(Part 39) For the complete list of this series, please go here.
Aerissa was a bundle of nerves when she woke up. She tightly gripped the edges of the sink, still shaky after vomiting. The mixture of fear and excitement was almost overwhelming. Splashing lukewarm water on her face, she worked at calming herself down. She finished getting ready, dressed in meager linen and leather clothing that she had pieced together herself.
“G'mornin', Rissy,” Twyla greeted Aerissa as she came downstairs.
“Morning, Twyla. Do you have your list ready?” She forced a weak smile.
Twyla nodded, pressing the list into Aerissa's hand. “Aye. An' here be somethin' ta help ye.” She shuffled behind her desk, removing something from a hook on the back wall. She shuffled back to Aerissa, a dark fabric draped over her hands. “Ye can hide yer face abit.” She smiled warmly, placing the cowl over Aerissa's head.
Aerissa fingered the material, pulling it low over her forehead. She pushed it back, letting it rest on her shoulders, then pulled it over her hair again. “I really appreciate this. I-I'm not sure if he will be searching for me, but I'd rather be cautious.”
After a quick breakfast, Aerissa went to speak with Tomber. “Did Twyla tell you I'm heading to the city today?”
Tomber grinned. “She did. And it's perfect timing! I should have a new shipment of supplies waiting to be picked up.” He handed Aerissa an envelope. “You'll find Sathren's shop in the bazaar. Just give him that envelope and he'll help you get the crate loaded onto a ‘hawk on your way back.”
Aerissa carefully folded the envelope and slipped it into her pocket, her fingertips brushing the locket. As she turned to walk away, Tomber stopped her. “Oh, and here… for the flight.” He dropped a few coins into her palm. “I may drive a hard bargain, but I'm not that stingy,” he said with a rueful smile.
She tipped her head, giving him a small smile. She jingled the coins in her hand as she walked across Tranquillien to the flight master. She stared in awe at the dragonhawk as the flight master coaxed it from the roost. Aerissa had seen them in Eversong Woods before, but never this close up. The blending of yellow, orange, and red hues hinted at the beast's fiery nature. She admired its agile movements and ever fluttering wings, like an elaborate kite.
The flight master clucked at the dragonhawk, holding the reins steady. “You ever flown on one of these before, miss?” The elven handler wasn't much older than her, but maneuvered and handled the beast as though he'd been doing it for hundreds of years.
“No, no I haven't. It'll fly straight to Silvermoon City, right?” she blushed at her naiveness. Travel by flight wasn't something she'd ever been able to afford in the past, nor had she any reason to go that far from home. It had become more common over the years, but used to be a more restricted form of travel.
He smiled kindly, patting the back of the dragonhawk. “Yep. She's trained to go straight there. It would take a lot to detract her from the flight path.”
He knelt on the ground, offering his knee to Aerissa. She stepped on his knee, throwing her other leg across the back of the dragon hawk. The handler helped her settle onto the beast's back and placed the reins in her hand. “Just hold on loosely, but don't let go.”
She thanked him, paying him for the flight. The handler grinned, giving her a mini-salute. He whistled and stepped back as the dragonhawk flapped its wings, steadily rising into the air. Aerissa gasped, her stomach flip flopping. Instinctively she clenched her knees tightly to the beast's sides.
After the dragonhawk ascended above the trees, the flight became smoother. Aerissa tried not to lean too far over as she stared down at the rushing ground below. It was easy to get dizzy, but she started to enjoy the thrill of the hawk's swiftness. As Aerissa began to feel more comfortable, she pushed the cowl back from her head. Closing her eyes, she raised her face to the sun, her hair whipping in the wind.
“I could get used to this,” she murmured. Her thoughts then wandered to Locke. Fresh tears sprung at the corners of her eyes but were gone within mere seconds, stolen away by the wind. At least he's not here for this. It'd be a long run for him to meet me there…
Most of the flight was uneventful, but her stomach lurched as the dragonhawk descended outside of Silvermoon City. Carefully, she ran the fingers of one hand through her hair and pulled the cowl back over her head. The dragonhawk circled around, descending in a downward spiral to a flight master.
The middle aged elven woman clucked at the dragonhawk as it hovered just out of her reach. “Drop the reins already,” she barked at Aerissa.
Aerissa flinched, lowering the reins to her. The flight master jerked on the reins, forcing the dragonhawk downward. Aerissa frowned at the rough handling after seeing the elven man in Tranquillien handle the beast with such care. The ‘hawk let out a squeak as she wrestled with the reins.
Glaring at Aerissa she hollered, “You gettin' off anytime soon or you gonna pay me to send you straight back from where you came?”
“Sorry, I just…” she fumbled with an apology, although she didn't know why she needed to apologize. She tried to swing her leg over, but the dragonhawk bucked at the reins. Aerissa lost her grip and slid awkwardly off its back, landing hard on her rear.
The flight master paid Aerissa no mind and proceeded to secure the dragonhawk's reins to the roost. She grabbed something from a nearby bucket and cupped her hand to the dragonhawk's mouth.
Aerissa slowly got up, her back and rear aching from the impact of the hard ground. She brushed herself off, stumbling towards the entrance of the city. Just outside the gates, she tilted her head back, taking in the ornately decorated walls. She took a deep breath and walked in without a backwards glance.
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