Chapter 14: Brawling

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[Trigger warning: this chapter contains instances of blood and physical violence, brief sexual assault, and racism.]

Tuvos, Day 8 of Melia, Winking Moons, Eclipse of Thyxia, Year 602

"Star grass, root. See figure. A tonic and diuretic, the stems are approximately three gerds tall with smooth, glossy leaves. The flowers are white, just tinged with yellow, and appear dusted with a white powdery substance. Only the root is used, and that only internally. Clear alcohol is the best carrier for star grass, as the taste is strong." —Arcane Herbs and Their Uses, Vol. 2

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Evin and her strange new traveling companions had made their way into Liminey North, which was a section of land just before the Boradîc Sea jutted inland to form Trader Bay. They'd need to take a ferry further north across the bay in order to continue.

Her boots had become scuffed and muddy, her clothing stiff from sweat and dirt. The four of them washed in streams when they could and Craix helped them to forage and hunt for sustenance. Tadyath had some coin, but seemed to eschew highly populated areas, so stays in inns were rare.

That meant no wine or beer.

Evin missed it at first, but as time went on she became accustomed to going without. It was nice to feel so clear-headed. And she didn't miss the hangovers at all.

Her comrades were pleasant folk to journey with, and quick thinkers, all. She didn't fear any harm when they were near, which was no small thing after what she'd been through. Himes was jolly and huge and made her smile, full of ready jokes and anecdotes. He could always lift her spirits when she was low. Craix was clever and mysterious, with an aura of danger about her. Evin got the feeling that no matter how hard she strove, she'd never be privy to all of the older woman's secrets. And she found Tadyath to be strong yet gentle, and very kind.

Often, Evin found herself considering that elusive piece of information she might be missing, or was simply too stupid to see. Why? her spirit called out into the emptiness. Why had the three of them suddenly materialized as important figures in her life? And what did they have to gain from helping her?

She'd begun having dreams lately, almost nightly, and all featuring the explosion. In her mind's eye, she saw over and over again the way the molten heat leaked between the stones of her beloved brew shop and blasted the structure viciously apart. It was a trick of her memory, she knew, but she fancied she could still smell the charred lumber and spoiled inventory, acrid and stinging in her nostrils, and tempered by the meaty scent of burnt flesh.

She'd seen Wynn's body. She'd seen everything. Cotter had done his best to shield her, but she'd seen their savaged bodies—all three of them. After that, Evin didn't think her mind would ever be right again.

Each night, she cried a little to herself in the dark amid the smoke and uncertainty of their temporary campsites. She missed her sister fiercely, and the grief clawed at her insides like a rabid animal fighting for its freedom. On this last day however, she began to think that her situation might be a little worse. They could have kidnapped her against her will. Or they could be beating her. Or starving her.

Not that my life is so wonderful, she thought, sighing as the four of them walked a fielded plateau in North Liminey. It was perhaps four bells in the afternoon. Not that it hasn't taken a colossally horrific turn that would make anyone at all question their trust, must less belief, in the Divine Pantheon. Evin thought of Calumn and wondered for the thousandth time what his design could possibly be in this maze of a life she'd been destined to traverse. She'd been left without a father from the start, then had lost her mother early. And now her sister had been taken from her. She was angry. She hated Calumn.

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