Padraig awoke early -- too early, he thought -- with an adventurous delirium in his heart. All his life, he'd been here, in Cambry, among people who weren't his kind and didn't know him for what he was. It struck him that as much as he loved Libby, who'd raised him like her own, he'd never known his parents, or even which one of them had been the fiend responsible for his inhuman appearance. This was it, then; now was the perfect time to make his disappearance. He wondered if Morrigan would mind a companion on her travels, since he had no idea where to begin his.

With a yawn and a stretch, Padraig got out of bed and began packing. Clothes, blankets, paints and paper -- his mind raced as he tried to list all the essential things, and get them packed up. He wondered how he'd carry it all, but the thought passed in a moment as he remembered that the cross old mule in the barn was good for something besides eating too much and looking sideways at him. He laughed aloud, giddy at the thought of leaving Cambry, and Morrigan stirred in the corner.

"Morning?" It was almost a question, almost a greeting. She looked so fetching, all muzzy and rumpled from sleep, that Padraig's breath caught in his chest. He mumbled something incoherent as she yawned and rubbed her eyes.

Morrigan got up and looked around curiously. "Moving?" she asked, looking surprisedly at Padraig, "Not that I blame you in the least, given your circumstances..." She gave a sympathetically ironic smile.

Padraig, caught a bit off guard, fumbled with his answer. "Well, I was -- I mean to say I hoped -- er, I can't be..." he paused, gesturing helplessly, "I want to go with you." A moment of silence stood between them. "I want to at least pretend that I am seeking my origins; I want to see new things and paint the world as it is, instead of how I imagine it...Most of all, I want to leave this place behind me, so that I may be what I am in peace."

She looked appraisingly at him. "Well, you've certainly packed a bonny bit of shite," she said, with just a touch of surprise, "How do you propose we carry it all?"

He led her out to the barn with a smile and revealed his surprise: a rickety old donkey cart, and a crotchety mule to pull it. Morrigan stared awkwardly for a moment, not believing the old animal was up to any such thing, but after a bit of convincing, the bastard thing proved its worth and its temperament, and they began packing up for the journey. It was agreed that they would walk with the mule instead of riding in the cart, so that it wouldn't get any rebellious ideas, and shortly thereafter, they were on the road.

As the two set forth from Cambry in the early morning light, there was not a cloud to be seen on the horizon, and both felt a certain relief, Morrigan was no longer alone, and Padraig existed for the very first time. As they passed the last house on the edge of town, Padraig stopped for a moment and stepped around the cart. Morrigan was quite curious when he asked for a knife, and listened fascinatedly to his swearing and the occasional tearing sound. As Padraig stepped back around the cart and returned her knife, Morrigan noticed his long tail draped over his arm. He turned around and giddily pointed out the shoddy modification he'd made to his pants, in order that he might finally proudly wear his long, prehensile tail. Morrigan clapped and giggled, and they were on their way again.

Despite sleeping by the side of the road, their frivolity lasted well into the third day of their travels. On that third afternoon, they heard faint breaths of music in the air, from somewhere up ahead. Inquisitive and fascinated, they quietly crept around the bends of the road, or at least as quietly as one can creep with a donkey cart, until they were surrounded by the thin sound. Stumped, the two travellers looked around them for some sign of the hidden music. At last, rolling her eyes in frustration, Morrigan caught a glimpse of something in the tree they stood beneath. Closer study showed the vague shape to be an elf, lying back upon a branch, eyes closed, dressed in black, and playing a violin. Morrigan quietly pointed him out to Padraig, whose eyes widened in amazement. Lazily and gracefully, the elf rolled into a sitting position, one leg crossed over the other, hands on the branch at his sides.

"I wondered," he laughed, quietly, "how long it would take you to notice."

Padraig and Morrigan just stared a moment, awed. Then, gathering his wits, Padraig spoke: "Where are you on the road to, Sir Elf?"

"I am on my way to Cambry town to restock my supplies before I go back on the hunt," he replied with a perturbing smile. "I have seen no town for many months. And you?"

"We go where this road goes," Morrigan stated solemnly, a sudden weight upon her.

The elf slid from the tree, gently touching the ground next to Morrigan. "You are troubled, little sister," he observed, "You are on the road of vengeance, I think." She nodded. "It is not an easy road; I follow it as well. There is much death to be dealt in the cards ahead of you, and I believe you have yet to begin dealing from that deck." Again, with a surprised look, Morrigan nodded. Padraig stood by looking shocked, and somewhat uncertain. The elf spoke again, "I am a master at the games of that deck; they keep me entertained and provided for, but still, I lack something. There is no pavement I follow, just the road in my heart; let me walk a ways with you, little sister, your pain calls to me."

Morrigan was afraid. She felt her mouth grow dry, and her hands grow wet. She looked over at Padraig, hoping for some sort of sign, but he was frozen and unreadable. Slowly, relief washed over her as she realised that the elf meant her no harm. If he had, she reasoned, he'd have killed her before she saw him. Well, if he was a hunter, then they would never lack for meat. "What is your name, hunter?" She turned her chin up, and looked the elf in the eye.

"My name I keep to myself, but I am called al'El'lome, the Dark Star." He bowed slightly, and fixed his eyes to the ground.

Morrigan held her hand out to him. "I am Morrigan," she said, firmly, "and this is Padraig. You are welcome to walk with us in trade for meat and music. You play very well, Darkstar." Padraig gasped and looked horrifiedly at Morrigan. She turned to him, "You have something to say, tiefling? You know what they'd have said about you; give him a chance."

Padraig fell into contemplative silence, and El'lome knelt and drew a long knife from what seemed to be thin air. "I do not know why," he said, laying the knife and violin across his forearms, "but for now what is mine is yours, Lady. We are together for a time for a reason, though only the stars and the stones know why." She touched his forehead with her fingers and smiled.

When Morrigan looked up again, Padraig had pulled some apples and ham out of the supplies, and was avidly digging for a pan. She walked over to the cart and retrieved one, out from under his struggles. He looked from Morrigan to El'lome a few times, open mouthed. "How did you know where that was? I've been digging for it for minutes, now!" El'lome held up a hand and laughed. "Women," he said, raising an eyebrow at Padraig, "They have strange magic."

The three sat down to a light meal of fried ham and apples, over which their stories were exchanged, for one should always know the makings of the people one lunches with. After much eating and joking and telling of tales, they were on the road again.

next week: Anderry Inne and Out

Maerklon's Story | Ophandir's Beginnings | Padraig's Younger Days | A Traveller in Cambry | Morrigan's Quest

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