I help to clear up the camp, my heart heavy. I knew Washucktah was also affected by the stark truth of both our situations – had I been too blunt with telling him? No, he had to know. I had to be sure he knew. It was necessary. Ny dal mann lest-an kawgans. It is worthless to prevent the certain.
And what was certain? That my injuries would lead to death in battle against the Thieves Guild, almost definitely. That using the Cythras Mogh Pystri would break Washucktah's mind, even more definitely. That the Thieves Guild would be defeated... I hoped so.
I glanced at the others. Washucktah was working methodically, his face grim. Krystal and Kendra were busy discussing the terms of their bet as they worked, telling each other why they were right and the other was wrong. Dhilith was standing at the edge of the forest, watching, silent and unreadable as always. Blue was a mix of tense excitement and nerves. Lily was pacing up and down the river bank, whinnying lightly and pawing the ground, eager to be off.
Finally the small glade looks like we'd never been here, and our packs are ready to move. It was time to leave.
"How are we going to travel?" Krystal asks. "We won't all fit on Lily."
"...I don't think we'll need to." Washucktah says. "Now that Blue's back with us."
"Huh?" Blue says. "Vhat you mean by dat?"
"I think he means," I supplement "That some of us travel on Lily and some of us teleport."
"Exactly." Washucktah states. "I was thinking that me, Tarnien and Blue teleport, while Krystal, Kendra and Dhilith go on Lily. We'd teleport two miles or so, wait for the others to catch up, teleport another two miles and so on all the way to Zhyndios."
We all nod and agree, but Kendra says "Wait a moment, Tarnien doesn't cope well with teleporting. As in, doesn't function. Plus he's injured. Shouldn't he ride on the unicorn? I can go with Blue and Chuck."
"No..." I begin to say.
"Tarnien, you just ride the freakin' unicorn, okay?"
"I can fix that." Krystal says. She strides forward and places her hand on my head; her little finger and thumb spread across my temples and the other three spread across my forehead.
"Nerian eev æt galdor." She says, and it suddenly feels like a second skin spreads out from her fingers, covering my entire body in a protecting layer which soon condenses into something I cannot feel and barely even notice.
Washucktah nods, plainly impressed. "...Well done. You adapted the spell I taught you?"
Krystal faintly smiles. "Well, it was fairly easy to adapt. Just place the appropriate pronoun in the incantation and you can use it for anyone."
Washucktah whistles. "Now why didn't I think of -"
"It pains me to interrupt this impromptu lesson!" Dhilith barks, making us all jump. "But let us sort out what we are doing and move!"
"All right, Dhilith!" Krystal snaps back. She turns back to me. "The ward I just placed should shield you from the worst effects of the teleporting. It may need replacing or replenishing every dozen teleports or so."
I nod, and smile. "Thank you."
"Why did you do that?" Kendra asks as Krystal strides back, and across to Lily and the packs.
"If I hadn't, you would not have had a chance to ride Lily." Kendra says, simply, her back turned as she picks up her pack. Her tone of voice told everyone she was smiling. "That is not a chance that should be wasted."
Krystal turns around, in a mix of annoyance and amusement. "Do you want to ride 'the freakin' unicorn' or not?"
Kendra stops, then nods and smiles widely. "Yes. I'd love to."
"Then what are we waiting for? Dhilith, you're coming too." Krystal sets Kendra on Lily first, then leaps up behind her, helping Dhilith on to sit behind them.
Kendra suddenly has an indelible grin on her face. "...Wow." She strokes Lily's neck lightly, and Lily tosses her head back as if she's enjoying it.
Krystal laughs. "You say 'wow' now... wait until we've ridden a bit!"
Lily whinnies, and rears on her hind legs, putting on a show for Kendra, and they take off.
After about fifteen seconds, Washucktah says "Okay Blue, two miles west."
Blue, nodding, takes hold of our hands and teleports. We land on our feet, the forest considerably thinner than the immediate surroundings of the glade. I stagger once, my rib aching from the jump but not nearly as bad as my last experiences of teleportation.
Washucktah yelped slightly as his singed foot hit the ground, but otherwise wasn't badly affected either.
We have enough time to look around and take in our new location before the faint white speck of Lily appears in the distance and quickly grows. Within an astonishingly small space of time, they galloped up to us and slowed to a steady walk.
"HOLY CRYX!" Kendra was screaming. "THAT WAS AMAZING. DO IT AGAIN!"
Krystal leans down to speak to us as they pass. "Tarnien, did the spell work?"
"Yes, it worked fine."
She grins, seemingly rather pleased with herself. "Brilliant!"
Lily whinnies, and takes off again at a gallop.
I watch them into the distance. Suddenly Washucktah says behind me. "That's not right."
I turn, and see the look of thought on his face. "What is it?"
"I don't see why she would be so pleased at the spell working. I mean, sure, she adapted the words, but that's not SUCH an achievement."
"Vell?" Blue said, not paying as much thought to it. "Vhat of eet? Come on."
He takes us by the shoulder, and teleports again. This time the forest is definitely thinner – the edge is within sight. Again the effects of the teleportation were greatly reduced, although perhaps a tiny bit less reduced this time.
"I mean, that I don't think Krystal would be pleased with just adapting the spell itself. Anyone with a bit of knowledge and creativity could do that..."
Washucktah zoned off, and suddenly spoke again with a suppressed emotion. Anger.
"She used sorcery."
"Really?" I begin to say, but at that moment the clatter of hooves becomes audible, and a few seconds later Lily streaks past us, Krystal and Kendra both yelling, and Dhilith hanging on the back. I couldn't glimpse at his expression, but I would guess it was extreme annoyance.
"Blue, take us a good deal ahead of them. Five miles or so."
"Dat's how far we came dis time."
Washucktah paused. "...Well, ten miles, then."
Blue shrugs. "Okay!" We teleport again into grassland and plains, and the forest is far behind us.
"I mean, she used sorceric methods to place that ward on you. Used living spirit to make it stronger. That would explain why she's so pleased with herself, and she's covered it with the more obvious point of adapting the wording."
I pause. Washucktah's deductive reasoning was, on reflection, perfectly reasonable and something Krystal might indeed try to perpetrate.
"Yes..." I say, considering the evidence. "If the spell was cast by sorcery, and it is stronger as a result, then the spell would last longer as a result, correct?"
"Yes. That type of spell lasts for perhaps four or five instances at a time... And she said it'd last a dozen or so..."
We glance at each other, and seem to agree on the same point without speaking. Krystal was using sorcery.
"Washucktah, you need to teach her."
"What? I can't teach her that, it's too dangerous!"
"That is exactly why you should teach her. She has just demonstrated that if you will not guide her, she will go ahead with no guidance at all, like a child in the dark learning to walk. Which is the more dangerous to you?"
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Washucktah admits. "As always.". I hear the slightest hint of resentment on the final two words.
"Are you still annoyed about earlier? When we discussed our plan against the Thieves Guild?"
"Not really..." Washuktah hesitates, but then he shakes his head. "Okay, a little. It's more the fact I feel like I failed as the leader."
I nod, and form an answer for him. Hopefully one that would set his mind at ease and also explain why I did what I did.
"Washucktah, leadership is a skill that you cannot read in a book. It comes from discipline and experience. I do not doubt you have the discipline needed to be a good leader. But this is an incredibly serious and dangerous mission, and you simply do not have the experience needed for this. That's why I felt obligated to step in and, what would you say, 'take the brains'?"
"Take the reins." Washucktah smirked as he corrected me. "And yeah, I know. Plus you're an elf. Always great at planning, leading, strategy and stuff."
"Only the Wood Elves." I say. "Each Kindred is different."
"Yeah, it would appear so." Washucktah says. "And remembering what happened with Tarragon, I think I prefer Wood Elves."
"I danno, Chuck" Blue chips in. "Dose Sea Elves looked like dey had a lotta money..."
Several teleports later, I can feel my head becoming dizzier with each hyperspatial shift. This last teleport I stagger and lean on Blue for a while.
"Hey, hey Tarr!" Blue protested. "What's eatin' ya?"
"Is the ward wearing off?" Washucktah asks.
I nod, mostly to answer Washucktah and partly to try and clear my head.
"We'll ask Krystal to put it back on you when she passes. Hopefully tell her not to use sorcery either. At least not until we talk about it more."
"Yes" I say. "Do not worry, I have a plan for that."
"Huh?" Washucktah and Blue ask. At that moment, however, the white speck again appears on the horizon. I point it out to the others, and do not answer.
I wave to Krystal as Lily gallops towards us. Slowing to a trot, then a walk, Krystal leans down again.
"Has the spell worn off?"
"Okay, hang on, I'll restore it."
"As you wish."
As she places her hand across my forehead again, exactly like before, I mutter under my breath just loud enough for only her to hear. "Remember what the book said."
It was a gamble if my words would have any effect, but they work as I expected. I feel her fingers tense slightly across my brow.
To the others, it was not at all unusual. She replaced the spell and then smiled at us all and spurred Lily back into a gallop.
But she took the hint; she didn't use sorcery.