Chapter I - Caius
Duras - Cratertop Mountains
12th of Herras, 1873 MD
“This is pointless, those stupid townsfolk are just going to find another way to get themselves killed.” Kearika huffs, shivering as she pulls her fur cloak tighter around herself. “Why aren’t you freezing your pale hide off in these cursed winds?”
You would think after all this time, she would know already. I think she just likes having something to gripe about.
“I am not freezing because, unlike you, I have the forces of the universe at my beck and call. I simply asked this brisk wind to leave me out of its wintery clutches. Maybe if you try asking politely, the wind will even listen to an unwashed barbarian like yourself!” I reply, rubbing my hands together under my cloak.
Even with the spell woven into my cloak, it is still freezing this high up. I have never been so cold before.
A strong gust of wind makes the fire gutter, throwing our shadows crazily across the snow. Soon the sun will set, which will bring even colder temperatures with the darkness. Still, it’s vaguely comforting just to sit around the feeble flames, even if it isn’t keeping us all that warm.
“Unwashed? Unwashed! I may not be from that dump of a city like you are, where everyone bathes after every meal, but I take care of myself. You should know, for something 'unwashed' you certainly seem to enjoy it!” Her leer undercuts the venom in her tart reply. My cheeks burn, the snow-covered mountains behind her are suddenly fascinating, I can’t help but look at them instead.
Gods take me! Why does she have to be so crude? Though, despite her lack of tact, her brusqueness does have its…advantages.
I don't notice the soft paff paff of her boots in the snow as she saunters over, and only when she eclipses the fire do I realize how close she is. The wildly dancing flames grant flickering life to the paint slathered all over her face, casting shadows that her eyes disappear into. Crimson lines cover her face with a bestial mask, one of bloodlust and unrestrained murder. Kearika always wears some sort of design on her face, even when we’re in more civilized areas.
I might not have heard her walk over, but the snick of metal sliding across leather is as clear as a bell even in this storm. Six inches of glittering steel fills her left hand, pointing unwaveringly at my throat.
“Kearika, what are you doing? I am sorry! I did not mean to insult you! Here, have my cloak; it will keep you warm!” I stammer. I have never been much of a fighter. I prefer the academics of magic to the keen realities of cold steel. Kearika and I are constantly out running jobs for the Tower, but she handles most of the physical work.
I know the look in her eyes, the same look the hunter gives their trapped prey. Kearika is too close for me to do anything; she knows my arcane movements too well. If I try anything there’ll be a new and unwanted smile right across my throat. What could be making her do this? Could it be another mage, or whatever is up in these mountains that we are supposed to track down? I cannot believe I did not notice something taking her mind! Kearika’s hand draws back, and I scrunch my eyes shut, not wanting to see it coming.