Every moment has an ending, and this one, however dramatic, was no different. Our lips parted, but this time, I denied Keon the privilege of searching my eyes to discern my feelings surrounding his unprompted kiss. I directed my gaze to the dark floor of the crevasse instead, and silence ensued. Seeing as the weather had calmed, the only sound was the subdued drip, drop of runoff from the storm. That, and the light sound from Keon scratching behind his head to try to mitigate his discomfort.
In honesty, I’m not altogether sure what Keon would have read in my eyes had I revealed them. My heart was strangely torn between the excitement of what could come of such interactions and the permanence of what had brought me to this point in the first place. I decided that I should avoid romantic distractions, remembering my sensible objections to such engagements. And so, I would ruin this moment so as to keep both of us directed on more essential parts of our journey. And I knew exactly how I would do it.
“You know,” I said. “Orlo had plenty reason to be upset with you, but he’s not the only one. My little brother was slain by an arrow in a similar innocence. You should not forget that. I certainly won’t.”
I turned and started shimmying back into the light that shifted downward from the cloud-broken sky, but my heart felt of the heavy droplets forming in my eyes. He’s a bit of a prick, anyway, I reminded myself. But whether he had deserved my reaction or not, it didn’t sit well with me.
I pretended that the light bothered my eyes, rubbing them as if they were having trouble with the adjustment, but I was simply wiping away the tears. Once done, I saw Fia trotting up to me, soaked but unharmed.
“I’m sorry, girl,” I rubbed her snout and she nodded her pitch head as if she understood. I could see that I had been fortunate to miss a downpour of hail in the latter stages of the tempest, spotting the little white spheres sprinkled upon the ground like marbles in a children’s game. If the hail had hit minutes earlier, it could’ve taken my eye out in flight. Nature was so fickle out in these wild lands, but it had thus far failed to get the best of me.
I built up the courage to turn around and check to see if Keon had followed. As it turned out, he had snuck up surprisingly close behind me, and I jumped. The look on his face was simply pitiful, whereas ordinarily he might’ve been quite pleased with himself for making me start. I opened my mouth to say something, then thought better of it. I said instead, “I trust you can make your way back on your own. Fia wouldn’t take you anyway, of course. I’ll see you there.” Keon’s expression remained unchanged, and he wouldn’t answer. “... Orlo will be pleased,” was all else I could think to say.
“Of course, dear,” he said finally. “I-- I’m sorry for making you go all this way for me. Looks as though the circumstances were... rather unpleasant.”
“Yes, well… I’ll see you at camp.”
“Indeed. Do you need any help getting up?” he saw me fail to mount Fia at the first swing.
“I’ll be fine. I don’t--”
“Let me help,” he said, grasping one of my legs at the heel and knee. There was a firm gentleness to his lift that reminded me of Dechar’s strong hand, and yet, there was a distinctive quality to it. “There we are,” he said, feigning a smile that failed to hide a certain sadness. “Have a nice flight.”
I tapped my heels without further discussion and met the crisp atmosphere befitting that of recent rain. The clouds had taken lighter hues now, creamy golden-whites that heralded the early evening. I had to constantly remind myself of the battle which was, first and foremost, within my own mind. I had a purpose, a mission, a quest. I had an adversary which might greatly benefit from a lack of focus; after all, Gillireth could strike at any time. With his mystic advisor, he might very well know my plans and be several steps ahead, waiting with a host of enemies at his command. And if I were busy thinking about some silly boy, well…. I could not underestimate my importance in the liberation of Eirethstead.
Besides, nearly every time I let someone become close to my heart… but I couldn’t let myself think about that now. I looked again at the clouds before me, which continued to reflect the warm color of the sinking sun. Though they were still lightly rimmed, I thought, with a silvery shade.