A small cottage much like Norman's childhood home, came into view as Timena approached it slowly. The outside was barren but appeared sturdy, almost impenetrable. The house was made of more than one material and extra reinforcements had obviously been made to secure it as well.
A small peephole opened revealing two hooded eyes. "Who are you?" The croaky voice questioned.
"I-I'm Timena, a friend of your friend... Norman." The peephole shut immediately and the sounds of locks being turned sounded from behind the large door.
It opened, revealing a chubby older man, streaks of gray ran through his hair while he had a scruffy mustache that connected with his beard. Timena entered the cottage, taking note that he wasn't much taller than her as she passed by him.
"I hope it wasn't too confusing finding your way." He said, turning each lock back at a time.
"Uh no, not too confusing."
Suddenly he looked startled at the sight of her which made her worry.
"Child go sit by the fire, you'll get sick." He pointed at her damp breeches.
Makar's home was much like Norman's but with many more little knick knacks and trinkets. Resting her possessions on the wooden floor, she sat down by the fire— the comforting sensation of warmth crept upon her and she could feel her body relax.
"Here child." Makar offered her a warm mug of something, Timena smiled gratefully.
"What did you say your name was again? Timothee? Tim-"
"Timena, it's Timena." She cut in while trying to conceal her laughter.
He chuckled. "Timothee would have been an odd name for a lady, forgive me. I'm not good with names."
She thought she might enjoy Makar's company for the time being, he seemed nice enough. He sat down, rocking himself back and forth in a sturdy, wooden chair.
"So, what are you running from child?" He asked through the silence.
Timena's sigh was enough of a response, but she would elaborate. "I'm running from a man, a very powerful one."
"What do you mean she left? Where has she gone?" King Vassar's voice grew louder with each passing breath.
"I mean exactly that, I do not have time to explain. I need your help to comb through the forest so we can find her." Silas responded through gritted teeth.
Resting his back into the throne, Vassar began to think. He needed to find his daughter, but he knew what she would be coming home to, his guilt was clouding his ability to make a decision.
"Need I remind you what is at stake if we do not find her Vassar?" Silas interrupted, sharply.
He did not take too kindly to Silas' tone or his threat. "Mind your tongue boy, let's move quickly."
Timena woke to the sound of a door being closed and she swiftly got out of the bed in search of whoever might have been outside.
As she slowly opened the bedroom door, she looked around the house, it was empty. Opening the door further, she walked out, ready to strike at whatever it was that might cross her path. What Timena found was a note on a small, wooden table.
Tim Tam, I've gone to Vitabesk to work. See to it that my lovely horses in the stable are fed. The black one is Onyx and the brown, Tinsen. Pick some fruits from the trees outback if you'd like too.I shall be back before night, lock up.
Timena chuckled, not knowing whether Makar had given her a new nickname or if he'd just forgotten her actual name. When she made it back to the bedroom, she began rummaging through the sack Norman had packed for her. There were few pieces of clean clothing for her to wear as well as the salted food which she practically guzzled down. Picking up her scabbard with her blade, she secured it around her waist before going to look for the horses.
Behind Makar's house and a little deeper into the shade of the trees was a small stable-like structure with two large horses. In the corner were a few bales of hay stacked atop one another and as Timena pushed one bale to the floor, the thud that came as it landed made her realize just how heavy it was.
Struggling with the bale she was lugging around, she'd finally managed to get it over to the other side of the room where the horses were.
"Need some help?" A loud voice called out, startling Timena.
Her sword had come out faster than the words had left the intruder's lips. Eyes connecting, Timena realized it was a young girl. She giggled, taking a few steps forward as Timena pushed her sword out further to keep her at bay. The girl continued approaching her, smiling defiantly.
"Are you blind? I have a sword pointed at you. In what way do you see that as an invitation?"
"Clearly you aren't going to harm me. Calm down, I'm a friend of Makar's." She rolled her eyes.
Loosening her grip, Timena straightened up before putting her sword away. The pale face in front of her was splotched with freckles. With hair as black as the night sky that fell to her waist.
"I'm Clara." She offered her hand, Timena hesitantly shook it before pulling away.
Clara laughed before walking over to pick up a bale of hay— expecting a good laugh at seeing the small girl struggle, Timena was left somewhat shocked when she saw her easily lift two, carrying them over to Tinsen as if it were the weight of a small animal.
"How did you-"
"So, Makar rarely has visitors, who are you?" Clara interrupted.
If the girl didn't already recognize who Timena was, she figured it would be wise to be as vague as possible, just in case. "Just a friend of a friend." She replied.
Clara looked confused. "Alright, so secretive. We shall call you Sadon after my favorite animal... A cow I befriended when I was child."
Timena snickered a bit and rolled her eyes. "If you must."
The two girls traded words back and forth between one another as they brushed each horse's coat. Timena's responses were curt and concise as Clara tried to pry as much information out of her as she could.
"All these questions about me Clara, what about yourself?" Timena rested a hand on her hip, accusingly.
"Well there isn't much to know." She replied with a shy smile.
"I don't believe that, do you live in Vitabesk alone, or with family? And how do you know Makar?"
Clara's expression had shifted slightly, she was hesitant but answered. "I live in Vitabesk, alone and I uh, know Makar from the city as well. He's a very kind man."
Timena felt the awkward silence fall upon them as they looked away from each other. "Well, I'd better get back. Thank you for your help." Turning away slowly, she left the stable and went back in the direction of the cottage.
That was strange, what did I say wrong?
A considerably large mango tree stood behind Makar's cottage and Timena gladly took advantage of it by taking a few for herself. After picking two from the tree, she rested herself in the crook of a sturdy branch before pulling out a small dagger to peel the fruits.
'I'd kill for a sparring partner." Timena thought aloud. It would be a long and boring day till Makar came back...
"Whose cottage is this?" Silas asked loudly.
Tucking a ripped piece of canvas paper in his pocket, Vassar turned around to face him. "I'm not quite certain." He replied.
Silas huffed, he knew this was where Timena had been before running off, but he had no further clues so far.
The only trace of her was a bow and a few arrows as well as horse manure from Ephraim. Figuring she must have run off to Vitabesk, he needed to get a move on with the search. He knew his soon to be bride was capable of surviving on her own, but he was certain she'd had help with her escape. But the question was from who?
Vassar and Silas' guards searched the area Timena had last been seen before she abandoned her horse and they decided to follow the path to Vitabesk and see where it led them. Silas was determined to get her back and as much as Vassar wanted and needed his daughter back, on some level he was proud and hoped she'd made it far.
Timena had spent the rest of the day sparring alone, attempting to chop wood and catch fish with a bow and arrow she'd found while wandering around the cottage. There hadn't been much else to do to pass the time and she'd begun speaking to herself quite frequently throughout the rest of the afternoon. When Makar had come back, she fought to make any conversation she could with him, which he didn't seem to mind.
Under the light of the oil lamps and small fire, they ate the fish that Timena had caught earlier and vegetable and bean stew with bread. Timena was interested in Makar's work, a specialization in metal, specifically sword making. He explained the key components of assessing a sword from its' flexibility and hardness right down to its' strength and balance. His process of making a blade was a routine of precision which was what he claimed had made him such a well-known swordsmith.
"I've had men come from all over to have me make them a blade Tim. From the farthest corners of this earth, you wouldn't believe it." He said, gleefully.
"Maybe you could make a sword for me in the future." Timena joked through bites of her bread.
He shook his head, considering it.
Oh, I forgot to mention. I met Clara today, she helped me with the hay, it was quite heavy." Timena laughed under her breath.
"Who?" Makar asked, confused.
"Clara, long black hair and most likely my age. Said she lives in Vitabesk."
"I do not know anyone named Clara. No one in the city knows I live here Timena." He responded, still confused.
Timena screamed out, mentally. THEN, WHO THE HELL IS SHE?
The following day, Timena found herself somewhere between anger and fear. Who was that girl that she'd been talking to the previous day? She tried to rationalize things, maybe Makar did know Clara but forgot her name, he'd displayed how well he'd remembered Timena's, so it could have been a possibility. But how would she know where he lived unless she'd followed him? Timena would be prepared when she went back to the stable, and she would find out the truth.
As soon as Makar left that morning, she was out the door and heading towards the stable. Not even certain that Clara would return, but she had an inkling that she might. It was quiet all around the forest and the only presences in the stable were Onyx and Tinsen who stood staring back at her when she came in. Relaxing somewhat, she decided to tend to both horses. After both were fed and their coats, manes and tails groomed. Their hooves were cleaned out and using an old cloth Timena wiped around the eyes and muzzles of the large creatures.
Plopping herself down on an old stump in the corner of the room, Timena rested her head against the wall.
"See how well I treated you two large beasts, nearly killed me." She said pointedly at Onyx and Tinsen.
"Do you expect them to say a thank you in return for your services?" The familiar voice came as a surprise as she glanced over, seeing Clara standing at the stable entrance.
Just come a bit closer you fool.
Walking towards her, Clara slowly stopped in her tracks when she saw a sword appear from the sheath of Timena's waist.
"W-What are you doing?" She asked, confused.
"Makar says he doesn't even know you, and that no one knows where he lives. So my question is, who are you?" Lifting her sword up to meet Clara, the tip of the blade was now merely inches away from her face.
Not even the slightest bit phased, Clara stepped forward.
"Again, not an invitation." Timena shouted, incredulously.
"Oh don't fret, you won't be doing anything with that Timena." A strong force practically yanked the sword from Timena's fingers before placing it in Clara's palm.
Timena looked back and forth between her hand and the sword that was now in Clara's possession. What kind of sorcery had she just witnessed, or was she losing her mind?
"You haven't lost your mind, what you saw was very real." The voice sounded of a completely different nature, nothing like how Timena had remembered, the girl in front of her was a stranger.
The fables told time and time again began to play about in Timena's mind, there was some truth to it all. Where did Clara fit into those childhood stories?
"What, what are you? What fable do you fit into?" She moved away slowly as Clara chuckled in response to her question.
"That is what I admire about you Timena, your ability to simply lighten the mood under certain circumstances. But since you've asked, some may refer to me as a necromancer, a sorceress, an occasional entrantress, but I am most commonly known as a-"
"Witch." Timena answered her own question. "I guess they weren't just fables after all. Fuck." She sat back down onto the stump, resting her head in her hands.
Clara twirled the sword around as if it were some small stick she'd pulled from a tree, Timena tried to make sense of what was happening around her.
"Well how do you do you know Makar a-and where he lives?" She accused suddenly.
"I may have small interests in a few of the city's people, Makar was far too reserved and secretive when I first met him, much like yourself. I'm an inquisitive being, so naturally I needed to know more. I found out why he was so tight-lipped about himself and I may have, followed him to his cottage." Clara shrugged.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" Timena was intrigued to know more about Makar as well.
Clara sighed before speaking. "His wife and young child died in a fire many years ago, he left his village and moved into that little cottage, and he's been there ever since, alone."
Timena silently grieved for him now, to lose a wife and child and so tragically, she couldn't imagine experiencing that kind of loss. Holding the sword out, Timena took it from Clara's hands before putting it away.
"I wish you no harm, sometimes it just gets lonely traveling by yourself, don't you agree?" Clara hinted with a small smile.
"How long have you been on your own?"
"From before the time you were even conceived." She replied, staring off into the distance.
That would mean. "How ol-"
"Older than I appear to be." Clara answered before Timena could finish. A smile played on her face as their eyes connected.
"Is your name even Clara?"
"My given name is Clarissa, but I prefer Clara." She grinned. "Does that answer all your questions, Sadon?"
Not even close.