LotSF: Marching Out

CHAPTER 1

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When I got back to the gypsy tribe camp, it was abuzz with anxious anticipation. To my blind eyes, it looked like a flock of birds, all different colours, flying in a flurry between the trees like a bright, feathery whirlwind. I could feel their tension, tightening the air and making me feel short of breath, and Faith tossed her head with agitation. She sidestepped warily under the saddle and I patted her shoulder to reassure her. I searched the forest for anything that made sense, and finally picked out Nolan, standing alone and looking incredibly upset.

I slid off Faith, pulling her reins over her head and leading her gently towards my distraught friend, her hooves thumping softly on the moss. Nolan glanced up immediately, ears twitching, mouth twisting into an anxious grimace, and he refused to look at me when I reached him. Instead, he held out a hand to Faith, rubbing her nose and scratching her behind the ears. She nudged him, looking for treats, but he had none and so she was content to let him scratch her, closing her eyes with pleasure.

I stood there silently, watching the expression on Nolan’s face waver between chin-quivering fear and narrow-eyed anger. He was struggling to work out his feelings towards me, I knew, and he hadn’t yet decided if he was still mad at me for our fight or if his fear for our well being was greater. Staring fixedly at my hand as I picked dirt out from under my fingernail, I asked tersely, “Are you ready?”

I heard him inhale sharply, heard the pain behind the action. He’s not ready, I thought grimly, but he answered, “Yes, I’m fine,” as if I didn’t know any better. There was a pause, his hand stopping on Faith’s forehead, and then he asked waveringly, “Are you?”

I stopped picking at my nail and my hand dropped reflexively down to the hilt of my sword. I ran my thumb along the ridged leather. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” I said with false resolve. I wanted to tell Nolan that I wasn’t ready, that I was certain this battle would end badly, but pride stopped me. I wasn’t about to admit weakness to him, not when he thought I’d given up on myself–which I very clearly had not. I wasn’t the kind of person to give up.

He stared at me then, straight on, his strange pale green, pupil-less eyes searching mine. “I don’t want to die,” he said plainly, voice devoid of emotion. “I don’t want you to die.” He stopped, forehead creasing as he thought, and then said, “You shouldn’t fight. You can’t see, or hear–”

“Shut up,” I snapped hotly. “I am going to fight. Bearskins are different. I’ll be fine.” Only half of it was a lie. It was true, that bearskins were easier to see, since they took on disguises, but the me being fine part… Without my sight, I would be seriously crippled. I knew that. For the first time, I’d be entering a fight without any idea what to expect. I was willing to face it, to take whatever was to come, and Nolan was going to have to let me. If I was going to live the rest of my life without magic, then I wanted to know I could handle it.

We stared at each other for a moment longer, both testing the other’s stubbornness, until Nolan finally turned away, walking a few paces off where he’d dropped his backpack. He sat on the ground and started digging through it, muttering to himself, and I assumed our conversation was over. I turned to leave but he called out, “Stop,” and I spun on my heel to face him.

He had found whatever he was looking for and now walked back towards me, hand held out in offering. He was holding a feather, brown with white stripes, and his eyes implored me to take it. “For protection,” he said lowly, and I carefully took it from him.

“Thank you,” I murmured, before leading Faith away. When I was far enough away from Nolan, I rebraided my hair, tying the feather onto the bottom the way he always did. I needed all the protection I could get, and I hoped that his gesture would bring us luck. I didn’t want our fight to endanger our lives.

Just as soon as I’d finished my braid, the tumbling mass of frenzied birds–the gypsy sprites–suddenly reached a peak in their panic. They began to move en masse, a few select voices crying out louder than the others. I couldn’t see them clearly, but the message was obvious.

We were moving out to battle.

I exhaled, steadying myself even as I felt panic start to swim in my stomach, and thought dryly, Ready or not, here I come.

***

It’s been a while, what else is new? I’m going to try to write three blog posts this week, to try to get myself back into a more regular routine.

My life is going good right now, I’m happy to announce. All the crap from before is cleared out, I’m feeling happy and relaxed, and Canada is finally experiencing SPRING! The temperature was double digits today (Celsius, of course), and I could actually go outside without even so much as a sweater! They were saying on the news that this was the first time in 128 days that we’d had double digits in my area. Holy crap, am I happy to feel the sun.

Anyways, coming up in the next chapter of LotSF–action! Yay! Finally, after 20 chapters or so, there’s actually going to be danger! And fighting! And magic! Hooray! Haha, I’m actually quite excited, I’ve been waiting for this for a while.

I hope all’s well in your lives. Feel free to let me know in the comments :)

What battles are you marching off to?

May you never have a winter that lasts longer than the spring.

-Alex

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