“You’ve met someone haven’t you?” Ari was trailing behind Kin as they made their way through the forest. Kin did not respond to Ari’s question. He was fed up with Ari’s persistence in discovering Kin’s reason for running away.
“Oh I get it! You didn’t want to marry Thyla.” A wave of rage swelled in Kin’s chest. He withdrew from his pocket his only weapon, a small pocketknife, and flicked it open, pressing the silver tip to Ari’s chest.
Ari threw his hands up, a grin flashing across his face.
“And all this time,” He gasped, eyeing the blade which had found a knick in his silver chest plate. One quick jab and he’d have a flesh wound two inches deep. “I thought you were spineless,” He laughed hysterically, his upraised hands trembling.
Kin drew back from his friend and put away his knife, “Please don’t mention Thyla. It makes me sick just thinking about her –”
Ari hadn’t heard Kin, “You know they say she drinks the blood of her victims?”
Kin barked his name at him. He stood there, fists clenched, his body a rigid frame from which his military jacket hung.
“Good grief. I’m sorry mate. Let’s just forget about this ok? Oh look – wild strawberries,” Ari darted to his left to paw through a bush covered with white luscious fruit. Kin knelt, plucking a few of the ripest berries from the plant. Ari stood, watching Kin busy himself with the fruit, and flipped back his hood. Ari raked his fingers through his hair. Kin noticed that in his absence, Ari’s hair was now twice as long as Kin’s and had taken on a sort of wavy look.
“What are you looking at?” Ari waggled his eyebrows at him before putting his hood back up. Kin popped a strawberry in his mouth and did not reply. Kin never replied to silly questions, whether an answer was expected or not.
Estra stood by the river side, watching the white fish flicker back and forth in the shadows near the bank. She placed the kitchen knife against her palm and pressed until a line of black blood appeared across her flesh. Kneeling in the damp soil, she let the water clean out her wound, spirals of ebony twirling away from the cut.
“He didn’t deserve to die,” She whispered. The trees that bent their heavy heads to the water, shivered in the breeze, whispering with her. It was an autumn breeze that sent a chill down Estra’s spine. Already the leaves were turning grey and silver, hanging by threads from the branches. A few fell from the trees to float in the clear water of the river before the current carried them away.
Estra stood and wandered alongside the river, following the leaves. For a fleeting moment, she thought maybe they were leading her somewhere.
The silver leaves bobbed on the current, twirling around and around each other as though they were in a strange dance. They touched every now and again. Estra imagined they were new lovers, kissing each other then darting away in embarrassment.
She lifted the hem of her gown to run faster, chasing the leaves. Lifting her face skyward, she let the wind untangle her white hair.
When she looked down again, the leaves had vanished, taking their whimsical dance with them. Estra paused in her flight and looked about her surroundings. She had no idea where she was.
“Don’t move,” A blade was pressed to her throat from behind. Her heart pounded in her chest, legs quivering as she longed to dart away like a doe that was being hunted.
“Who are you – how did you know we were here?” The voice was dark and mysterious, a stranger. Estra hesitated before answering. The blade slid ever closer to her flesh.
“I didn’t know. My name is Estra, I –”
“Ari! Let her go!” The strangers hold on Estra was released. She stumbled away from him, her bare feet splashing in the water of the river. She coughed, rubbing her neck. The muscles there had become so very tense in those few moments and now that they were relaxed, they felt rather sore.
Her attacker was about a head taller than her and dressed in a black hood and tunic. He wore a metal chest plate and arm greaves that gleamed silver in the afternoon sun. The voice of her savior came from the shadows of the forest behind him.
“May I know the name of my hero?” She asked, peering over the shoulder of the tall hooded man. The man had a blood stained dagger in his hand which had only moments before been pressed to Estra’s throat.
A familiar figure stepped from the trees. His black bangs shaded his face, dark eyes watching her with curiosity. His military jacket was even more tattered than before; the buttons that had once gleamed had lost their luster.
“I believe you already know my name,”
“What advantage would he gain by lying?” Estra asked Kin.
Ari and Kin had taken her back with them to their camp to explain what had happened. She had been confused as to how Kin was still alive – Raxer had told her he’d killed him.
“Well if you actually believed him…” Ari commented sarcastically from his perch upon a rock, receiving a slap across the face from Estra who sat next to him in the grass.
“Keep your hands to yourself you b-” Kin gave him a look and Ari’s jaw snapped shut, “Alright, I’ll shut up,” He muttered, poking at the remnants of last nights fire with a stick.
Kin was leaning against a tree opposite Ari and Estra. He found Estra’s immediate dislike of Ari to be humorous; she kept glancing over at him as though she expected him to grow fangs and claws.
It was expected of her, seeing as Ari had attempted to kill her before he’d known who she was.
“Perhaps he truly though I was dead,” Kin murmured, wandering away from the tree to take a seat in the grass beside Estra. She watched him cautiously. Kin realized she was just as wary of him as she was of Ari.
He studied her with ever increasing fascination. She was as pale as the moon, her eyes pale with a hint of something that he couldn’t name. Her ivory hair fell in a braid down her back which she had made while they had explained to her what had happened at the Spire. The look seemed strange on her. He expected it to fly about wildly as when they had first met. Now it was if someone had caged the wind and her hair no longer whipped about in the breeze.
“I knew you were alive,” Her voice was no louder than a whisper. Hesitating slightly, Ari replied, “How? Didn’t you say you thought he was dead?” He seemed rather bored with the whole conversation, removing his dagger to flip it up in the air. It flashed silver in the sunlight before landing handle first in his palm.
“I had a dream that you were alive…I can’t explain it but I just knew,” Estra met Kin’s dark eyes, never ending black pools that swallowed all light around them. They didn’t need light because they shined with a light of their own that only Estra could see.