I awoke to being lightly shaken by Rafe, my eyes squinting at the bright but cold morning sun overhead and I shiver slightly and try to pull his coat over me like a blanket “It’s too bright.” I whine and I hear him chuckle. “Come on creature of the night it’s time to go.” He pulls his coat away from my face and I grimace at the clear blue sky. He laughs at my reaction as I go to hit him but he dances away and starts to douse the fire.
I gaze around and notice Rao and Nevan have disappeared, I open my mouth to ask just as Rafe cuts in, “They’re in the woods, discussing travel plans. Nevan is heading back up North to the Ice Plains so he’s tagging along.” I notice that he tries to hide a grimace as he turns back to the smoky pile of ashes. I go to hand Rafe his coat, inhaling its musky scent before passing it back, as Rafe passes me a steaming cup of mint tea. I smile in gratitude and inhale the freshness, sighing as the heat spreads through my body.
“How many days do you think it will take now?” I ask almost to myself as Rafe replies, “Only a few, the airs getting colder the further we go.” His answer causes butterflies to stir and I grip the cup tightly, a few days and I might have answers, a few days and I might have a father. My thoughts falter, there’s no evidence that he’s even alive, I can’t get my hopes up like that. Rafe looks at me concerned, I smile briefly and nod to his unspoken question, I’m okay. Aren’t I?
A few minutes pass before Rao and Nevan return and I find my gaze following Rafe. My eyes once again appraising his body, the snug fit of his top the muscles underneath flash in my mind’s eye and I flush crimson as a thought of lustful desire to rip the shirt off him crosses my mind. Time to stop that train of thought I smile to myself, “That’s a penny for the dirty thoughts jar.” A voice behind me whispers making me jump and blush even more, Nevan chuckles as he walks around to stand in front of me, a knowing smile playing on his lips as he looks at me and as if reading my mind, wiggles his eyebrows as Rafe approaches.
I fake a coughing fit to hide my embarrassment, letting my hair fall down over my face. “Time to go princess.” Nevan’s accent extending the ‘o’ I stand up quickly, still looking down, throwing my bag on my shoulder and head towards Rao who was hidden in the tree line. I stumble slightly during my rushed get away and hear the smiles spread on Nevan’s and Rafe’s faces.
Once we get walking and hours have passed in polite yet strained conversation between Rafe and Nevan, where only a few words drifted forwards on the light cold autumn breeze. Nevan seemed to think that it was my turn for a game of 20 questions. “So Dahlia, an Arcana eh? I’ve known a few of them in my lifetime. How old are you?” I’m shocked at his forwardness, jeez, didn’t this guy know you don’t ask a girl her age.
I smile at him a little bit too sweetly showing my frustration briefly “17, 18 in a few weeks.” His brows lifted slightly and it looked as if he was calculating something “A solstice baby?” he seems to ask the question to himself rather than me, I reply with a quick yes, pausing before plucking up the courage to ask him the same “How old are you then?” I pull him out of his deep thoughts and he smiles at my sudden inquisitiveness.
“Old, my wee child. Being a warlock isn’t all fun and games sometimes.” His voice sounds weary and I believe him when he says old, though his face is youthful, like Rafe, his eyes are timeless yet aged as if they’ve seen too much of life than they might want to. I mumble a quick sorry, he smiles and the light in his eyes returns.
“No worries lass. What are you doing heading so far north?” I tell him some of the truth that I’m searching for answers about someone that I don’t really know, that it is sort of like a quest. I offer a small smile of apology at my vague explanation and he doesn’t say anything for a few moments, his expression thoughtful. I get used to the silence before he speaks up again.
“Maybe I know them, I’m quite an influential character in the north.” I can’t help but snort a laugh and he looks at me questioningly and I explain through my short laughter “I think you’d be an influential character anywhere.” I look him up and down gesturing to his odd appearance and he smiles a genuine smile that felt like a rare moment of real against his strong and eccentric personality. I smile back and I notice the change back to his more guarded and flamboyant self.
“You showed some real power last night.” He breaks the silence again and I shrug, it didn’t sound like a question, more of a statement. “That must mean you’ve got some serious magic in your blood and not just the Arcana pizzazz.” I can sense he’s trying to press for information but I don’t even know myself so I change the subject quickly but not at all subtly.
“What sort of things can you do as a Warlock?” if I’m being honest I’d read up on warlocks a couple of summers ago but their powers range and I’ve never met one who seemed decent enough not to fire off powers at me and my questions. I speak from experience. He glances at me with an amused look that I was getting too used to seeing, seriously I feel like the group jester.
“I’m a high warlock so as I’ve said before I’m a damn good one, though the lower classes have limited powers. You get to master more the higher class your born into and through extensive training.” He reels of his text book answer and I find myself feeling disappointed. I nod in response and offer a polite smile in return to his answer.
We continue on the path, the sky darkening sooner than expected as we head further north, a shiver runs through my body as we stride up a hilly bank dark clouds building. “We should stop for the night, a storms rolling in, we’re only a day’s walk away from the plains and we need to get you some winter clothes.” Rao stopped at the peak, nodding his head towards me as he sat down on the autumn leaf strewn floor.
I looked down at my clothes, not the best for the cold weather with just a jacket and skinny jeans with Converse style shoes. I looked around at us all now stood in a circle, “Where would we happen to find these clothes?” The surroundings at the top of the hill consisted of a grassy verge heading down over the other side of the hilly bank though we still weren’t out of the woods yet as trees expanded out around us. Their leaves auburn and gold or now a growing majority, bare and appearing lifeless as they prepare for the winter. “Well a goblin market happens to be arriving through here at midnight; we’re on the edge of the Goblin Knell territory.” Nevan speaks up; a dark shadow seems to cross over his eyes.
“Well we better make camp then.” Rafe says quickly as he cuts me off from asking a question, he throws a pointed look at me his molten eyes hardening slightly. I take a step back overwhelmed by the sudden turn of moods. Rao sighs and huffs his way over to me, his ears perked and tail high, no signs of the bald patch that was left due to a clump of fur that was pulled out what seems like months ago now.
“What’s the-” I begin to speak as I notice Nevan and Rafe head to gather kindling and wood for the fire “The Goblin Knell,” he cuts me off and sighs before continuing “Is a dark, dark market with a reputation for evil doings. It’s a place both Nevan and Rafe have had plenty of dealings and experiences with. However you’ll be able to find your clothes just don’t do anything stupid.” His quick explanation gives me all I need to know, with a nod and a sigh I stand and wait for them to return.
Knowing that there’s no point in asking questions that Rao wouldn’t answer as its information that ‘should come from the person’, I shake my head at myself attempting to quell the questions from tumbling out of my mouth. They return soon after our conversation just as the day is beginning its journey to night. The sky turning from blue to grey as the clouds roll over and now a red tint stains the sky as the dark builds up and the stars start to shine.