To travel from one side of the shore to the other is a grueling task. Lir cannot say how long it has been, but the stars showed their faces long ago, and his knees are scraped red from having dragged them through the heavy weight of sand, without ever stopping once.
Footsteps—they echo in the air. Leaving marks, traces and scratchy sounds against the beach’s golden soil.
Lir pauses. These footsteps, they are not his.
A hand grasps his shoulder. It doesn’t let go. “You should be glad I wasn’t a foe.” Tobias’s voice is a menace. “I could have gutted you with ease.” It is low—a warning—and Lir freezes, for he does not know this man, this side of him.
He wonders if he was not wrong after all, for thinking Tobias views him as the same child he was several moons ago. Back then, his mentor would have never mentioned such violent things.
Lir turns to face him. Even the glint in his gaze is less forgiving, more aware—sharper—not lenient at all. “Where were you planning on going? You have no provisions, Lir. You have no weapon. You can barely stand on your own two feet, and it’ll be obvious to anyone who gets a good look at you that you are more Halloran than human now.”
Halloran, during Lir’s stay, neither of them had pronounced the word. It had remained unspoken, taboo. “Elsewhere,” Lir mutters, as his head hangs low and his shoulders tense. It’s shameful, really, that he’s unable to deny he’s as useless as Tobias claims. “I thought I’d figure it out along the way.” The words are a lie though. Lir hadn’t thought at all. He just wanted to get away, to be far from Tobias before his mentor got involved and invested, as he always does.
“You can’t do that.” Tobias shakes his head. “It doesn’t work like this in the world you’ve just entered. We aren’t playing house here, Lir. Life outside the village—life as a Halloran—is being killed or living by killing another. No plan means no life. Let me help you, please,” he begs. “At least, for a part of your journey.”
“But why?” Lir doesn’t mean to, but he raises his voice anyway. “Why would you help me? What are you getting out of this in return? What about your job, and your friends?” He leaves out the word lover, because it is too painful. Lir would rather not know, or at least, delay knowing for as long as he can, if it’s possible. “You’re okay with leaving all that behind? I don’t get it.”
There is another mute lull between them, until Tobias sighs again, and finally releases Lir from his grasp. He walks past him. Then ruffles his hair. “Wouldn’t you do it for me?” He isn’t looking at Lir anymore, but at the ocean’s waves, that are rather calm tonight.
Lir’s lips part. He realizes that he would—without even giving it a second thought—if such a curse were to befall his mentor. Though, he merely stays silent, and nods.
Tobias pats the large leather bag that hangs from his shoulder. “I’ve packed most of what we’ll need for our journey,” he says “A fisherman’s boat always leaves this island at sunrise. We’ll can sneak on; it shouldn’t be too difficult.”
Their eyes meet, as a sun and a forest would. “Where are we going?” Lir asks him.
His mentor smiles. “The capital, Aglia.” He shifts on his feet, and motions to the horizon with a slight tip of his head. “I have a friend who may be able to help you there.”