We staggered into the caster village a day or two later. I really didn’t know how long it had been. All I knew was that I was sleep-deprived and ready I just knew I wanted to have something besides straight leaves, but no way was I taking something from anyone here. Not before I made sure they weren’t going to try and assassinate me. It was a predicament.
“Lilliana, I know what you’re thinking, but no one’s going to try to hurt you or anything, unless you go trumpeting your status everywhere,” Brendan said.
“You’ve never even been here, how do you know?” I said.
“I knew people who had to come here. Not everyone is inherently bad just because of some dumb decisions they made. Stereotypes are just stereotypes, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t take everything by the rumors,” Brendan advised.
“Hmph. All I’ve ever heard is that casters are just anarchists who want to kill the whole royal family, I have reason to believe that if no one’s said anything to the contrary,” I said.
“You never really left the castle. You’ve had someone instructed by your father say everything you’ve ever heard basically. I’ve never talked about it for fear of you being suspicious. You’ve never had any information that wasn’t controlled by someone who doesn’t like us. It’s not hard to see why you think that way, but it’s also not hard to see that it’s a flawed way of thinking,” he said. I pouted and looked ahead of me. The dirt trail led into the village, where a network of dirt roads wound themselves around buildings. The streets were quiet. Above us rose an old growth forest made mostly of redwood trees. The canopies of the trees let less light in than I was used to.
A kid around our age sauntered over to us, giving us a look of confusion and slight dismay.
“Who the heck are you?” He asked, pursing his lips. Brendan opened his mouth before I could say anything.
“We're new! What else would we be?” He asked.
“Why are we lying?” I whispered all too loudly.
“Okay, what’s up,” the kid said.
“We are here to help you guys!” I stated, a bright smile covering my face. Brendan sighed and stared upwards. I glanced over to him for a second but then turned back to the other boy. In truth he was kind of cute. His hair was dark brown and shaggy. He ran a hand through his messy curls while he came up with a response.
“How?” he asked, eyeing me up and down.
“I don’t really know… Ask Brendan, he’s a caster!” I passed off responsibility to him as it occurred to me that the kid was probably a caster too. So he might be cute but his personality was probably terrible. Didn’t stop me thinking he was cute.
“So that’s your name. Since your girlfriend here passed me off to you, you explain what’s going on and why you’re here,” he said.
“Well, first off Lilliana isn’t my girlfriend,” he started. “And we heard you guys were in trouble, so we decided to come around and try to help out with the problem.”
“Really now?” he asked.
“Yeah, really. Is there a problem?”
“Nah,” he said throwing a glance in my direction. “My name’s Will, and you?”
“I’m Brendan and this is Lilliana,” Brendan said.
“Pleasure to meet you,” I said, giving a small curtsy.
“Wow, you’re a polite girl, aren’t you?” Will said. I nodded.
“Well, do you have an inn or something for us to get situated in?” Brendan asked.
“No, we don’t really have a need for one. We do have a guest bedroom, though, I’ll just lead you there,” he said, and turned away. He started walking away, and I trailed after him. Brendan followed, seeming a bit suspicious.
“Is something wrong?” I mumbled in his direction.
“No, nothing you should worry about,” he mumbled back.
“Oh, okay,” I replied, and kept walking. He trailed behind me. I looked around the town as we followed Will through it. The streets were still mostly empty. Specks of light waved across the dirt. I clasped my hands behind my back and looked down at the ground. Pine needles and other dead leaves littered the pathway.
Will pulled us into a log cabin-type house and sat us down on some carved chairs in the living room. I ran my hand over the intricate designs carved into the wood. I could hear the hushed whispers of Will and a female voice back in the house. Some crinkling filtered back to my ears, and a bit of laughing from the female voice. They both filed back into the room. The female voice was an adult. Wisps of grey hair showed throughout her normally sandy blonde color. She had it cut in a choppy bob and a headband kept it in place. The headband was made out of what seemed to be weaved together bark. She was wearing a pair of medium-length pants and a green blouse.
“The guest room is down the hall and to the right,” the older woman said, pointing down the hallway.
“Okay, thank you,” I said as I stood up and watched as Brendan did the same.
“There’s a change of clothes for the both of you in the room. There’s a bathroom off of it as well,” Will said as we walked off down the hallway. I pushed the first door I saw open and it turned out to be the right one.
“Lucky break,” Brendan said, raising his eyebrows. I stepped inside and looked around. The mattresses were pretty much just burlap sacks stuffed with straw. I was glad there was a bed at least. Sleeping on leaves or grass really wasn’t very fun or comfortable. Clothes lay on each of the mattresses for each of us. I grabbed the small pile of fabric and walked through the door into the small washroom. A bucket of water sat on a small pedestal. There was a worn-down bar of soap and a washcloth to dry your hands with. A polished shard of glass made up a mirror. I untangled the multiple straps of the fabric into a coherent shape of clothing and held it up. The change of clothes was something I didn’t really recognize. It was a sort of shorts connected to a shirt-shaped thing. Thin straps ensured it would stay on my shoulders. I was changing into it when I heard some mumbling coming from the other side of the door.
“Darn it all, I didn’t know there would be a guy here she would like. I wanted it to just be us, but I bet she has feelings for that Will kid too. Why couldn’t she just not like him, it’s not so hard,” Brendan grumbled. My face fell as I took note of what he said. The full implications didn’t hit me, but the general thoughts of it did. I slipped the thin straps onto my shoulders and waited until I didn’t hear the rustling of fabric from the other side of the door before I walked out. I flopped down on the mattress, staring into the burlap.
Will is kind of cute though, I thought to myself, turning Brendan’s words over and over in my mind, desperate to find some way to interpret it that didn’t end in guilty thoughts. I ended on Well, maybe he didn’t mean it. I continued to stare into the burlap, finding that excuse a bit unsatisfactory.