Lisle stood next to Ma-Marn’s trunk in the cottage, face serious, pack on her back. Mina stood beside her. Sunlight streamed in through the window, lighting elongated squares on the worn, woven rug of indeterminate color, covering the floor.
“I want you to have this,” Mina said, lifting the lid of Ma-Marn’s trunk and carefully removing the fabric covered Book of One.
“No arguments. You take it. You might have need of it.”
Lisle reverently took the book and unshouldering her pack, placed the book carefully within.
“Th…th…” Lisle swiped at her eyes, as tears started to run down her cheeks.
“I know. Hush now, or you’ll have me crying like a younger.” Mina put her arms around Lisle. “I’m going to miss you little sister.”
“Mm..mm...me t…too.” Lisle hugged her sister hard and let the tears flow.
Wiping her eyes, Mina insisted on accompanying Lisle to the Guardian’s clearing. Having already weighed down Lisle’s pack with provisions to the very limit of Lisle’s ability to carry it, Mina wanted to bring still more to Gareth.
Calming, Lisle looked at Mina’s preparations questioningly. “H…he’s a huh…huh…hunter, you know.” Lisle said, as if that explained everything. Then she stared as pink rose up in Mina’s neck and traveled up into her cheeks. Lisle rolled her eyes.
“He’ll need more than just meat, you know,” Mina replied, fussing with a piece of red fabric covering the huge basket she intended to bring, and not looking at Lisle.
“F…fine,” said Lisle, smiling at the still blushing Mina.
They started out on the long walk that would take them to the Guardian’s new location. Fortunately, it was early. Early enough that the air was warm but not too warm for an enjoyable excursion. A gentle breeze played in the top branches of the trees as the path they trod twisted through the woods.
“I can hardly believe that Jessamin and Farn gave you permission to go,” said Mina as they walked.
Lisle looked at her sister and nodded. “M…me too.”
“They must really trust the Guardian.”
Lisle nodded again, “A…a…and Guh…Guh…Gareth.”
“Yes, Gareth,” Mina smiled and sighed.
“Yuh…you a…and Guh…Gareth huh?”
Mina looked at Lisle, startled. “Well… not yet… but what would be so wrong with that?” She finished in a rush. Mina’s face turned pink again. She hefted the basket and marched ahead.
Lisle smiled and shook her head, following along in her wake.
A morning of walking brought them to the Guardian’s clearing.
Ell was trotting about, flapping her wings. Gareth was carefully packing his scant possessions. He looked up as the girls entered the clearing, his gaze immediately drawn to Mina. Smiling he put down his pack. He sauntered over to them, or tried to as he barely missed a root that stuck up from the ground in front of him. He did a fast, awkward hop over the root, arms flailing. Recovering his balance and his dignity, he approached Mina.
“Day of the One, Mina.” Then it was as if words failed him. He just looked at her, lips twitching upward.
“Day of the One, Gareth.” Mina, cheeks pink, looked up at him.
Lisle stood next to Mina, looking back and forth between them. She made a disgusted noise and walked over to greet Ell, who had stopped running about and was watching the proceedings.
Lisle hugged Ell about the neck and turned to the pair seemingly locked in place, “L…let’s g…g…go.”
Mina, as if remembering herself, blinked and shoved the large basket toward Gareth.
“I thought you might need some travel food.”
Gareth grasped the basket by the handle and then quickly put his other hand underneath to support the bottom, as the weight of the basket almost dropped from his grasp.
“Thank you, Mina.”
He looked at the basket in his hands and then at Mina. Haltingly, he said, “I’d…I’d…” Then he blurted out in a rush, “I’d like to come back and see you after I get the Guardian and Lisle safely to Guardian Mountain.”
Mina’s face lit up, blue eyes wide, staring up at him. ”I’d like that very much.”
Gareth’s whole face beamed, eyes crinkling, mouth grinning, and cheeks turning rosy.
They looked at each other for what seemed like forever to Lisle.
“Well, shine it, we’d better get going,” said Gareth.
Mina held out her hand to him and he put the basket down and took it in both of his.
“Will you wait?” He asked, his face serious now.
Mina’s stared into his eyes. “Yes.”
Gareth nodded, grinning again, released her hand and bent to lift the basket and walk back to where his pack lay on the ground. Then he stood, looking perplexed as he studied the basket and then his pack, and then the basket again.
“I’ll do that,” said Mina, and she bustled over and made quick work of stuffing his pack full.
Gareth just gazed at her, his lips curved upward, eyes soft.
Finished packing, Mina stepped over to Lisle and Ell, nodded her head respectfully to the Guardian and gave Lisle another hug.
“Stay safe, Lisle. Come back as soon as you can.”
Just then Moss buzzed into the clearing and landed upon the Guardian’s back. A tiny bag hung across her chest. She looked from Lisle, to Mina and then Gareth and nodded.
“Would you look at that,” said Gareth. “Moss is coming with us. Usually, flier folk stay close to home.” He moved closer to where she sat now upon a gleaming ruby ridge on Ell’s back. “We are honored to have you join us, Moss.” Moss bowed her head in acknowledgment. She lifted into the air, wings whirring and looked back and forth between Gareth and Lisle.
“Ready to go?” Asked Gareth.
Moss nodded once and started off to the North, toward Guardian Mountain. Ell turned and with a running leap and a downward sweep of her wings, took to the air. Lisle started off after them, then turned to wave to Mina. Gareth gathered up his pack and smiled back at Mina. “One keep you,” he said.
“One keep you all,” said Mina, tears in her eyes as she waved her hand.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15