Chapter 4: The Journey Begins

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Contrary to the expectations I used to have for my eighteenth birthday, the day actually went by in a haze. There was no ceremony to swear me into the Order; I didn't receive the golden belt all the White Sisters wore around their waist. The Sisters had outdone themselves with the buffet, though. Even Rowan ate until he could barely utter another word. His face had a greenish tint after devouring at least six of Sister Elma's muffins, and I later heard that he had spent the night above a bucket.

Rowan and I left the very next day. On the morning of my departure into the wide world, I took a last good look at myself in the mirror, imprinting my reflection on my memory because I believed it would be the last time that I would ever look like this. The thought had given my normally bright green eyes a dull glow, the freckles on my nose even more prominent than usual due to the sickly paleness of my skin.

The Sisters had all gathered in the main hall to say goodbye when I came down the stairs. Through the open front door, I saw Eros and Inna, saddled and ready to go. Rowan stood next to his horse, dressed in his impressive armor.

I turned my gaze back to the Sisters. Some of them were crying, concealing their tears behind a handkerchief or just sobbing loudly. The others, including Sister Clementine and Head Sister Ursula, manned themselves and gave me encouraging smiles. I walked to the group of women and their arms coiled around me all at once. I didn't cry, since I had already shed more tears during the past few days than in my whole life and I'd had quite enough of it.

Nevertheless, the Sisters' sadness was palpable in the air and a lump formed in my throat. I felt guilty for leaving them without knowing when we would meet again. Closing my eyes, I allowed myself to huddle in closer for just a moment longer.

Someone cleared their throat and I looked up to find Rowan standing in the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest. He tried to mask his impatience with a smile, but I took the hint. It was time.

I slowly disentangled myself from the Sisters' embrace. They all took a reluctant step back so that I could move past them.

However, before I could do so, a hand gripped my shoulder, stopping me. I turned around and saw Sister Harriett, holding a bundle of cloth in her arms. "Kenna, I wanted to give you this before you leave." She held up the cloth and unfolded it, revealing a magnificent, emerald green cloak.

Lost for words, I admired the cloak, stroking the soft fabric with my fingers. "Sister Harriett, this is beautiful! Did you make this yourself? The fabric must have been really expensive!"

"That doesn't matter. You are worth it." She helped me take off my old, gray cloak and replace it with the new one. Taking a step back, she inspected my new appearance. "The color matches your eyes perfectly, just as I expected."

A broad smile broke through on my face and I gave her a brief hug. "Thank you, Sister." She responded by squeezing me a bit tighter before letting me go.

I walked to the door, where Rowan was still waiting. "She's right, the color suits you," he said, gesturing at my cloak.

"Thanks."

We mounted our horses, and I quickly checked the saddlebag to see if I hadn't forgotten anything. All my stuff seemed to be in place, so I closed the bag again and nodded at Rowan. I was ready.

The Sisters walked along with us until we had reached the gate. Then Rowan and I took off at a gallop, leaving behind the Monastery and the only home I had known in my life.

The sun had just started to rise.

***

Our pace had slowed down to a walk to spare the horses, so I took the opportunity to look around. The path we were following wound through farmland that stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see. Every few miles, we passed a farmstead or a small village, but those were the only signs of human life. Grabbing my flask out of my saddlebag, I took a large sip of water. The cool liquid soothed my dry throat and I sighed with relief. It felt like we had been on the road for hours already.

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