Don't Wake Me Up
Coming of Dawn
"So, you can use magic?" He looks over at me from where he is lying, sprawled on his back in the meadow.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that." I look over at him, having finished my tale. I told him the long version, from my last day in another world up until today. He sits up and looks down at me, looking at me like nothing has changed.
I stand, dusting off the light doeskin pants and shirt I made for myself with his help. It has a more feminine design and fits me well, suited for the climate and activities. He helped me make several pairs using various tools he has collected from those who weren't as fortunate when they came here. Merchants that lost their way and died long before he showed up.
The sky begins to darken and we gather our stuff before we start to head home, walking the miles as we chat idly about the world. We climb up into the tree and we lay our weapons down in the corner. I toss him an apple as I bite into one, savoring the crispness of the red fruit. I finish it, going next for the meat. Alister sits quietly beside me, eating the rather bland meat. I finish and lie down, tired from my day. Alister takes his place on the floor, lying in his little bed of pelts.
It's been five months since I came here, and not once has he asked to have his bed back. I sit up, looking down at him and biting my lip.
"You can sleep up here, you know. I'll sleep on the floor." I look down on him as he lays on the bed of pelts, looking half asleep though I know he isn't. He opens his eyes, turning his head to look at me. He opens his mouth to speak but then closes it, shrugging nonchalantly.
"A gentleman always lets the lady have the bed." I roll my eyes at his words and he smiles, closing his eyes once more. I sigh, rolling onto my side and falling asleep.
I awaken to the sound of light rainfall and am greeted by the sight of a still-sleeping Alister, his eyes lightly closed and a slight smile on his lips. I sit up and stretch, looking out one of the small windows. The sky is a pale grey shade and I lie back down, deciding to take my time. I look down at Alister, tracing over the little scar along his jaw with my eyes. I smile, at ease.
He yawns and I know he is awake though he doesn't move in the slightest. I watch him roll onto his stomach, avoiding the soft light which I find fairly unobtrusive. I sit up, amused by the sleepy Alister. I close my eyes for a long moment, stretching and running my fingers through my hair. My hair has grown out a fair ways, stopping at the bottom of my ribs. I reach for the little leather cord I use to tie it back but stop, not wanting to bother with it yet.
"Feels like a lazy day." Alister's words surprise me and when I open my eyes he is lying on his side, eyes on me. I nod, agreeing wholeheartedly.
"It does, doesn't it?" I muse, once more looking out at the dreary morning sky. Alister sits up, stretching, and the pelt that covered him falls to his waist. Though not for the first time, I take in his scarred and muscular form. His upper body is covered in bite marks and cuts. Alister has seen battle, and lots of it judging by the number of scars. His broad shoulders are mostly unscathed, though I know he has a burn scar on his left shoulder blade.
He stands, the pelt falling away as he walks barefoot to retrieve an apple. His light pants ride high on his hips, presumably for my sake. His back has just as many scars, one of which catches my attention more than the rest. I stand, making my way over to him before running my fingers along a raised scar on his right side.
"What happened?" Alister and I have worked out that I can only ask about one scar at a time, and today I've picked a small scar that looks almost like a puncture wound. His hand catches mine and he turns to face me, eyes searching mine.
"Bandits." Is his one word reply. I raise a brow, unimpressed with his answer.
"That's hardly an answer." I pry, hoping he'll tell me more.
"It's absolutely an answer, it's just not one you like." He replies with a cheeky smile. I groan in irritation and pout, playing along. He sighs, rolling his eyes.
"It was a cold autumn morning. The leaves were just beginning to change and I was a young lad. About twelve at the time. I thought myself a great warrior because I was better than both my brothers with a sword. Bandits happened upon our little home that day while I was out gathering firewood. When I got home, my brothers were dead. My mother was dead, my father was dead. The men were in the middle of cleaning up, laughing over the way my mother had screamed when I ran at them, brandishing my sword. They disarmed me before I knew what happened and held a knife to my throat. They laughed at me, stabbed me in the side with the knife and left me to die. Told me to savour my breaths, the way my parents didn't get to. They took everything and left." The longer he talks the worse I feel. He looks off into the distance, a thousand mile stare in his eyes.
"I lay there for what seemed like forever, waiting to die, until a ranger found me. He saved me, and took me to the nearest town to recover. Then he left. I never got his name or saw him again, but I wanted to become a ranger just like him. And I did. Now here I am, no better off than I was when I was twelve despite all that I worked to become. Just trapped here, this cage serving as my knife." He leans against the table, looking at me intensely. I don't know what to say, looking up at him with my mouth slightly open like a fish. I close it, trying to find words that are adequate for something like this. I give up, wrapping my arms around him tightly. I feel him stiffen for a long moment before accepting the hug. When I finally let go he looks at me, his eyes full of words unspoken.
"I want to show you something." He says quietly. I nod my consent and he leads me from the house, still barefoot, and through the woods. The rain is light and warm, and despite being thoroughly soaked from it I find that I don't mind it. Alister takes me to the edge of the barrier, to a place we rarely go and leads me down a narrow path. The path connects to a river and we walk, wordlessly, through the underbrush.
As soon as I pass through my jaw drops. A small waterfall tumbles from the rocks, falling into a little pool of surprisingly clear water. It's gorgeous, the rain making a thousand little dimples atop the serene pond. I look back at Alister who smiles, his hair slicked back from walking in the rain and his bare chest dripping. I helped him cut his hair just yesterday and I run my fingers through it, eyes on him for a long moment before looking back towards the surreal scene before me.
I can imagine staying here, with Alister. Laying out under the stars on clear nights and just staying like this. Locked in time. His eyes, that familiar shade of icy blue, set alight by the light of the moon so that their radiance is all I can see. I refocus on reality, looking at him. His messy blonde hair is gold under the bright sun and his smile promises me another good day.
"It's beautiful." My voice is reverent and he smiles, standing by my side. My eyes are wide and I am entranced by the beauty before me. The grey sky makes the azure of the water that much brighter in colour. The bright green of the trees and the grass is broken up by the deep purple of the little flowers that dot this place.
I look up at him and see that he is captivated by the landscape just as I was. I reach up, pressing my hand lightly to his cheek as I urge him to look at me. My heart feels like it will beat out of my chest and as I look at him I make up my mind. I take a step closer, eyes never leaving his. I step up on my toes, closing the distance between us and kissing him.
As soon as my lips touch his his hands encircle me, one at the small of my back and one at the back of my neck. He holds me close as my arms wrap around his neck. He breaks the kiss, looking at me with bright eyes and smiling that cheeky half-smile.
"As I said, I don't kiss ladies who don't want to be kissed." He quotes what he said over a month ago and a laugh escapes me. He presses another soft kiss to my lips before letting me go. I lay my head on his shoulder, enjoying the serenity of this place. What more could I ask for?
He stares, impressed as a ball of fire flickers within my hand, licking at my fingers and engulfing my hand. I pull it in before extending my hands and firing it towards the barrier with a word. It explodes, climbing the wall of the barrier. He laughs, amused at what I can do.
We hit the seven month mark yesterday. I've been practicing unarmed combat and magic with Alister to keep us entertained. I'm limited to the few spells that Alessia shared with me before leaving and at this point I can four or five spells at a time instead of one. Alister usually watches, thoroughly amazed by any and all spells I can wield.
"So, why can't your magic amulet friend talk?" He asks, looking at me with his head tilted. I open my mouth and close it a moment later with no real answer to the question.
"You came in here and she went silent. But then, you can still use magic. Maybe she is suppressed somehow." He suggests. I tilt my head, considering his words and biting my lip.
"Perhaps, but I'm not sure how I can fix that. Or if I even can fix that." I trail off, eyes on the ground. His eyes narrow and we sit, mulling over possibilities.
"Can you put energy into the amulet? See if maybe you can reach her?" I bite my lip, considering his words and then look at him. His eyes are fixed on my lips and I arch a brow at him. His eyes find their way to mine and he shrugs apologetically.
"Sorry, you did that thing. The thing with your lip. You know I love it." He says nonchalantly, turning my cheeks a bright shade of red. He laughs, leaning over and pressing his lips to mine for a brief kiss. He leans back once more, once more lost in thought.
"I mean, that might work. Worth a shot.." I mutter, hardly focused on speaking. I'm more focused on how to make that happen.
I take the necklace off, examining it. I tilt my head, looking it over before closing my eyes and closing my fingers around it. I try and feel any lingering magic, but I don't know what anyone else's magic feels like and I'm not sure what I'm looking for. I sigh, trying to feel something.
"I don't feel anything. I don't even know what I'm supposed to be looking for." I say, exasperated. He gives me his usual half smile, shrugging, and I roll my eyes. I punch him in the shoulder lightly, not amused by his lack of helpfulness. He holds up his hands in surrender.
"There is only so much I can do to help!" He apologizes. I sigh, refocusing on my amulet. I search for magic, hoping that it will show itself in some way. I feel a sensation and everything seems to be spinning. I shut my eyes tighter, biting my lip and trying to delve deeper. I feel an unfamiliar resonance and the amulet grows warm. I try to visualize what I want, picturing the flow of power going from me to the amulet. I push it forward, evoking power and directing it towards the amulet.
It feels like something is stopping me, preventing me from putting energy into it. I sigh, opening my eyes and looking at Alister. I shake my head and he puts an arm around me.
"I'm sure it'll get better when we get out of here." He tries to reassure me but he knows as well as I do that I'm losing hope.
He looks down for a long moment, his expression pained. He looks at me with eyes brimming with apologies and I feel queasy, knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that he's hiding something.
"Elsira, I found something last week." He sounds almost like he doesn't want to tell me and I have a growing suspicion I know exactly what it is he found. I wait for him to continue speaking, eyes scouring his face for clues.
"I think I found our way out." I feel something flare up within me. A sense of desperation and a burning need to get out of here.
"Then we leave. Let's stop by the house, get what we need, and go." My words are excited and eager and he looks down.
"We'll need weapons. Lots of them. Whatever is in the place I found clearly didn't want to be found and I don't think it will just let us leave." I nod at his words, standing and turning towards the little house where we stay.
"Then we kill whatever needs to be killed and we leave. Come on Ali, you're not scared are you?" I look back at him, a smile on my lips.
Elsira looks at me with her big, pretty eyes. I see that familiar smile and stand, forcing a smile of my own. She doesn't know what we are up against but neither do I. I have a very bad feeling about this, however, and I find that for the first time in quite some time I have found a companion I can't lose.
She and I return to the house, her practically running and me following silently behind her. I watch her go, hoping beyond hope that whatever is in that cave is something the two of us can handle. The one time I saw the work of whatever resides there was one of the most unnerving times of my life.
The eyes of the man stared blankly. He was lying on the river bank, flat on his back with his throat torn out. The remains of his neck looked to have been cleaned, leaving bare tissue, muscle and bone free of blood. Deep puncture wounds on his chest looked like another possible cause of death as they were deep and directly over the heart. Once more, both wounds were entirely cleaned of blood and what looked like the bite marks of a dog surrounded the wounds.
The most unnerving thing though were his legs, or rather, his lack thereof. His legs had been torn clean from his body. They were nowhere to be found, leading to the question of what could have committed such an atrocity?
I found that body two years ago. He was a merchant in his forties and I doubt he had even put up a fight. No natural animal did that, and the body was fresh enough to have been killed that very night.
I bite my lip, following the little brunette. I distract myself as best I can, eyes wandering her slender form. She isn't overly curvy, instead lithe and muscular. Her curves are more subtle and I am filled with a fear of losing her.
The image of her lying on the riverbank as that man had turns me pale and as she climbs up to our little home I watch her with undeniable fear in my heart. I follow her up and watch her tuck her messy hair behind her ear. She grabs an apple, taking a bite as she starts tucking away the daggers and swords I've managed to acquire.
I wrap my arms around her, kissing her neck softly and causing her to laugh. Her laugh is one of my favourite things. Her nose scrunches and her grin seems to take up most of her face. She looks at me, those big eyes alight with glee. She looks so incredibly human and I want to protect her. I want to keep her away from all the terrible things in this world.
"Let's do it tomorrow." Her smile fades and those big eyes lose their confidence.
"Alright… I suppose one more day doesn't really matter." She turns to face me, long hair falling over her shoulder. It's a mess of brown that is rarely ever orderly and I worry that it might get in the way. It's impractical to keep it so long.
She takes my hand, pulling me back towards the bed and sitting down. She pats the spot next to her and flashes me a weak smile. She runs her fingers through her hair, trying to straighten it out as I know she does when she's thinking about something. I sit down beside her and she tilts her head.
"You think I should cut it, don't you?" Her eyes search mine and I nod, glad she brought it up.
"If it's that long it could get in the way."
"Then I'll cut it now, before we get out of here." She seems a bit off and I watch her stand, walking towards the window. She picks her leather string up off the table and ties her hair up into a high ponytail, biting her lip before pulling a knife from her boot.
She grips her ponytail tightly in her hand and I wonder if maybe this means more to her than she is letting on. She shuts her eyes, pressing the knife to just above where the leather cord is. I stand, placing a hand on her hip and watch her cut through the hair. She bites her lip so hard I worry she'll draw blood and then it's done.
She sighs, opening her eyes and as she looks to me I feel an ache in my chest at how lost she looks. I wrap my arm around her waist, kissing her forehead and holding her close. She tosses the hair out the window and I run my free hand through her short hair.
It's messy and uneven but it's cute. It makes her look a bit like a pixie and the impish grin she has when mischief is in her eyes will suit her better now.
"It looks good." I tell her. She nods mutely, burying her face into my shoulder. Perhaps she is more worked up at the idea of leaving than I thought.
It's my turn to lead her to the bed, sitting her down and working at removing her armour before putting all of her weapons on the table. She sits, watching me silently. When she is left in just her pants and shirt I lie her down, pulling the pelts up around her. It seems that by killing her momentum I also killed her spirit. I turn to leave and she stops me, eyes on mine.
"Stay tonight. I'm scared of tomorrow. Of fighting and leaving and… everything." She looks away as she says the last word and I sit beside her. I lean down and kiss her forehead before taking my shirt and boots off. I lie down beside her and feel her curl up beside me. Her skin isn't as warm as mine and I wrap my arms around her, holding her tightly as the sun creeps down towards the horizon.
"Don't be afraid. It'll all be okay." I promise her, but the promise tastes like ashes in my mouth. I'm just as afraid as she is. I close my eyes, falling into an uneasy sleep as I dread the coming of dawn.