Kate knows about frostbite and the everyday injuries of wilderness travel. She can heal those.
She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though.
And she isn’t ready for the monsters that harry them night and day, picking off their archers first, wearing the party to exhaustion, pushing Kate beyond the limits her healing abilities.
She must keep them alive, or her blood will be on the snow too.
Prince Kiefan is the only surviving son and heir of the king of Wodenberg. Like his father, he has a reputation for discipline and stern expectations -- and he has a need to prove himself, now that he's coming of age and intent on stepping out of the king's shadow. I had some questions for Prince Kiefan just before the mission left home.
L: You're an alpha male in training, and this mission is your most important command yet. Do you feel ready for this?
Kiefan: I trust the saints' judgement. Though Father and I disagreed over the cavalry charge that I led, some months ago, he cannot deny that it won the battle. And the saints have judged me fit to lead. I will not fail in my duty to them or my people.
L: You didn't expect the master healer to send his apprentice, though.
Kiefan: No, I was told he would be with us, in this, and when he brought Kate in his stead -- but the saints affirmed her, gave her charge of our well-being. One must work with what's given.
L: It's not because she's a girl, is it?
Kiefan: (he laughs) I squired with Captain Aleksandra. Any who dares doubt her will be put straight on the matter of a woman's strength and courage. But Kate's no disciple of the sword. She's a healer. It's clear enough this will be no easy journey across the mountains -- none have made it and returned, that any know of. It's much the saints ask of us, as it is.
L: So the problem is more that she's -- bookish?
Kiefan: Kate has never even been in the saddle before today. Surely she'll learn it, but yes, she's spent more time among books than --
L: I hear you're fond of books yourself.
Kiefan: (he fumbles for a moment) Father's seen that I've studied tactics and --
L: No, I mean those philosophy essays you've been sneaking peeks at.
Kiefan: (he frowns) Father's kept my days busy enough with serious matters.
L: There's nothing wrong with a little philosophy, surely?
Kiefan: The king of Wodenberg must be a knight, firstly. He must see to duty. We're at war.
L: Yes, it's always duty for you. Including a political marriage someday.
Kiefan: (he gets up from his seat, impatient) The privileges of the throne have their price. I've a mission to lead, if you'll -- (strides away, armor clinking)
L: You're not concerned about traveling with a cute, philosophy-reading healer?
Kiefan: (he circles back) Pardon?
L: Well, she is cute.
Kiefan: (he spreads one hand, confused) Yes, certainly she's… cute. Philosophy-reading?
L: Oh, yes. She's been reading those essays too. Her teacher might've sent some homework with her on the mission.
Kiefan: (he doesn't know what homework is, but he gets the gist.) Why should that be troublesome?
L: I'm sure it won't be, Mr. All Work And No Play.
Kiefan: Which books is Kate bringing?