We eventually had an isolated fire burning in the ring Angel had created in our corner. I never realized all of the things we would have to give up coming here, I only ever had an idea. I had always been told that you couldn’t truly know what you had until it was gone. Tobih pulled out a few pieces of bread from one of our bags. It wasn’t until then that I saw Angel had been carrying Ragnvaldr’s bag with her.
“He’s out there without supplies or food isn’t he?” I said it before realizing that the words had even left my mouth.
Angel waited to take a bite of the bread that she had previously meant to, “He is norn. All he needs is his weapon to survive.” She bit into the bread and used her other arm to throw another piece of wood onto the nearly dying flames.
We all sat there wearing our battle ready armor and bloodstained clothes. There wasn’t any real way to tell exactly when we’d need to move again or if a risen would stumble into the cave to find us. There was no setting up of cots, no pulling out blankets, no cooked meals, and no changing of clothes. The time we had was surely limited and time is what any activity would take.
“Claire.” Angel stopped eating and looked to me.
“What is it?” I crossed my arms over my knees and stared directly at the norn.
“I want you to continue this journey.” She had to know she was asking a lot of me. “You’ll probably regret it if you don’t. Ragnvaldr… He can take care of himself. I have no doubts that he’s trying to make it back to you as well. We’ll get this done and have the Pact look out for him here and we can wait for him together back in Hoelbrak.”
“It’s something I’ll have to think over,” I replied after a few moments. I wished I could have given her a straight answer. There wasn’t a lot of time to be thinking about things here. Every single thought felt like they had to be rushed to completion, but I didn’t want to give an answer for this so quickly.
With a little food in my stomach I was beginning to feel a little drowsy. I drank from one of the water flasks we had and laid my head against Tobih’s shoulder. He wrapped his arm around me and took the flask from me. He drank from it as well. Angel stoked the minute flames and threw in another piece of wood. Keeping the flames low would help keep us a little more hidden, but they came with the drawback of having to be watched constantly.
Tobih began humming a soft tune. The world around us felt too quiet; I welcomed the soft sound. My eyelids began to droop as I let my guard down even more. Any moment I would catch myself dozing off, I’d remember what kind of danger we were in and I’d jump awake. Tobih tightened his grip on my shoulders and whispered to me, “Get some rest. Angel and I will take it from here.” I felt bad, though. I wanted to rest right now, but it meant that no one else could. The more I told myself to stay awake, however, the harder I found it to keep my eyes open. Tobih rested his head against mine; I honestly felt a lot safer when was comforting me. Honestly, though, I think I felt weak. No matter how many battles I had fought in the past or how much of a hero people thought I might be, I was never prepared to go into Orr.
I thought I was awake for much longer than I actually was. When did my thoughts turn into dreams? I dreamed of an ocean and an unfamiliar beach in the distance. Even though it was beautiful, something about it all seemed a bit off. There were no birds, no sounds of the waves, and it all just felt strange.It wasn’t long before I woke up again. Tobih and Angel were talking to one another so I decided to just listen with my eyes closed. I was still so tired so I think I hoped to just fall back to sleep.
“I’d like for it to be someplace with a lot of, uh, green, you know? Kiffi really likes leaves and plants so I think being close to a lot of those would make her happy.” He was still holding onto me just as tightly as when I fell asleep. It was a warm embrace even through the metal armor.
“Do you think we could find a building in a place like that?” Angel was keeping her voice down as she talked so it was almost a loud whisper.
“Well, it doesn’t have to be big. Just a place where we can all talk, eat, and sleep together. Everyone has been on the road and we’ve slept on the ground and in the carriages more than we’ve slept in any bed. The refugees need a place to call home.”
“I don’t hate the idea of it. Maybe I could even lend some coin to it.”
“You, Claire, and Ragnvaldr could stay when you liked. I know you all have your own homes to go back to, but I’d like to say I’m selfish and would rather have you all around.”
“Don’t tell anyone I said this – and I mean it…but I don’t know if it’d feel like home without the lot of us together anymore.”
He laughed a little, “I feel the same way. I don’t want us to split up after this journey, but with Claire and Ragnvaldr getting married and buying a new home, they’re probably going to spend a lot of time to themselves after all of this.”
“I’ll be bringing my best drinks to that wedding.” It was rare to hear her laugh but the chuckle she gave was kind of charming.
“Just be sure to share them with the…”
I nodded off again sometime while listening to the two of them talk. It was such a normal conversation. It wasn’t often that I listened to just the two of them talk together. I continued to sleep on and off like this for most of the night. Angel occasionally got up to patrol the area, but Tobih stayed right there with me until I woke up to the smell of Angel’s cooking early the next morning.
“Good morning,” Tobih greeted me as he saw me stirring. He loosened his grip a bit to give me room to move around.
“Morning,” I rubbed my eyes and looked around. The light outside of the cave was still dim. The sun probably hadn’t risen yet.
Angel seemed to be working with limited materials, namely a single pan and a wooden spoon. She also appeared to be rushing to get a meal ready. Her sword sat against the wall on her other side.
“Did you get enough sleep?” He asked as I stood up.
“I think so. It wasn’t very good sleep; I kept having nightmares… but it was sleep at least. Thank you.” I saw a few more bodies scattered around the cave. Initially it was concerning until I saw that they had been staked to the ground. In the silence I would have heard them, but the crackling of the fire drowned out their groans.
Tobih stood up as well and stretched,”My legs fell asleep a few hours ago,” He smiled at me, “It’s good to be able to stretch them out again.”
“Sorry” I replied, knowing that it was my fault.
‘Nah, I’m perfectly fine so don’t worry about it.” When he finished stretching, he went through his bag and brought out a ragged cloth. Somehow, even in a place like this, he took the time to clean his weapon. He sat down again in the same spot. Using a small amount of water, he wet the rag and began working at the dried blood and dirt. I sat down in front of him and watched him. If I did my job correctly, my staff would never be close enough to an enemy to find their blood but with my skills that wasn’t so. My weapon probably had blood and dirt on it already from the battle we had witnessed.
“Hey, Angel,” He took his eyes off of the shaft for a moment and directed words at her now.
She looked up from her pan and wooden spoon, “Yeah?”
“Want me to get yours while I’m at it?”
“It’s not that important,” Angel originally responded. I saw frustration at whatever she was preparing growing in her eyes until it finally exploded, “I can’t work with these. I need proper tools and these just…” She sighed, “Yeah, go ahead and clean mine as well.”
He cast a smile her way and then looked back to me, “What about yours?”
“If you have time,” I responded and continued to watch him work. The shine was beginning to come back to the previously coated areas. Though it was simple, it felt comforting to have something to put my mind on.
He looked back down to his weapon again, but kept talking to me, “There’s always time to take care of your weapon. I believe my weapons are a part of me and should be treated properly. I know every part of my weapon in the same way that I know every part of my hands or feet. Together, our bodies might wear out or break down over time, but each part of our bodies can take care of another and keep them stronger.
Your weapons are an important part of keeping you two alive. I want to take care of them just as I want to take care of you. I will always have time.”