This chapter corresponds with Chapter 24 - Interrogation, of WTWFTD. (A note for those of you who haven't seen the note I just published in WTWFTD: Vixen did not kill Frostblade; she left him tied up to die.)
Characters appearing in this chapter:
Kolvar (elf) ~ Michael Moriarty
Kolvar heard the news from the lips of a messenger angel, and when he did, he abandoned his mission instantly.
Frostblade is thought to be dead. The entire team went missing after being sent to fight a Guardian.
But Frostblade could not be dead. Because that was ridiculous, because Frostblade was the strongest warrior he had ever met. Even so, Kolvar had found the fastest horse he could, and he had ridden straight to the place where Frostblade's team had last reported from. It was there that he picked up the trail that led him to the battlefield.
He could smell the blood before he saw it: thick and putrid as it filled his throat with its disgusting odour. But whose was it? Unable to help himself, Kolvar urged his horse into a gallop. Frostblade. The angel's name was all that filled his mind as he burst into the clearing, and instantly his eyes were widening in fear. Frostblade's jet black dragon Guardian. Dead.
Swinging himself from his horse's back, he searched its corpse frantically for any sign of the angel, and when he found none he moved on to the rest of the battle. There were bodies - angels and Guardians alike, but none of them Frostblade. Maybe he'd fled. Maybe he had escaped the carnage - because there were not so many corpses as there had been members of Frostblade's team. So even if his Guardian was dead, Frostblade was still alive, and that was all that mattered.
Still. He should probably double check.
Kolvar returned to the black dragon's corpse, looking around it for any signs of Frostblade's recent presence. It was the white of a feather that caught his eye, and once more a blade of panic pierced his chest. No. Not Frostblade.
He collapsed beside the bloodied feather, picking it up with slender, careful fingers. Almost definitely - and judging from the way the blood was splattered across it, it was Frostblade's wound that had transformed the snowy white into crimson. More feathers led in the direction of the forest, and the ground had been scuffed in apparent struggle. Claw marks, and footprints. He inspected the claw marks more closely. Probably some form of skycat, he realised, from the spaces between them and their length and depth.
Kolvar left the claw-marks behind, looking up to the trees for any signs of take-off. A small animal such as a skycat would need to support its take-off with the trees around it if it wanted to fly with two passengers - its previous rider, and Frostblade. It didn't take him long to find the deep gashes in the branches, and they told him all he needed to. The skycat was heading in the same direction the stream travelled - they needed to keep hydrated, after all. He would simply follow that and search for clues.
He retrieved his horse and took the reins, leading it towards the stream. Eyes sharp. Ears alert. He was ready for attack. He would have to be, if he wanted to find Frostblade as quickly as possible - and he wanted to do that more than anything, because no matter how many times he told himself Frostblade had probably escaped from the skycat, he could not shake off the sense that he was needed.
He had been travelling for at least half a day by the time he'd found the footprints by the stream, and the only thing keeping him awake was the sheer determination to see Frostblade safe. Abandoning the horse, Kolvar knelt beside the tracks. Bare feet - human, possibly elf. Or maybe even left by the humanoid form of a Guardian. His hand moved slowly to the hilt of his sword as he followed the tracks, his eyes narrowing. Any exhaustion from the endless travelling was washed away by focus of the purest kind. He owed it to Frostblade to survive - he could not simply allow an ambush to get the better of him now.
Kolvar tensed as the scent of blood invaded his senses for the second time that day. Moments later, he heard the faint, shallow breathing. Somebody injured. Somebody in dire need of help. Somebody who could be Frostblade.
He pushed through the final battalion of dense bushes, and there he was: Frostblade. Rope bound his wrists together and it twisted around his ankles and secured him to a tree. His wings were broken and bloodied; his cobalt hair was matted with blood. Even if he'd managed to escape the rope, he'd never have made it far. Kolvar's mouth went dry as he ran to the angel, collapsing beside his frail, unmoving body. He was on the verge of death. If Kolvar couldn't save him, he'd never make it.
Dragging him from the ground, Kolvar lifted his alarmingly light body over his shoulders, fighting his way back to the stream. Frostblade didn't even murmur in acknowledgement.
Kolvar set the angel down by the river, tearing open the saddlebags in search of the medical bag filled with herbal salves. He found it quickly, setting it down beside Frostblade before filling his flask with water and cleaning the most serious of the wounds. When that had been done, he opened the largest phial of salve, rubbing it across the wounds. A healer would have been preferable, but there was no way he could ever get Frostblade to one in time.
But what had done this to him? What had managed to defeat him, to kill his Guardian and destroy the entire team?
When he had cleaned the major wounds and rubbed the salve into them, he refilled his flask from the stream. Somehow, he managed to lift Frostblade's head, cradling it as he trickled a little water into his mouth. The angel coughed, but swallowed it. Kolvar took that as a sign he could give him a little more.
With that done, he moved to the angel's wings. They were gashed and ruffled, but somehow, the bones seemed to be unbroken. That was a relief - Kolvar had never even attempted to solve anything such as a broken bone. Even this pushed at the boundaries of his knowledge, and it was taking immense strength to focus on healing him.
Once more, he dribbled water across the wounds, dabbing at them with the scrap of fabric he kept in the bag of salves. It was more difficult with the feathers in the way - but he needed to just try his best. Anything less was unacceptable. Anything less could mean Frostblade's death.
Somehow, he managed it, and studied the angel helplessly. What else should he do? He knew little else about healing - but the angel looked pale. Warmth? Kolvar searched in the saddlebag for his spare cloak, draping it over the angel as gently as he could.
He wanted to give him more water, but what if he couldn't swallow it in his current state? Kolvar had given him only a few drops last time, but now repeating such a rash act seemed foolish.
Kolvar bit his lip, deciding that anything else would probably hinder more than help. He sat leaning against the tree opposite the angel, and he prepared to wait.
He must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing he knew, something was nudging his foot.
Kolvar's eyes snapped open. Frostblade's dull blue eyes were narrow but still open; he had struggled into an almost-sitting position, and was trying feebly to kick Kolvar awake. Instantly he was beside him, helping him sit, lifting the flask to his lips and urging him to drink. Frostblade swallowed the water eagerly, but Kolvar retracted the flask after he'd taken a few sips.
"No more, else you could be sick."
Frostblade glared weakly at him.
"Do you want to start moving to find you a healer?" Kolvar asked. Frostblade's cold blue eyes were piercing him instantly.
"Don't let anybody else see me like... this," he rasped.
Kolvar bit his lip, but nodded. "Very well."
Noticing the angel's hungry gaze on the flask, he allowed him another gulp. "Who did this to you?"
"Dwarf. Apparently I killed her relative," Frostblade managed, before his chest was trembling violently in the grip of another round of spluttering. "But Quartz attacked first." The angel's lips twisted into a snarl as he spoke the word. Kolvar had heard it several times: Frostblade's hated enemy, his ever-powerful rival, the only person to raise considerable threat to Frostblade's life.
It made sense, suddenly.
"His Guardian killed yours?" Kolvar asked.
"No. Quartz did."
For a long moment, Kolvar simply did not register the words. And when he did, something deep in his gut twisted in an ugly mixture of awe and fear and fury. How could an alpha race be that strong? Frostblade's Guardian had been legendary in power - Quartz was a mere angel. There was no way anybody could be that strong.
A thick silence filled the air between them, before Frostblade raised his head and studied Kolvar with a weak, almost expressionless gaze. "Thank you," he said.
Kolvar's lips opened in surprise. Gratitude? From Frostblade? Before he could acknowledge it, the angel had turned his head, and closed his eyes.
The two settled into a comfortable quiet.