73 Chapter 73 The Pain of Loss
"Magic fire should stop the freezing fog," Joseph mumbled to himself as they walked the next day.
Stella thought about the number of oil bags she had on her. As long as he made the fire magical it should work, but she wasn't sure. How do you fight a fog? She couldn't wait to see an actual creature to fight.
"I wish Selena were here. This monster would probably go re-seal itself to get away from her."
Stella nodded in agreement.
"What do you think Tekaun meant about befriending dragons?" mused Joseph, kicking at a frozen blade of grass.
"I think you think too much."
"What? You realize I pretty much can't not think and still do magic right?"
"But you think about everything too much."
"Well fine. What do you want to talk about?"
Stella paused as Joseph reached down and found a tiny little flower. How it was still alive, in the cold, she had no idea. Maybe it was magical?
"Here. Stand still," he said, reaching up to weave it into her hair. "There. It's cute on you. So, what did you want to talk about if you think I think too much?"
"What do you think your kingdom will be like?" she asked after a moment of thought.
"I want to bring a lot of the things that made life better in my old lives, into my kingdom. I want mages involved in society. But I don't think I want them overprivileged either."
"Why do you have to make a distinction with the mages?"
"I want to encourage magic. The study of magic. The use of magic. Make it part of the elementary school. If you teach everyone about it then you won't have people ostracized or held up on a pedestal. Not everyone has the ability to use magic so it makes it special. No matter how hard someone works, if they aren't born with magery, they probably will never be able to use magic."
"So, does walking make having legs special? What of the people who are born with no legs?"
"Those are a minority who can't walk. I'm talking about a minority who can do something most can't."
"But you just said you don't want them to feel overprivileged."
"Yeah that's why I'm worried about it. In my head I only want mages to be able to make a little more than other people doing the same thing. That way they are encouraged to go through the hard work of studying to be a mage. But I don't want to discourage someone who decides to be a doctor or alchemist from doing what they love just because they have magery. I also don't want mages to be enslaved to the idea of, they have to be mages because they were born with magery so they need to take care of the non-mages."
"Sounds complicated. I'm glad you're the king not me." She shook her head. He had some awesome ideas, but they all took way too much thought. How did people do it in the beginning? It was so confusing trying to make sure that every angle was covered so no one got butt hurt over something.
Joseph just sighed and she worried about him. His brain never seemed to stop. It was fine right now, while he had plenty to learn and room to grow, but what would happen when he had learned it all? Would he want to go exploring to find out more things? It would be kind of hard to be a king if you were running around trying to learn new things.
He sighed again, and she glanced over at him.
"You sigh a lot."
"I know," he said, sighing again.
"That's it, time for a bathroom break. Then we can warm up something for lunch."
"Alright, that sounds like a good idea."
As Stella tied her belt back in place, she noticed a few barbarians walking towards them. They had noticed the fire Joseph had started. There were two women with a young boy, girl and a baby.
"Hello?" one of the women called out, and Stella raised her hand in the greeting she had learned from the barbarians that meant they were welcome to join their fire.
With a small smile of thanks, the women ushered the children to the fire. The boy stared at Joseph curiously, as he was the same size as him. The girl didn't look around at anything but the fire. She was shivering pretty bad, and it looked like she had lost both of her shoes.
With a wince, Stella handed a pair of her spare shoes to the girl, who stared at them for a moment, then nodded in thanks and put them on. Her feet were bloody and raw from the cold, but it didn't look like she had any frostbite yet.
"Thank you so much!" said the woman with the baby as she sat down by the fire.
"You look like you're all hungry," said Joseph, handing out some of the food they had brought with them.
Stella did inventory in her head, and knew that she would have to hunt some, despite the serious lack of anything living.
"Are you lost?" asked the other woman, eating her food slowly so as to be able to share it with the children when they had finished their own.
"Oh, no! We're on a mission from Tekaun," said Joseph.
Stella remain quiet, wondering if they would ask more, or if Joseph would give more information away. While she didn't mind helping these people, she didn't want them to think they needed to force them to go with them.
"Ah, Tekaun is a very wise shaman. If she has sent you to do something, then it is best you complete your task. We thank you for the fire and the food, but I am afraid we must continue on. The cold will only get worse, and we do not want the fog to catch us again."
"The fog?" asked Joseph.
"Yes, eh," they looked at each other, and one nodded at the one speaking. "Our tribe had stopped to harvest a large elk hunt. There was enough meat to survive on for the rest of the summer, and we needed the food badly. The fog caught us before we knew what was happening. Everyone it touched was frozen. We lost half of the tribe in fifteen minutes. Our husband was touched. He chose to remain behind as the cold creeped up his arm and leg, so the beast in the fog would stop its march long enough for us to escape. We could hear it crunching on the frozen limbs of those in the fog."
"He sacrificed himself so we could get away," said the boy, his eyes bright with the pain of loss.