Saun 5th, 681 (Age 12) following A Mistress of Shadows
Later that night, those who had returned to the caravan were now sitting around the fire, telling stories about their days in Desnind or stories of old. Catching up, like they always did, every night. There were a few new faces around the fire, new lovers, new friends, old friends, even a couple family members. That was only a common occurrence when stopped in cities, but it was never unwelcome. If you sat around this fire, you were family.
Soren was left to his own devices at the moment, for on this night, there were no other children around the fire. His siblings, all much younger than him, were sent to bed early, as always. But him, the eldest, was allowed to stay up. And he was bored. The next youngest person was one of the ox drivers and he talked more in grunts than words. Soren often thought he was more of an ox than a man. The thought now caused a grin to creep onto his face.
He reached down next to the stone he sat upon, grabbing a nut of some sort, and threw it into the fire, and waited. He looked into the flames, glowing more yellow than anything else lick at it as it rested atop a log. A bit of smoke, or rather, steam, began to float off the nut. Suddenly it popped and exploded, and the pieces scattered among the fire. The adults all cheered and took a drink at the sound, and Soren could only smile at what he'd caused.
He reached down to grab another, his hand only feeling grass. It patted around until it came across something cold, hard, and long. At one end was something smooth, and his finger found a sharp point. He snatched his hand back, his eyes looking down at the grass, clearly illuminated by the fire. There was nothing there but a single nut. It was a longer variety, one he didn't know, not that he'd paid so much attention to nuts around the world.
He let out a long sigh of relief and reached down and grabbed the nut. His heart was still racing and he knew why. The scary woman's promise. She said she'd return in the night, and it was night. He looked at the nut for a long time, though never really saw it, reliving that moment. He knew he was safe here. They had more look outs at night than during the day, even in Saun. It would be fine.
He threw the nut at the fire and watched it, trying to forget the whole situation. This nut smoked and steamed, just like the other. Then it began to glow, and Soren waited with anticipation for it to explode.
But it never did.
It grew brighter and brighter before it just split in half, and black dust swirled up and out of the fire. The rest of the nut collapsed into ash upon the logs. Soren's eyes were wide and he didn't hear his name being called.
"Soren! Boy, stop day dreaming."
Soren blinked once, then several times in succession. "Yes Ma?"
"What's wrong suga? You look like you've seen a spook."
Soren flashed his best good-son smile, "A strange nut was all. It didn't explode."
Kvista smiled softly, "Alright love."
She returned to her previous conversation, though kept a half glance and a whole ear on him. She knew her son wasn't telling the whole truth. But she wanted him to tell her on his own. He was starting to become a man after all. And so, she cast her attention off of him, to give him his space to grow, as much as it pained her to see him do so.
Soren looked back down to the grass to try and find another nut. But much to his surprise, another nut, different from the first two was in the exact same spot the last one had been. Soren looked over his shoulder into the darkness of the forest. He couldn't see anything in there, but he could feel something... something cold. Not the kind of cold that would require a coat, but rather the kind that touched directly onto the soul.
Still looking into the forest, he reached down and grabbed the nut. He turned back to the fire, tossing it in. He grinned. It was all in his head. He slung the nut into the fire and waited, rolling his eyes at himself. When the nut popped, there were cheers around the fire, and Soren watched a few embers rise up through the smoke. His eyes fell on his mother as she tipped back her flagon, when he noticed two crimson embers there, hovering over her shoulder.
He squinted and cocked his head to the side. The embers weren't moving. Soren blinked and looked closer, ignoring the chants of the caravaners encouraging his mother to drink more. The embers were bright and unmoving and looking directly at him. And his heart dropped to his stomach. The two glows were that woman's eyes. She leaned forward, just enough that he could see the faintest outline of her mouth and nose, and a single, long, sharp nailed finger rose to her lips.
The woman's face slipped back into the shadows, and her finger remained, twisting and beckoning him into the darkness, as the cheers erupted louder as his mother finished her drink.