2: Homecoming

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The following day, Blayre, Ainslee and Fletcher filed out of the Three Archers, bundled against the cold of early morning. Frost-covered grass crunched beneath her boots as she crossed the stableyard leading her gray mare.

    Growing up in the mountains had, if anything, made Blayre dislike the cold even more. She rubbed her nose into the softness of her scarf - imported material from the southern end of the continent that Fletcher had gifted them the previous mid-winter. Having grown up on the coast, he knew his way about the merchant stalls.

"You're acting as though someone is about to spring from that door and attack you." Ainslee's musical voice startled Blayre, who had not even realized she was staring at the door to the Three Archers in the first place.

    Blayre rolled the tension from her shoulders and diverted her attention to her friend, as Ainslee's creamy freckled nose and striking auburn curls disappeared underneath her own dark scarf and hood. The pair of gray eyes that peaked out at her were glittering mischievously. "Are you looking for the man you were with last night?"

"Ains, for the last time, I was just exploring."

    "Well you were exploring for quite a long time, and if you ask me there isn't much to explore in this place. You left me to fend for myself with this drunkard." Ainslee kicked Fletcher in the shin.

The accused glared up at her from the bench he had seated himself on to re-lace his leather boots, squinting despite the cloud cover. Fletcher shook his sheaf of brown hair out of his eyes. His gaze shifted to Blayre. "I'm appalled that you left me behind in your explorations." He pouted dramatically.

    Blayre rolled her eyes. "I just needed some air." And she had - originally, until she felt the pulses of Ripley's power calling to her like the scent of an injured animal calls to a carnivorous beast. There were once people who could sense magic, Ripley had said, and they hunted wizards. Well, that was already what her job as a seeker entailed - except Seekers brought rogue mages to the capital for a trial rather than flat out killing them. The difficult part was finding hard evidence to incriminate the ones she apprehended when she so badly wanted to just tell everyone what she could do.

But Blayre did not want to face the repercussions that the public knowledge of her Sense would bring. She would likely be viewed by her fellow Seekers as a cheat. She could be controlled and used by powerful people to meet their needs. Or neither of those things would happen and her power might be glorified. She would be unstoppable as a Seeker, and likely a top candidate for The Twelve. Was achieving her dream worth being shunned by her friends and the first real sense of community she had ever felt?

    "Let's get going." Blayre said, eager to change the subject. The normal thrill she felt at the prospect of apprehending a rogue mage was dampened by their destination, and her worry over the state of the Duke de Vihrea. Rorrick and Ripley hadn't been in the common room for breakfast and when Blayre had inquired as to the status of the patrons of room 3-03, the staff-member had replied that they had sent for their breakfast to be brought up to them.
    Curiosity had overcome her once more and she had made a quick round of the third floor, hand in pocket, searching for that feeling of wrongness that had come from the crystalline object she had obtained from Rory. She had felt no trace of it, which meant his body had either expelled it, or they had left the Inn.

Which was almost fine with Blayre - the thought of facing Ripley again made her queasy.

"You ok?" Fletcher said, shrinking his long strides to match her short ones as they headed for the stable yard of the Three Archers. "I know returning home is probably - difficult for you." His words were intended to be a comfort, but instead they were a reminder of what had been bothering her in the first place - prior to last night's run-in.

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