Kindle was sore all over, and she only had Kael to blame, and thank. Julia was resting peacefully back in the cabin, but she had dark circles under her eyes, and Kyte had not left her side since they had limped back to the cabin after the encounter with Varun.
“Do you think there are more - like Varun - out there Kael?”
Kael was sitting in the front porch with his legs propped up on a chair while deliberately chewing on a piece of wheat. His usual cheerful demeanor had dissolved after carrying an unconscious Findar and bleeding Julia back to the sanctuary of the cabin.
“I don’t know, Kindle. It probably takes a lot of power to feed into something like Varun. I doubt if Rath is really interested in spreading himself too thin. Did you see what Julia was doing to him to make him scream like that?”
Kael had tried to explain to Kindle how some Intuitive Mages could see connections between things, and use that to manipulate magic. He wondered if Kindle had become a sort of Intuitive Mage now, with her magic abilities and dragon-aspect.
“I don’t see things like that, Kael. Deltia explained to me that now that I’m essentially a dragon. I have their better eyesight, and I can certainly see better at night.” Kindle shrugged.
Kindle flitted over to the low fence that acted as a wall of sorts in front of the porch, facing Kael.
He looked into her eyes intently and Kindle looked away, embarrassed. Kael had been around fairies all of his adult life, but Kindle was something different. All fairies had a supernatural beauty and form - it seemed to be something that was part of what made them... fairies, but since Kindle’s “transformation” Kael could see that Kindle was unique among fairies. She was slightly larger now than your average fairy, with an hourglass figure and a bit more angular face. And of course, her eyes were now slitted like a cat, or a … dragon. Yet for all her fierceness of appearance, she was still very much a fairy, and held herself with a grace that was very much catlike to Kael.
“How are you doing, Kindle? So much has happened to you in such a short amount of time. Do you even recognise yourself?” Kael asked kindly.
Kindle looked out into the forest that surrounded them. The sun warmed her skin, and she could feel the subtle currents of the wind and tell that there was a falcon only a few hundred feet away. She pulled back a stray bit of hair and looked a Kael.
“I don’t know what to think anymore Kael. I’ve wanted to be a Knight all my life, and yet- ”
She paused and looked at her hands. The tips were now sharp and she could not even remember how many of Rath’s allies she had slain with them.
“I never thought this was how I’d end up. My family always wanted me to do traditional fairy things, but that was not where my heart was telling me to go.”
Kindle stopped herself. Why was she confiding in Kael like this? She knew this was his talent, to get people to talk, even about their darkest secrets. She wondered if he was using his magic on her.
“Why are you suddenly so curious about me, Kael? You’ve never given me a passing look in the times we’ve crossed paths at the Knight’s Guild.” she crossed her arms and pursed her lips, tilting her head to the side slightly.
Kael gave her a sidelong glance and burst out laughing. Kindle buzzed her wings in annoyance.
“What’s so funny?” she said.
“I don’t know, Kindle, perhaps it’s the fact that you are a mighty dragon squeezed into a fairy shape, and that - like no fairy I’ve ever known - you throw yourself into a battle instead of running away like any sensible fairy, and that you seem to still have kept a grip on who you really are, not losing yourself to these new powers you have. That’s all pretty remarkable to me.” Kael’s grin was disarming.
Kindle blushed. “So you just like me for my new wings, huh?”
“That, yes.” he gave an exaggerated nod, smiling, “ and your uncanny aim with a pillow”.
Kindle blushed harder.
“I bet you say that to all the girls, Kael.”
Suddenly angry for some reason she didn’t understand, Kindle took flight and entered the cabin, leaving behind a bemused Kael who resumed chewing on his wheat stem and staring out into the wilderness.
Julia awoke to pain. A white hot line of intense pain lanced across her chest. Julia gasped and sat bolt upright in her bed. Kyte, who had been by her side all night, reached out and touched her shoulder gently.
“Findar! Julia’s awake!” Kyte called. He smiled weakly at her. “Lie still, you might reopen your wound. ”
“What happened? How did I get back here? The last thing I remember was - ” it all came flooding back. The horrible night, Varun, Granny Lin, her friends rushing to help her. She shuddered.
Findar walked in the bedroom with Rein following closely behind him. “Welcome back, Julia, how are you feeling? ” Findar asked gently.
His own head was wrapped in bandages, from the hit he took when Varun had thrown Kyte’s staff.
Julia swallowed dryly. “Hurts.” She croaked .
“I’m sorry Julia, Varun had spelled your wound to resist healing, but I managed to break that, with some effort.”
Kyte remembered Findar working late into the night with Kael assisting to finally remove the curse on Julia’s wound. It was not deep - merely a cut - but Findar had warned all of them that if they did not stop the bleeding and break the spell, Julia would not last the night. As it was, she had lost a lot of blood. It wasn’t until Kyte suggested enlisting the help of the amber gem necklace somehow that they had made a breakthrough. The room had suddenly filled with golden light, and after a moment, Julia was breathing easier. Somehow the gem had helped break the curse.
Julia smiled weakly. Findar nodded toward Kyte. “He was here all night with you, Julia.”
Kyte handed Julia a mug of something that smelled wonderful to Julia. It tasted like hot apple cider, but her whole body grew warm as it went down.
“What is this?” She managed to say.
“My mum’s a healing Mage. She taught me some things when she was working for the Knight’s Guild. They would give it to knights after battles if they had been wounded.” Kyte said sleepily.
“Wounded in battle...” Julia whispered.
Tears began to flow freely down her eyes.
“Oh Kyte, I was so scared ”
“You were brave as well, young Mage. You were able to hold off that Varun long enough for us to rescue you.”
Findar smiled at Julia, then turned to Kyte.
“Your staff is a much more effective weapon for channelling magic than trying to pummel demons, Kyte” he chided.
Kyte blushed and his eyes met the floor.
“But, you kept your head and improvised. That is the mark of a true Mage.” Findar continued.
Kyte gave him a hesitant smile.
“I’ll try to remember that master Mage.” Kyte added.
Findar turned away and noticed Rein standing in the corner of the room.
“Thank you, too.” Julia said to Rein.
“Don’t thank me. We wouldn’t have been in that battle at all if you hadn’t run off. You risked all our lives to get some fresh air!” Rein shouted venomously.
Kyte rose from his seat next to Julia and his eyes narrowed.
“Julia’s been through far more than any of us in the past few days, and the burden of this, this seed has been placed on her. Would any one of us not respond in the same way? What is wrong with you?”
Julia could only stare in wonder at Kyte. He was defending her. Her. No one had ever stuck up for her, or really ever even noticed her before all this had started.
“He’s right.” she said.
Everyone turned to Julia.
“I’m sorry, Rein. I’m not strong like you, or wise like Findar, or powerful like Kindle, or brave like Kyte. I’m nothing. I’m a nobody. “ she looked down at her hands. “I don’t know why those Remnants chose me.” she said quietly.
Rein ran his hands through his hair.
“Rath killed my family. He’s killed countless others. If there’s something you can do to put an end to this, then you better be finding out why. Real quick.”
Rein turned and walked out of the room, pausing only when Kindle entered.
“Hi Julia! It’s so good to see you awake! “ she said cheerfully and flew up to the foot of the bed.
Everyone stared at Kindle with a somber expression. Rein *tsked* and left the room.
“What?” Kindle said, as she looked about, then a strange expression came over her face. “Someone’s coming here. Riding fast. I can hear them.”
She gave Julia an encouraging glance and buzzed out of the room. Findar followed, while Kyte remained. Julia bit her bottom lip from the pain in her chest.
Outside the cabin Kael, Rein, Findar, and Kindle stood expectantly as the thundering of horse’s hooves echoed closer.
“How can anyone even know we are here, Findar?” Kael asked.
Findar shrugged, “Only someone who was sent by the ArchKnight, or perhaps the Mage Institute. How else could you have found me?”
Rein unsheathed his twin blades. “It doesn’t sound good, regardless.”
“Not every problem is solved with a blade, my dark friend.” Kael quipped as he craned his head to see further into the forest.
“Perhaps, but they are the only ones I care about.” Rein retorted.
A centaur burst from the forest. He was exceptionally large for his species, with a large hammer strapped across his back, and a fairly small rider accompanying him. The equine portion of the centaur was white with lather from running full out. His broad face was red, and he appeared on the edge of exhaustion. As he spotted the group his hooves ground to a halt and the diminutive rider leaped from his back and ran up to them.
“Hold, Rein, it’s an Elf. I don’t think he’s here for a fight.” Kael said as he began walking up to the Elf. The runner was dressed in green ranger’s clothing, with a bow across his back, and a shock of red hair. He also possessed the pointed ears and high cheekbones of his race.
Kindle buzzed up the Elf and drew her sword. Breathless, the Elf raised his hands and spoke.
“You must be Kindle. My name is Brandir. I and my partner here have been sent from the Elf Queen.“
Findar and the others approached the Elf. The centaur fell heavily to his knees, gasping.
“What is it? Why are you here?” Findar said.
“The Elf Queen has asked for Kindle by name. She says she has information essential for you to defeat Rath. But listen! You must leave now. “ the Elf’s eyes were wild with fear.
“What’s the rush?” Kael asked, looking to Kindle.
Brandir grabbed Kael’s vest and pulled him close.
“The Queen! She is dying!“