Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 30

This entry is part 31 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Anil, runner of Delebeg, crept in the shadows of the buildings near the bay. He frowned as he watched the fancy dressed nobles rushing by, their business a mystery to him. He patted the message tube gently and waited. When the sun began to set, and the upper class were replaced by the lowly workers returning to their homes, that was when it was safe to leave his little corner.

Lorn was a city of ideas. A city of sins, some whispered. He pulled a strip of travel meat from his other pouch, munching on it. Time dragged and when the sun finally started to set, Anil’s legs were numb. He shook it off, creeping from the shadows.

For those who paid attention, at the base of the buildings, blue glyphs gave a faint glow. Anil glanced around and ducked his head down towards his chest, hunching his back. He’d look like a homeless beggar to anyone watching. The glyphs were irregular, one here, one four buildings down, the next one, two, there was no pattern to how they were spaced and there were hundreds, possibly thousands in this part of Nekar. Inside each glyph was a series of dots. Each one was different. He was looking for a certain pattern set in front of a house he’d been to once before. He scowled, glancing up and down the rapidly emptying street, unsure of which house it was. It was this neighborhood. He was certain of it.

The sun had sunk below the horizon by the time he found it, and he stole a glance up at the building, nodding to himself. The tallest, most extravagant building this side of Lorn. The Bavanan Embassy, known for it’s flamboyant master, Lord Xeresel. He swallowed, and followed the building around to the back entry. The marks on the door, the strange swaying script of the Bavanan, would move if he looked at it for too long. It hurt his eyes.

He wiped his hands on his breeches before knocking. After a moment a tall, fair skinned woman with golden curls framing her overlarge blue-green eyes, opened the door sending a sweet scent in his directing. Her strangely slanted eyes narrowed when she saw him and she stepped back, out of the doorway. She bowed her head, motioning him inside with a fluid sweep of her arm. He swallowed and stepped inside, feeling like a bumbling fool, unable to look away from the Bavanan woman. Her ears were delicate, with a high point, and several gold loops lined them, from tip to earlobe. She tipped her head to one side, a pale yellow curl falling over her face.

“This way.” Her voice, heavily accented, was like music.

He followed her, trying to shake off the glamour, the magic that saturated the place. He’d forget her, he was sure, the moment he left the building. The magic would make sure of that. She led him to a large circular room and then left with a silent bow. A round table dominated the room that was lined with bookshelves. Anil realized he was breathing heavily and closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down. In Delebeg, the books were reserved for the palace. Not exactly outlawed, but there were whispers that Lord Chiron was going to refuse all but his household, the right to own books and scrolls. Once calm he opened his eyes and stepped back in surprise.

“Well met, Anil. Welcome again, to my home.” Lord Xeresel, the ambassador from Bavanan was leaning against the table. Anil bowed and pulled the message tube out. Lord Xeresel frowned and held up his hand. “Come with me to a far more private room. There are many little mice about.”

“Here? In the embassy?” Anil asked, breathless. Lord Xeresel inclined his head. Like the woman who opened the door, Lord Xeresel was pale skinned, his long white gold hair was tied back at the nape of his neck, his eyes a pale blue. He was tall, wiry, and like the woman, wore gold hoops in his pointed ears. Anil followed him out the door and down a confusing maze of corridors, somehow ending up in a small, windowless room with two low chairs and a small oblong table in between them. As Anil sat, a man entered carrying a tray set with several cups, a plate of sweet breads and a steaming pot.

Anil frowned. Human, not Bavanan. His dark hair was long, hung loose, almost to the waist, and his skin was nicely tanned. He was dressed in simple breeches and white tunic that was gathered at the wrists. He nodded towards Anil as he set the tray down. Anil studied him as he turned to the Ambassador. There was a look of absolute adoration on the young man’s face before it smoothed away.

“Do you need anything else, my lord?” His voice low, but deep. Lord Xeresel smiled warmly at him.

“Prepare a room for our esteemed guest. I will call if I need anything else, Aziz.”

Aziz bowed low, turned and left, shutting the door behind him.

“You must be famished, Anil.” Lord Xeresel spread his hands out, indicating the tray.

“Thank you my lord.” Anil pulled out the feather and handed it to Xeresel. He watched as the Ambassador slowly spun the feather between his long fingers, expression thoughtful.

“You have heard the bad news, I take it?”

“The execution of the Prince? Aye.” Anil hesitated, meeting the Bavanan’s eyes.

“It will only be the beginning. You can tell the gracious lady that.” He set the feather to one side, resting his elbow on the arm of his chair. “It would be best, Anil, if you return to Delebeg and stay out of Nekar proper.”

“My Lord?” Anil hesitated in the process of taking a bite of a sweet bread.

“A storm is brewing, over all of Nekar. The further you are from the Oracle, the safer you will be.” He lifted a sweet bread, studying it as closely as he’d studied the feather. “Safeguard Lady Veino.”

Anil swallowed hastily. “Do you think she is in danger?”

The Ambassador gave a barely perceptible shrug. “I think it would be wise to take every precaution.” He flashed a smile at Anil. “Now, you have traveled far to reach Lorn, and seen much. Please, tell me about the trip.”

~*~

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Chapter 29                                Table of Contents

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 31

This entry is part 32 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Xin narrowed her eyes, focusing fully on the surface of the small stream. She willed it to cool, clenching her fists at her sides. Euka was right, hand gestures were unnecessary. Steam rose from the surface of the stream as it smoothed, crackling as it froze. Water spilled over the frozen surface, and Xin froze that too. Sweat was trickling down her back by the time she released it, allowing the ice to melt.

“Very good.” Euka patted her shoulder. “Your control is getting much better.”

“I have a long way to go.” Xin said.

“You have come very far from where you started though.”

“True.” She gave a rueful grin. She was pleased. She wished Tier was here, wondered if he’d be proud of her. She swallowed and pushed the thought from her mind. She wasn’t as winded as she’d been before. Nor was her head pounding.

“There is no doubt you will get there.” Euka inclined his head, his eyes losing focus, and the stream froze solid from the top of the hill to the small pond back behind the training grounds. Xin sighed.

He turned towards her as the water rapidly thawed. “There are stories of water elementals who specialized in ice manipulation.” He chuckled. “In the Library of Timen there is a whole floor dedicated to the lore and history of the Water Elementals.”

“Master Euka!” A messenger youth, a young woman with short cropped hair and a simple shift tied at the waist with a braided cord, ran up. She inclined her head in Xin’s direction and handed the Water Master a rolled parchment.
He took it and peered at her. “Are the ships here?”

“They’re up the river. Scouts spotted them.” The woman grinned at Xin. “Ever been to Festival before?”

“No.” Xin shook her head.

“You’ll love it then!”

“Tell Iro I’ll meet her by the docks.”

The messenger inclined her head. “Yes sir.” She turned and trotted up the road, her dark brown curls bouncing on her shoulders.

“I think your lessons will resume after the Festival.” Euka motioned Xin to follow him. She tightened her cloak against the chill in the air and followed him up the narrow road to the wider road, passing brilliant streamers and paper lanterns shaped like horses that were hung from the corners of the houses.

The past seven days, the entire city was a buzz with anticipation. Ships from Tyrsleth were making their way south, depositing visitors from the northern lands. Children led by priests and priestesses had spent days decorating the streets up and down Sandau, the brightly colored streamers danced in the fall breeze.

“The Harvest Celebration goes back before the founding of Sandau itself.” Euka pointed towards the small temple which was being draped with colorful ribbons. “It’s said the dragon god Sandanu and his lover, Sensua, returned to the Beyond in the autumn, as the fields were being harvested. So we, in Sandau, celebrate their gifts of knowledge.” Euka pursed his lips, his brows pulling together. “Or something like that.”

Xin chuckled and glanced back towards the river, her breath catching.

River ships were making their way to the docks, decorated with bright ribbons and streamers. Children were lined up along the river bank cheering as the ships neared. Xin glanced at Euka.

“See the red flag flying on that ship?” Euka pointed.

Xin looked towards the ship he’d pointed out It was the largest of the four. The sails a were red and a red banner with symbol of a dragon in flight whipped in the wind. On its bow Xin could make out a crowd of red-clad people.

“What about it?”

“It belongs to Lady Sasha, a fire elemental from northern Tyrese, and some of her apprentices.” Euka chuckled. “Like the Fire Elementals of Sandau, those in Tyrese are known for their strength of will and mind.”

“In other words they’re both stubborn and thick as bricks.” Aitelle said as she arrived, floating. Her hair tousled and eyes bright.

“Aitelle.” Euka frowned at her.

“It’s true.” Aitelle was hovering about half a foot off the ground, hands resting on her hips. Her hair floated about her face, long curls moving in a gentle breeze. “The fire elementals are some of the most stubborn, thick skulled, arrogant people I’ve ever met. Well, except for Nesh.” She flashed a smile at Xin, a slight flush to her cheeks.

“Lord Nesh,” Euka wiggled his finger at her. “Is in a class of his own. You should be more respectful.”

“I am being respectful!” Aitelle winked at Xin. “Come on Xin, I want to show you some of the preparations.”

Euka snorted. “Or shadow his lordship around?”

Aitelle crossed her arms, sniffing. “Would I do that?”

Euka just arched an eyebrow and Aitelle stuck her tongue out at him.

“Do you need my help with anything, Euka?” Xin asked, hesitant to leave the aging water Master.

“No, Xin,” he made a shooing motion, his dark eyes twinkling. “Go and see the city, she’s a beautiful sight during festivals. You might want to tie a rope to Aitelle’s ankle though, she’s practically cloud level in anticipation.”

Aitelle lowered herself back to the ground, gave Euka a dirty look, and linked her arm with Xin’s, guiding her towards the simple, yet elegant Spirit Elemental complex.

“For your information, I didn’t shadow him.” She murmured as soon as they got out of earshot. “I was running errands and he happened to be going to the same place as I was.”

Xin nodded. “I believe you.” She began to say something else but forgot what she was going to say. The Spirit Elemental complex had been draped in pale blue and pink banners, each one had a different embroidered symbol. Standing on the porch stood Lady Launi, dressed in a simple pale dress and cloak. She was in an intense conversation with Lord Nesh, who was in his customary red tunic and trousers.

Xin glanced at Aitelle who took a deep breath. “He cuts a fine figure.” She murmured.

Aitelle nodded and sighed, then grinned at Xin. “He’s nice to look at, eye sweets, my mother would have said.” Her smile faltered a bit. “But I wasn’t kidding, Fire Elementals are stubborn.”

“I doubt they’re as stubborn as Nekarians.” Xin murmured. Aitelle laughed.

“Come on, there’s the cart man. We’ll grab some hot rolls and go compare the differences between firelords and Nekarian Princes!” Aitelle lifted again, floating through the air towards the old man.

Xin wasn’t sure of his name. He was old, older than Matau and he pushed a two wheeled cart through the city, selling hot steaming buns filled with seasoned sweet meats. His clothes were worn and patched, hung from his thin frame and his shoes were tied to his feet with strips of cloth. He smiled at Aitelle, his dark eyes hazy from cataracts.

“Hello Aitelle, getting ready for the feast?” Despite his frail appearance, his voice was deep, commanding.

“Yes!” Aitelle handed him some coins and took the basket heaped with rolls. “Are you going to the games?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” He nodded a greeting at Xin and turned his attention a group of children who gathered around him, their hands held out. They looked to be between nine and ten years, and all looked a bit scruffy around the edges. He leaned towards them. “What have you for me today?”

“I helped Lady Launi gather water lilies from the pond to put on the tables for the feast!” One boy exclaimed.

“I helped Old Mags pull the fancy cloth for the tables!” A bright eyed girl said almost dancing in place.

“I watched Gyn and Tal for Juniper while she and Fero took a walk!” There were snickers at that, and more as each of the children declared a deed or chore they accomplished. When they were done the old man nodded and placed a roll in each outstretched hand.

“It is the responsibility of all of us, to ensure the next generation will take care of our lands.” Aitelle said in a low voice. “He never charges the children money for his rolls.”

“Just good deeds.” Xin smiled, glancing towards the Spirit Elemental buildings. Her skin tightened, prickling as she realized Lord Nesh was looking in their direction. She looked away, towards the river quickly. He was an imposing figure, though not as imposing as Tier. As tall, not as muscular, his was a willowy grace that spoke of barely contained energy. She couldn’t help but compare the two men, both powers in their own right, both undeniably attractive. She far preferred Tier’s powerful bulk to Nesh’s lean lines.

“Xin?” Aitelle’s voice brought her from her musings and she forced a smile.

“Just thinking.” Xin shrugged. Aitelle stared at her, her dark grey eyes large and thoughtful.

“You miss your Prince.” She said softly.

Xin felt her throat tighten and she nodded, looking towards the river. Missed? That was an understatement. She replayed their short time together, every night before sleeping. Frustrating as it was, and she longed for more time. She feared what might have befallen him on his return.

Aitelle lowered herself to the ground and touched her shoulder, her large eyes suddenly seemed to see into Xin’s soul.

“Perhaps he’ll come back.” She said softly.

“No.” Xin shook her head, moving towards the small wooden dock Aitelle had pointed out earlier. “If he returns,” she glanced around furtively, assuring herself there were no nearby ears. “It would be as conqueror at the head of the Nekarian Army.” She met Aitelle’s startled eyes.

“There’s got to be some way,” Aitelle, nibbled her lower lip, slowly lifting off the ground again. “Xin, we could send messages, there’s a woman in Tyrsleth who,”

“And that’s if he’s survived dealing with the Seeress.” Xin swallowed, her heart hammering away in her chest. “Those called to serve her, rarely survive.”

“If rumors are true, he’s damn near impossible to kill. I’ve heard the stories.” Aitelle looked out over the river.

“The Seeress is different.” Xin shuddered, trying to find words to explain the heavy fog of dread that she’d lived under her whole life.

Aitelle touched her hand and they both stood watching the ships.

 

 


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Chapter 30                                Table of Contents

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 32

This entry is part 33 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

“Lady Xin, Lady Launi wishes to speak with you in her garden.” A child wearing a white messenger tunic called as they started back towards the central square. The child gave a stiff bow. Large dark eyes peered up at her. Xin inclined her head and glanced at Aitelle.

“I’m going to go help with the decorations.” She said with a reassuring smile.

“See you later.” Xin turned back to the child. “Lead on then?”

The child bowed again, turned and half ran towards the Spirit Elemental building. Xin followed, trailing a bit behind.
Launi’s garden was filled with late blooming flowers that filled the area with a gentle flowery scent that put Xin at ease despite her misgivings. Lady Launi sat beside a small raised pond, her simple white dress shone in the afternoon light. She turned towards Xin, her smile filling her with peace.

“You wanted to see me?” Xin smoothed her hands over her hair, the blank gaze of this spirit elemental, unnerving.
“Come sit.” Launi patted the rock wall she sat on. “I had some questions for you, a curiosity I wanted to satisfy.”

Xin hesitated. “Curiosity?”

Launi inclined her head. “I don’t bite.”

Xin laughed nervously and sat, glancing down at the pond. She felt the gentle tug of the water, there was something odd about it, another subtle tug that was unlike anything she’d felt before. She tried to focus, to see what was beneath the water, but there were other things, living things that kept interfering. Bright orange and black fish, some as long as her arm, swam in lazy circles. Along the far side of the pond, lily pads provided platforms for several small turtles and a large frog who peered at her. Xin took a steadying breath, resisting the urge to play in the water. She glanced at the silent spirit elemental. Launi’s face was a smooth expressionless mask.

“You had questions?” Xin prompted. Launi’s thin eyebrow arched and she turned her face towards Xin, smiling gently.

“Years ago there was a water elemental, Mitsuru.” Launi leaned forward, dropping small round chunks of something in the water. The fish swarmed towards her, eating the food. “He was a bit arrogant, and quite proud of his ancestors.” She leaned back. “He often spoke of how his family fled the Nekarian invasion of Dhaul. As his powers increased he decided he wanted to return to his ancestors lands and try to raise a rebellion.”

Xin snorted. “I’ve never heard that name. Had he come to Dhaul, he would have been chased. Stoned out of the country.”

“Would he?” Launi looked at her, surprise on her face. “I thought the dissatisfaction with Kera,”

“Dhaul is a successful province because of the stability of the Empire.” Xin said slowly. It had taken her years to understand it herself. “We resent the way the Empire walked over Dhaul, but we are also proud to be a part of the Empire. There is no ruling class anymore, we do have a governor but,” she shook her head. “There is a better distribution of resources than what our ancestors had. There is less poverty, more food during famine.”

Launi nodded. “We warned him, the old Lord of Sandau and myself. We told him it was far too dangerous. The stories of Kera’s attacks on spies were stomach churning. But he went anyways.” Her brows pulled together. “He wrote three times. One to alert us that his plans had to be changed, one to describe the remains of the old fortress, and one which told of his marriage to a local woman. He never gave her name, possibly for fear his missive would be intercepted.” Launi stood, smoothing her dress, clasping her hands in front of her. “We heard nothing more from him, though twice we sheltered fleeing water elementals who mentioned receiving help from an unexpected source. They never gave a name, nor shared details of who had given them aide.” Launi looked at her. “Did you ever hear of some strange water elemental coming from the north?”

Xin frowned, thinking. Matau was a fount of information, useless and old gossip. Never had he spoken of a water elemental from the north. She told Launi that. “The only thing I remember hearing about was my mother being chased out of the village. I was too young to remember.” Or, she thought, she’d blocked it out. She remembered her mother whispering to her, warning her about what would happen if anyone found out about her powers.

Launi nodded. “What about your grandmother?”

Xin blinked. “I don’t know. Matau never spoke about her.” She’d never given it much thought, but now it bothered her.

“And your father?” Launi held up her hand. “Water Elementals inherit their abilities from one or both parents. They rarely skip generations. In the north the bloodlines are meticulously recorded.”

Xin swallowed. “There were rumors that my sire was a sailor, who drowned at sea. Matau never told me his name.”
Launi nodded. “Perhaps that’s a question you can ask Corrin on her return.”

Xin’s stomach flopped at the thought of meeting her. It was one thing to wistfully dream of reuniting with her mother, another to contemplate actually doing it. Corrin was not the woman she’d imagined, of that she was certain. “When is she supposed to be returning?”

“Probably early spring.” Launi motioned Xin to follow her as she made her way towards the small tea room. “She and Kerga are running merchandise up and down the coast.”

“Kerga?”

“Kerga is the Captain of the trading ship, The Prancing Dragon. She and Corrin have been close partners for years.”

“I see.”

“Thank you Xin, for indulging my curiosities.” Launi said gently.

“What do you think happened to that water elemental?” Xin asked after a moment.

Launi tipped her head to one side. “I think he is either dead or has hidden so deeply in Dhaul that he has all but forgotten why he is there.”

~*~

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Chapter 31                                Table of Contents

 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 33

This entry is part 34 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

Ryuu was fixated on a small black beetle on the ground. His nose twitched and his frill rustled as he crept slowly followed it,his body undulating with each step. Xin leaned against the fence watching him, part of her amused. The questions Launi had asked swirled in her mind, and old half forgotten memories were trying to whisper at her. Her mother’s voice, Matau’s, stories she hadn’t remembered until after she’d left. All of them were bubbling up, faint memories of rebellion talk and argument. She rubbed her forehead and made a note to try to write it down, to tell Launi after the festival. For now she fought remembering whatever it was that wanted her to remember.

Her jumbled thoughts halted abruptly as a faint breeze breeze danced over her skin. She smiled and half turned. Aitelle absently pushed her hair back and leaned against the rail beside her.

“What did she want?” The Air Elemental bumped her shoulder against Xin’s. “You look like you’re about to fall asleep right there.”

Xin stared at the sand dragon and took a deep breath. “She wanted to know about Dhaul. About my family.And old rumors.” She looked at Aitelle. “Nothing big. Nothing I was able to answer though.”

“She did that with me.” Aitelle shuddered. “It was hard trying to explain the village I was from. How I found Ryuu,”

“How did you find him?” Xin asked and instantly regretted it when Aitelle grimaced. “Never mind, I’m sorry,”

“No. No it’s fine.” Aitelle made a clicking noise with her tongue and Ryuu’s head snapped up. The sand dragon made a whining noise and, being careful not to step on the bug, made his way over, pushing his snout against Aitelle’s outstretched hand. “When I was seven or eight I woke up early one morning and went out exploring.” She rubbed Ryuu’s muzzle and scratched the heavy ridge over his eyes. “I was practicing my abilities near a stream by the old *namehere* ruins.”

“The ruins?” Xin looked at her startled. The jumbled and twisted rock and metal they’d found in the desert. Tier had told them that it was the ruins of an ancient Air Elemental city. It was just beyond that, that they found the burned village. Xin’s stomach twisted painfully. Aitelle nodded, not looking her way.

“I saw smoke coming from the village.” Her voice dropped and she took a deep breath. “Nekarians burned it, killed everyone in their beds.” She looked at Xin. “I know they say that there are no elementals besides the seeress in Nekar, but there was an elemental there that day. She wore black with a flame symbol on her shoulder. She was burning everything. And everyone. And when some of the soldiers protested,” Aitelle shuddered. “She burned them too. All of them were afraid of her.”

Xin’s mouth went dry. More old memories, legends told around the dunarch fire pit in the cold, icy winters swirled up only to dissipate as Aitelle continued.

“I ran into the canyons. I don’t remember how far, or how long.” She tipped her head looking at Ryuu and sad smile on her face. “I stumbled down a steep hill and found the nest. All the eggs had been cut, were moldy, but his. He hatched in front of me and we’ve been together ever since. We made our way here to Sandau.” She scratched Ryuu’s eyeridge laughing as the sand dragon’s eyes slowly closed, his back leg and tail twitching madly.

“Launi was very thorough when she asked questions. I still have headaches thinking about it.” Aitelle looked at her. “Festival is tomorrow and tonight is the Opening Ceremony. Lots of food, dancing, happy things. Come on, it’s a beautiful ceremony. You can’t stay here while the rest of us are having fun.”

Xin hesitated then nodded. Aitelle beamed, though there was still a heavy saddness around her. Xin linked her arm through Aitelle’s and they talked quietly as they made their way back to the town square.

The sun was sinking below the horizon and the paper lanterns gently, magically lit lighting the walkways. Some of the townsfolk began singing as Xin and Aitelle sat on the steps of a large house, and were joined by Geb and several other youths he’d befriended. Across from them was the entrance to the Temple where Lady Launi, now in a near sparkling bare armed gown stood. Lord Nesh and several others were nearby talking in low, serious voices.

A loud gong rang and Xin could hear the sounds of chimes, bells and flutes and a cheer from those watching. The priests and priestesses of Sandanu, the dragon god of the Sandau people, were coming up the road joyfully singing, though Xin couldn’t make out the words.

There were ceremonies like this, back in Dhaul, celebrations honoring the old powers of the water elementals and the yearly festival celebrating the god Dagoth and the Seeress, but they were often overshadowed by dread. The Seeress’s hunters and sometimes the Voice, would attend those celebrations, ensuring that the Seeress was given her proper respect. Those watching were haunted by the knowledge that the Seeres could, at any time, decide Dhaul had outlived its usefulness.
When that happened, the oldtimers whispered, no one would be spared. It would be the slaughter of the fortress all over again. Xin rubbed her upper arms, fighting off a sudden chill. What had happened when Tier and Rale arrived in Nekar? There had been no whisper, no word. She’d half expected Tier to send some message, some note. Something, letting her know he was well. She was left to wonder, and dreaded the answer. There was a touch on her shoulder and she glanced over forcing herself to smile at the concerned Geb. He leaned over.

“Are you all right?” Those large eyes saw far more than they should.

Xin nodded and patted his hand. “Just thinking.” Understanding lit his eyes and he nodded, turning his gaze back on the priests passing in front of them.

The priests were carrying two altars, one with a statue of a dragon, wings unfurled, mouth agape. The other had a statue of a nude woman on horseback with a child in front of her, a spear raised over her head.

“Sandanu the Dragon god, and his lover Sensua the Horse Goddess.” Aitelle said in a low voice. Xin glanced at her. Aitelle’s eyes were bright, as though she were going to cry.

“She’s naked.” Geb said dryly. Aitelle swiped at him but he ducked, sticking his tongue out at her.

A woman standing nearby laughed, leaning towards them. “Legend says she preferred going as nature intended. Much to the delight of the tribesmen.”

“I’d bet.” Aitelle chucked.

“She taught the Sandau people how to ride, how to hunt on horseback.” Another woman said, nodding towards the procession.

“She was woman before Sandanu made her his lover, made her a goddess.” The first woman said.

“She was human?” Xin asked. The woman made her way over and nodded.

“And she became lovers with a dragon god?” Geb was frowning. “How?”

“Some things we just don’t question.” The second woman said sagely.

Xin chuckled, watching Launi and the Priests as they set the two statues on pedestals. She couldn’t hear what was said, but a feeling of peace filled the town square and someone, somewhere started to sing. Xin didn’t recognize the tune, or the haunting words.

“Tomorrow are the Elemental Trials.” Aitelle whispered to Xin as the singing ended and they started to make their way back to the Inn.

“Trials?” Xin glanced at her.

“Just a friendly competition between elementals of certain upper ranks. I love watching them. And when the Masters step up,” Aitelle sighed with a smile. “Things get really flashy!”

~*~

They gathered around the training grounds near dawn. The townsfolk were dressed in their finery, colors and patterns reflecting which of the elemental groups they were supporting. Aitelle was in pale blue shirt and trousers, her hair piled on top of her head.

“They’re placing bets on who will win.” Aitelle patted her hand on a bench. They’d been set up a distance from the recently created moat. It was, she informed them, a safety feature. “Rumor has it, one year a large rock hit the crowd because they were too close.”

Xin stared at her. Aitelle smiled and nodded towards the hastily erected canopy on the far side of the training grounds. Lady Launi was standing with her head bowed and her brows pulled together. Alone the outer edges of the moat pale white glowing light shone, designs etched along the ground as if by an invisible hand were drawing them. “Lady Launi is preparing the protective glyphs so that doesn’t happen again.”

“What do the glyphs do?” Geb asked before Xin could.

“They keep rocks, flame and water inside the training ground.” Aitelle smoothed the front of her tunic. A cheer rose from the crowd as the sparring elementals entered the training grounds.

For several hours Xin found herself entranced, watching the powerful elementals casually use their abilities to block attacks, and strike out at their opponents. They took a break at mid-day, vendors brought drinks and food and when the gong was struck again, it was the first of the masters to have a go at it.

“I thought those others were good,” Geb murmured at her ear. “The masters,” he shook his head.

“Amazing.”

Geb nodded as they watched a water elemental and a rock shaper banter back and forth. Xin glanced at him and grinned, remembering their own little battle in the canyons of the deserts.

“We could teach em a thing or two.” Geb whispered. Xin nodded and joined the crowd in clapping when the water elemental knocked down the rock shaper and used the water as a hand to drag the rock shaper into the moat surrounding the sparring ground.

Xin didn’t hear the final score, the crowd began to cheer when Lady Iro and Lord Nesh stepped onto the sparring ground, talking in a light hearted manner. They were both in loose fitting clothing, tunics tied at the waist with thick colored rope. He in a deep red, her in a pale brown, the ropes at their waists matching their clothing. They bowed to each other and silence fell over the crowd in anticipation.

They faced each other, each in a fighting stance, eyes locked on each other. Xin barely saw the first movement, rock shot from the ground deflected from Nesh by a white blue flame. When the rock hit the ground it was glowing red. The two circled each other, then in a flurry of movement, rocks flew, flames shot from the ground and smoke filled the air as rocks melted.
Xin risked a glance at Geb, the youth’s jaw was slack his eyes wide.

“He’s melting the rocks.” He whispered.

“Some say he has the Holy Flame.” Aitelle said quietly, her eyes riveted on the Firelord.

“Euka said that. What is the Holy Flame?” Xin asked, flinching when Iro ducked, rolled under a stream of flame, then shot a heavy slab of stone from the ground at the Firelord.

“The Holy Flame.” Aitelle, let out a long hissing breath as Nesh narrowly avoided getting hit by the slab of stone. “Is the ultimate ability of a Firelord. Water Elementals have the Healing Spring, my people were said to have the Weather Control ability, and the Earth Shapers had metal and glass shaping. The Holy flame is a bit different. Some say it’s a healing flame, others say a wall of unstoppable force. But it’s different in each Firelord. No one knows for sure how Nesh’s would manifest, if he does have it. I’ve never heard anyone who has actually seen him do it.”

“Shades!” Geb hissed.

Xin glanced towards the sparring ground but missed whatever it was. Both Nesh and Iro were sloshing out of the moat, laughing. The crowd sighed as two tall elementals, a man and woman, stepped from under the canopy, hands help up. They spoke in quiet voices to Nesh and Iro before turning towards the crowd.

“A tie.” Aitelle shook her head. “They’ve tied the past three years.” Aitelle sighed.

“I don’t know how the judges could tell who was better.” Xin admitted, standing and stretching. The crowd was surging towards the dripping elemental masters.

“I barely understand it myself. There’s a huge following though. Up north there are whole seasons dedicated to the competitions.” Aitelle linked her arm with Xin’s and they made their way back to the old inn. “Someday I want to go north, to Tyrsleth and beyond.”

“What’s stopping you?”

Aitelle nodded towards the yard where Ryuu was sunning himself, stretched diagonally from one end of the yard to the other, his tail twitching periodically. “They say there are rouge dragons in the northern mountains. And it’s cold. I don’t know how he would handle the cold.”

“What does he do here?” Xin hadn’t considered it.

“There’s a basement under the inn, with a huge old baking oven. He usually sleeps through the coldest part of the year down there. I could, I suppose, travel north when he’s sleeping, but,” Aitelle frowned. “I’m afraid to leave him behind.”

~*~
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Chapter 32                               Table of Contents

 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 34

This entry is part 35 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

The Negasti Mountains marked the border between Sandau and Nekar. The old mountains, with their jagged weather-worn peaks, were like silent sentinels, warning all who neared them to turn back. Who in their right minds would want to go further? Into Nekar, into the Seeress’s lair? Captain Adden had spent many months on border duty, and he could never understand why anyone would dare. He would have thought more people would flee the Seeress’s web, yet that was rare. Even so, it was unusual to see a lone rider on a travel worn horse picking their way down the narrow, steep path to the border station. The men and women under his command had gathered, watching, whispering as the ruddy mare made her way towards them. Her rider was slumped over her neck, even at this distance, Adden could see his white knuckled grip in her mane.

Adden felt the eyes of his second on him and glanced at her.

“Is that who I think it is?” She asked. He shrugged.

The horse half slid to a stop when the path leveled out. Her sides heaving, she lowered her head, took a step forward and Adden flinched when the rider lost his bid at staying astride and dropped to the ground with a heavy thud. The mare turned her head peering at her rider before she nudged him with her nose, her soft grunts and swishing tail loud in the silence.

“Aye, Sergeant. That is who you think it is.” One of the other, older guards said.

“Had to have been bad to have him returning.” Adden murmured. The man wasn’t moving, his breathing shaky, skin sallow.

“Think he’s dead? Or just ill?” The Sergeant asked, glancing up the pass.

Adden said nothing as he strode over, crouching beside the fallen man. Without giving it much thought, he reached over, absently stroking the mare’s nose before pressing his fingers to the Nekarian’s neck. He shook his head and rolled him over, staring down at the unconscious man.

“Our orders,” The Sergeant began, but hesitated. The man groaned. She swallowed and looked ill.

“I’ll not kill an unarmed man, Siari.” Adden said finally, hefting the unconscious man over his shoulder. “Go find Degan and take care of that horse. She’s a loyal beast if nothing else. I’ll take him back to the city.”

The younger guard nodded, taking the loose reigns and murmuring words to the horse who watched with uncanny interest as her rider was carried off.

~*~

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Chapter 33                               Table of Contents

 

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 35

This entry is part 36 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  I’m sorry this bit took so long to get to you. Hope you all enjoy it.

 

City of Lorn. Late Fall. Inn Of the Twelve.

“Is everyone here?” The voice of the heir prince, Maen, was strained and weary as he peered around the room. Aryanda met his eyes and nodded, pushing her hood back, fiddling with her dark curls as she watched her cousin shift on the uncomfortable wooden benches.

“I think, your highness, we are all accounted for.” Lord Xeresel said. Arya glanced at him. Like the prince, his voice was heavy. There were circles under his eyes that spoke of long nights, and desperate measures.

“Fill the cups, Xeresel.” Maen said, leaning his elbows on the table, his hands fists.

“Of course.” Xeresel inclined his head, his lips moving. A whisper of sound, the words of the spell spoken so lightly that Arya barely heard it,coiled through the room, magic following it. Though Xeresel didn’t move, the chalices began to fill of their own accord. A magical mixture of ruby red liquid that, once drunk, would act as a barrier against the powerful mind of the Seeress herself.

Arya glanced across the table at the pale bavanan woman, Lady Vera. Like Xeresel, the skin beneath her eyes was shadowed and dark. Her curls, usually immaculate, looked a bit disheveled. She cast a withering glance in Maen’s direction and took the chalice in front of her.

“Drink up, the shield won’t last long today, I fear I am overtired.” Xeresel said.

Arya obeyed, took the chalice and drank, closing her eyes. The bitter liquid left a strange, warm honey flavor in her mouth. She set the chalice down as soon as she was finished, her stomach churning. She felt the magic swirling through her, spreading out from her gut with a warm pulse. Once it settled down, they would talk.

Someone swore, another person made a gagging sound. Arya took a slow breath as Xeresel had taught her. Now was not the time to be ill.

“Dare I ask why you, his highness and Lady Vera look as though death is sitting at your door?” Lord Reis, a powerful landholder from one of the northern provinces, asked.

“You may ask.” Xeresel grinned. “I don’t know that you’ll receive an answer.”

Lord Reis snorted.

“It will be discussed later.” Maen leaned back. “The events of the past few months are, though shocking, not surprising. Starting with the execution of my brother,” he stopped, jaw clenched. After a moment he took a deep breath and continued. “And leading up to the massacre of the Ghayta family in Shoul just three nights ago. It seems the Seeress is purging the major bloodlines.”

“The rumor was that Tier, and Rale, were both pronounced traitors by the Seeress, though it should be noted no evidence of their traitorous activities given.” Lord Reis said.

“Prince Tier was no traitor.” Someone, Arya couldn’t identify, half shouted.

“What troubles me most is the lack of due process in any of these cases.” Lord Ferev spoke quickly, as if he wanted to get his say in before anyone else spoke. “With Prince Tier it could have, indeed it should have dragged on for months, even years. Yet he returned was tried and found guilty, then executed all in a period of what, three days?”

“Less than that.” Arya spoke up. “I was told it was a mere hours after reporting to the Seeress that he was executed.” An uneasy murmur went through the room. She leaned forward. “I would also bring to your attention that the Emperor and the rest of the family had no idea Tier was even being accused until after it was all done.”

“True.” Maen nodded. “Father and mother are both deep in mourning, and Hannah has locked herself in her quarters and refuses to come out.”

“And Rale also expired?” Lord Ferev shook his head at Arya’s nod. “Pity. He had a good head for business.”

“According to the Emperor, Tier and Rale were told they were looking for elementals. But the Seeress told the Emperor they were in search for General Corrin’s daughter to break the standoff in Fort ______. ” General Dyrnos said from his seat, his booming voice turning heads. “When we talked with Tier on his return he had no idea. He showed us the orders he received, and was openly disturbed at the news.”

“The Emperor immediately shut down anyone who questioned the discrepancy.” Lord Ferev added. General Dyrnos nodded.

“Odd. Considering his protests after the affair with General Yorma and his son, I would think it would be well known that he wouldn’t repeat that sort of mission.” Maen commented, brows drawn tightly together.

“It is difficult to refuse the Seeress any request.” General Dyrnos said dryly. “Especially when she is standing in front of you.”

“Those who do don’t live long.” Lord Ferev shook his head. “Then again those who do as she asks don’t have much of a life expectancy either.”

“Something worth mentioning, Lord Chiron sent a letter of protest to the Emperor about Tier’s behavior when passing through Delebeg.” General Dyrnos leaned against the tabletop, a crooked smile on his lips. “He claimed Tier had shown sympathy to the elementals and inferred he switched sides. He said Tier even threatened him over the woman who was traveling with them.”

Maen choked on his wine, a murmur went through the room.

“A woman?” Someone asked incredulously.

“According to the guards who delivered Rale back to our estate, Prince Tier offended the Seeress, though how, they could not, or would not say.” Arya began.

“If he offended her, it doesn’t matter what truly happened. She would strike quickly, out of revenge not justice. I highly doubt he was a traitor.” Lord Xeresel said quickly.

“He was always loyal to Nekar.” General Dyrnos slammed his fist down on the table with a loud thunk, several chalices tipped over and they all jumped. “The Seeress is not Nekar. We can be loyal to one and not the other.”

Heavy silence again filled the room, made more imposing by the soft burr of the spell.

“This is troubling to hear.” Lady Vera said, her soft voice very loud in the room. “That she would strike out over a minor trifle.”

“This is the Seeress, cousin, she has always done troubling things.” Xeresel drummed his fingers on the tabletop.

“The guards said she tore his things apart, looking for something in his travel bags.” Arya said. “Whatever it was, she never found it. According to my contacts, she even searched his rooms in the palace.”

“Perhaps he did turn traitor. After all he traveled several months with that elemental woman.” Lord Reis said, flinching at the dark glares turned his way.

“Traitor to whom? There are not rules that we are not to have dealings with Elementals,” Lord Xeresel began, but Lord Ferev cut him off.

“They are extinct. We have been taught that, we all know that.” He glared.

“Oh come, come now, there’s the Water Master Corrin whose forces held off Lord Chiron’s for three years? Four? I know of several others living in the far north who are as alive as I am, and you know this Lord Ferev. These are the lies She would want you to believe.” Lord Xeresel moved his hand, waving off the next round of questions. “Hear me out. I would wager the Emperor’s crown that the reason she moved so quickly to brand and execute Tier, was because in all reality, in the eyes of the crown he did nothing wrong.”

“Lord Chiron accused him of threatening to tear off his arms if he made any advance towards the woman. Many would surmise that his sympathies were swayed. Though I find it hard to believe.” General Dyrnos snickered. “It would have been a sight I’d like to see.”

“Chiron’s a sniveling weakling.” Maen grumbled.

“I never would have imagined Tier with a woman.” Lord Ferev commented dryly.

“I don’t think any of us can.” Maen eyed Arya who shook her head. Tier had always been aloof around women.

“Never underestimate the power a woman has over a man.” Lady Vera sniffed.

“Mere supposition, my lords and ladies: his relationship with the woman is irrelevant. He was a model example of what any noble of Nekar should strive to be. Loyal to Nekar, to a fault.” Lord Xeresel said. He leaned back in his chair.

The heavy silence stretched.

“The families who were executed, were killed at the same rapid speed that Tier was.” Prince Maen leaned back in his seat. “There are whispers that the Scáth were present. That they may have been the ones to actually do the deed.”

Someone whispered a curse and Arya felt a cool chill work up her spine. She took a steadying breath. “The Scáth haven’t been seen in almost twenty years. Many people believe they are naught but a myth.” She glanced towards Xeresel. “I’ve heard rumors that Kit is also abroad again.”

“Crazy bitch.” Lord Reis muttered.

“I would watch what you say about that one.” General Dyrnos said, an edge to his voice.

“I agree.” Xeresel said. “The Blood Oath has never been tested against the Voice. I hope, I sincerely hope, it never is.”

“She is not as powerful as Kera.” Lord Ferev made a dismissal motion with his hand. “She isn’t worth worrying about.”

“She made a man’s brains leak out his ears.” Lord Reis leaned on the table. “I’d worry about her being near. I for one, want my brains to stay inside my skull.”

“She also reports directly to the Seeress.” Maen said pointedly. “We must be cautious.”

“I hesitate to make assumptions,” Lady Kasumi spoke up. Her voice was low and Arya realized she couldn’t remember the last time she heard the woman speak at these meetings. “But if the Seeress has begun both purging the royal families and pulled both the Scáth and Kit out of hiding, it could be she is aware of us. It could be she hopes to eliminate us along with the Royal bloodlines.”

“If she is, we must be doubly cautious. I’m certain she suspects me.” Lord Xeresel said. “And it is no secret that there have been those who have resisted her influence in Nekar since her arrival. I’m certain she knows we are here, she knows we are quietly opposing her. Until we can move with greater force we must cling to the shadows.”

“And each passing day we run the risk of being found out. Do we have time to prepare, indeed can we prepare before we are exposed?” Maen asked. “There is only so much we can do without pulling more people in.”

“I hope so, your highness. It would be grim indeed if we go to all this trouble to end up tied to a pole in Koursh.” Lord Xeresel grumbled. “We cannot add more, the spell is stretched as it is. We must work with what resources we have.”

“It seems hopeless.” Lady Vera said, her large eyes downcast.

“Of course it is hopeless. Perhaps there are others who question her, who are moving as silently as we. Hopefully we can find allies, and quickly.” Xeresel frowned. “Of those she executed these past months, Tier was the only one who had no knowledge of us.”

“Some are calling him a martyr, the first.” Lady Kasumi said. “Some whisper he’s not really dead, that he’s somehow managed to escape.”

“We should have brought him in.” someone down table commented. “He could have helped us.”

“No.” Prince Maen shook his head. “Tier would have been our staunchest enemy. He would have turned us in in a heartbeat. What we are doing, could be considered conspiring against the Seeress and the crown. He would have considered it treason.”

“I agree with Maen.” Arya said quickly.

“Absolutely. Tier is, or was an honorable man. We are, to be completely truthful, not acting honorably. We’re hiding in the shadows, creeping into places long forgotten on the sheer hope that no one would think to find persons of our station here, of all gods forsaken places.” Lord Xeresel motioned towards the worn wall coverings, the rough hewn door and the battered table, and leaned back steepling his fingers and tapping them against his lips. “Now is not the time to move out of the shadows though, as smelly and rotten as it is.”

“When will it be, I wonder?” Lord Ferev asked. “If we wait too long, the opportunity will pass.”

Arya locked eyes with Maen who gave a barely perceptible shrug.

“And if we go to soon we become not saviors, but crazy conspirators.” Lady Vera said.

“I suggest we do no more than wait at the moment. Gather information, gather our strength.” Lord Xeresel’s leg was jiggling lightly. Arya resisted the urge to kick him to get him to stop. But one did not kick a man such as Lord Xeresel. She’d regret it later. He was far too imposing a figure who commanded respect and admiration even as he annoyed you.

“It seems as though we get nowhere.” Lord Reis complained. “We discuss it and nothing changes. But more people die by her hand. What is the point?”

“These events, especially Prince Tier’s execution, have begun something the Seeress was trying to avoid, Lord Reis. People are finally talking. Thinking for themselves. They are meeting in places they hope they will not be overheard. They whisper about things long forbidden. Wars, battles, and martyrs of old that the Seeress has tried suppress the memories of. They are questioning everything they have been taught, everything they have believed. Finally after generations they are really taking a long hard look at what they know.”

“And what is it, Lord Xeresel, that we know?” Arya asked, her voice loud to her own ears. She flinched when he looked down at her.

“That they have been brought up on lies and deceit.”

“We should re-convene possibly after the Summer Solstice.” Lady Vera said softly. There were nods. “Unless there is more business to be handled of course.”

“There is one matter, no two, which we should all be aware of.” General Dyrnos said quietly. Eyes turned his way. He glanced towards Maen who inclined his head.

“The first, is the situation in Delebeg. I overheard Prince Tier discussing some troubling actions on Chiron’s part. We could be looking at a possible revolt in the region if Chiron stays in power.”

“How do you mean?” Maen leaned forward.

“Chiron is keeping the general populous on starvation rations, and hoarding the water.” General Dyrnos glanced around the table. “I don’t know if there have been any deaths,”

“It’s a matter of time.” Lord Xeresel said. “I too heard of the situation in Delebeg, and, though I hadn’t meant to bring it up, Lady Veino sent a messenger with a black feather shortly after Tier’s passing through.”

Arya frowned. “What does that mean?”

“The black feather is an old way of saying, the center is cracking.” Maen said quickly. Murmurs rippled through the room.

“The other matter, one which disturbs me greatly, is that starting in the spring, Nekar will be marching on Sandau.” General Dyrnos eyed all of them one by one. “The Emperor’s goal is to take Sandau by next fall.”

“You will be there, I take it?” Maen asked.

General Dyrnos inclined his head. “It has been requested by the Seeress that we return with the Seeress of Sandau in chains.”

Someone whistled.

“This is a situation we will have to keep our eyes on.” Xeresel said. “Is there anything else?”

Heads shook up and down the table.

“Be cautious, all of you.” Prince Maen said. “We are walking upon a knife’s blade. The wrong move could doom us all, and doom Nekar.”

“We are an absolutely cheerful bunch.” Lord Xeresel muttered. Arya nudged him with her knee and leaned over.

“Can you blame him?” she whispered.

“Appearances are everything, dear lady.” He leaned back with a scowl. “Even when in mourning.”

“Trust me, my lord, he’s not mourning.” Arya said softly. She met Xeresel’s startled gaze. “I think he’s wishing he did it himself.”

Xeresel stared and Arya fought to keep from snickering. It was rare to catch the Bavanan Ambassador speechless. She patted his cheek fondly. “Close your mouth, darling, a bug will fly into it.”


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Chapter 30                                Table of Contents

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Elemental Truth ~ Chapter 36

This entry is part 37 of 37 in the series Elemental Truth

Disclaimer;  Elemental Truth, the first of the Elemental Wars books, is in the final stages of editing.  Hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

Xin watched the guards standing outside the window, barely hearing the conversation in the main room behind her. Rale was in one of the empty back rooms, the healer and Lady Launi with him.

“Until we can determine whether he is safe or not, we’re going to have him here, under guard.” Lord Nesh’s voice had an edge to it.

“Some people are going to be unhappy. Having a Nekarian Lord here, especially with the fall of the fort…” Aitelle began.

“Which is why Launi is scanning him. We’ll determine what we’ll do with him later.”

“Too bad there’s no dungeons in Sandau.” Aitelle said absently.

“If we need them, I’m certain the rock shapers can oblige.” Lord Nesh left, and Xin half turned, staring at the closed door.

“They only brought in Rale?” Geb asked his voice low. He sat at the table, a box with rocks for practice set in front of him.

“They said he was alone, fell off his horse.”

The doorway to the hall that led to the rooms opened and a sober looking Launi entered the room. She made a slight head movement, as though she were looking at each of them in turn, then she motioned them to the table. Once they were all seated she too sat, folding her hands in front of her on the table.

“Lord Rale has undergone some severe mental and physical torture. He is going to be unconscious for a few days while the healer and I work to undo what the Seeress did.”

“What did she do?” Xin asked.

Launi’s brows pulled together. “Kera was trained in a type of mental combat that enabled her to twist the body to do her will. She can turn the body against itself. And that’s what she did. He is going to be in constant pain. His body is attacking itself.”

“I didn’t know spirit elementals could do that.” Xin whispered.

“We can do that and much more. History tells us there were great and powerful Spirit Elementals. They could manipulate huge numbers of people. They could turn the body in on itself, as Kera has done with Lord Rale. Some were able to show others what we see.

“The ghosts?”

“And other things. There were those who could walk between the veil, and open portals to other lands, other realms. With those powers came conflict. There were wars fought between factions, my people have an ugly past.” Launi closed her eyes and a shudder ran through her thin frame. “Before the war, a thousand years ago, there were twelve active Oracles.  Kera and her twin were taught in one of the oldest and some whispered they were taught ancient teachings not taught elsewhere. The war took its toll. By its end all but one Oracle was in ruin, the Spirit Elementals slaughtered and teachings and irreplaceable knowledge lost. I have never seen the type of manipulation done on Rale, in person. It may take several sessions to reverse what she did.”

“Any word on Tier?” Xin asked. Launi frowned.

“Rale had correspondence from a Lord Xeresel with him.” She said slowly. “The note indicated that Prince Tier was executed shortly after his return, and that Rale cannot return to Nekar.”

Xin felt as though she’d been punched. “Why?” She felt Aitelle’s hand on her shoulder and resisted the urge to shove her friend away. She wanted to scream, to cry, she just sat staring at Launi, not willing to believe it.

“He did what he was told.” Geb whispered.

“There was no reason given. Rale may be able to shed light on it, when he wakes.” Launi stood and took a deep breath. “I must go speak with Nesh.”

Xin nodded numbly, meeting Geb’s gaze. The youth just shook his head and pushed violently away from the table storming out the door. Xin had half a mind to follow him.

“There will be a few new rock pillars in the fields by this evening.” Aitelle said softly.

~*~

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Chapter 35                              Table of Contents

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