And Miles to go Before We Sleep

It is quiet around the campfire tonight. The snow does well to mask the sound of the fire crackling against what firewood they could get to ignite. All the rest were wet with snow. The cold is piercing; makes the throat dry, hurts the skin. Still, this quiet probably hurts more.

Stiff hands rub themselves against each other. Tips of frost have already found themselves on the edges of [REDACTED]’s hair. Across him sits his runaway partner, a pretty thing, but the dark circles under her eyes and the way she’s bruising her lips with the way she’s worrying them with her teeth kind of betray that. Her hair is a small mess under a heavy, heavy cloak. Not far behind her is a meager tent that the two of them have set up for the night. Dinner was a stray, thin turkey that they managed to steal from what looked like a freshly pillaged village.

How many days has it been since they’ve been running? {REDACTED} no longer knows, really. This goddamn cult really did well with warping everybody’s perspective of time.

“Galda,” he speaks, looking at the redheaded girl in front of him. “We should rest.”

That seems to bring the girl back to her senses, those pretty grey eyes flashing back towards him. She blinks twice and then pulls her cloak tighter around her. [REDACTED] feels himself envying the gloves that she’s wearing. They seemed warm. Alas, they could only find time to steal one pair from the same place that they’d found that turkey.

“Right. We have more ground to cover tomorrow,” her brows furrow and he can feel himself worry. He knows she hasn’t been sleeping well but the last time that he tried to approach her about that, it turned into a fight. Still, Galda seems to insist to head to this… what was it? A port town? To go to where? The Sun Continent? That she had some sort of vision? [REDACTED] didn’t really understand, but there wasn’t much the two of them could do. Besides, it was Galda who could do magic and not him.

As it was, [REDACTED] felt like he was nothing but baggage most days.

More snow from the dark sky. A lump of it falls from a tree not far, crumbling against the damp soil. The wood crackles again, sending up embers into the air. [REDACTED] and Galda stare as a bit of smoke curls up with it. They both sigh heavily.

“W-we have to pack up-” and Galda’s voice almost breaks. “That’s basically a flare signalling where we are.”

“Maybe we can let it lie for now? Galda, you’re tired,” comes the resistance, but his concern is only met with a steely gaze.

“And have them find us in our sleep?”

The two lock eyes, equally tired and desperate.

It’s [REDACTED] that hangs his head in defeat. He walks over to the tent, feet sinking slightly into the snow. He watches for a moment as Galda begins to help him pack up the tent. They soon roll their beddings. Galda wordlessly hides away whatever they had left of dinner in a rucksack and wishes they could find a river to wash it in soon. A spring, a small lake – anything, really.

Galda tries to not think of how she should be curled up nice and warm in the Calligura Compendium, safe within its alabaster walls and under her blankets. How the only thing that should be waking her in the night is the sound of her dorm mates whispering scary stories into each other’s ear while huddled by the fireplace. The thought only makes her eyes water and her lip quiver, and she’d really rather not let [REDACTED] see that. No matter how her legs shake, no matter how the tears threaten to fall, they need to find that Keep in the Continent of the Sun to find the one who’ll recognize the pendant she so carefully keeps tucked away in her pocket. She had dreamt of this a few days before things fell to ruin.

“Just a bad dream,” she’d thought.

Now it just feels that the nightmare has become her new reality.

But that man in armor in that Tower- she remembers the way the sun shone against the black steel, how her skin had felt so warm, how his voice sounded. We’ll find a way out of this hell if we find him.

“Galda?” [REDACTED]’s voice shot clear through her daze and suddenly she was back in this cold, cold forest, with nothing else but the boy in front of her and the bags on their backs. The snow was falling around her and her breath created small clouds as she sighed, the doubt eating at her brain for a moment.

What if the Cult found them before they could find the Tower in the Sun?

What if the snow swallowed them up before they could get to that port city?

What if [REDACTED] decided to leave her?

Suddenly warm hands wrapped themselves around her cheeks. She hadn’t even realized how cold they were until his hands came around.

“Where’d you go?” [REDACTED]’s voice was suddenly so clear amidst the fogginess of her brain.

“I’m okay,” Galda says, shaking her head, a little embarrassed. “Let’s keep going.”

He takes one more look at her before turning around to keep leading, opening up the map again and tapping at the compass they saved from her old home. The sounds of his footsteps are so steady that it helps set her own pace.

The snow seems to blanket the small sounds of the ice crushing under their feet. The silence, this time, does not hurt more than the cold.

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