Sabrina ran down the dark street, her red hair flying over her shoulders as she darted around parked cars. She quickly glanced over her shoulder as the sound of running feet began to move closer. She grinned quickly as she turned into an alley behind an office building and quickly caught her breath while waiting for her attacker to arrive. She pulled a wooden stake from her boot and stood in a defensive position.
The vampire growled as he turned the corner and stopped in shock when he saw her waiting. She grinned. “Surprise! You see moron, you messed with the wrong girl. I’m Sabrina. The vampire slayer.” As she finished her sentence, she quickly caught him with a roundhouse kick and ducked his right hook as retaliation.
The fight was short and intense. When it was done, he was nothing more than a pile of dust on the wet street. She smiled and prepared to leave when a bright light blinded her. She covered her eyes as she walked towards it. She heard a horse whinny just as she reached the light. She started to turn around to look for the horse, but tripped over a board and fell into the light.
When she regained consciousness, she looked up to see two pure white horses with blue eyes and a white deer with slender horns standing beside her. Okay…Where the hell am I?
Then she felt a voice inside of her head. :Child. You are going to be needed here. But forget who you were for now.: She felt a sensation a little bit like regret in her mind and then she blacked out again.
When Sabrina woke up, she had a slight headache but could not remember how she got into the meadow. She looked down to see if her dress was messed up, but luckily it was still fairly clean. I’ve been on the road for what…Two days now? I hope that I get to Haven soon, she thought.
Sighing, she got to her feet and looked around for her mule, but saw no sign of him. Gingerly, she touched the back of her head, looking for a lump. Frightened at her lack of memory, she sat back down in the clearing, trying to piece the puzzle together. Slowly, her memories began to return to her.
Sabrina was walking down the road, gently leading the recalcitrant mule. She sighed in her loneliness. Her mother had just passed away from a brain storm and her father had left them soon after she was born. With no money, she was forced to leave her small village by the Sorrows, to try to locate her aunt, Elish. She knew that her aunt lived in Haven, but beyond that, she had no clue on how to find her. So she had packed all the belongings that the mule could carry and began on her journey.
She was two days into her journey, when a snake had frightened the mule. It had taken off, with Sabrina running behind it and disappeared into the meadow. She had followed it, only to trip over a fallen branch and hit her head on a rock.
Sighing, Sabrina investigated her head with her fingers gently, surprised to find that there was no lump. She decided that she couldn’t do anything, so the best thing that she could do was to walk to the nearest village and she if someone would help her out.
She walked for several marks on the road and finally arrived at a fairly large village. It was full of bright houses and even boosted a guard post. The people walking around the village seemed to be very content and it was evident they were not impoverished.
She walked into the village proper and looked around. It was bustling with activity. Realizing that she needed provisions, she walked up to the first inn she saw, The Companions Rest. She walked into the inn, looking for the innkeeper and noticing that it seemed to be in good repair. It was of middling size, with well kept tables and benches. In the far corner there was a good sized fireplace, perfect to hold a pot of porridge.
“Can I help you?” asked a female voice from behind.
She turned, startled. She studied the woman, who was sturdily built with rich auburn hair. “Yes, I’m looking for the innkeeper.”
The woman studied Sabrina. “Well, you found her,” she said in good humor. “I’m Erika.”
“Hello, Erika. I’m Sabrina. I’m curious to see if you have any positions open. I’m traveling to Haven, but I’ve run out of supplies.”
Erika looked at her, seemingly surprised at her bluntness. “What do you know how to do?”
Sabrina smiled. “Just about anything. Before my mother died, she owned a small inn. She couldn’t afford to pay for help, so I was it. From the time I was a little, I helped her out.”
Erika nodded, seemingly pleased. “Good. I do have a serving position open. It doesn’t pay much, but you also get a small room and three meals a day.”
Sabrina nodded in agreement. “That is more than fair. When do you want me to start?”
Erika tossed her a clean rag. “Right now, if you don’t mind. My last serving girl left to follow a Bard on his journey and I’ve been short handed for several moons.”
Sabrina laughed. “I understand.” She turned and began to wipe down tables and clear off the few dirty dishes that were lying on them.
Sabrina worked diligently for half a mark when inn was suddenly inundated with a large group of people. She worked steadily; making sure all the customers got their food while it was still hot. A couple of times, she had be extra cautious and ignore the veiled offers for her services. But all of this, she did with a smile and all the customers seemed satisfied.
After the dinner rush was over with, she helped Erika clean up once again. “Wow,” she said. “Is it normally that busy?” She looked over her shoulder as she carried the dishes back to the kitchen.
Erika smiled as she followed her. “Business has picked up the last couple of moons. It is really good to have help again. I noticed how you brushed off the more lecherous men. Very nicely done, childing.”
Sabrina smiled. “Mama taught me well.”
Erika smiled at her and gestured to the stairs. “You’ll find a bathing room up there. Do you have any clothes?”
Sabrina shook her head slowly. “My mule ran off with everything that I own, so no.”
Erika walked to a small cupboard under the stairs and pulled out some clothes. “Here,” she said handing them to Sabrina. “These are some things that have been left here. You may have them.”
Sabrina nodded shyly as she made her way up the stairs. She opened the door to the bathing room and looked around in shock. It was very modern, with a boiler to heat water in and an indoor water closet.
She quickly mixed the hot and cold water to the perfect temperature and sank into the hot water gratefully. The hot water got rid of her remaining aches and pains from her tumble in the woods and as her muscles relaxed, the faint headache that had been present also disappeared.
She lay in the tub until the water had cooled, then quickly dried off and put on the clean clothes. After she had dressed, she quickly cleaned up the room and deposited the wet towels and dirty clothes in the laundry basket.
She walked out of the room to find Erika waiting patiently for her. Erika looked at her cheeks, reddened from being scrubbed properly and realized how young she looked. “Childing? How old are you?”
Sabrina yawned, the long day catching up with her. “Fifteen. I’ll be sixteen in a couple of moons.”
“Do you know how to read, write and do your sums?” she asked.
Sabrina looked at her in surprise. “Of course. Mama was very strict about me learning all of that. She didn’t want anyone to be able to pull the wool over my eyes, so she drilled me even after I got back from the Temple and the old priest’s lessons.”
Erika sighed in relief. “Great,” she said as she turned and led Sabrina to a door. “Here is your room. It’s yours for as long as you remain here.”
Sabrina looked at Erika with a smile on her face. “Thank you so much. I promise to do my best.”
“That’s all I can ask for. You best get to bed. Morning starts before the sun comes up around here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sabrina said as she turned the doorknob. She walked into the small room, barely big enough to fit a bed, to find clean sheets on a comfortable straw filled mattress. There was a small fireplace on the opposite wall, an unexpected luxury. Smiling, she crawled into the bed after blowing out the candle and sank into the most comfortable sleep she’d had since her mother’s death.
Chapter 2: Bumps in the night
Bumps in the Night
It had been six moons since Sabrina had found her way to The Companion’s Rest. She had decided against continuing to Haven since she didn’t know her aunt and Erika had become a surrogate mother to her. She had become close to several members of the village and her days were full of laughter as the more outgoing girls told her of their exploits as littles.
She was chatting with one of her closest friends in the village, Andria, when Erika walked in, a serious expression on her face. Sabrina noticed the expression and queried her, “What’s wrong?”
Erika looked at her. “I don’t know,” she said shaking her head. “There have been reports of possible monsters coming out of the Pelagiris Forest.”
Andria shuddered and quickly bade them farewell to finish shopping for her mother. Sabrina looked at Erika. “Monsters out of the Pelagiris? Could it be Hawkbrothers?”
Erika shook her head. “Contrary to popular belief, the Hawkbrothers are not in the habit of attacking villages.” She sighed. “It concerns me.”
Sabrina looked at her in confusion. “Why? The Pelagiris Forest is far enough away from here that the Guard will be able to protect us from any monsters.”
“It’s just a feeling,” Erika replied somberly. “Well, worrying about it won’t do anything about it and I’ve been told that Heralds have carried the news to Queen Selenay, so hopefully Herald-Mage Elspeth and Adept Darkwind can prevent anything from happening.”
Sabrina smiled, feeling confident in the heroes’ ability to save the day. “They saved us from the Mage Storms.” She had seen several Heralds pass through the village of Sweetgrain, named for the sweet grains that were grown there for horse feed. She admired the beautiful white Companions that they rode on and while she wasn’t sure if she believed the tales of Companions talking to their Heralds, she had seen intelligence shining in their eyes. The Heralds, all dressed in the white uniform of their calling, were very friendly and she never had to fear them making inappropriate comments to her. She felt at ease with them more than she did anyone except for Erika herself.
Erika started to say something when a stream of customers entered the inn. Without a word, both women went to work.
Sabrina dropped into her bed a little after midnight. The dinner rush had been busier than usual. She had heard some interesting bits of conversation about the Monsters coming out of the Pelagiris Forest. From what she had overheard, they looked just like humans, but were completely vicious. Members of the village militia were going to be stepping up their training, just in case the monsters made it to the village. Sighing, she put her sleeping shift on and crawled under the covers, too exhausted to do anything but close her eyes.
She was running through a dark alleyway, hearing footsteps come closer to her. Sabrina turned around quickly, seeing the deformed face of the man chasing her. She gasped for breath, trying to lengthen the distance between them as fear overcame her. She turned out of the alleyway and onto the open road. She saw a house in the distance and put on a burst of speed, hoping to make it to safety. She had just made it to the gate when she felt the monster’s hand grab her. She tried to scream, but the sound was muffled by his hand. She stared, with wide eyes, as he lowered his face to her neck.
Sabrina awoke with a gasp, her mind overflow with the images she had seen. Shaking her head, she sat up in the bed, telling herself that it was just a bad dream; she just had an overactive imagination. But as much as she tried to convince herself, she wasn’t sure if that was true.
A couple of days had passed since Sabrina had the dream. It had not made a reoccurrence, so she put it out of her mind. There was still a slight undercurrent of uneasiness throughout the village. She noticed that people still continued about their business, but with more caution. Rarely would you see anyone about the village on their own, and after dark—well let’s just say that there was very little activity.
As a result of the tension, business at the inn was fairly busy during daylight hours, but after dark, it dropped dramatically to just the customers at the inn. Sabrina and Erika took the respite with a sigh of relief. It gave them time to thoroughly scrub and fix anything that needed it.
Sabrina was also taking the time to make some new clothes for the upcoming Harvest Festival. She wanted something more festive than her current skirts and blouses.
So she was working on embroidering the skirt when Erika walked in, looking very nervous.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Erika looked up at her. “Letter from my niece who lives near the Pelagiris. Says that the rumors of monsters are true and people are just disappearing from the villages at night. No sound, very little signs of struggle. The Guard has stepped up their presence, but the abductions are still occurring.”
Sabrina drew her brows together. “Do they know what these monsters look like? How can we defend against them?”
Erika shook her head. “No one who has seen them is around any longer.”
Sabrina shivered a bit. “That’s—That’s just scary.”
Erika nodded somberly. “It is certainly unnerving.” She looked around at the empty room. “I think I’ll retire for the night.”
Sabrina nodded, coming to the end of her pattern. “I think I shall, too. See you in the morning.”
The next moon passed in much the same way. The thread of uneasiness that had woven itself throughout the village just seemed to grow tauter. Sabrina kept having the same dream of being attacked, sometimes the dream continued until she felt teeth biting her neck, other times, it stopped just as she was grabbed. Needless to say, she wasn’t sleeping well.
She also noticed that the people were a lot less carefree. Even Andria was more subdued. They still met up a couple of times throughout the fortnight but didn’t talk for very long. Each of them seemed to be rushing to complete everything that required leaving the safety of the indoors, so when Andria came running into the inn breathless, both Erika and Sabrina were startled.
“Did—did you hear?” Andria panted out.
“Hear what, childing?” Erika asked her.
“Widow Dosley has gone missing,” she stated. “Happened last night. She was out at the baker’s and got to talking to the baker’s wife. She swore she’d be fine, since she just lives a few houses down, but she never made it home. They found her basket of bread by her door this morning.”
Sabrina gasped in horror. “Lady Bright!”
Erika looked at both of them. “This weirdness is just getting worse. Sabrina, do not go anywhere alone and do not go out after dark. Andria, you’d better get home to your parents, before they start to worry.”
Andria nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” she responded as she turned to walk out of the end.
Sabrina looked at the serious expression that had overtaken her mentor’s face. “I’ll make sure all of the shutters and doors are locked tight before we retire.”
Erika nodded her acknowledgement and both went on with their day. After closing, Sabrina went around to make sure that all the shutters were secured and the locks fastened against unwelcome visitors, then went to bed.
Marks later, a sound awoke her from her slumber. Sabrina sat up, feeling a touch of fear at the unexpected sound. Grabbing a robe, she wrapped it around her body before carefully opening her door. She peered up and down the hall, looking for the source of the sound, but not seeing anything.
She turned her head, cursing under her breath that there were no customers staying in the inn. “Erika?” she called out tentatively but got no response. She turned and made her way to her bedside table, to grab the candle that she had left there. Turning, she lit it from the banked coals in the fireplace. Slowly she gathered her courage and walked towards the stairs. She walked down the stairs, cautiously making her way towards the banging noise, coming from the kitchen.
As she drew near the doorway to the kitchen, her candle began to flutter. Cupping her hand around the flame to protect it, she glanced into the kitchen and noticed the door flapping wide open and banging against the wall of the inn.
Feeling panic rise in her chest, she ran towards the door, looking to see what had caused the door to open. She stared at the door in puzzlement, when she saw that the latch was intact. “Erika?” she called out again, seeing if she was in the courtyard, but still no response.
Sighing in frustration and fear, she closed the door and latched it shut again. Worried she made her way to Erika’s room, only to find it empty.
Chapter 3: Dawn of a New Day
Dawn of a New Day
Sabrina didn’t sleep the remainder of the night. She sat in her room, arms wrapped around herself as every little noise made her jump. She kept going over in her mind why Erika would have left the inn. It doesn’t make sense, she thought to herself. She was the one that was making sure that we stayed inside! Why, why would she go outside?
At some point, she must have fallen asleep, since the crowing of the roosters greeting the dawn made her jump. Tangled in the blanket, she fell to the wooden floor with a thump. Shaking her head she looked outside, the pinks of the morning just seeping into the world. Shaking her head, hoping the events of the previous night was just a bad, if very realistic dream; she quickly changed into her working clothes. She made her way downstairs, to coax the fire, so that she could begin breakfast for any possible guests that should stop by.
She wondered if she had dreamed the events of the previous evening, but when Erika failed to make an appearance, she knew she was wrong. Sighing, she banked the fire and decided to go find the leader of the village militia, Horace Sutter, the blacksmith. She grabbed her heavy shawl and walked out of the inn, just as the sun rose over the horizon.
When she left the inn, her skin prickled. She wrapped the shawl tighter around her body and glanced around, looking for whatever was making her nervous. Not seeing anything, she increased her pace to almost a run. When she finally arrived at the blacksmith’s workshop, she felt relief.
“Blacksmith Sutter?” she called out into the shop.
A burly man stepped through a door and smiled when he saw her. “Sabrina! What brings you here, youngling?” the blacksmith greeted her, his eyes twinkling underneath his heavy black eyebrows.
“Erika is missing, sir.”
Horace looked at Sabrina, the twinkle being replaced by concern. “Are you sure? What happened?” he questioned.
“I don’t know, sir. We made sure all the shutters and doors were locked and then went to bed. In the middle of the night a loud noise awoke me. I went to investigate and found the kitchen door wide open and banging against the wall. Erika was not in her room.”
Horace looked thoughtful. “Was the door intact?”
Sabrina nodded. “The lock was fine. The door had to have been opened from the inside. But where would she go? Why would she not tell me that she was leaving?”
“I don’t know, youngling,” Horace said. “Let me consult with other members of the village. Do you have guests? Do you need any help in the inn?”
Sabrina shook her head. “No, sir. We didn’t have any guests overnight and with the threat of monsters, the inn has been slow. I should be able to handle it.”
“Then off with you and if we have any questions, we’ll come to the inn.”
“Thank you, sir,” Sabrina called as she turned to leave, heaviness in her heart. When she reached the inn, she found a few travelers awaiting her. She smiled at them as she beckoned them in, before restarting the fire and getting a pot of porridge on to cook.
One of the men, a traveling Bard, looked at the young woman as she put the bowls of porridge before them. “Are you here by yourself?” he asked conversationally.
Sabrina looked at him, reluctant to reveal anything, lest she be assaulted. His blonde hair had even lighter highlights to it, and his blue eyes peered at her from his weatherworn face. “No, sir. The innkeeper is not feeling good, so I will be handling everything for a few days. Are you looking at staying over or moving on to the next town?” she asked, hoping that it would be the latter.
“I will definitely be staying. I’ve been on the road for few moons now. I’m in my Journeyman period and with winter setting in I want to find a good, safe in to stay in.” He looked at her. “I am Bard Jakob. May I have your name?”
“Sabrina,” she responded. “If you will excuse me, if you are staying, I need to prepare a room.” She walked quickly to the stairs, to go prepare on of the rooms, dread filling her stomach. How can I let him know that Erika is not here? Can I keep up the ruse? Winter is coming fast, only a few nights ago we had a first frost. The snow is not far behind. If he doesn’t leave within a few days, he’ll be snowed in with the rest of us.
She worried her lip with her teeth as she made up the bed with fresh linens. She completed the work quickly and decided to take a moment to look in Erika’s room. Wanting to see if she could find a clue to why her surrogate mother had disappeared. She opened up the door quietly and studied the room.
The bed was unmade, but Erika’s clothes were still lying on the end of the bed. Sabrina looked around and noticed that Erika’s dressing gown was missing. Leaning against the door frame, she tried to picture in her mind what had happened. Maybe she heard a noise and went downstairs to check it out. If she had done that, then…she stopped in her mental musings as she noticed that the candle on the bedside table was still not there. So, she hears a noise. Like me, she grabbed the candle and lit it from her fireplace. Then she must have walked into the hall and towards the noise. She ended up in kitchen and for some reason opened the back door. What happened then?
Shaking her head, unable to reason why Erika would have opened the back door, she made her way back down the stairs to let the Bard know that his room was ready. The other men had been farmers on their way home from the market in Haven, so they had already left. “Bard Jakob, your room is ready. If you really are keen of moving on, I would make sure to leave soon. We should get our first snow in no more than a fortnight and once that falls, the roads become impassable.”
The blonde man nodded, studying the young woman intently. “I don’t mean to intrude, but there have been troubling times here, haven’t there?” he questioned softly.
Sabrina shrugged. “The tales of the monsters out of the Pelagirs have troubled us all,” she said vaguely.
“It’s more than that,” he persisted.
Sabrina just raised an eyebrow. “Why are you so concerned? What’s in it for you?” she asked shrewdly.
The Bard raised his hands. “Nothing, other than maybe some fodder for a tale. I grew up in a village similar to this, albeit on the Karsite border. I feel at home here for some reason.” He smiled at the young woman, who looked only a few years younger than him. “Please, I’m not here to make you feel uncomfortable and maybe I can bring some business in.”
Sabrina didn’t know what to think, so she decided to escape into the daily chores. “If you will excuse me, I have some work to do,” she said quietly as she returned to the kitchen, to begin preparations for lunch.
The day turned out to be a busy one for Sabrina. Many of the villagers came by to find out what had happened with Erika. By the time dusk approached, Sabrina could recite the story in her sleep. When she finally set the Shepard’s Pie in front of Jakob, she was mentally exhausted.
Jakob looked at her. “Please join me,” he said quietly as he looked around the empty room. “You look like you could use a break.”
After grabbing her dinner, Sabrina sank onto the bench with a sigh, but didn’t say anything as she pushed her food around on the plate.
“So, if the rumors are true, your sick innkeeper is a missing innkeeper, isn’t she?” he probed.
Sabrina winced as she was caught in her lie. “Yes. Do you think badly of me?”
Jakob shook his head. “No, I understand why you lied.” He studied her again, noticing the dark rings around her eyes and wanting to make her feel better. “What if after dinner, I play for you. Take your mind off of things.”
Sabrina smiled. “I would like that, thank you.”
Jakob just kept watching her as she pushed the food around her plate. He felt uncharacteristically protective of her, so when he finished eating, he picked up his plate and made his way to the kitchen.
Sabrina shook herself out of her haze as he got up. “Wait! You’re the guest. Let me clean up.”
Jakob just shook his head. “No. You’re obviously exhausted. There are only a few dishes. I can take care of it.”
“Why?” Sabrina asked in disbelief.
Jakob thought about her question. He did not know why and just shrugged. “Because I want to,” he finally answered.
Sabrina shook her head. “I just can’t let you do that. I’m the innkeeper right now.”
Jakob shook his head. “Fine. You wash and I’ll dry,” he said as he tossed the dish rag to her.
With the two of them working together, it took little time to clean the kitchen. Once done, Jakob led them back to the common room where he grabbed his harp. “Do you have anything that you want to hear?”
Sabrina shook her head. “Not anything in particular.”
Jakob took a moment to tune his harp. Then he began to play, simple melodies at first, then some of the harder melodies. Letting himself drift, Jakob played what he felt, so he began to play Musings. It seemed to strike the right cord with Sabrina, as she relaxed a bit into her chair. He played for nearly an hour, until the night turned into an inky blackness, complete with an eerie silence.
Jakob finally stopped playing when it was obvious that Sabrina was about to fall asleep. “Why don’t you head to bed?” he asked her.
Sabrina tried to smother another yawn as she stood. “I will, but first I need to make sure that all the windows and doors are secure.”
Jakob nodded as he placed the harp back in his carrying case. Once he was done, Sabrina had finished securing the first floor. They walked up the stairs together and arrived at Sabrina’s door first.
She looked at him shyly. “This is my room. The bathing room is down the hall. Breakfast will be after dawn.”
“I think I can manage,” Jakob said with a smile. “Sleep well.”
She was running through the streets. Panting as she felt her pursuer get closer. Sabrina glanced behind her, seeing the deformed face of the man that was chasing her and managed to get a burst of speed. She darted around the carts that were blocking the path and into a dark alley. Cursing under her breath she was forced to stop by the wall of the building in front of her. She heard laughter all around her as shadows pulled away from the walls and realized that she had been caught in a trap.
She turned quickly as the group surrounded her, all of their faces deformed like the man that had been chasing her. “What do you want?” she questioned bravely, trying to buy time. Trying to give herself a chance.
They didn’t say anything, just drew closer to her, growling softly. She felt like a sheep in the midst of a pack of wolves. She felt hands grab her and struggled automatically, managing to break their hold for a moment. The moment was short as they grabbed her again and this time, their hold held. She continued to struggle as they stroked the pulse point on her neck, but a voice in the dark stopped them.
“Don’t kill her,” the female voice ordered. She felt a sense of reprieve that someone had come to save her, but the next sentence made her skin crawl. “She is to become one of us.”
Chills shook her body as Sabrina struggled even harder as the owner of the voice came forward. “Erika?” she questioned as the deformed face of her surrogate mother came into view.
Erika just laughed.
Sabrina sat up in the bed, gasping for air. “Bright Lady,” she muttered under her breath as she ran her hands up and down her face. “What is happening?” Knowing that she was not going back to sleep any time soon, she grabbed her dressing gown and went to the window. She pulled the heavy curtains back slightly, to look at the moon which was full overhead.
She sighed, wondering what had happened to Erika and why her mind was making up such weird images in her dreams. She leaned against the frame of the window, wrapping the dressing gown tighter around her body. The glass was fogging up with heat of her breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow move within a shadow. Trying to get a closer look, she turned her head, but the condensation on the window prevented her from seeing anything. Curiosity overcame her as she decided to go downstairs to see if she could get a better look.
Jakob settled onto the comfortable bed and reached out with his mind. :Tyler? Are you close?:
:Of course, Chosen. Even though your disguise as a traveling Bard precludes the use of a horse, I’m staying close by your side.: the Companion told him. :Hopefully, the ruse will determine what is actually going on, since every time Heralds have gone to investigate the reports of monsters, the monsters mysteriously vanish, only to reappear just out of our reach.:
:It’s frustrating. That’s why I agreed to this ruse, even though I do feel bad lying to the girl.:
The Companion chuckled in his head. :Sure you feel bad. You are also feeling protective, but Chosen, she can handle herself.:
:I know that,: Jakob told his Companion. :I can feel her strength, but I can also feel her impulsiveness. That’s going to get her killed.:
:You worry too much, Jake. Go to sleep. You are going to need your rest in the upcoming days.:
Jakob sent a feeling of assent before resting his head on the pillow. He fell into a fitful sleep quickly, but far too soon he found himself blinking awake.
:Chosen. Jake. Jakob!: the mental shout assaulted his mind.
:What? Bright Lady, you didn’t have to shout!: Jakob returned grumpily.
:Yes, I did. I’ve been trying to wake you for five minutes. The girl, Sabrina, has heard a noise. She went downstairs to investigate and I fear she is going to go outside. This would be a bad idea, Chosen. You must stop her.:
Jakob reacted to the concern in his Companion’s voice but leaping out of the bed. He grabbed his clothes quickly and throwing them on. He opened his door just in time to hear the front door to the inn open. Hydatha’s Tits! he thought as he ran down the stairs to find an empty end. :Tyler. Where did she go? Can you see her?:
:No, Jake. I’m sorry. I’m not within seeing distance of the village and I can sense beings creeping through the forest. You must find her quickly.:
There was an undertone of panic in his Companion’s Mindvoice and he moved quickly. :Follow me. I may need your help.: Jakob quickly ran back up the stairs to his room. Out of his packs, he withdrew his sword, knowing that he might need it. When he got back downstairs, he exited the inn and lowered his shields. His Gifts included Mindspeech and a minor form of Empathy. He used the Empathy to try and locate Sabrina and when he felt the surge of pure terror, he blindly ran towards the feeling.
When Sabrina had gotten downstairs, she peered out the windows. Still seeing shadows moving, her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to slip out the door. The coldness of the ground seeped into her slippers, but she paid it no heed. Silently, she followed one of the shadows, trying to figure out what it was. It’s too large to be an animal, unless it’s some sort of changed creature from the Pelagirs, but it moves like a man. She mused over that last part, something niggling in the back of her mind just out of reach of her conscious mind. Slipping herself into the shadows, she had followed it across the village, almost to the edge of the forest.
Standing beside the wall of a stable of the last house, she looked into the darkness, grateful for the full moon. Finally, she saw a flash of pale skin as the being moved into the moonlight. She couldn’t help but gasp when she saw its face. It was the face of the monster that had been plaguing her dreams.
The creature heard her gasp and turned towards her, smiling malevolently. She read his expression as she automatically shrunk back into the wall, hoping that he couldn’t see her, but her hopes were soon dashed. He stalked towards her, paralyzing her with fear. At the last moment, she broke out of her terror and began to run towards the inn, her only thought that she could prevent him from following her.
She had barely gone ten steps when a cold hand grabbed her shoulder. She shuddered once and then began struggling, trying to break his hold on her shoulders. Miracle of all miracles, she managed to break free and some instinct inside of her caused her to turn around. He went to grab her again, but she moved this time. Avoiding his grip, she threw a punch at him, knocking him back a few steps. He looked surprised, but growled and began to pace towards her.
Out of the corner of her eyes, she saw more shadows slipping towards her and knew that if she didn’t get away at that point, she would disappear just like Erika did. She turned to leave, only to be confronted by two more of the monsters blocking per path. Desperately she looked around, finally daring to address the creatures. “What do you want?” she asked them, her voice showing no trace of her fear.
“You,” the creature behind her whispered as he pinned her arms to her sides. She felt him move her hair, exposing her neck. “Don’t struggle,” the voice in her ear commanded. “It is futile.”
Sabrina ignored him, kicking with her legs to try and break the hold. Then she heard the whinny of a horse and a blur of white entered her vision. It took her a moment to realize what it was. A Companion. And she knew that where a Companion was, its Herald could not be far behind. She breathed a sigh of relief until she was able to see the sheer number of monsters around her. There had to be a dozen that she could see.
The monsters began to stalk towards the striking horse, unafraid of its presence. The monster that had her in his grip, moved backward, away from what was sure to be a bloody fight. She watched as the horse reared onto its hind legs, bashing in the head of one of them, feeling the monster’s grip loosen the tiniest bit. She used that to her advantage as she plowed her elbow into his gut, surprising him. She moved away just in time to see a gleaming sword appear through the torso.
The monster just laughed as the sword did seemingly no damage and she looked in shock at the man behind it. Jakob. Sabrina watched in horror as the monster turned around and threw Jakob across the open field with preternatural strength.
It grinned again and she looked around for the Companion, noting that it was not harming many of the creatures. The only casualty amongst the monster had been the one that the Companion had bashed its head in.
All of the sudden, there was another flash of white as a second Companion joined the fray. Between the two, they managed to kill another two monsters and the rest seemed to melt away into the darkness.
Sabrina sank to her knees, grateful for the reprieve and mentally berating herself for going outside of locked doors. She watched as the first Companion made its way over to Jakob and nosed him softly. She heard the man groan softly as he managed to get into a sitting position. She looked around for the second Herald but was stunned with the Companion stopped in front of her.
She fell into his sapphire eyes, feeling an overwhelming love emanating from him. :Sabrina, I am Valdir and I Choose you.:
Cookies to anyone who catches the meaning of the Companion's names!!
Chapter 5: Making Plans
:Sabrina, I am Valdir and I Choose you.:
When Sabrina finally broke herself away from the Companion’s eyes, she shook her head. “What do you mean, you Choose me? Are you insane?”
The Companion seemed to chuckle merrily at her reaction. :No, I am not insane. You are a very special girl, Sabrina. Valdemar needs you.: The Companion bobbed his head up and down. :Besides, you are my soul sister. We are meant to be together.:
Sabrina felt his love filling her and while not convinced that Valdemar needed her, she was convinced that her life had just changed. She turned her head slightly, to see the other Companion helping Jakob to his feet. She approached him, wondering what the Bard was doing with a Companion. “Jakob?” she questioned.
Jakob gave her a crooked smile. “I guess that you’ve found me out, then,” he stated. He stood, a little wobbly on his feet, and gave her a slight bow. “Herald Jakob at your service.”
Sabrina studied him, wavering between being glad that he had helped to save her and upset at his lies. She finally decided to question him. “Why are you here? And why did you disguise yourself?” she queried, a hint of accusation in her voice.
Jakob winced at her tone, but straightened his shoulders. “I am here because of those things. That was the reason for the disguise.” He looked at Tyler a moment. “Tyler tells me that Valdir has Chosen you, so I will escort you to Haven and the Collegium.”
Valdir nudged her gently. :We should leave, Chosen. What ever those things were, they are only regrouping. We need to be inside locked doors at night, since they don’t seem to travel or attack during the day.:
“Can’t we stay here for the rest of the night?” Sabrina returned. “If I just disappear, the village will be in an uproar. First Widow Dosley, then Erika, and then me? Panic would set in,” she argued logically.
The Companions shared a glanced and then Valdir bobbed his head. :All right. We will stay until dawn when you can tell the villagers that you’ve been Chosen. But you also must caution them that they can not be outdoors after dark. Don’t reveal too much information about the monsters. We do not want to alarm them.:
Sabrina didn’t even fight the urge to roll her eyes. “Tell me something I didn’t know?” she said dryly as she stalked towards the inn, leaving two chuckling Companions and one confused Herald behind her.
As Jakob watched her walk away, he wondered what had happened to the sweet girl that he had soothed with music mere hours before.
Tyler chose to answer his unspoken question. :Getting Chosen often changes one, Jakob. Especially those that are older. I do believe that she is a fitting match to Valdir. I look forward to the upcoming days,: he said merrily as Valdir snorted in derision, looking offended at Tyler’s comment.
Jakob just shook his head and he began to following Sabrina’s path, wondering what he had gotten himself info. “All right you two. We need to get inside of walls.”
After the Companions shut themselves into the inn’s stable, they shared a look. Tyler looked at Valdir. :Are you sure she’s the one?:
Valdir just favored him with a look. :Of course I’m sure. You were there the day she came through the rift.:
Tyler snorted. :Just because I saw her come through the rift doesn’t mean that I believe that she is the one person that can stop whatever these things are. We could barely hurt them. How can we expect a mere girl to do more?:
:Did I really just hear that? Mr. Optimistic has a doubt about our plan?: Valdir responded, flicking his tail in disbelief. :I discussed this with Rolan many times before we actually did it. My only concern is that her memories don’t return. The dyheli promised that the memories would only be repressed until they were needed. I don’t believe that we are at that point where her help is going to be required, but you never know.:
Tyler turned his head and snorted. :Hopefully, she is what we called for and not some unfortunate soul that got caught in the crossfire. If she is, then our plan should work. Does she have any other Gifts than Mindspeech?:
Valdir shook his head, his forelock falling in front of his eyes. :Not that I can sense so far, but I do think that she will have another one. Jakob is a much stronger Mindspeaker from what you’ve told me. She’ll definitely be able to speak to me, the Companions and maybe the strongest Mindspeakers, but other than that, I doubt it will be very useful.:
:Makes you wonder what her power is going to be?: Tyler commented.
:Oh, I have an idea.: Valdir returned, mentally smirking.
Tyler rolled his eyes. :And of course you are not going to tell me. You would think that after so long, you’d realize that you can’t keep anything from me.:
:I know, but now is not the time. We only have a few marks before dawn, we’d better rest. I’m not so sure of my Chosen’s riding ability. It may be a long trip to Haven.:
Both settled into a stall at that point, knowing that they had a ten day trip ahead of them since they were only able to travel during the daylight hours.
By the time that Jakob had made it into the inn, after making sure that both Companions had grain and water within reach, Sabrina was no where to be found. He assumed she was in her room and wondered briefly if he dared to disturb her, but knowing that they had a hard ride ahead of them, he left her in peace. Going back to his room, he laid back down on his bed, mindful that he was going to need his rest. Thankfully, sleep followed him quickly and he was able to drop off into a fitful doze.
Sabrina was not so lucky. She lay on her bed, still wearing her robe, wondering what had just happened. She didn’t believe her Companion—first off, she had a Companion?—when he said that she was special. She knew she wasn’t special. Why did the Companion insist that she was needed? She turned on her side, the memories of the monsters and her dreams coming back to her. Her eyes began to droop and finally she dropped into sleep.
When she awoke a few marks later, to the crowing of a rooster in the village, Sabrina realized that it was the first time she had slept without nightmares in a moon. Puzzled, she got up. As she dressed, her memories of the previous night came back to her. Huh. I wonder if getting Chosen stopped those dreams? Were they really dreams? I’ve been seeing that monster that attacked me since the rumors of the monsters first came to us.
:I did not stop you from having those dreams, Chosen.:
The masculine voice in her head made her jump. “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she said aloud.
:Why? I can’t stop myself from hearing your thoughts unless you are Shielded and you haven’t learned how to do that yet.: Valdir said cheerfully. :You really might want to practice responding back the same way. Or you are going to be getting very strange looks from the rest of the population.:
Sabrina nodded her head and concentrated. :Strange looks I can deal with, but not knowing why you Chose me may drive me crazy.:
She felt Valdir’s chuckle in her head before he responded, :All in good time, Sabrina. Now, if I may suggest, get some food together for yourself and Jakob and then go about telling the village elders that you’ve been Chosen. Tyler has made his way away from here in order to preserve the deception that Jakob is a Bard. We will meet up with him as soon as we leave the village.:
:Why is it necessary to keep up the ruse?: she queried.
:In case we have to come back,: the Companion replied logically.
Sabrina thought about it and shrugged. She could find no fault with his logic. Quickly, she finished dressing and went down to the kitchen. She found Jakob there, building up the fire and paused, unsure of her feelings.
Jakob looked up as he sensed her watching him and smiled. “Heyla. I figured that I’d get the fire going so we could make breakfast and possible pack something to eat for lunch as well. It’s going to be a long journey and I’m a terrible cook.” He looked at her, seeing the question in her eyes and decided to answer it. “I did not know you would be Chosen or else I would have told you who I was. The Circle has sent me here to try to figure out what those blasted boggles are since anytime they send a Herald, somehow the attacks cease.”
“Then why not keep sending Heralds?” Sabrina asked bluntly.
Jakob sighed. “There are not enough of us to keep the entire country safe.”
Sabrina echoed his sigh as she made her way towards the stove. “I’ll get breakfast ready, then I’ll make something for lunch. Valdir wants to leave as soon as possible, otherwise I’d make us enough to last a couple of days. The best we can do is to take along some supplies and I can try to replenish our food as best possible.”
“I can hunt,” Jakob told her. “I just can’t cook what I hunt. I agree with Valdir and Tyler though. We need to leave soon. The Circle needs to know what I saw last night.”
Sabrina just nodded as she gathered breakfast. She thought over the previous night, trying to figure out what had happened. She kept seeing the image of the blade appearing through the monster’s body. Still puzzled, she gave the porridge a stir before turning back to Jakob. “Why didn’t the sword hurt it?” she asked.
Jakob looked at her, surprised that she was so calm about her experience. He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. That’s why it’s imperative to get back to Haven as soon as possible. It really frustrates me that we are not going to get back as soon as we need to.”
The frustration in his voice made Sabrina smiled. “We’ll get there.” She looked at the porridge again. “Let’s eat and then I’ll go let everyone know that I’ve been Chosen. I’ll have to arrange to have someone take over the inn for the time being. Inns are few and far between this far north, so it is important that it stays open.”
:Tell her that the Circle will make sure that it does stay open. We can have an innkeeper arrive about a moon after we leave,: Tyler told Jakob, who relayed the message.
“Thank you,” Sabrina said as she dished up the porridge. As they ate, she began to make a mental list of the best food to bring along for the trip.
:You only need to bring enough for a few days, Sabrina,: Valdir told her.
Sabrina jumped. “Bright Lady! Am I going to get used to that?”
Jakob smiled. “You mean your Companion talking in your head?” At her nod he continued, “Yes. You will. Feel lucky that you obviously have enough Mindspeech that you can talk to him.”
:Okay. Why do I only need enough to last a few days when the trip will last ten?:
:We can restock in villages on the way to Haven. Once we are far enough away from here, Jakob will change back into his Whites and will act like an escort to Haven. The less that the common people know, the better.:
:Makes sense,: Sabrina thought back to him before directing her attention back to Jakob. “I’d better get packed.”
Jakob nodded as they both stood. “I’ll clean up. I’ll slip out whilst you and Valdir are making the usual spectacle and Valdir will bring you to meet Tyler and myself about a mark outside of town.”
“It’s a plan,” Sabrina said was she walked out of the room.
Chapter 6: Welcome to the Collegium
Welcome to the Collegium
Sabrina was grateful when Valdir told her that they would be arriving at the Palace nearly a fortnight after they had left her adopted village. She was not used to riding and her muscles felt as if they would never unknot themselves.
They topped one last hill and Sabrina felt her jaw drop in amazement. The city of Haven lay in the valley before her and it was bigger than anything that she had encountered. She could see the walls around it gleaming in the daylight, seemingly glowing from within. In the center of the city lay a green expanse and she was puzzled by that.
:That’s Companions field,: Valdir told her.
“It’s massive; that’s what it is,” Sabrina responded faintly. “How can so many people live in that small area?”
“You get used to it,” Jakob responded. He looked down at the city, imagining what it would appear like to someone not used to cities.
Sabrina looked around at the plain walls that encompassed her bedroom. She had been through a whirlwind of activity once they had finally reached the Collegium. As they had ridden through winding streets of Haven, the amount of people in a small space had overwhelmed her. Valdir had kept his silence whilst they had traveled the last mark to the palace and she was grateful for that.
Once inside the building, Jakob had led her first to the Dean, a small birdlike man named Herald Elcarth who had questioned her relentlessly in regard to the schooling she had received and finally she had been introduced to Housekeeper Gaytha. Once she had her new uniform, Jakob had finally led her to her new bedroom and left her there.
What do I do now?
:Why, Chosen. You come and see me!: the indignant reply came.
Sabrina drew a breath and concentrated. :And I get to you, how?:
:First, you need to change into a uniform, so the palace guards don’t try to run you off.:
Sabrina rolled her eyes at his taunting tone as she quickly changed into the comfortable trousers and linen shirt, all in a soft grey color. :I feel strange not wearing a skirt, but I like it. It’s easier to move around.:
Valdir just chuckled as he directed her through the twists and turns of the building out into the afternoon sun.