Status: Will be updated once to twice a week, until I catch up to what I have written.

The Quest

Chapter Seventeen - Home

Two days moved by faster than Tess had expected. She had bottled several potions while they had been sailing, and was now running out of room for them. “How are you going to carry all these?” Tom asked, looking at the shelf she had taken over in the kitchen.

“I’m not,” Tess answered. “I told Nyx he could use some of these to enhance his cooking.” Tom looked at her, uncertain if he believed her. “What? Half of them were his ideas.” Tess defended herself. “Also, I gave some to Destru so he could take them on his travels to use as healing potions.”

“Hm, perhaps he’ll stop robbing hospitals for their medicines then.” Tom mused as Destru came up behind the two, clapping them on the back.

“Just until they run out,” Destru grinned. “We’ll be docking within the next hour. Then it’s up to you two to lead us to our final destination.”

“You’re sure you still want to come?” Tom asked, turning to face Destru. “The Last Prophecy might not be what you think it is.”

Destru looked offended. “All this adventure for nothing? I’ll take my chances and get my disappointment first hand.”

“Your loss,” Tom laughed. “Tess, make sure you’re packed and ready to go once we’re docked. We should be able to make it to the house before it gets dark.”

Tess nodded. She had been looking forward to today, but was dreading it at the same time. What were they going to find when they made it back to the house? Were Mama and Papa’s bodies going to be there? Did they die peacefully in their sleep? Or did they struggle in a battle? Questions swirled through Tess’ head. Tom and Destru went above deck to start the docking process.

Nyx looked towards the now seasick looking girl. He slid a chair next to her and sat her down, taking his own chair and sitting next to her. “You look sick,” he finally said, eyeing her to make sure she didn’t faint.

“I’ve been waiting for today all summer. When I went back home, I was supposed to get a present to start my final studies. But now-” Tess stopped, trying to hold back her tears.

“It’s okay to cry,” Nyx said, nodding towards Tess, handing her a handkerchief.

“Thank you.” Tess took the handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. “I didn’t think I’d be returning to nothing,” she finally whispered.

“You’re not returning to nothing,” the troll chef answered. He got up and grabbed a couple of vegetables along with some paring knives. He handed one to Tess and sat down in his chair again, peeling the vegetable. Tess followed suit, waiting for him to continue his explanation. “You’re returning to memories.”

Tess sat there peeling her vegetable, taking in his words. He never spoke too many, but he always made sure they counted when he did. “Memories,” Tess whispered back, reaching for another vegetable, then looked up at Nyx. “They were wonderful memories.”

She thought back to playing with Tom and his little brother. Tom’s first transformation without the moon and how tired he had been. Tom’s mom teaching Tess how to brew the recovery potion. Tess casting her first spell on accident…

“Thank you,” Tess hugged the troll.

He didn’t move right away, taken aback by the sudden physical touch. After the shock wore off, he gently wrapped his arms around Tess and returned the hug. “They would be proud of the person you’ve become,” he whispered, before releasing her. “Go watch the docking. It will be one of the last ones you see with us.” Tess nodded, then ran up the stairs to watch Tom help dock the boat.

-----

Tess shouldered her pack as Tom, Destru and a small crew followed them to the edge of town. “Ready?” Tom asked Tess as they looked down the old familiar path they had traveled so many times before.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Tess slid her hand into Tom’s, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Tom gave her a squeeze back, then started walking down the path.

It usually only took about an hour to walk to the house they grew up in. Today it seemed like it took infinitely longer. The pair were filled with dreaded anticipation as they tried to imagine what they were going to walk up on. Every rustle in the brush made them jump, concerned that an enemy might still be lurking.

Destru and his crew stayed nearby, their swords at the ready. Anticipating for the chance of the imaginary enemies becoming real. The chances were unlikely, but they weren’t taking the risk.

“Tom,” Tess shook his hand as she saw the roof peak come into view. She looked up at his face, tears in her eyes. She had missed the little house more than she thought she would.

He gave her a smile, releasing her hand, allowing her to run ahead. The familiar scents were hitting his nose. His dad had a smoke shack where he cured and smoked meats not too far from where they were. It surprised him he could still smell the hickory chips. The familiar forest smells pulled at his heart as they pressed on. His family’s house slowly came into view. He watched as Tess looked at the flowers around the house. She pulled at the weeds that had grown from the disuse. She hadn’t looked in the windows, most likely scared of what she would see.

“A quaint little home,” Destru commented as he took in the view of the one story white house. It wasn’t a large house, but it had never bothered Tom or anyone else that had lived with them. They had been a close knit family, and he couldn’t think of a single thing he would’ve wanted different.

The small group made it to the front of the house. It was so peaceful a person would never guess that something bad had happened in the area. Maybe it didn’t happen here, Tom hoped as he opened the front door. He stepped in first, Tess following close behind him. He flipped a light on to show the small entryway. His family’s shoes were sitting in their spots. He took a deep breath, then walked further into the house. He stopped when he was greeted by his father’s body sitting in his chair, slumped over.

“Oh,” Tess’ small voice trembled as she took in the view. “Papa,” she whispered as she reached out for Tom’s dad, stopping her hand before she touched his still body. Destru took the respectful route and kept his men outside, while Tess and Tom assessed the damage.

Tom moved on, not wanting to stay in one spot too long. They walked into the kitchen to see Tom’s mom laying on the floor in a pool of dried blood. A large knife had fallen near one of her hands. “Tom,” Tess whispered, tears streaming down her face.

“I’m sorry, Tess.” Tom pulled her into a hug, his chin resting on the top of her head. He didn’t know what it was like losing parents twice. His ears perked up when he heard a familiar growling sound. “Theo?” Tom whispered, pulling away from Tess.

She wiped her eyes, following Tom’s movements as he walked to a hallway that led to the bedrooms. He opened the door to his younger brother’s room, falling back as a black blur jumped on him with snapping teeth. “Theo!” Tess screamed, making Destru and his men rush in at her distress.