Edward’s body froze in the spot as someone clutched his shoulder. It was more shock than fear. “Someone’s being a creep” said this person. It was uncertain who this was. The morphing of the voice made it difficult to ascertain who it was. He turned back to see Ravenna winking at him.
“Didn’t know you were the stalker type” she said. He was uncertain whether the fact that Ravenna being the one to catch him sneaking was relieving or even more embarrassing. He slowly put the piece of paper in his pocket as she continued. “Oh, so it’s your mom that you’re eavesdropping on. Who’s that dude? Is he the one who you guys came here looking for? Then what are you hiding for? Don’t tell me he’s her runaway boyfriend!” Edward didn’t have any answers to her questions. He just turned back to face them. Tyler was back on his feet now but still looked disgruntled. They hadn’t spoken since he read the letter.
“Hey, fill me in.” Ravenna kept pestering Edward so that she could be looped in to this situation but his gaze was solely fixed upon his mother.
“Where’s the boy?” Tyler asked, now breaking the silence and deflecting Mirriam’s confusion regarding his own strong reaction to the letter. Edward understood that he was talking about him. Mirriam hadn’t mentioned Edward till this point which meant that he was definitely mentioned in the first letter that Tyler read. The letter which had long finished its descent down the cliff and one which the curious Edward could never reach.
Mirriam lit up in excitement, as he had finally knocked off his stubborn stance on the matter. She wondered what was in the letter that had literally brought him down on his knees. Her curiosity was even mistier than Edward’s because she hadn’t read either of them and was now regretting her decision to respect Randall’s privacy. She believed she deserved some more information on the matter since it was her son who had the most to lose in this matter.
Before Mirriam could reply, the now pissed off Ravenna grabbed Edward’s collar and pulled him up with herself, revealing both of them to Mirriam and Tyler. She was clearly tired of being left out and decided to break her way in the way she knew best. “This the boy you’re looking for?”
No reaction came out of Tyler but Mirriam wailed “EDWARD!!” which he knew was a direct translation to “Outrageous” in this particular situation. With years of experience, he had honed his ability to decipher the level of punishment he was about to be served based on the pitch, volume and length of the utterance of his name in such fashion. This time, it was critical danger and his instincts were telling him to run. But he knew that breaking free of Ravenna’s clutch was scientifically impossible and he had given up without even putting up a struggle.
“What are you doing here!?” she asked him. She sounded like she was about to kill him in a few minutes. Poor Edward didn’t know how much she has tried to keep things hidden from him these last few days. Mirriam tried to rewind the whole conversation she had with Tyler to ensure that no big secrets were told out loud. She was confident for the most part about the conversation having no juicy details but there was still a tinge of fear.
“How long have you been listening in on us and why? And Ravenna! Why are you involved in this too?” she asked, seeing that he hadn’t given an explanation yet.
“Hey, I just got here. This chimp wasn’t telling me anything so I sold him out” she said very confidently which Edward envied. She walked up to both of them and faced Tyler. “So, this is the dude that you came all this way to meet? I’ve seen tidier swines. What do you want with this guy?” she said very bluntly but it didn’t faze Tyler at all.
“Hey, don’t talk like that!” cried Mirriam. “You’ve just met him. Judging someone like that openly without even knowing a thing about them. It’s not nice”
“After having met so many people, I can pick out all kinds of ’em. The boasters, the liars, the cowards. This one’s a worthless coward, I can tell from a glance.” Ravenna wasn’t hesitant of being inconsiderate for the second time.
Mirriam turned to Tyler and apologised to him about her behaviour. He said he didn’t mind and instead asked who she was.
“She helped us get here. This is Ravenna, an adventurer and a splendid warrior. She saved our lives when we were in Kirkpod” said Mirriam. Ravenna smiled when she was associated as a ‘splendid warrior’. She thought it was an apt description. Nobody had officially termed it that way so she was just giggling inside.
“And that must be your son” said Tyler, now looking at Edward. His sight was eerie. When their eyes met, Edward felt a kind of fear which didn’t seem to exude from his appearance. There was something about his eyes. Edward felt like there was something trapped behind his dead and hellish eyes. As if something was trying to break out. He felt really uncomfortable around him.
“Yes” she said “This is him.” Her gaze was quite relaxing even though she was still a bit angry.
“Right, let’s talk then. Come to my house. It’s only a minute from here.” Said Tyler after which he walked inside to inform his employers of his absence. Mirriam turned to both Edward and Ravenna and asked them to go back to the inn. She made it clear that the things they wanted to talk about had to be kept between them and she would eventually tell both of them what they needed to know. Edward protested with his face while Ravenna spoke up. “I hate being kept in the dark like this but if my client wants some privacy, I’m gonna give it to her. Although I’m pretty sure you have lame reasons to hide whatever it is that you are, given your history of hiding things.
Both Edward and Mirriam started walking back to the inn and Mirriam followed Tyler who had now taken off his apron and was walking up to his house. Like he said, it was only a minute away. It was a small cottage among the few hundred cottages in the place and the area was eerily quiet.
“Do all the women work in the mines too?” asked Mirriam for she didn’t see anyone around.
“Yes. Nobody can afford to sit back. Most women are into farming rather than mining. But they have to travel 20 miles to get there. We can only cultivate wheat and potatoes around these parts. Luckily, it’s enough to keep us alive.” He said as he was trying to unlock his door. Nobody else had locked their doors. Some had even left theirs unbolted.
“I don’t see any children around. Is there a school here?” In Vereen, children were home schooled as per the instructions of the lord.
“No school here. Not many children either. There’s about a hundred and fifty kids in total in this town of a thousand. The teens lend a hand in the mines while the younger ones help around in the market or just play there.” He said as he opened the door and let Mirriam in. “Where’s the boy and your bodyguard?”
“Actually, they don’t know anything yet. I too just found out a week ago when Randall came to my home. Ed only learned about the Soul Keepers this morning. I think it might be too soon to break it to him.” Mirriam was in a really tight spot indeed.
“Hmm, I see. Based on what Randall said, I think there’s a lot you people don’t know. I’ll have to assume that you’ve woken up after a 14 year slumber and are just getting used to the times.” He said to which Mirriam nodded.
“It will be difficult, to hide things from the boy. We’ll have to tell him soon. I will leave that decision to you but don’t hold out for too long. It will make things more difficult than they are.” Tyler suggested and Mirriam agreed. “The real problem is the mercenary. It’s best we keep this secret to us. No point in letting outsiders get wind of such sensitive information. If people were to find out, things can get really bad.”
“She’ll be leaving soon. She promised to take us to Braumchester and back to Vereen, my hometown and we promised her some payment in return. If we start for Vereen today, we can get there in 5 days and clear the payment” suggested Mirriam reluctantly. She had grown to enjoy Ravenna’s company these past few days.
“How old is your boy exactly?” asked Tyler
“He’s about five weeks older than fourteen now” said Mirriam immediately. After learning about the deadline, she had a very precise count on Edwards’s age.
“Hmm, it’s best if we don’t waste any time on unnecessary expeditions. We first need to acquire information. I know someone who can help us with that. We’ll have to go to Johancoop, one of the four great cities. It is on the edge of the border like Braumchester. We just have to ride south. There are better experts of course but he’s the one we can get to fastest. Time is of the essence” said Tyler as he opened the windows to let the light rush in and illuminate his dark house. It was really neat and humble while also looking too empty. It’s as if there was nothing to come home to after a long day at work except a bed and a sheet. Mirriam wondered why he went through all the trouble to lock his doors when he had nothing to lose.
“But that’s a violation of our agreement. I doubt that she’d agree. We’ll have to pay her soon.” Said Mirriam. Knowing Ravenna, she could already picture her deny this new proposition.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of her payment when we get there. How much do you owe her?”
“Two crowns” said Mirriam.
“Hmm…. WHAT!!!!” shouted Tyler, scaring Mirriam. “TWO CROWNS!? WHAT FOR?”
“We were being attacked by people. She wouldn’t help us otherwise” said Mirriam, taking a few steps back.
“And how were you planning to pay her back? Do you even have two crowns?” He was still enraged.
“Yes. Back home. I can cover it.”
(Ignore elf ears. The reaction is spot on!)
“That scum.” cried Tyler with his palms on his face. Mirriam had no defence for Ravenna. “Alright. I’ll manage. We don’t have time to worry about money now. Our priority is to get to Johancoop as soon as possible. Stay in the inn tonight. I have to make some arrangements before we leave so let’s begin early in the morning tomorrow. I’ll be informing my peers of my departure and you talk to your son and that piece of scum that you hired.”
Mirriam agreed and they both left his house and parted ways. Mirriam went to the inn while Tyler went back to his workplace. Mirriam was really nervous about her upcoming confrontation with Ravenna.
In the meantime, Edward and Ravenna were having a quarrel of their own inside his room.
“Hey, why did you sell me out?” cried Edward
“Because you were being childish and not letting me in on the situation” she retorted
“So you sold me out because I didn’t share some gossip with you. I wonder who was the childish one.” He said in response
“Hey mister. I did the right thing. You were sneaking up on your mother remember? I was right to expose you.”
“Now don’t start talking like you did it for moral reasons”
“Bah. Stop crying about it already. It’s not like she’ll kill you”
“But she’ll lecture me about it for an hour and bring it up multiple times later and it will slowly kill me anyway” somehow Ravenna didn’t respond for a while. He thought he had won the tiny argument but then she spoke.
“Must be nice, getting lectured by your mother every once in a while” she said as she looked at the ceiling. Edward felt a little uncomfortable inside. He could read what she meant.
“Yeah” he said but he didn’t just want to leave it there. “What happened to your mother Ravenna?”
“Huh” she was caught off guard. She realised that she said something subconsciously and felt a bit ashamed. “I don’t know. She’s probably dead or ruining someone else’s life right now.”
Edward didn’t respond. “She left my father alone with us without saying a word. Not all mothers are like yours I think. Some of us just get the selfish ones.”
The atmosphere was silent as she paused for a while. “You are very lucky little boy. You have almost everything a child should have. Just be grateful and always remember it. That will serve you well.” Edward nodded and they just sat in the room without saying anything.
A few minutes later Mirriam barged in and pulled their attention.
“Ravenna, there’s a small change in plans” she said, while panting. It didn’t seem like a result of physical activity.
“What change? We’re not going back to your place now?”
Mirriam waited for a few seconds. She seemed to be having some difficulty trying to inform about the detour.
“He said, we’ll have to go to Johancoop for some urgent business” she said in a much squeakier voice. Edward could notice that she was slightly shivering.
Ravenna got up from the floor. Both Edward and Mirriam gulped.
“Fine. When do we leave?” she asked while tightening her belt in a very calm tone. Mirriam didn’t answer. She was staring with her eyes wide open.
“Hey! When do we leave?” she asked again, this time slightly louder.
“Tomorrow!” said Mirriam so quickly that it sounded like a single syllable.
“Ah, I’m going to sleep then. I need to make up for two nights of sleep. Ask the innkeeper to bring me some meat stew and bread in the evening” she said as she walked past Mirriam and headed to her room.
“Right” said Mirriam, even though Ravenna had already left. She and Edward looked at each other and wondered why they weren’t dead yet. Without saying another word, they ate the potato stew left at the table and went to sleep. They too hadn’t slept last night.
They joined Ravenna for supper in the evening and slept again without leaving the inn once. They then woke up when they heard a knock on their door. It was barely dawn yet. Mirriam opened the door and Tyler was standing there, dressed up to leave.
“You’re not ready yet?” He questioned
“It’s still night” said Mirriam sleepily.
“No. It’s almost dawn and this is when we’re supposed to leave when I say ‘early in the morning’.”
“You should have said that earlier” said Edward as he yawned. The now vexed Tyler was scratching his eyebrows, trying to cool himself.
“Don’t use regular reasoning with these guys. They’re new to the game.” Said Ravenna from behind him. Even she was ready to leave, wearing the same getup she had the day before. “Hurry up. You have thirty minutes”
With that, both Edward and Mirriam rushed into getting ready.
A calm chapter after the last few intense ones we’ve had. I suppose the next one will be similar but they’re not hollow at all. Between the lines, there’s definitely a fair amount of character development. Little clues about the characters for your subconscious to feed on.
I don’t know if my humour is working or not. I did read several chapters while trying to make edits and take notes and some things did make me laugh. But I wrote them myself so I can’t measure the validity of its strength that way. It’s a bit scary. Is the humour good or is it awkward and lame? It’s a question that will haunt me for a long time till I get a fair amount of genuine feedback.
These poor guys don’t get enough sleep on time. Well, that’s to be expected in adventurous life like this.
Edward being a soul keeper has a natural gift for empathy. Normally, empathy grows with human interaction but he hasn’t had enough of it. However, his growth in that aspect will be much faster than that of regular people but based on his fate and purpose, it can be a double edged sword. There are worse adversaries than evil sorcerers and kings and that is an opponent with a good cause that you can empathise with.