Revin woke with a start. Her head whirled as she sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. It was then that she realized she wore nothing but her underclothing. She scanned the room. Her dress was not there, nor were the leather pants and vests she had on when she had arrived. The only clothing in the room was a white dress that hung on a hook near the door and her boots in the corner on the floor. Checking under the bed and still not finding any other clothes, she sighed and donned the dress. It’s like Maeveen’s when we first met in the hall, she thought as she looked in the mirror. It was trimmed along the edges in a red design that looked like flames.
“I’m the Phoenix,” she spoke as she remembered Farrel’s words from the previous night. What does that even mean? It also dawned on her. And today is the Gathering. She recalled the ritual chant ‘Blessed is the Phoenix. May the Lady bless the Gathering.’ The words seemed different this morning…malicious.
She slowly cracked open the bedroom’s door. Edging into the main room she couldn’t see anyone. Mid-morning light shone through the window. A platter of hot food was on the table as if it had been placed there only moments earlier. Revin crouched, so as not to be seen through the window, and grabbed the knife next to the platter. Remaining bent over, she gathered the hem of the floor length dress in one hand and made her way across the room. She lifted the latch on the buildings door before gently pushing it open.
The sun shone brightly, not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful spring day, yet no one was on the road or around any of the neighboring houses. It was if they had all disappeared. Where is everyone? Rather than getting answers, the mystery only deepened. At the Gathering, she answered then added sarcastically, whatever and wherever it is.
A pain made her wince. She grabbed her stomach. She hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning and didn’t think she could go much longer without food. She glanced around one more time then stepped back into the house and dropped the latch bolt onto the catch behind her. With the door secure she sat at the table and devoured the roasted meat and potatoes. An empty mug sat next to the platter along with a jug of what she guessed was Muspell next to it. She pushed the jug to the other side of the table, then took the mug and dipped it into a bucket of water that was on another small table.
A short while later, her hunger sated, she cleaned the knife and secreted it inside the top of her boot. She searched the room for other weapons. She thought she’d find other kitchen utensils, but there was nothing of value except for a decorative staff that hung along one wall. On end, it was taller than her. Revin removed it from the hooks and hefted it to make sure it wasn’t too heavy. It wasn’t. The shaft was made from what looked like a large bone, split near the top that made a perfect handhold. On top was a green stone or jewel, held in place with what could only be a claw. With little else to do between hunting trips, there had been a few times when she’s practiced with a staff. Not one like this, but similar, though the stone would make one end heavy. She held it out with one hand and realized it was expertly balanced. “Solid,” she commented and tapped the pole on the ground. It will do.
Armed as best she could, she exited the house, still no one in sight. Making her way up the path to the main road, she considered her options. She could try to get to the barn to get her wagon and horse, but she wasn’t even sure where it was, she couldn’t see it from the road. Revin looked to her left. Did we go that way yesterday? After all that had happened, she wasn’t really sure of anything. She stared back down the road in the opposite direction.
“Revin!” Keely’s voice rang out and Revin spun around, the staff held in both hands out in front and angled across her chest, one of the more common defensive positions she had learned.
“Good. You’re dressed and you found the Covenant Staff.” The young woman’s smile was as bright and cheerful as if nothing had happened. “You scared me last night, but Maeveen said you just needed rest and a good meal.” Keely pouted. “I blame myself. I should have had you eat something before we left last night…but honestly, I thought you would have had something at the feast.”
Her expression changed again; her nose wrinkled as she grinned. “But who could have guessed you would dance the night away with Farrel without first feasting,” she added, and Revin expected her to waggle a finger in Revin’s direction, but she only stepped up to take Revin’s arm.
Revin pulled away a couple of steps, the staff still held between her and Keely.
“What’s wrong?” Keely looked both hurt and concerned.
“What have you been hiding from me?” Revin’s voice was harsh, but she’d meant it to be.
Keely held a hand up over her mouth for a moment, then lowered it. Her eyes seemed to plead with Revin. “I wasn’t hiding anything. It’s…It’s just that Maeveen said you weren’t ready. You hadn’t Awakened yet.” Keely took a step toward her and reached out once more.
Revin took another step back.
“What do you mean, Awakened?” She’d gone along with everything so far in hopes of getting help to capture the gold dragon, but enough was enough.
“I can’t explain.” Keely shook her head.
“Try,” Revin demanded.
The young woman’s nose crinkled again, as had become her manner, and after a few moments answered, “It’s when the heat fills you and you become who you are meant to be.”
Numbed by Keely’s words, Revin nearly dropped the boned staff. She’d already felt the heat before and realized that a warmth flowed through her veins, even as she stood in the cool air. She finally managed to ask, “Why am I feeling this heat?”
“The heat.” A smile filled Keely’s face. “You’re aware of the heat? That’s wonderful.”
“What is it?” Revin held her lips tight, bothered that Keely knew more of the heat in Revin’s body then she did.
“You should talk to Maeveen right away. The time is upon you.”
“What is upon me?” The heat had risen in her veins, and she could feel sweat on her face despite the cool weather.
Keely hesitated, uncertain as to what to do.
“I’m not going anywhere with you or anyone until I get some answers.” Revin pounded the end of the staff on the road surface to emphasize her point.
Her lips pressed tightly together as Keely apparently had made a decision. She told Revin, “It is the heat of the dragons’ blood.”
Revin snorted. “I didn’t drink any dragons’ blood, unless there’s something in that Muspell you gave me.” She remembered feeling the heat on the road to the village, so it couldn’t have been the spiced drink.
“It’s not anything you drank.” Keely paused. “It’s in your blood. You share the blood of the dragons.”
The staff almost fell from Revin’s hand, but she grasped for it and held it so tightly she thought she might leave marks in the bone.
“I…I…” Revin wanted to argue that she was not a dolt to be trifled with, but something deep inside her responded eagerly to the information. “How’s that possible?” she finally managed to get out.
“I’m sorry, so sorry. I’m not able to explain it clearer. I would tell you more if I could. All I can say is that it has to do with the Time of the Burning and the Gathering. You are the Phoenix!” Keely looked as if she would cry. “Please! Maeveen can enlighten you far beyond anything I can say.” She held out a hand beseeching Revin to go with her. “Time is running out.”
The thought that she should flee pressed against her mind, but too many questions remained unanswered and the sensation that had nagged her the last few days didn’t feel like a warning but urged her to go with the younger woman.
“Lead the way.” Revin waived the staff toward the market but did not take Keely’s hand.
Disappointed, Keely slowly lowered her hand, turned, and walked quickly ahead of Revin.