Theodas opened his eyes as the first ray of sunshine came into his room. He could hear birds singing in the forests and the fields as the sun was rising on this world. He rose up in his bed and looked around him to notice Jehan Isemberd, looking right at him, sitting on a chair on the other side of the bed.
“You had a bad dream?”, said Jehan with a worried voice.
“Bad memory… more like…”, Theodas answered mildly.
Jehan’s eyes crawled on Theodas bare skin, looking at his chest and arms. Theodas felt an urge of annoyance at her.
“Do you mind?!”, he snapped at her.
Jehan blushed and looked back right at Theodas.
“I thought you were having some kind of trouble, so I came to watch over you. I don’t need much sleep.”, she said with an apologetic smile.
Theodas took his shirt from the side of his bed and put it back on.
“You kept saying a woman’s name… Ranala…”, Jehan added.
Theodas was beginning to feel really annoyed at her now. He kept his back at her and occupied his mind at gathering back his equipment.
“Did I now?”, he said with a clipped voice.
“Yes. Who is she?”, she asked gently.
“None of your concern.”, he snapped again.
Jehan lowered her gaze and kept quiet. Silence settled in the room. Theodas turned his gaze to Jehan. He did not expect her to react in that way. He could see this had wounded her deeply. Guilt overtook Theodas, and he sighed lightly.
“I am sorry, milady. This was unkind of me… I shouldn’t have snapped.”, he said gently.
“No, you are right. I should not have asked…”, she answered.
Silence fell upon them once again. Jehan stood up and walked to the door of the room ready to leave.
“Ranala is my wife. She went missing… almost nine years ago. I have been looking for her since.”, Theodas explained calmly.
Jehan stopped and looked back at Theodas.
“So this is your adventure?”, she said in a low voice.
“I told you, last night. I didn’t ask for this… But it found me anyway.”, Theodas answered with a sad smile.
Jehan looked at Theodas for a few seconds before exiting the room. Only her perfume lingered, a gentle scent of wildflowers and herbs. Earthy smells but pleasing. Theodas looked at the spot where she stood for a few seconds before gathering the rest of his equipment.
Mirktongue was sitting at the table in the main room of the house. Her back to the warmth of the hearth, she was gulping crab flesh from claws, sucking them out with loud noises. Saliva dripped from her lips and fell to the table as she licked her fingers with gluttony.
Theodas looked at her hiding his disgust. He felt like he would have no appetite for anything.
“Madam. It is time for me to take my leave. I must thank you for your hospitality.”, Theodas said with a warm tone.
Mirktongue looked up at him and waved a crab’s claw at him.
“T’was me pleasure elf. I’m always happy to give shelter and food to travellers!”, she answered with a mouth full of crab.
Theodas smirked lightly at her remark, remembering only too well the crossbow aimed at his head and the two gold coins it took for her warm welcome.
“It was very kind of you indeed, Madam. But the road calls me now.”, politely added Theodas.
As he turned towards the door and began to take his leave, Theodas felt a change of atmosphere. It was both colder and warmer, and he could hear Mirktongue stopped eating. Suddenly alarmed, Theodas turned around, his hand on the hilt of his scimitar.
Mirktongue has stood up, her eyes fixed on Theodas… It seemed to him that she was not acting normally. Her eyes were clouded, and her body was shivering slightly.
“Madam… Are you alright?”, asked Theodas cautiously.
“The road calls ye, young elf. Beyond the sea’s the end of yer journey. To go back home, ye’ll fight death. Listen, young elf, and ye’ll find the one ye lost. The song in yer heart will show ye the path. Follow the song, and ye’ll find her…”, Mirktongue said in a raspy voice, crab dripping from her mouth.
Theodas stood, struck in shock, motionless. He was terrified beyond anything he had experienced. The door swung open behind him, and he turned around, drawing his scimitar in a swift and sudden movement, swinging wildly at what opened the door.
Jehan was standing on the other side of the door, dressed in a rough leather jerkin and green pants and brown riding boots. She caught Theodas wrist, stopping him in his movement.
“Woah. Easy there, it’s just me.”, she snapped at him.
Theodas tried to slow down the rhythm of his breathing and the beating of his heart. The entrance of Jehan had broken the sudden change of atmosphere. It felt normal again. Theodas lowered his sword and put it back into his sheath.
“I’m sorry. I was a bit jumpy.”, he apologised.
Theodas turned back to Mirktongue. She was already sitting back at the table, gulping her food without shame. She seemed to have no memory of what had just happened. Theodas looked at her with a fearful eye. She glanced back at him.
“Jumpy are ye, elf! Pah! Young ones are all the same… Adventures, adventures…”, she mocked with an ugly grin.
Theodas managed a half smile at her before bowing his head in a final goodbye and leaving through the door.
Jehan followed him outside to the barn and looked at him prepare and groom his horse.
“You look like you had a good fright in there. Mirktongue scared you?”, she said with a slight smile.
Theodas stopped and looked at Jehan. Could he trust her, he asked himself. His reason told him not to, but his heart disagreed. For once, Theodas followed his instinct.
“Something strange happened with Mirktongue. She seemed weird and told me things she was not supposed to know.”, he said in almost a whisper.
Jehan’s smile dissolved and Theodas felt instantly that she knew exactly what he was talking about.
“The very evening I arrived at her home, she looked at me and told things about me that she was not supposed to know either. She told me that I was at a crossroad in my life but I would leave this place with a stranger for his adventure would be mine…”, she answered softly.
A silence fell between the two of them as they looked at each other.
“And what do you think about that?”, Theodas asked.
“I told you. She has the sight. I stayed in there for quite some time, and no stranger came in before you did. And you have an adventure…”, she answered.
“An adventure I did not choose to do…”, Theodas argued.
“But an adventure nonetheless…”, Jehan insisted.
Theodas glanced back at the courtyard and noticed a mare, all saddled and ready to depart. He could not restrain from smiling slightly. Drusillia would’ve loved that woman.
“So you took your decision I see, milady…”, he said half amused.
“Yes, I did… Now get a move on, or we won’t be off before midday! And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to see Mirktongue gorging on food again.”, she said with a cheeky grin as she walked back to her mare.
Theodas looked at her and chuckled. He had forgotten how it felt to laugh for quite some time. It felt good…
Half an hour later, Theodas and Jehan set off together on the road, side by side. Going further along the path towards the meadows beyond the fields of barley. Far away, back on the cabin, a raven landed on the post and looked towards the two shadows on the horizon.