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Medicine Man

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The quiet bustle of the tavern had been Therion’s home for many years. For so long, all he’d do is sit and listen to what others had to say in hopes that he might glean something useful from their conversation, hardly ever coming to have fun. Now, however, things were different. With the fool’s bangle on his wrist, he’d found it increasingly harder to steal from others or even get near them without having them notice his true intentions. It was quite the issue, but for once in his life, the man felt as though he didn’t have to steal to survive. And so, at this point, it was an old habit that wouldn’t die, but who’s to say that he even wanted it to? He’d always loved the adrenaline that came with stealing, particularly with the bigger objects that some people lugged around. How stupid could people be to not realize that they’d gotten a harpoon stolen from them?

The man leaned back in his chair, causing it to creak softly. Taking a sip of mead and gazing up at the ceiling, he let his ears tune in and out of nearby conversations, catching words here and there, mostly snippets of things he didn’t care much about. But there was something about that fact that made him feel at ease for the first time in years. He could finally enjoy life without worrying about what his next scheme would be. After all, he had a journey planned out for him already

“Heya, Therion!”

A familiar voice brought him back to reality. A month or two ago, he would’ve jumped and reached for his knife in this exact situation. But now, he gazed up at the man who’d appeared before him almost languidly. He raised a hand and gave a small wave as Alfyn sat down across from him at the table, his characteristically large, winning smile plastered onto his face.

Gods. How did his cheeks not hurt from smiling all the time?

Therion glanced from the larger man to the door, then back again, as if expecting more people to follow after him. “No H’aanit or Tressa?”

Alfyn lifted his satchel off of his shoulder with ease, placing it beside his chair with care. “H’aanit said she saw somethin’ strange at the edge of town earlier and wanted to check it out, and Tressa…!” The man’s brown eyes lit up with the brightness of a thousand suns, the smile on his face broadening even more if that was even possible. “We both found the biggest frog at the edge of the river! It was somethin’ like… I dunno, this big?” He made grand, sweeping gestures with his hands as he spoke. Therion was almost sure that he would knock people out on accident with them if anyone came by, but no one did. “I wanted to bring it here to show ya, but Tressa was intent on releasin’ the fella back into the river… Anyway, I reckon she’s lookin’ for bigger ones.”

“Mm…” Therion sipped some more mead, feeling himself smile the tiniest bit. Alfyn had been the second person he’d met on his journey, following H’aanit. The contrast between the two of them was quite astounding: H’aanit had been someone that he’d gotten along with relatively well from the start. Never a deadweight, she always did her part in battles. He never had to worry about protecting her or anything, and it’s not like she talked much unless she really had something to say, something he’d been grateful for. It was bad enough that he’d needed help robbing the Ravus Manor - he didn’t want other people tagging along with him, particularly useless people with too much to say.

But then came Alfyn. Clumsy, chatterbox, Alfyn. He was everything H’aanit wasn’t. He talked people’s ears off whenever they gave him a chance, he’d never swung an axe at a monster in his life, and he was always tripping over his feet. Much to Therion’s annoyance, he had to come to his rescue several times a battle. Plus, he’d always been so touchy-feely with everyone. He couldn’t stand it. And yet, hearing him talk two months after meeting him, Therion couldn’t help but feel himself relax. Maybe all of this traveling with a group was making him go soft.

“You been here long, Therion?” Alfyn asked, reaching for Therion’s mug. The other man, noticing the theft about to take place, pulled the mug close, making direct, vengeful eye contact with him as he chugged the remainder of the mead.

“Yeah. Figured I could get some alone time in before the rest of this traveling circus caught up with me,” he snorted, putting the mug down.

“Heheh, circus, huh? Does that make you a clown?” Alfyn laughed.

Gods, he laughed so loud. This was truly a man with nothing to hide, no secrets to keep. He wasn’t afraid of being heard; he never had a reason to sneak around. He was nothing like…

Therion shook the thought out of his head. Now wasn’t the time to ruin his own night. Instead, he focused on Alfyn’s laugh. His bright, booming laugh… He couldn’t help but chuckle a little, too.

“No, I’m the ringleader. You’re the clown.”

“Ah, I see!” Alfyn laughed again, waving the tavernkeep over. “Could I get a couple more mugs for me and this fella? Thank you!”

Therion leaned back in his chair again, thinking to himself as Alfyn prattled on in the background. The somewhat scruffy man was rooting through his satchel, now, taking out bottles and herbs that the thief could only assume he’d gotten that day. Soon, the tavernkeep returned with a few more mugs of mead.

-

“...And then Zeph slid down the hill faster than anythin’ I’d seen! We’d never seen that much rain in Clearbrook, so everything was muddier than we expected!” Alfyn laughed.

Therion leaned forward, concern furrowing his brow and arms crossed on the table. “Alfyn, how many mugs have you had…?”

The other man paused, staring blankly at the empty mugs in front of him. “I dunno, four? Five? I’m startin’ to feel a lil’ sleepy though,” he said before pausing to yawn, leaning his head close to the table. “How ‘bout you, Ther?”

Therion blinked. Ther? That was new. “I’ve only had two. It’d be damn terrible for someone like me to lose my agility,” he began. “If you’re tired, though, I think it’s time we call it quits and head to the inn.”

“Mmmhm…” Alfyn agreed, head slipping down until it was on the table.

Gods, he’d better not pass out here.

“Hey, don’t fall asleep here. Hey. Hey!” Therion leaned over the table and snapped his fingers in front of the man until he was sitting up, albeit extremely slouched. “You’ve got money, right?”

Alfyn stared at him with wide eyes. “No, I used it to buy the Purifying Dust and stuff i was showin’ you earlier…”

Therion froze, a hand reaching for the scarf around his neck and pinching and rubbing the fabric, a nervous habit of his. “... You don’t have any money at all…?”

Once again, Alfyn shook his head. The thief found his grip on the scarf getting harder.

“Dont’cha have money from stealin’?”

“No, because I’ve been buying shit for everybody else this whole time!”

“Okay, hows about other people in here? Don’t they have stuff?”

“I checked, and everyone’s carrying around Healing Grapes!”

“No one’s carryin’ stuff like family heirlooms that you could trade for mead?”

“I told you, that was only once! And no, I’m pretty sure that’s not how that works!”

Therion looked around the tavern. There were maybe only five people still there, excluding himself and Alfyn. If it were just him, he’d be able to up and leave right now. He knew full well that he was fast enough. But then, there was the clearly drunk Alfyn. Gods. Shit. Fuck. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He’d been counting on one of his… comrades to pay for drinks that night. How the hell was he supposed to sneak out with a guy almost twice his size?

“Hey, Al - oh, gods damn it.”

He’d turned back towards the other man only to see that he had fallen asleep, head resting on his arms and already snoring loudly. Therion, feeling his very soul leave his body, put his head in his hands. He knew by now that the apothecary was extremely hard to wake up once he hit the hay. He couldn’t imagine how hard it’d be to wake him up when he was like this.

Gods damn it. You’d think someone with as much medical knowledge as him would know his limits with liquor.

Heaving a sigh, Therion got to his feet, looking around once more. The few remaining people in the tavern were all still yammering away and swigging their drinks, the tavernkeep with his back turned toward them. If they were gonna make a run for it, now was the best time to do it. He walked over to Alfyn, carefully putting both of the man’s arms around his neck and holding onto them. He then took a step forward only to feel his knees shake ever-so-slightly.

He was strong, but he had hardly given enough credit to how big Alfyn was compared to him. This only served as a reminder as to why he liked working alone so much. In all fairness, he was rather small due to his stunted growth from never eating enough, but that was beside the point. Grunting, he dragged the man behind him and walked as quickly as he could towards the door.

“Wait, you there.”

Therion’s blood went cold, but he didn’t turn around. He knew how this story went. He knew he’d find the tavernkeep staring at him, and then whoever else was still in the tavern. He also knew that, with Alfyn out cold, there was no way to beat all of the people in the tavern in a fight. He’d be forced to defend himself and the apothecary.

“You haven’t paid, have you?”

The thief glanced at the tavernkeep with a sour expression, not turning his body all the way. “What’s it to you?” he muttered, opening the door and walking as quickly as someone can when they’re carrying a friend on their back outside.

He quickly heard shouting from inside the tavern’s doors, a sure sign that he needed to get out of there as fast as he could. Grimacing from Alfyn’s weight on his back, he adjusted the man’s arms around his neck and started speedwalking along the river’s edge. He briefly thanked the gods that it was dark out, but knew that the darkness would likely hardly shelter him for very long. After all, he could hear the tavernkeep and his patron’s shouts coming closer already. If he could just get to the inn, they’d both be safe…

“Therion! Hey, Therion!”

Tressa waved at him from the river’s edge, a bright smile on her face. On a log nearby sat H’aanit, Linde curled at her feet. The pair gazed at the coming thief with mild amusement.

“Tell Alfyn that I found more of those frogs! And…” Tressa paused, eyes widening at the sight of the mob of people running after Therion and shouting. H’aanit and Linde got to their feet, Linde’s ears flattening to the side of her head and her tail twitching. Therion ran past the three of them, Alfyn’s feet dragging in the mud and leaving marks.

“THERION! What did you do?!?” Tressa shouted after him.

 

-

Therion slammed the inn’s door shut behind him, causing things set on shelves to shake precariously and the innkeeper to look up briefly before going back to reading the newspaper. The thief panted heavily, standing at the door for a moment before dragging Alfyn up the stairs and towards their room for the night. At its door, Therion readjusted the man’s arms around his neck again, placing his right hand on them to keep them secure as he snatched their room key out of his pocket with his left. With ease, he unlocked the door with a click.

“Therion…?”

Alfyn’s voice was a little raspy, but he was awake. Slowly, he rose to his feet, keeping one arm around the thief for balance. Glancing at his arm, Therion couldn’t help but notice how much bulkier it was than his own, and how free of scars and marks it was.

“Yeah, that’s my name,” he mumbled, feigning slight annoyance and pushing the door open. He walked in slowly as to not cause the other man to fall over, but with grace.

Alfyn went quiet for a moment, stumbling a little as Therion guided him towards the bed closest to the door. “I’m sorry for passin’ out back there…” he said quietly. “I reckon I drank too much…”

“Mm.” He sat Alfyn down on the bed before making his way towards the other one and sitting. There, he carefully unwound the scarf from his neck and took off his poncho, setting them at the foot of the bed.

Silence. It was strange, not having him talk his ear off.

“You’re a mighty good friend, taking me all the way here by yourself,” he finally said, causing Therion to snort.

“What, you think I’m gonna leave someone there that can be traced back to me? I’m no fool,” he scoffed.

Alfyn laughed, quietly this time. “Yeah, but you didn’t have to…” Sleep and drunkenness slurred his speech as he laid back in bed. Therion gazed out the window at the starry night sky.

“Call it force of habit. I used to have to do this kind of stuff with D…” the name caught in his throat, his mind racing. He didn’t want to think of that man ever again. “...Someone else.”

More silence. A yawn from Alfyn’s side of the room.

“You really are a good friend, Ther -” another yawn cut him off. “I love you, buddy…”

Therion’s eyes widened as he heard those words, but by the time he turned to look at Alfyn again, he had passed out for the second time that night. And so, there he sat, left to think to himself for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Try as he might to sleep well, Therion tossed and turned for hours that night.  It’s not something that he could help, and it’s not like it was anything new, either.  The man found that his mind was always racing, never stopping to rest, to think. It was always stuck in a loop that told him that he wasn’t safe, and never could be again.  Loathe as he was to admit it, it made his heart race so much that at times, it hurt.

 

But, again,  what was new with that?

 

On the rare occasions that he did manage to fall asleep, all he could see was Him.  Him, with his shoulder-length, red, hair. Him, with that stupid, green, cape. Him, with that scar across his nose.  Therion would run and run, but to no avail. Around every corner, He, Darius, was there, ready to bring him down again.  There was truly no escape, even though it’d been so long since they’d seen each other.

 

On his worst nights, when he’d feel his feet scrambling on the rocky edge of the cliff, desperate to touch something, anything, he’d wake up screaming, or so he’d been told.  Someone always came to see if he was okay, and he’d always push them away, telling them to mind their own business. That he was fine. Sure, he was curled up in a ball. But he was fine, he swore it.  And then they’d leave him be. After all, they all knew that he would never tell them what was wrong.

 

The man stared up at the inn’s ceiling absentmindedly, noting the faint rays of dawn pushing through the window.  If they were going to make any headway with their travels, they would have to leave in a couple hours. Definitely not enough time for him to fall asleep again.  With that thought in mind, Therion got to his feet, pulling his boots on with ease, then his poncho, then his scarf.

 

As he padded to the door with that thief-like stealth of his, he glanced at Alfyn, who was still snoring away.  At least someone was having good dreams, he thought to himself with a snort before turning to open the door.

 

-

 

Therion stretched his arms over his head, interlocking his fingers and pushing his wrists out as he looked around.  Most of the town still seemed to be asleep, only a few people roaming the streets. Good. That’d make his job ten times easier.  He was pretty sure that he’d seen a bakery while he was running last night… Ah, there it was.

 

The air smelled of fresh baked goods, making Therion realize just how hungry he was.  He glanced through the window from a distance, looking for any sign of life from inside.  Squinting, he spotted an aproned man set some pastries out in the glass display case before retreating back into what he could only assume was the kitchen.  Now was his chance. He walked towards the door briskly, turning the handle and, to his own pleasant surprise, swung it open. This man was far too trusting of the other townspeople, he noted with a smirk.  But now was not the time for thoughts like these.  

 

The thief stepped into the building, making sure that he stepped with his right foot first, and padded around the counter.  As he did so, he glanced into the kitchen. The baker was pounding away at some dough, oblivious to the fact that he was being robbed of some of his prized pastries.  

 

Therion’s stomach growled as he eyed the pastries and he took out an apple from one of the small bags tied to his belt.  It was red, but extremely bruised and decorated with pale bite marks that were alarmingly brown. He took a bite out of it as he wracked his brain for his companion’s favorite kinds of pastries.  Picking up a bag, he got himself an apple fritter, then a couple random ones for Tressa and H’aanit. As he ran over the selection with his gaze, he spotted a cream cheese danish. Ah, yes. That was Alfyn’s favorite.  He popped it into the bag and went out the door as quickly and quietly as he came in.

 

-

 

He could hear Tressa and H’aanit’s voices through their room’s door, Tressa’s much louder and frequent, H’aanit’s quieter and only every so often.  Bag in hand, Therion knocked on the door with the back of his other hand. Immediately, he heard quick footsteps coming towards him and the door opened, revealing a smiling, hatless, Tressa.  H’aanit was sitting on the bed closest to the window, Linde curled at her feet.

 

“Morning, Therion!” She greeted.  After a few seconds, however, she peered over her friend’s shoulders and down the hall, eyebrows crinkled in confusion.  “No Alfyn?”

 

Therion shook his head.  “He’s asleep. Besides, you know I wouldn’t take him along to steal stuff,” he replied, gesturing towards the pastry bag before gently shoving his way into the room.

 

“You STOLE those?!?  Therion, how many times do I have to tell you not to steal things!  Someone worked hard to bake those!” The younger traveler shouted at him indignantly.  But it was clear that he wasn’t listening. He plopped down on the bed that H’aanit wasn’t on and rooted around the bag before producing a plain doughnut and tossed it to her.  The woman caught it with ease, eyeing the thief.

 

“Dost thou not haven money?” She inquired.

 

“Nope.  Used it all on the likes of you two, along with Alfyn,” he responded, taking out a lemon doughnut with white icing and handing it to Tressa, who wrinkled her nose.

 

“Ugh, Therion, you know I don’t like sour stuff…  How is it that you always seem to remember Alfyn’s favorite, but not ours?” she muttered.  “But is that why you were getting chased last night? Did you and Alfyn not pay for stuff at the tavern?”

 

“Oh, yeah, I just wanted to have a nice jog while carrying an unconscious man about twice my size,” he shot back, causing Tressa to clench her fists and bite her cheeks.  He rooted around in his waist bag again, retrieving the same apple from before. It was mostly gone, now, but he wanted to finish it. H’aanit’s eyes narrowed as she watched him take a bite out of it.

 

“Thou must eaten more than that…  That apple muste be weeks olde based on its coloring,”  H’aanit noted. “And besides, dost thou wanten to staye that height forever?”

 

Therion turned it over in his hands, looking it over for a moment before looking at H’aanit again with thinly veiled annoyance.  “What are you, my mother? This apple’s only a few days old. Maybe a week or two, but that’s being generous, and I’ll be damned if I don’t finish all the food we have before I eat new stuff.”

 

Another bite, earning winces from Tressa and H’aanit.

 

“You can’t go around eating stuff that old!  You’ll get sick and die!” Tressa exclaimed.

 

“Well, I’m not dead yet.  Besides, that’s what we’ve got Alfyn for, and - HEY!”

 

Just as the thief had been about to take another bite, Linde swatted the apple out of his hands, causing it to roll to the floor with a small thud and earning a laugh from H’aanit.

 

“Looken at that, even Linde agreeth!” the huntress chuckled.

 

“Ugh…” Therion grumbled, finally giving in and taking his fritter out of the bag.  He flipped it over and over in his hands before finally taking a bite out of it. “So, what’s the game plan today?  We’re going to Saintsbridge, right?”

 

Tressa sat down next to Therion, earning a glance from the thief as he moved a little bit away from her.  “Weeeeell… H’aanit found something interesting yesterday. Apparently there are some River Frogkings that’re getting a little too comfortable with the townspeople, right, H’aanit?”

 

“Indeede,” the woman agreed.  “If lefte to their owne devices, they will surely bringen harme to the townspeople.”

 

Therion took another bite, an eyebrow raised at the huntress.  “And this concerns us… why?”

 

“Therion!” Tressa shouted, earning a chuckle from the thief.

 

“So we’re driving them out of town, I assume?” he asked.

 

“Exactly!” Tressa agreed.  “All we gotta do is wake Alfyn up!”



-

 

The three waited outside of the inn for what felt like hours, Therion keeping to the shadows in case anyone from the tavern from last night was roaming the streets.  He leaned against the wall of the inn, letting himself focus on the sound of the river and the distant voices of townspeople, eyes turned to the blue sky. He rubbed them gingerly with the back of his hand, feeling his eyelids pull downwards from tiredness.  What with the day that was in store for him and his comrades, he couldn’t help but wish that he’d been able to sleep more.

 

“Mornin’, everyone!”

 

Therion’s head shot up at the sound of Alfyn’s voice, a hand instinctively flying to his scarf to cover the smile on his face.  The man was smiling brightly, brown gaze drifting across each of his friends, then meeting Therion’s, who had stepped out of the shadows to greet him.

 

“You get the danish?” the thief asked, leaning his weight onto his left foot.

 

“Uh-huh!” Alfyn said with a nod.  “It was mighty tasty! Thanks, Therion!  Oh, and sorry for bein’ late everyone… Hope you weren’t waitin’ long!  My stomach was really botherin’ me, so I had to make myself somethin’...  But I’m all good to go!”

 

“...  It is goode to see you, Alfyn,” H’aanit said, a smile crossing her lips.

 

“Yeah, good to see you, Alf!” Tressa cheered, smiling wide.

 

The apothecary couldn’t help but laugh at the younger girl’s enthusiasm, a hearty sound that made Therion’s grip on his scarf tense up.  The thief felt his chest lock up, but said nothing, dismissing the feeling immediately. It was nothing, he was sure of it.

 

“Therion, you comin’?”

 

The rest of the group had begun their trek into the woods by the town, but Alfyn, noticing that Therion hadn’t joined them, had stopped to wait for him.  There it was again, his winning smile. For some reason, the thief caught himself wanting to hide in his scarf again, but fought the urge. 

 

“Yeah, yeah.  I’m on my way,” he replied gruffly, jogging to catch up to him.

 

Upon reaching the taller man, Therion half expected him to keep walking with those gargantuan steps of his, forcing him to walk faster than he may have wanted to.  To his surprise, however, Alfyn took steps half the size of his normal ones to keep pace with him. The apothecary glanced down at him with a small smile.

 

“...  You talk in your sleep, y’know.”

 

“Wh…  No I don’t…!”  Therion exclaimed, cheeks heating up.  “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be a heavy sleeper?  What were you doing awake last night?!?”

 

Alfyn laughed loudly.  “It’s nothin’ to be ashamed about!  But… You do say some mighty worrisome stuff sometimes…” he said thoughtfully.  “As for me, my stomach was buggin’ me last night, but midnights no good for makin’ medicine,” he added with a grimace.

 

The pair went quiet as the scenery around them went from bushes to trees.  They provided shade from the sun, dappling the ground beneath them. In the distance, Therion could still hear the sound of the river, or maybe it curved around up ahead?  He couldn’t tell. All he could focus on was the path ahead, the crinkle of the leaves under his boots, the sound of his soft footsteps compared to Alfyn’s somewhat louder, less cautious ones.  

 

And then, there was the sound of Alfyn humming to himself.  It was a soft tune, but cheerful and gentle, much like the man humming it.  Out of all the sounds in the woods that day, Therion found himself focusing on that one the most.  It dragged him out of his tiredness and carried him into the day.

 

“Oh, hey, Therion…” the humming stopped, replaced by Alfyn’s voice again.

 

“Mm?”

 

“What exactly happened last night?  I’m, uh, havin’ a little trouble rememberin’,” he said sheepishly.

 

“Oh.  Uh…” The thief thought for a moment, rifling through his memories.  “You passed out at the bar so I took you back to the inn. Ended up dining and dashing because neither of us had money, so the tavernkeep was pretty pissed.  We made it there okay, though. And…”

 

Therion stopped himself from saying anything else, his throat closing up.  Ordinarily, he’d be fine with saying whatever came to mind. But, remembering Alfyn’s words from last night…  

 

“And…?” Alfyn asked, eyebrows raised quizzically.

 

“Nothing.  That was it,” Therion muttered, turning his gaze back to the road ahead.

 

There was silence between the two again, the trees up ahead thinning until all that was left was a small cliff hanging over the river.  H’aanit, Linde, and Tressa stopped, turning to wait for Therion and Alfyn. Linde sniffed the air quizzically, her tail twitching, H’aanit’s hand drifting to the cat’s head in what he could assume was an attempt to calm her down.

 

“Is this it?” Alfyn inquired, gazing at the river below.

 

“Indeede,” H’aanit confirmed.  “But something is amiss… The Frogkings are nowhere to be founden, when they were all here yesterday night.”

 

“Maybe they all just swam downriver!” Tressa theorized.  “Or they got bored of living in the river and went to the woods instead!”

 

H’aanit chuckled.  “No, they aren’t creatures that woulde do that.”

 

Therion yawned, rubbing his tired eyes again.  It wasn’t like him to be this tired. He’d been used to staying awake like that for years and it had never been an issue.  But here he was, rubbing his eyes and tripping over his feet every so often. As he let the sound of his comrade’s voices fade into the background, he squinted into the woods.  He was sure that something had moved just then…

 

“Therion?  Hey, Therion!  Are you awake?”

 

He snapped back to reality, meeting his tired gaze with Tressa’s worried one.  “It’s not like you to zone out like that…”

 

“I’m fine, there’s nothing to worry about,” he muttered, rolling his eyes.  “Really. Don’t waste your time on m -”

 

Just as he was about to finish his sentence, he spotted movement in the trees again, then something coming towards him.  The man dodged the axe quickly and watched as it cleaved into the ground a few feet away. Had he not noticed it coming, he’d have been badly wounded.  He flicked his green gaze to the trees, squinting in an attempt to find the attacker against the dark background, a hand reaching to the dagger at his side.  He could hear his comrades reaching for their weapons, as well.

 

There was an ominous silence, the wind blowing, causing the trees’ limbs to shake.  It was as if both parties were waiting for the other to strike first. Therion found himself holding his breath in anticipation.

 

And then, there they were, half a dozen Frogkings popping out of the bushes.  They screamed what the thief could only assume were war cries that only they could understand before charging forth, all slime and steel and noisy clothes that jangled when they walked.  One of them came barreling towards him, making guttural noises. Its mouth was wide and toothy, as if it could swallow him whole if it wanted to. Therion’s grip on his dagger tightened as it came closer before he dodged it, then swiftly turned on his heel to plunge it into the monster’s back.  It let out one final cry as it reached towards the axe in the ground, which Therion could only assume it had thrown, before it went limp.

 

Shit, that was sloppy, Therion cursed himself.  If he’d taken any more time dodging, the creature would no doubt be beating him right now, or worse, plunging the axe into his body.  He needed to get a hold of himself. Pulling his dagger out, he looked to the rest of his party. H’aanit and Linde were holding their own against a couple Frogkings while Tressa rooted in her bag for what he could only assume were Healing Grapes.  But Alfyn… Where was Alfyn?

 

His eyes flew from one side of the cliff to the other, looking for the apothecary.  The bastard couldn’t have gone far, right? A shout to his right caused him to snap his head in that direction, eyes wide with alarm.

 

Alfyn.

 

The man was facing off against two Frogkings, axe gripped tightly in his hands.  He swung it with ease, but the pair kept blocking it, and pushing him backwards, and…

 

The cliff.

 

They were pushing him towards the cliff’s edge.

 

All at once he saw himself there, just a boy in his late teens, far more trust than what was good for him.  His legs flew in the air, he was flying, no, falling -

 

His feet were falling on the ground, one after another with enough speed to make even Aeber jealous.  It was like he’d lost his mind, like he’d lost his -

 

Partner.  He’d lost his partner, the one person he’d trusted for years.  He lost everything, and all it took was one mistake, one accident, one -

 

“Get out of there!”

 

Was that his voice?  It felt like it came from somewhere outside of itself, wrought with desperateness and fear.

 

Was that really him pushing the taller man out of the way?  He almost couldn’t feel the impact, or hear him fall to the ground a few feet away.  He almost couldn’t feel the swing of the blunt part of the axe, swinging against his side, making his feet fall back, back, back, back, until there was nothing underneath them.

 

There was only air, the rushing water below, and his own pounding heart.