“And I’m a dwarf! Can you make any other plain-as-day observations, elf?”
“You’re a dwarf without much armor,” Alere replied without tone. While Tarfan blustered and fumed about the implied threat, the elf added, “This man is heavily armored in a fashion I’ve never quite seen the likes of. The metal’s strangely pale. And here...what’s this emblem?”
“He’s a knight of Andaria,” Tarfan blurted angrily. “Wouldn’t expect a mountain elf to recognize one. Though, what a knight of Andaria is doing this far north...”
“Is he alive?” Xu Liang asked when it seemed that elf and dwarf were intent to leave out the only truly important detail concerning the stranger.
Alere was kneeling beside the unconscious man, but it was Tarfan who had to step forward and check his pulse as the elf made no motions to do so. The dwarf nodded once.
“What should we do?” Taya asked, mounted once again upon Guang Ci’s horse, having taken well to her daily riding beside the mystic she’d grown to admire and respect. Xu Liang treated her with patience even when she complained about her ‘ill feelings’ or asked too many questions. He seemed to encourage her questions while Tarfan constantly enforced his guardianship upon her, telling her to sit still and be silent.
In this instance the mystic gave his answer to everyone. “We must stop and tend to him lest he share his horse’s fate.”
Taya looked upon the frozen animal with pity. Then she remembered her pouch and the herbs, roots, and petals she always carried with her own journal—that wasn’t filled with Tarfan’s silly history lessons or diagrams of worthless artifacts. During the years she’d been traveling with her uncle she had taken up a study of the plant life in different lands. Through reading, interrogation of locals, and experimentation she had learned quite a lot about the various poisons and medicines found in nature. It was her secret desire to become a healer and so she leapt at this first real opportunity with alacrity. “I can help!”
Everyone looked at her, even the guards who couldn’t possibly have understood what she said. The elf seemed disinterested, Bastien was neutrally quiet, and Fu Ran seemed mildly curious. Tarfan frowned dubiously.
Xu Liang, however, kept his eyes on the ice-rimed stranger and said—as if she were of equal status and importance as everyone else on this expedition, “Please, do so. The weather is looking disagreeable. I’d like to move away from these heavier clouds before it begins to snow again.”
Taken from Six Celestial Swords
Available from Raventide Books