The smell of rotted land was getting worse. Still our carts pressed on and into the stench. Angel and Kau navigated the carts through the hill covered landscape. Every so often I could catch a glimpse of the swamp that lay ahead of us. We were lucky to have scared off any opposition with our numbers alone.
“What brought you then, Tullia?” Ragnvaldr seemed focused on learning about our guildmates and had begun to question Tullia about her reasoning for joining the guild.
She seemed a little more hesitant to answer. She eyed Ragnvaldr for moments before replying, “Why do you want to know?” Tullia’s eyes narrowed as she appeared to be sizing him up.
“Curiosity,” he responded and leaned forward again.
“That’s why,” Tullia retorted and crossed her arms.
Cinder gave a few rough pats to Tullia’s back, “She’s not the talkative one. Probably won’t tell you.” Tullia veered away from Cinder’s paws and settled herself back down again.
Tobih spoke up this time, “It’s painful, I don’t blame her.” Tullia dropped her crossed arms a little and looked away from everyone.
“I won’t press, then.” Ragnvaldr said as he straightened up once more, “What about you, Tobih?”
His face scrunched up and he tapped his fingers on the leg of his armor, “My father handed down leadership of this guild to me. Someone poisoned him and here I am.” It wasn’t true. He was hiding his pain but I could see it welling up inside and spilling out into his expression. I knew the truth; I thought he should tell everyone. These people loved him and cared about it and that was becoming more and more obvious each time we all met up.
Tobih was living the truth but telling a lie to everyone else.
“What are you hiding?” Ragnvaldr, reader of faces, could tell he was lying as well. Everyone else, even Tullia, looked to him, concern dancing in their eyes. Suddenly, everyone had let their guard down and they waited for an answer.
“He doesn’t want to talk about it,” I reasoned and everyone’s eyes shifted to me.
“No, Claire, it’s fine. I can do this.” Tobih shook his head and turned his head away from everyone. His eyes focused on the land we were leaving behind. “It’s true. I am hiding something.”
“This guild,” His voice quivered, “was something I started in spite of my dad. You live a life of war and you want nothing but peace. This is my peace. I ran away. I ran away…” Tobih sighed and tapped his fingers on the armor a little harder, “Because I was being abused by him…
I tried to be my best for him, but I couldn’t. I trained with the Ebon Vanguard, but I didn’t stay with them…
I’m sorry, everyone. Sorry for lying to you.”
Cinder brought him into a side hug, embracing him as he sunk into her fur, “We all have things we don’t want to talk about. We lie to another and you were just trying to spare everyone their feelings.”
“No one wants to admit to being abused.” Ragnvaldr tacked on.
Even Angel was looking back at Tobih. Somewhere, her love for him had kicked in and she wasn’t paying much attention ahead of her.
I stood up, steadying myself long enough to make it over to Tobih. There was no room left on the bench between Tullia, Cinder, and Tobih, but I wrapped my arms around him from the front. “You did well,” I whispered in his ear. He pulled me in closer when he put his arms around me. I could feel a few hot tears on my shoulder.
“He tells you everything, doesn’t he?” Cinder asked, moving her arm out of the way.
I pet the top of Tobih’s head, “Something like that.”
We hit a particularly large bump in the road, knocking Tobih and I over and the rest of the group had nearly fallen out of their seats. “Whoops, sooorrrrry,” said Angel in the most sarcastic voice she had ever given any of us.
Cinder grumbled as she helped everyone up and back into their proper seats. Angel turned back to face me, a smirk on her face. “Good luck,” She whispered to me alone before facing forward again.
“You okay?” Ragnvaldr asked, his hand landing on my shoulder. I turned around to greet him.
“Yeah, fine.” I peered over to Tobih, who seemed to have straightened himself up.
The cart began slowing down, and I saw that the one ahead of us had as well. “Well, there it is.” Ragnvaldr spoke, “The last place we’ll rest before Orr.”