“So, that was an actual God?” Jacobus asked, sitting on a stump, still breathing hard.
“Short answer, yes,” Aliene said between gulps of air. They were back in the forest, but every nerve was still panicking. “The Celestial chiefs can manifest Avatars for speaking to or defending the tribes.”
Jacobus slapped his cheek, calming himself a bit. “That happen very often?”
Aliene just looked at him, shaking her head; she stood to examine the bow Centauri had given her. The blue metal fins retracted, suddenly folding in a couple times, becoming no longer than her forearm. Aliene took a strip of cloth from her wrist and secured the magic bow to the back of her belt, hiding it beneath her shirt. Aliene put her pack on as Jacobus stood and did the same. “I should find another bow soon.”
“He did say not to use it a lot,” Jacobus said before his face twitched slightly. “I am assuming here, but you don’t have a large inner-magic reserve do you?”
“No,” Aliene replied as she began walking after looking up at the suns position. “If I remember right, Schillia is the closest country, so maybe we should head there for good supplies.” Aliene had taken a few steps before realizing Jacobus had stopped walking; she turned to him and the air left her lungs.
His face wasn’t angry but the air around him shivered from his gaze. Jacobus inhaled deeply, saying, “I wouldn’t suggest it.”
“Going there would cause more problems than it could ever solve.” Jacobus calmed himself but still looked drained from the thought.
“There a longer version?” Aliene let her hands fall to her sides.
Jacobus sighed. “We should walk and talk.”
Aliene nodded and waited for him to reach her side before they continued.
“During the fighting of Schillia’s civil war, I was ordered to do many things I am not proud of. The comfort of knowing it was in service to my country faded quickly after I was released.” Jacobus’ pace quickened as he spoke. “Without the direction I had while in the army, those memories I ignored began hounding every moment of my existence. Whether awake or dreaming I couldn’t outrun them. That is why I began traveling to monasteries.” The rhythmic pace began creeping up towards a jog. “You know the rest from there.”
Aliene was quiet a moment. “Do you ever regret being in that army?”
“I couldn’t say one way or the other.” Jacobus began slowing as he asked, “Have you ever done something you regret?”
Aliene wrinkled the area between her eyebrows. “Yeah, it was a long time ago, but it was when Hafwen first began teaching me magic.” Her pause held until Jacobus went to speak, but Aliene cut him off first. “I had been warned that using magic the first few times can mess with your emotions, the lesson awakened an anger I didn’t realize I had. I attacked her.”
Jacobus waited a moment. “But it was an accident, right?” Aliene just looked at him, face muted of expression, but her brown eyes trembled. “You just gave in,” Jacobus said quietly, half looking through her as if seeing something else further away.
“It was the first and only time. I had ignored the feeling so long it got replaced with something worse.” Aliene’s breathing turned rapid as she slowed down.
Jacobus stayed beside her saying, “That is probably true for many parts of life.” The two walked in soft silence for a while before Jacobus froze mid-step. “Well, that is not very inviting.” He and Aliene stepped out of the tree line onto blackened earth.
Aliene nodded her agreement. “This is the Morbid Row, the border of Misten’s land.”
They looked around at the dead and dying plant life dotting the plagued soil that hissed steam where it wasn’t covered in pools of dark, oily water.