It’s like nothing happened. In a matter of moments Maia completely healed Anders’ wound. His arm probably feels better than it did before she stabbed it! I’ve never seen anyone with magic like hers.
There are people all over the kingdom who claim to be magical, but only a handful truly are and none of them have displayed the talent I’ve seen in Maia.
What happened with the plants back at the castle was one thing - one extraordinarily impressive thing - but healing wounds the way she just did could change the course of the kingdom.
People could be saved from infected wounds, illnesses. Who knows what she could be capable of doing given the time to perfect her craft.
But that is putting the cart well before the horse. I highly doubt she will stay long enough to find out what she can do. I have my doubts that she will even return with us to the castle once we have retrieved Bow and Arrow.
I hope my parents have passed down a most severe punishment on that band of bounty hunters and that they suffer accordingly. If they have not already done so, then I will be sending law enforcers to Boar Creek to deal with the villagers once and for all.
‘I guess I’ll go find some firewood and help set up,’ says Anders, jumping to his feet.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ replies Maia.
She moves her wrist in a circular pattern and a pile of firewood is stacked and ready to be lit, which she does in the next moment with a literal snap of her fingers.
‘Um, can you come camping with us all the time, because that was amazing.’
Mikael sounds like he is joking, but I know he is serious.
‘No, you’d get complacent and we can’t have the kingdoms knights become lazy now, can we?’
Maia sounds serious, but there is an amused glint in her eyes as she looks at Mikael.
I get the feeling that those two will be friends once she feels safe enough to let her guard down and trust again.
‘There is a small stream to our right, so I’m going down there to clean these herbs and get them ready to store.’
She shuffles off, Mikael by her side, with one of the smaller saddlebags from her horse and all the barks and plants she collected when on our walk.
‘She’s not okay,’ observes Anders as Maia disappears among the trees.
‘No, she isn’t, but she is going to hide it from us as best she can. She doesn’t trust us,’ I sigh, realising she probably never did trust us at all. ‘We came to her home to kill the boar she loved, and we left after ensuring that her life would be more miserable with the villagers.’
‘Yes, I have felt guilt over how we left as well,’ admits Anders. ‘It is in our nature to protect even when it is neither wanted nor needed. We’re knights - protecting the people is our duty.’
‘Yes, but she didn’t need us,’ adds Peter. ‘We also didn’t let anyone know who we were. Maybe if we had been honest about being the Kings Knights they would have left her alone.’
‘I have been thinking that, also,’ guilt washes over me. ‘We cannot dwell on the past. For now, our objective is to help in any way we can to retrieve her horses. We will also be careful of touch. We don’t want anyone losing a hand.’
The men laugh with me at the thought of one of us blundering around the practice field with one arm. It can be done, but it would be amusing while our friend learned his craft over again.
‘She is bloody quick with those knives. I didn’t even see her unsheathe it.’
Peter whistles, impressed. As am I.
Anders is a very accomplished fighter with reflexes as fast as a snake strike. For him not to notice when someone pulls a weapon is quite impressive, indeed.
‘Was she trained?’ Peter pulls out a pot to start a stew over the fire. ‘She said she’s been alone all of her life, so I doubt there was anyone there to train her in combat.’
‘Agreed.’ Anders pulls dried meats from his pack and gives them to Peter. ‘It seems to me that she’s been alone all her life, which is probably why the lot of us are stumbling around looking for things to help her with. She’s already done everything for herself and I imagine us blundering about makes it appear that we believe her incompetent.’
‘Yes,’ I nod to him, thinking it over for myself. ‘We need to change the way we treat her. We are used to assisting and protecting the women of the Kingdom. Well, other than my Mothers swordswomen, but even then, we show a certain deference to them because our instinct is to protect.’
‘As sad as it is Grayson, Maia has no idea what it is to be protected. I don’t think she’s ever had a single human-being defend her. Apart from her parents, or her adoptive parents that is, and they were killed for it,’ mumbles Peter, pointing out yet another miserable fact of her life.
I’m about to respond when my attention is drawn to a rustling in the trees. Maia and Mikael have returned, their arms overflowing with items they must have found along the way, including a large rock.
We should probably get used to the odd things Maia collects in the forest, which, I suppose, are only odd to us.
She whistles and the big brute of a war horse she is travelling with trots over to her like a puppy, rubbing its cheek against her shoulder. I don’t miss the look of sadness that dims her expression when she rubs her cheek against his neck.
Maia puts a few things in the saddle bags, but the rest she takes with her as she sits with her back against the oak tree where she healed Anders.
Mikael places the rock by her side and I hear her mumble a ‘Thank You’ as he walks away.
We all set about our business preparing camp - rubbing down and watering the horses, gathering extra firewood and cooking.
By the time we’re done the sun has set and the tension among the group has somewhat dissipated.
‘I meant to ask before, but I was a little busy. What will your parents do with the bounty hunters?’
It’s a question I don’t know the answer to.
‘They’ll definitely be in the dungeons, but they will probably wait for us to return before they carry out any formal punishment.’
If the darkness that falls across her face is anything to go by, then that was not the answer she was wanting to hear.
‘Don’t worry, they won’t be set free. They won’t find you again,’ Peter tries to reassure her, but even I know that won’t do.
She doesn’t react well to being coddled.
She says nothing in response, but her shoulders tighten, and she sits up straighter, staring at Peter.
I expect her to say something, but she remains quiet, which probably took some effort as I imagine she has a lot to say.
‘Here Maia, dinner is done,’ Mikael goes to hand her a bowl of stew.
Her face drains of colour and she just about gags.
‘Uh, thank you, but no. You guys go ahead,’ she stutters, staring wide eyed at the food.
‘Are you ill,’ asks Peter, digging himself a little deeper into his hole.
‘No, but as a magic user capable of communicating with animals I’ve made it a habit not to eat them,’ she nearly gags again as she says the word eat, turning a concerning shade of green. ‘You gentleman go ahead, I collected roots and berries in the woods before.’
We eat faster than ever, trying to get the offending stew out of sight as soon as possible. Her face continues to pale as we eat, to the point that she is almost grey.
We all but throw our bowls at Peter and Anders, who take the stew pot and utensils into the forest for washing, moving faster than I’ve ever seen outside of battle.
They leave a whole lot of awkwardness behind and I search desperately for a change in topic, my eyes landing on the stone by her thigh.
‘So, what is that giant rock for?’
She looks around, confused, as though she has completely forgotten it even exists.
‘I’m going to make containers for the herbs I’ve collected. It’s all good and well to have them, but they won’t last long enough for me to use if I just keep them in the saddlebags,’ she replies – her tone implying that she has explained everything to perfection.
It’s a rock.
How is a rock supposed to become a container?
‘It’s a rock,’ I say, feeling the need to point out the obvious.
In response, she lays a hand over the stone.
The stone appears to shrink slightly in size, and when Maia moves her hand away there is a small stone container, complete with lid, resting in the palm of her hand.