33: In the Viper's Nest

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The small rebel's base ran like a well-oiled machine with the most experienced of mechanics. The rebellion, Caval explained as he led her through the camp, had been around for a long time. This camp was located in a remote mountain valley outside of the Emarian border.

"The Crown knows nothing about it." Caval said by way of explanation, turning his body sideways to sidle between two erected canvas tents. "And even if they did, there's not much they can do. I'm not even sure that Soltara knows we are here."

This part of the mountains were a territory of the bordering realm of Soltara. A barren wasteland most liked to call it. Where the mountains ended, a vast sea of nothingness began. The history books said that it had once been a land of lush evergreen forest. Until the Emarian dragon fleet destroyed it.

The dragons had been controlled by the most powerful mages in the world. Today dragons were extinct, and mages in Emares were forced to register as magic users or be denied training. To avoid future occurrences, the books said. Too much power in the hand of magic users was a bad thing. The border between Soltara and Emares was a perfect example of what unchecked magic was capable of.

Caval visited with various people in the camp gathering supplies for their journey. Many asked where he was off to, but he wouldn't share details even with them. Blayre hovered behind him, arms crossed and out of place while the rebels gave her skeptical looks and she resisted the urge to sneeze around some whose lack control over their magic rivaled Ripley's.

By the end of that afternoon she was exhausted and Caval led her to a tent separate from the one she had been treated in. She avoided eye contact with those around her, even as she heard the whispers.

Caval was smirking as he entered the tent behind her. He ducked under the tent flap, which closed behind him, sealing out the bright evening sun.

"Why are you so smug? They think I'm... you're... we're." At a lost for words, she threw up her hands in exasperation, backing into the tent.

"What? You don't want them to think that?" Caval waggled his eyebrows.

"You're insufferable." Blayre complained, unfurling the sleeping pallet that Caval had procured for her. "And I'm too tired to even care what they think." She collapsed on the pallet, resting the back of her head on clasped hands.

"People are people no matter what they group they classify themselves into. There's still plenty of judgement and prejudice to go around here, believe me." Caval said.

Blayre cracked one eye open, watching as he began to organize his packs. "In fact, many still eye me with suspicion."

"Why?" Blayre asked, sitting up on her elbows.

Caval didn't look up from his progress, "Because I'm marked." He shrugged. "I'm different from them - even if I want the same things. They think I have a level of privilege - which of course, I do in some ways."

"In what ways?" Blayre asked.

"Well, I can walk around the realm wherever I damn please for the most part. Since I'm marked and the choice for up and coming Crown Sorcerer. With the latter also comes the comfortable living situation and salary." Caval pinched one of the shiny buttons on his tunic.

"You seem like the type to enjoy finery," Blayre observed wryly.

"I do, unfortunately." Caval agreed with a sigh. "Though I'd give it up in a moment for complete freedom to choose how and when I wanted to use my magic."

"Do you think you still would have chosen the path to becoming a Crown Sorcerer, had it not been forced upon you?"

Caval began to unlace his boots, "I might have," He said thoughtfully. "I don't hate it. But I do hate what it represents. I think if it were someone - more honorable on the throne. Someone who saw that people were suffering and did something to change it."

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