“You’re starting to catch frostbite you know,” I frowned. His eyes briefly wandered over to me.
“Hm, I can see why most people say you’re intimidating, but I’m sure I will understand better once your angry. After your fighting skills you are best known for your short-temper. Though, neither trait is too surprising given you grew up in the Fossatra Mountains in Katkin. It is the fourth harshest environment in Voyia, so clans there are known for their ferocity and combat skills. But they typically specialize in non-weapon combat and you’re proficient in a double bladed naginata. A versatile, yet tricky weapon to wield, but your mastery of it isn’t surprising either given Katkin is top notch in weaponry. Now, what I do find surprising though is your appearance, most of the people in Katkin have olive skin, but you are extremely pale for that region, especially the Fossatra Mountains. Also, your eyes are much darker, most people have pale blue or purples eyes there. Did your parents move to that area from another country, say Hudamela?” Caleb slowly strided over to Fletcher. His arms crossed behind his lower back, his staff diagonally behind him.
I huffed, placing my hands on my hips and shock my head. Typical Caleb, never caring about his wellbeing until it was life threatening and always focused on rectifying his curiosity. “Fletcher, if it wasn’t obvious this is Caleb,”
Fletcher glanced over at me and back to Caleb. He slid the unsheathed half of his naginata back into its sheath. His body relaxed a little as he studied Caleb. “My parents went there from Coam Island,”
Caleb stopped a few steps in front of Fletcher and his smile grew slightly while he pondered Fletcher’s reply. “I hadn’t considered Coam Island given the vaster distance and drastic difference in environment and climate. What prompted such a choice?”
“My parents were poor and the clans were in need of a butcher knowledgeable of the creatures of Voyia, so they took the opportunity for something better,”
“Yes, given the Coam’s Island expertise in food and drink, it would make sense that your father would possess such skills. Also, given how many of the creatures in the Fossatra Mountains have poison organs, the clans would desire such a person. But how was your father so well-versed in the creatures?” His smile grew a bit more and his eyes a little wider.
“My mother was originally from Carntwin and is very well read,”
Caleb let out a hardy chuckle. A full smile now on his lips. “You are proving more interesting than I originally perceived,”
Caleb began to ask something else, until I cut him off. “Caleb, we have more pressing matters right now,” I held up my left wrist as I walked towards them.
He looked over his shoulder at me and a gave a short nod. His jaw tightened. The smile instantly fell from his face. Grabbing Fletchers right arm with his free hand, he studied the small gray scale on his mate scar.
“Why can’t either of you ask before snatching my wrist?” Fletcher hissed, his burning eyes darted back and forth from Caleb and me.
“My, you are already living up to your reputation,” Caleb let go of his only to grasp mine.
I laughed as Fletcher struggled to suppress his growl behind clenched teeth. His nostrils flared. His face reddened. It was so easy to get him wound up.
Caleb released mine. “Are you guys exhibiting any of the symptoms?”
Fletcher cocked an eyebrow at me and I shrugged. He sighed. “I don’t think either of us know what they are,”
Caleb nodded his head, his lips pressed into a flat line. “Blurred vision, fanged teeth, heightened hearing, purple veins, pink tinted eyes, and scales on the back and neck are the six beginning symptoms. The last one is your mate scars will be completed covered by that gray scale and you’ll die once that is completed. We should check to see if either of you have any,”
We spent several minutes examining each other to fortunately discover that none of the symptoms had begun to appear. We also moved into the shaded grass on the west side of the icy tundra that Caleb had created. A chill still lingered in the air. The chatter and scurrying of creatures could be heard in the branches overhead. And the area smelled heavily of pine and moss.
The stiff grass itched my skin when I shifted into a more comfortable position. “Is there anything else you can tell us?”
Caleb placed his hands in the grass behind him as he stretched his back, his chest and stomach facing up towards the cloudy sky. Relaxing, his long, red bangs fell into his eyes while he watched his breath turn into white mist. “That is all my contact, Azalea, was willing to tell me through letters,”
I curled my torso around my legs. My body continued to shiver. I rested my head on my knees. “Who is Azalea?”
“She is a medicine woman from Tessilia. Her mother has lived with Purowick for forty years,”
My eyes widened. I knew the life span that people had with the disease varied, but I thought as most people had 15 years to life. My eyes darted over to Fletcher who was leaning against the narrow trunk of a tree. His gaze fixed on the frozen waterfall. His face expressionless. Would either of us be able to survive for even half as long as that?
My eyes shifted back to Caleb. “What about her father?”
“Her mother contradicted it before they met,”
“Why did you want us to meet you out here instead of in town?” Fletcher asked.
Caleb titled his head to the left, so he could look directly at him. “Azalea is very private about her research on Purowick Scale. She is willing to assist us as long as we keep it a secret. Hence why she divulged so little in her letter,”
Fletcher narrowed his eyes, his jaw tense. “And why does it have to be kept a secret?”
“Since Purowick Scale is one of the rare diseases without a cure, any information on or pertaining to a cure is highly coveted by the nobility in Tessilia. Given their superior status in medicine compared to the other 11 countries, they refuse to let one of them even edge towards finding a cure. And even though she is from Tessilia she is not safe because the nobility wants to monopolize the cure when it is found. Azalea wishes to make a cure that is affordable to everyone, not just the nobility. So, if they find out about her progress, she could end up a puppet to the nobility, forced to complete her research for them or she could be killed,”
Fletcher scowled and nodded his head. He ran a hand through his dark hair before using the it to punch the ground beside him. “Darn nobles. They think just because they have riches that they can control everyone and everything by their purse strings. The Council of Twelve was supposed to prevent one monarch from controlling all of Voyia, but only one group is leading Voyia,”
I grimaced as my eyes drifted down to the grass that fluttered in the gentle wind. The Council of Twelve was formed 163 years ago after the War of the Witless Nine. Nine of the countries had risen up and declared war against each other, each wishing to gain dominance of Voyia. They destroyed nearly all of it, killing at least half of the population. The other three countries, which made up the upper half of Voyia, formed an alliance led by Carntwin. They entered in the war at the last stages and won. The monarch of Carntwin, led by Jaida Lercast, established the council as the new ruling entity of Voyia. It was composed of one representative from each of the twelve countries. This representative was one member of thirteen families that oversaw their country with each country having thirteen different families leading them. At the time, the families were a mix of nobles, middle class, and working class. But as time passed, corruption abounded and the families of lower classes rose to the ranks of nobles through bribery, lies, treason, and other despicable means. And those once lower-class families lost all perspective of their humbler beginnings, having been washed away by the tides of greed.
Several moments pasted in silence, until Caleb let out a grunt while he got to his feet. He raised his staff into air with both arms and stretched. He then proceeded to strap his black staff across his scarred back. His eyes passed along both of us. “Well, we should make to Tessilia with haste,”