“Deverell!” I cried, nearly toppling over the man she was treating as I rushed to her. “Oh, I am sorry, sir” I said to him, as his groan reminded me of his being there.
“Kaleigh! It is wonderful to see you,” she replied as we embraced, “but if you keep wounding my patients, we will both be here all day fighting to a draw!”
We both laughed and, after a time, finally let each other go. We each took a step backward, to let the past catch up to the present moment in which we now found ourselves.
Her voice helped me to surface from thoughts of long ago, “Is it what you thought it would be? Coming home?”
I looked around for a moment. “So far it is, yes. But the day is young, and thoughts and wishes are not one and the same,” I said with a wistful smile. After glancing toward the man she had been treating, I looked back to her and said teasingly, “I can hardly get over how much you have changed. I remember the days when we used to play tricks upon the Watchmen, and now here you are, seeking to aid them, or seemingly so, at least.”
The man turned toward us with a look of such alarm that we both burst out laughing once again. “She is only teasing, I assure you,” Deverell said soothingly.
I quickly replied, “I am, yes, and I am sorry, sir. It is a perilous place to find oneself, between friends who have not seen one another for such a spell. But you will find no one better to see to your wounds than this woman, I promise you.”
We embraced each other once more, then I let her go to see to the watchman’s care. After a few minutes she rose and came to stand near me again. “I have duties here until midday, but afterward I am free. What are your plans?” she asked as she looked to me.
“I thought I would take a turn about town, say hello to everyone, and wander about outside the village a bit,” I replied. “I was hoping to speak with you as well.” I gave her a look to say now would not be the best time for that.
Friends of old have a way about them, a closeness that almost acts as a bridge, a very deep and real connection between the two. Oftentimes, they can speak without talking, and communicate a good deal with a casual glance or gesture. Such bonds withstand many tests, even that of time, and knowing that gave rise to a sense of hope within me, that my wishes and visions for this place might one day come true. I knew we would rely on this bond in the days to come.
Deverell gave me a nod to indicate she understood. Then a look of remembrance came over her, and she smiled. “I have something to give you. Something from long ago.”
I looked at her, a bit wary from our teasing before, “What? What is it?” I asked.
“Turn around and close your eyes.”
I laughed, pretending to close my eyes. I half-turned, but not so much that I could not keep an eye on her, “What trickery is this now?” I mused.
I saw her reach into a pocket of her dress. She embraced me with her free arm, and reached toward my right hand with the other, placing something within. She drew her hand away, and I saw that I held a broken piece of jewelry, a charm of some sort.
I turned it over and over in my hand, recognition dawning upon me, and my eyes welled with tears.
“Father’s charm,” I whispered. The memory of fleeing to the village as he kept the Blackwolds away from me came back as clear as day.
“We found it amongst the belongings of some of those fiends who tried to raid the village not long back,” Deverell said.
The charm became a living thing, growing and shrinking, changing shape before me, as I viewed it through my tears before they flowed from my eyes and down my face freely, new ones taking their place.
Deverell laid her head on my shoulder, “Think of all the wishes he made with this in hand, wishes he made for you. And now its path has come full circle, to be held by the one for whom all those wishes were made, wishes you have made come true far and beyond what anyone might have dreamed to wish for.”
“Not enough,” I whispered, closing my eyes to the living charm. “Not enough.”
She gently turned me about to face her. “That is not for you to say,” she said softly. “Your father’s wishes were his, and his alone. Leave his wishes be, and seek to fulfill your own.”
I looked to her through my tears for a moment before embracing her once more. I was not sure how I was going to ask her what I meant to ask…
We worked with the watchmen until midday, tending to the bruises, aches and pains that training for combat will bring. Thankfully, that was all we saw that day.
While looking over the training ground, I spied Dawn Stockard watching the training. She lost her father in the attack as well. There were too many of us orphaned that day.
I went over to stand beside her. She nodded to me with a small smile but did not say anything, so I merely stood with her for a while.
“I should be out there with them,” she finally said, “I should be training.”
I looked toward her. “Why are you not?” I asked.
She became a bit flushed and said under her breath, “Because my trainer, Master Cartwright, is too hard on me. He finds fault with everything I do!”
As she was speaking, I noticed him looking toward us, then quickly looking away. He appeared as flushed as she.
“Mmm…well, how about we spar for a bit and see?” I asked her. We sparred for a few minutes, with her trainer looking on all the while. She was quite adept with her blades, as far as I could tell.
I drew her back further from the training grounds, behind a tree near the wall of the village. “Dawn, I do not think it is your bladework that is the issue,” I said to her.
She looked at me for a moment, letting my words sink in. “Well, what do you think is his issue with me, then?”
“Well, for starters, trainers tend to be stingy with their praise, even if it is warranted. That is one method they use to keep you at it, of course. Here, let me show you,” I smiled at her and strode purposefully toward the training area.
I walked up to the training dummy that Master Fastred Burrows was observing. “Kaleigh! It is good to see you back in town,” he said.
“Thank you, Master Burrows! May I get your opinion on my technique quickly?” I asked.
“Of course, of course,” he replied, his countenance going at once from cordial and winning, to that of someone who had just taken a long pull from a glass of spoiled milk.
I gave the dummy everything I had. “Not bad, Kaleigh. But you are leaving your right side far too open when you strike with that hand. You should stay in town with me and work on it.” I heard a laugh from over where Dawn was watching, as I graciously thanked Master Burrows. I then returned to where Dawn was standing.
“I see what you mean!” he laughed, as I came to stand beside her once again.
I nodded to her, “In your case, though, I think there is something else at work as well. Sometimes, when someone has something they wish to say but find it too difficult, or they are too embarrassed to give word to their thoughts, they fall back upon old habits and say ordinary things, instead. Things they might have said hundreds of times, to others, just to fill the space with something.”
I caught Dawn’s eye and then glanced toward her trainer, as did she. He noticed us and quickly looked away again. “Especially when it comes to someone they might fancy,” I looked back to her with a smile and laid my hand on her arm.
She went flush again and, as she looked downward, I saw a wisp of a smile upon her lips. I gave her a hug about the shoulders and went back to aiding Deverell.
Once Deverell was free, we took our turn about town, greeting and speaking to friends of old, making the journey from the past to the present as best we could with the remains of the day.
How Jon and the rest keep to hope with unyielding spirit, how they endeavor to make what they wish for come true, everyday, is an image I will take with me far down my own road. Though my path has come full circle, it must branch off again, very soon.
But coming home has allowed me to see what made our village what it was, and even today makes it what it is. Thankfully, some chose to stay and kept it so. Will they still with the loss of another? I hope, and I wish it will be so. With all that is within me, I wish…
I looked upon Father’s charm, turning it over in my hand, as I stood by the well in the twilight. The two realms of night and day were still, precariously balanced in their fight for dominion over the heavens. It was the time-between-times, but the balance was soon to fade, I knew.
In the time-between-times, may restlessness be settled, and peace be found.
May I do my part, as so many others have before me, no matter what may come. May the circle remain unbroken.
This is my wish…
The Spirit Gauntlet Saga
Also, the entire saga, with full-sized renderings, can be found here!
(The full renderings make for a completely different experience!)