A strange woman has come to the village looking for you. I told her you were visiting family in Tanagorra. I’ve never liked that city so I hope the vixen pays them a visit as well. We don’t know what her business is. She mentioned that magician who came here a month ago and my guess is he told her where to find you. It’s doubtful you’ll see any of us by the time you come back. Don’t stay here, leave as soon as you can. I need you to go to our friend in the east desert. I don’t know if he’ll be able to help with all this but at least I know she won’t think to look for you there.
Sylvia squinted, trying to read the illegible marks that came afterward, but it was impossible to make anything out. She shook her head at the letter’s instruction. Go go their family friend in the desert? The crazy old man who claimed to be from another dimension – that was the person her mother wished her eldest daughter to run to for safety? Not to mention setting out for the east desert was no quick excursion, perhaps three days travel if the old mule showed enough spunk in its steps. Then again, it sounded like a better alternative to staying alone in a deserted village.
After quickly packing a few days worth of clothes and food in an old burlap sack, Sylvia plowed through the mass of winter clothes in her dresser’s top drawer for a secret item only she knew anything about: a pendant made of unpolished black stone, clasped onto a dirty silver chain. Shaped like one of her kid sister’s attempts at drawing a house with part of the roof torn off, it was about the width and length of her thumb. Though her family knew about the spell book given to her, the pendant was a surprise Sylvia found on the kitchen floor after the magician left. At the time, she assumed it was simply an item he dropped and decided she would keep it safely tucked away in case he returned. Now she was beginning to wonder how accidental her finding it really was. If the woman her mother mentioned in the letter really had come looking for her, it was the only reason Sylvia could think of for any such interest. This stone was much more than just a strange piece of jewelry.
Sylvia put her cloak on, sliding the pendant into one of the inside pockets. After throwing the sack over her shoulder and tucking the spell book under one arm, she headed back out to begin her journey. Obmuj scampered in front, carrying the lantern. They found their transportation was now a few houses down, the mule apparently not content with just waiting around. It wasn’t until making a short sprint to catch up and settling everything in the cart that Sylvia realized the lighting bug was still hovering over their heads.
“You’ll probably end up being food before we reach the desert,” she called up to it, waving her arms in the air to try to shoo it away. “If a bird in one of the other villages doesn’t eat you, something in the woods will.” Suddenly, Sylvia’s stomach began turning in knots. She hadn’t quite thought about the fact she would be going through several places she had never traveled alone before in order to make it to her destination. Wild animals in forests near the road. Potential thieves in the towns and cities. Rumors of zombies. As though that wasn’t enough, one of the first places she would need to come across was a neighboring town known for not being the safest of places even in broad daylight. She glanced down at her pet before giving the cart’s reins a gentle snap and sending the mule into motion again.
“We better be on our guard, Obmuj. It might be just as dangerous where we’re headed as staying here.”