I walked back from the river feeling refreshed after the swim. When I got back to our little camp, I was surprised to see that Rachael and Samel were up and Faiza and Ethan were gone. It was after noonday, but after walking all night to put distance between us and the soldiers, we didn’t set up came until after first light.
“Where are Faiza and Ethan?” I asked.
“They’re hunting,” Samel said.
I wasn’t sure that they’d get anything in the heat of the day. Most animals wouldn’t be out and moving around. Still, I hoped they’d find something. We were all so tired when we finally stopped that we didn’t eat anything before falling asleep. Now my stomach felt like it were eating itself.
Samel looked at my wet hair and said, “I think I’ll take a swim myself,” and he walked off whistling.
This left me alone with Rachael. I shifted my weight and tried to think of some reason to leave the camp for a moment, but the only thing I could come up with was hunting. I didn’t really want to go off in the woods trying to find an animal with an empty stomach. The last time I did that, my stomach had growled and scared the rabbit I’d found.
Still, I hadn’t spent much time with girls, at least not alone, and I wasn’t sure what to say.
She broke the silence by offering me some jerky she pulled from her pack. I took it and sat, so the pack sat between us. She chewed on her jerky without saying anything, and I wondered if she were alright after last night.
“A little. It takes a while to recover after using that much magic. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I’ve never actually used that much at once before.”
“What was that white light stuff?” I asked, picturing the light that had shot into the soldiers.
“It was energy,” she said, taking another bite of jerky. “I pulled it from my body, then shot it at the soldiers. That’s why it’s so tiring. I’m taking energy from myself and using it to stun something else.”
“Were you born with it, like Samel was born with invisibility?”
She laughed. “I wish I were born with it. Then I wouldn’t have to spend so much time practicing. I learned how to do magic from the council.”
I wondered if I could learn to do something like that, though the thought of taking so much energy out of my own body that I killed myself wasn’t a very comforting thought.
“Can anyone learn magic then?”
Rachael shrugged. “It’s like any skill. It can be taught, but some are better at it than others.” She looked at the sword at my side. “Anyone can be taught to use a sword, but not everyone will show the same aptitude for it.”
“Did your father know magic?”
She shook her head. “He never tried to learn. He was too busy being the ambassador.”
“Why didn’t you go with him?” I asked, then realized the question might be too personal. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me.”
She gave a smile, as if amused by my discomfort. “My father thought it might be too dangerous. All we knew at that time was that Ryker was pretending to be king while the real king was locked up somewhere. He thought I’d be safer in Hashna.”
I subtracted three years from her current age.
“Your father left you alone at twelve?” Maybe it was safer in Hashna, but it didn’t seem safe to leave a twelve-year-old on their own.
“I wasn’t on my own. Samel’s family looked after me.”
That would explain why they were so close.
“Does he write?” I asked. “Your father, I mean.”
“He can’t.” She looked at the jerky in her hand and bent in back and forth. “There aren’t any riders that carry letters to Hashna.”
Oh yeah. I guess with the treaty broken and the law forbidding dwarves from entering Minaria there wouldn’t be any mail between the two countries. In a way, she’d been an orphan for the past three years.
“I guess he’ll be surprised when he sees you,” I said with a smile.
“Very.” Her blue eyes brightened. “I doubt he’ll even recognize me.”
There was the sound of foot falls in the woods and Rachael and I both looked toward the noise to see who was coming.
Ethan appeared, bow in one hand and the other hand empty. “I didn’t see anything,” he said, coming to sit by us. Rachael offered him some jerky and he took it. “I guess this is all we’re going to eat for dinner.”
Faiza came out of the woods holding two rabbits. “Not as long as I’m around.”
I watched as Rachael got up to help with the rabbits, and thought how glad I was that I’d decided to let her come along. Not just because she turned out to be a good cook and ended up saving us last night, but because it would have been cruel not to let her see her father after all this time.
“Are you going to help or not?” Faiza asked me. “You might be our mighty leader, but we’re not doing everything for you.”
I grinned and got up to join them in preparing the meal.
Check out the Hashna Stone Page for previous chapters.
Guys! Do you realize we are halfway through The Hashna Stone? I know! How can that be already? I seems like we just started. But I’m estimating that the entire story should have about 30 to 40 chapters and that puts us right at the middle.
I’m not sure if I’m excited that we’ve made it this far, or sad that it’s going by so fast. Next thing I know it will be over. 😦
So enjoy it while you can. The end is nearing. 🙂
While I’m talking about The Hashna Stone, I’d like to give a huge thanks to Nandini from Pages That Rustle for reading through each chapter before they’re posted. You would not believe how difficult it is to spot mistakes in your own work. I end up reading what I meant to write and not what is actually there, so an extra set of eyes really helps.
Thanks Nandini for making The Hashna Stone a better story! 🙂