The soft crackling of fire, accompanied by the snorting of the white elk that slept by the entrance of the cave was enough to keep Aleron awake. He'd given up on sleeping long ago, despite the fact that both he and the elk had been travelling for well over a week with little rest.
With a small sigh, Aleron looked up at the portion of the sky that was visible from inside the cave. Ever since they reached the tops of the Alasre Mountains, the night skies lit up with the eerie glow of the northern lights. The green and blue light never disappeared, it never slowed its pace or flickered, it was always there, shining with a steady glow. Aleron enjoyed watching the light rush over the skies, he liked the way it slithered and billowed, almost like it had a life of its own. Not that it had, but there was something unearthly about it.
A log fell over in the small camp fire and sent a cloud of glowing ash into the air. Aleron moved his gaze to watch the flames flicker, the orange light tossed long shades around the cave. It was calm, almost peaceful this high up into the mountains, few people ever came here, and Aleron found himself re-evaluating his life.
He was getting old, he couldn't deny that. He'd soon reach his fiftieth birthday, and he could feel that unstoppable cold creep into his limbs. Death didn't scare him, but he was worried about the time he had left. He always felt like he didn't have time to do everything that he wanted, but he'd begun to fear that he wouldn't have time to do anything that he wanted.
He scratched his short, black beard and hummed to himself. His beard, as well as his short cut black hair, started to become gray with age, and you could almost see the gray hairs appear over night. He had a son, he outlived his wife, and he had friends. But he still felt that urge to travel around and experience everything the life had to offer, much to his son's dismay.
A small twitch in the corner of Aleron's mouth turned into a small smile when his son's angry and sour face appeared before his eyes. Sinan had been so mad at him for leaving, even if he'd told him that this was the last time he travelled like this.
"So you're leaving again, without telling your son?" Sinan stood in the doorway to Aleron's study, his arms crossed over his chest and his mouth twisted into a frown. Aleron barely looked up from the bag he was packing.
"I'm against you leaving, and you know why. I don't want my daughter to grow up without her grandfather." He said and continued to stare at Aleron's hunched back. With a small, barely audible sigh, Aleron was still before turning around to look at his son.
"You know very well that I can't sit still, Sinan." He said and looked at his angered son. Sinan's hot temper and stubborn personality came from his mother, who sadly enough passed away a few years ago. Right now Aleron didn't know if it was a curse or good luck, Sinan would most certainly try and stop him from leaving.
"You're getting old, Father. Look," He gestured at Aleron's greying hair, "Even your body admits that you are getting old. Why can't you accept this, and just stay here, for once? You know how my daughter loves to listen to your stories. She would be devastated if you left now and didn't come back." Sinan angrily slammed his foot into the doorpost and cussed when pain shot up through his leg.
Aleron looked at his son for a moment before turning to finish packing his bag.
"This will be the last time, I promise. After I've done this, I'll settle down like the old man I am." He said and checked that the straps of his bag were secured. He didn't want to drop anything, from previous experience he knew that it could be catastrophic to leave your bag open while you walk.
Sinan's light footsteps reached Aleron's ears and a tanned hand grabbed the bracer around his arm.
"Father, please don't leave, not now, not to where you are going." Sinan nearly hissed and stared at Aleron with those storm gray eyes of his. He'd inherited his mother's eyes and temper, and Aleron's sharp, slightly square features. Aleron shook his head and straightened his back, wincing slightly as the bones in his spine popped uncomfortably. Sinan's grip of his arm hardened, and Aleron turned to look at his son.
"Sinan, please. Let me do this, at least once more while I still have time." Aleron said softly and put a gloved hand on Sinan's. Sinan stared at him for a long time before sighing and taking a step back. He rubbed his temples with closed eyes and exhaled slowly.
"Fine. But you better come back, or I'll curse you for the rest of my life." Sinan said quietly and balled his fists.
"Thank you, Sinan." Aleron said and pulled his son into a rough hug before pulling back and grabbing his bag.
"Don't mention it…" Sinan mumbled sourly and looked at his father angrily. Aleron put a hand on his son's shoulder and gave him a comforting smile.
"Don't worry, I'll be back. And to make up for it, I'll spend all my time with your daughter." He said and patted Sinan's shoulder, despite the feelings that swept across the others face.
Aleron looked around his study, he would miss the room while he was gone, but he would have time when he came back. The walls were covered in bookshelves that nearly broke under the weight of the books on top, and in the middle of the dimly lit room there was a desk. The desk was covered in paper, parchment rolls, books and various other items such as quills, ink pots and whatnot. Aleron spent most of his time in here, writing or reading, researching on myths, stories, or just interesting places he came across during his years of travelling.
"Father. Go before I regret my decision." Sinan's unusually calm voice brought his attention back to his son and he nodded quickly.
"See you then, when I'm back again." He said and flung the bag over his shoulder. He looked at Sinan, and Sinan looked at him, then Aleron promptly turned around and walked out through the door.
The sudden snort from the elk startled Aleron where he sat, deep in thought. The elk looked at him for a few seconds, then it got to its feet and snorted again before taking a few steps towards the entrance of the cave. Aleron caught the gesture and sighed heavily before rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"You got it, you got it." He mumbled and got to his feet slowly. His muscles put up a fight, this unnatural cold and the constant travelling could tear anyone out, especially someone as old as Aleron. Brushing a few snowflakes off of his gray and blue robes, Aleron looked at the fire and scooped snow into the flames, putting it out with a hiss and a cloud of smoke. He adjusted his red, gold and green sash, as well as the belt on the sash that held his sword and hunting knife.
Aleron flicked his hood up over his head and took a few steps towards the elk. He put a hand on the animal's side and looked at the white snow and dark, almost black shapes that were rocks outside of the cave. He was a bit reluctant to leave, he had to admit, but the elk was his guide and travelling companion, so he followed it and trusted it that it would lead him to his goal. Though he didn't really have a goal, that woman who requested him didn't tell him what she wanted, just "something" would do.
The elk snorted and started to plod through the thick layer of snow outside. Aleron followed after a few seconds, he threw his bag over his shoulder and looked around to make sure everything was as he found it. Apart from the smoking wood he used for the fire, the cave was no different from when he came there, so he could leave it behind.