Chapter 24Where Another Story Starts

Feelings were still coursing through my body, echoes of heat, light and ashes. And it didn't stop when I opened my eyes. In fact, it took me several moments to realize the light I saw wasn't the all consuming fire, but the light of the dawning sun. It was morning! It took me seconds to realize that my dream, that had felt so short, had actually carried me through the night completely. My whole body almost felt sore of running and being burned and it was still warm...

But it was a different heat, wasn't it? Deirdre laid there in my arms, as naked as me. Her skin, warm and soft, with me only then realizing that the heat I felt wasn't fire, but gentle warmth. With a blush I realized that my arm was actually draped over her breasts. I moved it down to her stomach, gently, partly not wanting to wake her up and feeling a little embarrassed. It felt important to me not to betray her deep trust and intimacy that she'd given so far. I think I did realize it was kind of stupid to even think this way, but it was important to me to be proper. Even if it made me a romantic fool. I sighed, it was time to wake her up.

I lifted my hand and caressed her cheek. "Deirdre, wake up?"

A small giggle was stifled. "I've been awake for a while. Did you have a nightmare?"

I blushed even more, thankful she couldn't see my face, though I realized that she might be able to feel the heat of my blush. "Kind of, I'll tell you all about it, but we have to get up and get ready."

Deirdre didn't speak but just moved out from under the blankets to her clothes. She dutifully got dressed in a very relaxed manner, making sure that she didn't forget a thing. I took a breath and did the same, getting up from bed and slowly dressing myself. The new clothes were, in fact, quite comfortable if a little strange to touch. The leather was tougher in places that needed protection and it would take some getting used to. They smelled weird too. It was as if they'd been recently oiled, the metal on it polished. Mixing thick warm scents of oil with the sharp fresh of metal. I fastened the sword to my back and gave the knife to Deirdre, who placed it on her belt. All done.

"It suits you." Deirdre looked at me with a smile.

"Thanks. I'm going to the Master's Chamber now, will you wait for me with the horses?"

She nodded.

"Let's go."

I locked the door behind me after we went into the corridor. We had to walk in the same direction for a while, but basically as soon as we reached the stairs, I had to go another way. Fortunately Deirdre had a good memory for directions and had no problem remembering where the stables were. Not that they were very hard to find, just go down to ground level, outside and everyone would find them. The corridors were fairly silent, not many students actually walked these at this time. They were usually awake, but often preparing them for the coming day in their rooms, practice study or whatever.

I arrived and knocked.

"Enter."

Master Gadrim was inside, smiling as he saw me enter. "All ready, I see."

"Yes sir." Did he send me the clothes?

He picked up three letters and a scroll from his desk. "The horses should be ready with provisions. There is one bit of... other news. I'd like you to read this scroll, then burn it. Do not read it before you are good and well outside of the city and make sure your servant does not see it."

That was kind of strange, but I let it slide and just bowed as I took the letters. Two folded shut and sealed with wax, the other just folded. Now that I was looking around, I noticed that some things had moved from yesterday. Books didn't appear to be where they were before, but it was hard to put a finger on it. Also, Master Gadrim appeared to be slightly nervous behind his smile. His focus was definitely wavering around, like a light buzz. Barely noticeable.

I bowed. "I will, Master."

He gave a small nod. "That will be all."

I bowed again and turned around to leave. It was definitely feeling as if something was going on. But the question was what, exactly. Also, part of me wondered if the scroll was written by him or given to him. The way he talked about it was more like the master was repeating orders. But who could order a master? With those thoughts and more, I walked the waking corridors to the stables. The stable boys were up quite early, and two horses were waiting for me, Deirdre feeding the lighter one with a smile. The horse for her was quite healthy looking as well, surprisingly so, actually. We were being given the royal treatment or something.

I didn't mind that much, but it did have me wondering.

"All ready?"

Deirdre nodded. "There are enough basic supplies on both horses and they look in very good shape." She smiled a little. "And they like me, so it's all good."

I smiled. "Well done."

Fortunately none of the stable boys were paying attention. We were probably much too friendly towards each other. Although I had seen 'masters and servants' who had an almost symbiotic relationship, the glow between us must be fairly obvious for some. We got on the horses and rose out with not so much as a goodbye. For a moment I fathomed I could see Sir Brandt standing in the doorway of the armory, but he was gone before I looked again. It was a lot quieter in the city at this time too, making it a lot easier to make it outside. Deirdre rode behind me politely. I was still a bit confused and nervous about this whole situation, it felt like things were going on that were beyond me and part of me kept eyeing everyone to make sure they weren't following me.

That feeling passed before we even reached the city gates, fortunately. The hovels outside the walls were left behind us quickly as well. We didn't push the horses, it wasn't needed. They'd have to walk most of the day for five days so an easy canter was enough. When we reached the forest all my nervousness was gone, faded as the sun and green surrounded me. Deirdre took her place next to me instead of behind me, riding easily on the horse without any apparent effort. It was good to see her like this, such a change from how I found her.

A smiled played on my lips. "Enjoying this?"

She nodded. "Definitely.