Tiffaniel walked to Groyven’s side as he looked around the small break in the trees. She was right; they seemed to be in the middle of a forest. He could not tell what time of night it was; just that it was far from dawn. Taking a shaky breath, he ran a hand through his short black hair, quickly coming across the crusted blood that was caked above his ear. Gingerly, he touched the lump, it was already growing smaller, but the skin was still broken and bleeding slowly. He rubbed his fingers together, feeling the slick damp of blood he winced.
‘Ven?’ Tiffaniel said tentatively.
‘Yes?’ he said as he gently tried to feel the extent of the cut.
‘Selera is alive, she and Sialin were there when,’
Groyven glanced at her, interrupting, ‘Then we have some hope.’
‘Tiff?’ he said distractedly as he held his fingers in the light, fresh blood staining them red.
‘She said that…’ she started.
Groyven interrupted her again, ‘Tiff, it can wait. I am still bleeding, it is not slowing.’
She went quiet, watching him, ‘Those blue vials, could you take another?’
‘It won’t be of much use, they are not elixirs of healing. I am already getting dizzy again.’ he looked at the ampule with a quarter remaining, ‘Flames.’
‘What are they? I thought…’ Tiffaniel stopped, watching her brother as he concentrated.
He carefully poured a drop into his hand, watching as the water spread on the skin, a small blue ethereal flame flickering above it. He concentrated, trying to bend it, amplify it, watching with a smile as it grew until it was overcome with his own burning flames. He felt Sialin’s mark behind his ear grow warm in response. Tiffaniel watched with surprise, her eyes wide.
‘Ven, aren’t they Sialin’s flames? Were you just controlling them?’ she said in amazement.
He nodded slowly as an idea formed, looking up at her, ‘Tiff, I will lay. I want you to pour the rest of this onto the wound. You watch, you tell me when the flames get their first sparks of orange.’
‘But, you want to burn yourself?’ she said in shock.
He looked at her, realising her trepidation, ‘If I don’t, you will have to for me, Tiff. You will have to take a burning stick from the fire and cauterise it, we have nothing else.’
Tiffaniel’s eyes went wide as she listened to him.
‘You don’t know, Tiff. Sialin can use her flames to heal. That is what these ampules are, her flames, captured. I can not generate them, but I can manipulate them, bend them. When I drink these, I can borrow her power for a short while to burn through or to recover my own.’
He handed her the ampule and laid down on the mossy ground. She unsteadily leaned over him and poured the last of the remaining liquid fire on the cut. She moved back while the cut slowly burned, she could see Groyven concentrating, making the flames grow in size and intensity. Tiffaniel watched in fascination as the cut drew itself together, blue tendrils knitting the skin and forming a glowing line, the flesh recovering, the lump reducing to a slightly raised area of skin. She drew in a sharp breath, the first flicker of orange flame presented itself.
‘Ven, now. The flame is turning!’
He immediately released it and the flame snuffed out, a couple of his hairs singing, letting off small wisps of smoke. Sitting up slowly, he touched it again and a small smile came to his face.
‘Is it healed?’ Tiffaniel asked him, concerned.
He nodded slowly, turning to the fire. Hugging his legs, he thought.
‘In a few days it will be. Thank you, Tiff.’
They both sat in silence, Tiffaniel watching her brother and Groyven watching the flames as they crackled and popped, occasionally sending glowing cinders up and into the night sky.
After a while Tiffaniel came closer, ‘Ven?’
‘I am sorry. I just, I messed up.’
He did not move, nor respond to her apology, he just looked into the flames, ‘You said before that Selera said something?’
Tiffaniel watched him, tears growing in her eyes, ‘Ven, the last thing Selera said, the last thing that Sialin said was: “I love you”.’
She watched as the expression on Groyven’s face hardened, he suddenly got to his feet and walked away from the fire and her, his movements stiff with aggravation.
‘I will gather some more wood for the fire. Try to get some rest.’ he said in a calm, measured tone.
Without looking at her, he slipping out of the firelight and disappeared into the trees. She whispered his name again as she heard sticks being angrily broken amid the echoes of his cries. A little while later she heard a half-strangled, frustrated scream and a sudden explosion of light among the trees in the distance. She huddled closer to the fire, hugging her legs as she listened to his anger playing out, not daring to judge, the forest silent as he walked through the trees, aflame. After what seemed like an eternity of looking into the fire he calmly reappeared, carrying branches and stacking them nearby.
‘The moon is in the sky, large. A little way over there, you can see through the trees, there are mountains, large mountains.’ he said, sitting nearby.
He watched her eyes as they looked at him, ‘Tiff, tell me what happened. Everything you can remember.’
She nodded and slowly retold the events from the moments before he guided her to hide under the table until he had awakened. While she spoke, he stayed respectfully silent, listening with care. As she finished he remained quiet, thinking carefully.
Tiffaniel watched his face, ‘What are we going to do, Ven?’
He stayed silent for a moment longer, before looking up and into her eyes, ‘We will do exactly as Selera said. Survive.’
She continued to watch him as he turned back to the fire, he was calm as he always was. She could tell he was thinking, considering what they should do. Thinking of her own actions over the past months, she did not feel she had the right to question his judgement.
He did not answer, instead looking up to the cinders that floated up through the trees.
Groyven breathed deeply. ‘Firstly, we wait for morning. We try to find water, I could hear a river in the distance before. We follow it downstream. Or follow the valley away from the mountains. Either or.’
‘And?’ she asked.
He looked at her sideways, ‘We hope that we find a road, or a village, or something. Because if we don’t, things will get very difficult.’
‘Ven?’ Tiffaniel asked, coming closer to him.
‘Why don’t you blame me? I did what I shouldn’t have. You have the right to be angry with me, for getting us stuck here. You haven’t said anything.’ she said, tentatively.
‘I do blame you, Tiff. I am angry. And in time, be it sooner or later, I will find in myself the will to forgive you.’ he said calmly, his voice measured and stable as he looked into the fire.
She looked at him, her voice catching at his blunt response.
‘But, what would it achieve for me to attack you or strike out at you? Momentary gratification followed by a sea of guilt? It would do nothing except drive a wedge between us. We are here now, that can’t be changed. We may never see our sister again. We need to survive, together.’ he settled his elbows onto his knees, looking at the fire with hard eyes.
‘Unlike you, Tiff. I can put myself in your shoes and understand why. You acted in the only way you thought, we were at sea. You thought the ship was going down, you acted when you saw an opportunity to escape, we ended up here. I can not stay angry at you for doing everything you could to keep us safe.’ he looked at her, ‘We are alive.’
He looked back to the fire, her shocked silence at his words prompting him on, ‘We know they are alive. They know we are alive for now. Maybe there is a chance that…’ Groyven went silent, once again thinking hard.
‘How would they know we are alive?’ Tiffaniel asked.
He touched behind his ear, folding his ear forwards, exposing Sialin’s formless emblem.
‘It is warm. This is my Mistress’s mark, Sialin’s mark.’ he met her eyes, ‘Somehow, we are still connected. My mark on her, would be doing the same. As long as it has colour she will consider us to be alive.’ he turned back to the fire.
‘All I ask, Tiff, is if I am quiet, or if I seem frustrated, give me space and time. Because us fighting over what can’t be changed will serve no purpose. All it will do is hurt.’
Tiffaniel watched her brother as he withdrew again, watching the flames. His blunt words cut at her, but she was grateful for his direct approach. She watched him, he seemed even more distant then he was that morning on board, he had changed even more.
‘Ven, thank you.’ she said quietly.
He nodded slightly, a few moments later he felt her sit beside him. His mind was racing. Grasping at what Selera had told him about the device that had transported them here. She didn’t even know where it would end up. If they were in a different dimension or a parallel universe, the only thread they could possibly follow is Sialin’s connection to himself, even that in itself was a curiosity. He didn’t have the heart to tell Tiffaniel that Sialin’s mark behind his ear may no longer reflect their connection as it would have been severed the moment they were sent to this place. All he knew was that the moon was different, its face was not the same as where they came from. None of the constellations in the night sky corresponded, and there was an ominous reddish-orange spark in the heavens, like a large star. He did not know much about dimensional travel, but he did know that finding them would be like trying to find two particular grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.
Despite the differences, his elemental skills and sorcery remained. He felt the amulet against his chest. In the daylight he would try to summon his great protector, just the thought made his stomach turn. Would the great one still answer his call, or would that ancient magic be disrupted by them arriving here? He had inspected the crystal orbs set in the black rectangular amulet earlier and they still retained their faint glow. While it was a comfort, he would only allow himself to be relieved once proven. A small smile came to his face, Sialin was correct. His skills were easier to control and more potent now with the shift in climate and environment.
Both Tiffaniel and Groyven jumped in surprise, turning suddenly as they heard the mournful cry of a wolf in the distance, the howl echoing down the valley.
Their eyes met, ‘It is a long way away, I am sure of it.’ said Tiffaniel.
Groyven nodded, ‘A wolf.’ he shrugged before looking back into the fire, ‘Hopefully that is all we hear tonight. You should rest. I am not sure how long it will be until morning.’
Groyven glanced at her, throwing the twig he was holding into the fire, ‘Don’t argue, Tiff. I am awake. I will take the first watch.’