I’m left alone in my room, the sun just barely beginning to rise, as Andrei leaves to shower. Did he forget that I have a shower in my room? I run my hands through my hair; I showered yesterday, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have another one. Who knows where we’ll end up, or for how long. Besides, I probably smell like sex. I giggle at my own thought as I grab a towel.
Afterward, I tie my hair in a braid over my shoulder, pull on a pair of jeans, a blue tank top, and a loose sheer black sweater. Then I find my favourite leather boots and pull out an extra shirt and underwear. That should be enough, right? I wrap the underwear in the shirt and open Andrei’s bag just as my door creaks open.
“Hey,” I smile, the bundle of cloth in my hand, hovering over the bag. I hesitate putting it in, wondering if he’ll approve.
“Hey! Miss me?” he asks.
“Always,” I laugh. I’m so relieved he’s back to his usual self. I doubt I’ll ever take it for granted again.
“That all you’re going to pack?” he nods at the bundle in my hands.
I glance down and shrug. “I guess so?”
He opens my closet and pulls out a long-sleeved navy silky shirt. “What about this shirt? I like this one, you look… good in it,” he blushes as his sentence trails off.
I raise an eyebrow, reaching my hand out. “Okay.”
“And, this one?” he pulls out another, then another. “Oh, you haven’t worn this one yet. Wanna bring it too?”
I shake my head, giggling. “I can bring as many as you like, but will it fit?”
He grins widely. “Of course, we’ll make it fit!”
“You’re the expert,” I snicker. It’s adorable, watching him look through my closet and drawers. Apparently, I have a lot of clothes he hasn’t seen yet, and they fascinate him for some reason.
“Whenever I’ve time jumped in the past, I never had the opportunity to bring clothes. So, this is new to me too, packing. I’m used to traveling with nothing, not even a phone. I did that once and the jump fried the device beyond repair. The phone store wouldn’t even believe the excuse I gave them, believing I committed arson instead. Because I couldn’t control the jumps, I decided to not have one,” he muses as he packs.
I tip my head, leaning against the dresser. “That’s not a problem now though, right? You could have one if you wanted.”
“I guess, but… I wouldn’t know how to use it. I mean… I’m used to not having one… Who else would I text, other than you and Kaede, who I see every day?”
I frown. “There are other uses for it. I found the information online is pretty interesting… although I guess technically it can cause problems too. It could be useful if we ever got…” I trip on the word as the idea causes a lump in my throat. “Um, if we got separated, for some reason.”
“Well, that’s not going to happen. I’m not going to leave your side. I promised! And if I do, Se-” he stops himself.
I feel a sinking in my stomach, “If you do, what?” I’m not sure I want to know the answer. The way he cut off mid-sentence worries me.
“N-nothing. I’m not leaving your side. So we don’t need to worry about a phone,” he smiles reassuringly. I don’t feel assured. However, I’m distracted by a growling in my stomach. I look down, surprised.
Andrei’s eyebrows raise as he looks at me. “You’re hungry? The sun’s barely up!” he exclaims gleefully.
“Uh… Yeah, I guess I am,” I mumble. I swear I wasn’t hungry a second ago, but now I’m so hungry my stomach hurts.
“C’mon, I think we’re done packing. I can maybe make the crew some food before we leave!” he slings the bag over his shoulder and opens the door. He stops in his tracks, nearly running right into Caroline as she was about to knock on the door.
“Oh,” she blinks, startled. “Are you guys ready to go?”
“Yes! Actually. Mind if I make breakfast for everyone before we go?”
“Uh, sure. I guess,” Caroline rocks back on her heels, caught off guard.
“Kat’s hungry, for once!” he snickers.
Caroline leans to look past him, “Really?” I blush.
The door to my left opens and Kaede steps into the hall, a bag over his shoulder. “Did you say Kaitlyn’s hungry?”
“It’s not that weird!” I whine. “Even I have to eat, sometimes.”
“But you practically live off of coffee…” Kaede mimics the way I hold a mug in both hands.
I shoot him a glare. “I do not. Can we just go then?”
“Yes, let’s go, I’ll get Selene,” Caroline offers, walking off down the hall. I follow Andrei out into the hall, closing the door behind me.
Selene’s door opens before Caroline is halfway there. She emerges in denim short shorts, a loose-fitting tank top, and wide-brimmed hat. A small backpack hangs from her shoulders.
“Oh, you’re up too, good. Andrei’s offered to make us all breakfast before we leave. Want to join us?” Caroline calls out.
“I heard,” Selene chuckles, wandering to a door directly across the hall from hers. “It seems the day begins with a miracle,” she winks at me. I groan. She knocks on the door as we wander closer.
The door opens, revealing none other than Nik. He looks at the group of us, eyes wide. “Oh, wow. Am I late?”
“Not at all,” Kaede beams. “Just about to feed the ravenous beast!” he jerks his thumb at me. My eye and my fingers twitch. “Ow!” he yelps, looking behind him. Oops.
“Dude! Those were my favourite pants!” he cries out, rubbing his tush.
“Kaede, you jerk. That’s just what you deserve for your snarky comments,” Caroline huffs, folding her arms across her chest.
“Kae, I got this, though, you might want to watch what you say,” Andrei suggests. He leans down and reverses time on his pants, undoing the damage to the material.
“My butt still hurts, you know,” Kaede pouts.
“You’ll get over it. Come on everyone, I’m making omelets!” Andrei calls, leading the way down the hall. I smirk as I follow. I thought they would be upset, considering I should be in more control of the fire by now. Maybe they think it was on purpose.
Nik falls in line beside me, a bag slung over one shoulder and hands in his pockets. “Man, and he thought I was annoying you. I suppose I was wrong, maybe you could hurt a fly.”
I scoff. “No, you’re not wrong. I wouldn’t hurt a fly,” I glance back at Kaede. “They’re not nearly as annoying as other pests,” Kaede grins back at me cheekily, rubbing his arm. Caroline glares at him, shaking her head.
In the cafeteria, it’s completely dead. Not a soul in sight. The others sit around a large table nearest to the kitchen door. Andrei drops his bag at the table and heads inside. I hesitate in the doorway.
“Um, did you want a hand?” I ask, picking at my fingernails.
He looks back at me, hair half covering his face as he turns. “If you want,” he shrugs. That’s weird. He was so happy last time.
I glance back at the group before I wander inside further. “Are you okay?”
“Hmm?” He lifts his head up from the cabinet and smacks it hard on the counter with a grunt. “Oww…” he groans, rubbing his head. “I was… sorry. To be a little honest, I’m a bit nervous about the trip. I mean, it’s great we’re all going to be spending some time together, but…” he peaks around the door at the others sitting around the table. “We won’t get any alone time… you and I,” he pouts.
I crouch beside him, placing my hand over where he was rubbing his head. “I’m sure we’ll survive. You never know what will happen,” I wink at him. “Maybe we can sneak away at night.”
“Ohh, you’re so bad!” he smiles mischievously. “Though, we won’t want to get lost in the desert. I guess you’re right. I shouldn’t worry. Regarding the omelets, wanna help me chop the veggies?”
I give him a quick kiss. “I think I can manage that.”
At the gatehouse, we stand around one of the doors. Behind us, Cliff, Ceph, and Eli approach. I turn to look back at them, and I notice a shadow in the archway leading to the fields.
“We came to see you off, and wish you luck!” Eli calls, waving. He jogs across the tiles toward us. Ceph lags behind dark circles under his eyes, behind his glasses. Cliff walks briskly with his usual beaming smile.
Eli runs around Andrei and I feel my feet lift off the ground. The hall spins.
“Be safe, Sis!! I miss you already!” Eli yells in my ear. He stops suddenly. I can barely touch the ground with my tiptoes, and I follow his gaze.
The bottom edge of his shirt stretches out. I follow it, to a snout peeking out at Andrei’s side.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not hurting her,” Eli laughs, patting the scaly blue head.
“That’s what you say every time,” Ceph mumbles. “Do you even remember what I said about not picking people up?”
“Nope. You’re a grumpy old man, and Sis doesn’t mind, right?” Eli grins down at me.
“Uh… sure,” I mumble.
“And he wonders why I’m grumpy…” Ceph groans.
“Are you ok?” Andrei asks him.
“Yea, it’s just early…”
“It’s never too early to see your friends,” Cliffs booms, stepping up to hug everyone.
As he reaches for me, Blue snorts at him, wisps of smoke rising from his nose. His head pokes out between Andrei and Eli, bright yellow eyes looking up at me.
“You too, dear dragon friend!” Cliff smiles broadly reaching for Blue’s neck.
I hold my breath as he embraces the dragon, though when he hugs me, he squeezes the breath right out of me. My back cracks with the pressure.
Blue growls and Cliff let’s go. I cough a laugh, patting Blue on the head.
“Anyway, I came to give you some important documents. The Guild has prepared your travel documents so that you can roam freely in most parts of Africa. If you lose these and are detained, there’s a chance you won’t be able to leave without help from the Guild unless you can run away fast.” he holds back a laugh. “So, please try to keep these safe,” he says, passing around a little book that looks like a passport.
Andrei takes both of ours and slips it into his bag, clipping it shut with a smile.
“Alright, guys! It’s time to go!” Caroline calls from the gate, waving us to get closer. “Now, I don’t know exactly where it is yet, but the closer I get, the better I’ll be able to pinpoint the location. This is… sort of exciting! I’m so excited you’re all coming! I think we’ll have a lot of fun,” she seems to bounce on her feet with anticipation.
Blue nudges my leg with a whine. I look down. “We’re going to Africa,” he grunts. I roll my eyes. “Yes, I’m coming back.”
Blue stares up at me for a moment. His head swivels to look at Andrei, with another whine.
“Don’t worry! I’ll bring her back safe. It’s just a little field trip.” Andrei says, reaching out a hand to Blue. Blue nudges his nose against his hand, before backing away. He struggles in the small space to turn around and head back outside.
We watch in anticipation as Caroline turns around and grips the door in her hand. It glows faintly, like that first time I brought them all back to the Guild with me. Was that really only five months or so ago? So much has happened, it really feels like it’s been over a year.
She pulls the door open and walks through, followed by Kaede, Nik, Selene, leaving Andrei and I at the end. I hesitate, looking back at Ceph, Eli and Cliff. I wonder how long we’ll be gone this time. I squeeze Andrei’s hand, which he has snaked into mine, lacing his fingers with mine. He pulls me forward through the gate and we walk out into the midday sun of some Port town in Africa.
“Wow! It’s so… different than I imagined it to be like!” Kaede says from up ahead. Looking around. The place looks like a tiny fishing town. A few white buildings stand near the waterfront. The streets are wide but bare of any significant landmarks. There are no street lights or wires it seems. It’s the smallest town I’ve ever seen.
I look behind me, noticing we’ve arrived from the rear of a larger building, perhaps a local store or community centre. At the water’s edge, I see a dock that extends out into the ocean with a few boats tied to it. The coastline path is lined with a low baring fence that looks mostly for decoration.
“According to Google, this is Port Nolloth. We’re in a coastal province called Namib,” Kaede fills everyone in.
“So, what should we do first? Look around? Or figure out which way the artifact is?” Andrei asks.
“Well,” Caroline hums, looking around. “Now that I’m closer, I might be able to at least get a direction and then we can search for transportation. Maybe they have a bus or something,” she turns around in a circle a couple of times, looking around until she decides to stop and closes her eyes.
If anyone else were to see her, she’d look like she was just standing there with her eyes closed, but to any magic user, her aura starts to explode with energy and light. It’s almost like watching a mini fireworks display all around her. We watch and wait as she feels the pull of the artifact, and it seems to me as if the light around her glows more strongly in one direction, almost like a compass. It’s interesting to watch. Caroline adjusts her position until she is facing the direction which glows with the most light and snaps her eyes open as she releases the spell.
“It’s that way,” she says, looking drained. Kaede grabs her arm for support with one hand, phone in the other.
“I’m not sure what transportations are available. There’s nothing much mentioned online. According to one website, they offer camel and horse rides into the desert,” he suggests.
I groan loudly. Not horses again… Andrei looks at me with knowing concern.
“Perhaps we should try camels! That sounds very African to me,” he looks back at me with a boyish smile and a gleam in his eye, lowering his voice. “And I’ve always wanted to ride a camel! I’ve never ridden one before, not even at the Toronto Zoo!” he whispers to me.
I pout, whispering back. “If I have to get on one of those things, I’m riding with you. Animals hate me.”
“Great! Besides, I think some camels can be ridden in pairs anyway. This’ll be fun!”
By Krystyna Yates