Chapter 9Where One Notes

Things were a little complicated, with only one small bed in the room and nowhere else to sleep, but it wasn't impossible to overcome. Then there was the minor issue of getting ready for bed. We didn't undress completely. Deirdre kept on her shirt and something below it, fashioned from the former sheet. I simply undressed to my undershirt and pants, removing the outer, leather layers of clothing. There were two blankets, but they were needed to keep warm, so there really was little choice but to lay close to each other. What we did, after some deliberation, was lay with the backs towards each other so we'd be warm but not too intimate. It was a bit hard to explain why, but it was important to me that I respected her.

"Good night." The room was filled with our calm breathing.

Her voice replied, a light smile drifting on her voice. "Good night."

It was weird having her so close most of the time, weird but not bad. Something about her felt right. But I wasn't quite sure what it was. Well, there were all kinds of suggestions but most of them were even more unlikely than the next. It wasn't even the books I've read, as they were mostly educational of sorts, about magic, the land, trades and more. It was the Bards that created the romantic stories for people to dream about. I mostly found them irritating, knowing they weren't true, but merely hopeful lies. There had been an exception, one bard actually sung what he knew, of the land and love from his own experiences, beautiful songs that were liked by many. I did often appreciate the music and the magic it did, even playing on the lyre and the flute a few times, though not very successfully.

And what about that thing we heard in the forest, moments ago? Was that relevant? It's not unheard of for deer to venture close to humans only to run away fast again. But this felt a little different. But it could just be my thoughts reaching for straws and still milling around the whole 'being helped by the forest spirits' of Deirdre. That was very strange indeed. I didn't want to worry Deirdre too much, I wasn't quite sure how familiar she was with them, but forest spirits usually just wanted to play with people for their own amusement. But it seemed like they'd really helped her, perhaps even hid her from the world until a traveller came along. If she had been sleeping on the path for more than four hours, there were bound to have been merchants or travellers passing by.

It didn't take that long for me to fall asleep, a little unused to the warmth against my back. The night passed uneventfully while I was asleep, I only remember waking up once with a noise that I couldn't place, but when my mind was clear enough to focus, there was no sound. Dreams were not very interesting that night, they mostly consisted of memories of the forest and some fractured moments in the castle.

It was the first rays of the sun that woke me much later, signalling it was time to get up. Being careful, trying not to displace the blankets too much, I sneaked out of bed, stretched and yawned. It would be a good eight hours on horse back to Dawnbridge, but it was very doable. While I got dressed my eyes noticed something near the door. We had locked it during the night, obviously, but a little piece of parchment was pushed beneath it. Curious to it, I picked it up and read it. The writing was very neat and quite proper, even though it was a bit smudged. Only one sentence; 'Read the letter', and a marking at the bottom:

The marking was a five pointed star with one point up, divided in two vertically, with the right half filled and the left half only outlined. Very unusual. It wasn't any insignia or mark that I knew. We had been warned in the Castle that there might be spies trying to relay information to them, with information still not freely shared between Light and Dark. Of course they would try and steal a letter rather than asking me to read it myself. So, why is someone asking me to read something myself? It's not that hard, really. If the sun was out today it would be easy to loosen the seal with my penknife and stick it back again without much proof. But is that something I wanted to do? This was only my first task...

Deirdre woke up as well, and yawned. "Morning already?"

I smiled. "Yes, I'll get dressed first and head downstairs, so you'll have some privacy."

She nodded. "Thanks."

I finished getting dressed and asked myself if I should tell Deirdre about the odd note. While I fought with my clothing I decided I would show her and at least ask her opinion about it.

"Deirdre?"

She sat up in bed, holding the blankets to her chest. "Yes?"

"Someone pushes this under our door last night." I handed her the note.

I put on my shoes while she read it, she was strangely silent. "What do you think of it?"

"I don't know, but the marking seems so familiar somehow."

"Should I do it?"

"I'm not going to answer that." She smiled.

"I suppose it's not fair to ask it of you." She did have a point, really. "Thanks. Anyway, I'll see you downstairs."

I unlocked the door an headed downstairs, this time I did hear Deirdre lock the door behind me, but that was not a bad idea. I wasn't guarding the door anyway. Downstairs, all the tables were empty. The barmaid could still be seen cleaning one of them, looking slightly sleepy to be honest, but the Innkeeper looked wide awake and stood behind the bar. When he saw me he smiled and greeted me with a nod.

It couldn't have been him, could it?