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(Homecoming Part III)

The siblings split up to search through the shops for the best possible buyer. Not many in these villages had an interest in these kinds of wares usually, and even those who did couldn’t generally pay for it. At least not at the price that they were asking. It seemed like a lost cause.

Rasmus took the book, having to physically rip it out of his sister’s hands. She said nothing, though she believed he was completely in the wrong and demonstrated so with the proper expression. He ignored her glowering the best he could, saying, “Let’s meet in front of our room sometime around noon.”

She squinted up at the sun.

“What are you going to do?” she demanded. “I know what you’re up to!”

He stopped his turn and smiled at her. “I’m selling the book, Kaia.”

“You’re leaving me behind. Deliberately.”

“You wanted to explore… I mean this is supposedly the area where your dear friend Henrik was attacked. There has, allegedly, been a demon found here. Don’t you have something you want to do?”

“And our aunt?” she smirked.

“Stay away from her,” he said sharply.

This amused her just as much as they both thought it would.

“Rasmus,” she said as he went to turn away. He glanced back.

“If we leave here fleeing from some mother with a broom stick, I’m going to be pissed.”

He frowned at her, disappointed. “I’m not here for that.”

“You never are! It doesn’t stop you.”

He left walked off down the road, leaving her to do whatever it was that she wanted to do, which of course she had no idea about.

“Don’t bother the women!” she shouted after him.

He strode, determined, not looking back.

The roads were still almost as empty as they were when the siblings had first entered the industrially growing town, only a few people loitering about. They didn’t exactly appear the friendly types, and Rasmus didn’t wish to draw too much attention to himself—though that was a little hard considering these people seemed to noticed any sort of stranger who traipsed around.

He wasn’t really sure where he would take the book, and so, after walking about with little direction, looking back to see what his sister had gone off to do—she’d just disappeared—he finally took to examining the signs hanging above the few little houses in attempts to decipher exactly what the pictures meant.

It wasn’t long until he crossed a general sort of store, selling items like an inept pawn shop. They had gotten more popular in towns these days, even places in which markets were the most commonly used methods of trade, the people’s jobs growing more and more specific as machines began to create new items. Instead of the baker going to the farmer to buy the wheat and make the bread in which a person would order, these shops would buy the wheat or even buy ground flour for someone else to buy from them. Rasmus started to believe in Kaia’s assurance convenience was what sells.

He didn’t really get why a person would buy something just to sell it, but this had been a growing idea that benefited the siblings; they were able to rid themselves of junk easier as someone would buy something assuming someone else would like it even if the original buyer didn’t.

He went in to find, as he expected, the man took only a glance at him and the items in his arms before informing him he did not take that kind of thing here. Rasmus turned to leave without argument, going so abruptly that he almost hadn’t had time to hear the suggestion, “Why don’t you try the witch?”

He looked back, stared at the shop keep for a moment before smiling gratefully and calmly asking for directions. Then he ran out of there quickly enough the clerk just about believed that the man had stolen something.

Witches had a hard time in the last few decades, a sudden cry for their extermination growing abundant. No one was sure what was the sudden cause of this hatred. Though, of course, the witches’ ultimate power made them alarming. They were uncommon as it was, not many wishing to take up the art. It was hard work and required a slight bit of natural ability along with a lot of effort for extremely little payback. If a person wanted to live in human society well, she could never turn to witchcraft as a profession. But luckily, there were still many who never wanted to deal with people anyway. It left a great gateway from the human world into the Wyrd in which those who did not wish to travel there themselves could still use.

This witch lived far from town, common for their kind, but all he had to do was follow along the road. He passed by the large church standing prominent in the middle of the village and ignored the partial wall where, for whatever reason, a gaping hole crumbled, walking with a slight spring in his step as he went. The road was an easy route, not very corroded by rain or wheel tracks. Only in one place did it split, and that was to lead towards the hill behind the church into a secluded area in which a few nicer houses were kept. Rasmus knew immediately that he was not meant to go down that path, and eyed it chillingly until he was far away from it.

The time it took to walk just out of town notified him early that he would probably not be back before noon, the distance rolling longer than he expected. Rasmus slogged along for a good age before questioning it at all, and only started to get nervous at around the third time he had come to a zenith in the road’s bumping nature and still did not see any sign of the witch’s house.

Normally he’d have no problem leaving Kaia on her own nor making her wait for him. His guilt was usually salved by her general inconsiderate actions and thus legitimized his. But now, when something could so easily go wrong, when the people there were so strange, he wasn’t even sure that having split up in the first place had been a good idea. He originally thought he was going to stay in town. He thought this wouldn’t really take that long. For a while, he considered going back, but never acted on it.

The distance he had come and the lack of desire to go all the way back for nothing lead him on, and so he continued, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach all the while until he found the little cozy house, right out in the open and obvious.

It looked like a witch’s home. The facets of magic scattered about it messily, the sudden feel of a marsh, the swamp crawling up the walls and growing along the path. The homes of the magic users tended to be better made, the wood a fresher material. They kept the boards from rotting, they altered the thatch from drooping, they created the house they lived in with very little help from a carpenter and had it looking that way for years.

It may have been a Wanderer’s House at one point, or the possession of her family. Or maybe even abandoned at times. As no man would sell a home to a woman, even a witch, they had to acquire it in other manners, but after that point no one really felt like asking about it.

The face of it was eaten by lush, green moss, almost a bed of soft and exaggerated plant-life swarming around. Flowers that didn’t belong in this area grew in sizes Rasmus was unfamiliar with. Bramble surrounded a left out pot. A garden sat neatly trimmed to the left, growing some of the strangest herbs he’d seen in a while.

He couldn’t help but having a bit of a relieved smile as he walked up.

A tendril of smoke rose through the hole where the door was supposed to be, and as he grew nearer he could distinctly witness the woman moving about inside. He stared with interest at the open room as he approached, watching the long, black haired lady stand above her pot, back to him, and peering into it with concentration.

Finally she slammed her hands on the rim. “Alright, what the hell came next?”

Rasmus halted. The woman turned around: the second surprise.

Over the peach gypsy skirt, passed the green shall, along the gloved hands and up to the pale hoops in her ears stood a very lovely young woman that was not indicative of what he had expected.

He had to almost hit himself for assuming she’d be old.

He took a step across the threshold.

“Excuse me…” Rasmus said.

She jumped, glaring at him. “Knocking too good for you?”

He made a glance around. “There’s no door.”

She assessed this for a minute and then agreed with a sigh. “I forget sometimes. It’s used so rarely. Come in.”

She smiled at him then gestured dramatically, her long black hair swooshing as she did so. “How can I help you?”

He took a further step in and took to looking around.

A thousand ugly things hung from the ceilings, a thousand stranger jars sat on the shelves. The room was filled with items he’d never seen outside the home of someone so entrenched in the mysterious of the Wyrd and he immediately lost all uncertainty if he had come to the right place.

“I was wondering if you were in the purchasing mood,” he inquired, flashing her a smile and holding up the book.

The woman paused, studying him over before shrugging. “Alright.”

He bowed a little and placed the book on the table before dumping out his bag and its contents over it.

“Watch what you’re doing,” the woman demanded as she rushed forward. “Do you even know what you have there?”

“Junk,” Rasmus replied. “But useful junk.”

She picked up a bottle with a glittering sparkle in it and asked, “I’m sorry. Isn’t that what junk isn’t?”

He shrugged. “Well, it’s not useful to you or me. It wouldn’t do us any benefit. But there are a lot of people who would like to think it would and will pay for it.” He shrugged. “And to be fair, they may be right. Everyday life and adventurous ones are not the same.”

Her eyes narrowed as she moved to a long feather, turning it over.

“What exactly is it that you do?” she asked with a faint taste of cold suspicion. “Adventure?”

“I am a traveler,” he said. “My sister and I go from town to town to protect anyone in need from the things of the Wyrd.”

“You are a liar,” she smirked.

He paused, thinking before insisting, “No… That’s about all we do.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean in reference to current events. I mean, in reference to the way you proceed about your business.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, that’s true.”

“You’re con men.”

“Only when it doesn’t work out in the other manner.”

She stopped looking at the things. “But you prefer it that way.” She tilted her head. “When you are lying.”

“Less danger.”

She studied him before going back to the table. “Your sister, you say? That is very dangerous work for a woman.”

“Many wives of vampires live in the vampire hunter guild. It is how a dreamer can even hope to be accepted by their society. We were not fortunate enough to have a blood relation cursed, so we weren’t allowed in. But it is not atypical for this business.”

“Daughters don’t often go the same as the sons. Mothers are only meant to teach their boys how the world works. Daughters get to live in ignorance. It is safer for us.”

He shrugged her off. “Well, to be fair, Kaia does more of the running than the actual fighting anyway.”

She smiled at him. “Does she?”

“She doesn’t really have joy for the business. She’s just fascinated by it.”

“And you?”

“I’ve acquired the taste.”

The witch smirked back, still in a way that gave him the impression of her condescension.

“She likes the scheming, she likes the Wyrd. But she has very little tolerance for pain and tends to be a flincher.”

The woman just smiled, listening. He stared at her for a moment then swiftly turned back to the items.

“Do you see anything that interests you?”

She pulled away into a more distanced and less involved look, putting her hands behind her hips and staring at them all nonchalantly.

“I don’t know what they do,” she said with a sigh.

He smiled, almost allowing a laugh. “Well, I’m not sure what they do either, but let me see if I can remember.”

She titled her head at him a little too smugly.

“This thing in a jar is dust that we collected. I don’t think it’s pixie… In fact I know it’s not. Kaia made a melodramatic point of saying that. But it does have magical components.”

The woman’s smirk broadened.

“We used a little bit. It can make things glow a little dimly. And if you blow it into the wind it will lead you to whatever you were thinking about. Of course, this meant that for days Kaia was covered in it.”

The woman frowned.

“She only thinks about herself.”

He paused and then looked at her. “Could you stop that?’

Now the smile dropped.

“I can feel what you’re doing and I don’t appreciate it. I’m just a salesman here.”

“It is not my fault if you care about her so much. In fact, it’s a little sweet. Most men go off about their horses.”

“Yeah, well, I know how you can use that information against me. Stop manipulating me. I’m not a fan of magic.”

She turned up her chin in a dramatic manner. “It’s not something I can control.”

He just sniffed at this and looked back to the items, concentrating on the feeling in his chest to will his mouth to shut up.

“Besides,” she said. “I want you to tell me the truth.”

“I am telling you the truth,” he spat.

She just smiled pleasantly and picked the jar with the glowing dust up.

“And plus, Kaia is the most paranoid woman in the world. She will very well be pissed to find that she’s having her future read just because I divulged too much about her.”

He hesitated then again forced his mouth closed.

The woman shook the jar. “I will take the will o-wisp’s dust from you,” she said, studying it over.

“Ah. So that’s what it was. I think I heard K—”

He suddenly took to staring at the floor with a tight mouth and wide, determined eyes on his face.

The witch laughed in a musical way. “So, tell me, how did you get this magical dust? Did you kill a will o-wisp?”

He glared at her.

She looked offended. “This is a legitimate question. Any answer will be completely chosen by you.”

“We found it,” he said tightly and then clamped his mouth shut again.

She smiled. “Alright. And how about this feather? Its importance?”

He shrugged. “It’s from a raven… but it was a familiar we believe.”

She nodded a moment, holding it between her fingers.

“If I may?” she asked.

He said yes though he wasn’t entirely certain what she was doing.

With a snap of her fingers a bright blue flame alit on the tip. She ran it along edges of the familiar’s feather in which the black turned a translucent red. She shut it off.

“It is!” she squeaked with pleased surprise. “I thought for sure you were just an idiot.”

“Nothing I brought before you today is a lie,” he said. “But I won’t promise I’m not stupid enough to be wrong.”

At this, he even allowed the woman to lean forward and look into his eyes, reading him while they flashed from the piercing blue to a faint purple.

She grinned at this allowance and turned away, saying nothing more about it.

“I will take the familiar’s feather too,” she smiled. “It will probably never be useful to any peasant, but it very well may be the most beneficial thing that I’ve ever gotten. At least if I find the natural owner.”

“We feel that the bird was merely there to look at the land above. From what we saw, the demon lord who owned him never once appeared on earth. Or he was very subtle about it if he had.”

“They never are quiet. It is very hard for one to ever escape from hell, and thus we are safe from even the most powerful. I’m under the impression that it never happens.”

“You hear stories,” he said.

She waved him away, running a finger along the book.

“You hear stories like how there’s one in the church basement right now.”

She looked at him with a sharp turn.

“Oh please,” she scoffed.

“You don’t believe me?” he smiled. “I was brought all the way out to this desolate hell on the premise that one had been captured. I was under the impression that demon entrances were quite common in the world, especially if you get close enough to where the Wyrd is usually spotted… like here.”

“Where are you getting this information?” she smiled.

“Peasants have their stories. In fact, I would be more surprised to encounter an actual vampire than a demon, according to them.”

“Have you, my epic warrior, even seen a demon in your travels?”

“No. But confidentially, there’s not a lot we’ve seen.”

Again he realized and tightened his lips. He frowned at the woman.

“Peasants call anything they don’t understand demonic. Do you have any idea what it actually takes for one of the immortals to get to Earth? That, and the fact that they are immortal, immoral, and powerful, indicating that the world would be destroyed tells me that if one ever came to our land, we’d know it.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” he said, looking to change the subject. “I keep seeing you eyeing that book. Would you like me to tell you about it?”

She studied his nerves over for a moment before giving him a sharp nod.

“It all started on a long, dark night.” He paused. “Well, actually it started when an imp was giving bargain deals, but I’ll jump straight to the moment we were attacked.”

Rasmus told her the story and she listened. He watched her eyes light up, her body pulling in towards him. He knew that look, and of course it gave him a shiver of thrill. But then he remembered who he was talking to, what he was talking to, and he pulled back.

He had seen the rage of women before him, but never someone who could actually do some damage. His charm turned to politeness, his politeness turned cold, and as soon as he finished the story, he excused himself as fast as possible.

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Homecoming Part I | Homecoming Part II | III | Homecoming Part IV

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