Much has been said about Magic being the manifestation of one’s soul. I would like to offer a counter-thesis and stipulate that magic is naught more than blood in its elemental form. The blood of the masses is water, as natural as the river or the rain but the blood of a mage is more. Infused with power it transcends the natural and becomes a conduit for the supernatural. To compare such blood to rain would be a tragedy and a grievous insult.
Theophanes of the Tower, A treatise on the Nature of Magic
Having survived the ancient Stonefast outpost Mara, Jin and Amit retire around the campfire where they have supper and discuss where they are heading next. Amit remembers having some rare plants in a jar and discovers a wad of White Alm leaves and takes them to Vala, the old shamaness who uses them to treat Jin’s leg. Amit and Mara have a long discussion on the nature of servitude before they part ways and go to sleep. The next morning Jin wakes Mara up with a pitcher of water and starts to train her in self-control by teaching her meditation. She also manages to control her thoughts on controlling the bodies of others.
Meanwhile Amit notices a flock of birds going about in weird patterns and concludes that a storm is approaching. After informing Illiagan the caravan master the caravan starts packing in a bid to push forth past the cloud level and into the safety of the high pine forests. Jin and Mara abort their training session, deciding to finish it later.
The caravan rolls up the old Stonefast road, making good progress as the wind picks up. Around noon it finally starts raining and there are gray clouds on the horizon closing in fast so Illiagan decides to head for a small plateau identified by Amit and mar and secure the carts amidst a tree thicket. The storm rolls in fast but, with the carts well secured the travellers spend the time talking old legends and morals. Vala teaches Mara to bind Jin’s open wounds as the storm rolls in more and more. At one point mara leaves as the talk goes sour and takes a shower but returns later on. Wit the storm dying a bit down and the cloud level dropping she steps outside and tries to meditate once more. The soothing rain and the pulse within her calm her down enough to help her relax and, eventually, enter a true meditative state. Alas it would not last long.
Following a cryptic warning from Vala Amit and Jin discover that they are being ambushed by heavily armed men. These men are exactly what the Caravan Master had been fearing, a Stonefast patrol with a penchant for drawing blood. At first the patrol leader orders his men to kill him but following some linguistic panache and persuasion from Amit and a fortuitous discovery in the back of a cart the group is spared and separated from the caravan. Unfortunately in the chaos Vala gets killed by one of the Stonefast men.
Leaving the caravan behind to financial ruin the three are taken to a nearby cave where the patrol leader, a noble named Amarat asks mara to identify where she found the letters on a map. After some deciphering and geographic know how they discover the approximate location of the lost expedition. The captain adds that they need to identify the bodies and return them to the stone, therefore another expedition would be necessary. Mara vehemently disagreed but the captain just added that it’s going to be just another bughunt…