A Grim Reunion
(Eighteen years ago)
We set up a camp for the last night on the road between the capital city and Camielia's village. I awoke the next morning to the faint sound of clanging metal. For only a short moment, I feared there was a conflict nearby, but I heard Connor's father's voice in the distance.
"Good work son," he spoke. "Now show me your flurry attack again." A second passed and I heard rapid clanging of swords. I smiled and rubbed my eyes awake. Connor's father had been teaching him dual swordplay for over a year. Even though he was nine years old, he was already rather skilled.
"Good morning Kaylynne," his mother said to me. "I was going to cook a quick breakfast before we got on the road for the last day. Would you mind rekindling the fire?"
"Sure!" I stood to my feet and stepped over to the dead remains of the campfire. I breathed through my nose, balled my hand in to a fist and punched toward the scorched wood. A fireball erupted from between my fingers and shot forward, igniting the campfire again. My parents were both kin of fire mages, meaning I was born fully attuned to the element of fire, and able to conjure and control fire whenever and wherever I wanted.
Connor's mother threw some more wood on the fire to keep it alive and began cooking a light breakfast. Connor and his father emerged from a nearby thicket.
"So, have you improved any?" his mother asked.
"He has," his father answered for him. "What he mainly needs now is to keep growing and get some more muscle to wield heavier blades." Connor trained with two rather short and very light weighted twin swords. He had to since he was so young.
"Where's Joshua?" Connor asked.
"Up to no good, I'm sure," his father replied as he placed his training swords in their caravan. "Honey," he addressed his wife. "Did I forget to bring my crossbow?"
"No, you brought it," Connor's mother replied.
His father shook his head and continued, "like I said, up to no good. He's got my crossbow."
I giggled, "well how does he plan to get away with it all the way out here?"
"He'll be back," Connor sat down by the fire. "Cause he's missing breakfast!" he shouted in to the air. We all were silent for a moment. Then from another thicket, opposite the one Connor and his father emerged from, emerged Joshua this time.
"This thing is pretty fun," he remarked.
"That is not a toy, Joshua," Connor's father yanked it away from him.
"Sorry Mr. Sam," Joshua apologized. "I heard something about breakfast though?" he smiled innocently.
"Aye, it's almost done," Connor's mother said with a smirk.
"How much farther?" I asked.
"Two hours, and we'll have reached our destination," the father replied. We ate and packed up camp immediately. Two more hours of traveling and we came upon the sight of Camielia's village.
"There it is!" I exclaimed with glee. Our caravan was exiting the forested road. We parked at the edge of town and met with the village leader. Connor's parents began exchanging greetings and told the leader why they were there. We waited patiently as they started unloading the pharmaceuticals.
"Okay, shall we say hello to your friends?" Connor's father asked us with a smile.
"Absolutely!" I answered excitedly. We paced down the dirt streets until we crested a short hill, revealing Camielia's abode on the other side. Camielia and Jenneta were actually standing just outside.
"Camielia, Jenneta!" I called out to them. We reached them and exchanged hugs and greetings.
"Oh it's so good to see you all again," Connor said with a smile.
"Hi Connor," Camielia returned. "It's, good to see you too."
"Um, Mr. and Mrs. Sam," Jenneta nodded a greeting to Connor's parents.
"How are you young ladies?" Connor's mother asked them.
"Yeah, what's new?" I asked as well.
"Well..." Jenneta let out a long exhale as both her, and Camielia's smiles, faded. She bit her lip and looked down at Camielia worriedly. "You all arrived at a very bitter hour. Aunt Sam, our father, your sister's husband is..." Jenneta choked for a short second. "He's dead."
Connor's mother gasped and placed both of her hands over her mouth. I dropped my jaw in shock. Connor gulped and tried to blink back tears. Joshua silently hung his head, unsure of what to do or say. Connor's father broke the silence.
"Jenneta, where is your mother now?" he asked.
"She is inside," Jenneta answered.
"If you would be so kind as to show your aunt inside, please," he requested of her.
"Yes, of course," Jenneta nodded and stepped to the side, letting Connor's mother pass between them and enter her home. She followed closely behind her. A somber silence stilled the air around them as they all exchanged pained glances at each other.
"Little Camielia, what happened?" Connor's father ended the silence again.
"It was... a bear attack," Camielia answered with a quivering voice. Connor stepped over to her and bent a knee, wrapping his arms around her comfortingly. His father knelt down and embraced them both. She began to lightly sob, hidden between them.
I looked over at Joshua, who was slowly pacing and rubbing the back of his neck. "Joshua," I addressed him in a low tone.
"Hmm?" he looked back at me. I jerked my head toward Camielia's house, suggesting to head inside and let the other three have their moment. He shrugged. I nodded and gradually started walking toward the front entrance. Joshua followed. We heard an escalated voice inside just before we reached the doorway.
"She's my sister, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but please leave us be," Connor's mother was speaking.
"Aye, very well miss," a man's voice returned. We nearly bumped in to the man as he exited out of the house. It was one of their neighbors that was trying to comfort Camielia's mother. "Oh, excuse me young children." The man nodded to us and proceeded down the road. We nodded back and entered the house. The temperature inside was unnaturally chilly for the time of day, halfway to freezing in fact.
"My goodness, why is it so cold in here?" Joshua's arms receded against himself to keep warm.
Jenneta eyed him with a scornful look as she answered, "you can thank me for that. Don't don't be such a weakling."
"You're an air mage?" Joshua assumed, as an air mage could often easily control the temperature of the air around them. However, Jenneta shook her head.
"Joshua, there are more things in the air than what meets the eye," I schooled him. "A water mage, if strong enough, could change the temperature of the air around them as well." Joshua scrunched his face up in disbelief, refusing to trust my words that sounded so outlandish to his knowledge.
"She's right," Jenneta backed me up. She inhaled a short breath and blew in Joshua's direction. Her breath made the air in its path turn frigid and made him shiver.
"Show off," I murmured. "Fortunately, I can fix this." I snapped my fingers and a fist sized flame manifested itself only two inches above my hand. I held it steady like a candle, letting the warmth of the fire slowly nullify the cold air.
"Show off," Jenneta muttered next. We both rolled our eyes.
"Freaks," Joshua poked fun at us. Connor's mother was kneeling beside Jenneta's mother, comforting her.
"Are you okay?" I asked Jenneta with a caring and hushed voice. She looked at me with a blank glare, only to lower head and eyes to a dismal gaze next. She looked on the verge of crying. The fire I held cast a glint in her eyes, that for a moment, revealed a crumbled and crushed will. She closed her eyes for a long blink. Looking back at me with concealed emotions she replied.
"I'm alright," Jenneta spoke. "I worry most for Camielia, and," she nodded at her mother, unwilling to catch her attention by saying her name. She faced me again and continued, "Camielia is barely over two years old. This event will take its toll most heavily on her."
I nodded in agreement, "you will be here to comfort her though, yes?" Before Jenneta could answer we heard Connor's father speak from the entrance.
"Helen?" he addressed Jenneta's mother in a soft tone. "Would you mind us staying in town for just one night. We can sleep in my caravan and be nearby if you need us." Connor's mother nodded at her graciously.
"That sounds nice," Helen choked.
"Good," he said relieved.
Fate is such a fragile concept. A man could exit his home and see a shooting star across the night sky. That same man could forget his lantern and spend a mere extra ten seconds retrieving it, only to exit his home and never experience the spectacle that has already passed.
I too often wonder what would have become of our lives, Connor, Joshua, and myself, if we hadn't stayed the extra unplanned night. We may have never become mercenaries, and our lives could have turned out so much differently.