As soon as Tove walked out of sight of the others, she fell to her knees and vomited bile and blood. Anaphora curled her neck over Tove worriedly, whuffling into her hair. Tove reached up and gave the skyscale a pat. 

“You are as bad as your mate, almost,” said a low voice. 

Tove would have started if she’d had the energy to. As it was, she barely managed to lift her head. “Yeah, well. I’d say we deserve each other. So…hey, Rikvi. What brings you out here?”

“The same thing as always. The world is in peril, and it rudely interrupts my research.” The necromancer stopped a foot away, ice crunching beneath her boots. “You are in bad shape, cousin.”

“Yes, well, the fighting gets pretty rough. And druidry…it’s hard out here. Takes more out of me. A magic born of the lush and verdant jungles doesn’t care for the ice, go figure.” Tove reached one hand up for a little assistance, but instead, Rikvi bodily hauled her up. 

She may be a daughter of Raven, but she came from a long line of Bear’s favored children and has the build to show for it. Tove, by comparison, is a twig.

Tove had to fight not to vomit. Again. Wow, she felt terrible. There was blood on her and it was not all that of the enemy. “I want to find where Kessler went…”

“You are going to find your way to the infirmary, Hopesinger,” Rikvi said, her voice even and implacable. “He has managed to avoid death so far, as desperately as he seems to court it. I scarcely know the man, but I dare say he would not appreciate you imperialing yourself on his behalf when there is no need. I will keep an eye out for him.”

It was a meatless offer, Rikvi knew. She was no scout, no tracker. The Captain could evade her easily, as could Tove. Maybe if her visions were yet flickering across her gaze, but…they had vanished. Still, it was meant to make Tove feel better, and it seemed to work.

Rikvi helped Tove up into Ana’s saddle, but the ranger leaned forward to rest for a minute. 

“You are afraid,” Rikvi said.

“Aren’t we all?” Tove gestured vaguely at the….everything.

“You have not let that stop you before. You are afraid for him, in particular.”

“Well, yes.” Tove closed her eyes. You know, it was funny. Part of the reason she had Thorvald had split ways was that the man had been almost married to his forge. She had wanted someone who would plunge into danger with her, but now that she had it– “Well, I knew what I was getting into.” She thought she had.

She wouldn’t change her choice for the world, but this didn’t mean she wasn’t sick to her stomach with a bit more than internal bleeding. Especially now, especially the risk of _this_ dragon, who had so nearly snared the Captain before. The risk of this fight, which they were always on the verge of losing.

Oh, Jormag had a reckoning coming. 

“I find comfort in knowing that my husband is tucked behind his desk with his numbers and his books,” Rikvi rumbled. “But then, that is where I would rather be, too.” 

“You would rather be tucked behind his desk?”

“Please,” Rikvi said dryly, knowing well what Tove was getting at. “I would not fit. All office activities must take place on the floor. Now, do not try to fool me with jokes. Get back to the grotto, and from there home.” Rikvi gave Tove’s arm a squeeze. “Try not to die when your mount takes off, now.”

Tove shuddered at the thought. “I will do my best.”

Ambrosine was going to frown at her, but well. She deserved it. As long as she was back on her feet soon…

Author Ambrosine
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