What started as AsaHi’s attempt to repay Kaze’s kindness turned into something so much more. The girl spent the rest of that day resting, providing him with what clothing she could and fixing his scraggled mess of hair. Though Kaze couldn’t hold a conversation, AsaHi still found his company pleasant and almost reassuring. She didn’t realize how much she missed having someone – anyone – around after so many days spent travelling alone.
That evening, she entertained Kaze with stories from her childhood. Most people she knew had heard the tales so many times that they would groan when forced to listen to them again. But not AsaHi. She was still enthralled by the legends from the long past, always mulling them over to find what truths lay within.
Whether Kaze knew the stories or not, she couldn’t tell. He listened with a riveted enthusiasm that thrilled her. It wasn’t often she found someone else who seemed to enjoy the silly things that she did — especially not the people in Nefol, who often dismissed the legends as nothing more than superstitious nonsense.
She chided her imagination to think she may have discovered a kindred spirit in the strange man. After all, she was out in the middle of the forest and she hardly knew a thing about Kaze. Still, when the morning light came and AsaHi began her journey again, she didn’t object when he chose to walk with her.
Instead, she told him more stories.
As the girl wove tales for Kaze, the worries and fears that pushed her to the trail faded. Before she realized it, days of travel passed and the world around her changed from the familiar steep mountains to a rolling hilly land, lush with the vivid colors of spring. As the soft fingers of sunlight touched everything she saw, it was easier for her to forget that she was on the run. Every now and then, she thought she could make out the reassuring shape of a soaring dragon among the clouds, watching over the lands below.
The evenings offered the chance to rest and learn. AsaHi spent much time around the campfire teaching Kaze how to form sounds into proper speech. He was a fast learner, and soon proved able to say a number of simple words. As the days progressed, the girl spent almost as much time identifying the names of things for Kaze as she did telling him stories. He was extremely eager to learn and she found it delightful to watch as the world of words began to open up for him.
Under her care, his appearance also became more and more Nefolian, especially with his hair partially tied back in a wrap, similar to what the men of the city wore. AsaHi wasn’t certain if it was just a trick of her eyes, but the more she saw Kaze wearing the small overcloak she gave him, the more it appeared to actually fit him. She taught him how to wrap his arms, hands and feet with dark strips of hide, which the people of the Gatherings used when proper gloves or boots weren’t available.
AsaHi also discovered ways that Kaze was startlingly unusual. In all the time that they traveled together, she never saw him eat or sleep. He refused all food, even after a long day’s journey. When they stopped by a stream to rest, she was usually parched and thirsty, but he never drank. Though they often walked from sunup to sundown, she never saw him sleep or even appear to get tired. Though she never asked him about it, AsaHi knew was only a matter of time before she would find out the truth.
That began to happen on the evening when the fire-maker vanished. AsaHi searched her pack twenty times over, and dumped everything out, all to no avail. She frowned as she imagined accidentally abandoning the little silver-squared device somewhere in the grass that morning. As careful as the girl was to make sure she packed everything, AsaHi couldn’t believe that she left such an important thing behind.
Kaze came to stand next to her, mimicking her frown. He blinked down in a curious manner, pointing to the strewn contents of the pack.
The girl gave a long sigh, “Hi, Kaze.”
Kaze gave a long sigh, too. He promptly flopped down on the ground, facing her in a grim cross legged manner. Head tilted horizontal, he pointed again.
“I was looking for something,” she tried to explain. “I think I might have accidentally left it behind.”
“What?” he stretched out one hand, palm open.
“What did I lose?” She wrinkled her nose, “The fire-maker.”
He pursed his lips with a confused expression.
“It makes fire so that I can cook food,” she pointed to the pile of brush in the center of the ring of rocks. Then she flittered her fingers to imitate a rising flame above it.
Kaze’s face was grim and questioning at the same time.
“If I don’t find the fire-maker, I can’t start the fire,” AsaHi finished, hoping he understood.
“Fire,” he reached over the fire pit and imitated her finger motions, painting the rise and fall of a flame, too. Then he blinked at her.
“Yes. Fire,” she spread her hands, making a small square shape between her fingers to indicate the fire-maker. “I can’t make a fire without the fire-maker.”
Nodding, his eyes grew bright with sudden understanding. After a moment of observing the unlit pile of brush, Kaze turned back to her with an air of expectancy. The man began motioning in all sorts of strange directions with his hands, obviously trying to explain something to her.
“Kaze,” the girl shook her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”
Kaze pressed both of his palms together and began to rub them back and forth with a strange amused expression. Then, he flicked his fingers forward in a striking motion. A hissing flicker erupted from between his palms as a ball of flame shot down into the fire pit. Instantly, the dried brush caught, creating a small cooking fire.
AsaHi shouted, falling backwards over her emptied pack in astonishment.
The girl stared at the fire, eyes wide. Then she turned towards Kaze with an open-mouthed, questioning look.
That was a full-fledged fire spell!
The man watched her with a pitiful look, head tilted to one side.
The only ones who are trained in magic are the Dragon Apprentices!
Finally, she closed her mouth and swallowed deeply, “How did you do that?”
If he’s an untrained magic user… does that mean he is tapping into the Deep Magics? Is this dangerous?
He leaned closer trying to explain, “Fire… for… AsaHi?”
“Yes, Kaze,” she finally found the voice to answer. “I see the fire.”
“Not… like?” a brief hint of concern rose in his eyes.
“I like it, Kaze,” AsaHi attempted to cover her own uncertainty.
That seemed enough to make him content. He smiled cheerfully at her, waiting with expectation for the ritual storytime to begin.
Instead, she asked, “Can you tell me about your magic? How do you know how to make fire?”
Kaze pursed his lips in return, imitating something he the girl did quite often. With an unusually serious intonation, he told her, “Long… story.”