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Chapter 4 Teaser

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.

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