“No.” Khyrmin’s response was terse, just like I had expected.
As the one who knew Khyrmin best, I had taken on the role of talking with her. “Please. We don’t have any other options. We don’t know anyone else who speaks elven, and we can’t find anyone through guild requests. I know you don’t want to go back to Fepresil.” I didn’t know why, but I knew as much as I could be sure of anything. “Could you send a letter to someone?”
Khyrmin shook her head. “I don’t know any elves any longer.”
That was almost certainly not true. Khyrmin had only lived in Othya for a couple of decades at most, and it was impossible for her to not know anyone when she had left. There was no chance they had all died… probably. However, saying that wasn’t going to help our situation. “Then… can you teach us elven? Enough to get by…”
Khyrmin looked over our party, “Who would speak for your party then? You? A halfling? Or… a half-elf?” Khyrmin shook her head, “You obviously don’t know that much about elves.”
“Not… really…” I admitted. I only knew Alhorn and a few people I’d come into contact with through the guild.
Alhorn shook his head, “None from Fepresil, really. My father rarely even mentioned them.”
“What would he say?” Khyrmin raised an eyebrow, “Nothing good, at any rate.”
Alhorn sighed, “That… was the case. He did mention an aunt who lived near here.”
“Most elves living in exile still can’t stand to be away from the forest. If… your father… did not live in or near Sradena he would be one of the few exceptions. There are few other acceptable forests in Othya, and none in Escait. Astrurg is just full of dwarves.” Khyrmin shrugged, “If you just need someone who speaks elven, why not ask your father… or your aunt?”
Alhorn shook his head, “My father is dead, and he didn’t clearly say where my aunt was. He didn’t even say her name.” Somehow, he’d shifted to the one speaking for us.
“Iefyr is dead? How?” I couldn’t say I was really surprised that she knew. We had considered the possibility… and looking at them there was just that little bit of resemblance- besides the elf ears.
“He caught an illness… and we didn’t have money for treatment. Not that there was much to be had where we lived anyway.”
“Dead to an illness? No money?” Khyrmin shook her head. “He always was stubborn. He promised your mother he would give up adventuring for her.” Khyrmin crossed her arms in front of her, “Last time we spoke I said I didn’t want to talk to him until he changed his mind. That was fifteen years ago.”
“He didn’t want to raise you as an adventurer. He said the risk of death was too much to take…” Khyrmin shook her head, “But you risk death just as much doing anything, if not in the same way, if you don’t have the power or wealth to get what you need.”
Alhorn scratched his head, “He never said anything about it… I started training after he got sick, hoping to be able to earn money that way.”
“He wouldn’t say anything. It was your choice, was it not?” Khyrmin smiled sadly, “I think he would have been proud that you made the same class choice as him.”
“Really? He was a paladin?”
“That’s right. Until he gave up his sword, anyway.” Khyrmin stood up and looked down at Alhorn, “I’ll tell you what… you want to help your friend?” Alhorn nodded seriously. “Then… you have to do something for me first.”
“What do you need? I will do anything I can.”
Khyrmin drew her sword, “Train with me, and promise to never give up your sword until you have no one else you wish to protect.”
Alhorn didn’t hesitate. “Of course. I promise. What else?”
“That’s it,” Khyrmin smiled.
It felt like Khyrmin was twice as hard on Alhorn as she had been on me. Maybe it was because she wanted to exhaust him until he could no longer heal his own wounds. Either way, she was ruthless.
Somehow, she had the time and energy to train me as well. My sword was flung out of my hand for the dozenth time in a row. “You’re weaker,” Khyrmin noted.
I hung my head, “Yeah…”
“Good. You were wasting all that Strength, even when you tried to control it. Now you can be better for when you get stronger again.”
“Right,” I nodded. I almost said I wasn’t sure I could get stronger again. Of course, I knew my Strength was going up, but it didn’t feel like I was strong anymore. Human minds were hard to manage, and not being able to do things I had done before made it feel like it was impossible.
Khyrmin didn’t hold back with any of the other members of our party, either. She barely made Halette use a sword, but frowned every time Halette failed to shoot a falling leaf from fifty yards away.
Kantrilla didn’t really have anything specific to learn from her… but her healing got practice from all of us being injured, and Khyrmin also tested her barrier magic.
Khyrmin even made Kasner fight… starting in melee range. There was no way he could use any magic before her sword would reach him, but he still had to try. She even made him start practicing wind magic, and when I accidentally let on that I was practicing magic I got pulled along to that sort of training.
At its base, wind magic wasn’t much good. A spark could light a fire, a little water could quench thirst, and light the size of a candle was good enough to read by… but a slight breeze didn’t do much good. Kasner had better trained attributes for using magic so he was able to deflect arrows after a week, but all I could do was make myself slightly less sweaty under my armor. Actually, that was a rather nice thing to be able to do… and it didn’t come with the side effects of being soaking wet afterwards like ice magic.