared at him expectantly.
‘Kintra, do you have the book?’
She nodded reaching her arm out from underneath the blanket. The night air was cold. Autumn was on its way. She handed the book to Petra, who handed it to Vlarimar, who hesitated, staring at the cover, before handing it to Helian.
‘There’s a passage in this book I want to read to you.’ He flicked through a few pages, leaning into the fire’s light. ‘The book is about Earth Magic. It’s meant to be used as a student’s guide, while studying with a Master. It’s been invaluable to me. I also possess WildFire. This book, and the Stone you now have, Kintra, have taught me how to control it. To a point.’
A log fell, rolling out of the fire towards Kintra. She jumped and gazed at the flames lapping its edges. Farron kicked it back into the pit. Sparks flew as it tumbled over the edge. Not from the log, but within her body. The Wildfire listened. Helian was staring at her again, talking to her. She could feel him. (more…)
Kintra stopped and raised her eyebrows at the question.
Farron grinned. ‘Sorry, not a question to ask a lady? I’m just beginning to realise how little I know about you.’
‘How old do you think I am?’
He appraised her. ‘It’s hard to pinpoint. Sometimes you look as innocent as a young girl and other times as wise as a crone.’
‘Wise? Ha! I wish I felt wise.’ They continued walking, although she noticed both had slowed their pace as they neared the Inn. Back to reality, she thought. ‘What age are you? I always put you at twenty-five. But you can’t have been twenty-five for three years.’
He squeezed her hand. ‘I was twenty-five when we met.’
‘I was nineteen.’
‘That was a round about way to find out your age!’
She shrugged and gave him a sideways look. Then she stopped. ‘Do we have to go back yet?’
He glanced towards the market square and the large clock on the guild hall. ‘We do need to sit down with everyone and decide what to do next. Although it’s too late to leave here today.’
She tugged his arm, walking backwards. ‘Then there’s no rush.’
‘Kintra…’ She watched as his jaw dropped. He stared at something above her head. Turning quickly, she looked up, just as yells intermingled with a few screams echoed among the market stalls. People began running. Five large dark shapes were flying towards the town, with two much smaller ones bringing up the rear. (more…)
They missed breakfast, yet she wasn’t hungry. Kintra felt completely satisfied. She lay, looking at Farron as he slept, seeing him with fresh eyes, eyes that saw through the lens of her heart. He was unrecognisable from Farron the clown, the flirt, the occasional companion. She saw the shape of his face for the first time. The way his hair curled around his ears, and one curl on his forehead had a life of its own, seemingly going against the grain of all other hairs on his head. It made her smile. His jawline was well defined under the dark growth of a close-cropped beard. His right shoulder, drawn across with a scar, faded pink, but puckered around muscle that joined a tanned arm. She stroked down from the shoulder, through the tight curls of hair on his chest, and the long dark eyelashes opened. Brown eyes, serious eyes. Not the eyes of the Farron she had known before. The eyes of her lover. (more…)
By all accounts the Professor recovered swiftly. Kintra didn’t return to the house. She saw that the horses were tacked and ready for their riders, once Farron had been out with a mug of soup and a chunk of bread and filled her in on the details. Or tried. She held up a hand as he started to recount the story and shook her head. He gave her a pat on the back, telling her they would be leaving as soon as they had eaten, and then went back to the house.
They now rode in silence following the River Err that created a natural border between Anusia and Erania. Kintra focused on the river surface, pretending to watch for ripples as fish grasped for the small flies skittering, just out of reach. Farron rode next to her, his leg almost touching hers. She couldn’t decide if he was being thoughtful or territorial. Or both.
Helian rode alongside Vlarimar who was recovering well now, and Petra lead the way. Zorbel was to Kintra’s left. The big man half dozed in the warm sunshine, trusting his horse to follow the others.
She was tired too. Her eyes felt like sandpaper. But there was no way she could relax enough to even consider sleep. Erania. Home. Swallowsmere was two days ride from the border, and her family, at least three. It seemed like another life, and yet…
‘There are riders coming swiftly.’ Farron loosened his sword and pulled a knife free from its sheaf. She followed his gaze. Petra had halted, and Zorbel, instantly awake, rode to the front to join her. (more…)
‘We have a problem.’ Helian stood in the lounge doorway. The room seemed huge now it was fully lit, and it was clear that the Professor lived, ate and worked in it.
‘Another one? What is it?’ Petra snapped.
‘Vlarimar is missing.’
Everyone turned to look at him. Petra stood up quickly and pushed past him, running up the stairs two at a time. Farron and Zorbel, glanced at each other, pulled out their swords and went in opposite directions in the hallway. Kintra sat on the sofa arm, her hand clasped around her bow and stared at Helian.
‘Where do you think he went?’ she asked. She suddenly felt vulnerable. Helian shrugged and turned to look out into the hall, his own bow at the ready. ‘I don’t know. He didn’t seem strong enough to go far. He could have just wandered off to find us and got lost. This house is big!’ (more…)