The tavern was mostly empty save for a few early patrons. The interior was dim except for the last rays of sunlight seeping through the windows, splaying across the wooden surfaces of the room. The adornments were meager, rugged looking stools and a few tables scattered about standing cattycorner to each other. Stains and dents may as well have been used for decoration as they littered every surface. Dust and dirt had been tracked inside, catching a ride on the boots of many weary visitors, leaving the entire place with a thin coating of grime.
In the common room were a few people, most of them passed out or absorbed in their drink. One man however sat near a window, sitting straight and looking a little out of place. He wore black trousers with a thick black leather belt and a grey tunic, the neckline of which was broken into a deep v, and meant to be tied together with corded strings which hung loosely beside it. Hanging from his belt was a dagger sheathed in a finely crafted sheath.
He had a lean build; the only girth to him was muscle. His jet black hair was kept trimmed despite being dirty from the road. He had short stubble along his lower jaw and eyes that were brown like the dust he was covered in. Despite his finer clothes his skin was worn, tough and weathered. He looked to be in his late twenties at most.
Cohen turned his head to look out the window next to his table. The panes were squared off by thin wooden beams that were chipped in spots and rotting away in others. The glass itself was caked in dirt, dust, and fingerprints, the glass likely hadn’t been cleaned since it had been installed.
Through the window was what his eyes were focused on. The sun was setting far away in the distance, a massive ball of orange fire dipping down below the tips of faraway hills. Its glow seemed to cast the landscape in a tranquil state, as if swaddling a sleeping child.
The man sighed as he turned away grabbing for the wooden mug he had been given. Lifting it up he spun his wrist swishing the liquid around. It had a caramel color with a bit of froth still residing at the top. Its viscosity was thicker than anything else he had drunk, almost like syrup. He shrugged his shoulders and lifted the mug to his lips; he had yet to meet a drink that he didn’t like. When the drops touched his tongue he tasted the strong flavor of wheat and barley and then something else that left the taste of dirt in his mouth. It was certainly nothing to compare to the brew back home.
“Are you really going to drink that?”
Cohen lowered the mug back to the table taking great effort to swallow the last bit of drink already in his mouth. He watched as a familiar women sat down across the table from him, the question having come from her.
She was a little shorter than him coming in under six foot. Her skin was clear of blemishes other than the dirt from the road and the red tinge from the sun. She looked as if she were about twenty, a slim girl with hardly any fat on her. Her hair was the color of coffee and it hung down to her shoulder blades in a neat braid. She was wearing clothes of a similar nature to Cohen, brown leggings with a simple leather belt and a tan colored tunic the neckline of which was perhaps a little too revealing, but who could blame her in the summer heat. Her lush green eyes fluttered from him to the drink in his hand skeptically.
“You have to try different things Adele; how else would you learn anything.” He replied.
“I don’t think I need to try anything from this place, I’m afraid it might do me in. Besides,” She said resting her cheek on her palm, “If it’s this dirty out here I don’t want to see where they make that sludge.”
“That’s a shame it really isn’t bad at all.” Cohen remarked moving the cup to his lips once more.
“You’re joking, right?” She asked her curiosity shining through in the last word.
“Have a sip if you don’t believe me.” He said offering her the mug casually.
Adele’s eyes quickly shifted between him and mug as she weighed his words. After a moment’s pause she gingerly reached out for the handle before tasting a bit of the liquid. Cohen grinned as the woman visibly choked on the liquor slamming the mug back down as she coughed.
“I should have known; you have terrible taste.” She sputtered. “That flavor will be stuck in my mouth for a week.”
Cohen chuckled grabbing the mug from her as he swallowed the little bit that was left. “You don’t drink it for the taste you know.” He said as he wiped his sleeve across his face.
“Are you sure you should even be drinking? We are here to do a job.”
“You don’t have to remind me.” He said his eyes shifting around the room eying the inhabitants of the bar. “This,” He said lifting the mug slightly, “This is just a little something for nerves.”
“You’re nervous?” Adele asked her tone conveying her concern.
“As a grizzled veteran-
“Grizzled?” She asked raising a brow.
His face grew stony for a moment. “I’ve been doing this since before you were born girl. Now do you want the advice or not?”
Adele nodded signaling for him to continue. “No matter how long you do what we do, you will never stop being nervous, think of it as your body reminding you not to be an idiot.”
Adele nodded, “When do you think he will show himself?”
“If our informant wasn’t lying to us, Gray comes here every evening and works in the kitchen; I would be willing to bet he will show up any second now. The man was always very punctual.” Cohen said.
“Did you work with him?” Adele asked her gaze turning to the setting sun.
“Twice, both jobs went well. He seemed like a trustworthy partner, good at what he did too. Have you ever met him?”
“I’ve never worked with or met him.” Adele replied shaking her head.
“That’s good, I imagine that’s part of the reason you were chosen for this, easier to kill someone you have no connection with.” Cohen said.
“What about you though?”
“I’ve been doing this for a long time now, I won’t say that it is ever easy, but you do think about it a lot less.” Cohen said looking at his empty mug. “One thing you should know though Adele.”
“What is it?” She asked turning her focus back to him; he only called her by name if it was important.
“If something goes wrong initially, and a fight breaks out use caution. Gray thinks quickly and moves quicker. I once saw him get jumped by three armed men, and a few seconds later they were all dead. He isn’t someone to be taken lightly.”
Adele nodded slowly feeling a chill run down her spine as her hair stood on end. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly in a small attempt to calm herself. “Anything else?”
“Yes,” Cohen said staring at her sternly. Adele knew Cohen more of a joking type; his glaring eyes portrayed him in a strange light. Her eyes silently prompted him to continue. “If I should be killed for whatever reason, you are to run. Return to my brother and tell him what happened.”
The statement left her with her mouth hanging open. Despite it being a very real possibility she had never considered that Cohen might die. In her mind she had simply assumed that Cohen would be more than prepared for this. She had thought that she was simply there for insurance.
“Just how dangerous is- She began to ask before Cohen abruptly silenced her with a finger to his lips. The gesture only lasted an instant before he brought his arm down again and both of them instinctively struck up quiet conversation a few moments later.
Cohen wasn’t listening to what he was saying his eyes darted to the man who had just entered the tavern. His gaze followed him while the rest of his face played a façade as to not alert anyone. Gray, who had just entered the tavern, made his way briskly across the room towards the kitchen. He looked just like Cohen remembered, although a little rougher now that he lived in this backwater place. He had brown hair that was disheveled and shaggy. He was a little taller than Cohen was, six feet and a few inches. His body had retained its form from his previous life, his arms thick knots of muscle and his chest still defined through his stained shirt. His eyes were the most apparent though. Blue orbs as bright as the midday sky, their clarity cutting through the rest of the drab environment.
“Is that him?” Adele asked as he passed through a swinging door and out of their sight.
“Aye, that’s him.” Cohen replied still staring at the door he had passed through. After a moment he turned back to Adele. “Are you ready?”
Adele nodded and moved to follow him across the tavern room to the kitchen door next to the bar. The bartender’s eyes were on them as soon as they stood up. He was likely wary of outsiders in his establishment, and they certainly matched that description. It wasn’t until they neared the kitchen that he spoke up, “Guests aren’t allowed back here, you want some food you talk to me.”
“Our apologies, we aren’t from around here.” Cohen replied turning to face him.
“Even a blind man could tell you that. Aren’t many people around here, you know a new face when you see it.” The man said his eyes full of scrutiny. “Why are you here?”
“We are old friends of your cook; we wanted to make sure that he was doing alright.” Cohen said putting on a warm grin.
“Old friends huh?” The man said wiping his nose on his arm. “Didn’t think Gray was capable of that, works hard but keeps to himself.”
“That’s Gray.” Adele chimed in. She quickly looked to the door and back before leaning in. “It takes him a bit to open up to people.”
The man shrugged. “Even if you are old friends, he’s working right now, you’ll have to come back later, it’s about to get busy around here, ceremonies always draw a crowd so I need him working.”
“Ceremony?” Cohen asked a genuine note of confusion in his tone.
“It’s a local event, you all wouldn’t know about it.” The man said. “Now get.”
“Please sir. It’s important that we talk to him now.” Adele said reaching her fingers into a pouch on her belt. “Maybe you could just give us a few minutes?” She asked sweetly tilting her head her eyes growing larger as she produced two golden coins sliding them slowly across the bar.
“Well,” The man said grabbing the coins with his burly fingers. His eyes scanned Adele for a little too long. Picking up a coin he bit it as if testing the metal. “Alright, but only for a few minutes I’ll be coming back there if you take too long.”
“Our thanks.” Adele said smiling innocently as she turned back towards the door.
Cohen nodded his thanks watching as the bartender squirmed under the woman’s gaze, being able to flaunt yourself in such a way was certainly useful. He always found it interesting the way she went about her work. It was a much more indirect approach from the one that he used, however she was successful nonetheless.
Cohen turned to the door and pushed through it into the kitchen. It was much of what anyone would expect from a tavern in such a place. The area itself looked more or less in the same amount of disrepair as the front room. There were a few counters that were laid out as a preparation area as well as a brick oven for cooking. Scattered around the room were wooden dishes and cooking utensils, most of which were covered in yesterday’s leftovers.
On the far end of the room was Gray stoking a fire in the oven. After a moment he stood up having heard the door open, he turned and began to speak but when he saw who it was he stopped short.
“Hello.” He said slowly. “If you are looking for service you need to go out there.” He added nodding to the door.
“We’ve come to see you Gray.” Cohen said as he began to inch across the room with small steps, Adele slightly behind him.
“Who are you?” Gray asked his eyes shifting around the room.
“Don’t you recognize me?” Cohen asked disappointedly. “We were brothers once, or have you forgotten that as well?”
Gray looked at him more closely. Cohen saw it in his eyes, that moment of clarity, immediately afterwards he stiffened slightly. “No sense in avoiding it now, you came to take care of me didn’t you? No loose ends.”
“You always were sharp.” Cohen replied sarcastically.
“And the girl?” Gray asked. “Afraid you couldn’t handle this on your own Cohen?”
“I’m not afraid to admit that I may need help. You were very capable; it’s one of the things that makes this so regrettable.”
“You flatter me.”
“Answer me this, why did you do it, why betray us all?” Cohen asked his brow furling as anger edged into his voice.
“Have you ever thought about what you do Cohen?” Gray asked after a moment. “We killed people every day, took lives that we knew nothing about, for coin.”
“You knew what line of work you were getting into when you started all those years ago.” Cohen countered.
“Maybe I thought I did.” He replied sadly. “Eventually I had the good sense to wake up, you’re no better than those that you kill, despite what you and your brother may think.”
“Spare me Gray, for all your talk you still sentenced so many of us to death when you left.”
“It seems we’ve nothing left to discuss, pray to your gods, you’ll be meeting them soon.”
As his words faded silence fell on the room, broken only by the crackling of the oven fire. The tension was palpable, no one moving even a hair. It built for what felt like minutes, each waiting for the other to move.
Suddenly, the door to the kitchen was flung open and the bartender walked through, “Alright, your time is…” The man trailed off as the door came to a creaky stop behind him and he took in the situation.
“Adele.” Cohen said and the woman nodded her understanding.
Simultaneously, Adele spun around and Cohen dashed forward towards Gray. Adele quickly closed the gap to the bartender who was reeling from the sudden burst of movement. She brought her right fist forward at an astonishing pace slamming the man in his gut and bending him over. Grasping his shoulders in her hands she thrust her knee into his face making him grunt, he had no breathe left to scream. As he grasped at his nose still bent over she kicked him in the side of the head knocking him out cold.
Turning around she watched as Gray’s fist connected with Cohen’s jaw sending him rearing. Gray reached on the nearby table for a dirty knife, his fingers wrapping around the sharp blade. Acting on reflex Adele reached down to her belt retrieving a small dagger and flipping it so she was grasping the blade. In one fluid motion she flung the knife at her target. Gray proved too fast however as he shifted away from the projectile leaving it to clang against the wall. Momentarily his eyes fixated on Adele who shrunk back slightly under his gaze.
The small distraction was all Cohen needed however as he charged forward tackling the man to the ground. Sitting up he grabbed the dazed man’s shirt lifting him forward as he rammed his fist across Gray’s face knocking him into the ground. Wasting no time Cohen covered Gray’s mouth with his hand, ignoring the man’s attempts to bite him, and drew his knife from his belt plunging it into Gray’s chest. Thankfully, he had years of practice helping him to find the gap in his ribs where his heart lay.
Gray’s eyes went wide as he struggled for a few seconds before he succumbed and went limp. Cohen reached forward closing the man’s eyes before he stood up pulling his knife with him and wiping it on the now dead man’s shirt before sheathing it.
Still staring at the body he spoke, “Did you kill him?”
“He’s only knocked out, although I imagine he won’t be up and about for a while.” Adele replied from across the room.
“Good, no reason anyone else should have to die today.” Cohen said as he bent down and picked up her knife from the ground. He flipped the blade over and handed it hilt first to her. “Not really meant for throwing.”
“I wasn’t close enough to stab him; it was the first thing my mind went to.” She replied with a shrug. “Besides it was that or let you die.”
“True enough, you have my thanks.”
“You would have done the same for me.” Adele replied. “Come on let’s get out of here, before someone gets suspicious.”
Cohen nodded and the two made their way back into the main room. Luckily for them, the only patrons around were still too out of sorts to notice what had transpired in the kitchen. Without a word the two made their way out of the bar and into the evening sun. Dusk was setting quickly; and the last rays of light were steadily falling away.
“We should get out of town as quickly as we can.” Cohen said. “We don’t want to be here when they find him.”
“Agreed, let’s get back to horses and be on our way.”
The two set off at a brisk pace, although not so quickly as to attract attention. Cohen was still surprised to see the skyline of the town, or lack thereof. They were surrounded by small wooden buildings almost all of which were only one story. There wasn’t a brick or stone in sight. Any store signs were handcrafted the names of the shops being painted on the words sporting poor penmenship. He even noticed spelling errors on a few of them.
As they walked down the dirt path they noticed others coming out of their houses and stores, all of them headed in the same direction that they were. There were likely only a few hundred people in this hamlet however it still seemed like a flood of bodies. The crowds around them grew louder as others joined in moving like an ocean towards the center of town.
“Any idea what this is about?” Adele asked.
Cohen thought for a moment as he examined the people who passed them by. “Didn’t the barkeep mention something about a ceremony?”
Adele nodded. “What do you think that it could be?”
“Something local, a harvest festival maybe?” Cohen said shrugging, he hardly kept track of the typical festivities much less ones celebrated by individual villages.
“So how are they going to do it?” Cohen heard a man ask from nearby.
“I heard it would be by burning or hanging, I hope it’s burning though, deserves something slow.” Another replied.
“Wouldn’t that be fitting, it would serve the freak right.”
“Her parents are dead?”
“That happened last night, weren’t you there? They were hung.”
Cohen turned to Adele, his face grim. Seeing that her expression had darkened as well he knew that she had heard. “An execution.” Cohen said simply.
“Why would that be toted as a ceremony?” Adele asked sounding astounded.
Cohen didn’t reply, having spent his life in a large city he had never had a chance to truly experience life in the countryside. He had heard about many strange rituals that the common folk performed. The mention of fire sparked his interest, he couldn’t think of anything that required burning a person, such things had been cast aside long ago.
When they reached the town square they went straight to their horses, each grabbing their swords from their mounts wondering what they could expect. Cohen mounted his steed alongside Adele using the vantage point to see over the gathering crowd. In the center of the square was a pyre that was being given a wide breadth by the crowd. The square was filling up, and both guessed that this was likely the entire populace.
Suddenly, there was the sound of a bell tolling. What would likely signal the end of the work day was signaling something else today. As the bell rang and echoed across the empty landscape the crowd began to split to allow a small party through. There were three there in all. The first was an elderly man in robes, his head balding and his face stony and wrinkled. Beside him there was what looked like a town guard, his equipment was rusty and pieced together, Cohen guessed by the look of his attire that he was likely one of few, or the only guard in the town. They likely didn’t have much of a guard, instead if they were attacked the civilians would take up arms. Such a small town certainly didn’t have the resources to host armed forces.
The third was peculiar and immediately stuck out to him. It was a girl, young and small, no older than eight years. She was dressed in sackcloth; her skin was broken and dirty. What caught Cohen’s gaze however was her hair it, despite the dirt, was white like snow, and almost seemed to shimmer in the fading daylight. Along with her peculiar hair color were her eyes. Watery and scared her eyes were a fierce red color so prominent that Cohen could distinguish them despite his distance to her. Her hands were bound by thin strips of leather, metal cuffs were either hard to come by or not necessary given her age.
“What is this?” Adele whispered under her breath shocked at the scene.
Cohen didn’t have an answer as he continued to watch as the procession passed by the crowds; the people taunted and insulted them as they passed by. As they came to the middle of the square the girl hesitated before the guard shoved her forward and tied her to a wooden beam in the middle of the pyre as the other man stood on a box to gain some height over the crowd.
“Good people, you have been patient. Last night we cleansed the world of those who spawned this monstrosity, and now, tonight, we will kill the horror itself!” The man yelled his voice carrying over the town. “This girl is guilty of practicing sorcery, if left alone she would grow to terrorize this village! I will not allow that to happen, and so she must be purged from the world today!” He shouted triumphantly. All the while the girl struggled in vain against her bonds. The crowds cheered wildly, and for a moment the man let them before he raised his hands for silence.
“She has the god’s blood in her.” Cohen said biting his lip.
“Why would they kill her for that, having blessed blood is a revered trait.” Adele replied, making sure to keep her voice down as people were still close to them.
“I’ve heard that folk on the edges of civilization are more likely to scorn oddities like her. It isn’t like Herrinport.” Cohen replied.
“Can they even kill her; aren’t they supposed to be extremely resilient?”
“Resilient or not, they can still burn.” Cohen said darkly as he watched the guard ignite a torch.
“Today, we shall rid ourselves of this curse. This girl will die by the very force that she tries to command.” The man said as he took up the torch from the guard. The girl at this point had given up on breaking her bonds and seemed to have become resigned to her fate, sobbing quietly on the pyre.
“Can’t we do something; we can’t just let them kill her.” Adele hissed urgently.
“I wish we could but we can’t fight an entire town.” Cohen whispered back gritting his teeth as he tried to think of some solution. “Even so what would we do with her?”
“Raise her up, train her as one of us, if a god favors her she would be a great asset.” Adele said desperately.
“If she actually has any power to boast. You forget that most chosen can hardly do anything with their abilities.”
“Look at her hair and eyes Cohen!” Adele argued angrily. “That isn’t natural, only the truly powerful ones have their appearance altered.”
He didn’t answer prompting her to continue. “Would you really stand idly by while a child dies? You wouldn’t regret not doing anything when you knew you could?”
Cohen sat in silence for a second and breathed deeply. “If we can find a way we will try, but we can’t throw our lives away for hers. We need a distraction of some sort.”
Cohen watched as the man with the torch moved to the pyre, he paused for a moment whispering something quietly to the girl who perked up and began struggling once more with a sudden fury. She could do nothing however as the man dropped the torch to the wood igniting the pile of wood to the delight of the crowds who roared in response.
“Be ready.” Cohen said to Adele before whispering the same words in his horse’s ear. They twitched in response and Cohen felt the creature tense up as he patted its neck. This girl was a chosen, someone born with the powers of a god. If she truly was as powerful as Adele said perhaps she would do something to halt the flames. As he waited he could hear Adele whispering hurried prayers.
The fires grew higher as the girl continued to struggle, the heat no doubt becoming unbearable at this point. She did not scream however, something Cohen found odd, for surely she was scared for her life at that point.
As the flames licked at her feet they suddenly started to blaze outward causing people in the crowd to fall backward in a wave, trying desperately to get away from the heat that was assaulting them. The fire grew to unnatural heights and swirled around the girl furiously. Cohen watched with amazement as it grew and became more unstable. The crowd began to grow quieter as people backed away; even the ones around Cohen near the back were taking steps back and bumping into each other, some cursing the girl as they ran from the crowd altogether. Suddenly, there was a thundering explosion as the fire burst like a bubble and fell like rain across the town.
In an instant, panic broke out among the people as they trampled over one another to escape the inferno. The fire crashed over everything catching even the ground ablaze where it landed. Both of their horses reared in fear, Cohen struggling to calm his steed.
“This is our chance, let’s not waste it.” He said as he stabilized his mount and spurred it forward, breaking through the frenzied crowd.
Moving forward Cohen focused on the pyre. Smoke plumes were coming from the center but they were suddenly battered away by a violent gust of wind. Cohen raised a brow at this. He had felt nothing when the smoke cleared, as if the wind had been localized. Out of the corner of his eye he could see that Adele wore the same confused expression.
He watched as Adele pushed her horse towards the now smoldering pyre. There upon the charred wood was the girl covered in ash her eyes like hot coals, she had sunk down to her knees, her hands still tied to the wooden beam. Adele had almost reached her when Cohen noticed the robed man from before. He had been reeling from the sudden explosion but had managed to regain himself. Slowly, he pulled himself together and drew a slender knife from the folds of his garments. He strode towards the white haired girl who noticed him and squirmed against her bonds once more.
Having lost his patience Cohen wiped his horse’s reins knocking several people out of his way as he closed the last gap between himself and the pyre. Coming in close he dove from his stead and tackled the man to the ground. He quickly took his hand and slammed it into the dirt repeatedly until his knife thudded into the dirt. A moment later, Cohen’s fist connected with the man’s cheek dazing him.
Standing up Cohen turned to see the guard, more of a boy than a man nervously brandishing a sword. Cohen shook his head, “Put it down boy you’ll hurt yourself.”
The comment seemed to do nothing more than make him act as he ran straight forward raising his weapon high above his head. Cohen took a stance and grabbed his wrist mid-swing and brought his knee up connecting with the boy’s gut and knocking the wind out of him. The guard crumpled to the ground, gasping for air his sword clattering down next to him. Cohen promptly kicked the blade away before turning away.
He walked up to the pyre to join Adele who was already cutting the girl’s bonds. Her eyes were glazed over and she hardly seemed to register either of them. Upon closer inspection Cohen could see that she had clearly been beaten with bruises and cuts lining her body.
“Done.” Adele said snapping him back to the moment. “Pick her up and bring her to me.” She said as she went back to mount her horse.
Cohen did just that lifting her in his arms, she felt like a feather, her weight not seeming to register with him at all. Walking to Adele’s horse he noticed the girl’s eyes, like gleaming rubies, staring at him. Not sure what to do Cohen forced a small smile onto his face hoping it would be of some comfort. The girl didn’t reply but instead her head fell back loosely.
A moment of fear struck him as he thought she might have simply died. He reached out his fingers to feel for a pulse and to his relief found a faint one. Not having time for anything else Cohen hoisted her up to Adele who took hold of her and placed her in the saddle in front of her. Seeing that she was unconscious Adele wrapped an arm around the girl as she repositioned herself.
“Let’s go.” She said urging her horse forward.
Cohen nodded and sprinted back to his own mount swinging up and following her down the dirt path and out of the town.
A half hour later the two sat next to a fire, their dinner cooking over it. Cohen looked back in the direction that they had come from; massive plumes of smoke were still rising into the night sky.
“Do you think she’ll be alright?” He heard Adele say.
Cohen turned to look at the girl who was sleeping near to them covered in a blanket. She looked exhausted even in her sleep.
“Those with the god’s gifts are resilient like you said; she probably just needs some food and rest.” Cohen said.
“I can’t believe that they were just going to kill her like that. She’s just a child.”
“The frontier is an unforgiving place; seems old myths still hold sway here.”
“Never read a book?” Cohen asked making the woman shrug. “Some in the wilds used to believe that chosen were sorcerers with devilish intent. If left alone they would cause chaos and suffering wherever they went.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Adele replied. It was Cohen’s turn to shrug as he had no answer. “I suppose it’s not our problem anymore. We can bring her into the guild right?”
Cohen sighed looking at the sleeping child. “After what happened with Gray we could use some new blood. Although she won’t be able to do much for some years.”
There was silence between them for a while as the fire crackled and the food cooked. After a while there was a rustling of blankets and a groan making them both turn their heads. The white haired girl grumbled as her eyes opened. Seeing the dirt beneath her she pulled herself up suddenly, before whimpering as she grabbed her head trying desperately to stop the pain that was assailing her. Slowly she turned to see Cohen and Adele sitting and staring at her. When she made eye contact she scrambled in the dirt kicking out as she tried to back away.
“Wait!” Cohen said stretching out his hand. To his surprise the girl stopped moving, seemingly out of fear.
“We aren’t going to hurt you.” Adele said slowly drawing the girl’s attention and scared eyes. “We took you away from that place, we’re here to help.”
The girl’s tension seemed to dissolve slightly at hearing that. She looked around taking in her surroundings for the first time.
“Where are we going?” She asked in a broken voice.
“We are taking you back to our home, in a city far away from those people called Herrinport.” Cohen replied slowly.
“I don’t want to go there.” She replied sadly.
“Well you can’t go back to your home.” Cohen said. “You could take your chances in the wilds I suppose.”
“Cohen.” Adele said shaking her head. “Gods have you ever spoken to a child before?”
“I try to avoid them.” He replied.
Adele rolled her eyes before turning back to the girl. “My name is Adele and that’s Cohen. Don’t mind him, he’s just a grumpy old man.”
A small smile creased the girl’s lips but she didn’t say anything. Instead she eyed the food cooking over the fire, noticing this Adele spoke up “It’ll be done soon if you want some.”
The girl nodded slightly. “But I don’t want to leave here.” She said in a wispy voice.
Adele smiled weakly. “Why don’t you take some time to think about it.” She was hoping that the girl would come to a realization herself. If not Adele would have to be more direct, but perhaps it could be avoided.
“Do you have a name, or should I just call you whitey?” Cohen asked.
“Cohen!” Adele snapped slapping his shoulder with the back of his hand.
“It’s an honest question, she knows who we are.” He retorted.
“That’s not the point, didn’t anyone teach you any manners?”
Cohen looked at her with a scowl. They had known each other long enough now that Adele knew she had crossed a boundary. She seemed to have realized what she said and looked down at the dirt nervously. “I’m sorry.”
Another silence took over the camp. Cohen stared at the fire while Adele fidgeted with the grass beneath her. The girl looked at the two of them and opened her mouth to speak but thought the better of it. As time went on she struggled to determine what she should do.
“My name is Claire.” She finally blurted out. “Claire Isenfel.” She added her voice coming across smaller in her second statement.