The room was dark and smelled of mold and mildew. Sigthyme felt the cold, stone floor underneath him. He sat on the stone holding his viola across his lap. He felt the strings underneath his fingertips.
“You need to spend less time teaching him music and less time teaching him magic!”
Sigthyme heard some kind of argument outside the bedroom door. He crawled towards it doing his best not to make a sound.
“I’m trying. The two are connected, I swear it,” He heard another voice answer. “Plus the music helps him calm down after…”
There was a brief pause before the person continued. “…the sessions.”
“I don’t care about his well-being. I brought you here to teach him magic. If you can’t do that, then I’ll find someone else,” The first man yelled. “You don’t want me to tell you again.”
“Yes sir, I understand.”
The conversation ended and the darkness swirled around Sigthyme. A chorus of voices all in hushed tones surrounded him. He couldn’t make out the words but they seemed to taunt him.
“We will find you, Sigthyme.”
Sigthyme sat up gasping for air. Beads of sweat clung to his brow.
Juniper looked over at him. She still had her bow laying over her lap. Quiver of arrows on her back, at the ready.
“You ok?” She whispered so she wouldn’t wake the others.
The group of five was now a few days into their journey southward towards Xylon. They had spent a few hours in Bishop after the Troll fight getting ready for the adventure. The group stopped by the Soulan Army’s barracks where they met Captain Tiffany Hyatt of the Soulan Army Outpost in Bishop. The Captain rewarded them with gold for saving the town which they invested into a horse and wagon and supplies. Sleeping bags for everyone, food supplies for the journey towards Xylon, and some basic leather armor for Grace to wear for protection just in case she was involved in a fight. Riffen had his personal horse with armor and other supplies. So far the group had been on pretty good terms as they moved southward and had not run into any kind of trouble. This was the morning of the fourth day. They were about halfway through their journey down the Vern Road to Augendale and then another two or three days to Xylon. Every night the group took shifts to stand watch for half the night while the other part of the group rested.
The sun was less than an hour away from rising and Juniper’s shift was coming to a close when Sigthyme jolted awake. Riffen, Tak, Grace, and Juniper’s dragon, Piakol were still asleep.
“Yeah I’m fine,” Sigthyme said brushing away the cold sweat. “Just had a bad dream.”
Juniper was a little taken back. She was no stranger to bad dreams. She had been experiencing some nightmares recently about the fate of her brother.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Juniper asked Sigthyme.
He walked over to Juniper and sat down next to her on top of her fur sleeping bag.
“Not particularly,” He said. “It was nothing. Nothing really to talk about.”
Juniper wasn’t convinced but wasn’t sure if she should push Sigthyme. He was often so jovial and talkative that this quiet side was something she wasn’t used to.
“I have nightmares too,” Juniper confided in Sigthyme. “I see my brother’s face. I hear his voice. But…he sounds like he’s in a lot of pain.”
Sigthyme knew a little about Juniper’s brother, Julian. He knew he was missing and Juniper believed he ran off to Xylon. It was quite a large city. People could easily hide there.
“You said he was in some kind of trouble, right?”
“Yeah. I’m not sure exactly what is going on, but I believe I will find him in Xylon. Then I will bring him home.”
“So that’s what you’re running towards.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well I find that when it comes to people that they are usually running towards something or away from something else. Oftentimes both,” Sigthyme explained. “You are running towards your brother. Riffen is running towards his girlfriend -”
“Tak is running towards anything he can fight with his warhammer,” Juniper commented.
They both laughed.
“What about the girl?” Sigthyme asked.
“Well she is running towards shelter, I guess. She did want to go to Frost Haven.”
“Then why did she decide to come with us. We’re heading South, not North.”
“She felt safe with me. We couldn’t guarantee safe passage from Bishop to Frost Haven, so she stuck with us,” Juniper said.
“Maybe that’s it. Or maybe she’s running from something as well,” Sigthyme said. “Riffen’s outrage towards heading to Frost Haven and his reluctance to be seen by Soulan army members makes me think he is running from something as well.”
“Well what about you, Sigthyme? Your want for fame and fortune doesn’t seem very deep to me. Are you running towards something or running away from something?”
Sigthyme was taken back to the dream. The yelling. The voices. The darkness.
He shook his head.
“We all have secrets. We all have skeletons in the closets,” Sigthyme said. “But I’m trying to put all that stuff behind me and move on with my life. See the world. Taste adventure. I believe that Xylon is a good starting point for that.”
Sigthyme stood up.
“Excuse me, Sigthyme, one last question. I noticed during the battle against the Troll in Bishop, and afterwards with hiding Riffen from the guards, you were using magic.”
“Yeah, what about it?” Sigthyme said cautiously.
“Well I have a little bit of knowledge surrounding magic. My abilities are tied to nature. Others have holy magics given to them by the gods. Where do yours come from?” Juniper asked.
Sigthyme let out a nervous laugh. Usually he is sly and can pass things off as a joke, but in this moment, he was struggling to find his words.
“Well…I…I’m certainty not a holy man or someone who lives in the middle of the woods. I guess my magic comes from my music or something like that,” Sigthyme let out some nervous laughter.
“They’re not demonic are they?”
Sigthyme held up his hands.
“No! No! Nothing like that.”
Juniper was unsure of what to make of his response. It was obvious that he was hiding something from her, but she was pretty sure his powers weren’t demonic. He seamed forthright with that.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a tree to water,” Sigthyme said with a slight smile.
“I didn’t need to know that,” Juniper said glancing away from Sigthyme as he walked into the woods.
After Sigthyme took his morning piss, he waved his arms casting a spell. The purple magic surrounded him and then sunk into his body knowing he was hidden from the voices inside his head. He then walked back to the group as the sun was beginning to rise.
The rest of the group was waking up and packing up their things. Riffen seemed flustered as he packed his supplies on his personal horse. Everyone else was putting their things on the cart.
Tak walked over to Sigthyme.
“Hey big guy, did you enjoy your sleep?” Sigthyme asked.
Tak shrugged his shoulders.
“Tak used to sleep on ground.”
“Yeah I guess some of us aren’t as used to it,” Sightyme nodded towards Riffen.
“Good morning, Lover boy!” Sigthyme waved to Riffen.
“Shut up,” Riffen said without turning around.
“Someone is not a morning person,” Sigthyme laughed.
“Leave Riffen alone, Sightyme. Let’s get ready to go,” Juniper said.
“Yeah whatever,” Sigthyme said.
“Sigthyme?” Grace seemed to appear next to Sigthyme and Tak.
“Geesh, you scared me there. You are a sneaky one,” Sightyme said.
“Thanks?” Grace titled her head a bit.
“Anyway, yeah what did you need?”
Grace looked at Tak.
“I was wondering if I could talk to you, alone.”
“Don’t worry Tak doesn’t share secrets. Anything you want to say, you can say in front of him,” Sigthyme said.
“Don’t tell secrets,” Tak said.
“Yeah, sure. Fine,” Grace said. “I heard you wake up this morning. You kind of woke me up as well.”
“Oh, sorry,” Sigthyme said.
“It’s fine. I’m a light sleeper I guess. Anyway, I heard your conversation with Juniper. You were talking about people’s motivations. What they are running towards or away,” Grace said.
“Oh yeah we were -”
“She asked you where you got your magic from.”
“Yes, she did,” Sigthyme said.
“You said it wasn’t demonic, but you didn’t say where it came from,” Grace said.
“What are you getting at, Grace?” Sigthyme asked starting to get defensive.
“I agree with you that each and every one of us have something to hide. You have secrets. And I have secrets. I just want to let you know if you end up hurting Juniper, I’ll come after you,” Grace said resting her hand on the hilt of her knife.
“Are you threatening me?” Sigthyme asked bewildered.
“I thought I was making that obvious,” Grace said.
“Look I’m not going to hurt Juniper. I have no plan to betray her or anything like that,” Sigthyme explained. “Plus I thought she was protecting you.”
“We’re protecting one another. Until she finds her brother. Then Juniper will take me to Frost Haven. She is a part of my mission. So don’t screw it up,” Grace said.
Then she spun on her toes and walked over to the cart.
“Little girl mean to you,” Tak said lifting his warhammer. “Want me to smash?”
“No, no Tak,” Sigthyme said. “I just think some people got out on the wrong side of the sleeping bag this morning.”
“Or the ground in your case, big guy,” Sigthyme said. “Come on, let’s get on the road. The faster we leave, the faster we can get to Xylon.”
A few moments later the entire party had their belongings packed up and were ready to move on. Juniper and Grace sat at the front of the cart with Juniper in charge of driving the horse cart. Tak and Sigthyme sat in the back of the cart with everyone’s goods. Grace kept looking back and studying Sigthyme, but he was too busy playing a song on his viol to notice. Riffen rode alongside the cart on his own personal horse while Piakol flew overhead a hundred feet above the party. He flew overhead looking at the road ahead of them. Juniper and Grace had warned everyone about the bandits and thieves that roamed through the woods along the Vern Road and the party wanted to avoid any unnecessary delays to their travel.
Piakol spotted something in the distance. It looked like something was blocking the road.
“Juniper! We have a problem,” Piakol yelled down in Draconic.
“What is it? What is he saying?” Riffen asked.
Sigthyme and Tak both sat up and looked ahead.
“What do you see, Pickle?” Juniper asked.
“Some kind of blockage on the road. Could be other wagons. Not sure,” Piakol said.
“He said there is some kind of object blocking the road up ahead,” Juniper relayed his message.
“Oh great,” Riffen mumbled.
“We clear path!” Tak raised his hammer high.
“Let’s be cautious,” Juniper said slowing the cart. “This might be the work of bandits.”
“I hope not,” Grace said.
“Hope so,” Tak said.
“Only one way to find out,” Sigthyme said.
They pulled over the cart and tied both the cart’s horse and Riffen’s horse to a nearby tree. There they were off the road and had plenty of grass to eat.
“Us four will check it out. Grace, you stay here,” Juniper said.
Grace glanced over at Sigthyme.
“No way I’m staying. I want to go with you. I already missed out on the Troll fight,” Grace protested.
“If there is a battle, I don’t want you getting caught up in it,” Juniper said.
“What about this?” Grace held up the dagger. “I can protect myself, you know?”
“Come on Juniper, let the girl come,” Sigthyme said.
Grace narrowed her eyes at him.
“Stay here and protect the horses. We shouldn’t be long,” Juniper said.
Grace opened her mouth but Juniper gave her a motherly glare and Grace shut her mouth.
“Let’s go,” Riffen said placing his shield on his arm and readying his sword.
Juniper had her bow and arrow ready and Piakol on her shoulder, Tak had his warhammer ready to go, and Sigthyme had his rapier and free hand for magic. All four of them walked towards the obstruction.
It looked like a couple of large wagons used to transport goods were toppled over with one wagon that looked like it was transporting some people, maybe diplomats or merchants. Three total wagons destroyed and on end.
“What the heck?” Riffen said studying the wreckage from about twenty yards away.
There were voices from the wreckage as a single crossbow bolt through the air striking Riffen in the chest.
“Ambush!” Juniper shouted.
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Header Photo Credit to m0ai’s DeviantArt Page