Home > Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(3)

Captain's Fury (Codex Alera #4)(3)
Author: Jim Butcher

Kitai rolled her eyes and dropped lightly from the tree branch upon which she sat to the springy grass of the little dale. The Marat girl wore a cavalryman's leather breeches along with one of Tavi's spare tunics-not that anyone with eyes would mistake her for a man. She'd taken to shaving her silken white hair after the fashion of the Horse Clan of her people-completely away, except for a long stripe running over the center of her head, which was allowed to grow long, the effect something like a horse's mane. Her hair and pale skin contrasted sharply with her brilliant green eyes-eyes the precise color of Tavi's own-and gave her striking features an edge of barbaric ferocity. Tavi never tired of looking at her.

"Aleran," she said, frowning. "You can already do more than you ever thought you would be able to. Why continue to push?"

"Because willing a manifestation of a fury is the first step to all of the most advanced crafting techniques," he replied. "Internalized crafting is all well and good, but the impressive things all rely upon manifestation. Bursts of fire. Healing. Manipulating the weather. Flying, Kitai. Think of it."

"Why fly when you can ride a horse?" she asked, as if it was one of those questions only an idiot could have inspired her to utter aloud. Then she frowned and hunkered down on her heels, facing Tavi, and met his eyes.

Tavi felt his eyebrows go up. It was a piece of body language she only used when she was in earnest. He turned to face her, listening.

"You are pushing yourself too hard, chala" Kitai said. She touched his cheek with one slender hand. "The Legion's war. Your work for Gaius. These practice sessions. You miss too many meals. You miss too many hours of sleep."

Tavi leaned into the warmth of her touch for a moment, and his eyes closed. His body ached, and his eyes burned most of the time, lately. Savagely painful headaches often followed hard on the heels of his practice sessions, and they made it difficult to eat or sleep for a time afterward. Not that he had much choice but to sacrifice time he might otherwise use to eat or sleep. Command of the First Aleran was responsibility enough to consume the full attention of anyone, and his duties as a Cursor required him to gather information from every available source and report it back to his superiors in addition to his duties as the Legion's captain. Only the inexplicable resilience that he suspected came as a result of his bond to Kitai had left him with enough time and energy to teach himself all that he could of what meager furycraft he'd been able to grasp. Even so, the pace was wearing on him, he knew.

Kitai was probably right.

"Maybe," Tavi admitted. "But there's not a lot of choice right now. It takes years of practice to develop crafting skills, and I'm about fifteen years late getting started."

"I still think you should tell someone. It might go faster if you had a teacher."

Tavi shook his head. "No."

Kitai let out an exasperated sound. "Why not?"

"Because what I can do now isn't much," Tavi said. "Not in the greater scheme of things. I'd rather what little I do have come as a surprise if I'm ever forced to use it."

Kitai shook her head. "It isn't worth the risk that you might harm yourself by trying to learn without some instruction."

"I went to the Academy. I know all the theory," Tavi said. Every dreary, humiliating, failure-ridden hour of those classes was burned into his memory along with his other childhood nightmares. "It's been two years, and we're fine."

"So far, perhaps," she said. "I know little of furycraft, Aleran, but I know enough to respect how dangerous it can be. So do others. Would it not deter your would-be enemies if they knew you were a mighty furycrafter?"

"Yes, but... but we still don't tell anyone," Tavi said stubbornly.

"Why not?" Kitai demanded.

He broke their gaze and looked away for a long moment. "I'm not sure," he said quietly. "It isn't time yet. I feel it. I know it." He shook his head. "I don't know how to explain it to you any better than that. I need you to trust me."

Kitai frowned at him, then leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on his forehead and rested her temple against his. "You are insane. And I am insane to pay any attention to you. Very well."

Tavi leaned his head gently against hers. "Thank you."

"I reserve the right to change my mind, of course."

"Of course," Tavi said, letting a tired smile shape his mouth. He took a deep breath and steeled himself. "All right. One more try to call out that boulder fury, and we'll call it a day."

"No," Kitai said, her tone perfectly firm. "Enough practice for the day. There are urgent matters that require your attention."

Tavi blinked at her. "What?"

With a single, sinuous arch of her back and motion of her arms, Kitai stripped out of the white tunic, and pressed her naked skin against Tavi's chest. Her arms twined around his neck, and her mouth lifted to his in a scorching kiss.

Tavi made a faint sound of protest, but the scent of her, of crushed wild-flowers and clover and faint soap rose up and overwhelmed his senses, and the sheer, passionate fire of the kiss, the heat in her mouth and urgent hands left him unable to do anything but respond in kind. Suddenly, Tavi could think of no very good reason to dissuade the Marat girl, and could only vaguely remember why he might have thought he should try. His hands glided around her waist, stroking over the soft, pale skin of her naked back, tracing the slender strength of the muscles just beneath her fever-warm skin, and he returned the kiss with rising ardor.

Kitai let out a low, hungry sound, and all but ripped Tavi's tunic from him. She pushed him, but he turned with the force of it, spinning to press her down into the thick grass. She let out a wicked, sensual little laugh, and arched up to meet him as he kissed her again. Her hands ran over his shoulders and back, her nails scraping deliciously over his skin, the sensation so intense and intoxicating that he didn't see the cavalry trooper who had approached them until her boots were an arm's length from his nose.

Tavi let out a yelp and felt himself begin to blush from the roots of his hair to his toenails. He fumbled for his tunic and sat up again, fairly certain that he was about to expire of pure mortification.

Kitai lay languidly on the grass for a moment, apparently unconcerned with her nakedness, and let out a regretful little sigh before she began to sit up as well. "Hello, Enna."

"Good day, Kitai," replied the trooper. Enna wore Aleran-style boots and trousers, as Kitai did, but sported a coat of leather armor modeled after the lor-ica of the Legions. Like Kitai, her hair was trimmed into a long mane allowed to flow down her back, but unlike her, the trooper's hair was dyed a vibrant shade of blue. The Marat woman, a veteran of the Horse Clan, gripped a cavalry spear casually in one hand and stood grinning down at the two of them. "You needn't stop on my account, you know. It's about time I got to look at more of this Aleran you've chosen."

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