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Chapter 14
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Chapter 14

So, how long were you going to keep this from me? Taru asked when Jaki came in. Jaki had the audacity to look confused for a moment, and then ducked her head, in a very Taru-like gesture.

“We didn’t want to worry you, Taru, that would not have been good for your recovery.” Jaki puttered around the room, setting the tray she was carrying down beside the bed, and making sure that the fire was providing enough warmth. She looked over at Taru after a moment.

Well now I know, and I know what’s wrong, but I am not sure how to fix it. Taru was worried that they might not be able to fix it at all, but she didn’t voice those concerns.

“I’ll go gather the others and we’ll see what we can come up with.” She left and returned a short while later with Alye, Dayn, Calm Sea, a Cheveyo Taru had not seen before, and Shet. “Taru, you know everyone else, but this is Fire Win, Alye’s partner.”

The way Jaki phrased Fire Wind’s relationship to Alye confused Taru for a moment. She didn’t use the standard Unit Mate title, but instead the same word used to describe Dayn and Nik. She didn’t worry about it however. She instead nodded to Fire Wind and the others. Fire Wind was massive for a Cheveyo, and was a stunning reddish brown, a color Taru hadn’t seen before, but she didn’t socialize with a lot of Cheveyos so that could have been the reason. The group made the small room quite crowded, but Taru found for the first time in a long time, she was completely comfortable with both men and Cheveyos in the room. This small victory was not enough to make her feel completely better however, she was still worried that she would not be able to recover from this sickness.

“Taru, Jaki told us what you found, and while we’re sorry for keeping this from you, we hope you understand why we did it.” Shet looked more then a little abashed when he spoke, and she couldn’t help but be secretly pleased. They really shouldn’t keep things from her. “We don’t have all the details, but I’m sure you can fill us in.”

You shouldn’t keep things from me. I am not a child any more. That much was true, she was almost 16 now, the age of majority in Malaquent. The poison is called The Mage Killer. It is designed to attack a mage’s ability, that thing that gives them their powers. It was designed by a very powerful mage to use against his enemies. It can only e made by someone with true mage ability, and it will only kill another mage. Because my powers are not truly mage powers, but simply affinities for the elements I don’t think it will kill me, but I don’t think I’ll get better without help either. There is no cure here, because I don’t think any mage ever survived long enough to devise one. I was hoping that we could work with the healers and try and find a way to counter the herbal portions of the poison. I think that if we do that I might be able to fight off the magic. The amount of control it took to speak that long tired her, and she allowed her head to flop back onto the pillow. She panted slightly from the effort, and Jaki was immediately at her side. She helped Taru get herself propped up on pillows, and passed her a cup of water. Taru drank it down slowly, and sighed. Just talking shouldn’t wear her out like that.

Shet nodded in understanding. “The book details what herbs go into the poison?” At Taru’s nod he looked at Jaki. “Jaki I want you and Trev to go over them and look for counters. It might take a while, but I will be in to help you in a little bit.”

Jaki nodded and hurried out the door. Shet stood with four of the five leaders of the rebellion. Taru knew why they were still there.

You need to talk to me because we have a traitor in our midst. She said it simply, and didn’t bother to dance around the issue. She was tired, and didn’t have the patience or the energy to make everyone feel better.

Yes, that was our concern. It was obvious that you were targeted because of your mage ability and the threat you pose to Malaquent. Obviously someone spoke about it to a mage in Malaquent, and they decided to do something about it. We have heard from Nikkaron and he doesn’t have any information about who it might be, but he did find out that Rederick has a contact in our camp. With Hali’s skills I don’t know how this could be, but we can’t feasibly question everyone here. There are thousands of us now. So we need to figure out a way to feed false information to the spy. Alye’s answer didn’t make Taru feel any better, a sinking feeling in her gut told her that she was going to be bait in a plan.

I’m to be bait? Again she didn’t bother dancing around the issue. She wanted to know the plan, and having it out in the open would either relieve her fears or confirm them. Either way, it was better then the unknown.

“We plan to let the camp know that we have figured out what is wrong with you, and that you are getting worse, but that we believe that if you get better you will be able to figure out who poisoned you. We are hoping that that will draw out whoever was involved, hopefully they will try something else, and this time we will be ready for them.” Fire Wind was pleased with Taru’s no nonsense attitude, and he knew that whatever they planned she would be a great asset to their cause.

Taru nodded her understanding. She figured that this would be a good plan, especially because whoever it was would be thinking she was weaker then she was. She was tired again now, but she tried to stay awake while the five in the room discussed what they would be doing. Sleep however claimed her soon after, and she didn’t hear much of their plans. She did wonder where Hawk was as she drifted off to sleep. She missed the surly white Cheveyo.

The next morning she woke, and didn’t immediately remember the night before, but then she did and she flopped back into her bed. Just thinking about all the details was making her tired again. She shifted in bed, and a piece of paper rustled under her hand. She read the note from Jaki, informing her that someone else would be bringing her food today, because she was busy researching with Trev. She pulled a book from the pile that was beside her bed and got to reading.

As Taru was settling down to read, Jaki was drinking hot tea to try and stay awake. She had not slept the night before, and her eyes were starting to feel like someone had rubbed sand into them. She yawned and Trev looked over at her. She smiled at him, and tried to look more awake then she felt. So far they had not had much luck figuring out a counter to the herbs in the poison, but they were a lot further then they had been the pervious night. At least they knew what they were up against now. That always helped. Trev was a master of herbs and their uses, but he was stumped on why some of the herbs had been included in this poison. Apparently they were mostly used in healing, not hurting, but somehow when combined they had caused a negative reaction. Jaki was hoping that they could figure something out, and that the poison wasn’t completely based in magic or their plan might fall apart quite quickly.

She got up, stretching her neck and back, and walked over to the table where there were dozens of small concoctions brewing, and checked on the three that should be almost finished. They were all turning out the right color, and they all smelled right, maybe this time they would be getting somewhere. They had found a number of rats that had been captured in the grain storage, and they were using them to test the various potions they created. So far they had only killed one, but the others were not getting better either. Jaki didn’t like hurting the small creatures, but they were pests, and it was either this, or be killed and fed to the Cheveyos that liked rat meat. She picked up the brown rat in the first cage, and checked his responses. He was still very ill. She gathered a small portion of the first potion, and forced it down his throat. Moving to his neighbor she did the same with the other potion that was finished. Now all she could do was wait.

“Trev, I need to get some fresh air, and maybe a bath,” She informed him as she headed to the door. “Three more of the potions will be done before I get back, but I think you can handle them.” He nodded distractedly and she headed out into the morning sunlight. She walked quickly to her quarters and gathered a change of clothing before heading to the women’s bathing pool. It would be freezing, but she hoped that it would help her shake off some of the exhaustion that was muddling her mind and blurring her vision. She was pleased to see that when she arrived at the pool she was the only one there. She quickly washed herself, all the while teeth chattering, and goose bumps popping up all over her. She washed her hair, and then hopped out of the freezing cold pool. She toweled off and dressed to find that a girl was standing there watching her. It was someone she didn’t recognize, but that wasn’t unusual. The rebel forces had exploded in size ever since Malaquent had started actively fighting them. Before that the rebels had been a well kept secret, but now all the people in the Compound knew about them, and many found ways to escape and join them.

“Hi, do you need to use the pool?” Jaki asked trying to be friendly. The girl smiled, and Jaki was slightly disturbed, it was not a friendly smile. She backed away a little, but the other girl just moved to block her. Making a quick decision, Jaki took off running. Her foot ached horribly with each pounding footstep, and she knew that there was no way she could outrun the other girl, but she didn’t care. She didn’t bother looking back to see if the other girl followed or not. She raced as fast as she could towards the training ring, and hoped that Hawk was around. She was just about to the fence when someone tackled her from behind. She let out a scream, and tried to turn and face her attacker. It was the girl. She brought her hands up in a defensive position, as the other girl rained down blows on her face and hands. She tried to wrap her legs around the girl’s waist, but her bad leg wouldn’t cooperate.

She had not had the extent of training that most of the people in the camp did, mostly because she would never see fighting, but she did know how to defend herself. She hooked her hands into claws, and tore at the other girl’s face and hair. It did make her back off, and Jaki tried to roll away. That turned out to be a mistake as the girl kicked out at her bad leg. Jaki couldn’t contain the howl of pain that passed her lips, but she realized then that it was a good thing. She started yelling at the top of her lungs, and prayed that someone was close enough to hear her. It was a veritable eternity, but suddenly a flash of white filled her vision, and then the weight was off of her. She rolled and sat up to see Hawk crouched on top of the girl with his jaws clamped over her neck.

The girl was smart enough not to struggle at that point; her body was completely limp, as if she was no longer alive. Jaki struggled to her feet, her leg was not happy with the abuse it had just suffered. She took heaving gulps of air, and tried to bring her heart rate back to normal. She found herself suddenly dizzy, and sunk to the ground again. The world seemed to be moving in slow motion for her, a pair of feet came to help, but she couldn’t summon the energy to look up and find out whom it was. Strong hands helped lift her off the ground, and she found herself lifted over a wide shoulder. She let her eyes drift closed then, and when she reopened them she was in her bed, with a worried looking Nik standing over her. She pushed herself up, and smiled at him.

“I’m fine, really, you shouldn’t look so worried Nik.” She tried to pretend that this afternoon hadn’t affected her, but she heard her voice, and it fell short of reassuring.

“You’ll be pleased to know that your attacker is now in custody, and she is currently being questioned by Hawk. What is very worrying is that we have no record of her anywhere, so Alye and Dayn are looking into that now. You just take a while to recover, and rest up your leg. Trev is fine working without you for a while.” Nik informed her. She was glad that everyone was ok, but she too was worried about the lack of information on this girl. If there was one person in the camp they didn’t know about, how many more were there? She shifted in bed, and felt a stabling pain from her leg. She winced, and didn’t hide it quickly enough. Nik handed her a small flask, and from the scent of the liquid inside Jaki knew it was a painkiller. She downed it without fuss, as she knew that the sooner she felt better the sooner she could get back to helping Taru.

Onto Chapter 15

 Malaquent is completely fictional, any relationship to real people, places, or events is purely coincidental, and is in no way ment to offend. All pictures of the Cheveyos are Emy Rothenberger. Any use of names, places, or images from these pages is strictly prohibited. Other images may be other artists, and all rights belong to those artists. Use without permission is prohibited.