The hut was silent for a long time.
Sionis let out a long sigh and leaned back in his seat, taking a moment to rub his eyes. The Collector, having grown rather captivated with the Flamecaller’s story, looked up from her notes to see what had caused this pause.
The sun was nearly set and the hut was getting dark.
Sionis snapped his finger and a few candles in the house ignited instantly. Vestria looked around and saw that the house, while small, was well kept and seemed to be a comfortable, if cramped, place to live.
“You have a place to stay?” Sionis asked. “I can’t keep you here.”
“Oh, right,” she replied. “I can stay at the tavern back in town.”
“Good. You hungry? I can get you something before you head out.”
“I’m still full,” Vestria answered. “Before I came out here, I checked your family records. You don’t have a documented list of any extended family that show up on—”
“Listen, I’m not trying to be unfriendly here, but you’re gonna have to head out for the evening. I’ve got an early morning with the crops, and I’m still wearing my work clothes from when you showed up today.”
“Of course, I’m sorry. I’ll go. I just… this is just all so important to me.”
“Why is that?” Sionis asked. “I’ll admit, I’m curious about you, Vestria… the Collector.”
“Azirin has been assaulted by the Yunai four times. They failed to make their invasion stick. I’ve learned a great deal about the Yunai, and I have never heard a story about their utter defeat. There’s more than meets the eye here.”
“You talk about all of this like an external observer,” Sionis mused, looking her over more carefully. “Where exactly do you come from?”
Vestria waved a dismissive hand. “This isn’t about me. I’m here to learn about you.”
Sionis offered up a half-cocked smile and nudged his head toward the door. “Well, we’re done talking about me for tonight, and if you’re not sharing your backstory, then I suppose it’s time to say goodnight.”
Vestria nodded. She quickly gathered her notes and started for the door. Outside, a gentle wind was picking up and storm clouds seemed to loom in the sky on the horizon. She frowned at that, wondering if she’d have to walk in the rain tonight. Still, she had reached her objective, now she just needed to get the story out of him.
“Hey,” SIonis said as he reached the entryway behind her. “You know anything about farming?”
“What?” she asked, scoffing. “No.”
“Well, you’re going to learn. If you want to hear my story, you’re going to be here a while. Get some work clothes and meet me here at sunrise. You work the field with me during the day, and you get your story at night. Deal?”
Vestria groaned. Working outdoors in the hot sun was well beyond her comfort zone, but the information she needed could mean the difference between life and death. She nodded to him. “Fine. Deal.”
“Alright. Have a good night, kid.”
The hut to Sionis’ door closed and the Collector felt a wave of excitement returning. This was the real deal. The Flamecaller of Stonehaven, the Hero of Azirin. The man that stood against the Yunai and won. She would learn his secrets, understand his tactics, and soon she would be capable of saving lives, just as he had done. She took a deep breath and started walking back to town, just as the first flash of lightning in the distance reminded her that she would need to buy clothes better suited for rain.