Chapter 1 – Exile part 2

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The city was ablaze as the straw roofs were no match for the fireballs and roofs caught fire quickly and crumbled upon the sleeping villagers. The screams echoed as people ran trying to save themselves.

They stopped at a corner to catch their breath and he was trying to think of which path would lead them out of the city quickest when he heard a creaking noise above them, she looked up and he tried to pull her away but it was too late as one of the support  beams of the shop they had rested near crashed down, pinning her down to the ground. For a moment Delmar had feared he had gone deaf from the metallic screeching noise until his ears picked up another deafening noise, her screams of pain and sobbing.

He saw the growing stain on the gray shirt she was wearing,” Hold still.”
He tried to push the beam, but found it too heavy and too hot as it burned away a layer of skin on his palms.

“Leave me.”

“Never.”
“Go. It would take three men to lift this beam.”

“I will find them and come back for you.”

It felt like an eternity to Delmar as he had tried in vain to find someone to help her, but only found people too scared to do anything but scream and run or those that were helping themselves to valuables and food that may have been left. Upon returning to where he had left her, the rest of the buildings surrounding the area had collapsed due to the raging fires which had left ash and gray smoke in the air. He tried shouting out her his hands cupped on both sides of his mouth only to get a mouth full of smoke and ash, he choked, and coughing so hard it brought tears to his eyes.

He had to find her, after all he was the one who should have paid closer attention when they were outside, and instead he was too busy looking into the sky for the fire-breathing dragons.

He dove in hands first, the smoking rubble seared off another layer of skin on his arms  gritting his teeth through the pain as he shoved his hands further in, the smell of burning flesh made him slightly queasy and he darkly reminded himself she may already be dead.

As the sun made its way slowly from east to west he found bodies; all of them were her dark-haired, olive-skinned and eyes staring blankly ahead. Each body made him further frustrated and determined, he had to find her.  Take her away from this destruction and tell her… his hands stopped digging for a moment as he tried to think of what it was he was going to tell her.

“I came back.” He mutter to himself, lips covered in black soot from the rubble as his hands went feverishly digging some more.

It wasn’t until nearly dusk when he stopped, from sheer exhaustion, his knees and hands numb from use and he knelt over the last of the shallow graves he had dug for the victims of the previous night, he didn’t even have the strength in his arms to wipe away sweat from his face as he tried to get up but instead fell sideways his ash irritated eyes looking up at the orange-red sky.

His mind was racing trying to think of where he hadn’t looked and urging him to continue but his body had finally given out, just as darkness came to claim him he heard a voice whispering in a language he had never heard before . Seeing what could only be described as an aura coming from the east, it nearly matched the sun’s fading gold rays.

When the face came into view he thought for a moment he was looking upon the Goddess Herself. The woman knelt before him, and put a hand underneath his neck lifting his head to a small bowl his cracked lips made contact with it, his mind registered it as water as he took a few sips and brought his hands up to hold the bowl. It was then he saw the horrific sight that had become his hands, they were not only blackened by dirt and soot but skin was hanging off of them and something hit him, pain. The sheer suddenness of the pain caused him to release an inhumane scream from his ash covered lips. In that split second he forgot that he was holding a bowl of water and had split into his open mouth and down his throat, sputtering loudly as if a fish out of water.  The redheaded woman what was his savior eased him into a sitting position as he coughed violently. Another emotion hit him after the coughing had subsided, he had failed to protect Kiera, she was dead and it was his fault. Tears fell freely as he wept for his lost King and Queen, his fellow knights in training, villagers but especially for the one woman who would have his heart.

***

“Did we have to leave because of me?” he managed to ask at the campfire after the day’s journey.

“Yes, but it is not your fault. ” she fumbled again for the words, ”The Goddess led me to you. It is not your fault.”

“If you hadn’t found me, you wouldn’t have to leave.”

“No, my path Was chosen before you were there.”

“You are a shaman?”

She blushed for a moment, looking down, “Almost. I was on a journey to become one when the Goddess lead me to you.”

“I am sorry.”
“It is ok. How are your hands?”

He flexed them gently, unsure of their ability, she sat next to him and unwrapped them there was no tugging on the skin this time and no loose skin that came along with it. The green paste was absorbed into his skin and there was new pink skin over the badly burnt places.

“They feel better, but how?” he said amazed at how quickly his skin healed.

“Zarani, it is a healing root. Rest.”

Sleep came to him easily enough but so did the dreams…

Mountains shrank slowly giving away to snow-capped mountains fierce winds and shin deep snow he trudged through it while she walked on snow piles as though weightless and not cold but her hands were.

He awoke with a start to find himself in the cot that had been his bed for the past few months since they had been in I’shara.

His heart raced hands throbbed painfully as though freshly burned.

“Another nightmare?” a voice said in the dark.

He jumped

“Sorry. I heard you talking in your sleep. Was it the same one?”

He nodded then realized she couldn’t see him, “Yes, we were trying to make our escape it was right before the beam fell.”

She whispered a few words in another language and the fire sprung to life  suddenly, bathing the hut in an eerie orange glow, like Nyma on fire he thought to himself.

“I can take them away.” She offered

“No.” he said more forcibly than he meant causing her to cringe.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, you saved me and that is call I can ask for. Maybe seeing the ruins in person will stave off the nightmares.”

“Will it bring you peace knowing there is nothing left?”

“I don’t know, but it’s better than just sitting here and trying to not fall asleep and hoping for something to release me from this. I must see the ruins for myself and know there’s nothing left for me there, my future is now in my scarred hands maybe then… I’ll accept it.”
“You are not as scarred as you believe.”

“I am only scarred where it counts and it can never be mended. I should have been hit by that beam instead of her, may she would have lived instead.”
“She would have felt the same way, so it solves nothing.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” he agreed gloomily.

“Then go, nothing holds you here.”

“What about you?”

“I have no reason to see it nor return to those mountains. I am safe here if that is your concern.”
He blushed, “Of course it is.”

“But I couldn’t save you from the pain of the memories. I have failed in that way.”

He lifted her chin up with his cupped hand, looking into her forest green eyes,” How many people here alone owe their lives to you? You never failed. I’m alive and I’m thankful for it.”

“But-“

“You did what you could and that’s what matters. Thanks to you I can wield a sword again.”

The tendrils of early light had just begun to creep into the sky when Delmar woke up, gathering his things that he had packed the night before in hopes of not waking Adra.

He was just tiptoeing towards the door when he heard her voice

“You were going to leave without goodbye?”

“I didn’t want to wake you.”

“Sleep is a luxury only the lazy can afford.”

And within a few moments she was heading for the door allowing him to go out first while she grabbed something before heading out herself.

The air was crisp cold and his hands throbbed dully, he flexed them gently within the confides of the gloves he had purchased a few days ago.

“How are your hands?” she asked noticing him flexing them.

“Ready to leave the never-ending winters here for grass, trees that aren’t snow covered and mountains in the distance.” He caught the wistful look in her eyes, “Are you sure you don’t want to come with?”

“No, I belong here at least for now, the villagers need me.”

A sudden breeze caught his coat trying to push his hood off, he pulled it closer to his head, shivering, wondering if he had such a good idea to leave in the middle of the blizzard season.

“Are you not cold?” he asked her, noticing her lack of a thick coat much less snow shoes, she was walking on the top of the snow-covered ground and not sinking into it as he was.

“No.” she said as blew her hair to the side of her face.

They walked to the end of the village and he could have sworn it had gotten colder in those few minutes.

“Well I guess this is it.”

“It is.” She agreed, handing him a bag to his questioning look she supplied,” provisions courtesy of

S’aarm the baker. I know you love his soft rolls. He made some as a thank you for helping him There is also some cured meat, candy and some crushed herbs.”

“You shouldn’t have.”

“I could not let you go without supplies.”

He smiled, “Thank you.”

She gave him a quick hug, “May the goddess bless the path that lies before you.”

He trudged through the snow, pausing for a moment to look back and see her disappearing into the distance.