Author’s Note: ALL FEEDBACK WELCOMED. I’m thinking this is the beginning of a book that I’ve had in mind for a while now, but I’m not sure if I’ve found the hook the story deserves. Also, this is my first time trying my luck with fantasy writing, so any advice you can give me is welcomed and appreciated. I hope you enjoy! 

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I reposition my leg underneath me in the uncomfortable chair of the inn. 5 of my guild members are strewn about the room, three in beds, two on the floor. I’d ordered them to bed earlier after a six-hour trek from Landercross, and not a one of them complained.

I unwrap the red stained bandage from my shoulder to peek at the wound underneath, and it oozes fresh blood from the lack of pressure. I need to rebandage it- my makeshift, on the road doctoring of the hole was just a half-assed effort to not bleed out since our destination was still three hours out. Sighing, I force my leaden legs to hold my weight, and I shuffle to my bag, rifling through the contents for a new roll of gauze and tape. A half empty bottle of pills tumbles from my grip before I can grab it and it lands on the floor loudly. I grimace, waiting for the response of any or all of my people to react, but none of them does. I release a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding and stoop to pick it up, returning to my chair to finish what I started.

Ten minutes pass and I find I’m still struggling to make the bandage stay where I need it to. I feel nauseous from exerting my injured arm and from blood loss -although this is nothing compared to what happened last spring- and I drop the supplies into my lap, defeated. I lean my head backwards to prop against the wall and close my eyes, listening to the sounds of breathing around me. Talor’s snoring is soft, but deep, as usual. Adeline breathes noisily through her mouth- she’d caught wind of a cold on the way here and her nose has been clogged ever since. Ryver is sprawled on her back in the corner, her dagger held firmly against her chest in her sleeping hand. She makes no sound when she sleeps, which is unnerving, and some nights I check to see if she’s even still alive. Thix lays on his side on the opposite side of the room with the blanket pulled up to his chin, his even breaths creating the effect of a metronome, combining everyone’s unique sounds into a strange but intricate harmony. Adie offered Thix her bed, but he prefers the floor. I can’t understand how. I listen carefully for the last sound I’m looking for, but when I find it, it sounds irregular, definitely not how he sounds when he sleeps.

I crack one eye open and gaze around the room, having forgotten which bed he took. I find him on the one nearest to me, his eyes open slightly as he stares back at me. I open my other eye and lift my head to look at him head on, and my brow creases. “Did I wake you?” I say quietly.

He shakes his head and sits up, planting his bare feet firmly on the ground. Now his eyes don’t quite meet mine, instead flitting from my hands to my shoulder and back again. My heart clenches as I realize; he’s had another nightmare.

Eight years ago I was passing through his city on a leisure trip when a horde of bandits attacked the town, stealing and slaughtering and setting fire to every last building in sight. In the chaos I stumbled into a run down shack where I found him huddled in the corner with an arrow held defensively in his hand, trails of blood running from his mouth and nose. I’d thrown my hands into the air and kicked the door shut behind me. “I’m not a Ric.” I’d told him breathlessly. “My name is Xylia, and I can help you if you let me.” Together we’d fled the city to the nearest mountain, and atop the highest slope we’d watched his village turn to ash. Since that day, I’d never seen him cry for the loss of his people, but the nightmares from the incident have never left him.

A weakly whispered, “Are you okay, Lox?” escapes my mouth.

“I will be.” he answers gruffly, wiping a hand over his face.

He pushes himself to his feet and trudges over to me. He doesn’t say anything else, only picks up the bandages from my lap and begins the patchwork himself. I stare at the group around me as he dresses my shoulder, mulling over the information for our next gig. As far as I know, it’s a routine protection detail for a group of women. Faowind, my messenger bird, brought me news that we were to meet the women in Durmark by the second Sunday of the new month. The small strip of paper coiled in the falcon’s talon bore no signature, though it did detail a hefty sum of coin for successful completion of our duties.

I must’ve made a face, because Lox grips me under my chin and forces our eyes to meet. “Take your mind off work.”

I pull my face from his hand. “I worry for them.” I admit, glancing at our sleeping friends. “We’ve got a week to travel the last 84 miles. I hate to put that strain on them after pushing them so hard in Saeben.” Three weeks ago, the entire guild had taken it upon ourselves to cleanse Saeben, the port town of Andermar, of orcs, and, despite the extensive research and seemingly foolproof plan, the operation went awry. Kip broke her ankle, Morla lost a finger, and Alixa, having had a near fatal encounter due to a misstep in battle, left the guild. She left behind a note that told how, in the seconds that she thought she was going to die, she’d seen before her eyes all of the things that she had yet to do in her life, and that those dreams and aspirations needed to be fulfilled before she came face to face with death again. That battle damaged all of us worse than just the wounds we wore on our flesh. It destroyed our pride, our guild spirit, and our stash of supplies in one blow.

“They knew what they signed up for when they swore their oath.” Lox answers simply, taping the corner of gauze to my skin and dropping into the chair across from me. “Have faith.”

I sigh in agreeance and lower my eyes from his, trying to be discreet as I admire his impeccable posture for the fifteen-thousandth time. He sits straight-backed, his collar bones protruding from the skin like sharpened blades under his loose, faded blue tunic. He’s quite attractive, and I sometimes wonder why he’s not acquired the attention of women from every new town we venture to. If I were romantically interested in him, I would wed him, but after everything we’ve been through together, this man is my brother, and I his sister, not just in arms, but in fire and blood. We’d have it no different.

“Rest.” Lox orders quietly, pointing at the bed he just stood up from.

I shake my head. “You’ve only had a few hours.”

“I’ve had enough, and you’ve had none. Bed.”

I press my lips together. Lox is definitely not a force to reckon with, and I know I can’t out-argue him. I push myself up with leaden legs once again and climb into his bed, still warm from where he’d slept. I flip the pillow to the cold side, pull the blanket up to my shoulder blades, and concentrate on the sounds of breathing around me.

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