“Sounds like you two are having fun,” Eupheme said as she walked out of the cave where they’d made camp for the night.
“For once, I am,” Tythel replied honestly, throwing the last stone at the river. It splashed with a resounding thunk, not even skipping a second.. “Even though I am terrible at skipping stones.”
“The score is thirty-seven to zero,” Tellias said.
“I still think hitting the wall on the other side of the canyon should be worth something,” Tythel muttered, turning her attention to Eupheme. “How’s your arm?”
Eupheme held it up. The improvised splint was now wrapped in a dark cloth that seemed to absorb the sunlight. It’s not cloth, Tythel realized with a start. It’s darkness. “This should give me some use of it,” Eupheme explained. “Though I have to be careful for a bit or I’ll hurt it worse.”
“I didn’t think the shadow could heal,” Tellias said, sounding as impressed as Tythel felt.
Eupheme smirked. “You thought right. Healing is the domain of Lumcasters. For us Umbrists, we can bind, and we can remove the pain. That’s why I have to be careful – I won’t realize I’m hurting it.”
“That still sounds like…well, I’ll be honest Eupheme, I can think of a few times I would have liked to just have the pain stop,” Tythel said, trying her best not to sound cross, but remembering being impaled on the sword. Or the burning in her throat. Or cracking her ribs. Or losing her eye. How am I not dead? Tythel wondered as she stopped the tally of injuries before it became truly depressing.
“I can’t maintain it on someone else,” Eupheme said with an apologetic shrug. “Not without special materials. If we can get a Priestess of the Shadow to infuse silk, I can work with that. Otherwise, I’m limited to using it personally, and I need it to be night, and I need an hour.” She flashed them a grin. “On the positive side, there’s absolutely no risk of it turning me into a mutant.”
“It’s definitely better than light in that way,” Tythel agreed.
“Which reminds me,” Tellias said. Tythel had to fully move her head to see him, since he was standing on her blindside. “Have you considered using the light to regrow your eye?”
“No,” Tythel said, unable to keep the bitter note out of her voice. “I was too close to a lumwell for too long. If I attempted to use light to regrow, the risk of mutation…it’s too high, I absorbed too much. It’ll eventually be safe, but by then the eye will be fully healed. From what Armin explained, the healed spot will be my new ‘default’ state.”
Tellias winced. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
Tythel shook her head and forced herself to smile. From Tellias’ reaction, it looked more like a grimace, and Tythel stopped before she disturbed him with her expression. “It’s alright. I had a great time this morning, I’m not going to let this ruin it.”
Tellias flashed her a smile of his own.
“I heard from Armin,” Eupheme said. “He said that Duke d’Monchy wants us to meet him at the rendezvous point. No help’s coming for us, we’re too spread out. Armin and a few others are going to hunt down the lead you gave, your highness. He’s also cutting off songs for the next week. We don’t want to risk the Alohym overhearing.”
“Wait, what?” Tythel asked, feeling her blood run cold. “Armin is leading an expedition into the wastes of Dor’nah?”
Tellias frowned at Tythel. “It was your suggestion,” he said hesitantly.
“I expected to be going when I made the suggestion!” Tythel was shouting, but she couldn’t help herself. “It’s…flath it, that place is overrun with creations of draconic necromancy. Grejhak reigned there for nearly a millennia and had all that time to permeate the land with his power. There’s no way to know what’s waiting for them in there. All for what, the possibility of treasure? I said it was only possible! I didn’t even get to find the maps, or write what I knew!”
“There’s no way to be sure there’s not a hoard there,” Tellias said, his tone as placating as possible. He looked more startled than anything else. Of course he is, Tythel thought, her nictitating membranes blinking in rapid anger. He doesn’t know you gave the suggestion just to keep their hands away from Karjon’s hoard.
“Sing back to him,” Tythel said to Eupheme, ignoring Tellias. “Tell him to call it off. Tell him to-”
Eupheme cut her off with quick, hard gesture before Tythel could go any further. “He cut off all songs. There’s no way to get messages right now. And before you say it, we’ll never catch up to them in time.”
Tythel took a deep breath to steady her anger. “There’s nothing you can do?”
Eupheme shook her head. “I’m sorry, your highness.”
Tythel sighed. “Damnit. And on top of that, we can’t even go to the rendezvous.”
“What?” Tellias and Eupheme asked in near perfect unison.
“Remember that flying Alohym from the fight?”
Tellias grimaced. “How can I forget?”
“Well,” Tythel said, “I could hear it during the fight, as high up as it was. It was coming after me. It called me a monster. It said I wouldn’t escape. Called me a mongrel fahik. Which, incidentally, I’ve never heard before. Do either of you know what it means?”
Tellias coughed and looked down awkwardly. “It’s a portmanteau of fahid and phik, two words in the Alohym’s tongue. Fahid means flesh or meat. Phik means pit or hole. Put together, they’re an insult specifically geared towards women.”
Tythel cocked her head. “How is that an insult? ‘Meat-hole?’ I don’t understand how that could be used as an insult.”
Tellias looked at Eupheme, who gave him a smile. “Yes, please, Baron Tellias, explain to the princess how meat-hole could be an insult to a woman.”
“Well,” Tellias said with another cough. “It, erm, is used to imply a woman is…liberal. With her favors.”
Tythel cocked her head to the other side. “I don’t understand…Oh, wait! I understand.” Then her eyes widened as she properly comprehended it. “Nevermind, moving back to the original topic, let us never discuss this again.”
“No promises,” Eupheme muttered.
“Anyway,” Tythel said, dragging the word out to give herself time to recover from the embarrassment. “The point is that it…it was personally interested in killing me. I think it’s going to keep trying to find me. If we lead it back to the resistance, I don’t think they could shoot it out of the sky. I think we need to lure it away.”
Tythel took a deep breath. “And I think I know exactly where we can lead it. Where we might have a chance to beat it.”
“Where?” Tellias asked.
“We need to lure it back to my father’s valley,” Tythel said, wishing she had another answer – any other answer – to that question.