Order’s own could detect it. If Lucy had survived the ice spiders, she wouldn’t find us. Shelves cut into the rock held jars, bottles, and boxes stocked with climbing equipment, and dried food. We might have enough to spend a few days before heading on down the mountain, a task that seemed impossible with Raven’s current condition. A glow came from the back wall, shining onto a small pool of water. I went to the pool and dipped a rag in it, then collected water into a bowl I had taken from one of the shelves. Cael crushed a mixture of herbs into a stone bowl. “The spider’s poison works quickly. We were lucky to escape.” It was more than luck. Drops of sweat slid down Raven’s face. I patted her head with the wet rag, then pushed her hair back behind her ear. She writhed under the blankets. You shouldn’t have come. She saved me when the spider attacked. Without her, I would be lying here. What could I do to save her? There had to be something. The words to my mother’s prayer entered my mind and I silently spoke them. Creator, pure and true, let your light remove the darkness. Raven stirred under my touch. I leaned over her, kissing her forehead, fire burning through her skin onto my lips. “Don’t you die.” “She won’t. I’ll make sure of that.” Cael applied the balm into the puncture wounds, lathering the mucky substance on thick. “This will draw the poison out.” “What is it?” “Nectar from the black flower in Raswood Forest. It’s a superior healing reagent that removes poison.” Raswood Forest. It seemed so long ago since Derrick and I travelled there and fought the winter wolves. The same place I first killed a man. I didn’t know much more about Raswood forest—strange, that my father never mentioned the black flower when he taught me how to gather herbs. Cael rubbed the rest of the balm in the two holes left by the spider, then wiped his hands off on another piece of cloth. “We’ll need to watch her over the next few days and then we’ll be on our way.” “What about Lucy?” Cael looked toward the entrance. “If she’s still alive, she’ll be wandering for a while. She won’t be able to pass through the ward I placed when we entered.” “It also means once we leave, we’ll need to move. She’ll figure out we haven’t left the area.” Cael nodded and stood. “I’m going to take stock on our supplies.” I moved closer to Raven, dipping the cloth into the bowl of water and brushing it against her hot face. She stirred, but her eyes didn’t open. “Jericho would kill me if he knew you were lying here like this. This would be the fourth time you almost died in my presence.” I wiped the cloth across her cheek and against her neck. “Still think I’m worth hanging around?” When her face cooled, I dropped the cloth back into the water. The small fire in the cave warmed the air, the flames dancing in a frantic rhythm. Each orange hue lulled my body into sleep. My mind refused to follow, but I was exhausted. Tired from the battle and tired from worry, my eyes closed, even though I fought sleep with every ounce of strength I had left.
I woke to the smell of garlic and thyme. Rubbing the dust out of my eyes, I saw Cael stirring a black pot, hanging over the fire. Raven. I touched her sleeping face, still warm . “She’s doing better.” Cael scooped a spoonful of the garlic liquid into a wooden bowl, which he handed to me. “How can you tell?” “Her fever is going down. I’ve been monitoring it during the night.” He was watching her? I nodded as the guilt crept in. How could I fall asleep? If I’d been lying there, Raven never would have fallen asleep while I recovered. “I must have dozed off,” I said. “It’s been a long journey. These mountains aren’t an easy climb. I’m used to it though.” Cael sipped from his bowl and I followed. The soup tasted surprisingly good. Bland, but drinkable, better than I would’ve