The flap of the little bird’s wings catches my attention as the small creature lift flight and soars slowly into the sky. I watch it go higher and higher until it finally disappears behind thick, fluffy clouds. A swift breeze awakens my body as the sun, filtering through the thick branches and leafs, touches my skin. I stir and stretch my arms above my head, closing my eyes to allow sleep to wander away. I shift in my spot on the ground and rest my body in the grooves of the tree and watch what remains from last night dreadful occurrences. Adryan. I spring to my feet and turn my head around searching for Adryan. The last thing I remember from last night was listening to his story and then falling asleep, next to each other, underneath the tree.
I walk out from the shadow of the tree and step into the slightly warm ground, the sun is still not in its highest point in the sky. I look past the burnt wood, debris, and ashes, and on the other side I found five mounds of earth under the seclusion of the shadows the trees provide. Intrigued, I walk over to that spot and see Adryan sitting down in front of mounds with his eyes closed and his hands blistered, dirt-covered, and bloody. I shift my glance to the mounds and I realize they were hand-dig tombs for the dead family.
“I dig one for each,” Adryan says softly, “I thought it was fair for them to at least have a decent burial.”
“You are right,” I say kneeling beside him and closing my eyes to pray for them. After that, we found a nearby stream in which Adryan could wash himself while I search for flowers to place on their tombs. They will not be forgotten, that is disrespect to the dead.
Once we are done, we set foot toward Atala again; inching closer with every step we take. The feeling of proximity to Drey is overwhelming, and to realize that our goal is attainable every passing day is comforting. The sun still gives our skin a burning sensation, but none of us complains much about it. Buildings finally begin to appear in the horizon, bathed in warm light as wind carries secrets through the town.
We walk down the smooth, earthen streets in direction to Yanira’s house. It is not difficult to miss because the design of the town is based on the idea of a central, focal point. From there on, the buildings are situated in a straight fashion around the roughly squared plaza. Yanira’s home is located in one of the houses that flank the plaza, which in recent years had become the center of slaughter and the trials for witch hunts.
“Ever been in Atala?” I ask conversationally.
“Couple of times,” Adryan’s voice is slightly rough and weary, maybe from digging with his hands. “It is not as beautiful as Syltra, though.”
I nod in agreement.
“What brings us here?” Adryan asks.
“Drey,” I say in a lower voice, “remember the demon you hold and I made contact with? Well, I find out Drey lives in this area of the kingdom.”
“That was clever of me, then,” Adryan grin. “Atala is quite big, any idea of where his house might be?”
“None at all,” I reply disappointed, “but we should soon find out, this is the place where most of his creations come out from. We will be living with the witches in Atala’s settlement.”
“More witches,” Adryan said nonchalantly and slightly sarcastically. “Your secret society seems to be scattered everywhere. What will happen to all of you when Drey is found and killed?”
“Not quite sure,” I respond, recalling the countless of times I’d ask this question to myself. “Light cannot exist without Darkness. My guess is that, if we defeat Drey, we will destroy Darkness. Therefore Light shall perish as well, and with her, our powers.”
Adryan seem to give it a thought, “interesting, you will go back to being a common citizen of the world, one more of us.” He cocks an eyebrow playfully and grins widely.
“I suppose so,” I say, nudging him on the shoulder, the moment my arm brushes against him produces an awkward feeling, which, much to my surprise, wanted it to repeat. The houses become denser and tighter as we near the heart of the town; its grey, dingy walls of concrete and bricks are being weathered away every day, rendering the exterior of the house with lament and penury. The crooked, red shingles from Yanira’s house are in view now. “Adryan, you will soon be the guest in the house. Do I have to remind you of your good manners?” I deem necessary to warn and remind him of the purpose of this trip. “We will be treated well and with utmost respect and they expect the same treatment from you. Don’t open your mouth to voice your opinion when not asked for, always accept anything they offer you and thank them for it, and finally, stay out of their way.”
Adryan rolls his eyes, “what do you think I am? I’ve been on visits before, I know how to behave myself, and I’m not a brute!”
“We’ll see about that,” I say, walking up the stone steps and knocking faintly on the wooden. It takes some minutes before Yanira opens the door and lets us inside; the smell of vanilla is strong and entices the feeling of home on me.
“Good morning,” I say, bending my head slightly down, “thank you for receiving us.”
“Nonsense my child,” Yanira’s says with a warm tone, placing her hand on my shoulder. “You two have traveled a very long distance, would you like some tea?”
“That will be very kind of you,” I respond, “but first let me introduce Adryan,” slowly I turn her around to face Adryan, who was standing in the middle of the room trying to make out the objects that ornate the room. “He formerly was a witch hunter; I’ve recruited his skills and abilities.” I smile warmly at him, remembering his shaking body against mine. Last night had been a night of revelations; I finally discovered why he was a witch hunter. The intangible world had deluded him, but not anymore for now he knows the truth and has experience it first-hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Yanira offers him a hand, which he takes with delicacy and elegance. I try my best not to laugh at his forced gestures and smiles.
“The pleasure is mine, ma’am,” he bows down slightly.
Yanira chuckles, “quite a gentleman you’ve got here Leila.”
“Not quite sure about that,” I reply fondly, watching Adryan blush at my comment. Everything seems to be fine with the world; the sun filters through the window and, for a fleeting instant, I can see Adryan glowing as the sun rays hits his skin. It is the first time that my eyes are transfixed in him.