Hours passed while Anya sat atop the mountain and stared out over the savanna toward the setting sun. Eventually, Jalmar arrived at the summit. He looked to Anya, who noticed he bore no more wounds than when she had last seen him, then proceeded down the other side of the mountain. Anya stood, dusted herself off, and followed. Ahead of the travelers was a nearly endless stretch of thick forest canopy that ended halfway up the mountains. Somehow, the heat seemed more intense as the journeyed down the eastern slopes. As they entered the thick forest, they heard the endless buzzing of insects mixed with the chatter of animals in the distance. The air was heavy and damp, which trapped heat against the body. Anya immediately began to sweat, which soaked her loose linen clothes thoroughly. Jalmar, however, barely noticed the change in climate apart from denseness of the air. Unhampered by the climate, Jalmar began to walk through the underbrush of the steamy rainforest and crashed through the thicker foliage like a stone passing through glass.
Nightfall arrived, but went unnoticed by the travelers under the dark blanket of the jungle canopy. Several times Anya began to fall behind and had to job to keep up. Sweat dripped from her brow and ran down the length of her arms. All her clothing stuck to her, and she nearly collapsed twice. Jalmar noticed her difficulties, and around midnight he stopped. Fatigue overtook Anya, and she plopped down on a moss-slick fallen log. Several feet down the log, Jalmar sat and leaned back against one of the treeâ€™s branches. Anya slept, though fitfully given the heat, while Jalmar stayed awake and kept alert for danger. After about four hours of rest Anya awoke, still about as tired as she was before. With groggy eyes she slid off the log and stood wearily. Jalmar looked her over, with her exhausted look, shirt clinging to her torso and her pant legs sticking together when they touched, and realized she was going to be slow moving.
Anya nearly squeaked in surprise as Jalmar hoisted her from her feet and slung her onto his shoulders. She wrapped her legs around his neck and down his chest, and rested her arms on the top of his head. Then, without delay, Jalmar continued walking through the dense jungle. Around midday, as Anya was regaining her stamina, Anya thought about how little she knew about the man she was traveling with. So, she decided to ask. â€œYou know, you donâ€™t talk much about yourself. Or anything really. I get the feeling youâ€™ll only answer direct questions though. So, where are you from?â€
â€œThe Realm,â€ Jalmar answered directly.
â€œReally? Wow, you donâ€™t look it. Whatâ€™s with the red hair?â€ Anya was genuinely surprised to learn the Jalmar was from the Blessed Isle.
â€œMy family came from the North.â€
â€œAh, that makes more sense. Iâ€™m from the North as well, captured by Guild slavers and sold through the Realm. Itâ€™s a beautiful country, ruled by awful people. Is that why you left?â€ Anya leaned down so her chest pressed against the top of Jalmarâ€™s head and she could see his face.
Anya leaned back upright, â€œSo, why did you leave?â€
â€œTo find my father and kill him.â€ Not a hint of doubt or fear was in Jalmarâ€™s voice, nor in his heart. Anya stared blankly for a moment, realizing the kind of people Jalmar had been tangling with back in Chiaroscuro and in the Varang.
â€œYour father is one of the Exalted isnâ€™t he?â€ Anya was suddenly a bit nervous.
â€œYes. Fire blooded.â€ With that, Anya became very quiet. She considered just how dangerous one of the Exalted could be if they were old enough to sire Jalmar all those years ago. The man would be at least a half-century old, and possibly a match even for someone as powerful as Jalmar. As Anya began to collect her thoughts, Jalmar said one last thing before continuing on in silence through the jungle.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, Iâ€™ll never let him hurt you.â€