The next morning everyone rose before dawn and the camp was packed up swiftly. Navihm helped Rose and Kaia pack up their tents while Hart prepared coffee for everyone. They were on cold rations this morning as they needed to catch a boat before the tide went out but warm coffee would make their salted meat and nuts a much more pleasant meal.
Hart approached Navihm and handed him coffee in their country’s tradition small cup.
“You looked like you could use this.” Hart was right. Navihm had dark circles under his eyes. He had spent the night sleeping fitfully by the fire and, when the damp from the ground had soaked completely through his bedroll, he had stayed up practicing his elemental magic and helping keep watch. Navihm took the coffee gratefully and drank the whole thing. Hart refilled the cup with a small laugh.
They set off soon after that and when they arrived at the docks, Navihm spied a familiar ship. It was Andromeda. This must have been what his mother was talking about when she said that they would find what they needed at the docks. He left the bulk of the group just outside the small town that housed the docks and he and Hart went to talk to Captain Gideon.
Rose was perched up by the bow of the ship, leaning on the gunwale and watching as the trees rushed past. She hated being aboard this ship again; there was nothing to do and the view never changed. It was just trees, trees and more trees. She spent days upon this ship heading up the river and now she was stuck on it for another trip down the accursed river.
She soon grew bored of watching the repetitive banks and she turned to watch the crew. Some of the men that had traveled with them from the First were helping the crew scrub the decks or were dipping some fraying ropes in tar. She wrinkled her nose at the foul smelling stuff. That was another reason why she didn't enjoy being on ships. The whole thing reeked of tar and sweat.
She looked around for someone to talk to. Hart was seated at one of the rowing decks on the starboard side of the ship and looked to be mending a large piece of canvas. He was talking with the Professor who stood near the Captain at the yardarm. Occasionally Captain Gideon would say something and the Professor would adjust the angle at which the wind would hit the sale. That was how they were able to make such good time. It wasn’t difficult or draining for her, the Professor or even Navihm to nudge the wind so it was blowing from the aft of the ship.
Rose wondered where Navihm had disappeared to. The ship wasn’t big enough for someone to be out of sight for long, unless he was up the mast or in one of the storage holds. Rose peered up at the look out position on the top of the centre mast. Kaia was still perched up there, keeping a lookout. For some reason that Rose couldn’t fathom, Kaia loved it up there. She had shimmied up the mast as soon as their supplies had been loaded up and hadn't come down. Rose made her way over to the group by the yardarm, stepping over the suds and brushes that were being used to scrub the deck.
“Has anyone seen Navihm?” she asked.
“He’s over there, young Miss,” said the Captain, nodding over to the port rowing benches. Navihm was sprawled out in the afternoon sun, fast asleep. He was crammed between two benches with his back propped up against the piled up bedrolls.
“He didn’t get much sleep last night after he gave up his tent I expect,” observed the Professor.
“He what?” Rose was taken aback. “I though he and Kaia shared.”
“Shared a tent before they are heartbound?” Hart was dismayed at the idea. “Navihm would never disrespect her or her father that way!” He glared at her, offended that she would suggest that Navihm was anything less than a gentleman.
Rose sniffed dismissively at his glare, returning it with one of her own. She flipped her blond curls over her shoulder and flounced away primly, back to her former post at the bow.
She was shocked to see that Kaia was already there waiting for her.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, Rose,” she said when Rose got closer.
“I’ve been watching you these past few days and I wanted to talk to you about something I’ve noticed.” Kaia tried to think of a way of putting this delicately. “I don't think you are contributing as much as you could be to the camp.”
“What do you mean I’m not contributing.” Rose was indignant. “I don't hunt and refuse to touch dead animal innards and suddenly I’m not contributing?”
“There are plenty of other things you could be doing around camp,” Kaia pointed out, refusing to be cowed by Rose’s anger.
“I do my share around camp and I did plenty at the battle at the Ninth.” Rose crossed her arms. “Not that you would know. You weren't even there.”
“I’m sure you did contribute at the battle,” Kaia said reasonably. “I just wanted to point out that even Professor Ward helps set up his own tent.” Kaia turned and walked off, letting Rose think about what she’d said.
Rose, on the other hand, fumed. How dare Kaia come up to her and tell her what to do. Kaia wasn’t her princess, what right did she have to lord over Rose. She was a Ducherina, not some common servant.
Leaving Rose to her brooding, Kaia returned to her post atop the mast. She’d wound a scarf around her hair to keep the wind from whipping her braids into her face. When she scaled the mast, she’d also pulled the scarf over her nose and mouth to ward off the chill of the brisk winds. She loved being high above the water and seeing every far off horizon.
It was another hour until Navihm woke. When Kaia spotted him sitting on the starboard railing, she shimmied down the mast. Navihm met her at the bottom.
“How are you able to clamber up trees and masts as easily as walking, but you can't walk down a flight of stairs without shaking?” asked Navihm. He smiled, recalling the times he carried her down the stairs in the solium as children. The only part of Kaia’s face that was visible was her brilliant blue-green eyes, which were now narrowed at Navihm for that comment.
“That’s different,” she huffed, slightly muffled by the material obscuring her mouth. Navihm could practically hear her pout. He gently pulled her scarf down so it sat around her shoulders and her hair sprang free. He admired the way her eyes reflected the water, the blue almost swallowing the green of her eyes.
“How is the view?” he asked. The wind blew Kaia’s hair into Navihm face, but he didn't mind. He just brushed it back behind her ears. Kaia could see the love shining out of him, colouring his aura a brilliant gold.
“Fantastic.” She wasn't talking about the horizon.
They wandered over to where Navihm had been perched on the starboard railing and sat on the floor. The railing was open to let any water that fell onto the ship run off so they swung their legs over the side through the railing to hang over the water. They sat like this for a while, looking out at the trees rushing past.
Kaia reached over and placed her hand on top of Navihm’s. She was surprised to feel a tingle of magic flow through him. The familiar brush of cool spirit magic with an earthy undercurrent of what she could only assume was his elemental magic.
“Why are you using magic?” she asked.
“I'm practicing,” he said. “When I was interrogating the prisoner I used both kinds of my magic.” Navihm had been practicing mixing his magics and using them at the same time. So much of his practice since he came to the school had been about separating his magics, he was only just now getting skilled at mixing them together again.
“It feels like you're making a ward, but not,” said Kaia. She could sense that Navihm’s elemental magic was interacting with the ward somehow, but without knowing how it worked, she couldn’t tell what it was doing to the ward.
“I am. I'm projecting a ward out into the treeline.”
“But what is it anchored to?”
“Me. I can project it directly from me through my connection with the elements.” Back at the Nomad’s camp, Navihm used both his magics for different things at the same time. Now he was learning to use them at the same time for the same thing.
“You can create a portable ward?”
“As big as I like.”
“Navihm. You are amazing.” Kaia lay her head on his shoulder and smiled up at the man she was proud to call hers. He laughed gently and smiled back down at her.
Shout out to VtrCst who has left some very beautiful comments on my first few chapters. Thanks! They mean so much to me.
Genti children dont wear three braids. The get their three braids when they turn 14 as an ascent into adulthood. 14 in the only birthday they celebrate and they have a huge party and ceremony which the Rei presides over.
Before the age of 14, Genti children wear their hair in two plaits. They intiwne their left plait with a ribbon the colour of their tribe, and the right with the colour of their family. There is no need for a third plait cus they cant marry at that age (it's against the law).
Rei Amias (Kaia's father who helped raise Navihm) likes to joke that it was lucky that Navihm waited until he was 14 to gain his third bead and become an Enfeitar, because he had run out of plaits to hang his beads on.
Im posting the second chapter of my new work today. If you haven't already, go check it out. It's called My Beauty