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Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Time to Rest

Note: This was supposed to post yesterday, but due to unforeseen events, it was delayed. My apologies.

Spooks could not believe how stupid he was. Once again, he had allowed himself to be caught unaware. Some mystic he was turning out to be. He tried to take a calming breath only to be reminded that at present his head was covered in a course bag that smelled of moldy cheese, and another scent he didn’t want to dwell on. He felt jostled to a less comfortable position over the shoulder of the thief that had flung him over his shoulder. There was a grunt as his weight settled once more.

“You know I will not aid your master. I have no idea why you feel this need to have me in your company.” Spook’s voice came muffled from the bag. “We have already been through this. Free me, and let me be on my way. Your master will be angry that I am of such little use. Do you really want him to take it out on you?” He knew he that they would turn him a deft ear, but he felt he must try to make them free him. He found this to be very true as his head was grabbed.

“Our master sent us to retrieve you and that is exactly what we are doing. We suffered his anger when your friends freed you before. I think he will reward us, not be angry. Talk all you want, little one. You will stand before Amerak before the day is through. Hell, he may even pay us for a job well done.” Spooks struggled to pull away from the claws gripping his head so tightly.  “I also think you underestimate your importance to our master as you shall soon find out.” The claws retracted from his skull as the speaker pushed his head away.

Knowing he was beaten, at least for now Spooks gave in to an overwhelming need to sleep, and so he allowed his body to relax. Letting his consciousness go, he slipped into a vision of what would happen with the group of friends he had been tasked to aid.

Zirede felt the small body relax against his shoulder. Good, the little mystic’s squirming had begun to irritate him. He was still angry that he had not been able to make the Pantheri warrior pay for his mate’s injuries. The further away from their camp they got, the less fear he felt. He still couldn’t shake the vestiges of seeing what had sent him racing away from the enemy. 

The thieves made it back to their camp shortly before sunset. Zirede dropped the small frame of the mystic onto a pile of leaves, and then stretched the kinks out of his tall muscular frame. The kit didn’t weigh much but after walking for a while with him over his shoulders, he was infinitely relieved to release his burden. He watched as Diewen disappeared into the forest to look for wood for a fire. He strode over to where Nilla and Paevia sat on a fallen log.

“Does anyone want to tell me what the hell happened back in that clearing? What happened to make you run out of there?” He waited not wanting to admit that he had seen anything. He wasn’t sure if his imagination hadn’t been playing games on his over-stressed mind. “We had the upper hand, we could have brought them all to the master. Let him see for a fact that the Pantheri are back.”

Ever since they had left the battle, Nilla had been running through her mind what she had seen.  She didn’t know how the strangers had done it, but for a moment she could have sworn she was seeing the past come alive. “I can’t speak for Paevia or the others, but what I saw I can’t believe was real. It was a sorcerer’s trick. I saw my mother and father, both whom I killed, standing before me. I felt that they were there to repay my kindness.” Rubbing her hands over her eyes, she still felt the pulse of fear in her heartbeat.

Paevia had a haunted look on her face that she tried to hide as she got up to fetch some trail mix from her satchel. She took a couple bites as she leaned her head to the side like she was thinking about what she had seen. “I don’t know what it was, or how they did it but like you” here she pointed at Nilla. “I saw a person’s shade. One that I did away with long ago. I had this impulse to run or it would kill me where I stood. So, I ran.” She threw some of the mix in her mouth, the sound of the nuts crunching loud in the quiet that pervaded the campsite.
The sound of wood falling to the ground, startled the grim trio.

Zirede jerked his head toward the sound, going into a defensive stance.  Paevia and Nilla following his lead.  Diewen stood frozen, glancing from the weapons that had been drawn, up to the faces of his comrades. “Woah guys, it’s just me. What are you talking about? You all seem a bit jumpy.” He knelt to stack the wood so that he could get the fire going. “I know we were just there to do a quick snatch and grab, but what happened to all of you. When you ran by me it seemed as if the hounds of the consort were after you.”

Nilla glanced at the others and by silent signal, her eyes told them to say nothing. She turned her gaze back at Diewen as he stood, rubbing his hands together as the fire began to spread through the dried wood. “It was nothing. It has just been a long day. This job is turning out to be more that what I signed us on for. I for one to hand the apprentice over to our master, get our pay and go home. I want to check on how my sister is doing.” She walked towards the fire stroking Zirede’s arm as she spoke of his mate.

Bumbles crouched down beside the stream where he had come to fill the canteens. He had needed some time away from the others to process what he had seen. Droplets of sweat beaded his brow, as he bent to fill the first canteen. As the crystal, clear liquid rushed to fill the receptacle, Bumbles was lost deep in thought. What he had seen at the end of the battle, still sent shivers down his spine. He had seen the shade of the person he still mourned.  His first love, there wasn’t a day that went by he didn’t think of the night he had killed her.

The beauty she had been in life, had not faded in the afterlife. Her accusing eyes even now filled his vision. He had always claimed it was an accident, but deep inside he knew that to be a lie. Trapped in his past, the icy water chilling his skin finally broke him from his reverie.  He pulled his hand from the water shaking it, before retrieving the now full canteen. “I’m so sorry, I should have had more courage” he muttered as he finished filling the water containers. He then rose and headed back to the campsite.

Bo called a halt as the shadows lengthened around them with the setting of the sun. He had pushed everyone hard so that they had little time to dwell on the fact that they had left the kit with the enemy. He himself had been fighting the need to turn back and rescue the young one, but the sense of urgency he felt in needing to complete their quest fought against the rescue idea. He felt pulled in the direction they now followed, and so he would push them until it was done.

Dominic chose to sit away from the others, he felt off kilter, a sense of foreboding or something lingering in his mind. He just knew he wasn’t in the mood to be with the others. Not even his twin. Ever since he had awoken with Donny missing, he had felt disconnected from him. Before he had always had an innate knowledge of Donny. Now that sixth sense, or whatever it was seemed to be missing. As the others crowded around the fire, he bundled up in his blankets and cast his gaze towards the trio of stars that had started this journey. Where once they had been separated, now they formed a tight configuration. From this view, they appeared to form a triangle. It was their bright light that followed him into his dreams.

The next morning CeCe arose to begin preparing the simple breakfast they would all share. She noticed that their reserves had steadily shrunk until she knew they would need to find someplace soon to restock. She watched as Az started moving, as he slowly opened his eyes to greet the day. She poured him a cup of coffee and brought it over to his pallet. “Good morning, cousin. How did you sleep?” she asked as she handed him the cup.

Az sat up before taking the cup, lifting it to his nose he took a deep breath. “Mm. Now that I have this smell to jump start my brain cells, I think I am doing good. As for how I slept, I must admit to wishing for a softer bed than the ground. I am stiff as a board. Old age is not my friend when I lay upon the cold damp ground.” Here he stopped to take a healthy drink of his coffee. “Oh, yes. That helps immensely. Send that glorious warmth to all the cold spots. Thank you, cousin, for the drink.”

By this time, the others were stirring as well, and CeCe poured each a cup as they sat up. She looked around for Dom only now noticing that he had never joined them last night by the fire. She grabbed him a cup and herself one, and headed towards where he had bunked down. Dom watched her as she approached a slight smile on his handsome face. When she sat next to him and handed him his cup, he took a sip before saying “Thank you, my Queen. I really needed that. I was foolish not moving closer to the fire last night. I am cold to the bone.” Dom took another big gulp. “Did you sleep well?” He asked as she filled her own cup.

CeCe thought to ask why he had sought solitude over warmth but decided against it. She knew Dom well enough that is something was bothering him, he would need some time to work it out on his own. Otherwise, he would seek his brother’s or Neko’s advice. “I slept as well as one can when lounging upon the cold, hard ground. I will welcome the end of this quest if for no other reason to sleep in my own bed again.”

She saw Dominic nod his head in agreement, then turned to watch the others move about their morning. “We will be needing to find a settlement or town soon. Our supplies are running dangerously low. We only have another morning's worth of coffee. I for one do not want to see Bo without his morning kick start.” She watched Dom consider his own mug, before adding. “Or the rest of you for that matter. I think I’ll go ask Bo if he knows of any place close.”

Clambering up to her feet, CeCe reached out to stroke Dom’s ear. “I hope whatever has you out of sorts, works itself out.” She gave his velvet soft ear another stroke before heading to where Bo and Neko stood studying the map.

Neko looked up as his sister approached, he reached out his hand which she took as she stepped close to his side. “Please tell me there is a village nearby? We need to restock, and I could really use a bath. Using stream water to wash up is fine, but I think all of us could use a night spent somewhere we can bathe and sleep on something softer than the ground.” She felt Neko squeeze her hand as if agreeing.

Bo studied the map for a minute, then glanced towards the sky. He took mental note of where the sun was, to find a sense of direction. “If I am correct in where we are on this map, there is indeed a town not far. It looks to be of decent size, so we should be able to find lodging as well as re-stock with ease. Let’s break camp and head out.” He rolled the map up and place it in his belt. “I will inform the others of the plans.”

Once camp had been broken the gang began their trek in the direction of their destination. It was late in the afternoon when they arrived on the outskirts of what appeared to be a thriving town. Azereus stopped a man to ask where they might find lodging, with a thank you for the assistance he sent him on his way. They soon stood before a quaint bed and breakfast, it wasn’t very large but appeared to be clean and they soon found affordable.

The owner welcomed them and once the room assignments were made, he had his son lead the group to their rooms. CeCe entered her room, “Don’t expect to see me for a while. There is a tub waiting with my name on it.” She placed the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door handle and disappeared inside. They could hear her humming as she walked away from the door.

Bo just shook his head as he followed the kit as they were led to the rooms allocated for their use. After giving the young one a tip, he entered the room he would be sharing with Az. “Nothing fancy here, but at least it appears to be clean. I think I am going to lay down for a bit. I’ll let you have first dibs on the bath.” He said as he sat down on the nearest bed. Az nodded his agreement while he began to pull clean clothes from his bag.

Out in the hallway, Neko watched Donny unlock the door. “Since I am bunking in with CeCe, I think I’m going to go for a walk around the market to give her some time to enjoy her bath. I’ll see you guys later.” He had turned to head back to the stairs when Dominic stopped him.
“Wait up. Let me dump my pack and I’ll join you. Do you want to leave your stuff here for now? You can pick it up when we get back.” He held the door open waiting for Neko’s decision. When Neko tossed him his pack, he went inside to drop the packs on his bed, then turned to Donny. “You want to come with us? Or would you rather get the dirt out of your whiskers?”

Donny scowled at him as he opened his knapsack. “Nah, you guys go ahead. I’m going to clean up a bit and probably crash for a bit until dinner. Stay out of trouble, ya hear me?” He scowled at Dom menacingly “don’t make me have to kick your butt.” At that Dominic burst out laughing before giving him a salute and walked out the door.

Neko waited out in the hall and gave Dom a quizzical look before they headed back downstairs. “Should I ask what that was all about? He asked his friend. They had reached the main floor which was separated into the entry area where the check-in desk was, and then a small hall where the stairs took up prime real estate, it being a double grand staircase with a sweeping balustrade that was wide enough to slide down. Off to the right side, an arched entryway opened into a parlor where some of the other guests milled about.

The parlor itself was decorated in muted tones of rose and lavender. It looked as if the doily fairy had gotten loose and place a doily on every surface. The furniture that sat before the fireplace was overstuffed and looked comfortable. Dom noticed the wallpaper had vines climbing up the panels, in colors that matched the theme of the room. Dom chuckled as a thought crossed his mind of an old spinster auntie sitting in the old-fashioned rocking chair crocheting the delicate lacy looking doilies. 

Neko glanced at his friend as he heard him chuckle. “Want to let me in all the joke?” he asked as they proceeded toward the entry. He nodded toward the owner who stood behind the check-in desk, before heading outside. When he didn’t get an answer to his query, he just shook his head before he stopped to look around to figure out where to head next. The sounds of what must be the market filtered to him and he motioned for Dominic to follow him.

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