Chapter 03

I made my way to my vault, this time with more on my mind that just the wish to see the stars. I reached my vault and opened it, throwing off my cloak and bag, before grabbing a book from the shelf. It was one a biology textbook that Enki had given me years before. I found the part about forestry and how the forest fires were beneficial to the other plants. I set the book on the table and grabbed axe from near the door. I stepped outside into the cold and huffed. Even in this Nuclear Winter, there were still seasons and it was starting to become the season of me, where the ice and snow would normally fall.

I chopped down the first tree near me after three strikes to its bark. I kicked it away from me to facilitate its fall away from me. I rounded to the next tree then a third and fourth before I stopped. I started to chop them into smaller sizes for me to use within my vault. I kept chopping until my body hurt and my muscles cramped.

I leaned on the axe and breathed heavily, the sweat clinging to my body. I looked out to the trees that were at least twenty feet from my vault. I chopped the trees that were closest to gather fire wood, but to also protect my vault from the fire. It withstood multiple Nuclear blasts, so it should outlast a forest fire, but I did not want to take that chance.

I looked at the sky as the sun broke over the horizon. I wiped the sweat off my brow as I smiled, “Fire and Ice…” I walked back into my vault, carrying the firewood into the back of the vault. After six trips, I shut the door and locked it against any intruders or solicitors who might come knocking to it. I lit a candle, completely stripped from my clothes and set them on the ground next to where my clean clothes were stored. I checked the clothes that were hanging up to dry and pulled them down, before folding them and putting them in their respective places.

I looked at my bed, little more than three mattresses stacked on top of one another, with blankets. I used a towel to dry the sweat off my body, before throwing it into the same pile as the dirty clothes. I looked to the other side of the room where I kept my bed-time supplies. I undid my braid and ran the brush through it until it was straight and without kinks.

I rebraided it tightly, before I climbed into bed. I crawled to the very other edge of the bed, circled as I tried to find the opening to the blankets to get myself warm for sleep. I finally found the edge and covered myself, before noticing the candle still lit across the room. Sighing, I flipped the covers off of me and stomped over to it and snuffed the tiny flame. On the way back to the bed, I smacked my big toe on something and ran into something else before I found the sanctuary that is my bed. I climbed back into it, flipped the covers back onto me and scooted to the other side. With a deep breath, I fell asleep from exhaustion.

****

I woke up warm and cozy and not wanting to move from the spot I was in. My stomach grumbled and the urge to urinate grew until I could not handle it anymore. I threw the covers off of me, taking the cold air on my skin as I ran to the bathroom. I used the restroom before I felt better. I shot ice into the basin and rubbed my hands together to warm them up to melt the ice. I ran the ice across my hands to get them wet before using the same powdered soap as the laundry and scrubbed my hands until they were light pink.

I blew on the ice, trying to warm it up faster but it did not help. I used what little water I had to rinse my hands before using a towel to get rid of the rest of the grit. I walked into the kitchen area and looked at through the cabinets. I was better off than most people due to my journeys into the different buildings and fallout shelters.

I grabbed a can of something, a pot and the manual can opener. I looked at the wood burning stove and then the door. I set the food items next to the stove and got dressed at least to my tunic and leggings. I unlocked the vault door and opened it to the rising sun. “Wow… Slept for an entire day. Lucky me.” I walked back over to the wood stove and put a piece of the older chopped wood into it. I light the fire with the lighter I found after a few clicks of the flint. “Needs more fuel later…” I told myself as a reminder for later. I opened the can and found green beans with bacon in it. I dumped the can into the pot and looked at the date on the can. “Oh, 2035, a good year.” I set the pot onto the stove and walked to the vault door and stood at the threshold.

I leaned against the doorway, looking at the dead forest. I looked at my bag in the chair and remembered the seeds. I pulled them out and set them on the table, removing the dried blood papers, along with emptying out the rest of my bag. I looked at the seeds, using the sunlight from the door to really look at them. Enki gave me hundreds of them, but I had no idea what each one was. I think that was his point, to force me to give them out.

I smelled the green beans cooking and left the seeds on the table to stir the pot. I poked the beans and found they were warm enough to eat. Despite not minding the cold, I had to eat hot food. For some reason, frozen just did not taste right. I took the pot off the counter and let the wood stove continue to heat the vault. I set the pot onto a pot handle holder and grabbed a fork. I ate the food, and wished it was what Enki had given me the day before.

I finished eating and cleaned the pot with a piece of ice before letting it dry out. I grabbed my cloak, book, envelope with clean papers, whip, gauntlet and bag. I used ice to put out the stove, letting the heat melt the ice into its own dowsing fire. I walked back over to the seeds and smiled, “Some of you will have a home here. Others will have homes elsewhere.” I took a few of them, including the pepper seeds I had stashed in my bag, stuffed the rest into my bag and walked outside. I remembered that I needed fire, so I walked in and grabbed the lighter.

I locked the door to my vault to prevent the fire from spreading into my home. I walked up to the first tree and flicked the lighter more than before until I got more than sparks. I lifted the flame up to a branch and waited until it caught fire. The tree went up in a blaze quickly, before it jumped to the next tree, then the next. I ran out of the burning forest and waited until the entire forest was ablaze.

I sat on the ground as I heard someone running up behind me. I turned over my shoulder and saw someone I never met before. He was out of breath when he reached me, “What the?”

“I set the forest on fire.” I answered as I looked up at him. “Wanna watch?”

He looked at me oddly, before sitting down. “Why?”

I looked at him, taking in his details. He had red hair, tan skin and bright orange eyes. I could see the muscles on his arms and his chest through his orange shirt. He wore a dark red jacket with a hood and black pants. A black cord held a pendant that looked like fire and it stood out against his shirt. “I read it in a book.”

He looked between me and the flames, “What did the book say?”

“Forest fires bring nutrients to the soil, so that things can grow. I found some seeds and want to try before I give them to those who need it.” I did not want to give any information about Enki, because as far as most people I heard from, he was a myth.

He gazed into the fire before turning back to me, “My name is Ethon. What’s yours?” He reached his hand out to me.

I shook his hand, reigning in the ice, “Eirlys.”

“What’s your magic?” He asked innocently as he pulled his hand away.

“You tell me first. It’s only polite that the person asking give their secret up first.” I felt the heat rising closer to us. I stood up and he followed me. I walked back about twenty feet until I could not feel the oppressing heat, before sitting back down.

Ethon followed me, “I’m the Fire-Bearer, which is why I was confused how this was set.”

I showed him my lighter, “I found this during one of my scavenges and it did this. It need more fuel before it’ll light again.” I handed it to him to inspect.

“I’ve never seen one of these up close before.” He handed it back, “So…”

I lied to him, knowing that the Fire-Bearer was a stooge to the Dictator. “I am a Tracker. I’m a mercenary who can find pretty much anything and anyone.” I left out that I used my network of customers and skills I had honed over the years to excel at it.

“Well, I think you can help me with something, then.” I felt the trap spring around me.

“What are you looking for?” I asked despite the anxiety I felt. There was only one reason why he would be near this edge of civilization.

“I’m looking for a woman. I’ve heard rumors that there she lives around here and is the Water-Bearer.” He looked directly at me and I wondered if he knew the truth.

I laughed, nervously, but heartily. “You want to find the Water-Bearer? Darling, you’re twenty years too late.”

“What do you mean?” He asked, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“She died when she was a toddler. On my travels, I’ve learned that her family was attacked by bandits and she was killed alongside her parents and older brother.”

“Why were you looking for her?” He asked.

“I wanted to see if she was real or just a myth. I’ve met the Wind-Bearer and I’ve heard stories from others about the Fire-Bearer. But when I tried to find the Earth, I learned that he died on a mountain. And Water was but a child when she perished. If the generational mutations hold true, then it’ll be fifty years until the next set shows up.”

The forest fire started to die down and I wanted this male to leave so that I could completely dowse it. He showed no sign of leaving, “Then where did these rumors come from?”

I shrugged, “Hope. The Dictator-”

“You will not talk about the Supreme Leader like that!” He snapped as he stood up.

“Look, love, there are three kinds of people in this world. Those who follow your leader, those who Rebel and those who are just trying to survive. I’m in that last category and from what I’ve heard of your leader, I wouldn’t want to be a part of his Capitol.”

“Why wouldn’t you? I don’t understand people like you and the Rebels. The Supreme Leader has given us clean food and water. He provides us with electricity and a good life. ” He looked down at me, “Why would anyone not want that?”

I took a breath, “Well, for starters, he kidnaps people and enslaves them, including children who are not even old enough to be completely weaned from their parents. The clean food and water, where does he get it from? He steals it from the elves and the nymphs. The electricity comes from those with lightning magic and they are constantly being used until they die and are replaced. The only ones with a good life are those who are too high in the Towers to care about the rest of us.” I looked up at him, “For people like me who are surviving on our own, a Golden Cage is still a cage. We prefer our freedom over the comforted tyranny that your leader provides.”

“He is not a tyrant!” Ethon yelled at me, as his hands lit up from the fire of his anger.

I stood up and just looked at him until he calmed down. “To you, he isn’t. I bet he treats you with the respect you deserve and you have never been found wanting.” He nodded, the flames in his hands receding, “But let me ask you this and I want an honest answer.” I waited until he took a deep breath then nodded again. “Why are you away from the Capitol? Did you choose to leave or were you commanded?” I put my hand up to prevent him from speaking, “Actually, I don’t need to know. Just think about that for a while. In the meantime, I have to put out this fire that I caused. Please leave.”

I watched as he thought about my question and I knew it troubled him. As a manipulative bitch, I did my job to plant the seed of dissidence in the Fire-Bearer. As the Water-Bearer, it should hurt to see the confusion and pain in his eyes as he realized where I was getting at. As the Ice-Bearer, I just wanted him to leave and was willing to do anything to make that happen. He finally shook his head and started to walk away.

He turned at the last second and looked straight at me, “Eirlys, you could be one of those in the Towers, if you wanted. You’re beautiful enough and I think the Supreme Leader would like you if you changed your ways.” He put his hands in his pockets and walked towards the town of Sparks, leaving me with my forest fire.

I look at the lighter in my hand and yelled out to him, “Ethon!” He turned back to face me, “Catch!” I threw the lighter at him and watched as he caught it.

I watched as he ran back towards me and the fire. I waited until he was next to me, breathing slightly heavily, “Why did you give this to me?”

I shrugged, “You looked like hell and I felt bad. Plus, you were amazed with it. I can find another one, but I doubt you can get them in the Capitol.”

I pulled me into an embrace, holding me tight. I stiffened up, not sure if I should hug back or not. “Thank you.” He whispered, allowing me to relax a bit, before I put my arms around him. I realized that he was just a little bit taller than me, my chin just above his shoulder. “No one has ever given me something before without wanting something in return.” I thought I heard a sniffle but ignored it, allowing him his privacy. After a minute, he let me go and I turned towards the fire as he wiped his eyes. He stood right next to me and I watched him rub his hands together, “So, how are you going to put the fire out?”

“I’m not sure.” I lied. “I have a rake that I was going to use to hit the branches to the ground.”

“I have a better idea.” He removed his jacket and handed it to me. I instinctively grabbed it and held it. He stepped closer to the fire and held his hand out to where the flames could lick his palms. He took a breath and I watched as the fire gathered and spiraled towards his palm. It twisted and circled, a dog fighting its master. Once he absorbed the first bit of flame, the rest shot towards him, eager to become a part of him.

Within half a minute, the fire was gone, smoke rising from Ethon’s hand. I stepped up to him as he turned towards me. I looked at his hand to see the wisps of smoke rising from the center of his palm. I looked up at him and saw his eyes blazing with the same fire he absorbed. He grabbed his jacket with his other hand and threw it over his shoulder.

“That was awesome.” I smiled, because it was amazing that he could do that and it made me wonder if I could do the same with Ice and Water. I noticed he was still looking at me with his flame-filled eyes. “What’s wrong?”

He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. My eye widened before I jumped back. He looked confused at me, “What..?”

My face was blazing red and I could not figure out how to make it stop. “What the hell was that? I know I’m not good with dealing with people, which is why I avoid them as much as possible but that felt like it was supposed to be intimate.” I rambled. “Why would you do that?!”

He scratched the back of his head in confusion, “That was a kiss and yes, it can be intimate. I just felt like kissing you.”

I licked my lips, tasting the sweet heat he left on them. “A kiss? All of the books I have read have been to learn and I had never heard of this kiss thing.”

He laughed, “So, you’ve never been kissed. Too bad for the males who didn’t try. Did you like it?”

I looked at the ground, still embarrassed, “Yes, but that’s not the point. I just met you and I completely suck with these emotion things and the whole dealing with people crap. Intimacy is for people who are close and trust each other and have emotions towards each other.”

“So… I take it you’ve never had sex, either.”

“You mean to reproduce? No, I haven’t.”

“Sex isn’t just for reproduction. It can be for fun or because you love the person, just like it can be used to hurt someone.”

I thought about his words, trying to process them. “What’s love?” I asked.

His eyes widened as he gasped. “You don’t know what love is?”

I kicked a rock with my boot, “Look, I’ve stated multiple times that I’m not good with people. I try to avoid them, unless they have a job for me.” I looked up at his smiling face and wanted to punch it, “So, no. I don’t know what love is; I’ve never had sex and you stole that kiss thing from me.”

Luckily, someone teleported to where we were and it broke up our conversation. The short female walked over to me and handed me a large red envelope. She was small, blonde and had green eyes. The rest of her face was covered with a black face mask and she wore skintight clothes. She saluted me with two fingers as I thanked her. She looked to Ethon and tilter her head to the side, looking back at me. “Don’t ask. Thank you, Mikala, I’ll take care of this and meet you later with the proof.” She saluted me again before she vanished.

Ethon walked over to me and asked, “What was that about?”

I looked at him, the fire no longer in his eyes. “She’s a Courier and this envelope means I have been hired for a job.”

“A job?”

“I’m a mercenary, meaning I get paid to do jobs for people.”

“Like what kind of jobs?” He asked, curiosity filling his voice.

“It depends on who send the request. I’ve received jobs to track people, find items, save people and even a few to bring death to some.”

He took a step back away from me, “You’ve killed people?”

I nodded as I opened the envelope, “Yes, I have. Most times it’s because the person has become a plague to a lot of people around them or because their death gave people peace at night. Then there have been the ones where someone wanted a rival eliminated. Lastly, there have been some who wanted mercy but couldn’t do the deed themselves. Those are the ones that I hate the most, because it means they have lost all hope for the future. But those are also the ones who pay the most, because I end up with all of their valuables.” I pulled the papers out to read.

After a couple moments, he asked. “How many?” His voice was small.

I looked over the envelope and papers at him and realized that he was not comfortable with this realization. “Truthfully, I’ve lost count. I keep a log because of it.” I pulled the book from my bag and looked to the last full page. “According to this, I’ve killed three-fifty-seven.”

He coughed as he tried to catch his breath. “Three hundred fifty-seven people?”

I nodded, “Sorry, but this is life out here. I know more who die in the mines or in slavery, so technically, you can’t throw stones at me.” I read the papers and was happy that it was a simple find an item request. I put the papers back into the envelope and put them into my bag. “Well, I have to get to work on it.”

He grabbed my arm, “Can I ask you something?”

“You can ask, but whether I’ll answer is a different story.”

“You’re right when you asked about whether I chose to leave or whether I was sent. I know that you knew I was sent. I’ve never left the Capitol before and the Supreme Leader is like an uncle to me. Can I make you a deal? You show me what life is like out here in the rest of the world and I’ll teach you how to interact with people better and about emotions.” He let go of my arm, letting me take a step away from him.

“Do you think you can handle it? Life isn’t a luxury out here and sometimes you will have to choose between what is needed to be done and where your morals lie. Food is scarce and water is even worse. Then there are the people, of course. A lot are going to have a different opinion about your uncle than you do and you have to not fly off the handle when they disagree with you. Have you used a weapon before?”

“I’ve used a sword in training, but I didn’t bring it with me.”

“I have one that you might be able to use. I have to get something from my vault anyways, so I’ll lend it to you, but I expect it back after you’ve had your fill of life out here.”

“So, is that a deal?” He sounded like an excited puppy, but he put his hand out.

“Yes, it’s a deal.” I shook his hand, but he used it to pull me into another hug. After a minute, I tried to pull away, but he was stronger than me. “We need to get going before the sun sets.”

He released me and just smiled, “For someone who doesn’t like people, you accepted my proposal quickly.”

“It’s because I think you should see the world, since you have been cooped up in your Tower for most of your life. If you see the way things really are, I’m hoping that you could convince your uncle to change some things, so it’s not all altruistic.” I turned towards my vault, which was more visible now that the forest was gone. “My home is over there. Let’s go.”

We walked over to my vault in blissful silence. I recognized that I had talked more with Ethon than anybody else but Enki and it was tiring. I unlocked and opened my vault door wide, letting the limited sunlight in. I stepped inside, Ethon following close. I went into the room, leaving him in the main area. “You live here?” He asked.

“Yup, this is my home and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” A gust of wind caught the door and shut it. “Damn it.” I ran into something and heard a crash from the other room. “Don’t move!” I took a deep breath and mentally built the vault form memory. I carefully walked, using my foot to probe the ground. I found the candle by touch and then made my way to Ethon. I bumped into him and almost dropped the candle. “Can you make a small controlled flame?”

He snapped his fingers and a small fire was at his finger tip. I lit the candle with it, before setting it next to a group of three mirrors, reflecting the candlelight into the room. I watched as he extinguished his finger-flame. He sat down in my chair and waited for me, “How did you find this place? I thought most people lived in the towns and in buildings.”

I returned to my room, trying to find the sword and my compass. “This was the first vault I raided and decided to never leave. It’s in a central location and I don’t usually get visitors.”

“It’s so small, though.”

“Again, I don’t get many visitors, so I don’t have to worry about the space. I have the second chair there because Mikala needed somewhere to rest when she needs to get away from the towns.”

“She was cute.” I could hear the grin in his voice.

“That’s because she is petite and it raises your hormones and your protective instincts.” I said matter-of-factly, from the same biology book that taught me how to grow.

“No… I think it was her blonde hair and green eyes. When she looked at me, I could see that her soul was beautiful.”

I wanted to laugh as I found the sword, “She’s not into males.”

“She likes ladies?” His excitement was not what I expected.

“No… She doesn’t like either. She’s asexual, meaning she isn’t attracted to either gender in a sexual context. In a romantic sense, though, she likes males.”

“Not sexually attracted to anyone? That’s an affront to nature!” I heard him stand up.

I walked back into the main room with the sword in my hand, “No, it’s not. Just like you’re not an affront to nature because you’re ignorant. Nature made her that way, just as nature made you into a male that is attracted to females.”

“But-” He started but I cut him off.

“No, but’s about it. Mikala is one of the few people I can stand being around, which is why she has a chair. Now get the hell over your preconceived Capitol notions and remember that you wanted to learn. If this is going to cause you to flip your shit, then I’m not letting you come with me.” That shut him up and he sat back in the chair.

Ethon looked up at me, “How did you meet Mikala?”

I leaned against the wall and looked at the ground, causing him to listen in closely. “Well, you see…” I took a breath, looking back up at him, “It was my first job, finding her. I bumbled through the entire job, but somehow found her. She was a Songbird in the neighboring region. Songbirds are very rare and special. They have beauty voices that can carry the wary to safety or to their doom and look like angels. Mikala was even more special than normal, because she also had her teleport, tracker and telepathy magic.”

I sighed, “When I found her, she took off and I kept having to chase her until finally she stopped running. She asked me why I wanted her and I told her it was for a job. She laughed at me, just laughed and laughed. The client had given me a rope that could bind a Songbird. I caught her foot in it and finally caught her after months of playing chase.”

I stopped, not wanting to go further into this part, but knew that he expected to hear the entire story. “I brought her back to the client and before I knew what was happening, he cut her tongue out.”

Ethon prompted me to continue, “It’s okay… What happened next?”

“I don’t remember much of what happened and it wasn’t until later that I realized how I splattered him all over the walls in rage. He wanted her just to cut her tongue out because she refused to sing for him. He had me look for her because she didn’t want to sing for someone like him. I took her to a healer who could only seal the wound.” I felt warm tears falling from my eyes. “I told her how sorry I was and that if I would have known, then I would have never taken her to him.” I sobbed to myself, trying to find the words that I needed to tell. “She forgave me. Even after what he did to her, she forgave me because she knew that I didn’t know. Before I could stop her, she cut her own wings off and the healer stopped the bleeding. Songbirds are nothing without their voices and their wings.”

I opened my palm, staring at the cut that ran from the base of my hand to the tip of my middle finger. “After she healed and we left the healer’s house she told me that I owed her. She was right and she pulled a knife out. I thought she was going to cut my tongue as retribution to what she had been through, but she cut me from my palm to the tip. She mirrored the cut on her hand and shook my hand. Our blood combined, attaching her powers into me. She could find me wherever I was, even if she couldn’t reach me. From then on, whenever she needed something done, I was the one she came to.”

I closed my hand tightly, before relaxing more, “As time passed, she saw that I would never take jobs that would hurt those who were innocent. She even tested me a few times, but never once did I hurt another person who did not deserve it. So, she became less cold to me and we became friends.”

I looked back at him, “And that’s all I have to say about that. It’s over and in the past and I regret it every day since then that I was the reason she was hurt. Of all of the blood on my hands, hers is the only one that I truly feel guilt for. The rest of the people I’ve hurt or killed were because they deserved it or they asked it of me.”

A couple minutes passed before he spoke. “I’m so sorry…”

I looked at my boots and saw the ice that had formed on the floor. I carefully stepped over it and handed the sword to Ethon. “Do you have any supplies?”

He shook his head, “No, I was told to leave immediately, so I didn’t think to bring any. The Leader made it sound like the rest of the world was like the Capitol, but with the people spread out more. Whenever I would go to the markets, people would just give me whatever I needed.”

I just looked at him, dumbfounded. I finally gathered my thoughts, “Okay, I don’t have enough for the both of us, so we will have to go into Sparks and find stuff for you. Before that, do you have a less flashy shirt? That screams Capitol and we’ll have pickpockets around us in less time than you can protect your valuables.”

“No…”

“Did you bring anything with you?” I sighed, trying hard to remember that he never left the Towers.

“The clothes I’m wearing, a couple gold coins and my handsome and dashing features?” He tried to joke, not realizing how pathetic he sounded to me.

I walked back into my room, before I beat him with the chair he sat in for being so naïve. I grabbed one of my black tunics and a matching knapsack. I threw them both at him, alleviating some of my frustration. “Change into that and the sack is for your supplies when we get them. How much gold did you bring?”

He stripped out of his shirt and I could not stop staring at the muscles that we well kept. He caught me staring and turned around so I could see his back, but what I saw was not what he was hoping for. I gasped loudly, and he stopped moving. “What? What is it?”

I walked over to him and touched the lash marks that glistened in the candlelight. “Most of these are old, but a couple are fresh. What happened?” He tried to put the shirt on, but I stopped him, “Hang on, I have something that can help. Tell me what happened while I find it.” I commanded.

He took a deep breath, “The old ones are when I was younger and I was caught disobeying my uncle. I received my first lashing when I stole food from the kitchen and the others were for crimes just as bad. These new ones were because when he told me to find the Water-Bearer, I told him that I was too busy to seek out some bitch.”

I winced at that but was glad he was in a memory, so he did not see it. “So, he whipped you?”

“Yeah, he whipped me and I left that night. That’s why I don’t have anything with me. I just wanted to find her so that he wouldn’t look at me with disgust. Now that I know she’s dead, I don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s why I asked if I could come with you, so that I won’t have to face him too soon.”

I found the cream I was looking for and called out, “Come in here and lay face down on the bed.” I was surprised that I did not get a flirty remark back, but that told me the state of mind he was in. He did as I asked, laying down with his arms under his head. “It’s going to be cold, but I can’t change that.” I straddled his lower back and applied the cream with a light hand, not wanting to hurt him more. I felt spots in his back that were warmer than others and I knew how to fix them. “I want an honest answer.” He just nodded. “Who beat you?”

He tried to look back at me, “How did you know?!”

“Bruises and knots are warmer under the skin, even if they show. I can massage them out, but it’s going to hurt. You’ll be able to move easier and your body will be thankful later. Do you want me to continue?” He laid back down and nodded. I reached to where I had my massage oil for when my legs want to give out from walking long distances.

Carefully, I rubbed his back, both trying to not reopen the lash wounds as well as not letting the knots become overly painful. I felt him wince as I found the first knot. “Wincing will make it hurt more. Is there a way you can relax?”

“Do you have any music or a way I could warm up more?”

I shook my head, before I remembered that he could not see me. “I don’t have either. I don’t have any way of playing music and I sleep better in the cold. I could try to sing, but I don’t know if it would help.”

“That might help.”

I started to hum a random melody, trying to remember any song that Enki would sing me when I needed to sleep. I found one, “Hey-hoe, nobody home. Eat nor drink nor money have I none. But still I will, I will be very merry. Hey-hoe, nobody home. My mother, she rises with the sun. But now, she sleeps, she sleeps eternally. Hey-hoe, nobody home. My father, he climbed the mounts around. But now, he’s lost, he’s lost, never to be found. Hey-hoe, nobody home. My sister, she kissed the frog prince. And now, she’s gone, she’s gone, yet stills lives on. Hey-Hoe, nobody home. My brother-” I choked, trying to not tear up. I forgot about this part of the song and it hurt whenever I thought of him. “He’s off to be a knight. And now, he fights, he fights every night. Hey-hoe, nobody home. Eat nor drink nor family have I none. But still, I will, I will cherish their memories… Hey-hoe, nobody home…”

I felt him relax after the first few notes and it was not long before I felt his entire body relax, and I heard a soft snore. I worked the knots on his back as he slept, using this time to check for more bruising as well. I was able to get rid of all of the knots and bruises under his skin, my touch changing from massaging to exploring. I checked to see if he was still asleep and I smiled as I heard another soft snore. I used the candlelight to see where they started and ended. There were too many for just simple punishments, “He’s lying…” I mumbled, but knew I would not push, because I was lying to him as well.

I leaned forward and breathed cold air on the start of the lash marks, “By the Ice in my veins and as the Water in my magic, I ask you, skin of the Fire-Bearer to smooth. These lash marks, though beautiful to me, do not belong on a body as fine as this.” I kissed one of the lash marks before blowing the rest of the lashes. I watched as his skin smoothed to become perfection, and smiled as the water manipulation under his skin healed him.

I climbed off him and pulled the blanket up to cover him completely. I saw that some of his hair fell onto his face, so I moved it out of the way. He grabbed my hand and held it to his face, before I saw his eyes open. “Your hands are like ice.”

“Bad circulation.” I told him, smiling. “They’ve always been like that.” I changed the subject, “I’m finished, if you’re ready to head into town.”

He kissed my palm, before letting go of my hand. He sat up and stretched and I saw the awe on his face, “I don’t feel pain!” I just looked at him, as he grabbed me around the waist and sat me in his lap. I stiffened and did not move as he held me tightly, “It’s the first time I haven’t woken up with pain since as long as I remember. I don’t know how you did it, but thank you.” He pulled the cord and fire pendant from around his neck and put it over my head until the fire rested near my heart.

I relaxed a little, “It’s going to be dark soon, so we need to leave.”

He kissed the base of my neck before letting me go. He jumped out of the bed and ran to get his shirt. I just stood there touching where he kissed my neck. I shook my head and whispered to myself, “He’s the Dictator’s nephew. He’s too close to the enemy. Knock this crap out.”

Ethon had the shirt and his jacket on as well as the pack, “What did you say?”

I smiled, “Nothing. Ready?” I grabbed the compass and a couple of collapsible water bags, some Mr. Es and put them in my bag. I blew out the candle as Ethon opened the vault door. I closed it and locked it before leading him towards Sparks.

 

Chapter 04

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