Sleep didn’t come quickly that night. As the thunder broke every minute or two, my heart pounded in my chest. Though I lay on my usual cot, the floor yielded less so than dirt; it was hard and uncomfortable. I could feel every little slit between the hardwood floors. Even with Ragnvaldr lying next to me, his breathing soft and comforting, I could only curse Tobih for calling the bed.
Angel had left her house nearly two hours after we had settled down in our cots and beds. It had been another two and I hadn’t heard the door open or shut. I wondered where she could be. My mind stopped at that and thought of the soft bed again. I couldn’t think very well with how tired I was. My eyelids would become heavy and eventually drop, allowing me almost a minute or two of rest. Then I would wake again, time to change positions to try and find myself a little more comfortable.
Rain poured onto the roof of the house, winds pressing it to the glass of the windows. It was a pleasant sound unlike the thunder. Flashes of light would follow, illuminating the dark corners of the room while creating long shadows in other areas. A single candle’s flame danced in the corner of the room closest to the stairs. The stairs that lead to that warm bed.
An hour after Ragnvaldr and I had come to rest, I heard the sound of a chair scraping against the floor. Tobih had finished writing his letter. Angel had given him the supplies he needed to write them back. He seemed so happy to be able to finally respond to his friends. After that, I heard him land in that plush bed.
Ragnvaldr turned onto his back, his hair loosely tangling around his shoulder. I sat up and straightened it for him. I felt his hand on my knee and a smile formed across his lips.
“Can’t sleep?” The whisper was barely there, barely awake.
I shook my head and followed with, “Not really. The hard floors and the sounds of the storm, they’re keeping me awake.”
“You look so tired. Do what you can to make yourself comfortable.” He responded, taking my hand in his. I smiled and nodded as I watched his eyes close again. I knew he hadn’t really been quite awake, but his words were comforting none-the-less.
I brushed at his hair a little more, each sweep of my hand reminding me just how tired I was. I tucked his blanket around him and stood up. This exhaustion, did Angel always feel this at night? It amazed me at how well she kept herself without having a single night of sleep. I approached one of the windows, a round porthole tucked away underneath the stairway. Dim lights in the city were nearly completely hidden through the thick raindrops. Where was she?
The inside of the house was so quiet and only the storm outside broke the silence. My eyelids were becoming heavy again and my thoughts were shutting down again. I knew what I had to do to get any rest. I walked to Ragnvaldr and gave him a kiss on the cheek. The corner of his mouth turned up, a smile forming on his face. Turning around, I made my way up the stairs and found the bed waiting at the other end of the room. Tobih was tucked away underneath the mountain of plush and soft blankets. My feet found their way to the side of the bed with the most room for me. I climbed in without another thought, my mind finally at ease.
Pulling the blanket over my aching body and settling into the pillows and cotton, I curled up and found myself comfortable enough to forget about the sounds of the storm. Tobih moved over to give me a little more room on the bed though I had enough already. He grinned, watching me with his emerald eyes as I allowed myself to get cozy. My friend patted my head and closed his eyes then pulled the blanket up to his shoulders.
Sleep finally came to me as I lay in that warm bed with my friend. I dreamt of journey’s past, of the heroic Alucardalina Claire that I was no longer. Wand held firmly, ready for battle. She was so careful of her power. I could feel the fire within her and she swallowed it, held it down and with each breath she exhaled, her wand created a fiery spell that began at her fingertips and moved towards the flame on top of her wand. The enemies ahead, undead not much different from Zhaitan’s minons, burst into flame.
The sound of muffled coughing woke me. Tobih was doubled over, his handkerchief held to his mouth and his face and hands buried in a pillow. I sat myself up, my eyes adjusting to the dim light of the dreary morning. Everything in the room was slowly making sense to me again. I placed my hand on Tobih’s back and I felt him jump. His coughing stopped but he remained face down in the pillow.
“Tobih?” I quietly called to him. He turned his face towards me. “You should really tell them.”
“I’m fine, really.” His voice was deep and raspy for the moment, “Just a little cough. It happens.”
“I want you to promise me that it isn’t anything serious, then.” I demanded softly. I tucked the black hair that had fallen in front of his eyes back behind his ear.
He didn’t respond, instead feeling around the pillow in his arms. Reaching inside, Tobih pulled out a slightly bent piece of mail. It was made from rough parchment, folded neatly into the shape of an envelope. The green was seal had already been broken. It showed that the letter had already been read.
Before I could protest, Tobih unfolded the letter and began to read over it.
His face softened a bit as his eyes scanned each word on the page. I couldn’t help but to read it from over his arm as well.
It had been addressed to Angel. Despite the neat folds on the letter itself, the handwriting was sloppy at best. It was difficult to read in some areas so I tried to skim through rather than reading the entire letter. I could see why Tobih’s face displayed a smile. It was very heartfelt, very dear, and signed with love.
I pushed it out of my head. It was probably something she didn’t want brought up anymore. Perhaps an old lover from a time long gone for her. Tobih closed the letter.
“You two are awake then?” Ragnvaldr questioned. Tobih and I both directed our attention to the door where he stood. He nodded to us and turned to the hallway before facing back towards us, “Know where the she-beast went?”
She still hadn’t come back.
I shook my head and stood up. As if she were summoned by her new ‘pet’ name, the door downstairs had opened. Ragnvaldr and I descended in order to greet Angel, who came in soaked with water, her hair down and flat against her shoulders, face, and back. She sent us a cocky grin as we stepped off of the last stair.
“You won a bet,” I guessed, knowing that same look from some of the citizens in Divinity’s Reach. They would gamble all night and there were three telling faces; Those who lost, those who broke even, and those who had won. Ragnvaldr looked down to me and back to Angel, who was now smiling a little more proudly.
“I won us a dolyak and cart,” She told us, “From a traveling merchant.” Angel closed the door and sat down in one of the human sized chairs. I ignited the wood in the fireplace, hoping it would help dry her off.
“A traveling merchant. Won’t he have to give up his job now?” I couldn’t ride in a cart won off someone who was still actively using it.
Angel rolled her eyes as she took a slip of wet paper from her pocket, “No, he sells things for traveling. Specifically dolyaks and carts.”
What started out as a giggle turned into a full-blown laugh. I tried to hold it in, but this wasn’t only funny to me, but this was some of the best news we had gotten for our journey. Angel and Ragnvaldr grinned as well.
Tobih had joined us and I knew he would appreciate the news as well. When I saw that letter in his hands, I knew I had to stop him from bringing it up, but I couldn’t. He was closer to Angel than I was to him. He placed the parchment in front of her, both hands moving it toward her on the table. A look of curiosity played innocently in his eyes.
Fire burned in hers. Fury contorted her face as she ripped the letter from his hands which caused it to become bent and creased, parts of it ripped. She tried to hide it, but I could see the pain that each blemish on the paper caused her. It was one of the few times I could see her pain. The elated norn we had seen earlier had disappeared.
Ragnvaldr grabbed my hand and held tight; he knew I was going to move towards her. “Stay,” he whispered to me. His eyes were still focused on the fuming beast ahead of us. Her hair and skin began to darken, her eyes turning a dark shade of brown. She was calling on the power of bear in her blinded anger.
“Angel!” Tobih called out, his voice stronger than I had ever heard it before. It was a tone directed mostly towards children. He was scolding her. “Angel, calm down. I only wanted to learn about your past. You never tell me!”
The claws that had just sprouted from her fingers began to retract or disappear.
“If you’re truly my friend, then you’ll tell me!” He continued, “You’ll tell me something.” Tobih broke down, “Tell me something. Anything.”
Angel looked away, her body returning to normal. I wondered what would have happened if she had let her anger control her long enough to turn her into her bear form.
I felt Ragnvaldr’s grip loosen. I took a moment to look up at him. I wondered if he became angry enough, if he would turn into a wolf. He was Norn after all. The realization of our differences flooded my thoughts.
“Who read this?” Angel finally asked, her voice calm but demanding.
“Just Claire and I.” Tobih responded.
She spat out a sarcastic chuckle, “Liar.”
“Why does that make me a liar? Why would I lie about that?” He reasoned, pressing his hands against the table as he leaned across it.
“Because it’s in Old Ascalonian.”
Edited by Jalinar