The walk had been long and had not been without discomfort. The steep slopes with their snaking tree-roots, and the jagged rock-faces which threatened cuts and grazes to any who trod foolishly meant that this was no idle stroll for romancing lovers or other frivolous wanderers.
Still, the view afforded here, here up among the hills was spectacular. The trees fell away in a carpet, occasional juts of rock rising up. The hills rose and fell among the trees, and here and there could be seen the silver ovals of high tarns and rushing rivers. The soft chatter of birdsong carried through the air, and butterflies chased one another through the cool air currents. Fall below, rolling meadows and yellow and white flowers could be seen, where beasts grazed contentedly, unaware of the troubles of the wider world. In the distance, the city of Aidamathane rose, a cluster of silver and pearl towers rising up exultantly to the sky. It was far enough off to seem a village, and from this distance, one might have imagined it to be as peaceful as one.
Of course, such notions were absurd, but sometimes, King Xariel liked to imagine that things were that way in any case. It saved him from the endless rounds of debate and decision that awaited.
He looked down into the silvery waters of the pool that he sat besides whenever he came up into these hills, and saw the face of what might have appeared – to anyone who did not know him – a normal Draconis in early middle age. He looked upon the image of his own arching, graceful neck, and the long snout that many would call reptilian but whose iridescent emerald green scales and elegant lines was as similar to an avian’s as a lizard’s. He was seven feet tall and of lean, acrobatic build as were most Draconis. He laced his dextrous, five fingered hands together as he stared down into the water. He was not wearing the shimmering pale blue robe of the King: instead he wore a simple brown robe, one which might have been more at home on a cleric or sage. This wasn’t so much because he didn’t want to be noticed as he wanted to appear like anyone else on the street. People would recognise him if they knew him or if they’d seen him, but he wanted them to see a normal Draconis, and not the All-knowing king they expected. Especially now…
Xariel Ghorithiel Ralior Damalan was in the prime of his life. He had lived for eight hundred and forty-four years, and had had the honour of being the King of the great Realm of Eadenn for two hundred and eleven of those years. In his many years he had done many things: he had fought in many wars in his days in the Order of Truthseekers. He had made peace in his days as Scholar of the great Forum of Civilisation. He was an artist, a writer and philosopher. He was a nature seer of awesome power and could See more clearly than almost any other. Many hailed him as one of the greatest kings of the Draconis. Xariel did not let such praise make him arrogant: whilst when honestly given such praise was gratifying, it reminded him of all that he upheld and renewed his determination never to disappoint his people. In his time, he had ensured that aid went to the poorer Realms upon the Solar Sea, had nurtured many new and fragile civilisations and had helped to uphold, whether with aid or the sword, the ancient races. That was the code of the Draconis, the price of their high honour and their duty. Never to rule others as a tyrant would, but to protect them, to keep the Solar Sea free and safe from corruption and tyranny. The line between dictatorship and ennobled protection could be a difficult one to uphold, and Xariel took pride in the knowledge that he had upheld that code as well as any King of the past.
But now… he felt almost as though it had all been in vain.
It was two days since he had read the message of the tides, and still the shock of it was with him. The message of the tides was not an easy form of scrying, even for so mighty a seer as he: to rise into a meditative state that all of the ebbs and flows of the Solar Sea and the Aethyr, all of the past, present and future’s subtle currents might be woven into one prophecy, such complex energies could be boiled down and brought into a simple message in written word was a task that even he struggled to perform. He remembered keenly the first time, after nearly a century of attempts that he had succeeded. The words that he had found written in his own hand that hand had filled him with joy.
Sun, rain and good harvests.
A simple message, but that day it had meant two things to the young Xariel. The first was a feeling of personal success. That after a century of Aethyrean Deravale’s urgings he had succeeded in the greatest test. The second was that for that year, at the very least, the future of the Solar Sea was good. Every year he made the same scrying. And every year the message was at the worse apathetic. Nothing was so bad that all the energies of the universe would heed and be disturbed.
Until now.
Death is coming.
He remembered some of the greatest wars in his life. The repulsion of Daarmagesh the Terrible from the Realm of Glarymar four hundred years before. Nearly fifteen million soldiers fought on that dreadful field, and when the smoke cleared on the fifth day, with whole continents stamped flat by the battle, millions lay dead on both sides. Yet that year the message from the tides had only registered that there would be a trying winter. Even the terror of Daarmagesh had not been enough to worry the endless flows of the Solar Sea.
This time it was different. The war that was coming would see flame set to the entire Solar Sea. Those three damning words, as simple and seemingly unassuming as they may have looked, could very well spell the end of the civilised races. And Xariel knew very well where this horror would come from. And if he did not feel the weight of responsibility and his fear for his people so keenly, he might have found it amusing. Of all the races that he would have picked out as the bringers of doom…
He might have thought of the Markk-nar, a brutally amoral race of killing machines from the screaming Realms of the wraithlands. The Beregundi, though almost universally civilised and gentle, occasionally gave rise to a bloodthirsty throw-back, and if such a one could assume power they might have struck him.
But not the Arakul. Yes, the Arakul were, pound for pound, the most deadly warriors on the Solar Sea with the exception of the Draconis themselves. And they did indeed rampage out of the wildlands in bloodthirsty raids with tiresome regularity. But that was why none would imagine them the harbingers of any kind of greater war. They were fierce, proud, tribal warriors. They spent most of their time fighting each other. Every fifteen to twenty years, without fail, a warlord would rise among them powerful enough to hammer several tribes into a greater army and attack the Realms beyond the wildlands. But these invasions were so regular that standing measures – fortresses, militias and mutual support treatises existed in the Realms most likely to fall victim. And most of their invasions numbered only a few hundred thousand, enough for an allied force to easily overcome. The greatest horde in Xariel’s lifetime had been Daarmagesh’s, at a strength of eight million. That of Garlamesh himself was alleged to only be twenty million.
Xariel chuckled to himself sadly as he thought of it. The nature of the beast, he had thought, everyone had thought, would stop it from posing serious threat. And then there was the evidence of the moment, evidence that Xariel had, he now understood, totally misunderstood. When no Arakul invasion had come for thirty years, almost everyone thought it a good omen. It had been so curious that ten years ago, thirty two years since the last invasion, Xariel had attempted to See from Afar into the wildlands themselves, to see what caused this thankful absence. As ever, the Aethyr of the wildlands was as churning, violent and difficult for the spirit to ply as the Solar Sea was for vessels, and so he saw very little. But he had gained a vague inkling of vast armies marching against each other, of legions of Arakul smashing on each other in wars so great that they dwarfed almost any he had ever fought in.
And that had seemed a relief to all other races. If the Arakul fought themselves to a weakened state in vast internecine wars perhaps they would lack for centuries the power to sally forth and wreak devastation on others. Each passing year had made people more hopeful that the Arakul were gone permanently.
Then this year had dawned. The first three months had been like any other year. That was six very long months ago.
The Arakul had invaded three times. The smallest horde was twenty-six million strong. That horde had headed straight for Glarymar, and it was clear from the very start that that was their intention: to show the peoples of the Solar Sea that they would succeed where even the mighty Daargamesh had failed. Army after army was raised desperately to try to stop the oncoming horde, and time and again those armies were smashed aside like leaves in the wind.
Glarymar had burned whilst Xariel was still despatching forces. The Mendi, the gentle people of Glarymar had been almost wiped out, less than a hundred thousand managing to flee their doomed realm as the vast legions of Arakul descended. Xariel had Seen from Afar, watched helplessly, his own forces still weeks’ travel away as the Arakul butchered the population and burned the sacred forests. Great prayer-weaves, glades of trees woven into the holy signs of the Mendi’s forest gods had been torn down and great tribal standards hauled aloft in their place. The Mendi had tried to flee from their ruthless aggressors, but the Mendi were small and delicate. Their culture was entirely peaceful and they were not given to exertion, and were certainly no match for the mile-eating lope of the Arakul soldiers, and time and again were hunted down and obliterated.
Xariel had wept bitter tears as he had watched, yet he owed it to the people who he had failed to watch and remember their fate. He had always enjoyed the Mendi’s yearly festival of the Secret Lights and the honest joy and generosity of the people. He had not found time to go in over fifty years, and it mortified him even more to realise he no longer had any friends to mourn among them. The Mendi’s lives were never longer than forty-five years. A whole race near wiped out, the last few left homeless and fugitive, and Xariel could not call the face of one living to mind as a friend.
Xariel’s forces – a full fourteen Orders of the Sword, supported by a huge combined force of eighteen million soldiers drafted from the Realms nearest to the danger – had met the Arakul horde and managed to drive it back at horrendous cost on the Realm of Maeout. Seven Realms already lay devastated by that point. Thinking that the threat was over, however terrible it had been, the Xariel and his forces had begun to count the cost. Of the one hundred and forty thousand warriors Xariel had put into the field, sixty-seven thousand would never return. It was unheard of. The hundred Orders of the Sword, the military might of the Draconis had never known such a beating. Though they were only a million soldiers, every Draconis warrior was a match for a hundred soldiers of any other race. Even the Arakul would lose ten soldiers for every Draconis dragged down. But that was the trouble. The horde that had met them in battle at Maeout was so vast it could absorb such losses.
The Draconis had suffered lightly in comparison. The standing armies of nineteen Realms had been annihilated on that dreadful field, leaving them dependent on their overstretched neighbours for support. Thirty-one Realms had suffered crippling losses to their forces. Xariel had decided to send two full strength Orders of the Sword from Eadenn to garrison the area against lightning raids from leftover dregs of the repulsed horde. Xariel had known that rebuilding that region of the Solar Sea would take many years and great work. He had begun planning.
Then the second invasion had hit.
Thirty-seven million Arakul emerged from the wildlands without warning, from a point months’ travel from the initial invasion. Xariel remembered the day with awful clarity. The disbelief he had felt when he had been told of the sighting of another vast Arakul fleet, the numb horror he had experienced when he himself had Seen it from Afar. Xariel had consulted with Master Thorell, who with his usual stoic military mastery had accepted the fact and the scale of the new invasion and had set to stopping it. In this, at least, there had been some small hope, for the Arakul had chosen to invade through the Realms of the fierce Umbordi. Hot tempered and easy to anger, the Umbordi were nonetheless civil and peaceful in most of their dealings with the Draconis and other races. They would fight the Arakul to the last drop of blood. Xariel had dispatched word for all nearby Realms to rally to the aid of the Umbordi, and had communed through the Aethyr with the wytch-priests of the Umbordi to discuss plans. Master Thorell had personally led twenty Orders on the fastest ships towards the imperilled Realms. In the meantime, the Umbordi had fought the oncoming Arakul their own way: the enemy had descended to discover the towns and forts of the Umbordi abandoned, the people long fled into the trackless swamps and misty fens that covered all of their Realms. Then, at night, the Umbordi would come screaming from the night, covered in war-paint, rushing into the Arakul camps in lightning raids. At first it was successful, the raids of the Umbordi chipping away at the Arakul, but as Xariel had guessed, the tactic had not worked for long. The Arakul were hardened and almost impossible to frighten, and soon the raids were met with well disciplined ambushes, and counter raids. The Umbordi were on the backfoot by the time that Thorell and his allies arrived, but by that point, the huge horde of Arakul had moved on.
Thorell’s quick thinking had saved the Draconis. Sensing an ambush he had pulled the Draconis back to their fleets just in time to repel a massed attack against the vessels as they floated in high anchor around the Umbordi’s principle Realm. What followed was a bloody and brutal running war fought both on the tides of the Solar Sea and across two dozen Realms. The Arakul were driven back eventually, for the loss of eighteen Realms, the almost total destruction of the armed forces of another forty-two Realms and the lives of ninety-two thousand Draconis warriors. The entire Solar Sea had been reeling by this point. The whole, that is, apart from the strange exception of Eloytia, and this Xariel found most disturbing. Eloytia had always been the greatest ally of Eadenn and the Draconis, and always the most eager to make war against the Arakul. Having lived in the shadow of the wildlands for so long, the Eloytians would usually have sailed across the entire Solar Sea to carry their glaves against their oldest enemies. And welcome they would have been as well, for the Eloytians were mighty soldiers. But all contact had been lost with Eloytia. Xariel had despatched three messenger ships, none of which had been heard from. He had attempted to contact the Parliament of Eltor through the Aethyr, only to discover some strange fog-like barrier obscuring the Realm from the spirit world. So close to the boundary of the Arakul prowling grounds, he feared for the survival of his people’s oldest ally. But the Eloytians eluded contact as though they did not exist.
In the wake of the second invasion, Xariel had ordered a further two fresh Orders to guard the shattered Realms around the Umbordi’s lands, which was made more difficult by the Umbordi’s sudden aggression towards the Draconis, who they blamed for their own ruin. There was little enough left of the Umbordi or their Realms, but their misdirected anger would make rebuilding their Realm much more difficult. Xariel remembered the day that his own forces had returned from the front, thousands of exhausted and bloodied warriors relieved to be home but sombre from the horrors they had endured. He had met Master Thorell, who carried several minor wounds, at the steps of the Palace of Audience, and they had embraced, to the applause of the crowd.
Which was when the messenger had come to tell him of the third invasion.
This time, the Arakul had been more sly than was usual for their race. They had bypassed, silent and unnoticed through great tracts of the Solar Sea that were uninhabited. And then they had simply appeared. The entire invasion force, thirty-three million, had descended on the Realm of Kymelea, the seat of the Jaladyle. The Jaladyle were an ancient race who wee renowned for their philosophy, their ability as sculptors and artists. They were sought as arbiters and as peacemakers. Their population was never large – there were never more than two billion of them – but wherever one could be found, there was in them a wisdom and presence equal to twenty of another race.
By the time that Xariel found out about the invasion, the Jaladyle were extinct. None of them had escaped. And then the Arakul sat, and waited. They might as well have been calling the Draconis out.
Cautious, battle-wearied and battered, Master Thorrel had suggested blockading them until they made an aggressive move. Twenty Orders had been dispatched, Xariel and Thorrel both determined to see the dreadful year brought to a triumphant end. The Arakul had not been content to stay put, however, and had launched aggressive raids on the local Realms. Many of the local civilisations had felt their resolve strengthened by news of the defeat of the first two invasions, however, and had offered plentiful support for the Draconis. Supported by almost fifty million warriors from local Realms, the two hundred thousand Draconis warriors had landed on the shores of Kymelea.
The Arakul had fought with the manic fury of fanatics, and had fought to the last man. Literally every man of the thirty-three million had had to be killed. It was unheard of. The Arakul, like any race of natural marauders would almost always cut their losses when their cause became impractical. Arakul pragmatism was as useful to the civilised Realms of the Solar Sea as ever military might was. Yet these Arakul had given their lives willingly, desiring only to drag down as many enemy as possible as they died. Of the allied army of fifty million that had invaded that blighted Realm, only fourteen million returned. The Draconis casualties neared one hundred thousand. One more Xariel had despatched two fresh Orders to guard the shattered and vulnerable area before recalling his troops. Unprecedented horrors had arisen this year. Of the Draconis’s legendary battle Orders, half had been bloodied and battled in half a year. A full quarter of the million incomparable warriors of Eadenn lie dead, with tens of thousands more recovering from war-injuries. Sixty thousand more guarded tattered remnants where once many civilisations had existed. There were few who would not remember this as the most terrible year in living memory, but many had begun to pray and give thanks that the Solar Sea had been spared at all.
But Xariel knew better than to imagine that it was that simple. He and Thorrel had had their suspicions. Some tried to claim that whatever great wars the Arakul had been fighting in the wildlands had raised three equally powerful warlords and that the chaff had been burned away, leaving only three vast hordes determined to conquer the Solar Sea. Xariel knew this to be the frantic wishful thinking of people who could not accept fully what had passed and more importantly what they knew must come deep in their souls.
But he had suspected that all three hordes were just tendrils, probes, vanguards roving ahead of the main horde and testing the defences of the Solar Sea. And if that were the case… the numbers of Arakul lurking behind the churning veil of the wildlands would be inconceivable. That had been Xariel’s main hope for thinking that it would not be so. Even after all he had seen, even after the three devastating incursions that they had already suffered, the hope that it was not as it appeared had lingered until Xariel had read those three words in his own hand.
Death is coming.
Eloytia was still unreachable. The strange whirling mist in the Aethyr that surrounded that Realm had not lifted, and no word had been heard in six months. Dozens of Realms around the Solar Sea had been crippled and broken, and Xariel’s own forces were as battered and weakened as any time in living memory.
He had pondered the problem as he walked. Part of it was convincing the Council of Ancients. Thorell would accept his warnings without question. But some of the others, particularly the artisans and scholars might rail against the knowledge of the oncoming war, simply because they didn’t want to think about such a conflict. And then there was what to do once they had accepted it. He didn’t want an outright panic he wanted a quick investigation to determine what sort of threat was burgeoning on the already embattled peoples of the Solar Sea, and then he wanted a sensible and constructive plan to stop it. The trouble with that being that the scouting forces they’d already encountered – if they were such, as he was now almost entirely convinced – had devastated numerous Realms and annihilated so many armies that conventional means of deflecting any larger force were almost certain to fail. It was a numbing sensation. To know that an enemy came of such magnitude that even the mightiest of races might be smashed to pieces before them, and that he, more than any man, held the fate of all he held dear.
“By all divinity, how I wish old Sternhammer were here,” he said aloud, a faint smile crossing his face. Then he chuckled. With all the Council of Ancients at his beck and call, with warriors and philosophers as great as any in the universe to advise him, he yet craved the presence of a scarred old blacksmith who had cuffed him for his insolence in his youth. There had been something elemental about the man. There had been right and wrong, as far as Sternhammer was concerned. It was that simple. And divinity protect the man who crossed that line in his presence.
Xariel shrugged the fond thoughts away. The last time he’d heard from the old blacksmith had been years ago, and he’d been living in Eloytia. Now Eloytia was cut off.
Xariel thought about the problem from a different angle. Perhaps, if the tide of foes his people would have to face was so great, their numbers could be turned against them. Perhaps he could hope to isolate them, overstretch them and eliminate them piecemeal. He shrugged the thought off. Until he knew quite what he was facing he had no way of know what might work to deflect it. That feeling of waiting helplessness was as bad as the fear of what might come.
He was disturbed in his thoughts by a movement on the track he had climbed. For a moment he thought it might be Silent Wolf, but the barbarian chieftain would have approached with far more stealth. He looked up, and smiled with a genuine feeling of warmth as he saw Lady Halgaea picking her way up the trail, wearing a simple but flattering light blue dress robe. Xariel felt genuinely happy to see her. It didn’t take his mind off of things, but it reminded him why he was driving himself mad trying to find answers to questions which he didn’t fully understand with only the most minimal level of evidence.
Halgaea quietly picked her way up to him and sat down on a log nearby without ceremony. Xariel couldn’t help the smile that came. Throwing herself down onto the log with as little grace as could be physically mustered, and she still managed to be beautiful. Whenever Halgaea was around Xariel felt a sense of contentedness which was otherwise often difficult to reach. It amused him to remember the bitterness and anger that had once existed between them, so long ago. There was a time he would have received news of her departure from his life with relief and gladness. The last two centuries had turned her from a personal enemy to a grudging advisor to his closest friend. He knew exactly when it had begun.
The day of Ledina’s pyre…
Xariel shoved that thought aside and smiled at Halgaea.
“What brings you up here, good lady?” he asked with a cheer which he was beginning to feel to his own surprise.
Halgaea chuckled.
“Needed to stretch my legs. I thought I’d get some peace and quiet up here. Trust you to get here first.”
She yawned.
“No, but really. I wanted to see you away from the Council of Ancients and the Seer Scholaries and everyone else who wants you to undo the last year. I’d like to know that you’re okay. And your friend Silent Wolf already told me about your quiet spot up here.”
Xariel blinked in surprise, and then chuckled with a shake of his head.
“If anyone could get that strange fellow to talk it would be you, wouldn’t it? I thought I was the only Draconis he spoke to.”
Halgaea shrugged.
“He appeared out of the woods when I was walking the other dya. Said he’d seen us together. He was under the impression we were ‘lifemates’ as he calls it. I, uh, I set him straight. Told him about the past and how we’d come to be friends. He laughed and said we were lifemates anyway even if we hadn’t worked it out yet.”
There was a moment of almost awkward silence as Xariel attempted to not find Halgaea so beautiful. She was not, in any traditional sense, a beauty: her head was not as long or fine-boned as Ledina’s had been, nor were her scales quite as rich. She was, in the eyes of most Draconis, a pretty woman with an eye-catching smile. Certainly not the heroine of one of the great classical legends. Ledina… she had been a sculpted creature, fiery and beautiful. Some said that she was the vision of her ancestor, Drell the Destroyer. Xariel remembered the first time he saw her with her rather plain and severe friend, as Xariel recalled Halgaea.
“Well,” he said, snapping from old thoughts, “he must be allowed his ways. His are a curious folk. In the meantime, how are your Sanctuary Houses?”
Halgaea grinned with an almost motherly fondness.
“The refugees are settling in well, and most have offered to begin working. Farming, sculpting, tinkering. So difficult to believe that most of them saw their Realms devastated, their people scattered and butchered. I thought a lot of them would blame you, as people are wont to. I was surprised. Most have shown nothing but support for you. They say that Xariel the Wise has saved many of their races from extinction at the hands of those mindless Arakul butchers.”
The last words emerged with a flash of anger and Xariel felt an image, more emotion than picture as it flashed through the aethyr. The emotions of a heart-broken child. It had been centuries since they had learned of the fate of Halgaea’s father, cut down by Arakul raiders. But she had never quite forgiven them for it, and the last six months of seeing the distraught survivors of smashed civilisations had caused her childhood anger and grief to flare. Xariel reached out and squeezed her arm.
“They only care for me because of the hospitality my great people have shown them. And they have good cause, given that they are supported by the greatest of my people. That would be you, by the way. Ah, Hal, I’m so glad to have you helping me now. There are billions of people distressed and put out of home across the Solar Sea. Without your help I might never have even begun the rebuilding for fear of what can go wrong. I only wish I could agree with you that the Arakul are mindless.”
Halgaea looked at him sharply, all colour seeming to leave her. Xariel realised that he’d said too much. Any who did not know him as well as Halgaea might not have understood the last remark, but she read it easily.
“They’re coming again, aren’t they? Xar! They’re not finished, are they?”
Xariel shook his head with a grim expression.
“No, they are not. At least, I’m almost certain they aren’t. if I’m correct, the three invasions of this year were just the first volleys. I believe that an incalculably vast horde of Arakul is amassing beyond the veil of the wildlands.”
Halgaea blinked. She was trying to assimilate the information, much as Xariel had after the message of the tides.
“Why do you think this?” she asked quietly after a moment.
Xariel sighed.
“The message of the tides said ‘Death is coming’. Now you know the theories behind the message of the tides. Only a war of apocalyptic scale for the entire Solar Sea could spell out that sort of warning. None of the three which have come could account for it. Not all three together would come close. At first I tried to envision any other race that might bring us to such awful conflict. There are none with sufficient power. Not even the Mark-narr. But the wildlands… all accounts and projections suggest that the wildlands may be as massive as all the civilised lands, and teeming with Arakul kept at bay only by their eternal tribal wars. Now, the Arakul have been quiet these last forty years. The few glimpses beyond the churning walls of the wildlands I’ve been able to get showed us what we thought in our arrogance were wars of epic destruction among the Arakul. But what if they were not? What if, far from destruction, they were a massive war of unification? A warlord more powerful, with greater vision than any before crushing all opposition, ignoring the civilised lands in favour of amassing a horde larger than any seen before! There could be a billion Arakul standing just beyond the edge of the wildlands, and the worst part is that the wildlands themselves protect a perfect cover to stage their initial attacks.”
Halgaea was quiet for a long moment.
“But if this warlord you mentioned had been unifying tribes for forty years or more, he’d have to be at least sixty. An Arakul warlord that old knows he doesn’t have very long. Ten years, maybe twenty at most. They aren’t a race known for their patience. Surely he’d have struck ten years ago, or twenty, when he’d still have presumably had forces capable of total war but he’d have more time to enjoy it. It seems awfully out of character.”
Xariel chuckled.
“So does striking the Solar Sea with three devastating invasions in the space of six months. But they did. I think we can dismiss our experience. This time it’s different.”
Halgaea nodded slowly.
“I see. Now… if only you had a court of advisors to help you with this problem. If only you could call on a council of the wisest and most brilliant minds on the Solar Sea… oh.”
Xariel looked into her sparkling eyes and laughed aloud.
“You shouldn’t mock the king, Hal.”
Halgaea’s smile grew more pronounced.
“The king shouldn’t let the Council of Ancients sit on their hands when he suspects a threat of unprecedented scale. Come on, let’s go frighten them.”
She extended her hand. Xariel laughed again.
“I suppose you’re correct again. By all divinity, Hal, I wonder what I’d do without you.”
Halgaea chuckled.
“And sometimes I wonder if I might even get some peace and quiet if not for you. Come on, let’s go tell them what you’ve seen.”
Xariel rose to his feet and took her hand. For a moment he caught a flash of emotion before she carefully buried it, a distant echoing bang of the fear that she hid from him. He appreciated the effort she took not to worry him even though he had caught her slip. Because right now, he had enough fear of his own for everyone.

Published in: on January 4, 2009 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

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