72 Chapter 72 Musings of Fear
As they settled down to make camp for the night, they divided the chores pretty quickly. Joseph made the fire, using FIRE, and Stella made the soup. Fortunately, just being near a magical fire, enhanced their heat stones. The temperature was already feeling colder than before, and became much worse as the sun went down. They started to eat but his mind wandered to all of the things he was still trying to do.
"Stella. What do you think is wrong with the wasteland?" he asked, as he stirred the soup pot.
She poured him another cup of tea as she thought.
"Isn't it poisoned?"
"That's what I thought. Even though this kingdom doesn't connect to the wasteland, I found a few books detailing expeditions from this kingdom, and the others, into the wastelands. I'm not saying the magic I'm planning to learn is useless for treating the wasteland but it wasn't enough before. They have sent expeditions that could purify earth, air, water, and food before and haven't made progress. The old records record a lot more mages, as well, so they weren't lacking, like we are now.
"But the wasteland has existed for thousands of years, given Sylva's age, and the fact that it wasn't formed before she killed me, or I guess, killed Joseph 1."
Stella's eyes went wide at the remark, but Joseph was lost in his musing.
"Sylva must have gone to the island quickly after that. If it was poison, not only would it not be effective anymore, it would have spread, or receded. But for hundreds of years now, in these records, the boundary hasn't moved. If it was a disease, it would have also died out or spread. I thought it might be radiation, but the sights that were irradiated in my previous lives, had life return within a decade, even at ground zero. Also, after a thousand years, even radiation should stop."
"Um, Joseph?" Stella tried to get a word in.
"I can only think it's magic of some sort, but. Hmm. Sorry, what was that Stella?"
"Um, what do you mean by Sylva killed you?"
"Oh, my oldest memory is a fragment from when I died as a prince, Joseph Dantares. I was coming to warn the fey of a group of demon worshippers plotting something to do with corrupting the world tree. As I think about it that must be what happened. But how do I treat the world tree if getting close will kill me?"
"No, Joseph that still doesn't explain…"
"No, I made it to the forest after escaping my pursuers for a bit, but we were exhausted. Sylva led a team and shot us down with bows out of the trees."
Joseph paused to take a sip of the tea.
"You are really good at this, you know that?
"Well, I didn't fall from arrows, but my horse did. She pinned me to the ground with her sword. It hurts a lot, when you twist it by the way. I couldn't get a word out. Sylva must have been using that charm she talked about before, now that I consider it. I thought various naughty thoughts about you, er her, I mean, even as...
"Well anyway, how would I even treat the world tree without knowing exactly what they did to it anyway? That's assuming the world tree is the reason for the wasteland though, and I don't have any proof of that. None of this kingdom's records, have even mentioned a world tree. Maybe the elves know.
"Hmm, maybe it's your charm from Sylva that is messing with people. But you don't have full power, so it's subtle and I can just dispel it by brute force, blasting mana at it instead of an actual counterspell? That would make some sense.
"Maybe the wasteland has a magic effect on it but not an actual spell. Perhaps I could do something about it that way? Do the elves have records of the world tree? Is everything going to point back to raiding the elven libraries?"
Joseph continues to worry into his teacup while Stella stared at him, trying to follow along the double thought paths. She shook her head and stood up.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I need a moment. You're confusing me."
"Sorry?" he obviously didn't know how he was confusing her.
She paced for a moment then sat back down.
"I'll take first watch, why don't you get some sleep?" he said.
When it was his turn to sleep, Stella had to wake him only two hours in, to recharge the heat rocks. He fell back to sleep almost immediately afterwards. When he woke again, Stella had breakfast ready for him to heat up. Two minutes later, they were enjoying their meal, so they were able to set out quickly.
"This is so weird for me," Joseph said as they walked. "I'm not used to not studying."
"You're so weird," Stella said, shaking her head.
"But I only need twenty more hours to finish FLAME JET. If I don't stop the evil, whatever it is, before the week is up, everyone will die. I can't risk the fog getting to the barbarian valley."
"It's a good thing you have me to talk to, then, I guess."
"I would go crazy! I'm so glad I'm not alone. I think that would be the worst thing ever!"
"Wait, you think that being here alone is worst than anything else you could think of?"
Joseph was silent for a moment.
"If I can talk to you, I don't have to remember things that have happened in my past lives. None of them were good, except when I met you."
"Just stop thinking about your problems."
"But they distract me from the big bad evil I have to get rid of. Honestly I'm really scared of all this. I remember dying and it was really shavist. I don't know how I'm going to kill this thing, unless I PURIFY FOOD it."
"You do know some fire spells," Stella tried to reassure him.
He nodded. "I just hope it works. Seems like someone would have used that already though, and yet it's still here."