Kelsandra, Chapter 8

The next morning, as soon as Kelsandra saw her brother, she ran forward and embraced him.

“I wish we could take you closer to where you need to be,” Gavin said, looking at Valgar from over her shoulder. “But we have some repairs on the ship to take care of before traveling.”

Valgar narrowed his eyes at him. The siblings broke away from each other.

“That’s okay,” Kelly said, smiling. “You’ve done enough.”

Gavin patted her shoulder. “We’ll get you food and then send you off.” He walked into the main room.

“That’s all?” her friend quietly said. “That’s it.”

She turned and wiped a tear from her cheek. “I’m just happy to know he’s alright.”

“One chat and some food. After all that time.”

“Oh, save it!”

Gavin walked in, holding a black sling bag. “You can’t stay here for much longer, so there’s enough food in there for the day. For both of you.”

“And the drake?” Valgar asked.

“Him, too, though I’m sure he can take care of himself.” Gavin smiled down at Sterjin, who didn’t react. “That bag is good for food. Keep it.”

“Thank you so much.” Kelly took the bag and held his hand for a moment. She heard Valgar leave, then she reluctantly followed behind him with Sterj.

As they walked along the shore, Kelly had to jog to keep up with his brisk pace. “When are you an advocate for Sterj’s wellbeing?” she asked.

“The lizard has grown on me. Still want to be a pirate? I heard him convincing you not to stay and ruin his new life.” He slowed down only to fit his mask over his face.

“That’s not why he said it. He only wants me to keep my options open. You need to stop.” Kelly grabbed his arm, the mass of which alarmed her. He kept walking. She let go of him, and she and Sterj stopped and waited.

Finally, just a few yards away, he looked back. “Alright, what?”

“That is my brother, and that was a private conversation.”

He shrugged.

“I don’t care what you think when it comes to family. Unless you are worried about me and my life, stay out of it. And please be more trusting of my judgment.”

“Why should it matter?”

She thought for a few seconds. “You listened to us, so you know where we’re going. There has to be trust, Valgar. Even as fellow travelers, there has to be a system in place.”

He looked her in the eyes. “Okay. I’m sorry. You don’t have to tell me anymore. I understand I crossed the line.”

They continued walking, closer to Kelly and Sterj’s pace this time.

Valgar continued, “I’ve never spoken to a pirate face-to-face like that before.”

“It was right for you to be on edge, now that I consider it. Maybe it was better that we got out of there while we could.” She didn’t mean it, but she thought that it was better to be generous.

“We’re stopping at a fishing village.”

“So you’re navigating now?” she asked in jest.

“You pick a place, I pick a place. It’s on the edge of the lake, straight ahead. Not too far. It’s better for us to keep moving early before any creatures come out. It will also give us an excuse to get rid of some weight before moving on.” He kicked at a large pebble and it launched into the lake with a thlump!

“Do you have any siblings?” Kelly asked.

“A few,” Valgar grunted.

And that was that. They walked on, him leading them to the top of a hill.

Kelly continued, “You haven’t objected to going home. What is your purpose for going there?”

“Tired of the warmth.”

“Yes, I agree with that. And what about—“

He abruptly sighed and pointed into the distance. “There. You see? The village. I told you it wasn’t far.” He dropped his hand and started up his tiringly brisk pace again.

“I don’t see anything!” she called after him, then jumped at a movement behind her, only to realize it was Sterj. Kelly looked around quickly, then ran after him. She’d gotten the message, though. Valgar would eavesdrop when given the chance, but he was not the chatty type.

Halfway through the day, they reached the quaint village, located at a slight incline between two hills and close to the water. Valgar laughed softly, as if to communicate how he was feeling through his mask.

“This is alright. Would be better with a Black Lion trader.”

They separated and Kelsandra quickly found a merchant. She haggled her old bow up to a silver and then got another as the combined selling price of the rest of her trinkets.

“Any more? What’s in here?” The man poked at the bag of food Gavin had given her.

“Nothing. Thank you.” She walked to an empty area between two cottages where children were running after each other around the borders. Where was Valgar? It was curious that he didn’t even take any food with him before disappearing. Perhaps he’d abandoned her here, to go off on his own. She shook her head at the thought. He was such a mystery; that’s probably what happened.

“Valgar?” she said loudly, circling around one of the cottages. Kelly thought she heard his voice from inside one of them, but she didn’t want to be nosy.

Sterjin grumbled.

“Okay, we’ll just eat,” she said, though she wasn’t sure what he was grumbling about. They started to walk over to the large wooden structure by the harbor when she heard his voice again, this time more clearly.

“Kelly.”

She turned. Valgar was stooped over only slightly, looking out the side of a doorway to one of the cottages. His mask was off.

“What are you doing—“

“Come in,” he said, then went back inside.

She walked up to the house and pushed the door so it swung open to the inside.

The place didn’t catch much light, so it was dim, not quite dark, inside. Kelly looked around and could see a few figures as her eyes adjusted. She didn’t step all the way in.

“Hello,” a woman in the corner said.

“Close the door,” Valgar said.

“Valgar, we should keep moving.”

“It’s alright,” he said. “Don’t you trust me?”

Kelly stepped backwards. “I’ll be outside. Tell me when you’re ready.”

The Norn grumbled, “Oh, for—here.” He pushed her aside and closed the door. “You’ll let bugs in.”

“Why is it so dark?” she asked.

“Would you please stop it with the useless questions?” Valgar said.

“That is not—“

The woman spoke again. “We keep it dark now. And don’t talk unless it’s necessary.”

Kelly blinked slowly and she saw two other figures in the room: another woman and a large man, though not as large as Valgar. She waited for the explanation, but they remained silent.

“We’ll find them,” Valgar said quietly.

“Our children are dead,” the woman said.

“They are not. You just said they’re not.”

Kelly rested a hand on his arm. “Why do I have to be here?” she asked.

“We’re going to find them,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “but we can’t do that. We have to leave.

“You can’t stop me, Kelly. We’re both doing this. You pick a place, I pick a place. We’ll look everywhere. Because we’re traveling everywhere.”

“We can’t look everywhere,” she whispered. “We have to hide in the shadows everywhere we go!”

“Fine. We travel, and I’ll look.”

“What’s the point of traveling together, then?” she huffed.

“Because I know you’ll revive me. Always.”

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