Good News by Samael is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Well, one human probably wasn’t much of a threat, no matter how bizarre it was that she could be traveling on her own when there are prowlers and dangerous animals in the wilderness. Almost every caravan brought stories of people being attacked by wild animals or having brushes with bandits that they’d never seen coming because they’d let their lamps run low on fuel or their mage hadn’t replenished the magic keeping the caravan and road illuminated. If you’re going to travel alone, as far as I’m concerned, you’d have to be crazy not to at least take a Hellkind horse and be a mage or an accomplished hunter, someone who could defend themselves in a pinch. But here was Katherine, walking to the gates as casually as could be, just like she had no idea how lucky she was to have arrived at all. Frederick and Andrea were already walking to meet her, probably thinking she was seeking assistance for a larger group who hadn’t come into the town’s cavern for whatever reason. I decided I wanted a closer look at the stranger myself.
I was halfway down the stone ladder before I realized I’d forgotten my bow. I gazed at it, innocently resting against the rail where I’d been standing. Despite having that niggling feeling like something was wrong about this situation, I decided to leave it there. If two fully trained demons couldn’t handle one human, there was probably nothing I could do about it. Besides, carrying a bow to meet this woman just seemed, you know, wrong. I didn’t care if I got chewed out about it later.
The only thing the spyglass had misled me about as her height. Frederick stood at about six and a half feet, solidly built and as dark of skin as a coal vein; Andrea was a lanky six feet and carried an equally long spear in case of horsemen, and both of them loomed over the woman in a manner that I would have found intimidating, but she seemed blissfully unaware of. She had to crane her neck to smile at them, but smile she did. I noticed she had very pale eyes that she blinked often, preventing me from figuring out if they were blue or grey. They flicked from face to face, taking the three of us in as if searching for something. Again, I swear I saw her eyes give off a multicolored glint as Frederick summoned up an orb of light so we could see her better. I was the only one who didn’t have to look down to see them and for some reason this pleased me.
She introduced herself as Katherine and assured us that, no, she really was traveling alone and there weren’t others waiting for her. Where had she come from? Originally from Spokane, she replied, smiling as if this was funny for some reason. That set us back a bit. I’d never even heard of Spokane. Where was that, I ventured to ask, and she looked at me and laughed softly—reader, I tell you again, the thoughts that went through my head!—and said that it was about two thousand miles west of here. I’m ashamed that I didn’t stop to think of what that meant, but at the time, all I could do was gape at the matter-of-fact way she said it. I found myself trying to imagine traveling so far and wondered how often she had been on foot, alone, as she was now.
Bizarre though her story was, there wasn’t any reason for us to turn her away at the gates just yet. No reason that anyone was willing to say out loud, at least. Looking back, I wonder if either of the other two guessed who she was. If they had, would they have said anything? I followed the woman and the two guards inside the gates, hanging back while Frederick and Andrea asked the necessary questions. What had brought her to our little city? She wanted to travel the world. Did that mean she wouldn’t be staying long? No, not long at all, most likely. Was there something about Crossville in particular that had brought her here?
Katherine looked back over her shoulder at me at that moment and I had the strangest feeling that she wanted me to see the look on her face. I remember it perfectly, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick apart the layers of emotion in that faint little smile she showed me. Was that sadness, or was she wistful for something? I felt included in a joke that wasn’t funny and which I didn’t understand, but something, maybe my heart, surged at being welcomed into her confidence like this. As our eyes met, something clicked and the world suddenly seemed more… I don’t know… real.
“I’m looking for people who might be interested in coming with me,” she said at last.