I coughed hard, choking on the dust that had gotten in my nose and mouth. I spat and sat up. The only thing I could hear was a loud buzzing in my ears.

I saw Mhorik sprawled nearby. Blood and dirt covered his face. The other wizards that had gathered around us had been thrown in all directions and were just now stirring. People were running toward us to see what the commotion had been.

Riversdepth staggered to her feet. Her black robe had been ripped to shreds and hung on her loosely. She seemed to take a step toward Mhorik.

Moving faster than I thought possible, I ran to put myself between her and Mhorik. I saw his staff and snatched it up, holding it between us. I felt a potent heat pump through my body as I got ready for whatever she could throw at me.

But, all I saw in response was fear. Her eyes focused on me and went wide. She mouthed something I still couldn’t hear while she backed away. The other wizards who had come with her, including Seamist, backed away from me and melted into the dark passages of the grove.

When they were gone, I turned my attention to Mhorik. I hurriedly cast a spell to stop the bleeding. His body shook with violent coughing, then his eyes sprang open. I bent down and grabbed his hand, pulling him to his feet and putting my arm under his. I was scared with how frail he felt, how easily it was that I lifted him up and practically carried him with me to our campfire.

I put him down on his sleeping furs, and he felt immediately into a deep sleep. I felt drained, but the fire in my blood wouldn’t let me sleep for several hours.

Morning came and I awoke with a start. Mhorik was sitting nearby, wrapped tightly in his furs despite the warmth of the sun. The crackling of the fire let me know I had my hearing back.

“Are you…,” I started, moving toward the frail looking man sitting there.

“I am alive,” he muttered. “Thanks to you.”

“I didn’t know what to do!”

“You did fine. You did better than I did.”

I sat in quiet for a moment. I wanted to ask endless questions, but I didn’t know what to do.

“We leave before the sun sets tonight. Gather your items and say your goodbyes.”

I nodded. That answered a few of my questions, at least.

I set to packing our items. When most of the things were put away, I went to find Cloud’s Reflection. I asked him to go keep an eye on things for me, and he simply smiled and headed off toward our campfire.

I figured my time was limited. I tread carefully through the grove, trying to avoid anyone I didn’t know. I met a few of my new friends and said I was leaving. I didn’t go into much detail, because I wasn’t sure what those details were, exactly. The sun was starting to descend when I finally went back to the campfire to find Mhorik.

Mhorik was sitting near the fire, out from under his furs. His robes hung on him loosely, and he looked more fragile than I had ever noticed before.

Cloud’s Reflection and his son got up to meet me. “He is fine. A few people came to talk to him, but they were friends he said.”

I nodded. “We’re leaving….”

“He said. I told him you should wait. There are stories of unnatural weather, and strange creatures prowling outside the grove.”

I looked to Mhorik, but he just shook his head. “No, we must leave tonight.”

Cloud’s Reflecting swept me into a tight embrace. “It was good to meet you, sister. I wish you both safe travels.”

“Thanks.” I smiled the first honest smile I had felt all day.

I gathered up our belongings, shouldering some of Mhorik’s usual load. He struggled to his feet and leaned heavily on his staff.

“Safe travels to you, Cloud’s Reflection. I hope you find a home. Be wary of who you count as friends here, though.”

Cloud’s Reflection nodded and kept an eye on us as we left. We took off across the field, avoiding the main grove. The sun set behind the horizon as we climbed a nearby hill.. From the grove, I saw the glow of blue flames for the last time.


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