It was smooth brass, rounded to perfection in order to fit in the palm of a petite hand. The front was embellished with a grand shining sun that was nested in an intricate spread of leafy vines. It's black tarnish behind the gold is what made it both haunting and beautiful. It was a very old, well used antique. It had lived a fair life and seen its share of knicks and dents. As fair as life can be for a doorknob, anyway. It would seem now that it had outlived its glory and found its final resting place in a hefty pile of junk on the outer rim of the royal city.
The milky haired waif turned the knob over in her grasp, the tips of her fingers rubbing repeatedly over its curves and carvings. It was almost as if she were trying to rub something from its surface, a layer of grime or an inkling of a memory lost. No one would ever really know, not even herself. She soon let it go and stowed it away into the safe confines of the brown burlap sack that lay crumpled by her feet. It was horribly worn, gathering stains, and riddled with tiny holes, but as long as it carried her treasures, it would be fine. By now, it was filled with curious looking trinkets and old texts that she was able to salvage from the depths.
Indigo eyes scanned her surroundings. There was something there. What it was, she had no clue, but its presence was loud and beckoning. She would not be able to leave until she found it and turning her gaze to the lazy daymoon that hung in the blue sky, she knew that it would be another long day.
Her eyes fell from the atmosphere and landed on a smaller pile of interesting looking junk not too far away from her. Garbage, it may have seemed, but she knew it was much more than that as she made her way over. The Alatryst shanties tended to accumulate all sorts of notable junk. Things trickled down even from the castle itself, through the town, through the shanties, and ended up here. And she particularly liked to find things from there.
Her eyes darted to an unexplored pile of junk by her feet and she punched her tiny hands through the center of it. Her mouth twitched into a small frown as her fingers brushed against a slimy film, but she grasped the object tightly and pried it free anyway. She nearly fell back onto her bottom as it suddenly came loose. Pursing her lips, she adjusted her hold on the old, soggy book, which stunk of rancid milk and rotten fruit. She carefully peeled open the cover, trying to gauge how much damage had been done to its contents as she traced her finger over the lines of text that were still recognizable.
Her fingers clasped the edge of one particular page and pulled it free from the binding. The book itself clunked to the ground as it was quickly disregarded and her focus turned to the paper in her hands. Her lips formed silent words as her eyes scanned the mysterious incantation sketched into the margins, alongside a recipe for chicken soup. Just before she could finish, however, a strong gust of wind snatched the sheet from her fingers and carried it high into the air. Her jaw hung open as it soared, almost as if it had a life of its own, and it flittered further and further away from her.
Swooping down and grabbing up her brown sack, she hurried after the wayward page in determined pursuit. A pursuit that led her through murky puddles and over abandoned carts, then scampering up a steep grassy hill on all fours. By the time she arrived at the peak, she was well out of breath and her pale cheeks were flushed with color. She was ready to call it quits and deem the treasure lost until she would find it again.
But she was surprised when she saw a stranger sitting in the grass, peering at her through a gaping hole on the yellowing page. She didn't need to say anything and instead settled for a very slight tilt of her head as he immediately straightened and pulled her discovery down from his face. For a moment, he seemed to have trouble figuring out what to say. Her dark eyes rested calmly and quietly on this stranger who seemed so out of place for reasons she could not know.
"Is this yours?" He asked, struggling to adopt the informal slant of the commoner's tongue. "I was just looking at it. There was nothing I could understand, though."
She watched as he held it out to her, almost meekly, as he awaited her reply. She brushed her ruffled hair away from her face as she found her breath again and crawled forward in front of him. Her large eyes flickered up at his face as she reached to take the paper from his outstretched fingers. She squinted at it for a good five minutes before carefully tucking it away into the sack at her feet.
"The wind is elfish today," she said softly.
He didn't seem to know what to make of it, but tried again to establish some kind of understanding with the young woman.
"My name is Declare," he looked her over. "What's your name, maiden?"
She blinked slowly at Declare, as if he had spoken a different language, letting a long silence drag on before answering.
"Saige," she whispered, seemingly amused as her eyes squinted the slightest bit. "You are... Declare. And your clothes..." Saige leaned forward and pinched the front of his tunic with her slender fingers. "Threads so fine... can only be elvish fabrics from Thessna."
Declare drew back in a mild panic, becoming wary of Saige's bizarre knowledge that seemed to extend beyond reasonable boundaries. He didn't know if all commoners shared this knowledge, or if it was simply her. This was turning out to be more dangerous than he anticipated, but Saige merely watched him with curious eyes, unfazed by his odd behavior thus far. Declare must have looked frightened because she went on to sit back on her knees with a small nod.
"I used to frequent Thessna quite often," Saige murmured. "Rarely do I see elven fabric on anyone not of elvish descent."
"It- It was a prize," Declare stuttered. "I won it in a little game I played with an elf."
"I see..." She inclined her chin in understanding, though he couldn't really tell if she actually believed him.
The two of them stared at each other in another span of silence until Saige's dark eyes were drawn elsewhere with the wind. She slowly climbed onto her feet and started carefully down adjacent side of the slope where she had yet to venture, brown sack dragging behind her. Once she reached a modest pile of junk, she appeared to trip and dive headfirst into it.
Declare snapped to attention, startled as she half disappeared into the garbage, and quickly scrambled down the hill to help her. He was halfway sliding down the grassy slope when she suddenly sprang up straight again, this time with a new trinket in her grasp. Declare grimaced, itching to pick out some small pieces of debris that had gotten tangled in her white locks. His brows came togther, at a loss as to what he should say.
"Miss Saige... are you alright?"
Saige, who had been seemingly enamoured by the broken chest box in her hands, suddenly lifted her gaze to him when he addressed her. Then she stared, eyes roaming his face as if he were only distantly familiar. Declare shifted in bewilderment, noting that she was acting as if they had never met before.
"Declare..." Saige said it as soon as it returned to her. "I am alright."
Declare let out a small sigh, relieved that she had not forgotten him after all. Although he preferred to keep his identity a secret, she was now what would be called his only companion.
"Your friends...?" He almost missed Saige's passing whisper.
Declare cocked his head to the side and followed her eyes across the junkscape where a pair of royal guards patrolled the area, looking for something. By the time he realized who they were and what they were looking for, they seemed to have already spotted him and began pursuit.
"I wouldn't call them my friends, really," He grimaced, turning back to Saige as she deposited her box into her sack. "I suggest we leave... quickly."
He had not taken more than three steps before he stopped and realized that she had not even begun to follow. Declare only doubled back and caught her arm in his hand, easily leading her along as she traced his quickened footsteps with her staggered footfalls. Even then, she did not utter a word nor did she make any attempt to wrench her arm away. Saige only followed after him over little hills and around massive junk piles, weaving here and there until they lost themselves among the seemingly endless labyrinth of abandoned goods.
She brought them both to an abrupt halt when she suddenly dug her heel into the ground, causing Declare to stop and swivel around to look at her face for the first time since they started running. Her dark indigo eyes stared up at him, disturbingly void of an average person's natural light. He couldn't shake the feeling that Saige was somehow sick and in dire need of help.
"I must go now." She stated, removing her arm from his grasp and turning to walk around him.
"Where?" Declare followed her with his eyes, puzzled by her rather cold and detached behavior.
Saige paused mid-step, but didn't glance at him again as she lifted her chin towards the sun setting in the horizon.
"Wherever I'm led to go," she whispered cryptically, only throwing Declare into a deeper spiral of uncertainty. When he didn't speak again, Saige continued on her way with her sack dragging in tow. Declare took all of a minute to glance back at the Alatryst castle, which had notably shrunk as the distance between them grew greater, before he found the courage to drive himself forward in her footsteps as he fell into a leisurely stroll beside her.
"I'll accompany you, Saige."
The young woman gave him a quiet, sidelong gaze as they walked the dirt path before them without another word. Declare took it to mean that he was welcome to do whatever he wanted, so long as Saige was able to carry out her own personal business. Together they ventured forth in the direction of the fading daylight, their pace never quickening or slowing, even as the impending darkness of night hung above them.