Peter ignites his hands again, stepping in front of Sarah.
The man in the hood tightens his grip on his staff. The leather of his gloves creaks against the wood. Loosening his grip, he sighs, putting his staff against the wall without lifting his head.
Peter holds his ground, never taking his eyes off the man.
Sarah stands close to the wall, peeking over Peter’s shoulder as best she can, but dares not move.
The man takes half a step. “We’re not here to harm you but to save you.” He lowers his head a bit more so as to keep it shadowed.
Peter steps forward, tightening his fists. “Who are you, and why should we trust you?” His fists tremble at his sides, flames rising higher.
The man sighs again. “Peter, we’re the family you were never told about. We will explain everything on the way, but you must come with us. She is getting closer to finding you as we speak.” He rests a hand on Peter’s shoulder.
Peter’s hands blow out again, against his will, and he turns to Sarah.
Sarah stands there staring at Peter’s balled fists. Catching the silence, she turns her gaze up and nods at him, then looks up at the man’s shrouded face as she walks past him into the kitchen. Having to push the woman’s shoulder out of the way, she passes through the room to their bags.
The man and woman follow Peter back into the room.
Sarah stands in front of the door, putting on her cloak and gloves.
Peter arches an eyebrow at her. If he’s said it once, he’ll say it again. She’s way too damn trusting. He shakes his head, swiping his palm over his mouth. Maybe she’s just using them as a reason to leave this death house? Nevertheless, with this new possible threat, do they have any other options?
Sarah grunts, putting her bags over her shoulders, tone flat. “Well, if you two are so eager to leave, then we’re packed and ready.” She watches Peter take his bags from the floor, then looks out into the backyard. “Where are your horses?” She shrugs, shaking her head, and glances over her shoulder at the two of them.
The woman walks over to her, snatching her hand, and gazes into the backyard. “Silly homini, we fly.” She turns her head away to her right, swinging her hair over her face, and grips Sarah’s hand hard.
The woman drags Sarah out into the yard. Bending her knees, she jumps into the air.
Snow flurries everywhere, leaving behind a dirty hole in the snow.
Sarah screams, tightening her grip in a panic.
The woman turns her head down at Sarah, laughing. The wind whips her hair about her face in a craze of curls.
Sarah glances up in spurts, doing her best to get a glimpse of the woman’s face in her frightened state, but can’t seem to get around her own hair whipping about her face.
The woman keeps laughing, turning ahead. “Don’t worry, homini, I have you. It wouldn’t go over well with your companion if his precious homini mate were to fall and get hurt.” She snorts, mumbling to herself too low for anyone to hear.
Sarah looks down at the shrinking cottage. She watches the man take hold of Peter, jumping into the air. They gain on her and the woman, passing, and take the lead. She watches Peter now. He looks at the ground. She follows his gaze, staring at how much of the farm is visible to her for the first time. The sharp wind flaps her cloak. She shivers, cutting her eyes at Peter again. He glances her way and smiles. She looks into his eyes, no longer flinching. However, they remain a constant reminder of that night in the woods. The night she found the rose.
Peter turns his gaze downward and watches the ground. The rolling hills of the countryside run with the mountain’s dulling peaks. Trees span out along the mountains and parts of the valleys. Wow, the extensiveness of the woods behind the farm hits him with a new realization. He focuses on black figures moving through the woods.
They fly from branch to branch. Their black bodies dot the sea of green, grey, and white. They fly silent.
How strange? They don’t circle either. Are they following them? No. No it can’t be. It must be Peter’s imagination. He watches them a bit longer. Blinking, he returns to them to focus on their grouping.
They’re no longer there.
Peter looks up at the man, calling out as best he can through the howling wind around them. “You said you would explain on the way.” He does his best to glimpse the man’s face, but his hood never moves.
The man looks down at him, grinning behind wisps of whipping hair, and calls back. “Yes, well, maybe when we meet the ground.” He looks ahead, jumping forward, and they move even faster.
The woman matches the man’s speed, causing Sarah to squeal.
Everything below the four of them becomes a grey blur.
Sarah and Peter squint from the power of the wind. Their stomachs drop to their feet. It’s everything they can do to breathe. The only sound now is the whistling wind around them.
They fly silent for several minutes before coming down in front of a tiny mountain. Their feet land soft on the snow. This whole time, the man’s hood hasn’t moved from his head, and the woman’s hair hasn’t given way for them to see either of their faces.
What do they have to hide?
Sarah pulls her cloak around her, and she shudders. Taking off a glove, she flexes her fingers. The sweat chills, sending up steam. They ache to the bone. How tight was she gripping? She adjusts the bags’ straps on her shoulders, putting her glove back on, and pulls her cloak closed.
The woman sniggers. “Oh, you won’t be needing those anymore, homini.” She snatches the cloak from Sarah’s neck.
Sarah stumbles back, dropping the bags, and grabs at her throat. She swallows against the pain, watching her silver clasp fall in the snow. Bending down, she picks it up, wiping off the melting flakes. She turns it over, looking at the stones. Thank Adonia it didn’t break. When she looks up, the man and woman stand near the stone of the mountain.
The man motions for Peter and Sarah to follow.
Before Sarah and Peter take a step, the man and woman walk into the wall, disappearing.
Peter and Sarah jerk their eyes to each other.
Peter shrugs, stepping up to the stone. Putting a hand through it, he looks at her over his shoulder, and then back at the stone. Taking a deep breath, he walks through.
Sarah stares, blinking a few times. Taking in a sharp breath, she steps up to the stone, hesitating, and puts her hand against it.
Confused, Sarah puts her hand at her side and stares at the stone.
Peter’s hand bursts through the stone, reaching out for her.
Sarah jumps, yelping, and flails her hands.
Peter grasps one, yanking, and pulls her through.
Sarah screams, closing her eyes. Crossing through, she stumbles, falling into him, and almost knocks him over.
Peter holds her up, grinning, and lets out a soft chuckle. “Stop that nonsense.” He laughs. “I’ve got you. You’re alright.” He helps her stand up, putting his hands on her shoulders, and looks at her scrunching closed eyes.
Relaxing a bit, Sarah opens one, keeping the other scrunched, and looks around. After another second, she relaxes all over, opening the other eye.
The man and woman walk up the short steps to the porch of a cottage. They lean against the railing, watching them take in everything.
Peter and Sarah stand there and gawk.
Pansies, lilies, blue bonnets, and lavenders, among others, bloom everywhere. Flourishing trees, familiar and not, create a forest around them. The lushest grass grows beneath their boots.
Peter stoops, stroking a few blades. As his fingers brush the blades, they char halfway down. He stands straight and eyes Sarah gazing ahead of them at the cottage.
Sarah compares the cottage to the one they just abandoned, again.
The strangers’ cottage stands three stories tall with a stable to the left. Vines with wide green leaves grow up along the edges of the thatched roof. They spill out over the edges, becoming a waterfall over the porch steps. Candles sit every few inches apart on the railing. Their flames dance, making the porch glow in the setting sun. The few lasting rays peek between the trees on the horizon. She looks to her right. A weeping willow stands off from the house. An old wooden swing hangs just above the ground. The plank pieces hang. A soft breeze blows. The ropes creak as the swing moves back and forth. Its jagged edges scrape the grass. The surrounding whimsical leafy tendrils sweep across the mossy wood. She turns back, looking at Peter, and laughs. Butterflies bounce around his head.
Peter tries to dodge them but stumbles around instead. “How is this possible? It’s Anjuary. It’s too cold for this. This is Unther or Ether weather. Maybe even the beginning of Talon.” He stops moving, watching them flutter around him.
Sarah giggles, putting her fingertips to her lips. How amusing! Butterflies have never swarmed him like this before.
Peter watches a butterfly light on his finger. Before he can bring it to his face, it turns to ash. He frowns at Sarah.
A light gasp escapes Sarah’s lips. She covers her mouth, putting a hand to her chest.
The man chuckles. “A simple enchato.” He smiles, putting out his hand to the house. “Come, join us inside.” He pushes off the railing.
Peter and Sarah watch the other butterflies flit away. With a forming silence, they ascend the steps, walking between the man and woman.
The woman pushes past them, giving Sarah a quick snarl, and walks inside.
Peter and Sarah step into the small front room of the house. A set of stairs stand along the wall to their left. An archway to their right. Jars of various colored liquids, dead animals, and animal parts hang from the ceiling. Herbs grow in pots on the floors, tables, and window sills. They follow the man and woman through the archway.
In what looks to be the kitchen, a fireplace takes up the whole left front corner with a cauldron hanging above charred wood. A wood smoke stove sits against the wall to its right. A stone oven lies in the wall to its left.
The man and woman sit at the long, light yellow wooden table in the middle of the room.
The man looks at the woman, throwing a hand out to Sarah, and sets his arm on the table. “Would you please give the girl back her cloak. We’ve been over this. Just because she’s homini doesn’t mean you throw out all sense of propriety. King’s rules be maldito.” He taps the table with his fist, glaring at her.
The woman jerks her head towards him, stopping short. Her hair swarms her face, light brown curls bouncing about her head. The slatted wooden chair creaks below her. A deep frown is the only thing visible behind her curtain of hair.
The man holds his glare on her, tilting his head a bit, yet keeps it shrouded and purses his lips.
The woman huffs. Getting up, she walks over to Sarah, never once looking at her. Turning away, she throws out the wad of bear cloak in her fist. The fur hits Sarah in the chest. Bear head flopping to the side.
Sarah looks at the woman’s head, despite her unwillingness to make eye contact. “Thank you.” She takes the cloak with velvet hands.
The woman doesn’t answer.
The man clears his throat.
Sarah and Peter turn to him.
The woman sits, crossing arms and legs.
The man turns to her.
Sarah looks at his mouth. That tight-lipped stare is all too familiar. Odd. It’s quite similar to Peter’s.
The woman looks out the window behind herself.
Giving up, the man turns back to Peter and Sarah, still yet to take off his hood. “You will have to excuse my sister. She doesn’t much care for your kind.” He cuts his eyes at Sarah.