WHEN COMES THE FIRETIDE | PART TWO: EMERGENTS
Chapter Nine: In Great Dissonance Perfect Resonance Found
Telloran’s Fangs (high elevation peaks), Dagger Fells Cord, Southeast Tybraes
After Nightfall, 2nd Set Humility, month of Foundations 8178
Every bone ached, every shift of muscle, like sharp knives stabbed at her and the wind threw razors. This arctic agony rendered her over-conscious of remembered sensations of flaying and burning needles upon her feet, she was not prepared for the pit beneath the snow when her foot slipped. Everything swirled to one side, though she felt Zakeriel’s arms grasp and hold her up, continued to swirl. Khes whined, “I feel sick.”
“I know,” he whispered. “It’s the concussion. It’ll fade.”
“We need to stop. It’s too dark. I can’t see…” She gripped his arm, waited for the world to stop moving. The fearful realization she was struggling to see in the dark, yet Zakeriel was not, only dizzied her more. “And your wound. You need to rest. We should stop. Lay down for a bit.”
“No. No laying down. Not for you.”
As they neared a tree, she put a hand out and grabbed it, stopping them. “Some food then.” Her stomach lurched, prompting a quick ammendment to her request, “tea. Please? Please, Zak… I beg you.”
He chuckled in her ear. “I never believed I’d have ever heard you beg.” As she uttered a soft growl, before he conceded. “Alright. I can manage a small fire, maybe. If I can find any dry wood.”
With a desperate smack, Khes reached up and gripped a small branch. Taking a breath, she drained the life from it until it snapped off in her hand. Holding it out before him, she panted, “will this do?”
She could hear the surprise in his voice. “It is definitely a start, but I don’t want you taxing yourself.”
Gaze lifted up to him with a cautious slow tilt of her head, her look caused him to grin, “that was not meant to be a pun. It was clever though, yah?” Clearing his throat at her glare, he nudged her toward a small bit of brush. “If you can do that to this bush, it should be enough to build a fire.”
Braced upon one hip in the snow, exhausted from her contribution, she watched him accomplish the feat in a brief time. The tiny bit of warmth was welcome. That of his body as he sat behind her, supported her was far more soothing. Was was the warmth of his breath as he spoke, “I’ve no way to make you tea. Sorry.”
“Lousy service. I shall complain to the Innkeep.” She smiled to hear his laugh, quiet as it was, then asked, “are you in much pain?”
“Bit, yes. Tired, mostly. Not in the head, just…”
“You bleed inside.” Sadness weighed her heart and mind. Head rest against his chest, she closed her eyes, listened to the beat of his heart. The soft thrumming was a lullaby as sweet as any she recalled. A sharp chill pressed against her neck; Zakeriel stuffing a handful of snow in her tunic. Recoiling with a whimper, she shivered, unable to muster much more toward retaliation.
“None of that. Stay awake.”
“Why does it matter?” she muttered. “You are dying. I will die anyway.”
Lifting her face to his with a snow chilled palm, his scowl shamed her before he even spoke. “I held your dead body in my arms once already. I will not do it again.”
For his sake only, she smirked at him then pat his chest as she rest her head back down. “Fair is fair then–”
Too heady to have heard it first, as she should have, Zakeriel’s head spun at a sound. His heart leapt to a panicked beat in her ear, which lifted her own gaze. Careful, he set her up then rose, drawing his sword. “What is it?” she hissed.
Lowering to a defensive stance, blade at the ready, he turned his back to the flames to search the darkness. “I’m not sure… animal. Maybe a fossa, or a vulpin.”
Closing her eyes, Khes strained past her dizzied senses to listen. It took time but she finally heard the sound, a low grumbling, a hungry, intent snarl. She had heard it before. Paoel’s mount had made it.
“Epicyon…” she gasped in terror.
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