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TotTSM – Part 14

“Thank the goddesses.” she breathed, throwing her arms around Voren and hugging him tightly. He might have hugged her back of course had his arms not been full with their things. His coat, Phena’s wrap, and the chest they had brought with them from Ori’s room. It wasn’t terribly large, about half the size of a normal sheet of parchment, nor was it terribly tall, but it was made of some kind of silver metal and was very strong, certainly a bit heavy after a while.

“Miss me?” Voren chuckled through his relief. For a minute when he had woken up and realized Phena wasn’t there, he feared they had snatched her up some how, but left him behind because he was of no consequence or something.. The early morning light Voren had been able to make out the last remnants of a couple fires far off in the distance, which meant to him that the Palace soldiers were indeed after them but were as of yet in no hurry for whatever reason. He feared the worst until he heard her shouting for him. “What happened to you? Why did you run off without waking me?”

Phena looked at him oddly. Almost.. hurt, perhaps.

“I didn’t..”

Now it was Voren’s turn to take on a confused countenance.

“Then… I… I don’t understand, how did you get from there to here?”

Phena shrugged.

“If I had an answer for that, I’d feel relieved. It’s like I told you before. I go to sleep and then I wake up and I’m somewhere else. Before when it would occur it would just– would just wind up somewhere else in my city, like in a field or something. But the other day I woke up and I was on the road that lead to the city gates. Where you found me.”

“So.. you are just plucked from your home and left somewhere?”

Phena again nodded.

“That’s so.. annoying. I’m sorry.. Well, it’s good you found the river at least. Seems we weren’t too far away from it after all last night.. We should get going though. When I got up I saw smoke in the distance, I think from camp fires.”

“No time for food even?” Phena frowned, her stomach suddenly rumbling in protest.

“Ah, yes well,” began Voren, crouching down and gently opening the small chest. ” it seems Ori thought of everything and included some dried meets and a bit of cheese and bread n the bundle she gave us. I think we can split that for now and then get on with it, yeah?”

Phena gave a terse nod; soon accepting the food Voren pulled from the chest and set into her hands..

“Many thanks..” a moment of silence passed. “So… we follow the river then? This river? Downstream until we get to a bend?”

“That’s what she said..” Voren frowned. Making quick work of his food.

It seemed so strange to think that just a day- nay. almost two and a half by now, that he had found Phena walking on the road, taken her to his house, and then tried to shuffle her inside to see Ori.. Somehow it felt as though he had known her for a great deal more.. Perhaps he was over thinking this whole thing. He knew Phena didn’t care for him a great deal. She seemed to think everyone had an ulterior motive around her. Maybe if he was the one constantly plucked from his bed and deposited somewhere else on a whim he might feel the same, but he still felt that there was something about Phena that was special.

“Well, then.. let’s be off.. And perhaps on the way, you can tell me about yourself Voren. You already know more about me than I thought.. And you’re aware of how truly odd I am.. Being moved all over without my consent in the middle of the night.” her eyes rose to his then, as if searching for the answer as to whether or not he believed her about the transporting business.It was entirely possible, from his point of view anyway, that she had just gotten up in the middle of the night from their little log hideaway and settled on the river bank. But she hoped he knew she hadn’t done that. It was a very cramped log, surely he would have felt her move, let alone get up and leave.

Whether or not she found what she was looking for, Phena drew a deep breath, brushed her hands off on her thighs and offered to take the small red chest from Voren, who handed it over with a thankful nod. The day was promising to be a pleasant one, weather wise. The sigh was climbing higher, the wind was warm, the birds were finally out. Voren had always believed that as long as some kind of bird was singing, that life was generally proceeding without danger. It was when said birds went silent that trouble was coming.

“So..” he breathed, starting down the bank of the river. “We follow this to the bend.. and then what?  Are we supposed to meet someone do you think?”

Phena shrugged.

“I wish I knew. I wish we had been able to talk to Ori at length about this..”

“As do I..” Voren breathed glancing behind them for a moment to make sure they weren’t leaving tell-tale prints in the sand for their pursuers to follow. The last they needed was for some soldier to find their footprints, assume they were heading down the river, then alert the rest of his company to cut them off. Of course if they had dogs or an exceptionally gifted trackers, then it might happen regardless, but that didn’t mean he wanted to give them any more means by which to do so..

Lips  pursed slightly, Voren glanced around them once more.

“I’ve never been in this area before myself. I haven’t a clue where the next city is or even how to get there.” he frowned, turning his gaze then to Phena who appeared remarkable calm about all this when just five minutes ago she was screaming for him to find her at the top of her lungs.

“That makes two of us. But I guess all we can do is continue on to the bend and see what’s waiting for us. I didn’t know this Ori like you did, but it didn’t seem to me that she would send us this way for nothing..” reason Phena quietly; her own gaze fixated on the side a few yards to their right. Something about its flowing clear waters seemed relaxing; in fact she found herself almost mesmerized by it. After some time of being lost in the sounds of it, Phena realized she could hear someone talking– no, whispering.. As if  she were on the other side of some door, listening to a hushed conversation. The more she listened, the more faint the words became, and yet when she backed off, the whispering became louder, but just as unintelligible. “Irritating..” she sighed, shaking the daze off.

“Huh? What did you say?” Voren blinked, looking over.

“Nothing.. I mean.. I well, I’m sure this wont help the ‘I’m not crazy argument, but.. I was staring at the river, just listening to the sound of the water flowing, and… I don’t know what happened.. I felt like I zoned out and could hear someone… something whispering.. But the more I listened to try and hear what was being said, the more distant it became.. ”

Voren looked at her oddly. The more he got to know, the more evident it became that Phena was no ordinary girl from some backwards village he never heard of.

“And you’re sure it was… the river?” Voren blinked, looking a bit unsure.

“Who else would it have been?” countered Phena, exhaling loudly.

“Well… the old stories say that there are spirits in everything.. Old spirits even when the world was young..  No one remembers how they were supposed to be contacted, but it’s said the Old Ones would seek these spirits advice for all kinds of things.”

“Oh.” Was all Phena said for a minute or so. “Well, then maybe there’s still hope I’m not crazy.” giving a terse laugh.

“I don’t think you’re crazy.” Voren said unexpectedly, causing Phena’s attention to snap back to him; another tentative smile on her lips.

“Thank you…” she breathed, and went quiet once more. She wasn’t certain how long this walk was going to be, but it seemed wise to save the conversation until they could afford it. So once more she turned to the river, at least with her ears and her thoughts, listening to those same sounds as before; before long she slipped into that state again where she heard the whispers.

Determined not to let herself become frustrated, Phena acknowledged them briefly, then made herself ignore the whispering. And it was when she did that Phena noticed a change, the whispering became louder, words more clear. As if now wanting or expecting her to pay attention.

Not likely.. No. You’re not going to ignore me then command my attention..  She noted, forcing the thoughts away even more.  Which again caused the volume and clarity of whatever was being said to rise. Finally she turned her mind back to it quickly and when she did, it felt to Phena as if she ‘hooked’ on to something– some thought trail, or freying line of communication.

Young daughter, you must go to A’freal..

Phena blinked, had she just heard that?

What? Hello? A’freal? Where is that?

“What’s the matter, Phena?” Voren inquired when he face suddenly took on an unmistakable look of fear.

“I…. someone told me that… we have to go to A’freal.. Do you know where that is?”

Voren shook his head.

“I don’t.. but maybe we can find someone soon who will tell us. The… river told you, did it?” he blinked, head slightly tilted to the side.

“Someone did.. All I know is it’s the only thing we have to go on.”

“All right then.” Voren smiled. “I guess we’ll do that then.”

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