Chapter 60: Burning Brine

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Magic is a beautiful flower that blooms only in pain. For Vesperati, nightmares occur. For Kai'Draen, they begin to see the budding of sending souls. For Tethyd, they burn water with anger or fear.

-Carlotte val Fervandreax, A Treatise on Natural Magical Phenomena

***

There was something to be said about physical labor. Any stress was wrung out of the body. Fear, tension, anxiety, all squeezed out by hard, manual work.

Of course, there was something to be said about relaxing in a near-boiling, steaming bath.

Maioran sighed and set his feet up on the rim of the wooden bathtub, enjoying the way the near-scalding water relaxed him and loosened his sore muscles. His tail hung out over the edge as well, and he made sure that the thin, ribbon-like fin that traced up his back wasn't getting crushed. Lugging around a giant cast-iron pot all day tired him out.

There was a knock on the door. "Maioran! Rottin' hurry up and get out already!" Maioran rolled his eyes. Relaxing soaks, it seems, weren't to be had on a trip. He grabbed the edge of the tub, hoisted himself out, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He hit the small lever right by the metal plates, and the square pieces of iron shimmered as the thaumaturgy began to disperse the water into the soil around the tub. All the dirt in a one mile radius suddenly got a bit damper.

He tied the towel, stepped out, and let Callan through. The Calixa gave him a glare. "Took you long enough," he snapped, before stepping into the bathroom. The bathroom, one of two, had doors to half the rooms, so Maioran stepped directly into their room.

Tieoran had stepped out and was chatting with Ramara, and all but Callan and Finn were keeping watch on the two of them. Finn, exhausted from the brutal effects of the purgative, lay asleep before him.

And Aoife was sitting on a chair, staring right at Maioran.

"Aoife," Maioran said. "Didn't see you there!" He paused. "Who's watching my brother?" It was very awkward, him standing there with only a towel, soaking wet from the bath.

"Invidia. They left for a walk, and she's tailing them, making sure they're safe." The sorceress paused. "You're awfully flustered."

"Yes. I just stepped out of a bath. I'd like some privacy to get dressed," Maioran snapped.

"Of course," Aoife said, and waved her hand. The air between them distorted, blurred, and thickened. Soon, a completely opaque wall of mist stretched from wall to wall. "Though I thought you'd be a little less uncomfortable with that. I've read Tethyd societies have some sort of communal bathing ritual.

"No, no, not all the time. And when we do, it's still really awkward." Maioran was about to drop the towel before a thought crossed his mind. "How do I know you can't see through this on your side?" he asked.

"Maioran," Aoife said, a bit cross from the tone of her voice, "I have no desire to see you without garb. Think for a moment. I am a sorceress, a spellweaver. I have the ability to see through the veils that hide the aetheric currents of the concealed worlds. If I really wanted to, clothing wouldn't be much of a barrier, would it?"

Maioran gulped. He hadn't thought of that. "You ever use it?"

"Once. To find an assassin. And I never want to use it again." Her voice paused. "In certain eastern kingdoms, some of which I have traveled to, corpulence is associated with wealth. I've seen enough unnatural human bodies for my lifetime."

He dropped the towel, yanked on a pair of short copper breeches -making sure he threaded his large tail through the slit in the back he had cut- and yanked on his pajama pants. "You can drop the veil now." The mist went away, and Maioran sat down on his bed. Well, his, Tieo's, and Callan's. With only one room, and three beds to the room, they were a bit cramped. "What did you want?"

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