The young man slept for most of the day, half waking once to drink, before finally coming around again in the evening. His startling green eyes-a rare color in the circles Kristoff was used to-roved the cave walls before settling again.
Kristoff would be more sensitive this time. “Are you feeling better?” Kristoff asked. The youth nodded once, his gaze never leaving Kristoff's face. Kristoff helped him to drink, and this time he let him drink more at once. For all the abuses he had suffered, he was young and strong, and would recover quickly.
“I...apologize for before,” Kristoff said, setting the flask down. “I don't want to overwhelm you, especially considering how unwell you are...were.” Kristoff caught himself, mentally cursing his own inexperience. “Let's start from the beginning. I know you cannot speak or write, but I would still like to learn your name.”
The young man cocked his head, indicating his understandable confusion.
“Maybe I could read your lips?” Kristoff asked. “Your voice may not work, but that doesn't mean there's no need to try and make yourself understood. And it is important to me that I learn your name.”
The young man paused for a moment, then nodded. Kristoff moved closer, leaning in so he could see better. The young man mouthed...something. Kristoff wasn't sure, but he could tell an o was involved. He could see the man’s soft lips, still chapped and pale from lack of health, open, and his tongue was intact, meaning that the reason he couldn't speak was not due to his tongue being cut out. Kristoff had been afraid that may have been the case.
He mouthed it again, Kristoff leaning down to see if he could hear anything. There was no voice, only the faintest aspiration as he tried to speak it, but Kristoff could tell from the shape of his mouth and tongue some of the word.
“Owen?” The boy stared, then gave a slight shake of his head, holding up one finger. Did that mean he was close? He mouthed it again, and then Kristoff caught it, the bunching of the tongue. “Rowen!” he exclaimed.
Rowen nodded, his face lighting up, and Kristoff felt a small moment of joy at seeing it. “Your name is Rowen.” He repeated, a bit surprised at their sudden successful communication. “Good.”
With that victory, Kristoff suddenly felt a bit more confident. “I'm going to take care of you until you're strong enough to leave. I know you have questions, and I will do my best to explain everything I can about where you will be going. I want to tell you about where I'll be taking you, and about what Storm Lords do. My explanation before was all true, but...incomplete.” Rowen cocked his head, but despite it Kristoff could tell he understood and was thinking quickly. He may not be able to speak, but he was easy to read.
Kristoff leaned against the cool cave wall. He had rehearsed what he was going to say, and hoped it would answer any questions Rowen could think of.
“There are several regions around the world, and all have people living on them. Some are like your village, with few people and led by one man. Others are huge kingdoms, with a ruling family who reigns over thousands of people over hundreds of miles.
“All of these places, no matter where they are, suffer from the same heat spells that your village did. No matter where in the world you go, there will always be heat spells at some time of year. They are unavoidable.”
A look of disappointment flitted across Rowen's features, and Kristoff sympathized. Some new apprentices came in thinking that once they left their hometown, they would be escaping the heat spells forever.
“There are people--like me--called Storm Lords. We have the power to influence the weather, bringing on moisture and wind. We do this for the sole purpose of breaking these heat spells, so that they do not get to the point where they kill anyone.”
Rowen frowned, his features suddenly harsh, and Kristoff felt a chill, but continued.
“Without us, the heat spells would kill, do not doubt it. Temperatures in the most extreme cases can get up to 110 degrees and stay there until we end it. And without us, they would not end.” Rowen looked more and more troubled as he spoke, and Kristoff wished he knew what the man wanted to ask. “Every year the heat spells get more intense, harder to disperse, and become more frequent. We are constantly seeking those like you, who have the potential to bring on the heat breaking storms. We theorize that without people like us, the planet would turn into a wasteland.”
Kristoff paused, taking a breath. This was a strange case, but he knew this was usually the part that people would protest against.
“We need you, Rowen. I know you may have family, or people you care about, at home, but what you do as a Storm Lord is far more important. You have a choice, and if you refuse we must respect it, but I beg you to join with us.” Kristoff waited, heart suddenly racing.
Rowen didn't pause to think. He just nodded.
More than a little taken aback, Kristoff fell into silence. Usually he would have to explain the consequences of refusing, which meant constant contact with a Storm Lord in case their powers manifested on their own—which they almost always did, bringing calamity down on their loved ones. “So...you wish to join up with us?”
Rowen nodded again, his gaze flat and distant.
“Good. So that leaves me with the explanation of what you should expect, but we can leave that for another day.” Kristoff relaxed. “For now, let's focus on getting you better. We should expect to leave in a matter of days.” Rowen nodded again, and Kristoff didn't know whether to feel relieved or troubled at how easily things had gone.