Al would have loved nothing more than to lay down and let his magic heal him, but he and his two friends were on their way to the city’s temple of Zayine. Every jostle bumped his head into the carriage’s wall, since he was still too deep into the Calm to maintain good posture. It annoyed him, but only in a detached way, as if he were feeling the irritation on behalf on someone else. Someone who had won a case as a layman, saving Telbarisk’s life. Someone who had almost died.
Anladet pulled Al’s head gently to her shoulder. “You can stop your magic, now,” she murmured in his ear.
He gave a higher pitched moan that sounded suspiciously like a whimper.
“Al. You’re safe. We’re safe. If you heal too well, it will look suspicious. Lawyers can’t heal.”
“He’s using magic?” Telbarisk asked.
Anla nodded her head. “Al isn’t a lawyer. He’s a wizard. We needed to keep that quiet because he could get into a lot of trouble if people found out.”
“He risked a great deal to help me, then.”
“Yes,” she answered. “For the time being, his name is Dominek Choudril and he is your lawyer. After we leave Carvek, he will go back to being Alpine Gray and we won’t speak of this again. Do you understand?”
Telbarisk nodded and sat back to contemplate this while Anla continued to say things softly to Al.
A boy appeared in the window of the carriage, startling all three. “D’ya need anyt’in’? Water? Food? A blanket?”
After she spoke with Al, she answered, “Water, please.”
A minute later, the boy passed a flask through the bars. “Take as muchen as ya’d like. Call down ta us if ya need anyt’in’.”
Anla moved Al aside for the moment and looked out. The dirt road outside the carriage was filled with people walking alongside. When they saw her step out, they pointed and waved. She waved back at them, then nudged Al. “Come look at this.”
When Al looked outside, the people cheered. He smiled and waved at them before sitting back in his seat. “Not everyone liked Akort,” he whispered hoarsely. After a few moments, he drew himself out of the Calm and closed his eyes for the rest of the journey.
Carvek was a small city, so the ride from Uvarna’s temple to Zayine’s was only a mile or so. It was also a unique city in that, while only a day and a half’s ride from Hanala, it had not one but four temples, the other two being the smithing temple of Skethik and Iondika’s temple for a number of different skills.
This wound up being a risky but ultimately smart move. Carvek had more of a focus on skill learning in the four priesthoods and spent a good chunk of resources supporting them. In turn, they had some of the country’s best hunters, blacksmiths, lawyers, tailors, and most importantly for Al, healers.
Someone must have run a message ahead because two students met the carriage and escorted him inside. Anladet followed, her hands clasped demurely in front of her as she thought a worried wife would appear. Telbarisk acted as a porter and carried their packs inside. Both he and Anladet were asked to wait outside his room, or on the grounds, until they assessed Alpine.
Al was given a rather spacious room. The late afternoon sun filtered in through both windows, which were shut with a snap by one of the attendants. A priestess in dark green robes entered and sat next to his bed.
“I understand speaking will be difficult for you. Just nod or shake your head at my questions, unless I ask you to speak for evaluation.”
She listened to his breathing, watched him as he drank water, asked him to say certain phrases, and spent a long time feeling his neck. After twenty minutes or so, she opened a hard case on the table under the window and pulled out a few vials. She poured a few drops into a glass of water, mixed it with a glass rod, and brought it over for him to drink.
“This will stimulate your healing process and reduce any malignant thoughts you have.”
He swallowed. The water felt ice cold in his throat. It had a sickly sweet taste that he found almost too much to ingest. It spread in tiny threads in a fizzing sort of manner, traveling down to his stomach. Al finished the whole glass after his initial shock and handed it back to her.
“Excellent. Can you please say the phrase ‘hiking cold glens in Yarma’ slowly?”
He obeyed, finding his voice was gravely but working.
“Splendid,” she said, moving back to the table. “I will give you a few other regular treatments. This,” she said, holding up a waxy substance, “is to help keep your muscles from seizing. This cream will help reduce your bruises. Herbal tea will be along shortly. I’d like you to rest for a short time before we try dinner.”
“Thank you,” he rasped before she left.
Zayine priests used a number of medicines, which acted in hopes and high percentages, but any of the goddess-blessed liquid would make them much more potent. It would also take quite a bit of energy from the patient. Al found himself falling asleep quickly.
He was awake and sipping on his tea when Anla and Telbarisk were finally allowed in to see him.
“How are you feeling?” Anla asked, sitting on the same stool the priestess had used.
“Better. I think I’ll be good by tomorrow.”
“We’re in no rush,” she said. “Take your time getting better.”
“I’m a little concerned that they may try to verify my licence. I doubt it, but it still worries me.”
“Do you think they’ll suspect you were a fake? You won. How many people pretend to be a lawyer and actually win a case like that?”
“You have a point,” he said, sipping on the lukewarm tea. “I think it would take a lot more effort than its worth.”
Anladet spoke. “Al, Telbarisk and I were talking a great deal while you were in here. We have a proposal.” She nodded at Telbarisk.
“If a man saves another man’s life in my home, he is expected to offer one year of service to thank him. I would like to do that for you and Anladet. She told me it was not necessary, but I feel that I can both honor the tradition and follow my purpose by accompanying you.”
“What’s your purpose?” Al asked.
“For the last nine years, Nourabrikot has opened its shores to diplomats from different places. They speak of their world and how they wish to do business with us. A diplomat from Merak taught me Ghenian and many other things, but I still don’t understand a lot. My people understand even less. Their world is changing and I feel we need to know as much as possible if we can hope to open peaceful trade. I’ve decided to spend my exile learning about the rest of the world, so that when my punishment has ended, I will return better than I left.”
“That’s a brilliant way to live your life. What a wonderful idea!” Alpine said. He began to wonder where to start with Telbarisk. Politics, religion, wizardry, food… There were so many things he wished to tell him.
“There is a problem, though. Kouriya sometimes calls to me in compelling ways. I may follow it and not be able to find you again.”
“Ah,” Al said, putting the tea down on the nightstand. “I think I see where this is going. You have no objections?” he asked Anladet.
“None. I think he’ll make a great addition to our…whatever we call ourselves. Team?”
She rummaged through Al’s pack until she found the chalice. She wiped the inside of the bowl out and looked up at Telbarisk, who was giving her a curious look. “Don’t worry. It’s invisible for the moment.”
She poured some of Al’s herbal tea into the bowl, then handed the chalice to Telbarisk. He held it for a moment, moving his fingertips over the surface he couldn’t see. The tea hung suspended in air, a seeming solid that swirled as he moved the cup.
“We need a little blood, too.” She held out a knife she had rummaged from her pack but he declined, biting the inside of his cheek, rubbing it with his thumb, and placing it on the bowl. He adjusted his grip, then took a small sip. He closed his eyes and drank the rest in one gulp.
When he opened his eyes, he saw the goblet in full. He tilted it, examining it from different angles before handing it back to Anladet. “It is a beautiful cup.”
Alpine grinned. “What color are the stones?”
“Red. The cup itself is yellow.”
“Well, it worked.” Al laid back down, fluffing his pillow. “Not that I don’t mind the company, but I’m feeling a little drained still.”
Anladet stood to leave at the same moment Telbarisk spoke. “What does it mean, this thing that I drank.”
“What you drank doesn’t matter. What the chalice does is link people together. For one year you can’t move beyond one mile from either of us. That’s all I know it does, at least. Now, about the sleep?”
Telbarisk nodded and stood. “This is a good thing, I think. I just wanted to know what…”
He was interrupted by a knock at the door. Anla looked at Alpine, then opened the door. A man in a simple uniform, clean and crisp, stood on the other side. “Letter for Mr. Dominek Choudril,” he said.
“I’m his wife, I’ll take that for him,” she said, thanking the man before he left.
“I did not know you were married,” Telbarisk said. “I hope I haven’t intruded on anything.”
Anladet read the letter address as she closed the door. “Oh, we’re not married,” she said. “We’re using it as a cover.”
This worried Telbarisk. That was the second lie they had told him.
Anladet handed Althe letter. “Do you think you’re in trouble?”
He sat up again to read the letter. “No, I doubt it. If I had been outed, they would have addressed it to me by my wizard name.” He pried the wax seal off the back and noted a few smudges of ink on the brief page. It had either been written by a poor man without the proper tools to dry the ink or written in haste.
“’Dear Dominek Choudril, Esquire,’” he began, then skimmed the letter to relay the highlights. “It seems word got around quickly. In the audience today at the trial was the Count of Carvek, who happened to be attending the church for a scheduled walk-through. He was impressed by my wit and rational thought throughout the trial and wanted a chance to speak with me personally about ‘a general but measured discourse’.” He looked up suddenly. “He’s offering us rooms in his manse for a night if we’d like.”
“That seems very generous. Are we really going to continue the charade, though? You seemed worried earlier about someone checking on your credentials.”
“I know, Anla, but it would be nice to stay. Besides, it would seem rude not to go. Maybe it would even make enemies of someone we don’t want to make enemies of.”
“Yes, but what if the duke heard about it? It would seem awfully difficult to explain to him what happened if we were in front of him again.”
“I know, I know. I understand that. Let’s just stay briefly, just one night, and we’ll move on as quickly as decorum dictates.”
“All right, Al. You can go show off to the count,” she said with a smirk. “Just one night, though, and only after you’re healed enough. Tel and I will be back tomorrow. I’m going to go find us rooms and dinner.”
Telbarisk followed Anladet, waiting until she finished hugging and saying goodbye to Alpine. In that moment, as he stood waiting for Anla, it dawned on him that things moved swiftly around his two new companions. It was almost as if they weren’t the leaves on the river, like everyone else, but the boulders in the stream that the water passed around. And then he understood. He said nothing, thinking it was best to be sure, absolutely sure, before he said something, but he felt very strongly that he was in the company of two hayinfal.