“Who are you taking us to, again?” Jay asked uneasily as he and Stephen followed the Messenger through Xamalie’s large fortress.
“We are going to see Hector Garcia, the most powerful Healer in Xamalie,” she said dutifully as she continued to weave her way through the crowded dining halls. Though she had only been a commissioned Messenger for less than a year, she had actually met Hector Garcia several times before she was marked. Each time that she delivered a message to him, she learned a little more about his tendencies and personality. Surprisingly, the more she got to know him, the better she liked him. That did not happen often with the people that Jones came into contact with, so she was a little more willing to meet with him than she usually was.
“And why are you taking us to a Healer?” Stephen asked carefully, shoving his way through the mass of people. “You do know that we have a Healer in our troop, right? I mean, he is coming with us right now.”
Rolling her eyes, Jones sighed, “Yes, I am aware of the fact that Jay is a Healer. But I am also aware of the fact that every other troop that Perry has been assigned to had a Healer with them too. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but all of the people in those troops are dead now. Healers and Warriors alike, no?” Hearing no contradiction to be offered, Jones continued. “Look, I know that we have a Healer and I’m sure that he is a fine Healer. But we are talking about a person that has been on missions with more than fifty people that are all dead now. I don’t think having a Healer as talented as Regan Deluvia would be enough to counter this kid’s luck.”
“Ok, well, if you think that we are screwed, why are you bothering to take us to a Healer that is not as talented as Regan Deluvia?” Stephen asked, heaving a huge mental sigh of relief now that they were out of the mess hall.
“Because he is the best that Xamalie has at the moment,” Jones said. “If Regan were alive, I would try to get in to see her, but she isn’t and Hector is. Better than that is the fact that Hector is actually here in the castle. So, while the Lieutenant is off doing her business, I figure we can do ours and no one will be the wiser.”
No more questions followed after that, so Jones fell silent and led the two of them down the staircase to Hector’s room. As they walked, Jones felt a chill race down her back. She hated to admit it, but the corridor that Hector was stationed in gave her the creeps, not that she was about to admit that to the men following her. Once they reached a door with 059 painted in faded red on it, Jones reached up and gave three short taps.
A second later, the door creaked open, revealing Hector. It had been at least half a year since the last time that Jones had seen him, but he looked to be as stout as she remembered. He was not a tall man, but everything about him seemed like it was too big for his body – his face, arms, legs, everything, really. If he were six inches taller, he would have looked pretty intimidating. As it were, however, he looked a little chubby and unstable, as though you could topple him if you pushed him a little too hard on the wrong side. Short black hair stood above his dark brown eyes. Seeing Jones, he lifted his lips into a broad smile and welcomed her and the men inside.
“Jones, it is good to see you. What have you been up to, these days?” Hector asked, closing the door behind Jay.
“Oh you know, the usual,” Jones shrugged, keeping her answer brief. “I’m here to ask you for a favor, actually. Have you heard anything about Perry Townsend?”
At their Guide’s name, Hector frowned. “I have,” he said slowly, in a more somber tone. “Why?”
“Well, he has been assigned to the troop that I am serving,” the Messenger said. “I too have heard things about our Guide, and I want to ensure that my troop does not fall prey to his bad luck.”
Nodding slowly, Hector stroked his chin with fat fingers and said, “I see. What are you proposing, exactly?”
“My sources tell me that you are now Xamalie’s most powerful Healer. Is that true?”
“It is,” Hector responded simply with a curt nod.
Thankful that he was not as curious as everyone else seemed to be about her, Jones continued, “Then I am wondering if you have any potion that may help us? I realize that without having anyone sick, that it will be harder to give us anything, but surely the most powerful Healer in Xamalie can give us something to counteract this kid’s bad luck?”
Jones felt Stephen shift beside her, but she fought the urge to glance at him. Keeping her eyes on Hector, she tried to gauge what he was thinking. Given that he was still calm was a good sign
“Why did they give the kid to your troop?” Hector finally asked. Tilting his head to the side, he continued, “Aren’t you the Messenger for the Flair’s squadron?”
Jones gave a nod and said, “I can’t tell you why they did it, just that they did. I do not trust this Guide and I am willing to take any means necessary to prevent his bad luck from including my troop or me. Do you have anything that you can give us or not?”
After a moment of silence, Hector stood up and walked over to the medicine cabinet. Throwing a questioning look back Jones’s way, he asked, “Are you willing to take a potion that hasn’t been tested yet?”
Again Jones felt Stephen move, though this time it felt more like stiffening, and less of uncertainty. Ignoring it once more, she inquired carefully, “It hasn’t been tested yet?”
Explaining further, the Healer said, “Not officially. I can tell you that it is made from ingredients that have not been in anything dangerous for more than a century and that I would trust my life to it. But it is not my life that you asked about, so I feel it is necessary to leave the call up to you.”
Finally turning to Jay, Jones asked him, “What do you think?”
At first, Jay seemed to think she was kidding, because he gave her a half grin and a shake of his head. Realizing that she actually wanted him to weigh in, however, his expression tightened and he picked up one of the vials. Raising the bottle to sniff at the concoction, he asked Hector, “What’s in it?”
“A few plants from the northern coast of Rea, purified water, a drop of ale, and my signature.”
Jones could tell that Jay wanted to ask what Hector’s signature was, but he knew better than that. A Healer’s “signature” was what set their recipes apart from other Healers. The only Healer who changed signatures on a regular basis was Kendrick Kavich, and that was probably more of a flaunting tactic than anything else.
“And you said that the ingredients have been in other potions before, and none of those have failed in over a century?” Jay asked.
Giving the bottle one final inspection, Jay conceded, “It’s probably fine. If it were me, I would take it.”
“Alright then,” Jones said with a firm nod. “We’ll take our chances.”
“Now, I need your word that you will only give this to someone who will die if they do not get a remedy. I mean that, Jones,” Hector said seriously. “Only when you have no other alternative. No other Healing potion, no Healer to work on one, no anything. It is take your chances with this potion or they die. That is the only time that you are allowed to use this potion, is that understood?”
“Yes, Hector,” Jones affirmed, taking the vial that Hector just poured for her. “I understand perfectly.”