to stop and stare

If there was something Deston had gotten used to, it was all of the stares.

When he was a stranger, they never happened. The new towns, cities, trade caravans… they didn’t look at him twice. At least, not until he had acted or something else had drawn attention to him. Only in the places that he stayed at for extended periods of time did this occur. The people who would look at him, try to confront him, try to be friendly, but all the while unnerved by something about him. Deston wasn’t sure what. He didn’t remember that being the case in his youth, but he had been a very different person in his youth.

It wasn’t the fact he didn’t say anything. At least, Deston didn’t think that had anything to do with it. That seemed to bother the people he’d been closer to before, like his sister. Or Shields. Then again, the two of them could talk like nothing. Deston didn’t remember Shields having been this talkative when they were younger.

Then there was Roland. “Morning, Deston. How are things?”

Deston nodded and Roland smiled in return. It had to have started with guesswork, but Roland had determined Deston’s general responses fast. Then again, Roland was the only one who didn’t seem to expect that he would be the same.

“Mom wanted me to ask if you and Temp would come over for dinner. What do you think?”

Deston thought that Temperance would be ecstatic. He nodded.

Roland clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll let her know then. I have to go help Shields with a delivery, but I’ll see you tonight.”

Deston placed his hand on Roland’s wrist for a moment, with a final nod. He watched Roland leave, everyone greeting him as he passed.

After watching Roland until he was out of sight, Deston went to let Temperance know of their new dinner plans.

As long as it gets done

The water was up to his chin, but Shields held on to the rope he knew he’d wrapped around his hand. He couldn’t feel it anymore, not with the cold water, but he knew he hadn’t loosened his grip. If he had, then he would have been washed away.

He could barely hear Roland calling out his name. If he turned his head, he would have a mouthful of water. Instead, Shields screamed out his words without turning.

“Temp! She’s further down!”

Hopefully Roland knew what he meant. Shields would be fine. He drew on the rest of his strength to turn and reach for the rope with his other hand. He could save himself. Roland knew that. Roland would save Temperance, where Shields could not. Again.

Shields couldn’t see. Without being able to see, feel, how could he pull himself to shore with the hemp? He had to be able to see what he was doing. Squinting through the current, he tried to focus on where he knew his hands had to be. Once he thought he had seen it, he adjusted his left hand, wrapping his arm with the rope. Then he let go. As he wasn’t swept away, he assumed the best and repeated the process.

Save her, Roland. Like you always do.

Gritting his teeth, Shields made his way to shore.

The letter

Salimah had hung it on her wall, making it the only such framed work in her abode.

The rest of the art were symbols of her belief, the only things she had ever needed. Images and items she used for displays to the other devout. Things she had missed during her travels, that returning to she had been glad to know were saved from the calamities which had ravaged so many other places.

This, however, she framed. Her first letter from abroad that she needed to see at all times.

She kept many others. Those who had thanked her for her services, her healing, her faith. Each note of gratitude meant the world to her and she kept each within her collection. She read through them on a regular basis, a reminder that her position was not only for her own sake.

This had nothing to do with that. This letter did not thank her at all. It spoke of building and friends. It asked what she was doing. It threw forward the question of when to see her again.

It told her more letters like this would be coming.

Salimah smiled when she looked at it, Roland’s handwriting clear from a distance.

Even far away, her faith had told her that her friends were always with her.

Now there was something physical that said the same.

Slightly on the outside

“Look! He’s here!”

Deston looked as his sister bid him. Roland was his friend and he would be pleased to see him. He was a little less pleased with how pleased Temperance was to see him. Not that it was his business how she felt. He simply hoped that Temperance would not sadden herself with Roland’s continued lack of interest.

This had been going on for a year. At the least.

“Hey Roland, what’s up?” Temperance asked him.

Roland sat on the other side of the table, the waitress getting his regular without giving him the chance to ask. “Shields is banned from roof work.”

Temperance snickered. Deston waited for an explanation that never came.

“My parents’ house is done, despite his best efforts.”

“That’s great!” Temperance exclaimed. “We should celebrate! Deston, we have to buy a good house warming gift!”

Deston nodded. He didn’t know what would make a good house warming gift, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try. Roland’s mother liked flowers, so perhaps a vase? She would appreciate that.

Temperance leaned forward over the table, pressing her arm into Deston’s arm. “Did they say when their doors will be opened? Need any more help moving things?”

Roland smiled. “I know mom would say that she had everything in hand, but she would definitely appreciate it if anyone showed up to help move things in. Shields is not banned from helping with that though, so it’s not going to take very long.”

“Are we sure he’s not a workaholic?”

“You want to say that in front of your brother?”

The other two laughed. Deston wasn’t sure that was a word that described him, but perhaps relaxing was difficult sometimes. Without realizing it, he’d smiled.

Time to buy a vase.

Of course there isn’t another way

The two teens looked about the cave with uncertainty. Shields knew, just knew, that there was something in there with them. Other than the usual animals that they scared off and the fiends that tried to scare them off.

“D-Do you feel that?”

“Ghosts?” Roland asked.

Shields scowled at him. “Don’t say that.”

“I’m not trying to freak you out. I’m saying I think there are ghosts in here.”

Roland wasn’t messing with him. Shields saw his friend was super serious. He tried not to groan. “Are we sure there isn’t another way around?”

“This is the only path through the range. It’s not that long. We’ll be fine.”

Shields stared back at his axe. It would not do anything against a ghost.

“You okay, Shields?”

“I’m fine,” he replied through gritted teeth. “Let’s just get going. And don’t wander off.”

Roland smiled at him and led the way. Feeling the hair prickling at the back of his neck, Shields watched Roland’s back and did not look behind him.


Shield’s hand clenched tightly on the axe handle before he glared at his friend, who grinned back at him.

“Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

“I swear Roland, when a ghost comes to eat you, I’ll leave you to it, I swear.”

“No you won’t.”

He really wouldn’t, but at the same time Shields was pretty sure Roland might benefit from a little bit of worry during this adventure. He kept that to himself as they continued onward.