Welcome to the world, Evelyn. That thought has been rattling around my head since I left the fabric house a few hours ago. The world is so different from what my old books say.
I turn towards the voice. It's Cassia. Excuse me while I melt again.
"Hey," I smile at him. He smiles back, coming to a stop in front of me.
"Do you need to someone to show you around? You look a little lost."
"Um, yeah, ok." Hot guy offering to show me around? Ep. We start walking to the outskirts of what I now know is a camp without looking back.
By the time we return to the camp, the sun is already setting over the woods. Cassia has explained loads to me about the world and the rebels, even showing me exactly where we are in Chalson. Turns out he's just as clever as he is attractive.
"Hey," he says to me, stopping me where I am, "I've got something cool to show you."
Oh, you know, just this. Cassias voice echoes in my head, but his lips didn't move. What the hell?
"How did you do that?" I ask him. Got to admit, that's kinda cool.
I raise a eyebrow and smack his arm. Smirking, Cassia keeps walking with his head down. As if that's going to work. Stepping quickly in front of him, I repeat, "How did you do that?" Slight surprise washes over his face.
"I don't know. I've always been able to do it. How do you watch that temper of yours?"
"I don't have a temper!"
"Really! And you've only just met me, so keep out of my thoughts."
He only smiles as he pushes past me and carries on. Groaning, I run after him as he disappears in to the trees. Branches snap in to my face, the only sound the crunch of the red leaves under my feet. I reach a clearing and see Cassia sat next to a golden pool. Since when is water gold? Must be one of those healing water springs or something. I move over to where he's sat and flop down next to him.
What does a guy have to do for a little privacy around here?
I bite back a smile.
"So, is someone actually going to tell me what happened yesterday and what I'm doing here, or is that classified in the world of rebels?" I ask, sitting up to face the boy.
"So uncomplicate it."
Yesterday, you nearly died. Guiver had shot you with a arrow dipped in Dragon blood, the deadliest poison in Chalson. Rasco was getting some intel on this new thing Opeh's got and found you and Jago. Apparently there's some legend about the two of you, but only Rasco knows it and he sure as hell isn't telling us. So he rescued the pair of you.
"You're making me sound like some single-minded damsel in distress. Or a helpless bitch."
Don't you like the idea of being rescued?
"No way. I've never had a taste for that kind of thing."
Pity. You would of made for a lovely locked in a tower princess.
If looks can kill, Cassia would be dead ten times over. Instead, he just laughs. But that soon stops when he's drenched head to toe in the golden lake water.
"What the hell was that for?" The boy splutters, his body glowing gold in the cold autumn sun.
"You know full well what that was for Cassia," I laugh, "Come on, I'm hungry. And you've got to show me where the food is."
I get up and run for the trees. His swear words are seriously loud. I can hear him running after me, catching me up. Arms wrap around my waist, stopping me.
"You're a fiesty one, Evelyn," He laughs, throwing me over his shoulder. My fists hit his back in an attempt to get him to put me down.
"Son of a bitch," I knee in the chest. Cassia mocks hurt and sets me down, smirking slightly. He goes suddenly still and stared forward. I follow his eye line and see Rasco jogging towards us. Great.
"We're moving out. Some of ours have been spotted in Benlat and we need to pick them up." Cassia seems to understand this more than I do. He leans down and kisses my cheek before sprinting off in the direction of the forest. It takes all my strength to keep from smiling like a idiot. Rascos rolls his eyes and pushes me towards what Cassia had told me was a stable. Two people, one boy and one girl, are stood inside, tending to some horses.
"Azelia, this is Evelyn. She's new so help her with the horses. Zeriso, ride at the back with Evelyn and your sister. Make sure they don't get hurt." Rasco glances down at me one final time and stalks out. Going after Cassia I expect.
The girl, Azelia, looks at me, rolling her eyes. I smile and walk in.
"Rasco never trusts me. He doesn't think I can handle myself. Anyway, I'll sort a horse out for you." She smiles at me and pulls a couple of horses from what looks a bit like cages. I can see why Rasco thinks she can't handle herself. She's so small and innocent next to the horses. Her gray dress practically hangs off her. Hair that was like the golden lake reaches just below her butt, without a single knot. Lucky sod.
"Have you ever ridden before, Evelyn?" Zeriso, her brother, asks me. He looks nothing like his sister. A short black crop frames his sharp face, his build bigger and taller than Azelias. Being taller than her isn't really hard though.
"Nope." I say, popping the p. Zeirso chuckles.
"Stand on this bucket and swing one leg over the saddle. Like this." He stands on the bucket and demonstrates. That doesn't look too hard. The boy jumps off and gestures for me to have a go. I climb on to the bucket and try to swing my leg over. Somehow I manage to get on the horse from one side and fall off the other. Goodbye painful looking saddle; hello definitely painful (and stinky) floor. We all erupt into laughter.
I climb back up onto my feet and try again. I will get on this bloody horse. Eventually. Once I'm on, Zeriso and Azelia get on their own horses and move up next to me.
"Nice one, Evelyn. Most people take longer than 21 tries to actually get on the horse." I try to slap him, but nearly fall off in the process. He laughs and rides out of the building. Azelia rides up beside my black mare and smiles.
"Don't mind him. He took 30 tries to get on his first time. Come on, I'll show you how ride." She takes hold of some strands of leather from her saddle and digs her heels into the horses side. It makes a noise but the horse moves slowly towards the door. Her heels go in again and it stops. Azelia turns to me, beckoning me forward. I take hold of the straps and dig my heels in. It takes a few tries but the black horse soon begins moving. Not always when I tell it to, but it's still moving. We ride out together and stop when we reach a group of people. Rasco sits at the front on a horse that matched his hair.
"Finally," he snaps, "We were starting to think you'd been trampled."
"You'll be trampled in a minute." I smile at Rascos face. Azelia might be small, but she's fierce. The others head off towards the trees, smiling and joking. Zeirso hangs back and falls in to step with us. This is the first time I can really take in my surroundings. Trees are everywhere to be seen, climbing right up to the water blue sky. Flowers the size of my hand cover the floor, vibrant in color and coated with small dew drops. I reach up one hand tentativly and brush a leaf, sending the refreshing droplets down on to my face and in to my mouth. Since when does water have a taste?
"What's it like, Evelyn, seeing the world for the first time?" Azelia says.
Crazy? Scary? Beautiful? Magic?
"Weird, I guess. I'm not really sure."
"What kind of things are you good at?" Zeirso pulls out a small, ruby encrusted dagger and tosses it from hand to hand, "Ever done any fighting?"
I flinch at the sight of the weapon and fiddle with my horses mane.
"Nope. The only thing I can do is draw." I pull my sketchbook out of the bag attached to my saddle and hand it to him. The boy flicks through it and hands it to Azelia.
"These are amazing, Evelyn. You're really good." She hands the book back to me and I smile at her. Feels weird having people I barely know looking at my drawings. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Cassia ride up next to us.
"What's in that book you just passed around?" He asks. Zeirso sits up straighter beside me, Azelia avoiding his gaze for some reason. I pass it over to him and watch his face as he looks through it.
"It's really good," he tells me, giving it back, "Just don't let the leaders see it."
"They don't like of people having hobbies that don't 'help the cause'. Draw in private though and you'll be fine," he smiles at me, his eyes wavering over the others, "Zeirso, Azelia." They nod at him.
He rides back up front and joins someone else's conversation. I don't have to look at Zeirso or Azelia to know they're relaxed again.
"Why did you two tense up when he was here?" I say, my eyes still trained on Cassia.
"I used to be his girlfriend, until he cheated on me with some other girl. Zeirso tried to beat him up afterwards and ended up being beaten up himself. He was in the infirmary for three weeks." Azelia sighs, staring at the trees ahead. Oh. Well now the guy looks a little less appealing. Still fit, but a no-go area.
"I'm sorry," I mumble back, kind of embarrassed. Definitely a no-go area.
"Don't be. I slapped him round the face and gave him food poisoning afterwards." She grins and I laugh slightly.
"Good. He deserves it."
It's another two hours until we reach our destination. Azelia has explained that rebels live all over Chalson, visiting the main camp only when needed or to discuss plans with Rasco. This was neither, according to Cassia when I asked during a break for food. No-one really seems to know what the hell is going on.
Benlat itself is kind of boring really. Even I can tell that. The houses are more like huts, made of mud and straw, with farm animals pecking around on the ground. People stand in clusters outside of their huts, watching us go by like we're aliens. That's what I feel like, if I'm honest. We soon reach a huge river with a small dock reaching out in to it. From what Cassia had told me earlier I know that it's the Eden River. Mountains, the Emerald Mountains I think, rise up from a thick looking forest over on the other bank. They're so high they probably have snow coating the tops.
On the bank of the Eden, I can just see a small group of people standing on a dock, talking amongst themselves. Our group dismount, me with some effort, and jog over to them. Well, everyone else jogs but I can barely walk. Horse saddles clearly don't know what a butt is. Azelia and Zeirso walk there with me and we move into a place that we can see what's happening. The other group consists of a tall redhead in a skimpy black dress, a fat lady in a voluminous red dress, a boy with black curls, a deer and a black beast I didn't recognize. Rasco steps forward and hugs the fat lady tightly. I raise a eyebrow and exchange looks with Zeriso. Why exactly are we here? Raso embraces the red head, not quite as tightly, and looks down at the boy, confused.
"That's Alessio. He's nothing more than a pain in the neck if I'm honest." Redhead spoke up. Well, she's a bitch.
"Play nice Xanthe," Rasco says to Redhead and shakes hands with Alessio,"Welcome to the rebels, Alessio. Why you're with Xanthe and Raven?"
Alessio gulps. "I got involved in a attack in Brutasis Forest by accident. It's really not my fault I'm here."
Rasco shakes his head and pushes the boy towards my little group. Xanthe, Raven and Rasco disappear inside one of the huts, leaving all of us out in the fog. I make my way over to a tree and flop down underneath it with the other three next to me.
"So what's going on here?" Alessio speaks up, fixing his brown eyes on me. I don't know why he's looking at me.
"Don't look at me. I only got here this morning." He raises his eyebrows and turns towards Zeirso. The guy launches in to a full scale explanation of the rebel goals, getting more in to it by the second. Azelia rolls her eyes and walks away. I get up to follow after her, not really wanting to listen to Zeirsos lecture. Who does? We wander around the village for a good while, until we reach a hut smaller than the rest of them. Painted wooden beads hang in front of the door and the inside is completely black. Azelia starts towards it but I grab her wrist.
"Are you sure you want to go in there?" I ask. It looks like the house of an ax murder or something. Ok, maybe I've read a few too many horror stories.
She laughs and pulls her arm free. "Relax, it's only a psychic hut. I go to them all the time." I sigh but followed her in to the hut anyways. If we die I'm definitely coming back to haunt her. The hut's lit only by candles, their scents almost suffocating, and a young woman sits behind a low table, dressed in exotic robes. The whole place is full of shining stones and charms, light flickering off them from the candle flames.
"Azelia and Evelyn, I was expecting you. Please, sit down," the woman smiles and gestures to two cushions in front of her. Azelia went to sit but I hold her back.
"How do you know our names?" Maybe she's like Cassia, whatever the hell he is.
"The gods have shown me. Do not be afraid, Evelyn daughter of Romia. You will not be harmed here." I sit on a cushion next to Azelia and watch the woman shuffle a set of cards. Still don't trust her, but Azelia seems to and I trust her.
"They're ard cards. She'll use them to see our future," Azelia whispers in my ear. The psychic spreads them out on the table, five in a perfect diamond shape. She turns them over one by one, starting from the center. A look of horror goes across her face. Great.
"You must be careful, Evelyn. Those who wish to do you harm are closing in and I see only two possible fates."
"Death or heartbreak." Azelia flicks her head towards me, mirroring the psychics expression. Double great.
"Come on Azelia. Lets get out of here." I sigh, pulling her up. That was really a waste of time.
"Be careful, Evelyn. Whatever path you chose, you must tread carefully. The Tree Of Fate crushes us all in the end." I turn my head back to the psychic and watch her as she moves in to a back room, looking for something. She returns with a piece of black string in her hand and slips it around my neck from behind.
"This will provide you with some protection from those who do you harm. May the gods be with you, my girl. Not everyone deserves the fate given to them." I touch the charm hanging from the string. It's a small metal disk, with a tree molded in to it. Tucking it inside my dress, I leave the hut and don't stop walking until we reach the horses. Something at the back of my mind keeps telling me to keep the charm on. I still don't trust her, but there was something about it... I know it's a good idea to keep it.
By the time I get back to the horses, everyone's busy preparing them for the ride back. Alessio is getting quick riding lesson from Zeriso. I'm glad to get back on Alca, my horse, and get away from here. Maybe the further I ride away from Benlat the little voice in my he. Just as I mount Alca, something caught my eye. Someone, clad in a black cloak, is slipping into the forest away from us. The figure turns towards me just before he disappears and I catch a glimpse of icy blue eyes, matching the large sapphire on his silver dagger. Something about him seems familiar.
I turn in my saddle and find Azelia just behind me.
"Did you see something?" She looks out curiously towards where the man had entered the forest.
"No. Nothing," I lie and we ride back to the main group. Somehow I don't think telling her about the man is be a good idea.
The ride back is just as uncomfortable as the ride there. I ride right at the back of the group, leaving everyone to talk amongst themselves, and get to know Alessio. Turns out he's a pretty cool guy. Got a good sense of humor on him. And he really gets my situation, which, lets be honest, is definitely not normal. I spent the first eighteen years of my life cooped up in one room with just some books and paper. Now I'm part of the rebels, have traveled to Benlat and back, been to a psychic, been told that, no matter what, I'm essentially doomed.
All in all, best day of my life.