The wheels of their wagon jumped over every obstacle the road brought their way. Rey could feel the familiar bounce in her stomach every single time. And she could also feel it in her ears because Lia just wouldn’t stop complaining.
The first time she started, they were still approximately an hour away from their final destination and by the time the distance narrowed itself down to fifteen minutes, she would not close her mouth.
The reasons for her complaining varied from sore butt to her back giving out and her not being able to move for days.
Well, yeah, it sucked to be already twenty-five.
“I am serious, you know. I can’t feel my ....” She started her another round, but Brynn interrupted her shortly after: “Why won’t you go outside for a while then?”
Rey sent a silent thank you Brynn’s way. She wasn’t sure how long she would be able to listen to Lia and keep suppressing the urge to toss her out of the wagon. If there weren’t any consequences, she would have done it ages ago. The only thing stopping her was the fact Lia would climb back. Bitching twice as much.
If that was even possible.
“Oh,” Lia said, clearly surprised by a sudden interruption. “I don’t know about that. I don’t feel like turning now that we are almost there.”
“You don’t necessarily have to turn,” Brynn said.
She held a small bowl in her right hand and used her left hand to stir whatever mixture the bowl contained. “As you said so yourself, the small walk would benefit you. And your butt. And your back.”
Rey studied the not yet perfectly crushed herbs and recognised some Brynn used to prepare her pain-relieving ointments. The realisation made her scrunch her forehead.
Was she already preparing them beforehand? But if so, why would she use such a small bowl?
Rey was born in times when the void created between the werewolf and humankind was slowly but surely closing, and the centuries-long war was coming to its end. But just like with everything, as the number of people that started accepting werewolves amongst them grew larger, the number of humans that made it their lifelong mission to wipe them out completely grew as well.
And thanks to them, Brynn, as the self-taught healer she was, always had her hands full. Accompanied by Lia, Rey, and S, she travelled around the world, helping those in need. It was just yesterday when the last member of the pack, they were helping at the time, was successfully healed when an exhausted werewolf fell on his knees right next to her and begged her to come help his pack.
From the pieces of conversation between them that Rey overheard, the attack on his pack was an exceptionally brutal one, so it was to no one’s surprise when Brynn agreed to help.
“Oh fine,” Lia grumbled, tearing Rey out of her head. “I can tell when I am not welcome. I will go for a walk then.” She stood up, stretched her legs, and jumped out of the wagon.
The silence that followed was a blessing to Rey’s ears.
But it didn’t last long.
Brynn interrupted it as soon as she opened her mouth and demanded: “Show me your back!”
“W-what? W-why?” Rey stuttered out, her eyes growing wider.
Her question made Brynn scowl at her: “I might not be born with supernatural hearing or any other crazy ability, you werewolves have, but don’t for a second think, I didn’t notice all the wrinkles and sweat that appeared on your forehead. And while I am sure, a couple of them are courtesy of Lia, she is not the sole reason for their appearance.”
Rey desperately grasped for some excuse, she could use, but Brynn outran her once again: “Also the wincing sound you make, every time we run over something? I will give you credit for trying, but darling, I can read you like a back of my hand.”
Their last quest was a little rough on Rey. While werewolves were great at hunting, hearing and even healing to some extent, they still weren’t big fans of pain. That’s why when Rey tried to patch up one really ugly looking wound, she was sent flying.
She remembered little of the incident, just the sharp pain as her back collided with something too damn hard. The man that sent her flying gave at least a hundred apologies later, but the damage was already done.
Rey tried her best to play it of cool. If Lia were to panic, S would panic too, and the last thing Rey needed was a thirteen-year-old baby and a twenty-five-year-old baby freaking out about her dying.
And she was successful. At least, she thought she was.
She should have known tricking Brynn was close to impossible.
“Guess, I got bust, huh?” She smiled at Brynn and when her disapproving glance didn’t melt an inch, Rey added: “It is really not as bad as you probably think. I can barely feel it.”
Brynn waved her free hand dismissively: “Let me be the judge.”
Not having much of a choice, Rey turned around, trying her best not to knock anything over, settled in a comfortable position and used both her hands to roll up her t-shirt without causing any damage.
It hurt like hell when the fabric rubbed against her wound, and judging by the sharp curse that left Brynn’s mouth, the wound was worse than Rey expected.
“Crazy girl,” Brynn cursed again. “You should have let me see this yesterday. Why do you always have to be so god damn stubborn?”
It was more of a rhetorical question anyway, so Rey didn’t bother answering. A shiver ran down her spine as Brynn picked up a bit of the healing gel and pressed it against her skin. The soothing circles she drew on Rey’s irritated skin acted as a balm on her soul.
They were almost done with the treatment when the curtain surrounding the backside of their wagon was pulled up and S hopped in. Rey was really glad then that her shirt was pulled up only enough to still cover anything that needed to be covered.
“Why would you send her after me? What have I ever done to you? She just won’t stop talking.” He came in rambling, but it took only one look at the position they were in for his words of complaint to get stuck in his throat.
Words of fear replaced them instead: “You are injured, aren’t you? Was it that bastard from yesterday? But you said it was only a small fall and I shouldn’t be concerned about it. Why would you lie to me?” Rey genuinely wanted to answer at least one of those questions, but he wouldn’t give her the chance. “Should I go beat him up? If I start running now, I might still come back before the sunset. I am going to ... Oh, am I going to ... He is going to wish, he was never born.”
S started working on fulfilling his plan as he made a move to leave the carriage once again, but Brynn’s sharp voice stopped him: “Darling, you are not going anywhere.”
“But ...!” He protested.
“No, buts! Rey is going to be okay. It’s just a small harmless bruise.”
He took a step closer and scanned the damage: “Doesn’t look small and harmless to me!”
Of course not. Rey scoffed.
This boy saw broken bones, maimed skin and sometimes even missing limbs on daily basis and he never even as much as rose his eyebrow, but one injury barely the width of a woman’s palm on Rey’s back and suddenly the end of the world was near. It was almost ridiculous sometimes how overprotective of her they all were.
“It is,” Bryn reassured him. “Trust me. I know, what I am doing.”
“I trust you. But still. She shouldn’t be injured. You know, how dangerous it is for her to get hurt.”
“Oh god,” Rey whined. “Guys. First, I am right here, so you can stop talking about me in the third person and second, I am fine. I plan to make your lives a living hell for a very long time, so please, please stop freaking out every single time something minor happens to me.”
S was getting ready for his counterattack when Lia’s sing-sang voice interrupted them: “Guys, get out. I think we are almost there.”
And as much as Rey begged the gods to get her rid of Lia’s voice a couple of minutes before, now it was her favourite sound in the world because S’s eyes sparkled right as he heard the words almost there and her bruise was forgotten.
“Go,” Brynn encouraged him, “we shouldn’t let Lia all alone out there anyway. There might be danger waiting there for her.”
Rey had to bite her tongue not to say “if there is someone that’s a danger to someone else, it’s Lia and not the other way around” out loud.
S obediently got out to do his duty and Brynn turned her attention back to Rey: “Are you going to be okay?”
Rey rolled her eyes: “Of course, I am going to be fine. I am in the hands of the best healer in the country. Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
“Flattering will not get you far with me,” Brynn said, but she couldn’t hide the satisfied smirk on her face as good as she wanted to. The smirk was replaced by a dark shadow as Brynn said: “That’s not exactly, what I meant.”
Rey was not very good at riddles, so it took her a bit to understand which way Brynn turned the conversation to, but she caught on eventually and she said: “The answer still stands. I am going to be just fine.”
“You could stay behind, you know? We will come back for you once our job here is done.”
“Yeah, sure, and let the three of you have all the fun?”
She used the word fun very loosely then. What their job required was hardly ever fun, but Rey could never forgive herself if she were to sit somewhere, while she could be saving someone’s lives. No matter what waited for her where they were headed.
“I am serious,” Brynn said.
“So am I.” Rey protested. “Isn’t it you that keeps saying, we should face our demons heads on?”
“Maybe. But some demons should stay buried.”
Rey reached out her hand and squeezed Brynn’s. She hoped the gesture would give Brynn the reassurance she needed: “It will not be any different than anything we have done so far. You are going to brew those potions of yours, we will help everyone that needs it, and we will be back on the road in no time.”
“But what if they try to keep you there?”
Rey allowed her calm facade to crack then, and the fire flared up in her eyes: “That’s not going to happen. And even if, let them try. I ran away once, I can do it again. Plus, I have you now. I am sure, you have some dark herbs in your sleeve as well. And Lia? They are going to beg us to leave once she opens her mouth. And don’t forget S. No one was able to resist his puppy-wolf eyes yet.”
Rey finished her speech and felt relief wash over her as Brynn’s grim expression slowly disappear: “Okay, then. But say one word and we are out of there.”
Rey nodded, but she knew she wouldn’t do that. Even though the village they were nearing any second now meant a little more to her than to any of her companions, and she wasn’t keen on seeing it again.
Twenty-one years ago, during one hot summer night, a girl was brought to life in it. A girl who was later named Rey.