I woke with a start, and my hand sought my stone. Sleek and silver it lay in my hand, and I took a breath.
All was well. My hand moved down, underneath my pallet and withdrew my sword.
The stone rested on the blade, and then my hand sought further. Breath clenched in my throat when I realized it was gone. The most precious thing I had ever carriedwaslost. I sat up so fast my head spun, and then my hand sought the unfamiliar candle. I touched it, and then snapped magic into my fingers and lit it.
The candle caught the room and showed its secrets. Not my scroll.
I shook and tore mybed apart. The blanket I discarded in a pile on the floor, then lifted it again, to see the scroll truly wasn’t there. Then the pillow, stiff and harsh with long-dead wool succumbed to my touch. No tight wound roll of parchment with the seal of my… I was lost.
The sheets didn’t reveal treasure either, just damp from night sweats.
I criedand pulled the soft feather filled bedding and the straw mattress up in rapid succession. The straw crinkled and groaned, but did not give me the scroll.
I searched my pack, throwing out all that I needed.
I repacked it carefully, knowing I would need it in the order I had decided for it in a long sleepless night where all that would keep me sane was deciding the order of my pack.
I took a deep breath and put my bedding back in order. The hard wooden stack, the straw mattress, the featherbed, the sheets, the blanket.
I sat on top of it, and opened my pack again, adding everything in the right order once more.
I bit my lip and cried.
I cried like a babe would, with heaving chest, and shuddering shoulders, face so red it rivals the setting sun.
My breath calmed. My tears dried slowly on my cheeks. I stood and checked the latch on my door. Still closed.
I lifted the candle up in the room, to the coarse beams that held the straw roof and the coarse clay-covered walls.
And then my eyes fell upon my tunic, and I smiled. I lifted it up, and there, on the chair, lay the scroll, carefully tucked inside my cap.
I looked at my room for the nightand then blew out the candle. All of a sudden I started to shiver as if my body had taken one breath of cold winter air from the north and spread it throughout my body in an instant.
I crawled back in my bed, my hand sought and found the silver stone. Clenched around it and pulled my hand close to my chest, where I lay the stone where my heartbeat sang through my skin.
My body relaxed into the soft bedding, and, just as sleep overtook me, I sat up straight in waking.
My pouch. My pouch was missing.
I checked the latch on my door. Still locked. My pouch had to be somewhere in the room, taunting me until I would beg and scream for it to come to me, at last.
I pushed the warm cocoon of my bedding away from my body and then stood to search the room again.
The sun woke, bright orange light filled my room, and its magic stole itself away and filled my fingers, my hand, my armuntil it settled in my heart.
I stood, arms raised and greeted the day.
Then a glint of light caught a glimpse of silver, just below the pallet. I withdrew the pouchand counted my coin.
All was there.
And then I laughed.
I washed the parts of my body not covered with my under-tunic and, tucking the scroll under my clothes, I rested it against my chest. Then I shouldered my pack and exited the room.
I rushed down the stairsand entered the stables. There she stood, my noble horse, her mane braided anew. I stood next to her, and said, “Oh dear. Where is my saddle?”

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