A Woeful Melody
“Shouldn’t they be here by now?” I ask Maven. We’re the only ones still awake. The fire has burned down to embers, and neither of us attempt to revive the flames.
“It depends on how fast the kid learns.” There’s silence, and we both stare at the coals.
“Cerc plans on moving camp again tomorrow.” I say.
“Yeah. We have to keep moving towards the settlement.”
“I know, but what are they going to do if they get here and we’re gone?”
“Kyne will know where to go.”
“But what if something happened?” My voice rises slightly. Maven smiles sadly into the coals. I frown.
“I’m going to stay here tomorrow, just in case.” I leave no room for negotiation in my voice. Maven hesitates, probably realizing that I already understand the conflict it’s going to create with Cerc.
“I’ll stay too.”
“You don’t have to do that. If you do, Cerc will be angry with you too.” Maven grins.
“I’m not worried about her. People still give me enough respect that she won’t act rashly.”
“Fine.” I relent.
“Don’t act like you won’t enjoy having me around.” Maven moves to my side and puts an arm around me. I pretend to push her away, but let her arm stay. I grin, and lean into her.
“I know, but you still love me.” I don’t say anything for a while. Maven pulls me closer.
“I’m scared.” I finally say. If it were anyone else, I wouldn’t voice my concerns, but with Maven I feel comfortable enough to share anything.
“Can we really win a war with the church? They have so many cities under their control.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Just because the people accept their presence doesn’t mean they want to be a part of the church. Those people know the evils of the church far too well. They just need a push to spark them into action.” Maven’s eyes take on a faraway look.
Is that true? Why won’t they do anything on their own? I don’t say anything though. Maven sees the best in people, and wouldn’t care for my criticism. We sit silently for a while, just enjoying each other’s presence, before heading to bed.
The next day, I wake early, and decide to get the conversation over with. I head out and see everyone else packing up their tents, except Maven. I wave and smile in her direction, and she makes her way over to me.
“Want to talk with her now?” She asks, as she gets closer.
“That was my plan. I’d rather get it over with.” We make our way towards Cerc, who is watching over the clearing from the far side. She frowns like usual, and when she sees me approaching her, it only deepens.
“What is it, Gwynn?” She says sternly.
“We’re staying here an extra day in case Kyne and Diqan show up.” Cerc looks between me and Maven, then looks away.
“Fine. Do as you wish. Don’t waste too much time waiting though.” Her response gives me pause, due to how easily she gave in.
“We’ll be sure to make haste, after we meet up with them.” I say. Cerc nods, but doesn’t look at us again. We walk away and once we’re out of earshot, I turn to Maven.
“She gave in a bit too easily.” I comment.
“She did. Let’s just take it and move on for now.” Maven says. I hesitate.
“You know as well as I do that she always has a plan.”
“True enough, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now.” I clench my jaw, knowing she’s right.
“We’ll need to be on alert when we catch up.”
“That we will. Though, there’s little damage she could make in just a day or two.” I sneak glances at Cerc as we help others gather their supplies. Cerc maintains the same unpleasant look on her face. Does she really even care about us? I refuse to trust her words, when her expressions are so insincere.
“Gwynn. Gwynn.” I’m startled out of my thoughts by Maven calling to me.
“Sorry, I was zoning out a bit.” She smiles.
“Don’t be so worried. Everything’s going to be fine.” I smile. I appreciate her kindness, but her optimism borders on naivety.
“You’re probably right.” I go back to work, helping pack up a tent.
Once everyone has their equipment packed up, except me and Maven, we gather around for quick goodbyes. While Maven speaks with Nan, I say farewell and give hugs to Byron and Bolon. Maven and Nan are far enough away that I can’t hear what they say, but Nan is animated. She looks angry, which I can only assume has to do with Maven staying behind. Finally, she stomps away, and Maven rubs a hand across her face in exasperation. I catch her eye, and give her a sympathetic smile, which she returns.
Goodbyes are said and the others exit the barrier around the camp, leaving it intact for us. The sun has barely risen, but we use the daylight to gather firewood, edible berries, and lay out a few traps for squirrels. We finish by mid-afternoon and so I set about sharpening my sword. It’s nothing fancy, just a steel blade and leather grip. Maven hums while preparing poultices and fabricating bandages out of old cloth.
We hear it at the same time. Footsteps pounding into the ground. It makes a lot of noise, and I stand up with my sword ready. The sound gets louder, and it hits the barrier. Three high pitched bird chirps are set off. Maven is standing as well, a dagger in hand. Suddenly, Diqan bursts into the clearing. His shirt is soaked through, and his hair sticks to his forehead. He carries two bags and a sword on his back. I bite my cheek, already assuming the worst.
“Diqan, are you alright?” I exclaim, rushing forward. He looks at me, his eyes wild around the edges. It takes a moment before I think he recognizes me.
“gwynn.” It’s not a question. He states it quietly, almost reverently. A grin stretches across his face as he stumbles a step towards me. Then, he collapses onto his hands and knees. He vomits a clear fluid.
My god, what happened to him?
“Diqan, are you alright?” I go to his side, grabbing him on the shoulder. He looks at me and grins again. A vacant, despairing expression. He rolls over onto his back and stares at the sky, his grin fading. Maven is on his other side, checking his heartbeat. She places a hand on his head, and closes her eyes for a few moments, before grimacing.
“He’s depleted. I don’t think he’ll die, but he overexerted himself.” Diqan doesn’t seem to register anything we say or do. Maven smiles at him, and cups his cheek with her hand.
“It’s going to be alright, dear. Just sleep now.” She takes a pouch of herbs and places it over his mouth and nose for a minute. Diqan passes out, and she pulls it away.
“We need to move him into a tent.” I obey her order, and help carry him to Maven’s tent. Once inside, she sends me out to strip him and check for wounds or infections. Once done, she lets me back inside. He sleeps peacefully, covered in a blanket up to his neck.
“Is there anything we can do for him?” I ask Maven.
“He mainly needs rest.” She says, and pulls back the cover to his waist. Then, she places one hand on his forehead, and another hand on his chest.
“What are you doing now?” I ask, curious.
“You can channel vitality into someone else if you know how. The main reason for his illness is exhausting his vitality. If I give him some of mine, then he should recover faster.”
I didn’t even know that was possible. I watch as Maven’s arms light up with vitality, and it travels down to her hands. Then it passes into Diqan’s head and chest, lighting along his veins. After a couple minutes, Maven stops. She smiles at me and replaces the cover.
“We should leave him alone now. He’ll be asleep for a while still.” I nod and head out. Maven follows behind me, and when we’re in the clearing again, we can’t help but take notice of the sword and two bags Diqan was carrying.
“That’s Kyne’s sword.” I comment.
“That it is.” Maven says. Neither of ust want to be the first to admit the obvious; Kyne is dead. I bite my cheek.
“I’m going to place another barrier and check the traps.” I say, leaving the clearing.