Galen stood next to Princess Lexine at a table in his healing class at the Royal Academy. On the table in front of them were three large bowls, each containing water tainted by a different poison. They had to use Mystics to try and decide what poison was in each bowl and clear it from the water. It was one of the first steps of learning how to identify and clear poisons from the bloodstream of an actual person.
Galen placed his hand over the first bowl and moved his fingers a bit, feeling the water. Lexine closed her eyes and placed both her hands over the bowl, and sighed slightly.
“What do you think?” asked Galen as he continued to move the water slowly with his hand.
“I am not sure yet; my Mystics ability is not as strong as yours, but I can tell there is something there,” said Princess Lexine with a furrowed brow.
Galen moved the water a bit more, separating it from the other substance he could feel mixed in. The feel of it ran through his fingers and his arms and over his chest. He manipulated it until he could faintly taste it on his tongue.
“It has a sweet taste, I think, and it seems to be sticky in substance.” Galen removed his hand, the sensation of the poison leaving him quickly.
“Sounds like the juice from the berries of the tenebrious bush,” said Princess Lexine. “They are very sweet, and known for their ability to stick to the tongue when eaten, makes it very hard not to ingest.”
“I think you are right, princess,” said Galen putting his hands back over the water. “We could flush it out of the water, but it would take a lot of time.”
“Someone who ingested this would not have a lot of time.” Lexine shook her head. “I think you might do better with fire.”
“I think so as well, but it will be tricky. You could do a lot of damage if you aren’t careful. Would you like to try it?” asked Galen.
“No, as I said, I don’t have your abilities. I am proficient at binding runes with Mystics, and I could probably manage to flush a poison with water, but I don’t think I could do anything like burning a poison away.”
“Why don’t you go behind me as I work, and flush any I leave behind, or see if you could replace water I evaporate from getting rid of the poison. If this was someone’s actual bloodstream, you could help me by healing almost instantly, anything I accidentally damaged.”
Princess Lexine nodded at Galen, and positioned her hands over the edge of the bowl as Galen put his hand over his chest.
“I’m ready,” said Galen after taking a deep breath.
He spread the fingers on his hand, causing a slight blue flame to appear under the water’s surface. He placed his other hand over the bowl to feel the water as he used the flame to burn away the poison. He tried to be careful, but knew he had hit some of the water as the flame consumed the poison in the bowl. Lexine was behind him, replicating the water, replacing what was lost.
After a tense few minutes, Galen flexed his hands and lowered them away from the bowl.
“I think that is it,” said Galen looking at Lexine. “The poison should be completely gone now if I did it right.”
Lexine placed both of her hands over the bowl and moved them back and forth slowly.
“I think you are right, and it feels as if the same amount of water is in the bowl as before.” Princess Lexine smiled at him. “Well, done Galen.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you coming in behind me and cleaning up my mess,” said Galen giving Princess Lexine a wide smile. She blushed and looked down at the floor. “Is something wrong?”
“No, not at all.” Princess Lexine looked back up at Galen. “We should go on to the next bowl.”
They worked together to identify and rid the next two bowls of the poisons. When they were done, Instructor Sarin came over to evaluate their work. He put his hand over each bowl one at a time, making the water swirl in each container. When he was done, he looked up at Princess Lexine and Galen.
“Very well done, both of you. I didn’t think you would be able to get everything out of the first bowl, especially. Did you not find it hard to flush with its properties?”
“I didn’t use water,” said Galen.
“You didn’t?” asked Sarin surprised. “Are you telling me you used fire to burn out the poison?”
“I did,” said Galen simply. “It seemed the best solution, knowing it was the juice from the berries of a tenebrilus bush.”
“Why did you think it was the best solution?”
“If someone had ingested this, they would not have much time,” explained Princess Lexine. “To flush the system would take too long, and it would be difficult to clear the bloodstream completely.”
“The only solution was to burn the poison out from the water, leaving no trace behind.”
“I sense no change in the water level,” said Sarin. “How were you able to not damage the water at all?”
“I wasn’t. I did cause a small amount of the water to evaporate. Princess Lexine went behind me, repairing any damage I did.”
“Yes, if this was an actual person, the hope is I could have worked with Galen to help heal anything that went wrong.”
Sarin nodded. “That is very clever and could work. I think you two did the best you could with this poison. It is particularly tricky, but a person can be saved from it, as you two have demonstrated.”
“I believe a person can be saved from most if not all poisons,” said Galen looking over the bowls. “You just have to be clever and think about what you are doing.”
“You are right for most poisons. Unfortunately, as we discussed earlier, there are at least three one could not recover from. That is why most kingdoms are now almost completely devoid of the plants and insects that cause them.” Sarin moved his hand around over one of the bowls making the water swirl.
“But they do still exist,” said Lexine.
“Yes, there are those out there who grow the plants or find ways to breed the insects for the poisons. It is illegal, of course, but can be done very secretly.”
“The point being to harm someone, I imagine,” said Galen.
“Of course, those poisons are hard to identify or trace. If someone dies from them, it could seem accidental or as if they died from something else entirely. They have all three long been used by assassins.”
“Are there ways to tell someone has been poisoned by any of them?” asked Lexine.
“Yes, they are subtle. All three will cause immense pain, but so do many conditions of the body. Misma is very sour and will cause one to hallucinate. It will eventually attack the lungs, causing breathing to be impossible. The venom from a scorpion of Aciea will make someone taste smoke as if standing in a large fire. It causes eventual sleep that no one will wake up from. The dew from a nettle weed has no taste but will cause one’s mouth to run dry with no way to quench thirst. It also causes an extreme fever that leads to eventual death.”
Galen nodded his head, wishing he could ask more, but he got the sense Sarin wanted to move on. He would have to see about finding some books on the subject. Sarin discussed the other two bowls with Princess Lexine and Galen, and seemed satisfied with their work. They cleaned up their station as Sarin went to other tables to observe and evaluate others’ work.
After class Princess Lexine walked with Galen out of the Academy and into the small forest that led to the Fortress. She had a small bag with her that Galen knew contained rune tiles. She wanted to try out her Mystic binding with rune divination, and Galen had agreed to help her. They walked to the small pond and found a stone bench on the far side. Galen sat down next to her, leaving a space for her to throw out the rune tiles.
“Now, from my readings and studies, I have decided to use stone on the past since it cannot be changed. I feel like this adds steadiness to the first reading. Do you agree?” asked Princess Lexine looking at Galen.
“I do,” said Galen as he watched Lexine close her eyes for a moment before she placed the cloth bag into the palm of one of her hands. She tipped the bag over between them, making many rune tiles spill out. She placed her hand over the tiles, making them all turn face down, jumbling up as they did so.
“Okay, Galen, pick your past Princess Lexine pulled a very small book out of the pocket of her dress.
Galen placed his hand over the scattered runes. He could feel the stone Mystic radiating from them. He moved his hand around until he felt the strongest binding to one tile. He picked it up and handed it to Princess Lexine.
She looked at the tile and then flipped open her small book.
“You have chosen water over wood,” said Princess Lexine as she read from her book. “This means you were constantly in motion, being remade. It can mean times of intense learning and change.”
Galen nodded. “I would say that sounds right, but that could be the same for many people. Didn’t most of us change and learn as we grew up?”
Princess Lexine smiled. “I thought you said you would keep an open mind about this?”
“I am,” said Galen. “But I will still point out obvious things about divination. It doesn’t mean I don’t think you aren’t clever for trying this.”
“I’m going to use fire next because I believe it symbolizes trials through fire, as we live our lives in the moment. We don’t know what is going to happen with the decisions we make now, so it is very much a trial by error.”
“Makes sense,” said Galen.
Princess Lexine placed her hands over the tiles, and a tiny lick of fire jumped across the tiles, quickly hitting each one.
“Time to pick your present, Galen,” said Princess Lexine.
Galen again placed his hands over the tiles, feeling warmth coming from them. He stopped when he felt one tile that seemed to pulsate. He picked it up and handed it to Princess Lexine.
She again looked at the tile and flipped through her book. Finding a page, she skimmed down it.
“This is arrow and fire, which means possibilities. These possibilities can be many things but mainly have to do with fate and love.” Princess Lexine looked up at Galen.
Galen swallowed as he looked at Princess Lexine. He smiled a little as he said, “I guess I am deciding my fate as we speak. I am attending the Royal Academy and going through the Disciplines of the Sentinel. I will have a decision one day soon if I will become an Elite or do something else.”
“Do you know what you will do, Galen?” asked Princess Lexine quietly.
“I have always thought to be an Elite of the Sentinel. It is what I have dreamed of for a long time.”
“But you could be many things. You could be a great healer someday, maybe the best the kingdom has ever seen. You are so clever and learn so fast; I bet you could be over even Sarin eventually. Maybe you could be on the king’s council someday, especially when my brother is the king. I know he thinks a lot of you.”
Galen looked at Princess Lexine. “You seemed to have put a lot of thought into my future.”
Princess Lexine nodded. “I have, lately. I care about you, Galen. I think you know how much I care about you. I could see myself caring about you even more very soon if you would let me.”
Galen rubbed his eyes with his hands. He had spent many hours thinking of the princess lately. As much as he told himself not to, he could not get her out of his mind. He hadn’t even known her very long, just over two months, but she was already very important to him.
“Even if I became the greatest healer in the kingdom and one day made it on the king’s council, I would still be Galen Ellis, the son of a low lord. Besides, it could take years and years for me ever to become those things you spoke of. You could not wait that long for me.”
“I would,” said Princess Lexine taking his hand. “I have met so many young men over the past few years, and all of them left me cold and empty with their shallowness. Only you have ever made me want to spend time with a man. You are the only one I have ever spent time dreaming of a future with.”
“But you must see how impossible it is, your highness.”
“Please call me Lexine, Galen. At least when we are alone. Can you not do it?”
“I cannot,” said Galen. “If I start thinking of you as anything but a princess of Lanoxan, if I start using your name, it won’t be long until I put the word my in front of it.”
“Would that be awful?” asked Princess Lexine as she gripped Galen’s hand. “I think I might already be yours. I want to be yours, Galen, and I want you to be mine.”
“But you’ve only known me for two months,” said Galen. “Can you be so sure?”
“Yes, I am very sure. I have known some men for quite a while, and I could tell you after two hours of meeting them they are not for me, but you, you are everything I could have ever wanted. Do you not feel for me after these two months of friendship?”
“You know I do,” said Galen. “I have tried not to. I have reasoned and reasoned with myself, but you are the first time I have found I cannot listen to reason. My heart will not allow it.”
Princess Lexine smiled at him, letting his hand go. “Pick your future, Galen.”
He looked down at the tiles. “What are you binding them with?”
“All the Mystics because that is what the future is. It is all our decisions, other’s choices, and the consequences of things we can’t control.” Princess Lexine waved her hands over the tiles.
Galen saw droplets of water from the pond fall on the tiles, he felt the steadiness of the stone bench, he saw small flames run over each tile, and he felt a gentle breeze around them. When they stopped, Galen ran his hands over the tiles as he looked at Princess Lexine. He stopped when he felt one call to him. He picked it up and handed it to her.
She held it in her hand and looked at Galen with a smile before standing up. She started walking slowly towards the pond, looking out over it. Galen stood up and walked to her side.
“Are you not going to look at it?” asked Galen.
“No,” said Lexine as she put it is in her pocket. “Because I already know your future, no matter what path you choose.”
“What is it?” asked Galen as she took his hand, turning towards him. He turned to face her.
“It is me,” she said, looking at him. “No matter what choice you make, if it is to be an Elite of the Sentinel or a healer for the kingdom, I will be by your side somehow. You will never be able to get rid of me, so you shouldn’t even try. I know our future Galen because I am choosing it today. Even if you don’t accept it yet, one day, you will.”
She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed Galen’s lips gently. He closed his eyes and leaned in, grabbing her other hand and bringing her close.
“I’m pretty sure this is the most illogical thing I have ever done,” whispered Galen as he pulled back slightly.
“Love is rarely logical,” said Lexine. “That is how you know it is real.”
Galen couldn’t find a reason to argue with her, and he didn’t want to. He leaned in and kissed her, pulling her close to him.