Chapter 1.2

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The sky turned an ugly grey as the rain began to fall by evening. But she did not move from her spot amongst the leaves. Merchants returning from a long day of selling and trading made their way home, but Dawn remained. Scared to make the slightest of motions. Even as their carts passed beside her and their merry voices spoke of their prosperous day, Dawn did not move.

Her parents. Jane. Ryder.

They were all gone.

Murdered.

All for a tome that she believed to only be a small errand of her father's. She had no idea what it contained and now more than ever she wished she had questioned her father more. Asked him what he was sending her to collect and what the words she had said to the cloaked man meant. The rain washed away the dirt on her face and once the sun had set and everyone was once again tucked into their homes, Dawn stood up. Her body was exhausted, and the pain of the arrowhead still lodged in her shoulder had grown to a constant throb.

She had to remove it before it got infected.

Dragging her feet, she set down the path of the dirt road. She had to find a tavern or a lodge. The horsemen could come back and she needed to restore her energy if she had to escape them again.

Although without Lilly, escaping anyone would be a challenge.

Stopping to rest and breath through the pain, Dawn came across a tavern that still had its torches lit. The squeals of women and the hearty laughter of drunk men was leaking out the windows. She nudged her way inside and hid in the shadows of the back wall. She swiped the drink of an unconscious man and poured it into her canteen. Dawn was careful not the spill any of the amber liquid, knowing that it would be needed when removing the arrowhead.

"Did you see the riders today?" One of the drunk men asked, a plump woman perched on his knee.

"They almost trampled me with their horses! Asking me if I'd seen some girl." His friend replied grabbing another drink off a tray held by a passing woman. The drink sloshed in the tray but the woman did not bat an eye, continuing on her path to the bar.

Dawn's ears perked up hearing this. She stepped further into the dimly lit tavern to hear what these men knew of the horsemen. Keeping an eye on the two drunk men and the women entertaining or replenishing their drinks, Dawn sank down on a chair and pulled the dirty collars of her shirt up.

She watched as the men grabbed fresh drinks from the passing women to which the tavern owner called out, "Oy! You want another drink? Then pay for it."

The two men crackled with laughter, flashing their rotting teeth. "Don't mind us! Just sampling the goods! Ain't that right dear?"

The man readjusted the woman on his lap and brought her mouth down to his, spilling his drink on her partly opened bodice. She squealed and pulled him closer as his friend laughed, watching the pair kiss.

"Hey now. Let the girl breathe!"

The man pulled away and smiling to his friend said, "one of the riders said that if we found the girl there would be a hefty reward."

Dawn swiped a few clean napkins from the table beside her and took another sweep of her surroundings. The tavern owner was looking down and the women were otherwise occupied. Slipping out the same way she came in, Dawn rounded the tavern to the stables. There were two horses tied there but finding a clean area of hay, she set her supplies. Sitting down she pulled the shoulder of her shirt aside and reached around to grab the arrowhead.

Blood had dried on her skin and the angry wound had swelled around the arrow. Gritting her teeth, she tried pulling the metal out, but pain shot through her body. She could taste blood in her mouth and her vision blurred. She rolled the napkins she had stolen and bit down on them. Taking a deep breath, she grabbed what remained of the arrow's shaft and gave one final pull.

The horses stomped against the hay as she let out a scream from deep within her. Taking a swing of the bitter amber liquid she poured the rest over the puckered skin, releasing a shuddering breath as she cleaned her wound. She was shaking from the pain as her vision went in and out of focus, but she had to stay awake. The men from the tavern would be leaving soon and they would come for their horses.

Dawn had just made it out of the stables when the two men came stumbling in. After tripping while trying to climb on their saddle, they finally mounted their horses. But their conversation halted Dawn once again.

"I heard that magic is back. Can you imagine the things we could do with magic!"

His friend turned to him and shaking his head said, "Magic is a children's story. Never existed! All I need is a drink in my hand and a warm body in my bed."

Dawn had heard the stories of magic but like the man she believed that it was nothing but children's lore. She recalled her father's voice telling her about a people who could heal any disease, any wound with just a touch of their hand. Stories of brave warriors that could transform into animals and wipe out any threat to the kingdom. But she had stopped believing in those stories. Magic didn't exist. There weren't any warriors that protected the kingdom.

If there were, her family would be alive.

The voice of the men brought her back from her thoughts, "I heard the King is falling out of favour."

"Shh! If the guards heard, you'd be killed! And your ugly face still owes me copper!"

The men had made their way to the road, but Dawn could still hear their voices.

"Ha! I'll make a wager with you. If magic isn't real, I'll give you your copper, but if it is real then you have to give me silver!"

"Deal you old drunk!"

Turning away from the two, Dawn crept deeper into the forest looking for a place to setup camp. The ground was damp from the evening rains, but her shoulder was beginning to pulse with pain. She had to find a place to stop otherwise she would fall unconscious in the middle of the forest. Finding a relatively dry patch of grass Dawn sat down. She found some berries nearby and hoped they were not poisonous. But with how her life had changes, maybe poisonous berries would be a blessing in disguise. Her eyes became heavy and as she slipped off into unconsciousness, she though she heard a branch snap but was too far gone to open her eyes.

***

The sound of a snapping branch caused her to jerk awake. Her sweat soaked clothes clung to her skin as she squeezed her eyes shut from the throbbing headache. Her shoulder was numb, pinpricks at the tips of her fingers was the only sensation she could register. But the gentle footfalls of someone approaching caught her attention. Peeling her eyelids open, Dawn focussed on the light of fireflies flutterings around her. Emerging from behind the glowing points of light, a woman dressed in an elegant gown that looked to be bellowing around her approached. Her hair cascaded down her back and poised on her brow was a diadem of gold flowers.

She crouched in front of her as Dawn sat, transfixed by how her warm smile transformed the forest around her. She breathed life into the night air as the fireflies fluttered around her diadem, illuminating the delicate craftsmanship.

"Who are you?" She whispered.

The woman smiled. And Dawn watched as she extended her hand to placed it against her cheek. She closed her eyes against her soothing touch, her headache dissipating. She moved her hand from her cheek to her shoulder until it rested on her wound, the puckered skin bleeding and mixing with her sweat soaked shirt. Yet where pain was meant to burst, a deep warmth began. It seeped into her body, relaxing her tense muscles and Dawn let out an appreciative sigh.

Opening her eyes, Dawn asked the woman again, "Who are you?"

The woman reached around her and placed a bundle of clothes near her resting spot. But when Dawn expected her to answer the question she had asked twice before, an urgency entered her gaze.

"Keep the tome safe."

Her eyes widened. "What do you know of the tome?"

The woman began to step back, the fireflies retreating with her, "No, wait! Why did those men want the tome? What is inside!"

She called but the woman did not cease at her requests. Soon she was gone and Dawn was lulled back into a deep slumber. 

A/N Hi there, thanks for reading. Hope you are liking the story so far. Are you going to click that star? Maybe write a comment? Possibly add this story to your reading list?

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