He pulls back and looks at me once more.
“You have gotten so big my darling,” he whispers to me.
“I have gotten no bigger than the last time you saw me,” I say as I roll my eyes and wipe the tears off my face.
“You say that, but it has been years since I have seen you. You have become a woman now. I am glad that you are back and I am glad that you will be able to stay. That you will be able to live in peace,” he says grabbing my hand and pulling me away from the bridge.
I smile at the thought of having space to settle down. My mother’s last wish. She searched my whole life for a place that I could live my life in peace. She found it far from the outside of the Capital, deep in the mountains.
My uncle lets go of my hand as we slip into the shadows of the market. My mother’s family is good at this. It is said that it is a trait carried through generations.
Made them amazing thieves and spies when the price was right. That is where my family got most of their money.
“How long will it take us to reach the mountains. The last message was not very clear” I whisper as weave through people bargaining for fruit and art pieces from what I see.
“It will take about 15 sun rotations without stopping. With the stopping we have to take I estimate about thirty” he whispers back taking a man’s gold wrist piece effortlessly. Looks like an armband that guards used to wear under the old monarchy. I have never seen one in person though. I had heard rumors they were worth at least five blazes which, will feed us for a period.
He places the band in his sew-in pouch on the underside of the bottom part of his shirt.
Apart of me feels bad for the stolen object. It could have been a gift or a prized memory. I much prefer to steal money than objects. I preferred to steal money from those who could afford it, but I had learned long ago that in these worlds, you must look out for yourself.
We continue to the end of the part that leads to a road. People mill about, but most are people that look like they live here or wealthy people that traveled here. The difference is easy to spot as the people living in the outer villages were simple clothes. Tank tops with skirts or thin wavy pants are what most women villagers wear. The colors are plain browns, reds, yellows, and oranges. The wealthy are ordained with gold around them. Necklace, bracelets, piercings, and chains across the body were the most common. I had to admit, I did enjoy the clothes in Soare much more than Mesic.
As we moved further down the path, we made a sharp turn into the forest. It was a path I had traveled many times as a child. 15 paces from here would be a large tree that had been mostly carved out from the inside. Inside held clothes for me, weapons I could use, and some small jewelry pieces that I had bought.
“Get changed,” my Uncle says, pushing me towards the tree and turning around to give me privacy, but also to look out for anyone who might have followed.
I quickly take off my more Mesic clothing and reach for a pouch inside the tree. The pouches are clear and jiggly like thin gelatin. They hold clothes for different things and occasions. The pouch I pulled out displayed a picture of more casual Soare clothing which was perfect. I placed my hand on the pouch and scanned my hand. It reads quickly and the jiggly substance that was the pouch melts leaving nothing but the clothes and weapons. I put on the dark brown leather skirt that had gold thread through the bottom. It was tight around my waist and loose around my legs. It was just above knee length. The top was cropped and long-sleeved with bell sleeves. It was made of a red thin fabric that was slightly sheer.
Next, take the brown sandals with a red strap that went between one of my toes. It had gold beads going through it and completed the outfit beautifully. I pull my hair back into a bun on top of my hair, placing two thin knives into it that looked like simple accessories. The rest of the weapons would have to go into my satchel.
As well as two other pouches. One pouch that held more casual clothes and another pouch with more fancy clothing in it just in case I needed to change.
“I’m ready,” I whisper to him.
He quickly turns around to look at me and nods.
“Good, I want to reach one of the villages as soon as possible,” he says walking through the forest.
We move through the forest for several hours before we emerge outside a little village. It is built in the shape of a circle like most of the villages were. There are a few homes that are clustered together and some are scarred apart. The dark brown and orange wood of the buildings blend in with the forest. In the center is a fire pit where people are gathered around sharing a meal.
A few children run around and try to use their powers to bring down small rays of light and fires. It was the perfect time to try their powers as the sun was coming out and their powers were limited. That meant an accident was less likely to happen.
As we walk up I smile at the people that we pass. Only a few smile back at me. That was more than I could hope for. Oftentimes these villages were not fans of strangers.
We walk up to the fire as a man continues to hand out food to the people. It looks like a soup made of some kind with a fish. The spice wafts up and my stomach makes a small noise. It smells delicious and it makes my mouth water.
“We are looking for food and a place to spend the next few days,” I say to the man, smiling at him. He doesn’t look up from the pot in which he is pouring the soup into bowls. There are still people coming up.
“We are willing to pay, of course,” my Uncle says holding up a few Embers. The man stops and looks up at the money and then travels back at me.
“One Ember for two bowls of food. You did not contribute to the meal so you do not eat for free. You can speak with Mother Sol for a place to stay” he says pointing to a lady sitting down near the pit.
While my Uncle pays for the food I move towards Mother Sol. Her dark skin glows as the lowering light shines on her. Her hair is braided back with brown threads going through them. She laughs at something the man next to her says as she takes bites of her food. She doesn’t look that old. Maybe a little older than my mother.
“I am sorry for interrupting, but my father and I are looking for a place to stay,” I say standing by her. She looks up at me and smiles holding out her hand.
“Then you have come to the right person. I have a room you can stay in for three days. Only five Embers as payment” she says as I slip my hand into hers and push towards her wrist. I grab gently as she does the same to mine and pulls back quickly. Her hands are very warm and slightly rough to the touch. It reminds me of when my mother first taught me the greeting. My small hands grasping her warm wrist.
I take a deep breath to gather myself. “We will take it!” I reply with a small smile.
“Great. The building with the red door. Go inside and go into the room all the way at the back. There are two beds and a table with chairs” she says going back to her soup.
My uncle comes up from behind me and hands me my bowl. I take it from him and he pulls out the money handing it to her. She takes it and pulls out a key from her bag and hands it to my Uncle.
“You will need it to get into the room,” she says and smiles. It will be dark soon and everyone will be going to bed” she says standing up with her empty bowl.
We walk towards the building in the direction she pointed in. I hold the soup in my hands, my stomach growing louder. I really want to eat now. Apart of me wants to run towards the building so I can sit and eat.
Finally, we reach a building with a red door. We push in and down the hall, there is a door just as indicated.
I let my Uncle walk in front of me so that he could unlock the door. He makes quick work of the locks and pushes the door open. He looks around and then opens the door wider, letting me in.
I walk in briskly heading straight for the table and I plop down. I put the bowl down and pull the spoon up to my mouth. I take slurps and shove the food in my face. I moan in happiness. It was a nice thin broth that had a hint of spice. The fish was smokey and had a nice flakey crust. It must be fresh by the taste of it. I continue to slurp it down until I hit the bottom of the bowl.
My uncle laughs and hands me my water pouch. I drink it quickly wishing I had more of the soup, maybe with fresh bread. Yeah, that sounded perfect. Maybe tomorrow I would ask Mother Sol about the soup to see if they could make more. With that thought, I flopped on the bed and close my eyes. I am sure there will be more for me to do tomorrow.