Al and Raulin moved Telbarisk off the road into a small clearing in the woods. “He’s heavy,” Al said, grunting as he stepped. “Why… is he…so heavy?”

“Tall things…usually…are…heavy,” Raulin said.

“Storks…are tall…and they…can fly…”

“Have…you…ever…picked up…a stork?”


“How…about…a tree?”

“No,” the wizard said, straining to move Tel around a rock.

Anla gestured them over to an area under a pine tree she had cleared of branches and rocks. “They…are…heavy,” Raulin said, almost dropping Telbarisk. “I’ve…had to…lift a few…before.”

“Here?” Al asked.  When Anla nodded, he fell to his knees and dropped Tel’s legs.

Raulin set his friend’s head down, stood, and surveyed the area. “This is a good place for him. Isolation in the woods will help him at least a little, giving him a quiet place to latently gather kil. Besides, this will get you two out of the road while you work your magic on him.”

“I can’t,” Al said, catching his breath.

“Why not? What the reason? Do you want payment or favors?”

“It’s not that I don’t want to.  I mean that if I use soft magic on him, it might make him worse. I can heal cuts and muscle aches, things like that, but whatever is causing his illness needs to be put in check. If I attempt to heal him now, when I don’t even know what’s going on with him, I could amplify the disease and kill him. As my medical professor said, ‘You need to remove the iron from the rain or it will always rust’.”

Raulin sighed deeply. “So we need a doctor to give him medicine to heal him. And we’re in the middle of nowhere. And we can’t leave each other. And we can’t transport him.”

“What if we found a cart of some sort?” Anla asked.

“It’s a possibility if everything else fails. I don’t like the idea of moving him if it can be helped. Which means we need to bring a doctor here.” He bit his lip and clicked his tongue. “I’m going to need to go back into town to see what we have at our disposal. Keep him comfortable.”

Thankfully, Telbarisk had fainted a half-mile from Tryna. Raulin was free to leave the rest of the group and return to the town without fear of the crippling nausea.

The man at the till of the general store tensed as he watched Raulin return “Forget something, sir?”

“No. I’m unfortunately in need of a doctor or a healer. I don’t suppose you have anyone that can help me.”

“We have a doctor that travels through here from Iascond every month. He made his rounds last week, though, and we won’t expect him any sooner. And our healer is, well…” He pinched his fingers together after drawing them off his temple: the healer was crazy.

Raulin clicked his tongue as he thought. It had been too much to ask that a small town would have someone available to heal Telbarisk. There was another possibility, before things started getting truly desperate. “Do you have any priests living in town?”

The shopkeeper blinked a few times. “Mmm, we do. Seems you were destined for that lesson after all.”

“The blacksmith?” he asked, then nodded. “Ah. That explains the quality of the armor and weapons. She’s a priestess of…Skethik? Or Iondika?”

“Skethik, though don’t expect your normal sort of priestess. She doesn’t go in for all the prestige and claptrap you see with most of the temple dwellers. I haven’t seen her wear anything more grand than her pendant in all the years she’s lived here.”

“A bit unorthodox, then? That’s fine. I’m not interested in converting.”

The shopkeeper pointed east, back the way Raulin had come. “She’ll be at the forge, then. It’s hard to miss the smoke.”

Raulin thanked the man before leaving. This was going to be potentially a tricky situation. He had a knack for working with the clergy of the Twelve and knew that, so long as she was pious, she would likely do as he asked.  In fact, he wasn’t worried at all about her willingness to help.

What concerned Raulin was her husband.

The forge wasn’t strongly identifiable from the road, but the shopkeeper was right about the smoke. Plumes of it rose from the chimney and the outdoor station.  It was one of the larger buildings in the town, a stone structure with a wooden frame around the exterior fire.  Another portion was under the second story of the building, but open in the back and front. Inside were a few dark figures moving about, mere silhouettes against the green backdrop of the forest behind them. One of the figures, lanky and far shy of adulthood, was working the bellows near the forge. Another, a bit more substantial in size, was standing between the two other people, handing them tools and moving things around as needed.

The largest person drew his eye. He had a thick rectangular piece of metal that glowed orange save for a black crust that flaked off each time he banged the center with his hammer. Raulin leaned against the wooden fence and watched, finding the process mesmerizing, so much so that he didn’t realize the second set of clanging had stopped. A woman spoke next to him. “A trirec,” she said. “I would love to get my hands on that mask, see what’s behind it.”

Raulin turned to see a short and well-muscled woman cooling her neck with a cloth. She had a strong Imperial look to her, with black hair, light brown eyes framed by thick lashes, and skin a creamy chocolate color except for the white burn marks on her arms. “You must be Rayani?”

“I am,” she said, looking at him intently. “Who wants to know?”

“I do. My name is Raulin Kemor. I have a proposition for you that might be mutually beneficial.”

“Indeed,” she said, eyeing him up and down.

“I assume a smith with your reputation travels to Iascond to sell some of your items. Is there any chance you’d be willing to push up your trip and deliver a message?”

“I went to market last Thursday. I hadn’t planned on going again for another few weeks. What’s your urgency?”

“I’ve been hired to guard a party of three, a couple and their ledgerer. He fell ill shortly after we left Tryna and we feel it’s quite serious.”

“Then why don’t you make the journey to Iascond yourself?”

He moved closer and she leaned in to hear him. “I’m in quite a predicament. You see, the couple who hired me deal in expensive wares, often keeping them on their persons. It’s contracted that under no circumstances am I to leave them for more than a few hours at most. Therefore, I cannot make the trip to Iascond. I can’t leave them, neither of them will leave me, and we cannot transport the ledgerer with us.”

“You should at least move him to the inn.”

“He’s…he’s a grivven. They do much better when out in the forest.”

Raulin suddenly realized that the other clanging had stopped. He looked over and saw the man standing nearby, watching the two of them with a glower. Raulin moved away as the man approached them.

“Bay, this is Raulin Kemor. He needs someone to fetch a doctor from Iascond.”

“We can’t help him,” he said. “We’re busy here.”

Rayani turned and gave Bay a placating look. “Now, darling, we’ve been saying it’s time for Chian to learn the trade. I don’t see why we can’t send him to Iascond with a few items to sell and see how he does.”

“He’s still a boy, Rayani. He can’t go by himself.”

“Perhaps he can go with that girl he’s been seeing.”

He sighed. “That’s not something we should encourage…”

“He’s sixteen, Bay. Just a few months shy of his adulthood. Back home I would have had one foot in a profession by the time I was fifteen, and likely married…” She looked at Raulin and smirked. “…or at least occupied.”

“Again, Gheny is not Caiyuzet. We have a moral structure to uphold that is different than…”

One of the two boys had stopped his work and stood just outside the darkness of the indoor forge.  He favored his mother, but had his father’s hooked nose and cleft chin. “Dad, please? May I? I promise I’ll get you good prices on whatever you send me with. And I’ll take Ebri.”

“If his parents let him,” Rayani said. “Hopefully. He is a big kid. He’ll intimidate thieves and pickpockets.”

Bay sighed. “Clearly outnumbered. Fine. We’ll see how this goes,” he said, to the delight of Chian. “Go pack and return here with Ebri.  But, the deal’s off if his parents say ‘no’.”

Raulin pulled out his stubbed pencil and his contracts book, flipped to a page in the back, and began to write. “I’m not sure what’s wrong with the ledgerer.”

“Would you like me to look? I’d love to meet a grivven.”

“Rayani…” Bay warned. “We have several orders due…”

“…In a few weeks. I’ll only be gone for a short time. I need to take a break anyway. Send Chian to their site when he and Ebri are ready.”

“Fine,” he said. Before he turned back to his work, he gave Raulin a very serious look that suggested he had special tools in the back and his hottest fire ready to warm them should Raulin touch his wife. He gave him a slight nod and pushed his hands down slightly in a placating manner before leaving to escort the priestess to his group.

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