Magical healing did not leave scars or disfigurement—even for the most grievous of wounds the injury knitted up and faded away as if nothing had occurred. In their time together, Syphacia had seen Redgar’s magic restore even the most terrible of wounds, bringing back her allies, and indeed herself, from the brink of death—as if no harm had ever been done.
But now, as she studied Mallisun’s flank, she could see a scar she knew wasn’t there. It was the mark of a blade—her blade—a blow landed in a fit of delusion brought on by one the creatures lurking in the depths of Jorgenfist. She swore she could see a bare patch of skin marring the firepelt’s flank, and through their link, she could feel the pain it had caused.
Mallisun’s tail twitched with irritation, Stop.
Syphacia looked away shamefully, “I’m sorry.”
Pay attention, Mallisun replied over their mental link.
They were walking along the battlements of Jorgenfist, well above the crypts and caves that spiraled down beneath the enormous fortress. The wind was cold as it rolled down over the eaves of looming cliffs, and nipped with freezing teeth as it pulled across her exposed skin. Syphacia turned her eyes outward, over now empty camps and abandoned bonfires. Just days ago, this area had been teeming with hundreds of stern-faced giants and slovenly ogres. Now there was nothing, no life at all, only discarded trash shadowed by silent walls.
Theoretically, they were on watch. Mallisun and Syphacia had the keenest eyes of any of their party, and thus were the most suited to watch above for raiders or other dangers. The Stone Giants were gone, but there were other armies on the Storval Plateau, none of which would show kindness to adventurers from the western lands. For the moment Syphacia had her bow ready, but there were no enemies to threaten with it. In the wake of victory there was nothing at all…only the cutting wind.
Syphacia took a break on one of the highest towers, and Mallisun sat close to her to shield her back from the cold. She praised the cat and passed him a piece of dried meat from one pocket. It wasn’t much, but it was all she had at the moment.
“We’ll find you something better,” Syphacia assured him, “Those brutes must have left something edible behind.”
Mallisun’s answer felt reproachful, We should hunt.
“You know we can’t leave the watch.”
The cat laid his ears flat, Watch while we hunt.
The cat wrinkled his nose in disapproval.
“We’ll be home soon,” she assured him, “When Redgar gets back. He’ll take us back West in the blink of an eye. We won’t be here forever.”
Feels like forever.
Syphacia wrapped one arm around the cat’s neck, “We’ll go back to Mirenai after this. You’ll love it there. There’s wild boar in the woods behind our house, and deer the size of horses.”
The link between them told Syphacia that the cat didn’t believe it.
“It’s true,” she said warmly, “And my parents would adore you. Father might be a grump about it, but mother would be all over you. We could even visit my brothers in Crying Leaf on the way. It feels like a lifetime since they left.”
Mallisun leaned into her, Your friend?
Her voice weakened, “Lorelein’s dead Mal.”
The cat looked toward her, Her soul?
She had to turn from the question in his eyes, “It’s lost Mal.”
Syphacia looked into the distance with a mournful sigh, “We killed Lucrecia…but we killed her before we could ask where they sent Lorelein’s soul. We killed them all without asking. We didn’t have a choice…it all happened too fast.”
She took a breath, “I know we’ll find out Mal…we’ll do it…we just need some time. I think it’s just that we’ve been running so fast we forgot where we were going. Maybe with all this finished, we’ll have some time to look ahead of us.”
Syphacia took a moment to rub at the cat’s jowls, and Mallisun rewarded her with a rumbling purr.
“I’m sorry for getting you into this,” she said softly, “And I’m sorry for getting you hurt.”
It doesn’t matter.
She paused a moment. Her heart seemed to beat heavier in her chest.
I chose you, the cat thought, And so it doesn’t matter. No matter the hurt, I will be with you.
Relief blossomed within her, and Syphacia hugged the cat close to her. She said into his fur, “I love you Mal.”
Mallisun’s warmth easily overwhelmed the bite of the jealous wind.