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He Is Who He Is

She eased her back against the tree behind her and eased herself to the forest floor, closing her eyes for several moments in an effort to find her calm again. At the crack of a branch, her eyes flew open and she leaped to her feet, drawing her sword and swinging it in the direction of the sound. With a deft response to her action, Galeal grabbed her hand and stopped the sword in mid-swing and forced her back a couple of steps, wresting the weapon from her hands. She stared at him blankly for several moments.

“Galeal?” she said finally. He nodded, stabbing the sword into the ground by his feet. “What are you doing here?”

“Dinner,” he said and offered her an animal pelt wrapped around a what smelled absolutely divine, much like the small pack of food she’d found in her rucksack earlier that day.

“Thank you.” She took the food and looked around, past the dwarf and into the darkness beyond, looking for Judah and Poppy.

“It is just I,” Galeal told her and she nodded. She took great care to unwrap the delicacy contained within the animal pelt, thankful for the incredible gift of real food. “Sleep well, Girl Willow,” he said and turned to go.

“Will you leave the weapons?” she asked.

“They are always available when you find need of them,” he told her and again she nodded.

“Will I need them?” she asked him.

“You will have what you need. These are Judah’s words.”

“Okay,” she said.

“One final word from Judah,” Galeal said. “Not everything is as it seems.”

“I don’t understand,” Willow told him.

“Sentiary is who he is,” Galeal explained.

“Yes. An angel of darkness,” she said. “He tricked me well with his kindness, but I will be far more alert the next time.”

“You must remember that the dark ones are cunning. Shape shifters, yes, but cunning even more,” he told her.

She nodded.

“Until the next time, Girl Willow.”

“Thank you.”

After he left, Willow sat pondering his words and wondered where she should set up a camp for the night. A short distance away, she saw what she thought must be the glow of a fire and wondered if Judah and Poppy were closer than she knew. With care, she rewrapped the food in the pelt and tucked it into her bag then made her way as quietly as possible toward the glow of the fire, a hope burning inside of her for the company of her friend. But as she drew near, she realized that there was but a single form positioned near the fire and so she slowed her approach, turning to come in from behind the campsite. When she accidentally stepped on a tree limb and snapped it loudly in the silent darkness, the figure began to strain and jump about, as if it were trying to escape but was somehow unable. She closed the distance and watched from behind a tree as the figure settled down again, though his head moved often from side to side as if it were keeping alert for anyone who might approach. From her hiding place, she caught his profile in the glow of the fire and gasped – Sentiary. She longed for the sword that Galeal had reclaimed just moments ago. And then, she saw that he was trapped there; as he attempted to shift his position, she saw several roped looped around him, around his arms and his legs, tying him to the nearest tree. She thought she saw him tremble and she believed it must be as much from fear as from the chill that the night brought.

As she crouched watching him, Galeal’s words played in her head, Sentiary is who he is.” Believing him to have been tied her by the angel of darkness, she approached him quietly from his line of vision, speaking his name softly as she came. Their eyes met in the light of the fire and his eyes registered fear and relief in the same moment.

“Is it really Willow?” he asked.

“Indeed it is I,” she replied. “And, are you indeed Sentiary and not an angel of darkness?”

He shuddered at her words and she saw another flash of fear cross his face and hold deeply in his eyes. “For all the world, I promise you, dear, Willow, that I am none but Sentiary, the one and same that you met upon the hillside today.”

She moved gracefully toward him and began releasing the knots and the ropes that held him and kept him from sitting or from lying down.

“Thank you,” he said. “I am quite relieved to see that you are not harmed.”

“Come, let us sit closer to the fire and be warmed. You must be quite hungry,” she said.

They settled near to the fire and Willow brought out the packet of dinner that Galeal had dropped off for her not long ago and she noticed that it was still warm. She served Sentiary first, providing him some of the fire-roasted meat and vegetables on the leather-cover of her mother’s journal. Neither spoke as they devoured their portions. When at last they had each finished their fill, Willow broached the subject of the dark angel.

“What happened, Sentiary?” she asked.

“As you drank from the spring I was grabbed from behind, having never heard the approach of footsteps or person. I caught just a quick glimpse of the blackness of his feathers as he struck me upon the head and apparently dragged me into this spot, leaving me here to die I suppose.” His voice dropped and she sensed that he remained fearful of the possibility that the angels of darkness hovered too closely to them even now.

“I am sorry,” she told him. “It is because of me that you were hurt.”

He shook his head. “I am sorry that he tricked you by taking my form.” She stared at him. “It is the only reason he would have to capture me and yet not to kill me, so that he could take my form.”

“I do not understand,” Willow said.

“It is one of the rules by which they must abide,” he explained. “They can take a form of another only if that other is still alive. In other words, had he wanted simply to appear as half horse and half man, he could do that easily enough. But to take my shape, to have my face and my eyes and my manner, to take on my likeness for you to see me, he must not kill me.”

“Still, I am sorry that you are involved in what is apparently intended toward me,” she said. “This is not my first encounter with the angels of darkness.”

“It is because this is your destiny,” Sentiary told her.

She shook her head vehemently. “No. I am not a warrior and it was never discussed at my Ceremony of the Fates.”

“But the mark of the destiny is upon you. It is in your spirit and it is entwined with who you are. I see it when I look at you. It is the reason I sought you upon the hillside today.”

She looked at him, trying to absorb his words, that she was walking in her destiny even now. The thought drained what little energy that remained within her and she asked him if he would like one of the wool blankets she had brought along. He accepted gratefully and the two settled down for sleep and once again, Willow found herself hoping deeply that she would drift into a restful sleep that did not include any dreams or visions.

Willow woke to find that the fire was still burning well and that Sentiary was awake and tending to the rope burns along his arms and legs. The shirt he wore was a thin fabric and she saw that the roped had frayed through some places and left additional rope burns upon his back. She was thankful to find him still beside her and that she did not wake up alone in the middle of the forest this morning and she was even more grateful for the burning fire, noting that the night had indeed brought some far colder temperatures than she had known before.

“Good morning, Sentiary,” she said. “Is there anything I can do to help you with the rope burns you suffered?”

“Ah, good morning, dear Willow,” he said. “I believe that they look much worse than they are affecting me. I have been able to apply some of the herbal remedies of my people and that has helped immensely.”

“Now, if we only had some kind of breakfast before we continue upon this journey this morning,” she said. He smiled at her and she realized that she had not asked him if he would accompany her but had simply included him in her plan for the journey this morning. “That is, if you might consider accompanying me along the way, at least for a little while.”

“Indeed, I would be honored to walk with you,” he told her. “And, as for breakfast, we indeed have a wonderful spread of food to get us going this morning.”

“We do?”

“Upon waking I found that there were two such packets of meat and vegetables set near the fire beside me on the ground and I also was able to locate some of the delicacies of my people, including some sweet berries and some bitter bark for chewing upon during the journey today.”

“Did you see anyone leave the food beside you?” Willow asked.

“I did not, but believe it was perhaps one of the many dwarfs who inhabit these forest areas.”

She nodded and also believed it was one particular dwarf and was once again incredibly grateful that although she was without Poppy she was not entirely without support. The meat melted upon her tongue and seemed to infuse her being with energy with each swallow. Even more amazing in flavor with the berries that Sentiary had managed to gather while she slept. He had collected three different kinds and each one burst with a different flavor in her mouth, all sweet but with subtle differences in the taste.

(Day 10 word count: 1720 for a total of 19,230/50,000)

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