SAMPLE CHAPTERS & ARTWORK UPDATES

Chapter 4 – Full

From Book IV ~ No’va
(some formatting has been removed)

Thomas Gracie felt along his side where he kept his hunting knife. It belonged to one of the Trappers back at camp, but there was no disagreeing to the dangers they might encounter once out in an unknown land. Each one was offered protection, even though Shafari proudly boasted his magic was sufficient enough.

Thomas Gracie cracked a smile at the thought, I have no doubt of that. In Mayla, only Trappers were allowed hunting equipment. Once back in the city, everything was turned over to the council for safe-keeping. Less weapons, less crime. Less ways to overthrow its leaders. No, leaving was the best decision we had.

The ground angled slightly uphill as he pushed past some hickory undergrowth. He was mindful of hemlock and tripped over a few roots from a toppled maple. Now and then a few thorns snagged on his pants. In the shadows of towering trunks, most of the heavy foliage stayed in the canopy. It only drew dense when pockets of sunlight were able to filter through, whereas growth spurts of saplings filled the space as much as possible.

There were sounds all around – some familiar, and some not. Strange clicks and throaty calls echoed in the distance. At certain points, the trees broke and he could see down into a small valley of green grass and blooming flora. Here, winter had not touched. It almost seemed unfair, as he thought back to those still in the cave, that none of the others were able to enjoy the warmth of spring.

Soon, we’ll all be out of Astra, away from Mayla, and away from the council. He kept repeating this thought while pausing to take in the beauty of lush landscape. When a large brown bear lumbered into the clearing, Thomas Gracie held his breath. Fully grown, the grizzly’s size was a comparable prize to the ones brought back to the city. There will be plenty here for the people.

He continued to watch as the bear lifted its head to take in surrounding smells, snorting loudly with each whiff. It all seemed fascinating until it stood up on its hind legs and let out an angry roar. Even from Thomas Gracie’s vantage point, he could make out those sharp teeth and powerful claws. A bear this size was nothing to mess with, though something apparently was.

An answering cry made the hair stick up on the back of his neck, especially after seeing a large shadow engulf part the bear. It glided across the clearing and out of sight, though he could hear something heavy land with a loud hiss. The bear still stood, its anger putting even Thomas Gracie on edge. It was not until he saw what landed that his heart skipped a beat.

The bear itself would have given Trappers a run for their money, but the thing that swayed out into his line of vision was beyond what he could have imagined. Black wings balanced its sways while on all fours, hissing all the while. Its skin could have blended well with the russet bark color found on trees. When it stood up, Thomas Gracie swore it was more human than animal, though three times larger. With the wingspan that stretched out to adjust movement with weight, it more than matched the bear’s ferocity.

The bear continued to stand its ground even when the other came within striking distance. What hit first was not the long, black talons Thomas Gracie could visibly see without question. It was the wings. A single turn smacked the animal in the face with enough force to topple it. The bear’s body mass made a clumsy performance to get back on its feet, giving the winged creature enough time to pounce.

Thomas Gracie averted his gaze when intestines spilled out, painting the surrounding grass red from loss of blood. The creature made quick work and was soon feasting from ripped chunks of flesh.

Don’t move, a voice pushed past his thoughts of leaving. It echoed through the mind like a secondary opinion. Yet Thomas Gracie knew better. He had heard of mind-readers before, just never witnessed one himself. He did as told, waiting for the next line of instructions. The wind is blowing downhill. It will smell you.

Thomas Gracie tried thinking back, unsure if his thoughts were being read in the process. What is that thing?

There was no answer but a distant screech that distracted the creature from its meal. With speed that defied its own body capabilities, it lifted itself into flight and was gone.

“That?” It was a physical voice this time, one that Thomas Gracie turned to at the approach of another. “That is what we call a Lsahr’ken…or Black Wing, if you prefer.” There was a slight roundedness when speaking its name, and for a moment Thomas Gracie was not sure if what he heard started in “el” or “zar.”

“Lar-ken?” He took a guess, causing a smile from the stranger.

“Close enough.”

A refreshing breeze tousled his chestnut hair back from around the ears. For a moment, Thomas Gracie thought he saw one move, having a wolf-like appearance. Eventually, his gaze was held by a pair of golden irises. That look of contentment was apparent with the way the stranger moved, but more refined. There was no doubt this being had magic, but what type he could not be sure.

“I’ve heard of humans, just never seen one.” His expression changed to match a sudden serious tone. “There are more of you, aren’t there?”

Thomas Gracie nodded. “Two others. They were together, as far as I know. But now I worry after seeing that…thing….”

“They hunt alone, mostly.” The individual then took a slight bow. “I am Windchester, assistant to our clan leader Providence. I am sure you’ve never heard of Lo-ans’rel. We are Healers, protectors of this side of the forest. When was the last time you saw your friends?”

“Not long.” Thomas Gracie hesitated before adding, “One of them has magic.”

“I know.” His tone was rich, like the dark earth around them that responded to his presence in spurts of plant growth. Leaves reached out. Even grassy stems moved against the breeze to bask beneath his earthen-colored robe. Bistre gradually blended from hem up to burnt orange and sepia, complete with fox fur lining the shoulders. Simple, with an elegant touch to his lean form. “We can feel its use.”

Thomas Gracie cursed under his breath. “I told him not to. It’s probably like a beacon to you, then.”

“And to others.” Windchester inclined his head toward the valley where the bear lay ripped open from throat down. “Magic intrigues them, but they’ll not be fooled. We might hold a mutual respect, but they’ll know who is human or not.”

“I need to find them.” Thomas Gracie started down the hill when a wild cry echoed again.

“They already are.” Windchester’s calm demeanor hinted a warning. “You’d fair no better against one.”

“Then…they?” Thomas Gracie slowly turned.

Sweat beaded across his forehead to think of his friends’ horrific demise. However, the Healer did not seem too concerned as he instead lifted a hand toward the valley. Where the carcass lay, vines began to rise. They wound about its body in a snakelike fashion until fully cocooned. Astounded, Thomas Gracie watched as the earth opened, and it slid beneath until only a patch of dark soil remained. Greenery soon sprouted back in place as though nothing had been disturbed.

“There is always a balance to Nature,” Windchester said. “We make that possible by keeping the land in order. A life lost here is energy gained for another. The earth will certainly use that body to replenish and create a more fertile landscape.” He gave a slight smile. “I wouldn’t worry about your friends just yet. They are not alone.”

*****

Jenario woke with a start to the sound of someone calling his name. The face that floated in and out of a clouded vision reminded him of Tia. How he wanted to be back in her arms again! He nearly reached out to do so when the haze cleared, and he found the face unfamiliar.

“Jenario, is it?” the stranger was saying. He kept talking, but Jenario only closed his eyes to a loud ringing in his ears.

It took a moment for the young man’s head to clear before he could decipher the rest. He tried to sit up, having collapsed from against the tree. He opened his eyes to a sun-filled clearing of overhanging moss coloring everything in a green hue. His gaze then flicked to the lifeless tree.

Jenario gripped the ground in sudden remembrance of the long-necked creature to drag himself from it. When pain filled his chest and rib area, he clasped a hand over it in a loud gasp.

A hand place itself over his and gently held him down. It was warm to the touch. Even through his clothing, the warmth was both puzzling and comforting at the same time.

“Easy now. You need to heal.”

“But…that…” Jenario lifted a shaking finger, and the stranger glanced at the tree.

“That? She won’t bother you. Moss Dragon’s only care to protect their young. What chased you? Now that’s something to worry about. That was a Black Wing.”

The ringing faded in and out like the stranger’s voice. An accent on certain words was lost in Jenario’s floundering thoughts as he tried to grasp its meaning. A Black Wing? There was another word mentioned, one that defined its race, but the ringing hindered pronunciation. Annoyed, he improvised with his own description.

“A harpy, then.” Jenario impatiently slapped a hand over his forehead. “Dragons and harpies! What were we thinking? How do you step into another world without any previous knowledge other than its name? Now everyone’s dead!”

A chuckle. “Meaning your magic-user friend?”

Jenario’s hand slid over his brow, allowing the other’s face to enter his vision. He could make out a ponytail of dark hair that complemented a lean look, but it was a the eyes that captured his fancy. What appeared to be green irises lit with an emerald glow. It was a look that signified inner power, the same he sometimes saw in Shafari, just not as color-intense.

“I assure you. He’s quite safe. Now lie still while I mend these bones.”

“But what are you..?” Jenario tried to raise his head and see what he intended to do. He could feel the warmth on his chest increasing, but so did his pain. He quickly lay back again.

“You’ll be fine. Rest now. Lo d’hess.”

Jenario remained still, uncertain of the last words. A spell? A warning? There was no way to be certain in his current state. He said I needed to heal. Must be a doctor, though he had not seen a medical bag. Dismissing any doubts, he closed his eyes and tried to relax. With a sigh, he turned so his left cheek pressed against mossy ground. That, at least, felt cool against his skin.

A faint crinkle under his ear tempted him to readjust. When it continued, he opened his eyes to a withering patch of moss that a moment ago was dark green. Even his cheek felt itchy where he had laid it, but on quick inspection confirmed that too had dried to a brown crisp and flaked away when he turned his head the other way.

“What..?” Both sides were the same. “What’s happening?”

“This is how our kind heal,” came a thought.

Jenario checked the stranger to find his head bowed in concentration. The pain had died, quite quickly, as though the dying moss had collected the pain from him. Now and then he heard a series of pops coming from the rib area, though the stranger’s hand never moved. Instead, a faint glow of green emitted from the palm and spilled over into the area where healing was needed. As his body began to feel more energized, the glow faded away until the stranger closed his fingers and lifted his head to check his patient.

Jenario’s wide-eyed look of wonder cracked a smile. He checked his hands to find no traces of an earlier fall. The skin was as clean looking as though he had just washed them.

“Better?”

“I…guess?” The young man kept staring at the ears, a tuft of white fur on each tip. It held a wolf-like appearance more so than human. Did one just move? At the thought, one turned toward a rustle over by the rocks. Something skittered from the corner of his eye, but Jenario was not quick enough to follow. Whatever it was ducked behind the various moss mounds.

The stranger followed his gaze. “Moss Dragon young won’t settle into the earth until they’re older, which makes them a tad curious about things that happen to wander into their territory.”

Jenario kept watching the rocks. Gradually, a leafy looking head peeked over the top. Unlike its parent, which had matched the tree’s coloration, the young matched a sprig of green leaves that sprouted from its head. It quickly ducked from view.

“Let’s not waste this welcome. Come. I’ll help you up.”

Jenario allowed the stranger to help pull him to his feet, amazed at only a tender spot around on his left side. His head swam with questions, which the other must have guessed was coming.

“Lo-ans’rel.” The word rolled from his tongue in a rich tone that set his eyes ablaze with power.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“You want to know what my people are. Here’s my answer.” In the blink of an eye, a glow enveloped his form. It was not very bright, but enough to cover the body completely. It wavered, shrinking closer to the ground. Where the arms might have been, the light stretched out on both sides and then simply faded. Like a veil uncovering a magic act, an owl was left in place of a man. It folded its wings and returned the wide-eyed look up at the human’s perplexed stare.

Jenario was speechless. In all the time he had known Shafari, not once had he attempted to do magic like this. Why can’t he? He made a mental note to ask when the voice came to his thoughts again.

Because he’s not a Healer. The owl suddenly took flight, gliding on silent wings until it landed atop the staircase of rocks. It adjusted itself a moment before turning back to the young man. Healers are natural-born shape-shifters, depending on the element we take. It does not simply come to us, but rather, is given from the animals we serve as protectors. Their blood allows us to do this. Without it, there would be no other form than the one you just saw.

“What did you call your people again?” Jenario tried to recall the pronunciation. “Low something.”

Lo-ans’rel? The same aura engulfed the owl’s body as it shifted back. The Healer walked back to him, taking long strides. “We pride ourselves with our shifting abilities, as It helps reach destinations much faster.” He clasped his hands together and added. “Now, I believe you have a friend waiting.”

“Does he know this?”

“I’m fairly certain he’s already asked a great deal, but let’s not keep him waiting.” He gestured for Jenario to walk with him. “Shall we? I can explain more on the way.”

A loud huff coming from the inner parts of the tree got Jenario moving. Having no intentions of delaying longer in a dragon’s territory, he quickly accepted the invitation. Together, the two entered the dense forest with the Healer in lead. Unlike before, daunting shadows and towering trees seemed to lose its authority in the Healer’s presence.

“You must command the forest,” Jenario said. “Everything seems to bow before you, even trees.” He noticed a limb dip at at their passing. There was no wind.

“There is respect in power, but more so because we are its protectors. We help keep Balance, so Nature graciously provides our essentials. We lack naught.” He reached out to catch Jenario’s arm when the young man stumbled over an uneven path. Receiving a quick thanks, the Healer added, “I never introduced myself. I am Providence, leader to my people.”

“I’m glad to have met you, and I…appreciate your help. That thing back there…” Jenario just shook his head. “Don’t know what I’d done without help.”

Providence gave a nod. “There’s not much you can do about a dark ‘Keyarx. Their size and strength is unfairly matched against anything else, but they steer clear of us. A clan of Lo-ans’rel could easily pluck the feathers from their backs. There be none where we go.”

Jenario took in all the leader had to say. He was still amazed at the shape-shifting shown to him earlier. Though a small doubt persisted about revealing magic to Tia, he knew his tongue would eventually betray him.

It was not long before they left the trees to enter a bright clearing filled with movement. The crimson robe of Shafari instantly stood out to him, having become the center of attention among gathering Healers. Always the entertainer, that one! He watched the magic-user weave his fingers through the air to fascinate some of the children with illusion.

Compared to their own garments, the rest wore light or earthen colors. Their robes looked woven from the finest of silks, and draped the Healers’ lean bodies in a style that matched their shifting. As Providence pointed out, a preferred form often times complemented the color of their hair or outfit. Together, they watched a red-tailed hawk swoop in for a landing. When it shifted, the Healer displayed a rustic red and white tailored outfit.

It was not long before Shafari noticed the two approaching and quickly brought his performance to an end. After taking a bow, he turned to greet Jenario with that cheeky grin of his. The rest of the Healers acknowledged their leader with flattened ears and gentle purring, to Jenario’s surprise. Likewise, Providence returned his own throaty rumble. They must have specialized vocal chords.

“Not bad for first impressions,” Jenario teased, tensing at the welcoming slap on his back.

“You had me worried there a moment.” Shafari’s grin never died. “I thought for sure that thing had you.”

“So did I.”

“Seriously, Jen, I wouldn’t be here if not for their leader.” That cocky smile waned ever so slightly, and his voice lowered. “I wasn’t strong enough to cast the spell I wanted after it plowed me into that tree.”

“So you didn’t cause that explosion?” Jenario raised an eyebrow. “I was sure…” But he followed Shafari’s nod to to their leader instead.

“That would be my handy-work,” Providence said.

“You should should have seen how he handled that thing!” Shafari clenched a fist in an act of squishing a bug. “Vines ripped up from beneath its feet, and before it could move, had sucked it under!”

Jenario swallowed nervously, recalling how Nature responded while walking through the trees. He checked around the clearing for signs of their last companion. “Where’s Thomas Gracie? Did he not make it?”

“So we’re missing a third?” Providence cocked his head in speculation. “How many are you?”

“Just the three of us…so far as I know.” Jenario felt a nudge from Shafari, who gave a brief glare suggesting he say no more.

“I see.” Providence stepped back. “Very well. I’ll contact Windchester. He was out the same as I, and may know of the other’s location. Just give me a moment.”

The leader then closed his eyes. When Jenario glanced to his companion, Shafari just shrugged. After a moment, Providence seemed to come to and briefed them on the good news. He then tapped the side of his temple.

“The mind is a powerful tool, allowing us to communicate from great distances.”

Shafari released a heavy breath in relief. “That’s useful.”

“Don’t get any ideas.” Jenario just shook his head. “So are they headed this way?”

“Indeed. And when your friend arrives, I’ll want a full report on why you are here. On top of that – how? How you managed to come here unnoticed is beyond me, especially when we can sense other magic.” His gaze fell to Shafari, who fidgeted nervously.

“We should let Thomas Gracie explain,” Jenario said. “He’ll know best.”

*****

Nickademis paced the length of the chamber with growing impatience. At every pass he would glance to the wavering portal to inspect for signs of movement. A rabbit once darted across his line of vision, but that was all. Several hours had already lapsed. He kept checking on the group camped near the front entrance of the cave. While the warmth of their fires helped, the frigid air did not. Those taken ill from the weather risked slipping into feverish sleep, one the doctor knew all too well could mean never waking. This, he feared more with Jenario’s son.

“Don’t let him sleep,” Nickademis had warned Tia, who kept a steady watch over Abraham. “Soon as the others return, I’ll have the medicine.”

Yet doubt edged its way into his thoughts. What if they don’t find any? Nickademis paused his back and forth trek to eye the remaining tracking stones. He tugged at his beard, wondering if it was worth contacting them sooner – if only to check. What if something happened to them? He had heard distant screeches, not the territorial calls of songbirds. This was something different. I have to be sure!

Nickademis grabbed the nearest stone and held it in his palm. Like before, it began to heat.

“Come on, Shafari!” Even with the stone’s rising temperature, he continued to hold it tightly until he was sure his hand would burst into flames. “If nothing else, answer me!” A quick puff of smoke, and Nickademis threw down the stone just as its smooth surface melted into a boiling pool of exploding stone and fire. He shook his aching hand, then stared at the reddened place in the center of his palm where it had lain. “Completely worthless!”

A hint of red moving among the trees caught the corner of his eye. Nickademis dared to believe it might be them as he quickly approached the portal. He about wrung his hands in a nervous switch when Shafari brushed past some leaves and held a low limb out the way for the other two to follow.

“Hold yourself together, Nick!” The doctor heard from the portal. “We’re coming.”

“‘Bout time!” The doctor could barely contain himself, and reach out to help them through to the other side. Jenario came first, who held up a cloth sack.

“Got everything you requested.” He dropped the sack into Nickademi’s outstretched hands. The smell of fresh-cut herbs seeped through when he loosened the neck to peer inside.

“And not a moment to spare!” He rushed from the chamber just as Shafari, followed by Thomas Gracie, stepped through. But was there another? Nickademis could not be sure in his hasty departure, but thought a fourth person wavered within the green illumination of the oval opening.

“No courtesy help for us, I see,” Shafari teased while stepping aside for Providence to enter. The Healer looked around at the cave’s cold interior.

“Your son needs this!” They all heard the echoing words of the doctor.

Jenario felt the blood drain from his face. “Abraham?” He hurried after, leaving the others behind without another thought.

The main chamber was littered with coughing individuals, all huddled together under blankets or whatever they had managed to bring with them. It was easy to pick out Tia, her crested black hair a style no one else had. She cradled the wheezing child in her arms, his shaking shoulders in beat with his discomfort.

“Tia!” Jenario was by her side in an instant. “Nickademis has the medicine!”

She was nearly in tears at the sight of him, but said nothing at the answering wheeze of their young son.

“Give him here.” Jenario took Abraham in his arms and cradled in tightly to his chest. The boy let out a series of coughs that shook his father’s shoulders. He stared into Tia’s pleading gaze. “Nick! Hurry!”

“Jen?” Thomas Gracie and Shafari entered the chamber to assess the number of those ill.

“I might be able to raise the heat a bit,” Shafari offered, but Thomas Gracie’s warning glance silenced him from saying anything further.

“They need more than just warmth.” The extra voice perked Tia’s attention toward an unfamiliar figure stepping in between the two men. He sought out Jenario in the crowd and started toward him.

Sensing Tia’s anxiety, especially when noticing those pointed ears, Jenario rested a hand over hers.

“It’s all right,” he said gently. “He helped us gather medicine on the other side.” As the Healer knelt beside him, Jenario introduced him to his fiancée.

Forest green gaze met the pixie-haired woman’s defensive staredown.

“May I?” Providence indicated to take Abraham, but as Jenario was about to hand over his son, Tia slapped a hand over his arm.

“What are you doing?! You already know how I feel about Shafari’s botched-up magic. What makes you think someone else is any different?”

Even without witnessing power, Tia was no fool. Jenario swore she had an hidden sensor to hone in on magic. The outburst, however, put a shade of red across his cheeks. He could sense Shafari’s embarrassment as well. Surely, their visitor would feel the same, but a quick glance revealed a look of understanding.

“If there was a way to make medicine produce itself, there’d be no need for us. But for your son’s sake, please.” Again, he held out his hands to take Abraham. “Time is against him.”

“Just this once, I swear it! Abraham needs all the time he can get.” Jenario dared not move. It was her call now. The glare of worry and betrayal were prominent in those eyes. Reluctantly, she released his arm. Only then did he hand over his son.

It was a bold move, but one he feared if not taken would result in a harsher consequence than defying Tia’s beliefs. He watched her leave in silent anger. This, however, did little to deter the Healer from his task. Providence only briefly followed her departure before centering all concentration on the child.

“I know that feeling.” He placed a hand over Abraham’s chest. A warm glow quickly emitted from beneath the fingers. “Winter does not allow us to connect with Nature’s energy. But I should have a enough to spare. Don’t worry. She’ll come around when she sees her son is well.”

“What of the others?” It was hard to ignore the harsh coughs reverberating off the walls.

“Hopefully, your doctor will have his medicine in time…if he’s skilled,” Providence said.

“The best Mayla had.” Jenario let his focus drift, like the lone flakes that managed to bypass the canvas flap covering the mouth of the cave. He watched them linger in the air until they drifted over one of the campfires and melted away. “They let everything go.”

The sound of someone sucking in a deep breath alerted Jenario back to his son. The wheezing subsided, and for once Abraham opened his eyes and smiled at his father.

“That’s my brave boy,” he whispered down to him. He looked up to the sound of hurried steps. While Thomas Gracie and Shafari helped with keeping the fires going and distributing food, Nickademis came with a tray of medicines he had prepared.

“Nicolas!” The teenager swiftly came to his father’s summon. “These need to be kept warm.”

Jenario noticed how Providence scrutinized every move the doctor’s son made. Though limited in magic, he managed to heat a flask to the desired temperature. It was enough to get over to Jenario’s son and administer the first few drops of dark liquid. Nickademis then hurried to others, repeating the process until there was none left.

“I’ll need more, but this should do for now,” he said to regrouping leaders at the back of the chamber.

Jenario got up to join the others, having taken his son from Providence. The child was squirming to get down as his father watched Nicolas leave with the empty bottles and tray. His gaze finally landed on Tia, who had been watching the entire process from the back. She brushed past the teenager, never acknowledging his help.

“You can already tell a difference.” Jenario could hear Thomas Gracie addressing the others. Providence had joined the group as well, but watched the pixie-haired woman with interest when she crossed the chamber at a brisk pace to take her son.

“I’ll handle it from here,” she said quickly.

“Tia…” But there was no use in arguing. With a sigh, Jenario made his way toward his companions.

“She ought to be more thankful,” Shafari said. “Your son wouldn’t have made it this far without us trying to get supplies. And then with the healing….”

“Tia’s…Tia.” Jenario scratched his spiked-hair in doubt. “She knows what she likes.”

“And what she doesn’t, no doubt.” Providence gradually shifted his focus from the woman to Nickademis. “I’m impressed with what little you had to work with.” He gestured around the room. “This is a large group to handle.”

“I do what I can…under the circumstances.”

“And under the circumstances, we’re running low on firewood,” Thomas Gracie added. “No one’s been out in that storm since our departure.”

“Well, why should they?” Shafari checked for dirt under his nails. Seeing some gritty spots, he tried to pick it out before allowing his fingers to weave through the air in magical demonstration. “That’s why they have us.” His cocky grin put everyone at ease, with Thomas Gracie only shaking his head at his meaning.

“Magic-user,” he breathed.

Providence eyed the makeshift door keeping the howling wind at bay.

“Perhaps I can assist you further,” he said. “From the looks of it, your group won’t last but so long. Not in this weather. But what if I offer you sanctuary in our land?”

“You would do that?” Thomas Gracie then lowered his voice. “What of Black Wings?”

“I can show you the safest parts of the forest. From there, you can take your people to wherever you like, providing you leave my people in peace.” His emphasis on the last part was fair warning. Inner power lit his eyes, and for a split second they flashed a brilliant emerald. The swift showcase of promise confirmed that Healers were nothing short of powerful.

Jenario glanced over to Thomas Gracie. He could see that concentrated look, weighing his options between staying or taking that chance and leaving Astra altogether. The young man then glanced around the room, noting each person within their makeshift camp, until he reached the tent flap beginning to come loose from the abusive wind.

It’s surely death if we stay. He tried to make eye contact with Tia, but her back was to the group.

“Chance of a lifetime.” Shafari cracked a coy smile. “No fear of the council. Build where we like.”

“With respect to those who already live there, Shafari.” Thomas Gracie’s gaze narrowed.

“Nothing less than that.” The magic-user crossed his arms, his smile never fading. “I can handle it.”

“If I might add,” Providence said, “that I would also be willing to show your doctor more ways to use herbs in producing quick medicines like the ones you just did. Healing can only remove the physical wounds. It does not include poisons or other bodily mishaps.”

“And you trust us to enter your land, just like that?” Nickademis grunted in disbelief. “What’s the catch here?”

“I don’t think there has to be one,” Jenario’s soft tone turned heads his way. “I think the outcome is obvious whether we stay or go.”

“Providing that fiancée of yours lets us go,” Shafari said, though his tone was not playful this time.

“That’s enough,” Thomas Gracie intervened before Jenario could answer. “She has her reasons to be weary. As do we all need to be.” He glanced between each member. “So…are we all agreed on what we want? Jen? Think you can convince Tia?”

Jenario let out an uncertain sigh when Providence privately thought to him.

I can help blanket her thoughts so it’s more appealing to leave, though I’m fairly certain she’ll not stay by herself in the cold.

With that in mind, Jenario slowly nodded in answer. “She’ll be fine.”

“Then I think it’s settled.” Thomas Gracie turned to the Lo-ans’rel leader. “Master Providence…we accept.”

 

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