The girl turned out to be named Ona.
No one knew the real human names, though. It was a tradition in Avras, rooted in olden times, to give a child two names: one real, which no one aside from the parents and the owner of the name knew; and one open, which was a protection against black magic. No one knew from when this tradition came – until the fey appeared in the realm. The old customs held a lot of wisdom. It knew the dangers that lurked in the deep darkness, ready to kill you – or much worse.
The fey, knowing your real name, didn’t only own your life – they owned your soul, even after death. It was a fate so grim that no human wanted to even imagine it.
You don’t own your soul anymore.
Reminiscent of these words slipped into his mind. He hoped that during mind talk, they didn’t find out his real name. If yes… but he would know. Oh yes, he would know that so well.
When the sun was starting to set, and it painted the sky with rageful crimson and eye-blinding yellow, Ona settled for a stop. Tiyan looked doubtfully over the snow. The wind was harsher now, the clouds cleared, which usually ment the cold creeping in. Tiyan already imagined how he would look after a night spent on the ground.
“I don’t want to numb your enhusiasm, but we can’t lay in the snow. We freeze like icicles.”
Ona scoffed, she had a really annoying scoff.
“There are ways to make a camp, even in the snow.”
“Don’t tell that you really want to do that” Tiyan’s eyes widened and he sat on the stoned, from which he quickly brushed off the snow. It was still cold and unpleasant to sit on, but better than damp and wet ground.
“Yes. But no. Do I look like a fool to you?” she glared at him, like it was him who lost his mind.
She suddenly passed him by and started to gather snow, her gloved hands worked fast and she moved quickly and almost effortlessly, like the tiredness of the passing day didn’t take its toll on her.
“Easy” she grinned at him, like it was the most natural thing. Something knowing in this grin, like she urged him to put his facts together.
Tiyan finally understood that it was indeed the easiest way. Building an improvised house from the snow was time consuming, but will keep them safe from the wind and they will be even able to make a fire. He felt suddenly like a fool. He would be much less tired now, if he tried that on the path from his village.
He cursed at himself and followed her, using much less grace and much more vocabulary.
“Take this” Ona pulled small blankets from her bag. It was made from a materail he didn’t particularly know and seemed waterproof, like the sleeping bags his father made once. “You still shouldn’t sleep on the raw ground. Try to not roll from them. Maybe it’s warmer under the snow roof, but we are still exposed on this cursed winter.”
“You really think of everything” huffed Tiyan, collecting snow and adding to the already building up shape of the small frozen house.
“When someone is on the road for so many weeks… they have to” something dark passed ythrough her painted face. Something that made Tiyan again think – why she was here and what things she will demand – no, ask him to do – when he will be taught enough, to not be killed alone. Even with her rough attitude, she was better than loneliness. To be honest, he liked her company, blunt and bold, taking the world as it was, but trying to bend it to her will, as much as possible.
“So…” Ona started to form round walls. He joined her, silently. “Venklann Valley.”
He nodded. She tried to pull him by the tongue since they met, but he was always brushing her off. But then again, he thought that she saved his life and now helps him to have a rest. She deserved some answers.
“Inamora,” he said with a dull voice.
“Why did someone so inexperienced decide to leave his home? Because something had to happen, it is more than certain.”
His gleaming brown eyes landed on her, she made an innocent expression. And that suddenly made him laugh.
“You never resign, don’t you?”
“Yes. I am in my right to know with whom I will be sleeping in a cold bed.”
Tiyan shook his head. There were many reasons why he shouldn’t tell anything to her. She, after all, talked so far onky about herself – which was convenient. But yes, if he couldn’t tell her at least bare facts, how could she allow her to watch him sleeping?
Do not tell her, they will know.
They finished, the improvised house gleamed in the sunset with whole beads of glittering snow. He felt as all tension gathered in him since he was attacked by the deadling, was now creeping in and taking him into its possession. He suddenly felt very tired.
“My family is dead,” he rasped. He found it difficult, like saying it loud was making it more real.
“All?” her slanted blue eyes drilled holes in his soul.
It looked like all enthusiasm ran from her, like her chest collapsed. Tiyan suddenly thought that maybe her story is not very different from his own. The world never was safe, but now, it has become cruel.
“I am sorry.”
“It was not your fault, after all.”
“You said… ‘almost’.”
“I search for her. My sister. I lost her track” he thought that telling this was enough. He already felt a thick sharp icicle entering his heart and pinning it to his chest.
But Ona didn’t want to know more, her piercing eyes just set on him, while he was putting up the fire on the gathered branches. The spark didn’t want to catch, but he worked with tinder almost furiously, like trying to pull not only fire from it, but also answers. Why I am even here? What if Mina is already dead?
“You sleep first,” she decided.
“Why?” a stupid question.
“Because you were almost killed today. And I… I am used to not sleeping at night.”
Once again, Tiyan sensed a deep tragedy. Something he wouldn’t be able to pull from her even with hot iron and needles under her nails.
But… he understood that. He himself couldn’t talk about his parents. It was too fresh.
Who knew how many fresh and old wounds she carried with herself.
He crawled into the house made of snow, immediately feeling an improvement, a relief, both from wind and cold. He almost felt as his tired limbs sigh with relief.
Do not turn back.
He didn’t have to. Behind him was only a dark snow wall.
The sun almost disappeared completely behind the horizon. In the distance a wild roar was heard. The fire burned with bright flame. Tiyan was looking at it, and the dark sillhuette of Ona, cutting the light with sharp shape. He hoped she will wake him up when his time comes.
If he even falls asleep…