Chapter Sixteen

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           Siobhan leaned in the doorway of the hunter's cabin, one hand twirling her staff, watching as the flurries joined their brethren coating the ground. Sounds of the horses stirring in the small stable beside the cabin broke through the silence. She glanced over her shoulder at the lump of Wren tangled in his covers, dark curls poked out from under the cloth.

He'd heeded her advice and erased every form that made him Wren. When she first went to Rosie's pink room and saw a young Ardornian girl kicking her heels against the sheets, sulking, even Siobhan had to take a second look. The girl was small, barely ten, swimming in Wren's clothes. Even her voice had the heavy drawl of the southern island nation.

"Shall we wake him?" Elias asked as he stepped beside her, setting a bucket of hay down inside the cabin.

"Nay. We'll stay another night, let him sleep and enjoy the peace while he can."

"But the storm is lifting, travel should be easier, far better than when we left Firnlan at least. Why continue to stay here?"

"Two nights. No more, no less, that's what the hag said. Why? Beats the Goddess out of me." She sighed and stepped from the door to the dying fire burning in the circular pit against one wall. Sparks snapped and drifted into the air when she tossed a handful of twigs into the smoldering wood. Though Lady Lenore had been true to her word, a third horse and covered wagon filled with supplies awaited them in the stables, she'd forgotten one crucial detail: enough wood for several nights of fire. When they left the cabin, they'd still have two days of travel, if they were lucky, before reaching the first outreaching buildings of Wyvernton. Finding wood not buried under snow would be impossible. They'd wear out the fire totems long before they reached Wyvernton at that rate. At least the wagon kept them out of the snow when they rested on the road.

"I don't like trusting the Witches of Drakewood," Elias said, sitting on the crumpled mass of his makeshift bed. He grabbed a jug of water sitting beside his bed and dipped a hand inside. The gills on his neck pulsated when he closed his eyes and released a breath. It wasn't enough water to reveal his fins, but it was certainly enough to send his body in a frenzy. Water to an Aquantian was like a drug to anyone else.

"Neither do I." She turned back to the fire and watched the sparks flicker against the wood. Orange rippled as it ate at the new twigs. There were a few more pieces of larger wood behind in the cabin, but Siobhan wanted to save that for when the nights were at their coldest.

"M'lady, I know you made a promise to him, but are you sure it's wise to continue to the spires? Even without knowing the whole story, we know enough to know Wren is in danger of the Vanguard."

"Wise? Nay. It's about the stupidest thing we could do." She sighed and turned to face Elias. He was rubbing the water against his gills, soaking the thin flesh as it throbbed with his breaths. "I find us in an impossible situation, Elias. I'd be lying if I said I knew what to make of it. I don't. Not since father was murdered have I felt so lost and vulnerable. Rationally, we should head to the High Mages, leave Wren with them, and never look back."

"But?"

Siobhan touched a finger to her lips and knitted her brow. Her eyes drifted to the mass of Wren, shifting within his covers. One foot, dirty and bare, kicked out from underneath and dragged against the rough wood of the cabin ground. Wren was an enigma that could quickly turn into a nightmare if she wasn't careful.

"But," she said, looking back to Elias, "there's something nagging at me. It isn't that the hags told me to take him to the spires, Goddess knows I'd ignore them in a heartbeat if it served my interests. And it's not the hope of rescuing Natalia. Until proven otherwise, I truly believe she's as good as dead, if not dead already. There's an imbalance in the world, Elias. Perhaps imbalance isn't the right word. Answer me this, why aren't we in Ardorn? You and I both know we could've gotten there without much money years ago. So why are we still in the lowlands?"

Draygon Frost | Book 1  | ✔️Where stories live. Discover now