It was a spring night. It was dark but yet it glowed a dark blue like the moon herself. The stars shone and were reflected on a lake, a lake quiet and still so that it looked like a night sky on the ground. It was such a beautiful sight, that it made the lifeless lake seem joyous, mysterious, and full of the life it lacked.
And yet, sitting there, alone, with nothing to disturb his calmness, with what was probably the most inspiring view that Mother Nature had to offer, he could not forget those green eyes - those eyes - glowing dark like that same night. He sat there, by the lake, food over the fire. And those eyes still embedded on his mind. He was at the brink of obsession with a woman he had seen for no longer than three minutes as he chased her across town. She had stolen his gold pouch about three hours earlier.
It happened in town, he had just arrived to find shelter for the night and a good place to eat when she bumped into him, she wore a black cape hiding everything but her face and her cleavage, her most effective tools, and she stealthily took the money from his belt, of course he noticed and attempted to seize her, but she was faster with her hands, she ran like he never saw a woman run before, loosing her in town after a chase, then she disappeared from his sight, but not before she turned around, looked at him, looked at him with those big mysterious green, dark-glowing eyes, and winked at him mockingly. Stripped of his newly earned wealth, and no longer able to purchase shelter or food, he left town and hunted for food, and decided to spend the night by the lake into which he was now staring. He spread out his cape and sat against a tree, then closed his eyes, pictured hers, and dozed off.
She could not have been more comfortable. She had had a few drinks in the town’s pub, where she also made some more money, then bought herself about two pounds of fried chicken. And about twenty minutes earlier she had paid herself a night in a known inn in town, and all she could think about was how lucky she had gotten when she snatched that gold pouch from that the man who she thought was now sleeping in a castle or palace of some sort. of course she didn’t know for certain where he was sleeping, she only assumed, but then again she didn’t really care. It is not usual for thieves to care about their victims, but there was one thing about the man - his eyes - she couldn’t make out if they were the blackest eyes she had ever seen, or the darkest blue eyes she had ever seen. Either way, they glowed dark, like night. She thought and wondered for a while, but shook his picture off her head. She had her own problems to worry about and she wasn’t about to start caring about rich kids and princes that night. Of course she thought that way of all those she stole from, but thinking about it this one was different, he chased her instead of shouting “get her!” to his disguised guards, and he lasted more than all people who had ever chased her. He was different, that is a fact, but to her judgment, he was just as bad as all those pompous she stole from. Yet, after more meditation, he did not look much like nobility, much less anything like royalty; as a matter of fact he had the appearance of a thief just like herself. But what did she care? Now she had enough money to get by for at least a month or two assuming she did not spend more than she needed for food and shelter. But what if he is just a worker bringing food for his family? What if that was all the money he had at all? With time, she began to realize, she had seized to perceive who she was really robbing. Of course she only meant to steal from those who waste their ill-gotten wealth in luxury and power, but how many of her victims had actually been who she thought to be?
Once again she shook her head, but more abruptly now, as if literally trying to shake something off of it. She forgot about it for a second on account of a head pain she had just given herself, but the ideas were still there, they were too strong to ignore and did not let her sleep. She drank more and more wine from her wineskin in attempts to gain sleep, but this only made it worse. She pictured the man’s eyes over and over staring startled deep into her own. The uneasiness became obsession, and in turn, that turned into guilt. This new feeling in her (along with half a wineskin in her head) drove her out of bed rushing to the streets of the town of Birchwood on a drunken quest to find the man she had seen what seemed to be four hours before. What she didn’t know was that more than six hours had passed since the encounter. With everything the she owned, she left the inn and walked rushing to and fro across town, seeing no trace of the man who the night before had been her victim.
Morning by Birchwood Lake, he had woken up early, when it was still dark to fish for some food for the road to come. He had a drum which he could fill with water, which allowed him to have fresh fish whenever he wanted it. He still had his horse, Dominique, who didn’t get stolen the past night. Edmund still had the eyes of the woman who robbed him in his memory, but he was now starting to forget the incident. Though it was not the first time that someone had tried to mug him, it was the first time that anyone succeeded. But he did not have time to think about that. He gave up the fishing after deciding that the lake was as empty of fish as it was full of stars a few hours before - the lake’s beauty seemed to run from the sun like the moos and its sisters, the stars. It was now an empty lake with nothing beautiful about the place and it didn’t pain him to leave it. He picked up his sword and cape, and mounted his horse. He took one last look at the lake, trying to make the moment worth anything, but found nothing. He swung his cape on and pulled off his hood revealing long black hair which he tied up with a strip of black leather. He turned his horse around and, without a drive to turn back to look at the lake, advanced.
He crossed the forest until he reached a path, after examining both ways over and over he came to the conclusion that he was lost yet again. He had not realized it yet. The day before, he had been chased by royal guards after claiming the reward for a cattle thief in the city of Grassblade. For reasons he so far ignored, the royal guard had been trying, not only to apprehend him, but to end his life. And during the chase he lost sense location, and then he stumbled upon Birchwood, where he was then robbed by a beautiful black haired woman with enchanting green eyes. He turned his horse the way he thought to have come and headed back to town, where he could find out where he was and maybe buy a new gold pouch to fill.
It was not a long way to Birchwood, though he had never been to the town before the past night, he remembered the way back clearly and had no trouble finding it. The trouble came when he reached the gates of town.
There was a fee to enter the town, and all the gold he had was stolen from him. This story, however was no rare hearing to the guards in post by the gates and, expectedly, this became troublesome.
“I am sorry Sir. But I have already told you I have no gold on me, I assure you I will not be here for long” said Edmund.
“I’m sorry son, but I can’t let you go past this point” the guard was not particularly rude, he was a rather friendly man who followed rules duly, and had a sort of fatherly air about him, though ina sort of clumsy manner.
Edmund got off his horse and spoke to the guard lowering his head now, but not in a degrading manner, but rather as a sign of respect, “I understand your duty Sir. But I seem to have gotten lost and was stripped of all my gold last night in this very town. I need only directions and a chance to make gold, I assure you, I will not make any trouble”
“I am sorry but I cannot believe every story I am told, I could in fact give you directions myself but it’s the money making part that worries me, how do you plan to make some pocket money?” a suspicious look was forming in the guard’s face.
Edmund replied after a smile, “No Sir., it’s not what you imagine, im as much as a thief as the one who robbed me last night was not, I assume there is a reward house in this town,” he then realized something “what is the name of this town Sir.?”
The guard’s suspicion was not gone, but a smile was now draw on his face and spoke in a lower tone ,”Oh, you are a head bringer, people like you are not very popular amongst us guards”
“Nor are we in the eyes of the king, Sir.” Replied he casually.
“In any case, don’t let the other guards know but I happen to sympathize with persons like yourself. What we need is less pride and more results don’t you think?”
“I suppose, but I am driven by necessity and it is something I am good in doing.”
“I see. Listen,” the guard lowered his head a bit, “since you are doing society a favor, hear this, I will allow you to pass but only under my escort. I will go with you and accompany you in your affairs until you can pay the fee. See it as an action of gratitude for the trust you put in me by telling me of your… Profession” the guard stood upright once more with a smile.
“If you see it fit my good Sir., but I am afraid that if you wish to accompany me until I come across some gold, you will most likely be involved in one of my assignments.” Said the raven haired Edmund with a smirk of anticipation on his face.
The guard leaned forward and whispered, “and what makes you think I will object, son?”
“In that case, we will do as you wish Sir.”
“Good then, you may leave your horse in the guards’ stables, you needn’t worry about it there, and it will not be stolen”
“I thank you captain, Sir.”
The guard motioned a soldier to take his place and started with Edmund towards the stable, and then into town.
“What is your name son?”
“My name is Edmund, Sir, child of Joliad.”
“Joliad is a big city, are you on a journey?”
“Of a sort, shall I put a name after your title Sir.?”
“Gilliam, and please, omit my title, only my name will be suffice.”
The first thing that the woman saw when she opened her eyes was a pub turned sideways and stretched out through the green glass of an empty bottle of wine. She closed her eyes again and, after a groan, sat up with her head on her hands and then stretched her body so pleasantly that it made the feeling perceptible to the men in the pub, and being the only woman in it, her breasts were also made very obvious. She looked around, fixed her cloak on and, with a hand on her head, walked outside where she leaned against the mud brick wall and simply rested there for a couple moments. She remembered everything she had done the night before, though not per say crystal clear. She had squirmed out of her bed thinking about the man she had robbed the day before and looked for him all over town. She also had her wineskin with her, so after a while she forgot what she was doing and kept walking through the streets of Birchwood. Later, as usual, she woke up in a pub, with a hangover, and twice as much gold as she had the day before. Being by nature a thief and a drunk, she was very successful at doing both simultaneously.
She now had all the money she needed. She would buy bread, fruit and a new set of knives, she did not want to hold up a shop, for, blacksmiths, she knew, were usually honest, hardworking people, and she preferred not to steal from them. This thought brought the man back to her mind; she still felt guilt and insecurity, there was nothing that she could do to mend her fault now and she regretted this. Also, she had already built herself a reputation as a thief in Birchwood, and attention was the last thing she wanted.
As she walked to the central plaza where the trader market was being held, she thought about where she would go next and, more importantly, whether she would make it there safely. Some months earlier, she had started to be chased by shady characters who wore long gray robes and tall, green, wizard-like hats. These characters had been incrementing in amount and in persistence, and she wondered if it would be a matter of time until she got caught and, likely, killed.
After stocking on her needs for her next trip, she made her way across town and towards the south gate of Birchwood. She traced her possible routes on her mind and considered taking long, difficult paths, in order to avoid those who chased her, they were at least easy to point out so that identifying the would not be an issue. As she approached the southernmost section of the town she came across another pub, the difference was that the name of the pub on its sign was underlined with an elongated “x” painted with a thick brush and black paint, and the wood of the sign was also fairly dark so that the “x” could only be noticed by those who recognized it. She stopped and hesitated before entering the pub. Once inside, she sat at the table furthest from sight, which had a “reserved” sign on it. Soon, a tall and thin man, probably in his early twenty’s approached her. “Can you not read?” he asked in a calm voice.
“It is for me” she replied smoothly.
Without further doubt, the man asked, “what will you be having?”
“Whoever you have to offer,” She answered calmly.
The man nodded and beckoned her to follow him towards a back room, where there was only a wardrobe and a private table. It was fashioned to make it seem like a private room for important customers. The man opened the wardrobe and tapped a pattern on the back of it. Expectedly, the back plank of the wardrobe shook, and briefly after, was removed by a man behind it, opening a door to a small second pub. There was a counter with stools, but no tables or chairs, and about five people sitting at the counter. To her surprise, one of them was a guard, a captain and to her even further surprise, he was talking with the man who had, by her own actions deprived her of a comfortable night several hours back. Witnessing her surprise the man who had guided her spoke to her, “it is fine, Sir. Gillian is a supporter of us,” by ‘us’ he meant head bringers and reward houses.
“Thank you” she said absently. She now had to consider her options: She was a thief and a head bringer in the same head house in which her eve victim was right then. if she sat at the counter, he would forcibly notice her for he was sitting at the last stool and facing towards the rest of them addressing his companion; hoods were not allowed in head houses for security, so she could not conceal her face, and if she attempted to leave right then she would be killed by everyone in the room under suspicion of espionage, her only hope was that the man would not recognize her.
Why? Why had she come in a head house? She didn’t need any extra gold; she hadn’t any need for going in. but she was always driven to these places, it was a group of people to which she wanted to belong, but she was a thief and she could not stop if she tried. She loved it, and she loved head bringing, that was a great paradox to live with. It would be like secretly being a sheep while being a wolf at the same time and right then, she was in the middle of the pack. It didn’t take her four seconds to think it over. She curved her back and pulled off her hood, pretending to scratch her head while walking over to the counter, where she ordered only a loaf of bread. Everything in a head house is free of cost. Head houses are owned by pub owners who use the money made from the pub to run the head house, where people bring money and a description of the person who they want caught and a list of that person’s crimes, then head bringers visit the head house and pick up a list of the heads to bring. Needless to say, this was against the law and had become an underground society. She sat there and tried to remain as calm and unnoticed as possible, then the tender came to her, “Would you like the list yet lass?”
“if you will, please” but it was too late, as soon as the word “lass” was pronounced, every eye in the head house turned upon her. It was extremely unusual for a female to be a head bringer, and most of the people were already familiar to each other, except of course herself, and Edmund, who was also interested. He recognized her cloak and looked at her repeatedly. She took the list and headed out. Making only one mistake, she let him see her eyes. Before she could react, she saw his, and stood there motionless. She knew he knew who she was, they stared at each other and without control over her own actions, she sat back down.
“If you will excuse me for one second Sir. …” Said Edmund to Gilliam.
“Good god man! Did I not tell you to drop the Sir.?” The captain replied, inebriated.
“I apologize. Once again, excuse me.” Edmund said standing up.
“Go, go, just don’t leave the place,” Surrendered the humorous man.
She was frozen on her seat. There was something in her that enjoyed what was about to happen, and she knew that if his intentions were to turn her in, she would not be breathing at that moment. He walked slowly, from that moment everything seemed to happen as things do when submerged in water. He sat on the stool next to hers and, without looking at her, he said, “I would like my gold back ma’am.”
Before she could turn her head towards him, marching steps drummed in her ears from outside. Every head bringer, captain, and pub tender the room paused their businesses and stopped to listen, almost expecting what was to come. Instantly some twelve or thirteen guards broke the door to splinters and ran in like a flood invades a valley. The time that had moved slowly now seemed to pass faster than it should, as if to make amends for the slower pace with which it previously flowed. With the reflexes of a thief, captain Gilliam jumped out of his stool and behind the counter. Even in his drunk state he knew that being found drinking in the company of head bringers in a head house would, from that moment on, make him a criminal. Edmund and the woman had both jumped behind the counter and had to put their conversation off, there were two wounded guards, but not badly. Behind the counter were Edmund, the woman, Captain Gilliam, one other head bringer and the tender. This latter one opened a trapdoor on the floor which led to behind the front pub’s counter behind the wall. Given the fact that all the guards were busy wrangling with the other head bringers, they were able to get through the door easily and quickly, only to find that the pub was also filled with town guards. The difference between the situation in the front pub and the head house pub was that the former, in which they now crouched, was flooded with twice as many guards as the latter, and they were searching the place. It was only a matter of seconds before the guards looked behind the counter. The owner of the pub was doing the only thing he could to slow the guards down, but it was expectedly futile. The guard pushed the owner to his feet and looked behind the counter only to get knocked out by the four people behind it. The woman had a knife in each hand but in opposite directions; one with the blade close to her thumb and the other with the blade opposing her thumb. Edmund had only one knife, and Gilliam used whatever he found in his way to fend off his fellow guards. They all avoided large weapons for they would only get in the way.
“This place would be far behind me now!” the woman complained. By the time she finished her statement, all three of them were in the streets of Birchwood. Even in his inebriated state, Cap. Gilliam proved to be quite the runner and fighter; the other two had also shown their skills with blades and agility.
Soon they arrived to a temple, where they could stop and sort out what to do.
“That was easier than I had thought” said the woman. Edmund only smiled and Gilliam was wiping off vomit from his lower lip.
“Ugh! I can now say that my respect for authority has burned to ashes…” continued the woman looking at the captain.
“I was unaware that thieves had any respect for authority.” Said Edmund looking out a window to make sure that the guards were out of sight: they were not, they were flooding the street of the town, and town guards were now accompanied by official guards - guards of a higher rank usually only found in large cities and the Royal City
“I have to give you the reason on that one,” said the woman distracted by the captain’s vomit.
“It’s a raid, they are invading the whole town, would you know what is happening Gilliam?” Started Edmund.
“Yes, son, there have been rumors of raids but only in large towns, that I know of. I would have not imagined them to come to Birchwood. My idea is that the King must want someone, bad.”
“No, the raid begun at the head house,” commented the woman, “this is different, I was in some of those other raids but none were so directly started at a head house.” She paused “unless…” she was interrupted by Edmund.
“Unless the King has died…” they were all quiet for a second, then Gilliam broke the silence.
“That would mean that Prince Roger is no longer a Prince” he paused and thought for a second, “but how were they able to find the head house in that case?”
Suddenly a couple of official guards entered the temple and started looking behind each bench, slowly approaching the three who were sitting at the first bench closest to the altar. Gilliam rose, “Salutes officers.” he said respectfully.
“Are you the one of the Captains of this town?” one of them inquired roughly.
“Yes Sir. Captain Gillian Shaw, Sir.” Responded he.
“Good, Well as the Captain, I believe you are expecting an explanation?”
“If you will Sir,”
The Guards sheathed their swords. One of them replied, “Some of the farmers that leave on the surroundings of your town have contacted your guards to…” he was interrupted be Gillian
“Yes. Sir. Sightings of members of The Wizardry, and I myself informed the Chief of Birchwood, I know this far. But that was the last that I heard of the issue, and it has been some months since then.”
“Yes, and you did well Captain. The point being, Members were also seen approaching the town in pursuit of yet another victim two nights ago, they information came directly to us. That is why you might not have heard of it.”
“Have they really become such a problem Sir?”
“They have for the king”
The other guard took a look at Edmund and the woman. “And what were you three doing here in the midst of this?”
Gilliam looked at them quickly and came back with an answer. “You see Sir, my brother here has just finished proposing to this lovely lady when seconds after your men and mine together flooded the town. The rest of the people here went outside and left in the midst of all the commotion. And I urged my brother and his fiancée to stay here under my protection for I had believed there was a danger; I was preparing to go outside when you came in Sir.” Edmund smiled as the woman blushed, of course, the only ones who noticed this were the guards who were facing her. Then they smiled.
“Our apologies, you did good Captain. I believe that ends our businesses here. Congratulations, to your brother, and soon to be sister.”
“Thank you Sir,” Said Edmund with a reverence.
The guards left the temple and the three were now alone. Gilliam spoke, “so it was The Wizardry, not a dead king after all.” He paused and realized his situation. “It will not be long until the rumor of my being with head bringers is spread. I was lucky that those officials did not know of it yet. But it will not happen again.”
“What will you do?” asked Edmund.
“It is either the gallows or leaving this town as a fugitive and starting again somewhere else, you will have to change your name. It will not be too long until your name is added to all towns’ ‘wanted’ lists” said the woman.
“Sir, if I may, your neck does not deserve hanging.” implied a concerned Edmund.
“I need time, I must decide, I have a family”
“In Birchwood?” asked Edmund
“Nay, far off.” They were all standing for a moment until the woman broke the quietude.
“None of us are making any progress by wondering inside a temple. Far as I know, there are two of us who have to leave town as soon as possible. And that is what I plan to do.” she said.
“I agree, ma’am, that is what I must do for now. What of it Edmund? It is not the fittest place for a head bringer here and our horses are safe in the stable. It is a matter of getting them out.”
“We leave,” he said, and then he turned to face the woman next to him, “and if being a head bringer is a bad situation now, being one and also a thief cannot be a delight.”
“And we have a conversation to end do we not?” Complimented her.
Gilliam then turned to them both, “the more time we await, the closer we all get to prison. I suggest we leave together then.”
“Agreed.” nodded Edmund.
“Shall we?” added the woman as she walked towards the back of the temple. “There is always an exit in the preacher’s quarters.” They all headed back.
“I cannot go outside with my guard’s garments, I will surely be recognized by other guards, it is a small town.” they stopped. Edmund took off his hooded robe and gave it to Gillian. Though the captain was taller, their bodies were similarly slim but built. Edmund was now only wearing a shirt, which’s neck hole stretched to just above his diaphragm. The shirt had one long sleeve and his other arm was wrapped in black leather. Gillian took off his captain’s helmet, revealing green eyes and blond undulated hair, and a beard running from his sideburns to his chin and moustache. Then he pulled on the hood and tied it so that it would cover his pants and only his boots were uncovered.
The woman stared briefly at the two men who accompanied her. She had just now realized their charm. Edmund’s hair was straight and it went down to his lower back, it was tied at shoulder height and also close to its end. His chest was marked, but the design was covered by his shirt. They were both slim, but deceivably so. They were both very well able-bodied. But what captivated her most were Edmunds eyes. They were blue but they shone in the same way that hers did. Just the way they did the night she intentionally bumped into him to steal his gold, which she still had hanging from her belt.
They walked easily from the temple to the guards’ stable, which was easy to break into since there were three of them and only one guard at the gate. Edmund jumped on Dominique’s seat. It was a strong, tall, black horse and the seat was entirely black. Gilliam had a big, strong, white mare which responded to the name of Ilya. Both men turned their horses around ready to leave when they saw the woman standing in front of both.
“I haven’t a horse” she said with an intimidated look on her face. Edmund stretched out his arm, which she got a hold of, and she glided on up to Dominique’s back, behind Edmund. The horses took off, swerving amongst the people and broke through guard barricades, which were blocking the town gates. They rode side by side off and, instead of climbing on the path, they lost themselves in the woods.
“Where exactly are we headed?” asked Edmund.
“There is a lake not too far in these woods,” replied the former guard.
“A lake still like a mirror?” interrupted Edmund.
“Yes, Birchwood Lake!” Responded Gilliam once more.
“I know the way!” He yelled back.
They rode for some fifteen minutes slowly, calmly enjoying the sounds of the forest after noon. They rode lazily, as if stalling time and holding it back, knowing that they would regret it when they reached their destination.
“It has been too long since the last time I slowed through a forest like this.” whispered the woman. Edmund smiled and said nothing. He was a man of few words and many unexpressed feelings, and that was evident only by looking at him.
“Not long now,” He said indifferently to the woman sitting behind him.
“Such a shame,” she replied.
They kept quiet for the remainder of the way to the lake where he had spent the past night, and even there, they stayed on the horses for a few seconds, trying to find the beauty they had seen in the forest. They failed, just like Edmund had that same morning. They looked for the forest’s magic in the lake, but there was nothing there.
Once they were settled and made a fire, the three sat around it and tried to warm up for the cold of the lake had already started to invade their skins. Edmund and the woman were people of few words, and Gillian had his mind working on what was he to do from that point on. “Gillian,” asked Edmund, “you said you’ve a family.”
“Yes, I have a family; a daughter and a wife. The last time that I saw my wife she was settled in Logger, a small citadel to the south. I have only seen my daughter as a babe. She will be in her nineteenth birthday six months from now, and I wish to be there. But the details of my relationships with my family are not meant for strangers, and you know, Edmund, I mean no disrespect.”
“Do not feel like you have harmed me, I understand your choice and respect it.”
“Thank you friend. Do you have a family yourself?”
“I’m afraid not. I doubt that I would be considered as a family man by women, and so far I have not thought of making a home. And you……” Edmund and Gillian stopped startled by the sudden realization of their ignorance of the woman’s name. Gillian smiled, “Have we not heard your name yet lass? How imprudent of us, my apologies miss” he spoke charmingly and jokingly, as if speaking to a child.
“My apologies as well.” Added Edmund in a low voice. The woman blushed slightly and was unsure of how to react. She was unaccustomed to such respectful treatment and had rarely been asked her name by someone who was really interested in knowing it, and also who was not drunk. “My name is Elena,” she answered shyly, “thank you”
Gilliam smiled once more, “Elena? That is the name of my daughter; I had the pleasure of naming her after Lady Elena. How old are you lass? And I do not mean any offence.” He said.
“I will be twenty five shortly.” She said with a comfortable smile on her face. She was about four years younger than Edmund and Gillian was around ten years older than her.
“Nice to meet you Elena, my name is Edmund” said he, “this is Gillian.”
“Pleasure to meet you both,” She said smiling, and almost laughed. She then reached to her back and withdrew a leather pouch that looked familiar to Edmund, and handed it to him. She looked off to his side as she did, not making eye contact, but certainly not lowering her sight to the ground. “I’m sorry,” she said, “seems I’ve lost my touch when selecting my benefactors accordingly,” she finished.
Edmund smiled and took his pouch off her hand, he then reached inside of it and took a handful of gold coins, which he then offered Elena, “Please, I cannot allow you to be empty handed only because you made a mistake concerning the kind of person you robbed,” he offered.
Her face was as red as a rose petal by the time he had finished speaking. Her words were unstable and her voice shaky. “Please, no, don’t. Do not ask me to receive what I stole from you as a gift, I could never. I…. no Sir, it is yours,” she stuttered.
Edmund looked in her eyes as they looked in his, but suddenly his eyes seemed to emanate an unquestionable power, almost like an authority, that froze her very bones yet warmed her stomach and face. She could do nothing but stare in to his eyes, nothing else. Only those deep, blue, glowing, eyes, had in all her life been able to break her will, and she found herself succumbed to his sight. “Please, if you do not accept it, I will not be able to use it and will end up disposing of them in this lake. Please now, take them,” he insisted.
Then she did the only thing her body and mind allowed her to do; she nodded, “Thank you.”
Edmund dropped the gold in her hands but kept his eyes on her. “Thank you.” He said.
It was quiet amongst the three after until Gillian decided that the awkward feeling between the other two was too uncomfortable for them to bear. “I will be traveling south from here, taking a longer route to Logger as I must stop in Somnrea to tend to something I must. I will be parting before first light for I must go back to Birchwood to pick up some belongings in the guards’ stand outside of town, it will not take too long though I do plan to go into town to stock up on food and tools for my travel. In the case either of you have a need to travel my way, I will be glad to accept your company, and the mutual protection would be welcomed.”
After short meditation, and before Elena could decline Gillian’s offer, Edmund looked up at Gillian and nodded, “I have a long way south to travel, a few leagues more will be no inconvenient.”
Before Gillian could react, Elena spoke as if under a spell, she did not think about it, she did not have a heading, she had always traveled alone, but something in her forced her mouth to speak without her mind’s permission, “I will go.” She said quickly. The two men turned to her almost startled. “I need to go the same way you must, and I believe it is unfit for gentlemen to make a lady travel alone” she said with growing confidence.
Gillian laughed in amusement at Elena’s newly found confidence, “It seems you have found your tongue lass, I will gladly escort you, it seems I am becoming fond of the job. Less than six hours ago I was escorting Edmund across Birchwood. In any case, I have no objection with traveling with you. Do you Edmund?”
Elena meant to smile, but she did not show it. She was not used to showing her emotions honestly, and much less emotions that she did not understand. Edmunds mysterious eyes had carved their way deep in her mind, and that was something she was something that she had not felt before and that both scared her and excited her. She had never had anyone, no family or someone to care for her, nor had she ever belonged anywhere, or been part of anything. And belonging was something her heart desired but this was a desire that her mind did not acknowledge. But now this desire was stronger than her and it was something she could not fight.
“It is settled, tomorrow we part southwest to Somnrea, and as for me, it has been a long day and I will enjoy my sleep tonight, and seeing as it must be around eleven, please do not put out the fire tonight since I will be sleeping on the soil and wet grass”
“I have a sleep skin with me and I only use it in extremely cold weather, I usually wrap my cape and cloak around myself. I would be happy to let you use it.” Offered Edmund.
Gillian lit up and smiled, “If you insist, I have no objection, so hand it over.”
Edmund smiled and stood, and he walked to where Dominique was laying. He had taken his belongings off his horse in order to let it rest comfortably, he looked in one of the bags and brought out two skin rolls, then threw one at Gillian and handed the other to Elena. She shyly accepted it.
“Thank you,” she said as she received the sleep skin hesitantly.
“Thanks,” said Gillian. He stood and unwrapped the roll. It was a bag made of skin, big enough for any person, and it had on one of the sides of the open end an extension, it was a much smaller bag, closed all around and filled with wool and served as a pillow. Gillian laid the sleep skin on the ground and slid inside of it, he rested his head on the pillow part and sighed, “It has been a long day,” he said “good night you two.” Finished he, with his eyes closed.
“Good night” said Edmund.
“Good night,” said Elena.