He let go of her hand then, leaving her to stand awkwardly behind while he rummaged around in the smaller trunk beside the washbasin. Vynasha saw the blood on her palm was still there, only now it was tainted by an even thicker, blue liquid. She narrowed her eyes on his back, where the fabric was stained darkly and wet against his skin and said, “You’re bleeding.”
He shifted, as though eager, but hesitant to turn and face her. She closed the distance and reached past him for a passably clean rag in his trunk. It was hard to tell if the water was clear or not, but she didn’t have the power he did.
“Sit over here so I can reach you,” she rasped.
“I’m fine,” he said, brushing her hands aside. “We don’t have time for this. You cannot tarry another day in this hellhole. I’ll not watch your soul be sucked from your body until you’re boneless, you little fool.”
“I know, but I can’t just leave you like this when I know you won’t let anyone else help, you stubborn bear!”
His gray skin darkened to an unexpected, almost purple hue as his mouth worked silently in consternation. At last he burst out, “I do not need any of your bleeding mothering!”
She slapped him on the face before she could reign herself in, leaving a red handprint on his face. His outrage was fully replaced by shock and he made no protest when she pushed him down onto the furs.
She shook her head, angry for having let him affect her so. “Did you have trouble with one of the beasts?” she said, in an attempt to ease the tension between them. This was not made easier after she pulled her dagger from under her skirts and cut his shirt away from his back. Every rip and tear seemed louder to her ears than it should, and she was not prepared for the heavy claw marks the fabric unveiled.
A single dark eyebrow arched dramatically when she knelt beside him, to further inspect the damage. “Why do you look so shocked, Ashes? I do bleed when injured. I may not be as frail as a human but I’m not immune.”
She bit her lip as she studied the deep teeth marks in his hand. “You shouldn’t handle them alone like that. It’s amazing you haven’t been eaten before.” She tore a few strips of fabric from her dress and dipped it in the nearby basin, before returning to catch the scratches on his neck. She glanced at her bloody handprint on his face and cringed, telling herself she would clean it up last.
“You could, ah, help with that, you know,” he said in a strange, heated tone.
“What are you mumbling about? You’re obviously not in any state to aid me, if you’re this delusional.”
“I should have known my pride would keep her from actually hearing me,” he whispered to himself. He shook his head and tilted his head back with a laugh. He eyed her wryly and added, “For that I am sorry, but it wasn’t as if I wanted you to be the chosen one, not when we were all at last quite content in our misery, you see. But I must tell you now, I suppose. You can’t leave without knowing.”
“Knowing what?” she cried as she slapped the rag back into the basin and wrung it out fiercely. “You and the Prince talk as if I already have the answers. Speak plainly, or I will take my chances without your aid, Grendall.”
He flinched when she steadied his head with a firm grip of his jaw and pressed her thumb into the slight cleft in his chin. She was surprised to feel so many unnoticeable scars beneath her touch, and wondered how she could have missed them before.
“This land is cursed, Vynasha, it has been for half an age now.”
She shivered. Somehow it seemed more real when he said it. “Wyvar’s stories,” she breathed.
“Are true, yes,” he grimly replied. “Curses don’t simply wither away to nothing. You have to understand, and I know that may be difficult for you, but you are the first to pass all of the Prince’s tests and survive.”
“What do you mean, survive?” she asked in a small voice.
He hissed when she pressed a little too hard against a deeper gash over his left shoulder blade, “Watch where you put that bedeviled thing!”
Vynasha sighed heavily, but refocused her attentions to his back. “How did you injure yourself, anyway?”
“I already told you,” he keened when she hit a particularly tender spot, “the beasts…”
“No, that is what I said. What did you do to injure yourself? All the other times I’ve been with you, you were never scratched up this badly. And I didn’t even know you could bleed. How was I supposed to know you could? For all I know, you’re a ghost like the rest of them.”
He reached over his shoulder to snatch her wrist and dug his fingers against the fragile bone, showing just how easily he could snap it. “I am alive. That is curse enough.” He flinched and loosened his grip when she pressed a hand to his wound.