The wooden floor of the old house creaked as the three of them walked over it. Emily helped Seijo to the floor mattress at one corner of the room and gently placed her cloak over him as a blanket after he laid down. Seijo's eyes clamped shut and he fell into a peaceful rest.
Their host stood next to the hearth that crackled and flickered as small embers came to life. "Come, sit!" said the old man as he pointed to the chair.
Emily quietly walked to and pulled up the chair. She looked up at the man, he looked very joyous and energetic for his age. However, she was far too exhausted to pay heed to that. She crossed her hands and tried to warm herself next to the fires, she rubbed her arms which were exposed out of her cotton blouse.
"May I ask, what makes you travel these roads at such a time?" the old man enquired as he placed a kettle of water over the fire.
"Err…we…umm, are merchants, just making our way to the next town," she hesitated with her reply. Thinking better not to reveal where they are from.
"Starting off early are we? No carts, no goods, strange merchants you are," he stroked his beard again as he spoke. He proceeded to pour the hot water in a cup and handed it to Emily, who took it with both hands. She took small sips of the hot water which was flavored with river mint. It gave her great relief from the creeping cold around them.
"Yes…yes we are not exactly those kind of merchants. We are…hehe…acrobats?" Emily's mind could not give her a suitable answer.
"Oh! That explains the swords daggers and arrows!" The man let out a thunderous laugh, "The town of Onarie is a day's walk away from here. It hugs the western edges of the Kunari Wilds. I'm sure you two will find something to do there." Emily was relieved, her ears preferred the silence however.
She scanned the room with her eyes and her eyes fell in a dark corner of the room. A long wooden hilt crept along the wall, which led to a worn out curved blade which peeked over the darkness, the light of the hearth shimmered and reflected from the blade, "Is that yours?" She asked, as she continued to stare at the tool.
"Yes, it helps me with my harvests," the man said.
"I didn't see a farm outside your house, sir?" Emily found it tough not to ask.
"Hoho! You are quite observant. I'm traveling just like you, I passed through Manensdem recently, I often use this hut to rest, as I travel," he replied.
Emily looked down at the mention of their home. Father… she thought. The sun raised itself higher into the air as it eradicated whatever remaining darkness lurked.
"You look sleepy, little girl. You should also lie down, and catch some rest," said the old man as he got up from his chair and started moving towards his blade. Emily's heart started beating faster and she placed her hand on her dagger's hilt. But he stopped at his desk and picked up his smoking pipe as he lit it with a match. Emily calmed down and got up herself.
"Thank you for everything. I'm sorry if I was rude," Emily said with a soft tone.
"No, no! It is good to have guests from time to time, I do not meet people too often or for too long," he took a puff of his pipe and he turned towards the window.
Emily nodded and bowed slightly before moving to where she had left Seijo. She pulled out a sheet from the cupboard next to them and spread it on the floor, after which she folded her cloak into a make-shift pillow and slowly laid down on it. The cold of the night had pulled away and Seijo had stopped shaking, she continued to look at him for a while. His eyes fluttered and shifted. relaxed one moment and frowning the next. "What are you dreaming about?" she whispered very softly.
After a while however exhaustion caught up with her body, and her eyelids slowly came shut.
Under twisted trees and darkened skies the ground lay blighted and spoilt. The blackness hid everything from sight. The sound of furred paws rampaging through the marshes became louder and louder. A gnarly grunt filled the air followed by a bone-splitting howl. Sharp claws hacked into flesh followed by a thunderous snap of jaws clamping shut.
"UGH!" Seijo got up with a jerk. His breathing was rapid and his heart beat like an anvil. He held his head in his hands, and looked around. His body came at ease when he realized what he had seen was just a dream. He rubbed his eyes and remembered that they had entered a stranger's house. It was empty now, he looked to his left and saw a familiar face. Emily was still asleep. "Don't try to act selfless," he said as he shook his head. As he got up he picked her up and placed her on the mattress.
The winter cold had started to creep up again, as the sun was sinking behind the horizon. The faded silhouette of the moon began to appear in the sky as the hour of twilight passed away. Another dream…why is this happening, Seijo thought as he felt the first rays of the moon, as they passed through the window panes turning them into plates of sapphire. The tiredness of his body soon gave way as he felt vitalized.
The hearth was still burning, but not for very long as the last of the oakwood branches were splintering out. After a while of silence he heard something shuffling behind in the corner. Emily was scratching her eyes and moving around in the bed. She lifted herself up and looked around puzzled for a moment. "Seijo!" she screamed.
"Right here, m'lady," he said while lifting up his hand. Seijo was still staring out of the window for the last hour.
"I thought, you went missing," she cupped her head in her hands as her mind felt a little comforted, "how long have you been awake?" she asked.
"Since the sun began to set, thank you for helping me to bed," he bowed his head slightly in gratitude.
"Oh…you're welcome. You were so drowsy, I thought you might just drop, so I had to," she replied with a slight blush. "But, have you seen the old man?" she asked.
"Oh! The hermit, no actually, I never even thought of him," Seijo replied with a shake of his head. He stared back out of the window and felt a chill in his skin. A mist had formed outside and blocked out a lot of the moonlight, the highway was also hidden from sight.
Emily sat in silence for a while and held her cloak close to herself as the unnatural cold grew. She looked up to the corner wall and to her surprise she found the scythe missing. "He did say he was traveling, but why would he leave so suddenly?"
"He did leave us some shrub mushrooms and milk. I was heating them up, if you'd like some?" Seijo replied.
"I'm starving!" she said. Seijo retreated back to the fireplace where the milk was heating in the kettle and held the pan of mushrooms over the fire. Emily slowly and carefully strapped her dagger belt around her waist. A wisp of steam rose up from the brass kettle as the milk began to heat, the mushrooms sizzled as Seijo added some rhue oil and tossed them with a stick. Finally she tied Spekteret's sheath and belt over her shoulder.
"Looks like you tied the belts better this time. Let's eat, now," Seijo said with a wink. Emily remembered what he was referring as she scoffed. She took a mug of milk and picked out a mushroom from the pan. Their earthy aromas were tantalizing.
"Mmm, these are delicious! You do cook well," she said after taking a few bites.
"Not much cooking, these mushrooms are really…really rare, Serenea would often be gone whole days foraging for these shrub shrooms, but she'd come back empty-handed," he said, as he carefully smelled and took a nibble off of one. "Once she made these rarebits, when she actually did find them. They were brilliant!"
"Maybe we can join her for a foraging trip someday," Emily said as she glanced at him.
"We will! Absolutely!" Seijo reinforced her words with a smile. "But what shall we do next? What is our plan?"
"Our host did tell me about the town of Onarie, near the Kunari Wilds,"she replied. "He said we will 'find something to do there'."
"Kunari…Wilds...I don't know…should we trust him?" he said. he thought not mentioning his dream would be better.
"We do not have much else to do. The highway leads there anyway,"she tried to reason. "Perhaps someone there will know about the legion that attacked Manensdem..."
"I'd take any answers right now," his eyes turned into an angry frown, "but we'll trust your reason, Emily," he smiled and said after a pause.
Emily nodded and wiped some milk foam from her lips after Seijo signaled that she had a bit there. She passed on Seijo's cloak, after he put it on he got up and he hung the bowstring of the Eclipse over his shoulders and clipped on the quiver. Emily soon put on her cloak as well and they walked towards the door.
Emily pulled the door open and they paused there as if a dead weight was dropped on their shoulders. The mist had become too thick, the moon was a mere blur atop them. It became quieter and quieter, Emily called out to Seijo once, her voice barely reached him as they managed to find each other's hands walking through the haze. They took slow steps as their boots trampled on the dry grass.
However the air was too heavy for Emily. Her lungs began to close in as her frail figure fell to the ground. Seijo found her and held her head up, screaming for her to wake up, even his voice sounded like a whisper even to his ears. He looked up to the sky for aid.
What is happening? He thought to himself as a white silhouette appeared and disappeared almost in an instant in the disntance.
Note: Sorry Anne! I got called on shift during my off on the 26th, so I couldn't get it up on time!