chapter 3/ part 2

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“It’s nothing serious,” Tavia said, washing and binding Ivan’s calves in the only bandages they had.

“My pants are ruined,” he lamented, looking at them. “I got these in Culta. Do you have any idea what these are worth?”

“Less than your life, I hope,” Dave muttered. Ivan almost looked ready to cry. He looked up at Tavia, who was putting her little pack back into order.

“Are you sure there will be no infection?” he asked, sounding like a worried child.

“For a man who gets wounded for a living, you don’t seem very at ease about it,” she said, too annoyed at him to sympathize.

“Clean blades are not monster claws in a dirty lake,” he objected, looking at her with an odd expression. “Besides, why am I asking you? You probably aren’t used to even dealing with men like me. I’m sure you’re a little distracted.” Tavia jerked her pack closed and looked up with hard eyes.

“Men like you, Ivan? You mean big and dumb? Well, no. I’ve never met anyone quite as impressive as you.” She stood, annoyed.

Dave laughed.

“It’s okay to be flustered, with your hands on my leg while I have no pants on,” Ivan said, as he got up. She rolled her eyes, then walked away to join her son who was sitting with Theo under the nearest tree. Ivan flipped a crude gesture at her with his hips as she walked away.

“Can you believe that woman?” he grunted to Dave. “She’s probably never seen a man so well built.”

“Or so arrogant,” Riven said, amused by Tavia’s lack of reaction to the big man. “Put it away, Ivan.”

Ivan grunted and bent over to grab the tattered remains of his pants. He caught Cindie’s eyes and winked at her, not the least bit modest about his naked exposure. She smiled and dropped her eyes a little. Ivan’s mood improved at once.

“If she was half the woman Cindie is, then she would like me more,” he muttered. Dave shook his head and walked away. Ivan was impossible.

Riven managed to catch a few fish from the stream that fed the pond while Tavia was seeing to the injuries and camp was made. The fish weren’t much, but they would start a meal at least. Shannon brought up a few wild onions and other herbs that made the oily fish meat edible. Turning down any of the meat, Shannon ate a few sprigs of various herbs, lifting them up to show Tavia when she started to complain about his lack of eating.

Ivan started to grumble about the fish and the cook when oil dripped down on his embroidered vest, but this time Dave cut him off.

“So, Ivan, how did a man from Dacan end up on the ship at all. I mean, Awens is a long way from there.”

“I was actually thinking about buying a place there. I heard of a pretty little place on an island off the coast and wanted to take a look. I always thought it would be nice to own my own island,” he said, forgetting his gripe from before.

“What about you?” Dave asked Cindie, in order to avoid having to listen to Ivan brag about money.

Cindie shifted and looked to Theo with an odd sort of expression, almost like panic, Dave thought.

“We’re just on holiday,” Theo said with a shrug. “Escaping for a little, you know. What about you, Oirion? Why were you in Awens; I thought you were from Noyon mostly.”

“I was headed to Krish. The train to Valreen runs from there. The old north east-west train shut down decades ago. It’s the fastest way home.” He shrugged a little and took a sip of tea, considering that good enough.

“Riven?” Dave asked.

“I was headed to Castava.”

“We weren’t going to Castava,” Dave said, a little perplexed.

“I know. I got on the wrong ship… that’s never happened to me before. Odd,” he muttered.

“Me, too,” Kelly said.

“You were going to Castava?” Cindie asked with a shocked squeak.

“No. Wrong ship. I was trying to get into Norwood, but the shield kept turning me around. Gave up,” she said with a shrug.

“Why go to Norwood?” Dave asked.

“Curiosity, I guess,” she said, but no one really believed her.

“What about you, Shannon?” Ivan asked. “What put you on that ill-fated ship?”

Shannon looked at the big man a long moment before he answered. “Bad timing,” he said.

“I bet it was a woman,” Cindie said with a giggle. “Some forbidden love that he must slip away to be with.”

“I seriously doubt that,” Riven said. “What about you, Tavia?”

“Just travel,” she said.

“You’re not wealthy enough to just travel,” Ivan said. “Really woman what were you doing on my ship?”

Dave almost corrected Ivan to remind him only Dave could really the ship as his, and he’d never do that around his father. That would be a very bad idea. Tavia gave the big man a look of stone. She was not amused at him or his way of thinking.

“She was moving,” Oirion said. “Leave it alone, Ivan. Some of us do not care to talk about our reasons for the trips we were on.”

They settled down and most were lost in their own thoughts until late.

The quiet was ended when Cindie shoved Theo away from a whispered argument they had been having.

“If you loved me you would want to.” She stood up, huffing. “Maybe I’m not man enough for you,” she said with cruelty. She spun on her heel and stormed away. Theo shrank, miserable and unhappy.

“Do you think there are any humans in these mountains?” Tavia asked. “It’d be nice to sleep in a bed,” she said, changing the subject.

“It’s too hard to say,” Oirion said. “With all the unstable energy in the air, we can’t scan very far that well. Most chances are that any humans would be well shielded, hiding from the things that live here.”

“And maybe they have learned not to swim in strange ponds,” Dave said nicely. Ivan made a face at him. Riven couldn’t help but chuckle. Dave had a twisted shoulder and a black eye from the encounter, but had sustained worse in games on deck.

“If all you’re going to do is harass me, I’ll just leave.” Ivan got up too eagerly and left the little fire and the camp. Riven muttered something about wandering in the dark alone and then got up and followed.

“Maybe he’ll get eaten and we won’t have to feed him anymore,” Tavia muttered.

Theo smiled a little, overhearing. His eyes went after the big man who was striding away. He wasn’t fooled. He knew his wife well enough to know it was arranged. It was the same old games she used at home. He’d not planned or expected her to be faithful, but he had at least hoped she would be discreet about her affairs. He tried not to think about the details of his slender wife being with massive Ivan.

Relaxing back, Oirion leaned on his pack. He couldn’t help but see Shannon through his half-closed eyes. The Purtan sat with his back to the lone tree overhanging the camp, watching Travis play with a collection of stones and sticks. Oirion closed his eyes and pushed thoughts of Shannon out of his head.

Oirion tried to pray, to calm his heart, and settle the bad mood he was in. All that did, however, was bring up the grief that he felt was about to consume him. Frustrated and desperate not to break down, he sat up abruptly.

“Dave,” he said, “you up for some sparring?”

“Sure.” Dave hopped to his feet. “I saw some pretty solid looking branches back down the mountain a bit. Look for some staves? Or you want to play with fists?”

“Staves sound better. We could use the weapons anyway.” He followed the young sailor away from the camp and the fire.

***********

Theo watched the two men sparring with the staves they had gotten from the trees. Dave was obviously not a master at the staff like Oirion, but he was good. Theo could see that Dave fought in a different style. Oirion’s weight was kept in the back in the current style of the Purtan nobility. Dave kept his on the front foot in an older style of Purtan fighting. It was an odd thing to consider – that the priest who was supposed to be trained in ancient arts was using a newer form of fighting than a sailor. Oirion was very good, obviously holding a great deal back, but Dave was by no means lacking.

Travis, who was sitting with Theo, watched them a little while and then went to find his own stick to play with. Theo glanced from Travis to Kelly, who was watching the two men as well. She looked from the sparring to Theo.

“You fight?” she asked.

He looked at her a moment, debating whether to tell her the truth or make up some easy lie about being too small for it. She nodded and looked back at them, leaning back on her elbow.

“You know, in the elder days, the sorcerers carried weapons,” she said in her soft deep voice. “They could use them as well. I have yet to meet one in these days who cares to carry a blade.”

It was a strange topic and one that made Theo very uneasy. He shifted again and scratched at his attempt to grow a beard. “Why do you suppose that is?” he asked diplomatically, almost wanting to kick himself for saying it. This was not a good conversation.

She looked back at him with soft dark eyes.

“I’m told it’s because of the way energies ride on both metal and an edge. It makes spell casting very difficult for them.”

“I don’t think that’s it,” he spoke again before he realized that he was keeping the conversation going.

“Oh? Why then?” she asked him, seeming honestly curious about it.

Theo shifted on the ground again and wondered if he was under some sort of spell that his usual shields were not detecting well enough. He rubbed his palm, feeling the power in the scar that he had carved there with a healer’s knife. The scar was hard, meaning that it was working against something. So, he was under some sort of spell that was encouraging him to talk to Kelly; how odd was that?

The woman had barely said anything to him at all. If she was casting the spell, then she was in control of a power that she hid. It was a power that was, most likely, as illegal as his own. If that was the case, then maybe she knew what Theo was and wanted an ally should things go bad with the priests. He relaxed a little, but added a whispered addition to his mental shields.

“It’s the energies of the metal blade,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the spells. It’s just the fact that metal creates an unpleasant sensation. Like some people who wear certain jewelry and are allergic to it, causing them discomfort; something like that.” He shrugged, trying to play casual.

She nodded. “You should still wear one and learn to use it, especially in this country.”

“Right,” he nodded. “Maybe I will.” He wasn’t going to tell her that he knew how to fight well enough, not great, but well enough in a pinch. He could kill when he had to, even if he had to resort to cheating.

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