Darkness settled over them as they sat eating roasted rabbit and root vegetables, the three strangers speaking quietly from time to time. Only the flickering amber glow of the fire mitigated the encroaching gloom. Alanna remained silent as she ate, mulling over the things they had told her. It wasn’t until Rafel called her name that she looked directly at them, puzzled.
The man smiled kindly. “The tent is prepared for you doma.” he said, and gestured to a small canvas tent a few yards from the fire. The young woman frowned in confusion. She hadn’t noticed them setting it up. Surely she wasn’t that distracted, was she?
“What about the rest of you?” she asked.
Rafel chuckled. “We will be comfortable enough on the forest floor,” he assured her. “I know you still have many questions, but you should rest. We have far to go yet, and tomorrow all will be made clear.” The younger man offered a hand to help her from the fallen log she was seated on, then gathered her satchel and carried it to the tent, laying it just inside.
She slipped into the small space and found a cushion and blankets on the ground, as well as a plain cotton gown for her to change into, so that she would not have to wear her dusty clothes to sleep in. She briefly considered peeking her head out and thanking Rafel, but it had become incredibly quiet, and she thought they might already be asleep. Deciding she could thank them in the morning, Alanna changed into the clean gown and settled down on the cushion. It wasn’t long before sleep found her, her breathing slow and even the only sound except for the soft crackle of the fire.
A wolf howled deep in the forest, a low and mournful sound that was echoed a moment later by another, quieter howl. Still sitting near the fire, Rafel and Dureil glanced to one another, but did not speak. The man was examining a document, mumbling to himself as he read. Dureil was toying with a coin similar to the one Alanna had been holding when they found her, this one worn on a chain around her neck. “Talven will be pleased.” she said absently.
Rafel nodded, putting away the document. “We found her just in time.” he agreed. “Perhaps her presence will stave off the sickness for a time, lift his spirits.”
“She is all he has.” Dureil spoke quietly, not wanting Alanna to overhear them. The girl needed her rest. “It is a shame it has taken us this long to retrieve her from the villagers.”
The younger man nodded, glancing to the tent where the young woman slept. “Indeed. We have found her now, though, and by this time tomorrow she will be reunited with her people.”
Deep in the forest the wolf howled once more and the two sitting at the fire chuckled. “We should get some rest as well sister,” said Rafel, grinning at her. “There is no need to stand guard. Alen has that covered.”
The woman glanced out into the darkened forest, then nodded. “You are right. Lune bless you Rafel.” she said before making her way to a mossy mound and curling upon it. Rafel watched her protectively, the younger man remaining watchful for a while longer despite his assurance to her that they were protected. Eventually though he too drifted to dreamland, leaned up against a tree.