Deline hadn’t had time or the right environment to make her protective shield very big; she had spent the energy she had on making it strong instead. The line of force, a wobbling red-orange from inside, gave them just enough room to lie down, if they lay very close to each other. Standing up wouldn’t work, except in the one spot where the half-wall went all the way up to the ceiling joists; she had used the walls as two of her delimiters.
“What….” Carrone ducked as the first hail hit the outside of the half-house and bounced off of their shelter. “What?” he repeated. “What is this devil-begotten place that you call home, woman? The sky is throwing ice at us! And we – we are in-” He looked around. “It’s a magical tent, isn’t it? That’s all it is.”
“Well, it’s a magical tent and heating source, technically, but yes. It provides us with a layer of insulation against the cold and it keeps the water and wind off of us. It isn’t ideal, but it’s a lot better than being out in that.”
“And it’s not sorcery?” He poked at the wall doubtfully.
“No. It’s magery, done with a combination of the right words, the right will, and the right components – usually herbs or stones. In this case-”
“I don’t want to know, I don’t want to know. I don’t even want to think too much that this is keeping us warm.”
“Saving our lives.” She started setting up camp as best she could in the confined space, laying out her bedroll and pulling out food – mostly bread and cheese – that could be eaten without a fire.
“Yeah? What about if someone comes along and sees this sorc- magery?”
“One, nobody is going to come along in this weather. If they do, they’re as dead as we would be. And two, magery isn’t illegal in the Empire and it’s, well, it’s not common but it’s not a secret, either. The worst we might run into is someone who wants me to heal their cows and bless their crops.”
“Bless – seriously?”
“Well, it’s a spell, but it has the effect of making the crops better. But that’s, well, visible, and it takes a lot of time, which has the problem of slowing us down and making us memorable.”
“And you think a glowing orange sphere isn’t memorable?” He poked a finger at the inside of the shelter and pulled it back quickly, as if burned.
“Do you really think I’m an idiot?” She handed him a slice of bread and cheese with a very think piece of sausage. They were going to have to buy provisions soon. “Seriously, I want to know. Do you think I’m a moron with no sense of self-preservation? And if so, what do you think fussing at me will do about it?”
“Thanks,” he muttered. For a minute, she thought he wasn’t going to answer her at all. Then he cleared his throat. “Look. You caught me. So far what I know about you is that you trapped me, that you use sorc- magery, that you work for the Empire, and that you’re pretty good at staying alive…. okay. no. I don’t think you’re an idiot. I don’t think you’re a moron. And if you had no sense of self-preservation, I’d have killed you a long time ago. Why are you yelling at me?” he added.
“Because you’re acting like I would put out a giant red flag saying ‘here we are,’ she snapped. “From the outside, the most you see is a sort of haze, and that looks mostly like the weather. It’s orange on the inside because it’s reflecting heat back to us.”
“Hunh. It’s not hot to the touch.”
“No, but it can get really warm in here if you put one up during a hot day. Which is not a problem we’ll have to worry about today.” She wrapped her cloak a bit tighter around her as the hail thumping on her shield turned to sleet. “This should last twelve hours, or until I un-cast it. The rain shouldn’t last more than four. So we can get a little rest in.”
“You can sleep with that noise?” He shifted a bit, not looking at her or at the bedroll. “Seriously? It’s like a band of drummers pounding right next to us.”
“It sounds like home,” she admitted. She lay down on one side of the bedroll, her eyes on him the whole time. “The shelter will keep us dry. If it fails, we’re going to know right away, but it doesn’t tend to fail. And there’s not going to be anyone out in this but someone who wants to die. Far as I can tell, generally bounty hunters aren’t the sort to want to die, are they?”
“No,” he grumbled. “No, or I wouldn’t be in this mess, I’d be resting comfortably in the halls of the Great One, and not be sleeping on the damp ground in the middle of – of this hell-storm.”
“Even storms like this are sent by the gods,” Deline murmured. “And what about me? If you’d chosen death…”
If he’d chosen death, the wagon-driver might have gotten her. Might not have, but he had helped her out more than once already. She fell quiet.
“If I’d chosen death,” he muttered, almost too quietly to be heard under the sounds of the sleet, “you’d be lonely.”