Achara spent the next two weeks learning with Laoren. She got in the daily routine of waking up in the morning and spending the better part of the morning reading about her gifts. She had a ravenous appetite for books consuming one after another and a knack for retaining much of what she read. Laoren then would spend several hours each afternoon working with her on exercises to hone her magic control. She spent hours focusing on interacting with everything large and small, even trees who Laoren said could respond to magic just like animals and people. She found the exercises to be monotony and mundane, but Laoren assured her that it was necessary to do them so that her control of the magic would be focused and trued rather than rash and sporadic as she had seen. As she focused on control, Laoren also taught her how to be more passive in her approach, letting her mind do the work rather than through the brute force of magic. She noticed that she was less keyed up when she was done.
“I have to admit,” she said on the morning of the fourteenth day. “I had no idea what went into seeing. The subtlety and the nuance of everything are incredible.”
“I’m glad you understand this now. It’s why you can’t just rush into it. But even so, you’ve made incredible progress. Most students take years to master what you’ve managed to accomplish in just these two weeks. But you’re also dedicated. I did not doubt in my mind that you would be, though.”
At that, Jorn hobbled in the room on a cane. Achara fell silent in his presence and went back to eating.
“It looks like Yiew’s work with you is paying off, too,” Laoren said.
“Yeah,” Jorn replied. “The old man has a way with that healing thing. I thought it was just for ailments and that kind of thing, but he’s been able to do a number on my leg. The pain is gone, and I’ve got some use out of it again.” Jorn got some food and sat down at the table with Achara and Laoren. Achara continued to look down at her food.
“Once you heal up more, you can be on your way then,” Laoren said.
“On my way?” he asked. “I don’t have a way out of here without her and Camon.”
Laoren raised his eyebrows and looked at Achara. She glanced at Laoren, “What?”
“Is that true?” Laoren asked.
“About him leaving?” she asked.
“He’s free to go whenever he wants,” she said as she took a bite of food. “I don’t care when he leaves or where he goes.”
“But if he can’t leave…” Laoren said.
“If he plans on leaving with us, then it will have to be when Camon is well and after he has accomplished his purpose here.”
Jorn sat down and kicked back with his feet on the table, “Well, I don’t mean to be rude, but it could be a while then.”
Laoren nodded, “So it is.” He got up and put some things back in the cupboard. “But if you’re going to be here for a while and you’re able to move about, I think we have some work for you to do.”
“Like what?” Jorn asked.
“Well, there are some gardens that need tending to. And some of the tunnels could use a good sweeping and mopping,” Laoren said.
“Look, I don’t want to be here,” he commented. “I just don’t have a choice.”
“She said you’re free to go,” Laoren said.
“Oh, I see now,” Jorn said. “You’re trying to act like I have a choice in the matter. There’s no way out of here that doesn’t result in me dying of thirst, starvation, or being eaten by some creature. So the way I see it, I’m your prisoner until an opportunity to leave presents itself.”
“Well, if that’s the case, then, you can just do as I say,” Laoren rebutted.
Jorn groaned. “Fine,” he said. “I’ll help you with your work. Show me the broom and bucket.”
“Not just yet. Enjoy your breakfast first,” Laoren said.
Just then, Yiew came in. “Achara,” he said, “You may want to come with me. There’s someone who wants to see you…”
Achara looked at Yiew, then jumped up and didn’t stop at Yiew. She ran right past him down the tunnel to the infirmary. She threw the door open and looked at Camon, sitting up on the bed, awake. She ran over to him and gave him the biggest hug she had ever given anyone. “I am so glad you’re back!”
“Easy now,” Camon said. “I’m still a little sore, but I am glad to be back. Moreover, I’m glad to see you in one piece. I guess this means that you got my message.”
“Yes, loud and clear,” she said. “How did you managed to do that?”
“It’s hard to say,” Camon said. “I don’t know much about seer magic, but I tried to envision you and my plight in my mind while channeling magic through two of my stones. I overloaded them, and they exploded, which sent a powerful blast of magic in every direction. It’s all I could think of because getting off that ledge any other way was probably going to result in a long fall to the bottom of the mesa.”
“Meashen and I both felt it,” she said. “But I was the only one that saw the message.”
“It was intended for you, so I guess it worked,” Camon said. “I guess that makes me a seer now then.”
Achara laughed, “No, not exactly, but it’s a good start.”
Yiew and Laoren came into the room, and Achara turned towards them. “Good to see you’re awake old friend,” Laoren greeted.
“Good to see you, too,” Camon said. “Thanks for taking care of Achara, as I’m sure you did. And thank you, Yiew, for taking care of me.” Yiew acknowledged with a nod leaning on his cane. Camon sat up more in the bed and adjusted the tunic he was wearing.
“How did you ever manage to slay that aphiptere?” Laoren asked. “I’ve never heard of that before.”
“Luck,” Camon said. “When it attacked, I intended to slice its underbelly open with my sword, but it didn’t work. Instead, the sword got lodged in the beast’s underside. It took me for a ride through the air up to the ledge. My guess is that the sword didn’t kill him quickly, but it was bad enough that he eventually succumbed to the wound.”
“It didn’t slice it because they have virtually indestructible scales,” Laoren said. “That’s why nobody has ever been able to take one down. But I suppose the magic of the blade was enough to penetrate its armor but not enough to cut it.”
“Indeed,” Camon said. “I’ve never encountered something it couldn’t cut, so I’ll remind myself next time I encounter one not to do that stupid maneuver again.” A second later, Jorn came limping in behind the two monks.
“You’re still around,” Camon said.
“Surprised to see me?” Jorn asked smugly.
“A little,” Camon answered. “I figured you’d faced Achara’s wrath by now.”
“Who says I didn’t?” Jorn asked again.
“You’re still alive, aren’t you?” Camon retorted.
“Well, she did everything short of that. She kicked me in my bad leg, knocked me off my horse, kicked me a few more times while I was down, and then practically starved me to death.”
Camon, Yiew, and Laoren were all looking at Achara. “Is this true,” Camon enquired.
Achara was about to protest but paused for a second. “Yes, I did,” she admitted.
Camon looked at Jorn, “It sounds to me like you got off light if that’s all she did to you.”
Laoren raised his eyebrows at Camon’s response while Yiew smirked.
“I see how this is,” Jorn protested. “No sympathy. Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad to see you’re back. You saved our bacon back there.”
Camon’s eyes opened wide. He was speechless for a few seconds, then mustered, “Your welcome.”
Jorn then hobbled out of the room back into the tunnel. The other four stood speechless for at least a minute before Achara spoke. “That’s the last thing I expected to come from his mouth,” she said. She looked at Yiew, “Have you been slipping him something?”
You smiled, “No, lass. He’s just coming around, I think. Maybe it’s time you do too.”
Achara nodded, “Yeah.”
“I take it was rough between you two,” Camon said.
“Yes,” Achara said. “He made things difficult for me. I would have left him for dead in the desert, but I knew that’s not what you would have done. You almost died saving him, and I couldn’t let that sacrifice be in vain. But after I pulled you off that ledge, he’s been much more agreeable. It’s been me that’s been harder to forgive.”
Camon rubbed his forehead, “I can understand that. He was brought out here against his will, and he was our prisoner, and there’s no way out for him even now. I hate to admit it, but he may be the bigger man here.”
“No,” Achara said. “He’s not half the man you are.”
“How exactly did you get me off that ledge?” Camon asked, changing the subject.
“I saw your message in my mind, so I rummaged and found all the rope and tack I could find around here. I then tracked you down and used the tack to go down to you, then used the horses to hoist you out.”
“You went down to me?” Camon asked incredulously. “Like, as in over the edge of the cliff to the ledge on a rope?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Wow…” he muttered. “I owe you one.”
Camon then turned to Laoren, “I suppose she has told you why we are here.”
“She has,” Laoren answered. “You’re looking for answers to solve a mystery. She also told me about Satda’s murder.”
“You knew him?” Camon asked.
“Yes,” Laoren said. “He spent quite a while here doing research. I thought he was obsessed with trivial matters, but he was apparently on to something if it brought you out here.”
“I just hope I can find what he was trying to tell me when he died,” Camon said.
“If he found it in this library, then I’m certain that you will find it too,” Laoren said. “It’s only a matter of time.”
“Speaking of time, how long was I out for?” Camon asked.
“Two weeks to the day since Achara brought you here,” Laoren said. “You should be so lucky to have healed so quickly.”
“It’s the water from the Lifewell,” Yiew said. “I’ve been studying its properties for some time now. Just drinking it can help, but I’ve managed to figure out how to use it along with other apothecary treatments to treat you as well as Jorn. The results have been pretty amazing. He’s got the use of his leg back, and you are all but healed.”
“Do you think Jorn will ever get the full use back?” Camon asked.
“Hard to say,” Yiew said. “But at least he can walk. Why do you ask?”
“If he is turning over a new leaf, I just would hate to see him throw that away and go back to his old life,” Camon said.
“So, you intend to redeem him then?” Laoren asked
“No, not at all,” Camon said. “I have no plan there. I was hoping that maybe something else might pique his interest other than mercenary work.”
“He could use a little guidance, I think,” Laoren said.
“Perhaps you could give it to him then,” Camon suggested.
“Me? Oh no,” Laoren objected. “He’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want to be here and will leave at the first opportunity. Now that you’re awake, I’ll wager that it’s you.”
“I’m not sure he would want to travel with me,” Camon said. “He was a prisoner. Maybe he still is.”
“Might I offer a word of advice?” Laoren asked.
“Shoot,” Camon responded.
“Don’t treat him like one, and perhaps he won’t act like one,” Laoren said. “He needs something to do. If you can figure out that part, I think you might find him more agreeable than not.”
“Or I might find myself dead and Achara in chains on the way back to the West Watch too,” Camon retorted. “That’s what he was hired to do. I wouldn’t put it past him to attempt that again.”
“But you don’t intend to keep him a prisoner forever, do you?” Laoren said.
“No, but I am hesitant to do otherwise,” Camon said. “But thanks for the advice. I’ll see what I can do.”
Laoren nodded, “I’ll leave you two now. I am glad to see you are back.” At that, Laoren and Yiew left and closed the door. The candles lighting the room flickered a bit then went still.
“Jorn is a sore subject around here,” Camon said.
“Laoren thinks he’s redeemable,” Achara said. “I would like to believe it’s the truth, but Jorn has been as contemptuous as ever, but then every now and then will say something like what he did just now. He apologized to me too. I was less gracious than you were, and I’ve been ignoring him for the last two weeks because I really don’t want anything to do with him. I loathe the fact that he might be coming with us.”
“He’s our responsibility,” Camon said. “Rather, he’s my responsibility. I brought him here, and you didn’t kill him on my account. Perhaps Laoren is right. He’s been around a lot and had to deal with all kinds of people in his days. He seems to be a good judge of character, and what Jorn needs is a little guidance. I’m just not sure I’m the one that can give it to him.”
“I think you could, but the timing is terrible,” Achara added.
“I don’t want to do anything that would make your life any harder than it already is either.”
“I chose this life. You didn’t force it on me, and you don’t hold me captive.”
“So, what would you do if I brought him along?” Camon asked.
“I’d go along too,” she said. “I wouldn’t like it, but I understand your sense of duty. And all things being equal, it’s probably the right thing to do even if it is disagreeable.”
“I’ll have to think about it,” Camon said. “But we have other pressing matters to attend to.”
“Like what?” Achara said.
“For starters, breakfast,” Camon said. “I’m famished.”
Achara smiled, “Let me help you up.” With that, she helped him on to his feet, and he took a few steps and stretched his legs, back, and arms. They then walked to the door leaving the room to find something to eat.