Dominions of Glory: 9
Baelin was last to wake the next morning. Whisper and Forden were in the kitchen, talking and laughing over a boiling pot while Dilirian brooded in the corner.
“He lives!” Whisper said. “You might want to take a hand through your hair.”
Baelin muttered to himself as Forden and Whisper laughed. He found a bucket of water sitting on the counter and used it to make his hair manageable. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Leftover stew,” Forden said. “With a few extras added. You need to get injured more often, Baelin. I haven’t had so much company in years!”
“Glad my suffering could help someone.”
“You don’t look to be suffering much,” Whisper said. “How were you hurt?”
“Some of the little devils came upon me while I was working my fields. Buggers were halfway done gnawing on me before I had time to draw my sword.”
“You’ve recovered well,” she noted.
“Aye,” Forden said, “unusually so.”
Whisper raised an eyebrow. “So, shall we hunt today?”
Baelin raised an eyebrow of his own.
“The devils,” Whisper explained. “Forden’s told me the village had planned a hunt but it’d been delayed. I thought perhaps we might go today.”
“I’ve never met someone so anxious for violence,” Forden said.
“Not violence,” Whisper said defensively. “Action. Some people are built for fighting.”
“Like you,” Forden said.
Whisper shrugged. “I like to think so, but perhaps that‘s narcissistic. I’ve developed skills and talents and finally have a way to put them to good use. Can you blame me for wanting to feel useful?”
Dilirian spoke up from the corner. “By the looks of your face you’ve had plenty of chances to use your skills.”
Forden gave Dilirian a menacing stare and the young noble went silent, but it was too late, Whisper’s face was a storm cloud boiling over, her eyes ready to shoot lightning. If she had a retort, she kept it to herself, and slowly the storm upon her face abated and she went about eating in silence.
“Do you think we should go?” Baelin asked after several minutes of uncomfortable silence. “I mean, after the soldier’s stories… What if we find more than the little devils that attacked me?”
“What’s the point of fine suits if you cower inside?” Whisper said maliciously. “If there are bigger devils there are bigger devils. You two are better equipped than ordinary soldiers. You’ve obviously got some talent. And those who have the ability to help have the obligation to.”
“Fighting for a noble cause?” Forden said. “Sounds like you’re ready to be a martyr.”
“Not looking to die anytime soon,” Whisper said. “Just a way of looking at the world.”
Forden nodded. “A good way. Not many would take it up. Most county folk live it a bit, I suppose. We’ll take in a stranded traveller or someone down on their luck, that goes without saying. But not many would put their lives on the line without something to gain themselves.”
“I have plenty to gain,” Whisper said.
They finished up eating while Forden made attempts at small talk about the weather and customs on the other side of the mountain.
After Whisper’s goading, they decided to make a three-person trip up into the mountains, forgoing to company of poorly equipped and untrained villagers. They spent the better portion of the morning gathering supplies and preparing for several days away from the village. They reached the foothills by mid-afternoon, with the sun several fingers away from the crest of the Desper Mountains to the west.
The foliage in the foothills was still green, though many leaves were turning their varying hues of gold and red. Thickets were thinning, and game trails that were normally hard to find were clearer to find. On a whole the chill of fall was beginning to show its effects upon the land.
“How high up do you suppose we should go?” Baelin asked.
Dilirian hmmm’d for a moment. “I think I was maybe half an hour above the forests when I was set up. Up where the mountains get truly rocky.”
“What were you doing up there?” Whisper asked.
“Crossing the mountains,” Dilirian said. “I came over from Silverbrook.” He gave Baelin a pleading look, begging him not to tell her the truth.
“Most people go around instead, don’t they?” Whisper asked.
“Usually,” Dilirian admitted. “I was hoping for a bit of adventure.”
“We’ll find some before the end,” Whisper promised. “With the way the world is turning, it’s only a matter of time.”
Baelin agreed and they continued their journey through the foothills and up into the pine forests that grew before the mountain broke free and shot into the sky.
They spent the rest of the day hiking and huffing –armor was heavy – and vainly searching for any unusual signs or marketing that would hint devil’s had come their way.
When the sky was disposing of the last of its light, they finish setting camp. A large piece of oiled canvas tied between two trees and hung over made for a tent large enough for the three to sleep without bumping into each other. They made a fire a few feet from their tent and supplies and set about warming themselves against the growing cold.
Whisper took the liberty of taking their travel food and spicing it up with a few herbs she’d picked up as they’d hiked, creating something resembling an actual meal, for which Baelin was grateful. Still, his body needed more energy; it was still healing, after all. Though he was far from certain of the beneficial properties, he’d started suspecting that using Magic had helped him heal, and decided a little use now might help reinvigorate him. Having no particular need at the moment in mind, he decided to be a little showy, obliquely though. He concentrated on a rock back and to Whispers left and, in his mind, told magi to turn it into gold.
The familiar wash of warmth opened up in him and coursed through his body. In one instant there was a stone, another, a solid nugget of gold rested out in the open, ripe to be picked up. To his delight, using Magic had had the desired effect. Baelin felt a little less tired, a little less sore. He was still far from refreshed, but he was, without a doubt, better off than he had been when he’d sat himself upon the stone he’d chosen as a seat.
“Any of you feel that?” Dilirian asked, his eyes wide.
“Feel what?” Baelin asked, worried he somehow given himself away.
“Dilirian shook his head and looked out into the darkness beyond their camp. “I don’t know, it felt… like a wind, an unusual one, it blew past me and was gone in an instant.”
Whisper nodded. “I felt it to. It’s probably nothing, a bit of heat blown off the fire by a breeze.”
“Yeah…” Dilirian said, still scanning the darkness behind Baelin. After a while he turned his gaze to behind whisper, as if he’d find something beside their tent. “What’s that?” he said, pointing. “Something’s catching the light.”
Whisper turned, following Dilirian’s finger. Baelin could just make out the widening of her eyes in her profile as she saw the golden nugget he’d created. She reached out and picked up the lump, hefting it in her hand and then holding it up to the firelight, examining it. “It looks like refined gold.”
“That’s not possible,” Dilirian said. “The Despers aren’t known for having much gold at all, let alone pure gold.”
“See for yourself,” Whisper said, holding the gold out.
Dilirian took the stone, slightly smaller than a chicken’s egg, and examined it carefully. “This is refined gold. But what’s it doing sitting up here?”
“Weird,” Baelin added, trying to avoid suspicion. “Lucky us, I guess.”
“Not like we need it,” Dilirian said, obviously excluding Whisper.
“We?” Whisper said. “That’s worth a fortune and you’re telling me neither of you even care?”
Dilirian shrugged. “I’m from a rich family. And Baelin… well.”
Baelin gave him a look and Dilirian shut up.