The wicked heroine, p.73
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.73

           Jasmine Giacomo

  Chapter Thirty-two

  The next day, Geret and Salvor decided that while their day-long tasks distracted them quite well from thinking about their failed quest, Sanych was missing such a luxury. They decided to try and help her out of her distant quietude.

  “I’m done with the hunting parties for today,” Salvor said. “We didn’t find a single beast, which is a first for this area. Even those thrice-foolish mynah birds were quiet for once. So I’ll see to Sanych first. I know what she needs.” He grinned, giving Geret a quick eyebrow-raise.

  Geret glowered. “You know she’s not yet sixteen, Salvor.”

  “I’m well aware she’s not old enough for marriage, or that which comes with it.” Salvor squinted accusingly. “That’s an awfully quick jump to thinking the worst of me. Unlike you, I’ve not yet tried to toss aside my upbringing in a passionate moment.”

  Geret recalled bitterly how he’d wanted to execute Armala and Sengril, and realized he was guilty as charged. “Fine, do what you like, then.” He left, leaning his axe on his shoulder, bothered that Salvor got to spend time with Sanych while he had trees to chop down.

  Salvor convinced Sanych to take a walk with him to the spring, and they ambled slowly, while Salvor kept a lilting, easy conversation going. Once they reached the monolith and the spring, Sanych began to point out how far she had studied the plants on the cliff’s face, and the features of each.

  “You’ll turn me into a botanist yet, Sanych elTiera,” Salvor smiled, picking a miniscule, ball-shaped purple flower on a hair-thin stem from its root system in the cracks of the cliff. “What are you going to name this one?” he asked with a smile, tucking it behind her ear.

  Sanych inhaled its incredibly strong spicy fragrance. “It might already have a name in Hyndi. We’re only a few days’ sailing from its borders.”

  Salvor was surprised. “You’ve seen Galanishav’s charts?”

  “Of course,” Sanych responded easily. “He’s made me study everything documenting his journey. It’s all I did the first few days: look at his logbook, the maps and sea charts, depth measurements along shore. In case it got lost somehow. He seems very uneasy on land, that man.”

  At that moment, the burbling spring, a few feet away, suddenly emitted an odd slurping sound. By the time they’d turned their heads to look at it, the water that usually bubbled gently out of the rock-embraced gap had vanished.

  “What in the name of Wisdom…?” Salvor said, walking over to its edge and looking cautiously down into the rough-edged, three-foot-wide hole. “I can’t see the water at all!” he exclaimed. “There’s just an empty shaft–”

  Sanych grabbed his hand. “You’d better back up,” she said, tugging him away from the empty spring.

  “What does it mean?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before.”

  “Pucharo, the Scribe of Hardyk, documented dozens of parallels between subterranean tremors and unusual water-level events.”

  “Maybe you could say that again, in Versal this time,” Salvor asked, frowning at the empty hole in the ground.

  “I mean, water sources like wells and springs do funny things if there’s an earthquake going on somewhere nearby. And sometimes not so near. It’s fascinating reading.” Sanych grinned.

  Salvor only shook his head and smiled. “I bet it is. Well there’s no quake here, luckily for us.” He selected a new plant specimen on the cliff’s face. “Tell me about this one; it looks like its leaves are made of foam.”

  Sanych explained at length about the small plant, and Salvor smiled to see her so happy, so distracted from her thoughts of Meena.

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