#1

Flickering embers rising above the cracking wood of a campfire shed the only light besides the moon. Its slight crescent only barely visible from just off the road. Olivia sat like a ghost in the dirt nearby; her sword propped on her knee as she slid her whetstone down the blade in an almost hauntingly, empty way. The sharp metallic sound like a banshee’s shriek matched the sharpness of the woman’s eyes. She watched the shadows sway against tree trunks with steady breaths matching the shing of each stroke of her stone.  It was cold, but hardly anything compared to Norderhalt, and the scents were different. Here it was earthier: wet dirt, florals, the sharp smell of musk and sap emanating from the trees. A far cry from the biting cold putting icicles in her nostrils up north. Nice though, to be away from the cold for a bit. She’d be missing the harshest part of the year and was damn well thankful for it. Winter in Norderhalt was a killer, a true hand of death over the land. She could remember it taking a few people she cared about over the years.
 
“Shit!” It was her own fault for being distracted, and the deep red slice across her palm glared back at her as proof. Olivia let her whetstone fall to the ground; ripping a piece off of her tunic to use to staunch the blood. She’d need a new one when she found a town. She also needed a disinfectant. With a sigh she turned to her pack, grabbing a small flask. Vodka. Eira’s last gift before Olivia’s last mission. What a waste. She hadn’t ever drunk before, but the way things had been she’d been considering it. Guess she’d be staying sober. The sting of it was uncomfortable; the slice had been sharp and clean. It didn’t manage to illicit a reaction beyond irritation from Olivia; who finished up by wrapping the wound and using her uninjured hand to rub at the scrunched bridge of her nose.
 
Even after a long day of travel she couldn’t sleep; it had her irritated and making sloppy mistakes like this. Every time she closed her eyes she could see it again, the feeling of being betrayed reflected in that dragon’s gaze. Why should she have to feel bad about that? Something she had never known besides as a target, weighing on her heart like she had killed a friend in cold blood, “Tsk.” Olivia grit her teeth in frustration, shaking off the thought with a tight grip on her fresh cut. She just wanted an escape, even if only a night. Just a few hours of real sleep. As she looked over at the bedroll laid out just beside her, Olivia could feel the want of it dragging at her eyelids. How long would her body be able to keep this up? Worse, how long could her mind keep handling the nightmares?
 
For a long moment, Olivia stared at the roll. A quietly concerned look peeking out of the corners of her frown. She knew she needed it… but not yet, just a little longer. Maybe if she was tired enough the nightmares wouldn’t come. Bending down, she picked up her sword and whetstone, resting the hilt on her knee and sliding the stone down the blade; leaving the metallic echo to float about the area near her.