Tales of Aranea: Of Sage and Mist

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Confrontation

Cora rolls out of bed and stretches. That nap was amazing... Her headache is gone now, but there’s still a touch of pain in her arm where the wolf bit her. She hopes it won’t become infected. She might ask Rain to smear more of that ointment onto it.

Before he left earlier, Adam said that they’d leave this evening and get a few hours’ ahead. Cora’s heart races with excitement. He likes me. He actually likes me. She never thought she’d feel this way over someone, not like this. He rouses emotions in her that make her almost sick with longing. She’s so glad they’re leaving tonight. She doesn’t think she could wait until tomorrow.

Cora readies everything for the trip, which isn’t much—just her bow and arrows and a bit of the food she still has left over from lunch. After she’s finished preparing, she sits on the bed and finishes off the bottle of water Adam left for her this morning. She can’t stop thinking about him. He’s just so wonderful.

Unexpectedly, Lucas’ warning suddenly pops into her head. Don’t get lost in love. It isn’t worth it.

Cora brushes off the thought. She never loved Lucas, not like that. Adam likes her, and she likes him. She’s not lost in anything. She’s found.

A knock sounds at her door and she rushes to open it. She knows she shouldn’t be disappointed, but she is, slightly, when Milo appears. She thrills when Milo holds up a pair of trousers and a brown shirt.

“Fancy some comfortable clothes?” Milo asks her.

Cora pulls her into the room and pins the trousers against her legs. “Oh, they’re perfect!” she exclaims. “Where did you find them?”

“Oh, just around. I hope they fit.”

Cora eyes her curiously as she lays out the shirt and pants on the bed. “Yes, they look like they will.” The pants look a little long, and the shirt a tad large, but they’ll do fine. She turns back to Milo. “Have you decided if you’re coming?” she asks.

Milo grins and nods. “Yes, I’ve just confirmed it!”

Cora takes her arms, excited. “Wonderful! Is Rain coming too?”

She nods again. “Delbert said we both deserve a little leisure time. She’s really looking forward to this. Adam told her we’re leaving tonight already.”

“We plan to. I’m just waiting for him now.”

“I think he’ll be up soon. I’ve got a few more things to pack before the trip, so I’ll see you later.”

As she turns to leave, Cora touches her arm. “What about your father? Has he made any decision yet?”

Milo gives her a gentle, close-lipped smile. “He’s still thinking about it,” she says and, in Cora’s moment of silence, departs.

When Milo’s gone, Cora quickly pulls off her clothes and tugs the oversized shirt over her head. As the cloth passes her nose, she catches a familiar scent. She scrunches the fabric around her face and inhales deeply, her heart fluttering. It smells like Adam.

Cora can feel her face heating as she tears off the dreaded skirt and pulls on Adam’s trousers. She’s not sure how to feel about wearing something he’s worn on her own body. It’s a very odd, very thrilling sensation.

After dressing, Cora pulls her bow and quiver onto her back and heads downstairs to the kitchen. Rain is nowhere in sight. Cora smiles, hoping she’s readying her own things for the trip. She opens up the cabinet and rummages through bottles of mead, oils, and tonics, searching for the ointment to spread over her bite wound. Rain just used it earlier, so it should be at the front, in plain sight. Cora looks again, but steps back empty-handed and perplexed.

A clatter behind her makes Cora whirl around. Mallory shuffles by the wash basin, a sour look on her face. She casts an icy glance at Cora.

Coraleth gulps and asks, “D-do you know where the ointment is? Rain used it earlier to dress a burn she’d—”

“She took it with her upstairs,” Mallory interrupts, not looking up at her again.

Cora sighs. “I’m sorry for making fun of you, Mallory,” she says sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Mallory drops a dish roughly back in the water. As she quickly wipes her hands on her skirt, she faces Coraleth. “Do you think that’s why I find you so repulsive? Are you really so dense?”

Cora blinks at her in shock. “I-I...”

Mallory comes around the corner and wags a finger at her, her wild eyebrows low over her murky green eyes. “You first visited looking like a man, then you returned by crashing your father’s cart and poor Adam had to carry you back and keep you in his own house—Herus knows what you did there—then when you came again you drew a pack of wolves into town and drank yourself into a stupor. Adam had to stay with you again and I don’t want to consider what went on. And now you’re looking like a man again! If I was your mother I’d have you over my knee—”

“Listen here,” Cora cuts in angrily, raising her own finger, “I’ve worked in Atherton and worn trousers all my life! I’ve grown up with men. It’s just what I’m used to, just like you’re used to those hideous, uncomfortable skirts! Second, Adam showed me a wonderful kindness by staying with me and caring about me when I was at my lowest. Think what you will about our relationship but nothing ever happened.” Cora steps forward, getting as close to the smelly old sow as she deems safe. “And don’t you ever ever mention my mother again, or by Herus I swear you’ll regret it.”

After smiling inwardly at Mallory’s pale pinched expression, Cora whirls around and heads for the stairs.

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