When Achara got back into the garden, she stopped and waited, knowing that someone would soon be out to greet her. And eventually, Laoren came out of the tunnel into the garden with his candle held high, and he saw Achara, the two horses, then the shape of a man on the back of the horse.
“He’s alive,” Achara said sternly.
“By the Light, you have found him!” Laoren said. “May I never doubt you ever again, child. Please forgive me for not believing you before.”
Achara swallowed hard, then said, “There’s nothing to apologize for. The important thing is that Camon is back here, safe.”
“I can’t even imagine what you had to go through to get him…”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said. “He needs a bed, food, and drink.”
“Right this way,” Laoren said. He led Achara and the horses through the tunnels to a room with a high bed on it with a priest’s table next to it. The room also had a large, glass front cabinet filled with bottles, cordials, viles, and flasks of liquids of all colors. On a nearby shelf, there were several instruments and apparatuses that Achara could not identify. “This is our infirmary,” Laoren said. “We can keep him here. I will have Yiew have a look at him as soon as I can wake him.”
“Who is Yiew?” Achara asked, “I don’t think I’ve met him.”
“He’s a former priest from the east,” Laoren said. “He served as a Healer in Rahtneua for many years and then as an instructor at a monastery teaching the healing arts before coming here.”
“How is that you can help him now, but not out there on the mesa?” Achara asked.
“Here, in the library, we do what we need to do to survive,” Laoren said.
“But you would be helping him, thus helping the world,” she said. “How is this different?”
“Our guiding principles are not meant to be taken as rules,” he said. “When someone is here, we help them. But we don’t make it a point to go out of our way to do so.” Laoren lit a few candles in the room, and Achara coaxed Camon’s horse to lay down. She, with the help of Laoren, got him off the horse and into the bed. “He can rest now,” Laoren said. “I’ll go get Yiew.”
Achara pulled the covers of the bed up over Camon and sat down in a chair next to him. She waited in silence for about fifteen minutes before Laoren came back with Yiew. Yiew ambled with a cane behind Laoren. He too had white hair and wore the long white robes like the other residents of the library did. Yiew saw Camon and Achara and smiled at her, but then went right to Camon’s side. He then arranged the stones on the priest’s table, and he hummed summoning magic. He then laid his hands on Camon’s shoulder and side for several minutes before letting the magic fade. “There now,” he said. “He did manage to crack a few ribs and dislocate a shoulder, but he should be able to heal completely in a few weeks. I’ve helped relax some of the muscles and get his shoulder realigned. He had some internal bleeding too, but that’s stopped now. It’s a good thing you found him when you did. I don’t think he would have lasted much longer in his state. He’s a little dehydrated, but I think he will be just fine.”
“Thank you,” Achara said.
Yiew continued, “As for his coma, I can’t say much to address that. Sometimes, a body will faint as a way to help alleviate pain. He certainly has had a lot of that. There’s also the residual effects of magic all over him. Maligned magic can also produce this effect.”
“I’ve seen that before,” Achara said. “The Healers in Rahtneua were able to restore a girl I know who was the victim of mixing magic.”
“Rahtneua has the best Healers in all the known world,” Yiew said. “I was one of them at a time, but that’s really outside my area of expertise. I would be hesitant to try and treat that.”
“I understand,” Achara said.
“Time is your best cure for his ailments,” Yiew said. “It’s best to let him rest now. And you too need rest.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s just hard to right now. But thank you again.”
“I understand,” Yiew said with a smile. He then walked out of the room.
“Yiew is right,” Achara said. “I’ll let him rest.”
“Good call,” Laoren said. With that, she blew out the candles, and she and Laoren led the horses back to the stable where Achara unsaddled them and gave them a rub, singing to them as she did. After this, she went back to the room with the cupboard and ate some food. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was until now. The meal was simple, but satisfying along with the water. She felt much better after that. She then found her way back to her room and, in the darkness, got in the bed and fell asleep again.
When she woke, she again had no idea what time it was. She got out of bed and dressed and found her way back to the room she had eaten. Before she got there, she could see daylight coming through the opening in the ceiling. When she entered the room, the brightness of daylight was almost blinding, but her eyes adjusted, and she could see that she was in the room with Jorn, who was seated at the table eating.
“Welcome back,” he said.
Achara ignored him and went to the cupboard and opened them. There was bread and some cheese that she removed, and she ate them without sitting at the table wordlessly.
“You can sit at the table,” he said. “I won’t bite you.”
Achara continued to ignore him. She then found a cup and a pitcher of water and poured a drink and again drank it wordlessly without looking at Jorn.
“At least you can say hello,” Jorn said.
Achara turned and looked at him with a scowl on her face, then turned and started walking back towards the tunnel that led to the stables.
“That was a brave thing you did there!” he shouted to her.
“The difference between bravery and stupidity is the outcome,” she retorted.
Jorn laughed, “That’s pretty good. Where did you hear that?”
“Camon says it a lot,” she answered.
“I’m glad that he’s safe now,” Jorn said. “Laoren told me you brought him back last night.”
“Yeah, he’s safe,” she said, and she then turned to walk away.
“I’m sorry I was a prig yesterday,” he shouted back.
Achara paused in her steps again. She turned around and walked back into the room and asked, “What did you say?”
“I said I was sorry,” Jorn said.
“Why are you all of a sudden trying to play nice?” she asked. “You’ve been nothing but a pain since we met. I admit it wasn’t under the best circumstances, but you were a prig even right after Camon about died saving your life!”
He started, “Look, kid –”
“Don’t call me kid,” Achara interrupted.
“Fine,” he said. “Chill for a minute. You can lose the tough girl attitude.”
“You could lose the patronizing attitude,” she said.
“Look, I know I’m not tactful,” he explained. “I’m no saint, and I know I lack manners. But I was talking to Laoren. He got me thinking about a lot of things, like how I treated you. He admired your courage to stand up to him and your loyalty to Camon. There’s a lot more to you than meets the eye. You carry that tough girl attitude around, but that’s not who you are. I just didn’t see it. And I’m sorry.”
“Jorn, I want to believe you, but I can’t,” Achara rebutted. “So please try to understand if I don’t find your apology sincere. You’ve doubted me at every turn. You’ve done nothing to make things easier for me. I just about lost Camon, and you mocked me for it. An apology isn’t going to make all that go away.”
“Understandable,” he said. “But can we agree to at least get off each other’s back?”
“I think it would be best if you didn’t speak to me for a while,” she said.
“Fine then,” Jorn said. “It’s going to be hard to ignore each other, though.”
Achara squinted her eyes and cocked her head, “Until such a time as I deem fit to change my mind, I’ll do my best.” She then spun around and walked away from him. Jorn said nothing as he watched her go down the tunnel and disappear into the darkness.
Achara found her way to Camon’s room, and she went in. There was a candle lit in the room, and he was propped up and cleaned up. His clothes had been removed and replaced with a linen tunic, his face washed, his hair combed, and his beard trimmed. If Achara didn’t know better, she would have thought him to be merely napping on the bed. She sat down in the chair next to his bed and reached for the saddlebag that had his things in it. She removed his sword, five stones, and the journal and laid them all on the table next to the chair. She then turned back to Camon and laid her hand on his and closed her eyes. “Oh, Camon,” she whispered. “Where are you?” She then felt his hand twitch as she spoke to him in the whisper. She opened her eyes and looked at his face. He was still lying on the pillow as before. She then closed her eyes again, and this time asked in a whisper, “What happened?” There was no reply. She then sighed, “Just a whim, I guess.” But she stayed by his side for the better part of an hour looking over him.
After a while, Yiew came in. “Oh,” he said. “There you are. Laoren has been looking for you.”
“Has he?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I believe he’s in the garden right now.”
“I’ll go to him then,” she said.
“Good thing,” Yiew said. “I need to check our patient here. It’s good to be able to heal again.”
“Yes,” Achara said. “And thank you for all you have done.”
“Oh, you’re quite welcome,” Yiew said.
With that, Achara got up and left the room and took a series of tunnels to avoid having to cross paths with Jorn. She then emerged in the garden, which was ablaze with color in the daylight. She saw ample amounts of green, but there were also flowers red, orange, yellow, blue, and violet all about the terraces. Each terrace had an aqueduct that fed water to the plants that then fed the next level through a series of waterfalls that sang like music with the bubbling of water. Along with plants were bees buzzing and butterflies fluttering from flower to flower gathering nectar. The butterflies’ brilliant patterns complemented the vibrant colors of the flowers in what looked like a living tapestry of color and details.
Achara stood in amazement, “In all the world, I’ve never seen a garden quite as lovely as this.”
“It is quite impressive, isn’t it?” Laoren remarked. “And to think that it’s here in the middle of a desolate wasteland. But where there are life-giving elements, there you will find life.”
“This is spring-fed,” she remarked. “And it’s quite literally magical. I can feel the rushing sensation.”
“Very astute,” Laoren said. “This garden and others like it in this place are fed by a Bohnamchiwit or more commonly called a Lifewell.”
“I’ve never heard of that before,” she said.
“That’s probably because the one here is the only one known to exist in the whole world,” Laoren said. “They are legendary like the Paladins in many ways. The waters are enchanted with life-giving properties that allow this and other gardens to flourish all year long. It’s how we can feed ourselves here. We tend the gardens, and they bring forth fruits, vegetables, and grains – enough to feed everyone here and a few goats that we use for milk and cheese and chickens for eggs. We’re completely self-sufficient because of it.”
“That’s incredible,” she said. “Where is the well?”
“It’s in another garden. I’ll give you a tour when you’re ready,” Laoren said. “But the reason I called for you is to talk about what happened last night. Tell me what happened. How did you find and rescue Camon?”
“I found him using some things I’ve been practicing for months now,” Achara said. “I found his presence and was able to use that to home in on his position. When I found him, he was on the ledge, just like the vision I had. I rigged up a rope and went down to him and was able to tie him up so that I could pull him out with the rope.”
“And the aphiptere?” Laoren asked.
“Dead,” she said. “He somehow managed to slay it.”
“Incredible,” Laoren said. “Both his deed and yours. In all my years, I’ve never heard of anyone doing what you did or what he did, even in legends.”
“So the vision was true,” she said.
“There’s absolutely no denying it now,” Laoren said. “You have taught me much through this ordeal. Do you have any idea how he reached you?”
“I only found five stones when I found him,” she said. “He sacrificed two of them. By my reckoning, it was the red one and the yellow one.
“Passion and truth. That is who you are.”
“I’m no hero. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Camon would have done… no, Camon has done no less for me on many occasions.”
“You’ve managed to win over Jorn through your actions,” Laoren said.
“Yeah, but that’s a whole different issue.”
“I understand your bitterness towards him. And I don’t blame you to be quite honest. He’s not exactly the warmest individual. But try not to let the bitterness creep into your heart. It can unmake you.”
“But that doesn’t mean I have to like him. He’s oily. A snake in the grass. I don’t trust him, nor do I want anything to do with him.”
“Indeed. But just be mindful that contempt will make your heart hate. You’re right that you don’t have to like him, but try not to hate him either. You can learn to be objective in relationships just like you can with knowledge.”
“Thanks,” Achara said. “Now, about that tour…”
“So, you would finally like to see the library, its books, and all of its gardens?” Laoren asked.
“Yes,” she said with a smile. “I would.”