Alanna’s dreams were strange that night, filled with images of wolves and dark paths to which there were no ends. She tossed restlessly upon the cushion, while a vision played out in her mind. She saw men and women with animal features battling with giants. She witnessed the earth ripping open and swallowing entire villages. She watched, horrified, as unknown creatures raced towards a walled stronghold.
The young woman’s movements kept Rafel from resting well. Not that he minded, however. He was more than pleased to sit outside the tent and listen for sounds of real distress. He did doze off a bit, managing enough rest that he would not be entirely useless during their journey in huge morning, and when Alanna peeked out of the tent as the glade began to brighten with morning’s light she giggled as she saw him sprawled on the ground.
“There you are doma. Did you sleep well?”
The voice was Dureil’s. She was preparing a meal over the coals of last nights fire.
The young woman nodded slowly, carrying her satchel out of the tent. “Well enough, I guess.” She smiled at Rafel as he started to dismantle the tent, then sat down close to the fire.
“I am glad to hear it. We have a long journey ahead of us yet, but first I feel as if we should answer some of your questions.” Dureil smiled at her, offering a bowl of ground oats with fresh berries mixed in. Alanna thanked her and found herself suddenly ravenous, devouring the entire bowl without looking up.
Alen appeared then, his head visible to Alanna for the first time since they had taken her from the village. If she’d paused to wonder about it, she might think it strange that she no longer thought they had abducted her. However she found herself unable to wonder anything as she saw the older man approaching. He was human, or appeared to be, but his face was misshapen. It was as if the lower half of his face was swollen, for it protruded … not unlike the muzzle of an animal. Alanna couldn’t help but stare, only averting her gaze when the man grunted at her.
“Alanna,” Dureil’s voice broke through her amazement. “you truly know nothing about who you are?” The woman spoke gently, moving to sit beside the younger woman. Alanna shook her head dumbly. “Doma, you are witken.” She continued, smiling faintly when Alanna didn’t seem to know the word. “You have sorcerer blood. Your mother, Jes bless her spirit, was a powerful sorceress.”
When Duriel paused briefly to let the young woman absorb that, Alanna shook her head. “It’s not possible. I’m just a …” She trailed off, her thoughts drifting to the strange things that tended to happen when she was upset. The things her father told her never to talk about.
“I see you know what I am talking about,” said Duriel gently. “Doma it is not a terrible thing. Your mother was a good woman. She and your father were overjoyed when they learned they were to have a daughter.” She paused then, and frowned.
“My real father you mean,” said Alanna, sounding curious.
Rafel laid a hand lightly on her shoulder then, squeezing it reassuringly. “Yes, doma. The village smith had no part in your birth. Your real father awaits you in the stronghold.”
Something they’d told her last night came to Alanna then. “Is he dying? Is that why you’ve come to get me now?”
The three each looked to one another, frowning. It was Rafel who spoke at last, leaving Alen and Duriel to pack what supplies they had. “He may be. The sickness is not known to our healers. It is thought to be a warlock’s doing.” He cupped her cheek then, the gesture at once overly familiar and incredibly soothing. “There is belief that your presence will help him recover, doma-sha. That is why we must hurry.”
Alanna blinked once at the slightly different address, but she didn’t have a chance to ask what it meant, for Alen returned with four broad-backed horses and moved to help her sit astride the smallest.