The fire was warm, but the icy winds howling through the mountains made her shiver. Eleana pulled her fur coat tighter around herself before taking the small book out of a pocket and opening the plain brown cover. At least the fire provides enough light.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather stay in the tent?” the kind captain asked her.
“Thank you, but I’d like to read,” she replied with a thankful smile.
She opened the book and started reading.
Donash turned the pages of the big black book. He still didn’t know why his friend the merchant had left it on the table on that fateful day. He had not come since, neither to retrieve it nor on one of his regular visits. While he was eager to see his friend again and tell him of his good fortune, he actually wished the merchant would not come to retrieve the book. It had been the source of his fortune and Donash dreaded the thought of having to let go of it. So many secrets still lay in there, waiting to be explored.
A rat dashed between his legs, immediately followed by an orange cat. The cat quickly caught up to the rat and killed it. The cat, with the rat in it’s mouth, jumped on a cupboard and from there on the table. Triumphantly he placed it in front of Donash.
“Yes, Harm. You did it again. Very good.,” Donash petted the cat and picked up the dead rat. It had countless scars over it’s dead body. Many more than those just inflicted by Harm just now. Of course, the cat had killed this rat almost a dozen times already.
Donash made a small cut in his finger top and let a few drops of blood fall into the rat’s freshest wound. The rat’s skin mended, leaving yet another scar. The rat sprang to life and quickly wiggled free of his grip. It jumped off the table, followed by Harm.
Basic blood magic. Donash had repeated it so often now, he no longer needed the book to guide him. Ignoring the rat and cat, he returned to his study of more advanced matters.
The section of the book that lied open dealt with diseases. Supposedly, Donash understood, many diseases are caused by minuscule creatures that feed on the life of the infected. Sometimes, they would multiply and and spread, making the disease contagious. A very minor death spell would kill these creatures, leaving the infected weakened but alive. As the book often repeated: life is death and death is life. It was this apparent reversibility that had taken his interest. Not simply mending a wound or restoring lost blood but true, beyond the point of no return…
“Honey, you have another patient,” Rhena yelled from outside, disrupting his train of thought.
“Bring him in. I’ll prepare,” Donash replied through the window. He left the book open on the table and went upstairs, to the second bedroom. Originally a guest room, it served to keep patients ever since word of Donash’s healing abilities had spread.
He arrived there shortly before Rhena brought the patient in. The man wore a leather armour and a sword at his side. A crest at his left shoulder marked him as a noble of some sorts. Given the armour and weapon, Donash guessed he was a knight.
“Please lie down, sir knight,” he said, gesturing at the bed behind him.
“Thank you, but it is not I who is ill,” the knight replied. “My master, the theryn of Windvale has fallen ill. I have heard you are able to cure any illness. Tell me, is your reputation true?”
Donash barely managed to prevent his mouth from falling open. A lord requiring his assistance was a big thing. Surely, he would be well rewarded if successful. But nobles were also known for their short tempers, Donash had heard. He would have to be careful.
“I have not yet met any illness I could not cure, sir knight. However, I cannot claim to have met all diseases yet. If you’d give me a chance, I would be honoured to seek a cure for Theryn Windvale,” he replied.
“My lord and many others, myself included, would be most grateful. However, time is short. When can you depart?”
“In but a moment, sir knight. I only need to pack my things.”
“I will wait outside, then.” with a nod he retreated out of the room.
Donash then turned to his wife. “It will be just a few days, dear. Can you manage on your own?”
Rhena nodded. “You taught me how to mill. I can do it on my own, now.”
“Very good,” Donash said smiling. “Take good care of yourself and the little boy in there,” he softly poked at her belly.
“I will,” Rhena gave him a quick kiss and said: “Don’t keep the good knight waiting, dear.”
Donash quickly returned downstairs and packed the black book, along with some supplies and spare clothes. He then headed outside, where the knight was awaiting him. “I am ready,” he said.
“Then let us depart.”
Donash waved Rhena goodbye and then followed the knight down the road.
It was a over a full day of walking to reach Windvale. As such, Donash and the knight stopped to spend the night at an inn along the road. It was here that Donash was surprised by his old friend, the merchant, and they talked of his recent fortune.
“I all owe it to the book you forgot at my mill, though,” Donash admitted. “I suppose you want it back?”
To his surprise, the merchant shook his head. “If it brings you so much fortune, you can keep it as long as you like.”
“You are generous as always, good friend.”
“Who am I to deny you your own fortune? The book may have brought you knowledge. The fortune you grasped by yourself. And from the looks of it, you are about to grasp a whole lot more to it,” he gave Donash a friendly smile.
“If I succeed, yes.”
“You have the skill, Donash. You don’t need a lot of fortune to succeed in Windvale. I just came from there. You’ll find everything arranged for you.”
“That is… amazing,” Donash said, not sure what his friend meant with that.
The merchant put his hat on his head and pulled his coat on. “It was good talking to you again. However, I must be off.”
“You’re leaving? Now? It’s already dark outside,” Donash asked confused.
“I smell a business opportunity,” the merchant said smiling. “As any good businessman knows, Fortune waits for no one. You can’t wait for it to find you, Donash. Go out and claim it for yourself when the opportunity arises, or else another will take it.”
With those words, the merchant left the inn, vanishing into the darkness. Inside, Donash was mulling over those last words, wondering whether they simply referred to the merchant’s craft or a cryptic form of advice for him. Just like last time.