The sun shines brightly, burning through the air and into the five Shifters' bodies when they leave the small little house to start making their way across the open field and towards the forest.
The group glides across the field, a perfect image of gracefulness. No words are spoken, the only sounds being the steady, light sounds of their feet falling, crunching the tall, sun dried grass with every step.
Xoerta walks at the front of the group, her head held high and shoulders pulled back. With the amount of authority she has taken and the care with which she is treating the situation, one would think it was her mother they are searching for.
She keeps her eyes straight ahead of her, marking the small opening at the edge of the forest where she knows the path through it lies.
Annica glances to where her sisters are talking in hushed voices with Loxlin before she hurries her steps to catch up to Xoerta and keep pace with her.
"Thank you." Annica whispers, her voice faint and tinged with sadness and a hint of fear.
Xoerta briefly breaks her staring match with the forest path to look down at the girl out of the corner of her eye, but her gaze flashes back up to the tree line when she speaks. "I'm glad to help, my dear." She purses her lips and closes her eyes, head tilting towards the ground and a curtain of darkness falls forward from behind her ear, blocking her face from Annica's view. "I know what it's like, having someone disappear from your life. You have that thread of hope that you just keep clinging to, praying to anyone that will listen that they will be okay and come back to you."
"That person you lost... did they come back to you? Did you ever find them?" Annica questions.
Xoerta lifts her head and Annica sees a range of emotions flicker across her features before they settle on a sad smile. "No. Not truly. But I promise you I will help you get your mother back if it's the last thing I do."
"But why is this so important to you. I don't understand. We're heading for a Human village, probably one of the most dangerous places for a Shifter. You could be safe in your house but instead you're here. Why?"
"Because one of us should be able to get the one we lost back." Xoerta answers and her smile becomes one of amusement. Annica weighs in her mind whether it's genuine or just an act. If it is an act, it is an extraordinarily good one, Annica decides.
Just then, Loxlin jogs up to walk on Annica's other side. "If we stay on the path, we should be safe. Nothing can hurt us there. The closer we get to the other side, the more likely it will be that we come across Humans, but if we stay on the path we might be able to pass as one of them." He explains.
"That's what I was planning on doing." Xoerta replies.
Annica shakes her head. "We might pass as lower class Humans, but if we want to try and get any information from town we'll have to stop at my house first and change our clothes. Humans from the lower class are just a step above Shifters in that village. We'd be lucky if someone told us the time of day."
"She's right. We should see if anyone in town knows something before we move on to start looking somewhere else." Xoerta says.
Loxlin scoffs and shakes his head, his jaw sticking out to the side and a look of annoyance plastered on his face. "Are you kidding me? Cerastine is in danger! We don't have time to play dress up and have high tea with the locals! We just need to make it through town without getting caught and then we can start looking for her."
"It's my mother that we're looking for and I say we check around town. All she is to you is some girl you once knew. I think that puts me over you when deciding what we do to try and find her." Annica glares.
Loxlin rolls his eyes and juts his jaw to the side again. With a final shake of his head her crosses his arms and slows down so he is walking behind the rest of the group. "Fine. Whatever." He mutters, just loud enough for everyone else to hear it and the sun disappears from overhead as they step underneath the shade of the leaves.