Tinhara opened the caqun and struggled out, calling to Huel. He stood from where he had curled up into a ball to protect himself, and let out a short chuff. He stepped forward and shook, ice and snow whirling off in a halo of spray. Cyr struggled to raise her head out of the warm protection she was wrapped in. Winning a battle always invigorated Tinhara, but she knew better than to stay in the area for too long. “What is your name?” Tinhara asked.
“And what did you do to piss the Gods off like that?”
“Came looking for you.”
“Well, you found me, and they found us. It is time to move before they send another storm.” She rummaged around the rest of the sled for some small sealskins to wrap around the old woman’s hands and feet, and she found a spare hood for the woman. Tinhara made sure her ward was completely covered with skins and went to the back of the sled. She checked the hiriqta that she had quickly placed in her pouch, smiling at the weight of the gold. She grabbed the reins, and shouted, “Fit, fit!”
Huel struggled for a moment to start the heavy sled on the freshly altered terrain. Finally, grunting and straining, he yanked the sled back onto the icy river road, and ran along with ease, each mighty paw crashing down through the thin layers of new snow.
“Fit!” she shouted again as she snapped the reins. Huel grunted and shook his head, and ran faster. They moved along swiftly, the sound of the well-worn runners interrupted only by Huel’s rhythmic breathing and an occasional murmur from the old woman. The icy cold, the freedom, and the adventure: this was the best life. But now she had another dilemma, another problem, of what to do with the seer. She had planned to kill the old woman, but when she heard that the Gods were unhappy with Cyr, that she was the cause of this unhappiness, she wanted to know more. Tinhara had stayed too long in Visby, had become lazy in Qaltroq’s sheltered house, soft under Qaltroq’s tender fingers. But here, in the cold and white, she knew herself. It would take her only a day or so on the Qanpun River to get past Galmaq, if Huel kept this pace.
Hoarfrost began to form on the fur around her hood. It was bitterly cold, and Tinhara’s forehead was beginning to hurt from the stinging wind. She smiled: this was the finest she had felt in a very long time. The lull left behind by the storm was bright and clean. She could see for hours in each direction. Huel’s leathery paws spat snow up onto the sled and into Tinhara’s face as he ran. They were travelling with a slight breeze, and it made for a fast ride. Tinhara closed her eyes for a moment and felt the wind embrace her. It danced on all sides, touching her, enveloping her. Strong and powerful, the cold caressed her and she felt safe and powerful and herself again. It was moments like these, under the touch of the wind or a woman’s gentle hands, that she could forget her past. But when the touching stopped, when the wind died down, the atrocities came rushing back.
“Damned by Hecath!” Tinhara shouted out as blood and gore clouded her mind. She stopped the sled and got off to face the mystic, her knife in her hand.
Cyr smiled at the sight of the blade poking out from Tinhara’s gloved hand. “I know who you are,” she said as she arranged the furs more to her liking. “Only Tinhara would steal the hiriqta from a dying old woman.”
“So you know that unless you tell me why you were really in the snow, I will cut your tongue out and eat it.”
“Your reputation seems well deserved,” Cyr said, “but I know the truth. I know what you did for Qaltroq.” Tinhara stood, waiting, wondering if her actions were a sign of strength, or of weakness. “My cousin, Tanki visited you in the orphanage.” Instantly, Tinhara was transported back two decades, and all was as it had been, except for Cyr’s voice. “I know what his message was to you. I know you acted because of his guidance. I know you killed so many of your own under his hand.” Cyr paused for a moment. “And I know he was wrong, he lied.”
Tinhara snapped out of her reverie. Her jaw set and her eyes hardened. She whipped off her squints and levelled her icy-blue eyes squarely with Cyr’s. Her teeth were bared. She was ready to eat Cyr’s tongue the second it poked from between her lips. Gently, slowly, the mystic raised her hand and touched Tinhara’s chest, pushing her out of biting range.
“There are two sides, even more, to every battle. And he is with another side. You were his pawn, Tinhara. You are not to blame for your destiny, only for the viciousness you used to embrace it,” Cyr said. Tinhara gripped her knife and pulled her arm back, ready to strike. “Redemption can be yours,” Cyr murmured softly.
These four words from Cyr stopped Tinhara in mid-stab. “Redemption?” she gasped. Tinhara had not even dared to think the word during the years her soul shrank and withered under the heat of her shame. She leaned back slightly, and then remembered she was talking to a mystic, another liar. “Which side are you on?” she asked. She knew the stakes must be high for Cyr to reveal herself like this, but herself in this much danger. The stakes must be very high for the Gods to get involved. “Whose side?”
“My own,” Cyr replied. Tinhara stepped back with a smile: she would have trusted no other answer.
“And what truth do you know? Whose truth? The truth of the dead, or the truth of the living?” Tinhara asked.
“The truth of the Ancestors. You have killed many, and will kill more,” she said sagely. “But if those kills are well-chosen, you can rescue your soul.”
“Rescue my soul?”
“That is what you want, isn’t it? Another chance? A chance to stop the nightmares, to make amends for everything bad you’ve done?”
“Is it?” Tinhara asked. Even she was not sure anymore.
“It is, but you have been afraid to speak it, think it. No sense in wishing for things that cannot be. But let me tell you, Tinhara, there is a chance. Faint, perhaps, but only because it rests with your willpower.”
Tinhara mulled over the prospect but remained unmoving, still crouched in a half attack, ready to complete the job at any time. She had to risk her freedom to regain her soul. “Who do I have to kill?”
Cyr held up her hand and shook her head. “You have a long journey ahead of you. You must stay alive to carry it out, and there are those who know your path, and will oppose you. Kill no one innocent, but do not hesitate with your enemy. Sit,” she commanded. Huel let out a frustrated huff as Tinhara sat on the edge of the caqun. He plopped himself down into the snow, shifting the sled slightly with his great weight. Cyr gave Tinhara a calculating look. “Tanki made only one mistake with you,” Cyr said. “He thought you were too weak to carry out the task. He thought you would fail, and that it would start a great civil war. He did not realize you would wipe out the enemy so thoroughly, destroy any semblance of opposition. I know you are strong enough to do this.” Cyr cleared her throat, and Tinhara took it as a sign that the prophecy was about to be revealed. Her heart began to thump wildly and her muscles tensed with anticipation.
“In Galmaq, in Aqumlluk, you will find the Burning Woman. She is the key to everything. She is your redemption, if you are up to the challenge. Use your strength, courage and magic to bring the Burning Woman home. A small enough task, rescuing one woman, but a difficult journey.”
Tinhara sucked her lower lip in between her teeth. “Burning Woman, what does that mean? Why is this Burning Woman special?” she asked. The prophecy was too vague for her liking. She knew there was more; Cyr was holding back information. Cyr’s eyes clouded over slightly, and it made Tinhara nervous.
“The King wants her,” Cyr said. Tinhara’s face turned red as rage coursed through her. That alone was enough to convince Tinhara that it was an action to be taken. Right or wrong, if I could hurt the King she would do it. But Cyr continued. “If he has her, his alliance with Karech is sealed, and Qan is lost.”
Tinhara thought for a moment, slack-jawed and slightly dazed. Tanki had prophesised that it would be she who helped the King’s alliance with the magicians of the western land of Karech, and it wasn’t until she was well into the rampaging war that ensued that she discovered that it was an alliance of death. “Keep the Burning Woman from the King, bring her home, and I am rewarded?”
Cyr nodded and smiled a little. “You will have to use all that you learned fulfilling Tanki’s prophecy, to fulfil mine. He promised you would become a great warrior, and that everyone would know your name. He did not tell you it would be for the evil you have brought on your own land. In that sense, he was right and Tinhara, I tell you now, you can be redeemed, and I am right.”
Tinhara stood up and began to pace around the sled. Huel opened one eye to watch her, and waited. “So if I rescue this woman, then I atone for what your cousin made me do? Unless you are lying, in which case, can it actually get any worse than it is now? With the Karech involved, it might get much worse. But I have a chance to stop the alliance, is that right? Stop the Karech from coming into Qan? Drive out the few who have already staked a claim in Galmaq next to the King? They are already here, already on their way, I doubt I could do more damage than they. But why me?”
“Is there anyone in Qan you love? Anyone you want to protect? Your parents are dead, you do not love Qaltroq, you are alone.”
“There is no one.”
“And that is why it must be you. You have developed a stomach for war, the nerves for killing, the skill of survival. You are not sentimental, Tinhara, you are without love. That emotion does not exist for you, I doubt it ever has. And that is why it must be you.”
She considered all that was being offered to her, and agreed to take on the prophetic guidance of the mystic, but she would do so this time with open eyes. She would be watching for a betrayal, knowing it would come, expecting to see it before it arrived. If the King were involved, it would be bloody and difficult. But redemption was too tempting a prize.
“How do I get in and out of Galmaq, past the guards?” she asked. It was the biggest obstacle she could envision right now: there were not many blue-eyed women riding alone on sleds pulled by bears. “I am sure they have sealed up the bootlegger’s tunnel since I was last there.”
Cyr smiled broadly. “You are committed. Take me with you and I shall weave my magic and turn your bear into a dog. You will blend in with all the others if you stay discreet. I will change your eyes to brown for a short time, enough to get into Galmaq and find her.”
Tinhara’s heart was racing. She gave a final nod of agreement, and stepped to the back of the sled. As soon as she touched the reins, Huel leapt up and was ready to go. She established a strong pace as she mulled over the offer in her mind. If things went well, she would be redeemed and perhaps live the rest of her life with Qaltroq in Visby, or if not Qaltroq then some other woman somewhere who would cook and make love to her. If things went badly, she would be forever reviled by the people of Qan, hunted by the Guards, always in fear of her life, and it would be no different than it was right now.
It was already some hours into her journey, and Tinhara still felt as keen as a knife’s edge from the excitement. The sun shied behind the mountains and the sky began to darken slightly. The icescape was almost without colour beneath the low pale sky; it would still be a few more days before the twilight months descended. She was able to spy a small black dot in the distance. “It looks like another traveller heading toward Galmaq, coming from the east,” she announced to Cyr. After a few more minutes, she could see another, and another. “I had forgotten how busy the city could be with the upcoming festivals. I know we have talked over your plan, a few times, but my freedom is at stake here.”
“Trust me,” Cyr replied. “You will see the transformation soon.” In the distance, if she strained, Tinhara could see the massive stone walls surrounding Galmaq. She would stop just inside the gates to see if she could find a buyer for the crossover coin. Usually she could get at least ninety ran for one gold hiriqta. She might get more if the trader was one of her old cronies. She would pick up a few supplies, find the fiery, no, Burning Woman, and change her life.
“I can’t wait to tell Kieron,” Tinhara said as they drew closer to the city.
“No you foolish woman, you must not tell anyone.”
“What did you just call me?”
“A foolish woman. You cannot tell anyone. Tanki and his spies are everywhere, and you have the King’s Guards to consider. You can tell no one.”
“But Kieron is an old friend, and he…”
“He may not be Kieron when he arrives. My cousin has shapeshifters in his employ. They can take on the appearance of anyone,” Cyr chided.
Tinhara thought for a moment and then leaned over the end of the sled toward Cyr, and tapped her on the head. “If they can look like anyone, how will I know if it’s the right Burning Woman?” she asked.
“They do not know what she looks like or where she will be.”
“And do you?”
“I told you she will be at the Aqumlluk. Have you listened to a word I’ve said?”
Tinhara’s face burned as the old woman scolded her like a small child. She wished for a knife to slit the old woman’s throat, but settled instead for a drink from the grogskin. By the time they were within a dozen minutes of the grey stone of Galmaq, she was back to her usual self: tense, cautious, and enraged. Her anger started to heat up, simmering just under the surface, looking for an excuse to boil out. “Cyr! Hssst! What about those disguises?” Tinhara whispered hoarsely as she stopped the sled.
“Close your eyes, and they will be brown when you open them. Huel will be a dog,” Cyr said. Tinhara frowned and blinked as quickly as she could. When she opened her eyes, there stood a large black dog instead of her powerful bear. “It will last until you find the Burning Woman. Then all will return.”
Tinhara stepped off the sled and spoke to her passenger. “Redemption is the reward?” She needed to be reassured of the terms of the deal. “And that is redemption of my soul, of me, Tinhara, killer of nations.” She wanted to be sure there was no trick. Cyr nodded. Tinhara looked at Huel, and sneered. She did not care for dogs, not when she had a bear. Huel was much smaller as a dog, but Cyr had evidently thought of that, and had also shrunk the harness. She pushed the sled from behind while Huel strained to move the sled. Tinhara shook her head. “Cyr, you will have to walk, he is not as powerful now.”
“One moment,” Cyr said. She waved her hand at Huel and whispered something. The sled took off, and Tinhara almost tumbled off. She yanked back on the reins to stop the dog.
“You have restored his strength?” she asked. Cyr murmured and nodded, and snuggled into the caqun.
There was a slow line-up to get into Galmaq, since the guards were searching every sled. “Why don’t you just wave your hand and put us inside the walls?” Tinhara asked. She leaned over to get closer to Cyr and asked “Why don’t you just wave your hand and send the Burning Woman home?”
“My magic works only to trick the eye, not to transport. I have a limited range, only a few dozen steps on either side of me to cast the spell. But once I’ve concealed something, or someone’s identity, it remains concealed until it is released,” Cyr explained. They were getting close to the sentry hut, and she kept her voice down.
Tinhara turned and looked toward the hut. There was no activity. “Then why not conceal the woman’s face and walk her out yourself?”
“She is from another place, and my magic does not affect her…” Cyr trailed off. She had an answer for everything. Huel pulled the sled up and stopped as commanded just outside the guard’s hut. Tinhara nodded at the guard. “By the light of Hecath, by the love of Qan,” she greeted him. “I have an old woman who wandered away from Galmaq, and I am returning her to her family,” said Tinhara. He pulled back the skins and revealed the old woman, whose appearance startled Tinhara. She had disguised herself, and was now haggard and gap-toothed like most old women.
The guard was a young man, perhaps 20 years of age. He had the square, jutting jaw and low brow of most of the men selected for the King’s Honour Guards. They were born and bred to serve the reputation and pride of the King, and followed his orders like mindless sycophants. His sharp, inflexible eyes never fell fully on Tinhara, but instead looked grimly at the old woman.
“We want no beggars here,” said the guard as he gestured at Cyr.
“She is not a beggar,” Tinhara protested. He stepped back, grabbed the oil lamp from his hut and walked toward the pair, his brow furrowed and his face severe. He was going to give them a closer inspection, and stepped up to the sled, bending so close to the old woman that his steaming breath flew around her face like a veil. Tinhara turned slightly so he could not catch a glimpse of her face: she thought she might know him.
“Who are you?” he asked as he squinted and strained in the dim light. “You look familiar. Are you of Galmaq? Whose family are you from?” Tinhara sneered, knowing that Cyr could lie as well as any mystic.
Cyr turned her now fat, wrinkled face in his direction, letting the pale yellow flame light her up. “I am of the house of Tuqluk. I was on my way to Visby when I was caught in a storm, my grandson was lost. He was about your age,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes. “I thought I too would die, but this woman found me, rescued me, is bringing me home to tell of the death of my sweet… young… child…” she sobbed as she gestured unsteadily toward Tinhara. She extended one hand out from the caqun and showed him a small ring.
The guard apologised quickly, bowed deeply and called for the gates to be opened. “By the love of Qan and the light of Hecath,” he bellowed as the sled zipped past.
Well out of sight of the sentry, Tinhara asked, “Where did you get that ring?”
Cyr laughed. “I found this old piece of bone in your bag. You should not eat where you sleep; your caqun is filthy. I changed the bone into a ring so he would let us pass.”
Tinhara was impressed. “Yours is an interesting magic, one that could come in handy quite often,” Tinhara said. Cyr nodded.
“But it is exhausting. I am risking my life to maintain your façade, to hide Huel’s true nature. If you do not find the Burning Woman within a day, I could die from the exhaustion. Let’s move on.”
“Has the Burning Woman arrived?” Tinhara asked as they travelled slowly along the outskirts of the city.
“No, she arrives tomorrow.”
“Then why meet with me today, why not meet with me tomorrow to save your strength?”
“Because by tomorrow, you would be past Galmaq,” Cyr answered.
“You have an answer for everything, old woman, and it makes me uneasy. You can hide faces, but only for a while, and not of foreigners like the Burning Woman, although you won’t tell me where she is from. You pull a bone from my caqun that I know was not there when I rescued you from the storm. You say it’s a trick of the eye, yet transform not just my bear, but his harness. You unsettle me, hag,” Tinhara spit. Her doubt was growing stronger, her suspicions greater.
“Let us stop for a drink and let me explain it all to you, we have time,” Cyr said. “I will remove the spell, and cast it again tomorrow when you need it most.”
Huel suddenly appeared at the end of the sled, replacing the dog, but all Tinhara could think of was the groggery, and pulled on the left rein. Huel responded, and they headed in a new direction.
Galmaq consisted of two distinct environments. Surrounded by the wall was an almost normal Qanian landscape. Snow and ice covered the ground. But in the heart of this wide ring was the city of Galmaq, where tens of thousands of people lived in unnatural warmth.
The snow was not deep here; the wind had no chance to rip across the landscape and fashion it to its own liking. The walls, higher than any house or building, saw to that. But without the wind, a rancid mist hung over Galmaq, a curtain to hide the cruelty and desperation of those who lived on the edges of bad magic. Here lived the whores and thieves, coffin-bearers and vagrants. And here too they died, bodies slowly rotting in the stagnant air. They had no hiriqtas; their souls floated around their decaying bodies until there was nothing left of either, and in the cold and ice, that took many lifetimes. But Tinhara felt no fear. She had no fear of death for she had long surrendered to it. “There is nothing left to live for but the moment, and losing this moment would be no great thing,” she said as she wondered briefly if the mystic was trying to trick her, to get her drunk and make her forget all of the unanswered questions.
Tinhara coughed and snorted to try to get the smell out of her nostrils. There were two groggerys, a few supply stores, a scattering of ramshackle homes, dead bodies and not much else.
“This is a foul place,” Cyr said. Tinhara laughed, fully agreeing with the sentiment. “We no longer bother to cover the dead. This land has grown dark and savage under the King’s rule. We no longer care for our mother, and she no longer cares for us.”
“You cannot insult the King. We’re in his land now, and such talk will bring the King’s Guards upon us. I want to drink, not to die. Not today,” Tinhara countered. “Drink!” The pull on her body for grog was powerful, and she became first impatient and then angry that she was not at a groggery yet.
Within a few insufferable minutes, Tinhara pulled up to the Tluq groggery and halted Huel. “Get out!” she ordered. Cyr clambered to her feet and stepped carefully out of the sled, careful not to trip on the skin or tough sinews that held it to its sled bones.
“These are mine!” Tinhara shouted as she stripped the woman of her hat and gloves. Cyr shrank from Tinhara’s anger, and bowed her head. That served only to inflame Tinhara more. She shoved Cyr toward the Tluq and stepped up to release Huel from his harness.
Huel began to cough and sputter, spitting forth some phlegm. He shook his head, spraying Cyr with drool. Cyr cried out in disgust at the filth that now covered her. Tinhara put her hands on her hips and watched the show, grinning. Huel walked up to Cyr, and sniffed at her. “You’re the one who made him a drooling dog,” Tinhara laughed. She laughed again and hip-checked Huel. He grunted and walked away. Tinhara watched as he strode casually toward the outlying territory, sniffing at corpses before passing them up for something more promising in the wind further down the road. She knew he couldn’t go far; the walls surrounded the entire area and he could not climb them or tear them down. Behind her, Tinhara could hear the old woman’s rasping breath. Wordlessly, she grabbed the woman by the shoulders and shoved her hard toward the door of the Tluq.
Kieron’s Tluq groggery was one of Tinhara’s favourites. It’s old roof and sod walls were strong. No matter how many fights had taken place, no matter how many drunks had passed out against its walls, the Tluq withstood them all, would outlast them all. Inside, the building showed its true size. It was small, only enough room for a few people: four tables and four seats at the bar, more if they fell drunk to the floor. Tinhara kicked at a small pebble and recalled fleeing not long ago from this womb, this sanctuary. The Tluq was crowded but that meant the body heat of all the drinkers kept the room warm. For Tinhara, walking in was like escaping time. The Tluq was a home.
The air was thick with the smell of grog and vomit. Tinhara breathed deeply; there was nothing like that smell. A smile began to crack her lips as she looked around for a table, and that same smile disappeared quickly when she saw there were none to be had. She spotted a drunk, asleep in his seat, at the end of the bar. She grabbed Cyr by the arm and headed over. Tinhara shoved the man aside, and he fell with a dull thud onto the cold dirt floor. “Doesn’t matter to him if he’s drunk on a stool or drunk on the floor,” laughed Tinhara. She took his seat and pulled the old woman around to her left side. The top of Kieron’s head appeared just above the level of the bar as he rummaged around beneath it.
“You’ve been sitting all day, you can stand for a while,” said Tinhara to Cyr.
“But I am an old woman,” Cyr said softly in protest. She eyed the bar quickly, and had decided this was not a place to catch anyone’s attention.
“Wuhh!” Tinhara hissed. Cyr nodded and bowed her head, remaining silent as commanded. Tinhara took off her otuk and shoved it to the ground beneath her feet. She removed her seal fur shirt and her gloves, and shook herself to loosen up the rest of the layers of clothing.
She looked at her fingers as she worked her clothing loose: she was missing both of her smallest fingers on each hand, and the tip of the next finger, on her left hand.
“You back?” Kieron asked as stood up with an ice bucket of grog in both hands. He slammed it onto a shelf behind him, and waited. Tinhara shrunk down a bit and gestured for him to keep quiet. He responded by bending slightly as he stepped toward her. “What happened to your eyes?” he whispered.
“Shut up Kieron!” Tinhara hissed. “An illness has turned them brown. It will go away.”
Kieron slapped Tinhara on the shoulders and laughed again. Tinhara wondered briefly if this was Kieron, or a shapeshifter. “I don’t want to know what you did to catch this eye disease,” he snickered. Kieron waited for Tinhara to tell him anyway. Instead, Tinhara smiled and winked. Kieron was a large man who had gained his size by feeding on grog and meat, lots of each. He smiled and waited for her to say something else.
“I’ll have a grog.”
“Let’s see your money first,” he said. He grabbed a cup and wiped it carefully with a rag, his massive fingers enveloping the round-bottomed tumbler.
“Don’t you trust me?” asked Tinhara, widening her eyes and placing her hand over her heart.
“Trust, but verify,” Kieron responded with a tilt of the head and a smile across his face. His voice was casual, almost forgetful in its tone. Tinhara laughed again. She knew this could not be a shapeshifter, for only Kieron would risk such an offense.
“What do you think?” She reached into her pouch and pulled out the crossover coin, showing it to him carefully, so that no one else could see. Kieron let out a low whistle. He opened his mouth to ask how she had obtained it, but then looked at the old woman, and nodded.
“Did you steal it from the hag?” he asked as he gestured with his head. Cyr’s eyes narrowed at his comment.
“No, no,” answered Tinhara. “She used it as payment. I saved her, and she paid me to take her here.” Tinhara sat straight up.
Kieron nodded and smiled, and shrugged. “Lots of old hags give up their soul’s salvation to be brought to the Tluq, happens all the time,” he said.
The mystic looked up and opened her wrinkled lips to speak. Tinhara’s eyes widened and she moved her hand down to the handle of her knife. Cyr meekly closed her mouth again.
“Who can know the mind of an old woman?” Tinhara asked, trying to justify her actions. She knew she had to play the game of lies, whether or not she understood the rules or knew the outcome. “Catch them in the snow, and suddenly they see the light.”
Cyr began to cough. Dry gasps wracked her throat, and her chest heaved and shook as she breathed, and it drew Tinhara’s attention away momentarily from Kieron as he went to get the grog.
“Old woman, why do you cough?”
“I am an old woman, we do that on occasion,” Cyr said indignently.
Tinhara shook her head. “No. You haven’t coughed the entire time I’ve been with you, and now you cough.”
“It is the foul air of this place.”
“The stink of vomit and sweat.”
“Of stale grog, passed through men one way or another.”
Tinhara sighed. She knew Cyr was lying, knew she was distracting her for a reason. Something, or someone, was behind her, not to be noticed. Kieron brought the grog back to Tinhara. “Give her the grog, she needs something to drink. Give me a fresh one.”
Kieron nodded and handed the drink to Cyr, who stared at it, refusing to take it. Kieron fetched another grog out of the ice bucket, left it with Tinhara, and walked away. Tinhara gulped down her grog without a breath. It tasted sweet, it’s berry flavour filling her mouth and reminding her why she liked to drink so much. She could feel a little trickle spilling out of the corner of her mouth, so she swallowed faster. No sense in wasting it. With her last swallow, Tinhara yanked the tankard from her lips and smashed it down onto the bar. She let out a satisfied, “Ahhhh,” and smiled.
“Drink yours,” she said.
“I did not ask for grog,” Cyr said. She could not take her eyes off the drink.
“I asked for it, you drink it.”
Cyr paused for a moment, her hand trembling as she gazed into the dark liquid. “I cannot… perform… when I drink,” she said softly. She turned her head away, finally able to break the spell the grog had over her. Tinhara arched an eyebrow, and smirked.
She leaned in close to Cyr and whispered, “Your magic disappears when you drink?” Cyr nodded silently and turned slightly toward Tinhara. She inhaled deeply, and it made Tinhara smiled. “Ah, I see now. You cannot control your drinking.” Tinhara backed away from Cyr’s ear and laughed. “Not something I need worry about,” she boasted as she grabbed the grog. Tinhara inhaled the fruity smell deeply and then drank, and drank, and drank.