“Anywhere you send me is preferable to servitude. I’m worried about what she will do to you, though.”
“I will be fine. Shadow doesn’t want to hurt me, she’s actually very fond of me. She probably needs help with a gate. I’m very talented in that area. Of course, I do have other talents she might be interested in as well.” Riggit handed Cassandra the package of food, book, and staff.
Cassandra laughed, collecting the items her friend passed to her. With no time to inspect them, she slung the makeshift satchel over her shoulder and tucked the staff into it. “I don’t blame her. I’m sure she has all sorts of plans for that cute ass of yours. Is this your journal.”
Hoisting himself over the window sill, Riggit followed Cassandra out into the night. “It’s my journal from when I first started learning to be a gatekeeper.”
Riggit froze, ducking below the lip of the window. He put a finger over his lips, and waved his hand in a downward motion, prompting Cassandra to lower herself as well. “Shhhh!” he hissed.
The bedroom door opened. “What’s going on in here,” growled the commander’s voice from inside the bedroom. “I thought you said he was making himself presentable for me.”
“Oh, my mistake your high and mighty pain in the ass-ness,” snapped Schvark “He’s probably in the shower. That’s clear on the other side of the house.”
“Your master lets you get away with far too much familiarity, servant.” Their voices trailed off as Schvark led Commander Shadow towards the far side of the cottage.
“Give Schvark a big hug for me,” sighed Cassandra.
“I will,” whispered Riggit. “We had better hurry. She can’t follow you through the gate into your world. She doesn’t know how to operate the gates herself. As long as I have time to close the gate behind you, you will be safe from her.”
The two broke into a run down the path that led into the valley. Riggit’s black fur was a natural camouflage in the darkness. The silent gate glowed a soft blue before them, and they stopped when they reached it. Riggit made some curious motions with his hands and tapped the gate in several places.
“Will I ever see you again?” asked Cassandra, interrupting the gate keeper’s ritual.
“Of course you will if you want. I sense you have some Far Shoalain blood in you. One of your ancestors, perhaps a grandparent or a great grandparent, was from our realm. It is a skill you can learn from the gatekeeping runes. That’s why I’m giving you my book. This and the staff will be your tools now. You’ll be able to contact me through the gates, maybe even open them on your own one day.”
“Do you really mean that?” Cassandra could barely believe her ears. After years of studying these gates, finally the break she needed to really understand them. She threw her arms around Riggit “Thank you!”
“RIGGIT!” The scream was angry and carried clearly down the dark hillside.
“Sorry, no time to discuss this. Get in.” Riggit shoved Cassandra through the gate, and she was once again enveloped in light.
When Cassandra’s vision cleared, she was standing on a beach. The sun was shining brightly on the pristine white sand, and waves of crystal clear water lapped the shore peacefully. The air was salty, and down the curve of the sand dunes, palm trees sprouted at deviant angles.
She turned, and there was a gate behind her still glowing from where she had come through. Even as she watched, the glow flickered and died, the runes fading back into the silent cold stone. Her shoulders slumped, and she plopped down ungracefully onto the sand.
“This sucks,” she declared.
Cassandra studied the gate for a moment, removing her pack and letting it sit on the warm sand. She opened it, picking through the contents. The cheese and the bread were fresh, and she nibbled them thoughtfully. A few coins had made their way into her bag as well, and they were an unfamiliar denomination. Carefully, she set the staff down at her side and opened the notebook. No time like the present to begin her training.
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