In the gray light of the predawn hours, Tal had the reins of the last two horses that were being used by Ama’yen’s party leaving for Aberrisc. He guided them onto the wooden platform leading from the pier to the wooden skiff. They resisted and shied away from the rocking of the boat, but he coaxed and cooed to calm them down. He tied them to the railing with the others and walked back to the pier.
Standing next to Ama’yen and Scars stood a cluster of hired soldiers who would be their escort on the mainland. The men had similar uniforms — dark clothes, leather coats and swords scabbarded at their sides. It was obvious they still considered themselves Wyvernguards in spite of the disbandment of the City Guard over a year ago. They talked amongst themselves, keeping aloof from the strange humanoids.
Some of the outside braziers had been lit along the dock. Plumes of thick fog surrounded the beach head and blanketed everything in a thick haze. A summer storm had developed earlier and the remnants still harassed their island. It would also not make for a smooth trip to shore, but he wanted them to start as soon as possible on their mission. He had to know if this prophecy was legitimate and if they were finally on the right track.
High winds from the sea buffeted Rivyen and Lyndasia as they exited together through the Compound’s doors. They held hands as they approached. The couple had stopped trying to hide their relationship as before. He was happy for them, but not sure their bond would last due to Rivyen’s heritage and his obsessive pursuit of power. Time would tell.
“Good morn,” Tal greeted them.
“It is such an ugly hour. I hope the horses make the trip.” Rivyen grumbled.
Lyndasia bumped her shoulder into him. “Pay no mind to the grouch, Master Tal. I, for one, am excited about this trip. It is about time we make some progress!”
“Yes, yes. That was what you reasoned as your excuse to disobey my specific instructions and helped LLasher raid the slave quarry. Correct? Rush blindly forward. We needed to make progress.” He scolded, but the tone was not harsh as the words.
She averted her eyes as Rivyen stepped in. “Where is LLasher anyway? We need to get going in case this storm worsens after all.”
“I have not informed LLasher about the Seyde. He will not be joining you. And…I have decided to give him some other objectives.”
Rivyen nodded. “So, you are punishing him as well for his raid, you mean.”
“Punishment is for wrong doing. He did something right. However, he did not do it with the right intentions or the right methods. I need level-headed leaders, not emotional children in our battle with the Beleardea and The Bleeding Crown.” This time his tone had grown terse and in volume.
The wind picked up and howled . It broke the tension and Lyndasia jumped at a change in topic. “Do you really think she knows where this Mescarne place is? Lei Lines that only she can sense and follow…Seems rather insane.”
Rivyen scoffed. “No more insane than a silver crown that attacks and controls a person for over a year. Or not more insane than the idea of a half-human, half-bird male fighting alongside a half-cat, half-woman. All has come to existence, yet we would not have believed these ideas a year or two ago.”
“I do believe she will find the Lei Lines and lead us to our answers. She has proven herself of good heart and she has a stake in this as well. If she can get back to Aberrisc, she can see her twin brothers, her only family.” Tal stated.
One of the soldiers, stout and stone-faced, marched over to the group. He had black, wet hair and a patchy beard. “The first rays are soon to come, sir, uh, Master Crowan. If you want to go under the cover of darkness and fog, we should set sail now.”
“Thank you, Private Sloan. I will follow your judgment. You may leave at your discretion after your men place the last load of supplies. Please be sure that your men keep a vigilant eye out for Quietus spies and patrols along the main roads. The Ebon Queen has made provisions. No doubt she has also employed the resources of the Beleardea too. If possible avoid major cities and trade routes. Also I will double your payment if you ensure that what may occur or seen on this journey stay with your men. They cannot confide with anyone what you encounter. Can I count on your seeing to that?”
“Indeed. The payment will seal it, but these men have nothing to call theirs after losing their city appointments. They will not have time or inclination to gossip.” Sloan answered.
“Then I bid everyone good-bye and productive hunting,” he stopped and faced Rivyen. “Get word back to me as soon as you get any confirmation for Taliah’s Prophecy.”
A light rap on Tal’s chamber door announced a surprise visitor. “One second while I finish.”
There was no answer back.
He focused back on the pages of prophecy then penned some notes next name he dissected from the passages.
Who were these people and why were they chosen? Are the Gods involved or does fate move all of us as pawns in a game of chance and death?
The knuckle rap again.
“Yes, come now.”
It opened and LLasher rushed in, his lips pressed tight. The man was beat red from restraint.
“You are earlier than I expected. Good morn.”
“Master Tal, is it true that Rivyen and the others have gone somewhere during the storm? Why? Where?”
“Please relax. Sit and we can discuss this,” he chided the Camiyaan, pointing at the chair before Tal’s work desk.
LLasher sighed but relented. He sat with obvious impatience.
“Two nights ago, Seeress Taliah performed a ceremony called a Blood Seyde. It is an intense use of her visionary powers. With the help of the blood, she links to the other side and sometimes gets answers for us. The ritual was very productive…or at least it seems to have been. I spoke with Rivyen and the others in order to get them to start a search for positive confirmation that we are on the right path here–“
“–But you are not including me?”
“True. I have decided to redirect your energies in a different path to help with other questions that I need resolved.”
LLasher bolted to his feet. “NO! You are only keeping me back because I went against your decision about the quarry. You are angry with me and this is some sort of…”
“Punishment? Yes, in some ways I can understand how it could be construed as such.”
“I knew it!”
The Master kept his emotions in check as well as his voice. “However, I hope this is a period of growth and introspection. LLasher, you are very capable of many things and actions. I see you having a powerful position here in the future.”
“You do not trust me, right? You and Rivyen are constantly judging me and anything I say.”
“In order for us to stop The Bleeding Crown and to rescue Letandra, we have to hit back with a focused strike at their weaknesses. If you let your emotions and your own guilt keep spinning you in every direction like a child’s toy top, then you will never be fully useful to our cause.”
LLasher’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He had no words to respond and sat back down in the chair.
“Take this time to delve into what has happened. Tear apart your memories, your actions and your history with Letandra and Taihven. Answer the burning questions inside that you feel — answer how you are to blame for what happened to them. Give yourself the honest truth and prove once and for all why you are to blame.”
“So…you blame me too then?” he mumbled, facing to the side and not meeting Tal’s eyes.
“No. I do not personally blame you. No one in the Order blames you. None of us were there other than her friends and they do not blame you. In fact, the only person judging your every action is you. We cannot absolve you of this shame. But by freeing yourself of this supposed guilt, you can start making sound decisions and contributions here. You are so set on proving yourself and getting her free, you threw away the lives of the two ex-Wyvernguard. You risked our own plans getting back to the Ebon Queen in your rashness. Then before I can deal with that, you convince yourself and Lyndasia to attack the slave quarry. That put your life and hers in serious jeopardy. What would have happened to you or her if either of you had been captured? Do you really think you could have stopped The Bleeding Crown from finding out what we need and plan?”
He took a breath, folded his arms across chest and leaned back in his leather chair. LLasher bowed his head down and stared at the stub of his left arm. “She is still in there.”
“Letandra is still inside. Yes, I see her actions and the atrocities, but she is fighting him…It. The day he killed Taihven and took her, she had a chance to kill us right then. But I saw it. I saw HER. A single tear escaped her eye and trailed down her cheek. She is in there and she knows she killed her own brother. I have to find a way to free her. I failed that day to–“
“–You were not alone and you did nothing wrong. You know this. Taihven did not know. Letandra and her friends did not know. Even Chroyanne Cros’seau did not know. The Bleeding Crown fooled and used them all to get what it wanted. By accepting this mistake and learning from it, we can all move forward and take steps to stop it from escalating.”
“What if the only way to stop The Bleeding Crown will be to kill her? I cannot do it. You understand that right? I love her! I do not have it in me to kill her no matter the cost.”
Tal did sympathize with the man and he could understand the guilt, but he needed LLasher. The Order was small and being whittled down by the Ebon Queen’s efforts. “I am not asking for you to kill her. I am asking you to help me find a way to end this and bring her out. Remember Taliah asked you before if you were willing to fight for her soul? Has that answer changed?”
LLasher shook his head.
“Then take the time to find your answers and heal. Get yourself straight. I need you now and I need you free from these negative emotions that are dictating your decisions.”
The Camiyaan nodded, but did not answer. He crossed the chamber, leaving without answering or saying another word.