For what seemed like the thousand time that night, Calvin shore pushed his cloak away from his body, only to have gusts of icy wind blow it back against him once more. Above the carriage he was currently riding in, a full moon shone brightly, painting the landscape around them in thin silver light. Shivering, he pulled his cloak around him, clutching the bow he held in his right hand tightly.
Calvin was sixteen, due to be seventeen the following day. He was tall, with a simple, sophisticated face. His dark blue eyes were serious, and a mane of golden blond hair framed his face, granting him a look beyond his years. He could have passed for someone younger, save for the stubble that had formed on his face from not shaving in two days, and the lean, muscled torso and broad shoulders that had filled out steadily over the years. A stone pendant hung around his neck, the only reminder of a father that had died when he was one. His mother never really said much about him, and Calvin constantly wondered what his father would have thought of him if he were alive.
This wasn't to say that Sabrina Shore was single though. For the past two years, she'd been dating Calvin's best friend, Kellan's, father, Brum Fluell. Brum was the blacksmith of Weatherwood, their town, and was widowed after his wife died in childbirth with Kellan. Sabrina and Brum had started seeing each other slowly at first, and then eventually revealed their relationship to Kellan and Calvin, both of which didn't mind much. A month earlier, Brum had proposed, and Sabrina had accepted, something else that Calvin and Kellan were both happy about.
Calvin liked Brum, who had always wanted another son but had never found anyone worth marrying until Sabrina. In order to fulfill his desires, he'd treated Calvin like his own boy, and Sabrina treated Kellan the same way. Calvin and Kellan had always been as close as brothers, and now they were about to be. It filled Calvin with a satisfaction that he couldn't put words to.
The wind gusted once more, and Calvin shivered, looking around at the landscape that surrounded him. Currently, he was sitting in the front of a carriage drawn by two horses. To his left say his mother, Sabrina, the reins in her hands and looking calmly ahead as if the icy winds didn't bother her. For all Calvin knew, it probably didn't. His mother wasn't one to let small things bother her, even the weather. She just adapted and dealt with it.
To the right, Calvin's older brother, Roman, lay sleeping. He looked just like his younger brother, only a little taller, with sharper and more rugged features. He was also muscular, sturdy, and more meticulous and careful with his movements where Calvin was more instinctual and clumsy. A heavy five o' clock shadow dusted his face, adding to his ruggedness. Roman was three years older than Calvin, and other than Kellan and his mother, there was no one else that Calvin could be closer to.
In the carriage behind them was an assortment of salted meats, liquors, and cakes, all of which had been made by Calvin's mother. They were one of the highest qualities in the land, demonstrated by the high demand of the product, and a personal encounter with his mother raspberry liquor that had had his throat burning for almost two hours after wards. The delivery was supposed to be made to the town of Alverdine, two days away from their hometown of Weatherwood.
A wolf sounded in the distance, and Calvin wrapped his cloak around himself protectively, eyes scanning around. He liked going to Alverdine; unlike Weatherwood, Alverdine was always doing something interesting. The only part of the two day trip that Calvin didn't enjoy was traveling through the Black Woods to get there.
The Black Woods were a valley of large, wooded hills that had a dark history behind them. According to legend, over three thousand years before, a bloody battle had painted the ground red with blood and corpses. The legend went that if you went through the woods unprotected, you would encounter the angry spirits of the soldiers that had died, and they'd hunt you until they killed you. People had supposedly disappeared after going through them. Calvin wasn't one to be afraid of just anything, but nevertheless, the woods made him nervous anyway, something Roman constantly teased him about.
The carriage hit a bump, and Roman awoke with a start, his red eyes carefully scanning his surroundings. Calvin saw that his hand had tightened tersely around the handle of the broadsword attacked to his belt, and it relaxed as he realized where they were, sighing deeply as he turned to his younger brother.
“Where are we?” he asked, turning to Calvin as he yawned deeply.
“Still in the Black Hills,” he said. “I hate being here. The shadows are always moving and jumping.”
“And the disappearances,” Roman snorted, and Calvin felt the blood rise to his cheeks in irritation. “They're just stories Cal, nothing more. Legends are made up for one reason and one reason only; to scare people. They're not real.”
“Still, I believe them,” Calvin countered as he shook helplessly from the cold.
“Well, we should be there within the hour,” Sabrina told them. “Until then, you should get some sleep. You're growing boys, and you shouldn't be without your rest.”
“I'll be fine,” Roman groaned, rubbing his eyes and sitting up straight. Sabrina didn't argue, either because she was too tired or because she knew that both of her sons were hopelessly stubborn. “You alright?”
Calvin turned to him and nodded, confused. “Why wouldn't I be?”
Roman shrugged. “You just seem a little jumpy, that's all.”
“Just tired. Ready to get to Alverdine already.”
Roman gave a small smile. “Anxious to celebrate tomorrow?”
Calvin's face hardened. “Don't even mention that.”
“On come on,” Roman teased playfully. “My little brother's about to be seventeen. That's something worth celebrating.”
Calvin gave a noncommittal grunt and turned his eyes back to the woods around him, not exactly focusing on anything in particular, but just gazing off into the horizon. Now that Roman had brought it up, it hit him fully for the first time. He was going to be seventeen in a few hours. Another year, and he'd be a man, able to go off on his own, join the military, buy his own house. It was a daunting, very daunting. Roman was getting ready to move out soon, to start his own business in one of the big, bustling cities. Thinking about it made Calvin sad. He'd grown up with seeing Roman everyday, and now he was leaving. Pushing the thought of his head, he turned back to his birthday, which annoyed him, but it was better than being sad.
For Calvin, the worst part of his birthday wasn't the celebrating or anything, it was just the fact that everyone was going to make a big deal out of it. Sure, he knew that people were supposed to, but he wasn't one to need much attention, and being showered with presents, surrounding him, and reminding him about how much older he was getting counted as attention. He didn't see the point of having something like a birthday being blown out of proportion when it all boiled down to the fact that he was just a year older, a year wiser. It was a year that he wouldn't have again.
Not wanting to think about any of it, Calvin focused on the woods again. All around him, trees whispered, their leaves hiding secrets. His eyes roamed around between them, looking for something, but finding nothing at all. For the first time since they'd left Weatherwood, he started to relax.
And then he saw it.
A shape. It stood in the shadows of the trees, barely noticeable unless you were looking for it or caught it by accidentally. Calvin felt his blood turn to ice. The shape sharpened up, and he could see that it was a humanoid figure, tall and standing between two large oak trees. Although the wind blew, the black cloak that covered it didn't move in the breeze at all, and Calvin felt a sense of dread emanating from it. They stared at each other for what seemed like hours, and then Calvin felt a hand grab his shoulder.
Biting back a scream, he spun around to see his mother gripping his shoulder tenderly. The moonlight reflected in her thick blond hair, and illuminated her soft featured face. Calvin tried to get himself to relax, but found it extremely difficult, the figure in the trees looming in the fabric of his mind. Every few seconds he re-diverted his view back to the figure in order to assure that he wasn't imagining it.
“Are you alright?” she asked him gently.
“There's someone in the trees,” he found himself saying before he could stop himself. “Watching us.”
Roman, who had focused on his own section of the woods silently stiffened up, turning to face his brother as his hand grabbed the hilt of his sword. “Where?”
Calvin turned and pointed at where he'd seen the figure, his heartbeat racing and his hand tightening around the bow convulsively, but it had disappeared. Unbelieving, he rubbed his eyes with his hands and looked again, only to see that there was nothing there.
“It was there,” Calvin insisted, his voice sounding slightly hysterical, even to him. “I swear to you, it was there.”
“It must have been a trick of the moonlight,” she told him soothingly. “You haven't slept in nearly two days. Get some rest. The night plays tricks on those who let it.”
She turned back to driving, and Roman grabbed Calvin's shoulder warmly, grinning. “Just relax Cal. You're just letting the stories get to you, that's all.”
Sighing deeply, he turned around and looked at the spot once more as it faded behind them. There was nothing.
That's impossible, he thought. It was there, I know it was. I know what I saw.
But a third look showed him that the figure wasn't there, and there was a part of his mind that couldn't help but wonder if it had just been a figment of his imagination. Instead of trying to figure it out, Calvin closed his eyes, turning the world to darkness. A few moments later, he faded into a dull sleep.
And opened his eyes to see nothing but orange light burning before him. Thick, choking black columns of smoke billowed from the light, and as his vision focused he realized that burning was the right word to describe what was going on, because the light he was staring at was fire, and it was all around him. With each breath, he was able to smell the acrid aroma of burning wood. All around him, he could hear screams echoing through the air, permeating the place with fear. Something was happening, something big.
Looking around, Calvin was finally able to make the final connections and figure out what was going on. He knew the place around him that was burning, he'd been there every year to go to the annual festival it threw. As he looked at a burning sign for a restaurant, it all hit home.
It was Alverdine. Alverdine was burning.
All around him, people ran as they screamed for their loved ones. Through the shadows of the smoke, Calvin could see bigger shapes moving, and could hear growls. Suddenly, the fear that should have been burning inside of him from the beginning took over, and he turned and started to run as the windows to the restaurant exploded from the heat, causing a back draft in the interior and sending a tongue of flame through the hole.
Calvin looked all around him as he ran, and then suddenly two faces flashed in his mind, two important faces. They were the faces of Roman and his mother, and as he realized that they weren't with him, he skidded to a halt, his eyes searching the people that ran by him.
“Roman!” he screamed. “Roman! Mom! Where are you?”
There wasn't an answer, and he hadn't been expecting one. He tried to think, focus, but the heat around him was blisteringly hot, and distracting.
Focus, he thought to himself, closing his eyes and emptying his mind. Where would they go?
Then, it came to him. “The inn,” he murmured, and then turned back around, not realizing that he had no idea where he was going because everything was on fire. Still, somehow, he knew that it was the right direction, and he just trusted his gut as the smoke burned his eyes. Rounding a corner, he felt something catch under his foot, and he suddenly lost his balance.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion as he fell to the ground, helpless to stop it. His arms cushioned the blow, taking the pressure sharply, but not enough to prevent him from biting his lip. Warm blood rushed into his mouth as he clambered to his knees, attempting to get back up. He attempted to peer ahead, to try to get a sense of where he was, and then out of the thick smoke he could see something walking.
“Roman?” he yelled. “Mom?”
He started forward, stumbling, feeling blood run down his chin from his busted lip. He didn't see his mistake until he'd halved the distance between the figure and himself. It was the figure from the woods, and through some intuition, it dawned on Calvin that it was him that the figure was after, it was him that he wanted.
The figure stopped ten feet in front of him, and Calvin noticed that even with all the smoke blowing around, the cloak surrounding it still wasn't moving. For some reason, this seemed to be the thing that unnerved him most.
“What do you want with me?” he shouted over the fire.
I want for you what I want for everything else, the figure said, but Calvin heard it in his head, behind the screams, behind the smells. I want to watch the world burn. This is what your gift is. It's what you'll bring to the people that you love most. Pain, death, torment. And this is why you'll lose. Because you'll always be bound to these people, always feel the need to protect them. And while you're worrying about them, you'll never be able to do what you need to do for the greater good. That's why we'll win.
“Win what?” Calvin yelled. “What are you talking about?”
Calvin couldn't see the face under the hood of the cloak, but he could feel that whoever it was was smiling. The mere thought made the air rush out of his chest.
I'm talking about your destiny, young one. But know this, when the time comes, I'll be ready.
Two flaming eyes erupted into life behind the darkness of the hood, and it started to chuckle. The figure stood there for a moment longer, and then it turned around and started back into the smoky darkness from where it came from. Calvin hesitated, and then ran after it, screaming. The smoke burned his eyes terribly, but he was running on adrenalin now, and for the moment he couldn't feel anything, not the heat, not the pain, not the sweat running down his face. It was all one big blur.
“Come back!” Calvin roared as he choked on smoke. “Come back!”
The wall of smoke cleared, and for a moment there was nothing. Then, Calvin ran into something, and hard. He hit it, falling back on his butt, dazed. Looking up, he saw a tall monster standing above him. It looked like a cross between a human and a lion. It's skin was covered in striped fur, and it was heavily muscled, but it's hands had five fingers and ended with thick, dangerous looking claws. Clutched in one of it's hands was a long spear.
Their eyes met, and the monster smiled. Then, it raised the spear, aimed, and then threw.
Calvin eyes opened, exploding into focus as he felt the cool breeze blow against his sweaty face. His eyes quickly scanned around him, seeing the buildings and lights but not processing it. The only thing running through his mind was the dream, everything on fire, the smell of roasting flesh. He felt a hand gripping his shoulder, and turned to see Roman standing next to him, his face tight, and his blue-gray eyes dark with concern.
“Where are we,” Calvin asked breathlessly, wiping the cold sweat off of his forehead with a forearm.
“Alverdine,” Roman answered. “We've been here for about twenty minutes now.” His lips tightened into a thin line. “You alright? Talk to me.”
“Fine,” Calvin said, thankful that the dream was starting to fade into the recesses of his mind. “Just a bad dream,” he said, finding himself wondering whether it really had been a bad dream. “I'm fine Roman. Relax.”
Roman didn't, remaining tense. “You're sure?”
Calvin rolled his eyes. “Of course I am. You know, you don't have to smother me.”
Roman relaxed, smiling and ruffling Calvin's hair. “Sometimes you tend to need it.”
“Mayor's office. She went inside to let him know she'd arrived with the stuff. We're supposed to head to the hotel, and she'll be in later, after she's done taking care of business. I was coming back to get you and you were tossing and turning like you were having a seizure or something.” Roman's eyes tightened.
“I'm fine,” Calvin insisted tiredly. He felt drained, as if the dream had taken all the energy he had. He stepped out into the winds, shivering. “If I wasn't fine, you know I'd tell you. When have I ever kept something from you?” Roman opened his mouth to answer, and Calvin quickly countered, “Don't answer that.”
Roman laughed, wrapping an arm around Calvin's shoulders as they started to walk towards the inn. Calvin looked around, rubbing his eyes. Around him were familiar, large multistory buildings, most with shingled roofs. The road was a patchwork of stones, and in some of the shops, he could see the lights still on, although he was positive that they were getting ready to close. Calvin glanced up at his older brother and couldn't help but think that they'd both changed a lot in appearance since they were kids.
“It's been a long time since I've been here,” Roman said as they started to walk through the town towards the inn. “At least three years, give or take.”
Calvin cracked a smile. “Maybe if you weren't so solitary all the time,” he said, the nightmare slowly beginning to recede into the recesses of his mind. “You've missed the festivals every year because you've gotten all moody and wanted to be by yourself.”
Roman shrugged. “Sometimes I just don't feel like being surrounded by people.”
“Right,” Calvin said, rolling his eyes. “And I'm supposed to buy into that.”
“It doesn't matter what you buy, that's the truth.”
Calvin was silent. He was sure that there was more to the story that Roman wasn't telling him, but he didn't push the topic. “I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to know, but I might as well know what I’m going to be in for. What are the plans for tomorrow?”
Roman flashed a grin. “Did you really think that I would tell you? That would defeat the point of it being a surprise.”
“I hate surprises.”
Roman chuckled. “At least Kellan will be there. That’ll be something.”
“Right,” Calvin said, rolling his eyes. “Kellan who knows how much I hate celebrating my birthday. He’ll do things just to irritate me.”
Roman reached over and grabbed Calvin’s shoulder in a strong grip. “What do you think step-brothers are for?” Roman paused, stepping in front of Calvin, grabbing both of his shoulders, and looking squarely into his eyes. “You seriously need to loosen up. You're about to be seventeen for gods sake. Have some fun, accept some presents, enjoy the fair.”
Calvin snorted. “Easier said than done.”
“Fine then,” Roman shrugged. “Your loss.”
“Glad we agree on something.” They started walking once more.
“So what were you dreaming about?”
Calvin stopped, feeling the blood rush to his cheeks. “Why?”
Roman shrugged. “Mildly curious. I’ve seen you have a nightmare, but nothing like that. It’s as if you almost thought it was real.”
Those words echoed around inside of Calvin’s mind, and a flash of the man in black, standing before him while Alverdine burned suddenly popped up. It was enough to make his skin break into gooseflesh.
“It doesn't matter,” Calvin said, steadying his voice to make it as convincing as possible.”
“Calvin, brother. I've lived in the same house with you since you were born. There's only three people that know when you're lying, and that's me, mom, and Kellan. So you can either fess up, or I can force it out of you.”
Calvin met Roman's eyes and could tell that he really meant it. He cursed his brother in his mind. He'd forgotten how quickly he was able to see through the excuses and lies that Calvin seldom used. Sighing, he ran a tired hand through his hair and then looked at his brother. “This stays between me and you.”
“Doesn't it always?”
“I mean it Roman,” Calvin said in a voice that clearly said not to test him. “The only other person that I'm going to tell is Kellan, and I'm not even sure that I want him to know.”
A frown line appeared on Roman's forehead. “This must be pretty serious.”
Calvin said nothing, gather his thoughts together and taking a deep breath. “Remember when we were in the Black Hills, and I saw something?”
“What about it?”
“I did see something. Call me crazy, call me insane, but I did see something. It was a man, tall, in a black cloak, and even though the wind was blowing his cloak wasn’t moving at all.” Roman didn’t say anything, perhaps couldn’t figure out what to say, and Calvin continued. “I was staring at it before mom surprised me, and when I looked back he was gone. Then, I went to sleep.”
“Calvin-“ Roman started, but Calvin raised a hand.
“You wanted to hear this, so let me finish.” Calvin saw disapproval flash across Roman’s face, but he nodded. “When I opened my eyes, I woke up here, in Alverdine. Only, it wasn’t like this. Peaceful, quiet. It was on fire. Everything was burning. People were running around, screaming. I could smell all the blood of the people that were dying, taste the burning flesh.”
“Calvin, you’re starting to scare me,” Roman said cautiously.
Truth was, Calvin was starting to scare himself. He wanted to stop, needed to stop, but now that he was going there was no stopping until the end. “I realized that you and mom weren’t with me, so I started running towards the inn. I tripped over something, and as I got to my feet I saw the same figure, a man, walking towards me from this veil of smoke. He talked to me, told me that I would only hurt all the people around me, and that protecting you would prevent me from doing what needed to be done for the greater good. Then, he just walked off.”
Calvin swallowed, the spit in his mouth taking on a sour, electrified tasted. He’d remembered the body he’d tripped on, but decided to keep it out of the story. Some things needed to be kept to yourself. “I followed him, and ran into this beast. It smiled, and then it killed me, and I woke up to you yelling my name.”
For a minute, there was nothing but silence as Roman stood there, looking at him. Then, Calvin couldn’t take the silence anymore, so he broke it with a question, the question that was burning at him. “You think I’m crazy don’t you?”
“It was a dream,” Roman said, licking his lips and meeting Calvin’s eyes. “A very weird, very disturbing dream, but a dream none the less. Is that it?”
Calvin nodded, swallowing against the lump that had formed in his throat. He looked around him and saw that they were only a block away from the inn. Roman, however, hadn’t broken his gaze on his brother.
“You really think there’s something to this dream of yours?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Calvin answered, not having thought about it. “I’m not sure. But if I had to give an answer, I’d say yes, that I think there is something to it. It felt too….vivid, too real. It was almost as if I was there. I’ve never had a nightmare like that before.”
And it scares me.
He left that part out, mainly because he felt that Roman had no problem seeing that, and expressing it was something he didn’t want to do.
“I think you should tell Kellan about this,” Roman said after a moment of silence. “I honestly don't think there's anything to it, and sure, you probably won’t be happy about it, but it just seems odd. Maybe he can make more sense of it.”
“If there’s something to make sense of,” Calvin added, but he knew that Roman was right. Kellan would make him feel better about the entire thing. “But I think something is coming Roman. Something about this feels all wrong, and I think something’s going to happen here, and soon.”
Roman was silent again, and then he said, “We should just do what we came here to do. Tomorrow, celebrate your birthday, head to the festival, and the day after we’ll be home-bound. Tell Kellan tomorrow, see what he thinks. It’s all we can do right now. If something is coming for Alverdine…” he trailed off.
So help us all, Calvin found himself thinking.
“But let’s go,” Roman continued. “It’s freezing out here.”
Calvin gave a small smile, and as he walked forward Roman threw a comforting arm around his shoulders.
The Duma Inn had stood for over a hundred years, passed down from generation to generation. As Roman and Calvin walked in, they looked around the familiar place. The lobby was large, spacious, and a large desk sat twenty feet before them underneath a large moose head mounted on the wall. To the right lead off into a cozy conference room, and to their left was a dining room, empty at this time of night.
Before either of them could blink, they were both being swept up into a hug by someone who was laughing merrily. They were let go a moment later, revealing a woman they knew well. Clarissa Rea was the owner of the Duma Inn, had been for fifteen years.
She was stunningly beautiful, probably the most beautiful woman that they'd laid eyes on. Her blond hair was shoulder length and impeccable, framing her soft pleasant face and amazing hazel eyes. Her smile was bright enough to make even the worst temper melt, and it had never ceased to work when customers confronted her with problems with people in the hotel, although she made sure to take care of it immediately. Sabrina and Clarissa were the best of friends, had been for over twenty years, and she was like an aunt to them.
“Hi Mistress Rea,” Roman said brightly, and she walked forward, ruffling his hair playfully.
“If it isn’t the Shore brothers,” she smiled, turning to Calvin. “And the birthday boy.”
Calvin groaned, smiling at the same time. “That’s me,” he said.
“Oh, lighten up,” Rea grinned. “It’s just a birthday. Your seventeenth, which makes it a pretty big one.”
Calvin rolled his eyes. “You remember everything, huh?”
Rea shrugged. “It’s part of the job description. Have to have a good memory to run an inn. Plus, you know how close me and your mother are. You two are like my kids. It would be impossible for me to forget your birthdays. Speaking of her, where is she?”
“She’s taking care of something with the mayor as far as the orders,” Calvin said. “She told Roman not to wait up.”
Rea shook her head. “That woman lets her work run her. Let’s get you settled in though. You two must be exhausted.”
She walked towards the desk in the front, grabbing two keys. As she was beginning her return trip back to the boys, the doors behind them opened, letting in an icy draft. In walked two cloaked figures, both draped in black. At the sight of them, Calvin felt his heart quicken in his chest, and his stomach evaporate into nothingness. Rea re-assumed her position behind the desk as the two figures walked past Roman and Calvin, pulling down their hoods. Rea flashed her sunny smile.
“How can I help you?”
“We’d like to rent two rooms,” one of them spoke. He had long, shaggy black hair and steel blue eyes. They seemed to pierce what they were looking at.
“For how long?”
“We’re not sure,” the second said. His hair was short and brown, his eyes a decadent green. From the light from the fire, Calvin could see a thin scar running from his temple on the right side of his head down to the base of his jaw. “We have some business to attend to, and we’re not sure when we’ll be through.”
“Well, the rooms are seventy coins a night,” Rea explained. The black haired man reached inside of his robes and pulled out five gold coins, pushing them across the table. Rea stopped talking.
“Will that do?”
Rea nodded. “Perfectly.” She turned around and got them their keys. “Rooms 210 and 212. Up the stairs for two floors, and then make a left. You can’t miss them.”
The two men said nothing. Instead, they gave Rea a look and walked away, leaving Roman and Calvin alone with her again. They walked up to the desk and looked at her and she returned her attention to them.
“So how long are you two staying?” she asked.
“Two days,” Roman said, his voice unfocused and vacant. “Did you get a weird feeling about those guys?”
She shrugged. “It's really not my business. As long as they don't cause any trouble or burn the hotel down, it doesn't matter.” She pushed a key across the counter to them. “Room 415. I'll get your mom a different room.”
Roman nodded. “Thanks. Goodnight.”
Calvin and Roman started up the stairs, and halfway up Roman stopped, turning to Calvin. “Did either of those guys look like that figure you saw in the woods?” he asked Calvin.
“It could have been either one of them,” Calvin said slowly. “Why?”
“I don't know. I just don't have a good feeling about them being here.”
Calvin recalled the flash of the dream, along with the two men walking inside of the inn and immediately felt his skin go cold at the thought. “Me neither. But we could just be overreacting. I mean, they could be here on honest business.”
“Right,” Roman rolled his eyes. “What kind of “business” do you think they could be here to tend to?”
“Who knows? All I know is that I want to get some sleep, so come on.”
They continued up the stairs. “I think you'll enjoy tomorrow.”
“Must you continue to bring that up? You know how I feel about it.”
“Oh, come on. It can't be that bad,” Roman insisted. “The big festival just so happens to fall on your birthday this year, Kellan's coming down to meet us, we'll all be together. It'll be fun.”
“If you say so.”
They stopped in front of a large door, and Calvin opened it, stepping inside. Roman followed, closing the door. The room was large and spacious, with a desk, and two twin beds. A fireplace contained a large fire that bathed the entire room in a combination of warmth and light. Roman stripped off his cloak and boots, heading over to one of the empty beds and flopping down.
“So, do you think that Kellan will think that we're crazy?”
“I don't know,” Calvin said, taking off his cloak and boots. “Right now, I'm just kind of amazed. I never thought that I'd live to be seventeen, and now, tomorrow...”
“Yeah, well until you make eighteen it's no big deal.”
“Now he tells me,” Calvin said, smiling.
Roman gave a small chuckle. “Well, I'm getting some sleep. I'll see you in the morning, birthday boy.”
Calvin rolled his eyes in irritation. “Night.”
Walking over to his bed, sat on the edge, then stretched out, yawning deeply. He stared at the ceiling, his mind spinning. Wow, he thought. I'll actually be seventeen tomorrow. He brushed absently at the beard stubble along his jaw and with one last, almost wistful smile, fell into the darkness of sleep.