Before the Endless #14 – Endless Legend

Zuzana had washed and bandaged the bite as best she could, but without the antidote she was powerless to combat the venom. “I’m sorry Kapur, we don’t have the antidote for their venom.”

Varun wiped the sweat from his brow. It was running into his eyes. “The Ardent Fire cleanses more than just my foes. My pain will yet see me through.” His voice sounded strained.

A tattooed hand reached over and grabbed his waterskin. Varun did not resist. Anushka drank what was left in the skin in a few big gulps. “I would gladly swap for your rockblood, Varun, if I had the choice,” She opened her eyes. They were bloodshot, but it did not seem to inhibit her, “The fireache is no pain for an Ardent.”

By now, the pallor on Varuns skin was covering most of his torso, but it seemed to be slowing. Zuzana was willing to bet that if they removed the torches, the Ardent man’s tattoos would light up the area entirely on their own. His breathing was slowing too, down from a ragged pace to something more regular.

Unable to do anything about Varun’s condition and knowing Anushka would recover on her own, Zuzana stood up. She grabbed her unloaded crossbow from the wall by the torch and went to stand next to Velabahleke. The trader held his bow in one hand and a nocked arrow in the other, his pose relaxed as he kept the watch. “Seen anything?”

Velabahleke gave her a brief look before returning his eyes to the gloom. “You would know if I had, trust me, Lady Shuksin.”

“No need to call me Lady,” Zuzana grabbed a bolt from her quiver and loaded the crossbow, “If you really need a title, you can call me Sergeant.”

Velahbahlekes voice suggested that he was still a little shaken by the events in the ceratan colony. “Lady or not, you certainly hold some curious company, Sergeant Shuksin.”

“I know Blagoje doesn’t speak much, but I assure you-“

Velabahleke had returned his arrow to his own quiver and leant against the far wall of the stairway. “You know I am not referring to your stoic companion. Lady Enlai is the only woman I have ever seen who is able to create a veritable bonfire without the use of copious amounts of firewood and fuel.”

Zuzana tried not to sound defensive. “What of it?”

The trader was still looking down the stairway descending into the mountain. “Last I heard, only the armies of the Ardent Fire knew the secrets to their magic.”

“Anushka has her reasons,” Zuzana sat down on the steps, “Suffice to say that we do not want them known outside our group.”

The trader scratched at his dark beard. “I wonder what one could obtain by sharing such a secret.”

“One could lose his life, and worse, the contents of a vault undoubtedly full of ancient relics.”

A moment passed, then Velabahleke grinned, the gesture seeming slightly forced. “Let us say it will be a, how you say, bonus to your contract then.”

Zuzana returned the grin, though only outwardly. “Can we get that in writing?”

Velabahleke walked forwards and extended a hand. “I will talk to Elder Pashang upon our return,” Zuzana shook his hand, “merchant’s honour.”


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