After staring at the illustration for a moment, Oliana began to read the description of the creature aloud.
“I apologize,” he said dramatically when he saw Oliana’s half-lidded frown. “It is a funny name, though. Go on, dear.”
“The Boobrie is much like a giant black bird, with long, glistening feathers and a menacing cry. It is able to shapeshift into a beautiful horse so that it may deceive and devour its victims. Unlike faeries, the Boobrie does not dwell in any particular territory and can only be summoned and controlled by the one who holds the shimmering whistle. Only a true hero or heroine may find the whistle and realize its potential.”
“Seems a bit violent for a book for children, don’t you think?” Keon interrupted.
“That’s normally the point of things like this. To scare children so that they don’t get themselves into actual harm,” Oliana shuddered and touched the quill tied in her hair.
“It seems you’re wearing one of its feathers, dear,” Keon laughed and teased. Have you found the whistle? I bet it’s worth a lot of money,” he flashed a fox-like grin.
“Alright, I think that’s quite enough reading for today. It’s difficult to read to someone who just makes fun of the book.”
“Well, it’s not like it’s real, so what do you care?”
“I care because I’ll keep getting interrupted because you cannot bear to keep your mouth shut.”
“Ah yes, I’d forgotten, it’s very much like a woman to get upset over nothing,” Keon crossed his arms.
Oliana was about to further the bickering when she reminded herself that this was a new chapter in her life. “I’m not upset,” she said with composure. “Not anymore. Now let’s scope this area out, shall we?” She rose from the bench and Keon followed suit.
“Would you like to split up, or stay together?” Oliana asked.
“I say we stay together, dear. I’ll show you the basic layout of the place. As I said before, though, most of what we need is here at the stalls. One of the main things to look for is potential escape routes should something go awry.”
Well into the afternoon, Keon familiarized Oliana with her surroundings. While there were but two main entrances, smaller doors and passageways lined the stone walls. The pair returned to the stalls to get a better look at what indispensable items they would try to loot when the sun descended and the moon took over.
While Oliana searched for valuables, she could not help but notice that the most impressive items were those which required the most effort from the sellers: a vase of many beautiful colors, weapons of the finest metal, a carpet from a far away land. She felt awful about what she was about to do, but she felt that this was a necessary step that would eventually lead to these people being better off.
“Do you ever feel guilty about what you’ve done?” Oliana asked Keon.
“What do you suppose is my motivation for what I do, dear? That’ll answer your question. You see, it was the people of Eirethstead that killed so many innocent Alfar so many years ago. It was these people that caused the collapse of their society so that Orlo and his company must make a living through raiding travelers. This is our best option if we wish to live any kind of life. I see this as the only way to take care of my family. So I don’t feel bad at all.”
“But you said yourself that Gillireth is to blame for what happened to the Alfar,” Oliana said.
“Gillireth is the king, and his people are the pawns. There is no difference between them; they are all the enemy.”
“And what if your true father were killed by the Alfar before your eyes? Whose side would you be on then? Was your father one of these meaningless pawns?” she insisted.
“Dear, you misunderstand the implications of war, and I’m not so much in the mood to explain it, let alone speak of my father. I don’t remember much of him, but I remember the ones who raised me, and my loyalty lies with them.”
“Well, I believe loyalties ought to lie with ideals more than anything else. We both hate the way this kingdom has been run by Gillireth, but I’m not so quick to despise his subjects.”
“Says the girl who clearly hasn’t thought about how much these people would delight in stoning your precious wolf to death in the square,” Keon snapped.
At the far end of the merchant booths, colorful tents were laid out with various festive activities. Oliana took notice of one with a banner at the entrance reading, Fortune Teller: Discover your Fate.
Before she had said a word to Keon about it, she heard an old woman’s voice beckoning her from within.
“Step inside, Oliana. You have a wonderful fate. I can tell you more about it; I will share it with you at no cost.”