The next few days passed uneventfully. Raelith and Sarah continued to hunt for food together, Raelith was keen to pass on every skill she could to Sarah within the time they had left as a party.
There was a slight rustle from the brush and a knife glinted in the sunlight as it shot in between the branches of a berry-bush. A fleshy thud sounded from within the leaves.
“Good job Sarah.” Raelith spoke smoothly and quietly, her voice mixed with the natural flow of the air within the forest. Sarah nodded. She stuck her hand into the bushes, searching around for her kill. By the ears, she pulled out a medium sized rabbit.
“That should do for dinner.” Sarah said, tying the rabbit to her belt. She had already killed two others to compliment Raelith's four. They began walking back towards the rest of the party, their footsteps were relatively silent against the forest soil.
“Rae. Thank you.” Sarah spoke, breaking the silence.
Rae nodded but said nothing. She had nothing against Sarah and the path she chose. Having traveled with the young girl for so long, Rae couldn’t help but feel a sense of responsibility for Sarah's safety.
“You are going down an aggressive path Sarah. You will come up against the worst of society, and have to kill those who are much stronger than me or even Tobias. Not now though - now you are still young and wet behind the ears - but eventually. This is the least I can do.” Raelith had lived a long time compared to most humans, but compared to the elven race she was the equivalent of a human woman in her mid 20’s. She wasn’t so old or uncaring to be jaded. She couldn’t stand by and leave Sarah unprepared. It wouldn't sit well with her.
Sarah considered her words carefully. She was extremely grateful for Raelith’s companionship and guidance. How could she not tell that Rae was going out of her way for her sake? Especially since she didn’t need to. No one would think less of Rae if she had left Sarah to her own devices, the fact she didn’t said a lot about her. At the very least, Sarah felt like she could trust her.
“I was thinking… Noone is going down a similar path to myself, isn’t he?” Sarah spoke calmly, but her mind drifted. Their whole party knew about Noone’s past, and what he was looking for. Sarah couldn’t help but think of Noone as a kindred spirit. Even if he wasn’t a paladin like herself.
Rae thought about this for a moment, but eventually only nodded her head.
“Noone is going down his own path. He is not in debt or a servant to any gods. At worst… he is a prisoner to himself. But only time will tell how that will unfold.” Raelith put a finger playfully to her chin, mocking deep thought. She couldn’t help but try to take the seriousness out of her own words.
“I should train with him.” Sarah mused out loud. “He is strong after all… and I have already trained with the rest of the party by now. And I doubt that we can train like we used to before anyways…” Her voice trailed off as she thought about the way Sally had been colder to her since their departure from Ardglass.
“You can if you wish.” Raelith chuckled. “However before that I should let you in on a little secret.” Raelith smiled sheepishly at Sarah, like a playful child who know something but pretended they didn’t want to say. Instead of giving Rae the satisfaction of knowing she piqued Sarah’s interest, Sarah only leveled an even stare towards Rae. A stare she had picked up from Noone, actually.
“Alright alright. I’ll tell you. In the middle of the night during our night watch while you and Feylin sleep… Tobias has been taking Noone out into the forest. Training him in the ways of being a big axe-wielding monster.” Rae chuckled.
Sarah’s jaw dropped. She wasn’t exactly a heavy sleeper, and by the time she woke, Tobias and Noone were always in camp like nothing had happened. When did this start?
“Why do they go so far away to train? Why don’t they train with the rest of us?” Sarah asked.
“Chances are Noone has abilities he doesn’t want certain people to know of.” Raelith’s white teeth showed through her wry smile, both of them thought of the same person. “But, I am sure he wouldn’t mind training with you if you’re serious. Especially with Tobias nearby to keep an eye out.”
Sarah thought about this but said nothing. Ultimately, she shook her head, Noone was doing his own training. She didn’t want to distract him from it.
As soon as they returned to camp, Feylin and Sally began skinning and cooking the rabbits. As they worked, Sarah noticed sweat on Feylin’s forehead. In fact… both of them seemed to be a little exhausted. Their movements were stiff and shaky as they handled the carcasses.
Sarah understood what had happened immediately. She and Rae were gone for a couple hours training while they hunted. It seemed that she wasn’t the only one who had been training hard in the past few days.
As the sun fell below the horizon, everyone went about their own studies.
Noone sat next to the cart, back straight and breathing steady. The lines on his body pulsed with extreme softness into the night. He had four hours until training with Tobias, in the meantime he wanted to make sure his body was in top shape.
Sarah was knelt on the ground nearby. When contacting the gods, using a holy symbol specialized to the process allowed contact to proceed much more smoothly. Similar to the silver bracelet Raelith wore, and that she herself used to. Sarah did not have any holy symbol for Hoar. Since she didn’t have another alternative, she focused her thoughts into black book.
Noone immediately noticed the surge of energy within his divine sense. The density was nowhere close to what it had been the first time when Sarah broke through. Only a single red and black thread darted around Sarah as she prayed. Noone couldn’t help but grunt, smiling wryly. The way the thread seemed to dart in his direction… Was Hoar trying to tempt him?
Noone wasn’t so brave to try that again.
“Maybe I would have better luck with the gods of life?” Noone thought, peeking towards Feylin who was engaged in his own studies. However, he put that thought away for another time. Tempt fate too much and one day it will take the bait. That was a bet Noone couldn’t afford to lose.
“At least… not yet.” He smiled to himself and continued to meditate into the night.
After a few hours and a shift change, Feylin and Sarah both laid out in their sleeping sacks to stave off the cold night air and began drifting off to sleep.
Suddenly, Sarah’s eyes opened. There was the thump of a foot right next to her body. Someone had approached her. When she looked up, she could see the large towering figure of Tobias and Noone standing over her, their eyes glowing gently against the otherwise dark sky.
“Get up.” Tobias’s voice whispered gently. “Grab your weapon, come with us.” Without waiting for her, Tobias began walking towards the edge of the forest. Noone split the difference, walking a little ways before stopping and turning, waiting for Sarah to catch up.
After only a few seconds, Sarah’s grogginess had completely disappeared. She walked behind the two with her weapon securely strapped to her body. No one said anything but Sarah had an idea of what was going on.
Judging by what she could see of the moon through the foliage, this should be the time Tobias and Noone have set aside to train.
As if sensing her thoughts, Tobias finally stopped within a clearing. The moon and stars beamed down from above, shining off the gathering dew which condensed on the blades of grass.
“Prepare yourself.” Tobias’s voice was calm and quiet, seeming to barely carry over the sound of the forest at night.
Suddenly he and Noone both rushed towards Sarah. Her eyes widened and she immediately backed up several feet. But they were too close!
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Hi everyone! I am Emperor Lukis Aurelius of the great Roman Authors Empire!
I am a long time writer but this is my first time writing long-form narrative and as such I am more than a little anxious to do well! Just like every author, I have my strengths and my weaknesses, and it is through my readers that I hope to improve on both!