He was gone again.
The woman felt to the wall, feeling the familiar cold stone beneath her palm as she pressed against it to stand herself up. She groaned as her legs unfolded, stiff from sitting on the stone floor for too long. She blinked her eyes, an old habit from when she was a child before she had lost her sight. The world around her was the familiar darkness she had known for years. She had grown to love the darkness- it enveloped her in its warmth, letting her hide in it when there was nowhere else to go. She walked along the wall, using her palms to guide herself, and her feet shuffling forward to find the floor in front of her. A small squeak sounded from behind her, followed by a small tugging on her shirt and a small weight on her shoulder.
"Hello, Remmy." She said softly, reaching up to feel for where the jerboa rat was before patting him on the head affectionately. "Time to start things again. What time of the day is it?" She asked, unable to see whether it was night or day.
The jerboa squeaked twice, holding paws full of her hair to keep his balance as she started carefully making her way down the spiral stairs, her feet stepping forward ahead of her cautiously.
"Day? Oh good- I didn't sleep it away again." The girl smiled, sighing in relief when she felt a flat surface in front of her. She hated those stairs- she couldn't remember how many times she had missed a step and tumbled down the stairs to the bottom, battered and bruised.
She moved along the wall toward her familiar station, feeling for the stone she was supposed to fill for the day. This one felt smooth- it must be Monday. He always left her a smooth stone on Monday.
She raised her head when a noise sounded from the other side of the room, wondering what would make that noise now that the sorcerer had gone on one of his journeys again. He shouldn't be back for several days.
Remmy put a small paw against her cheek to calm her, letting her relax when her friend motioned that the noise had been nothing.
She sighed in relief and held the stone, pouring her magic into it again. She didn't know why he always wanted her to fill these stones. He had told her to start ever since she remembered being a small girl, trapped in this tower. Ever since then she had been terrified to even attempt to leave. She knew where the door was- she could probably leave the tower right now if she wanted to. But…
She reached up to feel the scars around her eyes, terrified at what she must look like. It must be terrible to see a woman with such gruesome scars around her eyes, and the eyes probably opaque and strange. She let her hair fall around her face again, knowing that she could never leave on her own. She wasn't able to defend herself in the real world.
She looked up when she heard hoof beats from outside, looking in that direction in surprise. It sounded like someone was coming up the path to the tower- but the sorcerer didn't ride a horse. He despised creatures- saw them as nuisances.
"Stay here. I'm going to go see if this is the place we're looking for." A deep voice said from outside- a voice that was strange and unfamiliar.
The woman gasped in shock, setting down the stone and swinging her hands behind her as she backed up until she met the stone wall. Oh, how she wished she could find a place to hide herself!
Boots started climbing the stairs that led to the room, making her breath quickly in terror as the door opened, closing her eyes and flinching in fear as someone entered the room, the rush of air from the door opening hitting her in the face.
Metal against metal sounded, a rustle of cloth followed by a gasp of surprise. Remmy chattered angrily against her shoulder, jumping off her to continue chattering protectively in front of her.
"Woah." The man's voice said in surprise, another rustle of cloth sounding. A low confused growl sounded from beside him, making him chuckle in amusement. "Yeah, I know. They didn't tell me anyone else would be here. You don't think she's the sorcerer, do you?"
The creature the man had come with growled again in disapproval. Whatever the creature was, it sounded large as metal sounded against metal again, the sound making her flinch.
"Don't hurt me, please." She whispered, trying to press herself against the wall as much as she could.
"Hurt you?" The man scoffed. "I'm not going to hurt you. Where is the sorcerer who's supposed to be here?"
The woman looked up toward where the man was talking, blinking in confusion. "He left a few days ago for a journey to the south. He won't be back for quite some time."
An amused growling chuckle sounded, followed by a groan of frustration and the sound of flesh hitting stone. "Damn it! How am I supposed to finish my final quest now? This was the last thing I had to do!" He yelled in frustration.
"Q-quest?" The woman said in confusion. "Who are you?"
"Oh. The name's Hunter- I'm a battle magi. This was my last quest before I finished my studies… damn, now what can I do? There's a general lack of evil sorcerers around here."
"Evil sorcerers?" The woman said, feeling Remmy crawl back up to her shoulder again. "Why would you want to kill sorcerers? I thought magi were evil."
The man scoffed in disbelief. "Well some, but most aren't. I think you've been in this tower too long. Aren't you a magi?"
"No. I'm just a human. I wasn't born with any magic."
A short silence followed, and the man let out a laugh of disbelief. "I'm highly doubting that. From your appearance you have to be either a magi or a sorcerer."
"Appearance?" The woman squeaked in fear. He didn't think she was disgusting, did he? Was he recoiling from her, without her even knowing?"
"Yeah- your hair first of all, it's… strange." The man said, after finding the right word. "Nice, but strange. Different. Why, can't you …"
The woman looked up for the first time, letting her hair fall from around her eyes. She heard a hiss of pity from the man, followed by a short silence.
"Oh. I'm sorry- I didn't…. uh…"
"It's alright. It happened a long time ago." She looked away in shame. She must look terrible to get a reaction like that.
The man let out a sigh, an awkward silence falling between them. "So, do you have a name?" He asked.
The woman bit her lip nervously as she fought to find her name… she had been called nothing but 'girl' or 'woman' for years… she didn't even know how old she was anymore.
"Starla. I'm not sure if that's really what I was named when I was born, but... It's the only name I know." She looked away in shame, realizing how terrible that sounded.
"Hey- it's alright. Have you been in this tower your whole life?"
She shook her head quickly, trying to wipe away the tears falling down her cheeks. "No. I was a little girl when he took me from my parents and brought me here. He did something… strange. I haven't been able to see since then."
The man shifted, metal and cloth sounding again. "Well that does it, then. I'm taking you with me. No way am I letting a pretty woman waste away with an evil sorcerer. Come on." He moved toward her, grabbing her wrist with a large warm hand. She was too shocked by 'pretty' to realize he was picking her up until she was in the air with a cry of terror. Where was the ground? She clung to him in fear, unable to feel anything but his powerful muscles as he moved down the staircase toward the door.
"I haven't been outside before." She managed to squeak out in fear before she heard the sound of the large wooden door to the tower creaking in front of them.
"Don't worry- I won't let anything happen to you. We'll head to The Keep and see if anyone can find out what he did to you." The man said, his voice loud now that it was right beside her head.
The woman nodded, feeling Remmy hanging onto the cloth of her shoulder as she bounced up and down while he walked. She reached up to hold the small rat gently in her hands, smiling at his small squeak of thanks.
"What is the creature you came with? It sounded… large." She said nervously, hearing another set of feet walking alongside him.
"Oh- that's my kuras tiger Silver. He's nice, don't worry." Hunter said, stopping so suddenly she let out a cry of surprise.
"Sorry- I'm going to put you on my elk, okay? It's pretty tall, but I'll be right up behind you." He shifted her weight in his arms, hoisting her with a grunt of effort high into the air, making her squeal in shock at the sense of height. She felt her leg bump something large and furry, hooking her leg around it when she assumed it was the elk. She settled down on the creature, hearing a deep snort as bells jingled from its head as it moved.
She felt him climb up beside her, putting his arms on either side of her to grab the reins. She blushed at the contact, realizing that he was keeping her from falling by wrapping his arms on either side of her.
"Ready? He runs pretty fast, but I won't let you fall off." He said from behind her, his body warming her back as the gold air chilled her front.
"Yeah." She said, unable to help let out a small squeak of surprise when the elk lunged forward. She reached backwards out of habit when she started falling in that direction, grabbing handfuls of his clothing in her fists for balance.
He chuckled in amusement as the air rushed passed them, pounding hooves sounding from beneath them as they rode.