Chapter Four: Follow
Francesca was sitting on the edge of the bed. The boy sat on the other side. The forgotten sandwich was back in his hands, however, he was attempting to hold his sleeves up over his stitches by holding his arms close together.
Francesca got a sandwich for herself out of her bag. "Alright, kid, start talking." She took a bite out of it. "Fist off... How' y' ge dose sitches?"
"I... I don't remember..." he said. He nearly looked ashamed. "I didn't even realize I had them until Master disappeared."
Francesca swallowed. "Another thing... Who's this 'Master' guy?"
"He's the one that took care of me," he replied. He ate a bite of his sandwich before continuing. "He disappeared one day though."
"Oh..." Francesca looked to her lap. "What happened?"
"I don't know. He just told me to hide one day and then he was gone." He pointed to the wardrobe. "In there."
"Huh... How long have you been here?" She took another bite.
The boy thought for a while before answering. "For as long as I can remember. I don't even think I tried going outside until Master disappeared."
"How old are you, kid?" she asked.
He shrugged and took another bite.
Francesca sighed and scrutinized his face. By human standards, he looked around eight-years-old. If he were an elf, however... God knows. Elves that looked half her age turned out to be decades older.
"Let me see your ear for a second," she ordered.
He seemed surprised but he didn't question it. He pulled back the strands of silver until the ear nearest to Francesca was visible. The slightest point at the tip was the telltale sign of an elf.
Francesca let out the smallest grunt of irritation. The boy let his hair fall back into place and flinched.
"S-Sorry...?" he said uncertainly.
"You're good..." she reassured. She was just annoyed that this "kid" could turn out to be older than her.
"Um... May I ask you a question now?" he asked in a small voice.
Francesca shrugged. "Sure."
"What... should I call you?" he asked.
She raised her eyebrows at the question. Then she smiled at him and held out a hand. "Francesca."
He stared at her hand with befuddlement. He gave her a look that gave her a silent question of what he was supposed to do with it.
"You shake it," she told him.
He awkwardly grasped her hand and shook it side to side. Francesca burst out laughing at him.
He sighed. "I'm doing it wrong, aren't I?"
"Yeah, kind of," she chuckled. She properly shook his hand then. "Like that. Got it?"
"Got it, Fran..." He furrowed his brow in concentration. "Fran... che... kee... ka... Fran... kie..." He bowed his head in defeat. "I can't say it..." He looked back up to her. "May I call you something else?"
She stared at him in surprise but nodded. She'd never met an elf who had trouble with pronounciation. All of the elven knights she had ever met were arrogant and enjoyed showing off their natural talents for language and magic. She found it almost refreshing.
"Um..." He tilted his head. "May I call you 'Franny?'"
"No," she said bluntly. "Anything but that."
"Why not?" he asked innocently.
"Only my brother is allowed to call me that," she insisted.
"Okay..." He thought for a minute. "May I call you 'Frankie' then?"
She shrugged. "That works."
"Okay... Frankie!" he said cheerfully.
He had a bright smile. His purple eyes were gleaming. The skin around the stitches were being stretched slightly.
Then he looked at Francesca's head and frowned. "Does your head feel any better?"
Francesca brushed against the injured spot only to feel a slight sting. "Yeah. I should be ready to go by tomorrow." She chuckled. "Gotta love magic."
"Ah, you're leaving..." He forced a small smile onto his face. "I'm glad that I was able to help you, Frankie!"
Francesca frowned. "Hey, kid, you're here alone, aren't you?"
His lips became a thin line for just a second before his expression relaxed again. "Yes."
"And you don't even know how much food you have."
He raised his eyebrows. "Yes...?"
"You..." Francesca looked away from him. "You could... come with me. I could find you a position in the castle or something."
"Thank you, but..." He gave her a determined look. "I want to stay with Master."
"But how long has he been gone?" Francesca asked.
"Uhh..." He thought for a bit. "I don't know."
"How..." Francesca paused as she thought of another way to phrase it. "How many times has it gone from hot to snowy around here?"
"Lots of times!" he answered.
Francesca frowned. Her conscience wouldn't allow her to be fine with some self-conscious kid being alone in a tower. This 'Master' didn't sit well with her because of how long this kid had been alone. It reminded her of her younger brother in a way that unsettled her. She felt the need to get this boy away tower and his master.
"What if I helped you look for your master?" she asked. The boy’s eyes brightened up in a hopeful look that made her guilty. "Or, lead you to someone who can help you look for him?"
"Really, Frankie?" he asked hopefully.
"Of course," she lied. "I'm going back to the man I work under. He's an even better sorcerer than I am. Maybe he could cast a tracking spell or..." She glanced over his stitches. "...Or maybe he knows an illusion charm that could get rid of your stitches."
Francesca was suddenly knocked back. The boy had flung himself into her arms and hugged her tightly. His face was pressed against her chest plate.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" he cried out.
Francesca tried to hide
the sad expression on her face.
"Hey, kid!" Francesca called out behind her. "Come on, we've got to go!"
The boy peeked out from behind the front door. He held himself rigidly. He gulped then took a step outside. He held his cloak tightly around his body. The length of the cloak was shorter and the edges were frayed. His feet were wrapped up in cloth ripped away from the edge of the cloak.
"C-Coming!" He shivered in the cold and practically hopped from foot to foot to keep from standing in the snow for too long.
Francesca sighed. "Wait, I forgot. Hold still."
Francesca put a hand on each of his shoulders and started muttering. The boy suddenly felt warmth spread across his skin. He stopped fidgeting and allowed his posture to relax.
"Better?" she asked once she removed her hands.
"Better!" he said in amazement. "Much much better! Could you teach me how to do this?"
Francesca ruffled his hair. "Sure! It may take years for a human to learn but you're an elf so it should come easily to you."
They started walking off toward the forest. The snow was still slowly falling upon them as they went.
"Could you teach me along the way?" the boy asked.
"The charm for heating clothes?" she asked.
"Alright. What you do first is touch the thing you want to use the spell on..."