“Hello,” Will said back after a moment of hesitation.
Still smiling, Sophie turned to James and asked, “Does our friend have a name?”
“Ah, yes. This is Will,” answered James, returning the smile. “He'll be staying the night.”
Sophie's eyes showed her curiosity, but she trusted her friend enough to know he had said what he could. She turned to face Will again. “Nice to know you, Will. I'm Sophie, friend of James here,” Sophie nodded towards James, who was busy taking the groceries to the kitchen. “You are welcome to join us for dinner.” She took off her baldric with her sword inside and put it by the door.
Will, uncomfortable with burdening the two further, began to decline, but he was cut off by James' return. “Great, we'll eat in just a bit. Why don't you grab a seat?”
Before he could speak a word, he was ushered to his place at the table. After sitting silently for a few minutes watching his hosts prepare the meal, he asked, “Do you know where my sword is?” James looked up to answer.
“I apologize for taking it away, but we needed to make sure you didn't mean harm. It is in that closet over there.” Will followed James' pointed finger to the shut closet, but he did not rise to retrieve his sword. He had no need for it. In fact, he hated the desire he had to make sure it was safe. Will wanted nothing to do with his sword, and he had long felt that his sword wanted nothing to do with him. And yet he always kept it nearby.
Soon dinner was ready, and Will, who had eaten nothing for days, had to force himself to eat at a polite pace. The meal consisted of a simple but satisfying soup, a baked potato, and a small salad. After eating, James and Sophie rose and cleared the table.
“It's getting dark,” said James. “It must feel odd since you just woke up , but it'd be good if we all headed to bed.” Sophie agreed, saying goodnight and picking up her sword as she went toward her room. As James started to do the same, he turned to Will.
“Just so you know, if you ever want to talk about anything at all, I'll always be here to listen.” With that, James made his way to his own room.
As Will thought about everything that had happened that evening, he subconsciously opened the closet James had pointed to and regained his sword. Returning to the room that he awoke in, he felt the burden of fatigue increase throughout his body. He lay down on his bed, unable to care about the past or the future, and seeking only the release of sleep.
Will slowly became aware that he was no longer asleep. His weariness had faded, but it had been replaced by a unusual sense of anticipation, as if a hugely important event that he played a key part in was about to unfold.
It's nothing, Will told himself. Go back to sleep, you may never have a bed this soft again.
As he waited for sleep to come, his uneasiness steadily increased. Finally he could not take it any more, so he climbed out of the sheets, grabbed his sword in its scabbard, and went out into the hallway. Trying to clear his head, he wandered around the house until he discovered himself in the kitchen. James and Sophie were sitting at the table, with their own swords next to them. As Will walked nearer, he saw that Sophie had her hand on her sword hilt and her eyes closed, apparently deep in thought, and James was staring at the front door of the house, straining his ears to hear.
“What's going on?” Will whispered to Sophie, but she was too concentrated to hear him. James answered him instead.
“We have heard the Call of Aer. We are waiting for His Orders.”
Suddenly, both James and Sophie rose from their chairs and returned their swords to their baldrics that were fitted diagonally across the back. James made for the door, but Sophie turned to Will with a smile.
“You are free to stay here, if you want. There is enough food to last a few days.” She made a gesture toward the cabinets in the kitchen.
“When will you be back?” Will asked, not wanting to be left alone again so soon. “Where are you going?”
“We are not coming back. Aer has made that much clear.” Sophie answered, her smile holding a hint of sadness. ”We're headed west, toward Kent. I'm sorry we have to leave after just meeting you, but we must leave at once.” After giving Will a hug, she moved to catch up with James. Will remained where he was. He did not want to go return to the west, not even so far as the town of Kent. But he also did not want to travel alone. So he stood there, trying to decide.
“Wait! I'm coming with you!”