Tales of the Kirgeur

Part 19

By: Bluedragon

"Well met, Torienne. Where is Salenia?" Lyliane asked as she led our companions into the chambers.

"She is bathing. You are of good cheer. How went the festivities?"

"The festivities were wondrous. Here, I have brought items from the market." Lyliane seemed to glow. "Tre and Sevianth watched the festivities as Iolaine and I journeyed there. We have purchased some delicious treats." She held aloft a bag in triumph. "It is called khocorart. Wish you to taste one?"

"Perhaps after the meal." It amused me to see her so child like in her demeanor. "Iolaine, all went well?"

"It did, Torienne. I bring gratitude from your cousin." He approached and related it in a low tone.

"Well done. Lyliane assisted you?"

"She did. We used much caution. We were not seen. We used the crowd to cover our motions as you advised." He seemed proud of his accomplishments.

"Very well done. Rest for now. We shall watch this eve."

"I believe I heard mention of a treat?" Salenia asked as she entered the common chamber.

"You did, sister. Iolaine and I discovered khocorart. It is a taste of Jarndinia, though Torienne bids us wait until after the meal to partake of it."

"Perhaps it is a good plan, Lyl. We wish not to spoil our appetite." Sal seemed amused at her sister's behavior. "Sevianth, enjoy you the performances?"

"They were incredible, Salenia. I wish you and Tor had seen them as well. Is it true tonight is the last of them?" He seemed saddened by the thought.

"It is true. In a fortnight, there shall be more. Soliumant is to wed, and there will be much celebration." I assured him. "I have been informed the performances and the festivities are to be more wondrous than these."

"More wondrous?" He seemed in awe. In truth, we all were. None could imagine activities that would place the ones we had witnessed in a pale light.

"Perhaps we should fetch the meal before the feasting begins." Tre suggested.

"It would be wise to do so." Lyliane commented. "Else we shall have a small meal. Come, Tre, we shall go."

"They have become friends it seems." I commented as they departed.

"Aight. It is well for them to do so. We depend much on one another, shehala. Iolaine, tell us of your adventures."

Briefly, Iolaine told us of the rescue. He merely walked behind Hildrenne, placed a mask over her head and bid her follow. Tre had spoken of the rescue to her. She had expected such an action. None knew of her sister's whereabouts. Rulirenne was the only one still missing. We knew not if she had been taken by the thieves, though I believed it so. She had not been seen since she had been chosen at the start of the festivities.

Tre and Lyliane returned with the evening meal as Sevianth spoke of the performances he had seen. He would miss them when we returned to our homeland. In truth, I knew there were many such wonders we would miss when we returned. Regardless, I was resolved to return the lost ones and remain near to my village. The horses we had taken from the bandits would prove a good cross mix with Kier. I had a new breed in mind and wished for the opportunity to give my idea life. I knew I would be unable to do so in the realm of the Jilhsaed.

"Gods of my tribe. What is this?" I held aloft the offensive meat. It was the first I had tasted that I had found inedible.

"It is meat from a virithen. It is considered a delicacy." Lyliane informed me, though I noticed she had not consumed a portion of it.

"What is a virithen?" Sal asked. She seemed as if she had not enjoyed the taste either.

"It is a desert lizard. The man who showed us the snake in showed us one as well." Sevianth informed us. "It is amusing to watch. It has eyes on each side of its head and can turn the eye only to watch. It can grow as long as a man."

"Lizard meat is considered a delicacy?" I knew the disgust was audible in my voice.

"Aight. Snake meat is as well, though we have not yet been served that."

"Lyliane, a favor. If they offer meat from a snake, decline it." Sal seemed a bit disgusted.

"Agreed. Decline this as well." I pushed the portion on my plate far from me.

"With pleasure." Only Iolaine seemed able to consume the virithen.

"Pardon the intrusion, Torienne and Salenia, but I was bid fetch Salenia for Soliumant." Siveruian interrupted the meal by peering around the door. It had not been closed when they returned with the tray.

"It is no intrusion, Siveruian. Wish you to join us?" Sal waved the chamberlain into the room.

"I would if I were able. I have to attend to duties near to the Jilhsaed. Soliumant wishes you to see his intended. It should not be a long duty. He merely wishes a conversation with Kierian."

"My gratitude for the information." She stood. "I shall see you at watch, shehala. If duty is long, I shall send word and meet you when able."

"I shall be with Tominent. Carry Kierian and Graneima my greetings."

"I shall." She closed the door behind her.


"Aight, Sevianth?"

"When we return, shall we be in the keeping of a faelida?" I wondered at his wisdom. He seemed young for it.

"Nothen, young one. We shall answer to none save ourselves. The only times Sal and I shall have duty is when there is a need for our blades. Otherwise, we will tend only the horses we shall rear."

"You wish to breed horses?" He seemed awed.

"I wish it so. You shall even assist." His wisdom was tempered by a young boy's enthusiasm.

"Iolaine, Lyliane and Tre also?"

"If they wish, though Tre shall be joined to her betrothed when we return. Perhaps if he agrees, they shall live near to us." I looked at my sister in question. It seemed as if she had not expected the invitation.

"I believe Dalin shall accept. I know I would wish it so." Tre smiled broadly. "Perhaps we shall create our own village and I will be able to learn more."

"If we believe in my shehala, it shall happen." I laughed. Salenia had spoken of her wishes for the future, though not completely. I knew she would wish to build a new village. It seemed in her nature. My keytheda had dreams of a different society. I could foresee her attempts at creating one if she could not change ours.

"It shall be strange. We shall be the village elders." Lyliane found amusement in the thought.

"You would wish me to accompany you?" Iolaine seemed surprised.

"If you wish it so. You are a friend and companion. If you wish to accompany us, we shall be gladdened." I knew he would wish to accompany if only for Lyliane, though they seemed not to have admitted their attraction.

"My gratitude for the invitation. I shall accompany you." Had he the ability, I believe he would have reddened.

"Now for duty. Tominent shall be here soon. We shall watch in pairs this night." The talk was taking ill turns. Though it was heartfelt, it was too full of feelings for my comfort.

"Shall I send for Reinea?" Lyliane's question brought to mind the house servant. We had not seen her since the midday meal.

"If you wish." I declined to say more. Tominent had arrived.

"Shall we? Where is Salenia?" He asked.

"She is at duty with Soliumant. Let us set watch at the river and bid Iolaine to fetch Wendelent. We shall change watch when he joins us."

"I shall see you at the river." Iolaine hastened to fetch the other we employed for the watch.

"Wish you the river or the city when the others join us?" I asked as we departed from the chambers.

"It matters not."

"Then you shall watch the river. I shall watch the city when Iolaine returns. If you wish, you may stand with Wendelent, though I beg a favor."

"It is granted. What did I agree to?" He laughed.

"Sal should seek us at the river. Send her to our post and I'll return Iolaine."

"I shall. I would have regardless. I prefer to watch with those I trained with as well. Shall we remain on this side of the river?"

"We shall. I have no desire to swim it." The thought amused me. Sal had not taught me to swim well enough for the attempt.

We were not long at the river before Iolaine returned with Wendelent. Iolaine and I departed for the palace gates. We would set watch near to where Sal and I had witnessed the dark figure before. It seemed a logical choice.

We stood for an hour in the shadows. Iolaine showed his wisdom. He attempted no conversation. The hour passed slowly as we waited. The only interruption was Wendelent's approach. He said no word, merely delivered a folded piece of parchment and departed. The parchment was from Sal, or at the least, it seemed to be. Tominent had received it and bid Wendelent carry it to me. It said only that Salenia was bid to carry further duty and would meet us in the chambers. I thought little of it, though perhaps I should have. I had not seen evidence of Salenia's scribing enough to note the differences.

I had refolded the note and placed it beneath my bracer when the bells began to ring. Iolaine and I departed from our post and made for the palace. The guard had no knowledge of the direction of the trouble. Making a choice based solely on instinct, I hastened my steps toward the section where the Jilhsaed, Soliumant and Kierian were housed. It was the right choice. We almost collided with Tominent and Wendelent as we approached the floor that held Kierian's chambers.

"It is not Soliumant. A guard near the court chamber knew that much." Tominent informed me as we combined our small group.

"I think we are in the right place." My heart fell to my knees as we rounded the corner and noticed the guard lying dead outside Kierian's door. "Dagthen." We entered the chamber with swords drawn.

Inside the chamber there was evidence of struggle. The cloth had been ripped from the bed; the hangings were thrown on the floor. The table was overturned and the balcony door was hanging on its fastenings. We did not notice the body on the floor until we heard the moan. Graneima was lying in a pool of blood, a small blade in her hand.

"Graneima. Gran, where is Salenia and the others?" Gently I lifted her head. I was anxious for news. "Tominent, hand me a pile of cloth. Wendelent, fetch the mediacios." I used the dagger from my bracer to cut the cloth into smaller sections. The house servants could replace the bedclothes. I bound her wounds as I had been taught, though I was not as skilled as Salenia. I had not trained as a healer.

"Tor?" Her voice was weak. Behind me, I could hear others approach. I paid them little heed.

"I am here. Where are the others? Was Soliumant in the room?"

"No, Torienne. I am here." I turned at his voice. He approached and knelt beside Graneima. "Know we what happened?"

"No, rohirm. We know not what occurred." I turned my attention back to the wounded friend in my arms. "Gran, can you speak?"

"Aight. A little. We were attacked. The viniare was drugged I think. Sal had not consumed much, though her movements were slow. They took Kierian and Sal. I know not whom or where." Her voice was soft and hesitant. She was on the brink of both worlds. I knew then she would die if the mediacios did not appear in time. I prayed to my gods they would.

"What does she say?" I had not realized we spoke in the tongue of our homeland until Soliumant asked for a translation.

"She knows not who attacked them. Kierian and Salenia were taken. I believe they live still. There is no sign otherwise." I mentioned not my thoughts. Had they been wanted dead, we would have found them so. As it was, only Salenia's blade remained in the room.

"Let me pass." A mediacio shouldered me aside. Two of them assisted him. They wasted no words as they began tending to Gran.

"We know not who did this?" Soliumant asked again. He seemed shaken.

"No, rohirm. We know not." I studied the men who had accompanied him. Among them was the messenger who was reportedly courting Reinea. It all tied into a puzzle. Without knowing why, I knew I needed to find my companions. "Rohirm, I need ensure my companions safety. I shall return." I knew it seemed suspicious, though he knew of my bond with Salenia. I trusted he would know I wished her no harm.

"Why need you ensure their safety?" He seemed confused.

"I know not. I know only my shehala and your intended are missing. We need locate them." I knew he could hear the anxious tone with ease. In truth, he seemed reining in his temper. I did likewise. "Rohirm, return to your chambers and with haste. Take the mute with you. Ask no questions; merely give me charge of your safety. We cannot trust in the guards. We have a traitor or several in the palace. Get you to safety. Tominent, Iolaine and I shall handle this." The rational part of my nature came to the fore.

"You are serious?"

"Mute. Come. Escort Soliumant to his chamber. Lock yourselves into a room without a window and do not leave until Tominent or I fetch you. Understood?" I knew the mute would understand. I believed the coup was beginning. I did not wish to leave him unarmed or in danger.

"You cannot be serious." Soliumant protested.

"Brother, listen to her. She is a kirgeur." Tominent spoke in hushed tones. "Do as advised. It is beginning."

"Gods of my father. Hasten your return." Shaken by the events and the revelations, he allowed the mute to escort him from the chamber.

"Tominent, who sent you the note from Salenia?"

"Soliumant's messenger, the son of our eldest brother. He was here but moments ago." He scanned the assembly.

"It is as I feared. Find him and we shall find the thieves or at the least the members of the coup. I need to ensure my companions' safety. It was no accident Salenia was taken. They have knowledge of us else they would have killed her and left the body for us to find. They want the information she possesses."

"I shall find him and meet you in your chambers. Iolaine? Accompany me?"


"Go. I am a match for what I believe I shall find." I hastened my steps toward my chambers. I remember not traversing the corridors. Only Reinea was present when I entered. It was well. It was her I wished to see.

"Torienne, what is amiss?"

"Where is my dagger? The one I keep in my boot? Who did you give it to this morn?" I was not concerned with polite questioning. I had realized we had been betrayed. The knowledge seemed to ring within me. It resounded through my body, awakening the assassin.

"I know not." She read the fury in my eyes and backed away.

"Nothen. You know. You gave it to the baderema who delivered the message this morn, did you not? Are you in league with him against us, against Soliumant and the Jilhsaed?" I continued to approach her.

"I gave it to none." She protested.

"That is untrue, Reinea. Salenia and Kierian are missing. You are involved. Speak of what you know and perhaps I shall spare your life." She made a mistake then. She turned to flee. I caught her arm and threw her onto the bed. I followed, sitting above her with a dagger to her throat.

"Torienne, have you gone mad?" Lyliane asked from the doorway. She could not view the dagger from her position. I know not how it seemed to them.

"Stand in the corridor and keep the door closed."

"What is amiss?" She did not do as instructed.

"Has Salenia returned to the chamber since she departed during the meal?" I knew the answer though I felt required to ask.

"Nothen. She was to meet you. What is amiss?" Tre seemed concerned. Sevianth stood watching from the doorway. His eyes were large and confused by the scene he witnessed.

"Tell me." I ignored my companions and turned my attention back to the servant beneath me.

"No. I shall not speak." She spat in my face. She was rendered into dreams by the hilt of my dagger. I had not the time for stupidity.

"Lyliane, take this piece of dagthen to the library. Tre will show you the shelving to knock on. Tell the queriane who opens the door the black phoenix requires assistance. Remain in the inner chamber until I fetch you. Send a queriane to Tominent."

"Aight, Torienne." She seemed ill at ease with the demands.

"Keep watch over Reinea. Soliumant shall wish to question her." I allowed them to pull Reinea from the bed. She did not stir. "Sevianth, do as requested. I depend on you for this, to keep the other in the chamber."

"I shall, Torienne." He seemed to think his role important. In truth, I believed it also.

"Go now and seek shelter. I shall return when I am able." They hastened their departure. They knew me well and asked no more.

I paced the floor as I gave way to my thoughts. It was not long before I discovered how hard graseleth was on the hand. Regardless, the vase broke when it met the wall. I know not why, but I left the chambers and set my course for the river. I knew only we had been watched. We had watched the river more than any place in the palace. It seemed known. It seemed logical it would be an escape if we were thought elsewhere.

My instinct was correct. I noticed a black shape moving opposite the shadows near to the wall. It entered the river. I crouched low to avoid detection. I waited until it passed me before entering the river behind it. I could tell only that it was human. The face and hair were covered and the clothing gave no hint of sex.

"I believe we have met before. I am Torienne, and unless you accompany me willingly, you are dead." I turned the figure around in the river. It was dangerous. I could not swim well. I kept to my feet and took a balanced stance. I wished not to test Sal's lessons.

"Riwilshia. You are not as skilled as you believe." It was the messenger. I could tell from the voice.

"I protest." I spun the baderema around and thrust his head beneath the water. He was slightly built. It was not difficult to do so. "Now, answer my questions and I shall not kill you."

"I shall answer nothing."

"Very well." Again I thrust him beneath the water. I counted to five and twenty before returning him to the air. "Now?"

"Die." He pulled free a hand and produced a dagger from his belt.

"You are impetuous, little boy. You are ill trained and ill advised as well." His attempts were amusing. With ease, I claimed the dagger then his life. It was the second time a man had died so I could claim that dagger. It was the one from my boot. I had my answers, though I knew not where Salenia and Kierian were taken.

I hefted the body on my shoulders and returned to the palace. None halted my progress. I directed my steps to the library. I required speech of the seer and the queriane. I believed it time for them to guard more than mere scrolls. It was good fortune. Tominent and Iolaine were present, as was Wendelent.

"Torienne, is that him?" Tominent removed the burden from my shoulders.

"It is. He had possession of my dagger. I wish not to think on the havoc he planned with it." With ease I could envision the possibilities. Soliumant would recognize it if it were found at the scene of a murder. I would have lost my head before an explanation could have been given.

"It is well you have located it. What shall we do with the body?"

"Place it near to Reinea. Perhaps it shall ease her tongue and her answers." It was cruel, though I cared not.

"You have need of shelter?" The queriane on duty asked.

"For my companions. Tominent, fetch Soliumant. It is time the queriane guarded his life and not his scroll."

"I shall." He seemed gladdened. The inner chamber of the queriane was the safest in the palace.

"It has started." The old man spoke from the shadows.

"It shall end this night." I replied.

"Perhaps, Torienne, though the outcome is in doubt." Siveruian spoke from behind me.

"Is the Jilhsaed well?"

"He is. You have taken my advice, then?"

"The note? You knew of the prophecy?"

"I did. I have faith in you, unlike my father. He believes the outcome shall be as he foresaw. I do not." Siveruian bowed. I had not noticed the likeness between them.

"It is not yet finished, my son. This is but the opening move." The old man stepped into the light.

"The outcome?" The chamberlain asked.

"Is doubtful. There are many possibilities."

"I am through with speaking of prophecies. They do no good. They only cloud the mind and cast all in doubt. We shall see who triumphs this night. If any are left among the living who dared take my shehala and my friend, we shall ask for their opinion of prophecies." I had lost all patience with the old man and his mutterings.

"Father, I warned you to guard your tongue in her presence." The chamberlain laughed. "I need to see to the Jilhsaed. The mute is with him as are others."

"The others should be queriane, not family. The one who wishes the seat of power is a son to the Jilhsaed." I counseled.

"It seems logical, though I had not contemplated it." He admitted. The old man merely grunted. "I shall hasten to do as you suggest."

"You would do well to do so." Again the old man merely grunted. "Old man, with holding information vital to your faelida's survival could be detrimental to your health."

"It is futile. This is in vain. I have foreseen it." He protested.

"Nicinci reur, old man." I cursed him. He understood and seemed shocked by the term. In truth, it was rude and physically impossible. I cared not for politeness. He had raised my temper more than Reinea or the baderema.

"Torienne, is this wise?" Soliumant asked as he entered. He seemed unharmed.

"I believe it so. Speak to the old man if you wish, though believe not his words of prophecy. The queriane shall keep you safe. They shall guard your life as they once guarded knowledge."

"It shall be so." The queriane near to me pledged. "Shall we assist you more?"

"No. The fewer with me, the greater the ease." Kayla had often advised against large groups. She believed stealth required few people if they were well trained. "I thank you for the offer. Tominent, Iolaine and Wendelent shall accompany me if they wish."

"We shall." Tominent answered for the others as well. They nodded to indicate their agreement.

"Keep my companions and Soliumant safe. We shall fetch them when we return."

"Your companions are in the inner chamber. We have them safe in a room down the corridor." The queriane answered.

"My gratitude. We have had enough of speech. This requires action. Let us find the missing ones."

"Have we an idea where to search?" Tominent asked as we departed from the library.

"I have a vague idea." Briefly as we walked, I told him of the chase Sal and I gave to a dark figure during the festivities.

"If he led you near to the opposite end of the city, I believe I know where he was journeying. Near to the river are houses owned by the cordermers. To journey there, you must cross through a poor section."

"Know you which house?"

"No. I know not who the messenger would speak to other than Soliumant."

"Believe you his father would plan against the Jilhsaed?" It seemed a logical question.

"No. My eldest brother was killed in a tirgeaur hunt two years ago."

"Dagthen. If we have need, we shall inspect them all. We shall not return to the palace without Kierian or Salenia." I pledge to myself as well as to my companions. "Iolaine, have you an idea?"

"I have not. I knew not the messenger."

"I knew of him." Wendelent broke his silence. "He was seen many times in company with your house servant and a guard."

"Know you the guard?" Tominent inquired.

"I know him not. My faelida was not interesting in the politics of court. He is old and his time is near. I wished to learn the blade so I would not be assigned to one of ill temper." He explained.

"I asked only if you knew of him." Tominent seemed suspicious, though it seemed Wendelent spoke more from nerves.

"Peace, Tominent. This shall test his worth. If you wish, you may keep watch of him." I knew we would have need of Wendelent's blade. I cared not for his loyalty. I cared only for his sword arm.

"You are correct, Torienne. We are drawing near to the section of the cordermers. Have you a plan?"

"I have. Know you a cordermer you have trust in?"

"I do. Johianei maintains a house here, though he uses it seldom."

"It shall suffice. Can we approach it in stealth?" I wished none had view of us.

"If we continue past the first path and take the third, we shall enter the section behind it. It is the last house before the zone kept clear around the palace walls."

"Lead the way, my friend." Though it was against my nature, I knew I was required to depend on him for direction. I had not visited the section we were approaching.

The journey took half an hour. With caution we approached the back of Johianei's house. It was multi-floored, flat of roof and seemed cut of stone. I could not tell more in the darkness. Solisiric seemed to aid us. The moon was hidden behind thick clouds. Silently, I tendered my gratitude. I may have dreamt it, but I felt a calm then. It was as if the night lightened, as did my concern. I did not question it. I merely accepted it.

We climbed to the top of Johianei's house, using the land as much as we were able. It was a difficult climb. None approached at the slight sounds we made. It appeared deserted. The roof allowed us to view the surrounding houses. It was as planned. It was a lesson well remembered. We were instructed to seek high ground when spying a course of action.

"How shall we know which house they are in?" Iolaine asked as we hid behind the slight enclosure running the length and breadth of the roof.

"I believe it shall be guarded." I answered in hushed tones. The night would have carried loud voices.

"That is the guard the messenger had speech with." In his excitement, Wendelent almost fell from the roof. He half stood and pointed to a house three away from Johianei's and across from it.

"It appears guarded. I see several near to the door. It has two floors. It should have a balcony." I gave voice to my thoughts.

"Have you a plan?" Tominent asked.

"I have. I doubt they shall guard the rear. We shall approach from behind. If there are guards, they shall die."

"How shall we gain entrance?" Iolaine inquired.

"I shall enter the second floor if it has a balcony. The three of you shall enter from the front. This is a game, and we shall wager they are not expecting an assault. They believe themselves well hidden. We shall meet inside."

"It is dangerous, Torienne." Tominent cautioned.

"Aight it is. They shall learn not to give rise to my temper. Regardless, many of them shall not live long enough to acknowledge the lesson we shall teach them."

"I shall endeavor not to anger you." Tominent replied as we began the climb from the roof.

"You would do well to keep that in mind, though I trust you shall not anger me." I reached for the calm I had felt as I had silent speech with Solisiric. It came easily.

Retracing our steps was a long journey. I fought the urge to give vent to my frustration. The battle sense had not entered me. My shehala, a companion of my youth, and perhaps my cousin were being held in a house against their will. I was hard pressed to remain calm. Many times, I prayed to Solisiric. I knew if the gods of the Jilhsaed backed the old man's prophecy, I would have need of divine assistance. Solisiric was said to heed the faithful and those in need. I was both.

None guarded the rear of the house. We halted our progress. There was a shadow of doubt. We wished not to wreck havoc in an innocent man's home.

"Wait here. I shall give a sign if they are here." I advised as I began the climb to the balcony. It was not as easy as it seemed in the tales of my youth.

"What shall be the sign?" Tominent asked. I gave no answer but a grin. They would recognize it.

The balcony led to a bedchamber. Tied to the bed was Kierian. There was one guard present. I gave my gratitude to Solisiric. He was not near to the bed. She seemed unharmed. I had feared she or Salenia would have been used as Tilithia had. Kierian was alert, though her mouth was covered. She nodded her head. It was all the warning I required. The guard who rushed me was thrown from the balcony. Tominent had his signal.

"The other kirgeur has arrived. Think you can free your companions?" The other guard asked. It did not bode well. He wore the uniform of a palace guard. It seemed the coup was imminent.

"I think not. I know I shall." I drew my sword. "Wish you test your skill against me?"

"I wish it so." He grinned. "Perhaps you shall be better sport than your companion."

"Of all the words you could have spoken as your last, those were not the best." He died quickly. It was more than he deserved.

"Tor, how did you locate us?" Kierian asked as I untied her.

"It is a long tale. Where are the others? Are you harmed? Can you wield a sword?"

"I am unharmed. I know not where Salenia is. Gladly would I wield a sword. I think perhaps I remember its use." She accepted the one I handed her. The dead had no need of steel.

"Stay near. Tominent and the others shall be coming in the front door." Cautiously I opened the chamber door. The corridor was free of guards. The door across from the chamber opened when my boot met the wood. Only female servants were inside. "Kierian, free them. I must locate Salenia. Close the door and open it for none but me."

"Aight. May Solisiric guard your blade, Torienne."

"If I am blessed, she shall. Go you and hide." I watched as she barred the door behind her.

The corridor contained two more chambers. The first I checked was deserted. I could hear the sounds of struggle from the floor below. I blocked them from my thoughts. My stomach felt as if I had consumed rocks. I knew Salenia was in the other chamber, though I knew not how I had such knowledge. The door was barred. Several times I hit it with my shoulder. The force of it hurt, though I paid little heed to the pain. Giving vent to my frustration, I kicked it. I was required to kick it three times before it fell from its fastenings. I pried it open.

The chamber was lit by a single candle. The flickering light illuminated a solitary figure. Salenia was in the chamber. She was lying in the corner, on her side near to the wall. I could see no more.

"I believed this would bring you to me. The others believed it would weaken you. I knew it would not." I did not recognize the voice behind me.

"It was not wise. Had you wished my company, you needed but ask. I would not have rejected an invitation." I turned to see the guard I had bested to earn my rank before me.

"You jest at death. It is not a sign of bravery." He pulled his sword.

"I have beaten you before and allowed you to live though you fight as a coward. You shall not be fortunate this time." I held my sword before me.

"I lost my position because of you."

"No. You lost your position because you attempted to cheat me." I had asked of news of the guard from Siveruian. The Jilhsaed did not condone cheating. "A good warrior needs not trick his opponents."

"I had thought to kill you outright. Now I wish you to suffer. Tell me, are you prepared to meet your gods."

"I am. Are you?" He seemed as if he had not expected my answer. "Regardless, you shall greet them first. Tender them my greetings."

As expected, he lunged. A poor warrior gives his emotions sway. I was not a poor warrior. Though my shehala was lying behind me, I pushed her from my thoughts. I kept only the thought of her presence near to my mind. I had no wish to injure her further in my bout with the giant guard.

I blocked his lunge with my sword and crossed behind him. As before, I could not resist the swat to his unarmed back. In revenge, he kicked Salenia. Her groan of pain fueled my anger. I lost my calm and gave my blade to my anger. I remember not the battle. I remember only staring down at the man as he lay gasping for his last breath, my sword encased in his ribs. I pulled my sword free, wishing I had only removed his head. I liked it not when the blade stuck.

"What say you now?" I knelt near his ear. "Tender my greetings to the gods. I shall join them many years hence."

"Riacuas barbarian."

"From you, that is a high compliment." To ease his suffering, I slit his throat. Even in my rage, I could not dishonor Solisiric by falling to torture.

I ensured only that Salenia's heart was beating before lifting her to my shoulder and departing from the room. The sounds of battle approached. I remained on the second floor long enough only to fetch Kierian. She had freed the servants from their bonds. I was gladdened to see my cousin among them. Rul only requested a sword. We had not the time for a reunion. I bid the servants search for steel in the chambers lining the corridor then hasten their steps outside the house. I would entrust Salenia's safety to none but myself.

With Kierian following, I journeyed to the main floor. The stairway was guarded. He did not live long. He too wore the uniform of the palace guard. It seemed truly as if we had discovered the hiding place for the entire coup and several of the trusted palace guards were involved. It did not bode well for our success.

Several guards fell before my blade and Kierian's. It seemed she remember the usage of steel. Perhaps fear gave her skill as well. I did not question it. I had not the time or the inclination to do so.

"You have found them?" Tominent asked as we met in the middle of the main chamber.

"I have." Salenia had not roused. She was dreaming across my shoulder instead of on it. I knew which I preferred.

"Those servants you freed are causing havoc. I think it is time we depart."

"I think you are correct. Where are Iolaine and Wendelent?"

"They are near to the door. I bid them hold it for our escape."

"It was a good plan. Let us depart." In truth, many were slain around us. None seemed in condition to follow. Several of the slain were the servants I had freed. I noticed with grief they were all female. The few male servants taken by the others seemed to have joined the conspiracy.

Kierian, Rulirenne and the remaining servants followed. We journeyed again to Johianei's house. There was but one servant inside. We begged entrance long enough to tend to our wounds. None were unharmed.

I saw to Salenia first. She had been wounded slightly. Her state of dreaming seemed the effects of drugs, not her wounds. I was unsure. I wished to hasten our return to the palace. The mediacio was more skilled than I could ever wish to be. I covered her wounds with cloth. We had not medicines. We were bandaged as well as we were able to do so before we ventured forth.

With Tominent's agreement, I offered the servants a choice. They could accompany us and return to the palace or they could accompany Iolaine and become free. He would take those willing to our hiding place. All but one chose to accompany him. Even Wendelent wished to accompany him. The chance of freedom outweighed the loyalty he had for his faelida. He pledged to assist those in hiding if we would but carry news of his death to his faelida. He had stood with us. We placed our trust in him as he placed his in us. It was the binding of warriors. He would not betray us.

The journey to the palace was long. Tominent, Sal, Kierian, Rulirenne, another servant, and I were the only ones to return. Iolaine would meet us in my chambers after escorting the others to the hiding place. His wounds were minor and required only bandaging. Lyliane would be gladdened by the news.

The servant who accompanied us took her leave at the palace gates. She was one of few who truly loved her faelida. Rulirenne accompanied the rest of us to the library. As her cousin, it was my duty to see to her safety. I resolved to have speech of Soliumant concerning her servitude. I knew my deeds deserved reward and I wished only for my cousin's freedom and my shehala's health. Both were within his power and easily granted.

We had barely entered the library when a queriane sent for the mediacios. Apparently we seemed in greater need of a mediacio's attention than we believed. I laid Salenia on one of the tables near to the light. The old man soon joined us, as did our companions and Soliumant. Rul went immediately to Tre. She was safe in my sister's arms.

"We know not if we killed the leader, though several of those we encountered were palace guards." I informed them. I was suddenly weary and thought it best to speak of what I knew before the mediacios arrived.

"You have succeeded where you should have failed." The old man commented. "It is not yet over."

"I still live."

"For the moment." He seemed determined for us to fail. "The coup is still imminent."

"Old man, I like you not." To my surprise he laughed. I pushed him from my mind as I claimed a chair near to Salenia's head. "Shehala?"

"Torienne?" Lyliane placed her hand on my shoulder. "You are harmed."

"Nothen. It is but a flesh wound." It concerned me not. In truth, I remember not the taking of a wound. "Shehala? Salenia, what have you in your hands?" It was the first I had noticed of the small animal. I knew not how, but Sal had a virithen hidden in her tunic. "Sevianth?"

"Aight, Torienne?" He approached cautiously.

"Take you this. I know not where it came from." I handed him the small creature. Sal had not stirred. I turned my attention back to her. "Sal?" I brushed her hair from her face. It was finally long enough for me to do so. In schooling, we were forced to wear it close to our heads. I know not why.

"Tor. Rest. You need it as well." Tre joined Lyliane behind me. I looked up and noticed Soliumant holding Kierian. She was sobbing into his shoulder. The sight made me smile. They had found good matches.

"I cannot rest. I have not the time."

"On the contrary, you have time." The old man commented.

"Time matters not. You shall take the time." A mediacio had approached. It was a measure of my wearied state. I had not heard him approach. "You are wounded." He moved my chair away from Salenia. I had not moved from the chair. He seemed stronger than he appeared.

Time passed slowly as the mediacios tended our wounds. Soliumant refused to leave Kierian's side, though the mediacio tending to her bid him to depart. It was a battle of wills. Kierian's insistence that he remain kept her betrothed near to her. I was barred from Salenia's side. One mediacio tended to my wounds as four tended to Sal. The thought did not gladden me.

"Tell me, how fares Graneima?" I wished to remove the surroundings from my thoughts.

"She fares well. Her wounds were mighty. We pulled her from the abyss. She is healing in her chambers." The mediacio answered. "Are you harmed elsewhere?"

"I think not." In truth, I knew not. I was weary and experiences varying levels of pain in my shoulder, knee, thigh and ribs. My head hurt as well.

"I sense only stretching of muscles and wounding of them. I shall send one to your chambers carrying a broth I wish you to ingest."

"Tell me, how fares Salenia?" I wished for information.

"I shall ask. Rest here." He pulled his robe about him and walked to the table. The five of them spoke in low tones for several moments. "They shall speak of it to you when they have completed their duties."

"Shall she heal?" I could not ask the question I wished the answer for: Shall she live?

"She shall. They are countereffecting the toxins in her blood. It is a long process." He looked at me closely. "You are bleeding still." He placed his hands to my forehead. "You shall be well."

"My gratitude." I counted only the beat of my heart as I felt the warmth enter my forehead, vanquish the pain, and relax even my shoulders. "If indeed, I survive this impending coup, I shall return to my homeland. We have no healers with your skill. Perhaps you would wish to accompany us?"

"Perhaps. Your companion has the skill. She shall need training." He seemed thoughtful. "We are pledged to the Jilhsaed. We must remain in this land as he lives."

"It was but an offer." I stood. "You are highly skilled."

"You should not stand as yet. Rest please. You shall return to your chamber when your companion is able." He ensured I reclaimed my seat before joining his companions near to Salenia.

"Torienne? Can you speak of what happened?" Soliumant still held Kierian near to him.

"Perhaps Tominent should speak of it. I remember little." I answered honestly.

"Tor, you have my gratitude." Kierian seemed to have regained her calm.

"None is needed, my friend." I ignored her gratitude.

"Nothen. Say not it was but duty. It was more than mere duty. You saved my life and the life of your shehala. You followed your heart or you would not have left Soliumant."

"You are becoming wise, Kierian. I know you little it seems. Regardless, I have duty to those I consider family." I looked to Soliumant. "Rohirm, it seems you have chosen a bride with much wisdom."

"I believe so." He smiled. "My gratitude is boundless for her return. Wish you a reward?"

"I do. Tominent told you of my true calling. There is my cousin. I wish her freedom." I bid Rul approach. "She was taken from my village as was my sister. I have claimed my sister to grant her freedom. I wish you to free my cousin." I wished not to speak of the others.

"I shall make it so. Wish you anything else? Where is your companion? The servant?"

"Iolaine returned to our chambers. He was unharmed though weary. I have given no thought to a reward. I wish for none save my companions health and my cousins freedom."

"Think on it. If it is in my power, it shall be so. Your cousin is free. She may inhabit your chambers." He gave a slight bow. "If it is true, that this is not yet over, how shall we plan?"

"I know not, rohirm. We shall think on it on the morrow. Perhaps we should meet here and plan the day."

"I think it is a good plan, rohirm." Tominent joined the conversation. "We shall be required to inquire of the guards where loyalties lay."

"It shall be so. We shall meet here before morning court?"

"We shall, rohirm." I answered. The chief mediacio was approaching. "By your leave?"

"You are dismissed." He smiled. "Your companion has need of you more than I for the moment. The mute shall keep me safe this night." The mute was not of Soliumant's kin. I knew he would keep his faelida safe.

"You have keeping of this one?" The mediacio asked as he indicated Sal's form with his hand.

"I have."

"She requires only rest. Her wounds were not grievous. We have conquered the toxins. She shall waken as the sun rises and be none the worse." He bowed. "Regardless, you both shall require the broth we will send to your chambers. It shall fortify you against weariness and illness."

"My gratitude." I was greatly relieved.

"You may to your chambers return."

"For that I am grateful." I stood. The weariness seemed to have lessened. "Tominent?"

"I shall accompany you. The young one has entered his dreams." I followed his eyes. Sevianth was curled on the floor, the lizard in his hands. I knew then we would be required to keep it.

"I shall carry Salenia if you carry Sevianth."

Sal was light in my arms as we exited the library. I had not conquered my weariness enough to carry her with ease for the entire journey. Before we reached the chambers, my arms protested the weight. Sal was slightly built. It made no difference to heavily worked muscles.

Iolaine was waiting for us when we arrived. Lyliane hastened her steps in his direction. They seemed shy in their demeanors. He seemed relieved to assist me. Without asking, he took Salenia from my arms and gently laid her on the bed. I protested not. I ensure the others were safe before joining my shehala. We were safe and weary. We entered our dreams with ease. I was roused once only for the promised broth. I vaguely remember consuming it.

"Are you harmed, shehala?"

"Nothen." It took but moments for words and voice to match. "Are you? How fare you?"

"I shall live. I need not ask how I was rescued. You came for me?" She seemed in good health.

"Tominent, Iolaine, Wendelent and I infiltrated the house and returned you here." She searched my face with her eyes. "We need to meet Soliumant. The queriane have decided to guard his life and halt the coup."

"They decided or you decided for them?" She laughed softly. "You were harmed. Know you how you received this?" She ran a soft finger across my forehead above my brow. It seemed as if I either dodged an arrow or a sword thrust aimed at my head.

"Nothen. I remember little of the battle." I could not speak of the scenes I recalled. "Know you how a virithen came to inhabit your tunic?" To my surprise, she laughed. The others stirred to hear it. They soon gathered near to the bed.

"Aight. The baderema who bid me drugged was the guard you bested. He had in the corner a cage. We fought before another darted me. I fell over a cage. The little creature was inside. They departed and I snuck him in my tunic to release when I was able."

"I doubt we shall be rid of the creature. Sevianth has developed a fondness for it." In truth, he held the creature before us. It was not the length of my hand.

"Greet the day, Salenia. Are you well?" He asked as he sat the virithen on the bed.

"I am well. How fare you this day?"

"I am well. Tor gave me charge of the virithen. May I continue to care for it?" Sal looked to me at his question. I merely shrugged. He seemed fond of it.

"I shall allow Torienne to decide. In truth, I had wished only to free the creature." As any good mother would, Salenia decided to let the disciplinarian decide. I was not grateful.

"If you wish to keep it, you shall be required to care for it always. You shall need to research his breed. I know not what they eat." I knew I would have trouble denying him or Salenia much. The gaze of trust and wishing he favored me with sealed it.

"I shall do so." He delighted in the news. In truth, I had feared the creature unable to exist in the wild. Growing up on a farm, I had seen it often. Young creatures reared in captivity do not adapt with ease to their native environment.

"Gladdened am I to hear it. We need to meet the others in the library. You shall do your research there. I believe Tre would assist if you ask it of her." I rose from the bed. "Go you and attire yourself. We shall consume the meal in the library as well."

"You shall anger the queriane." Tominent seemed amused.

"Stayed did you?" I asked.

"I did. I was greatly wearied. I did not wish to return to my chambers in such a state."

"It is best. I think we shall be safe in numbers. Though the old man did predict an attack during court." Sal seemed capable of thought and duty.

"Aight. Let us dress and journey to the library. We have much need of planning." I attempted to sound confident in our abilities. In truth, I knew not how to plan for the coup.

We dressed in haste and journeyed to the library. Soliumant, Kierian, the mute and several queriane greeted us as we entered. Siveruian was but steps behind us. Servants followed him with laden trays. It seemed I was not the only one who saw the sense of consuming the meal in the library.

"Well met, my friends. How fare you this morn?" Soliumant broke custom and hailed us as equals.

"We fare well, rohirm." Tominent answered. "Is the Jilhsaed not joining us?"

"He is not. I have yet to fully counsel him on the events of last eve. He knows not the truth of Salenia and Torienne. I thought it wise to keep such knowledge from him." Siveruian informed us. "We know not how he would react."

"I am divided on the issue." Soliumant admitted. "We know of the prophecy, though there is much the old man will not speak of. I wish no harm to my father. I wish no harm to my friends, for your deeds and counsel have made you my friends. This is a situation we have long wished to avoid."

"Rohirm, we believe not in such prophecies. Our gods would not say such without ways to prevent it. Perhaps now the old man would wish speak of his visions." I turned to the old man. He seemed resentful of our presence. I wondered if he was the cause of the coup. He seemed old to desire such power.

"I had wondered as much, rohirm. It seems withholding knowledge pertaining to the safety of the Jilhsaed would be treason. Unless perhaps, the old man has planned the coup." Sal seemed as suspicious as I.

"I have not planned the coup. I only relate what I have seen." He protested.

"Then speak of what you have seen. Perhaps you know of the leader." Soliumant prompted.

"I cannot." He seemed determined to retain his secret knowledge.

"Why can you not? You need speak else I shall arrest you, queriane or no." Soliumant threatened. He had changed since the tirgeaur hunt. He seemed determined to prove his worth as heir.

"I cannot speak of what I know not." The old man finally admitted. "I have seen only the faces of the fallen, not the victors."

"Then how knew you I was to have died last eve?" I thought not before I asked the question. I knew from the look Sal favored me with, I was doomed to a conversation concerning my actions.

"I foresaw your death against a giant of a man. I know not how, but a virithen was present as well. When you pulled the virithen from your shehala's tunic, I knew what the dream portended."

"It came not to pass. What say your dreams now?" Salenia asked. Her tone seemed tightly controlled.

"They are jumbled. I can make no sense of them. I know not what shall occur." He seemed weary then, old and weary as if he had shouldered too much. "I know only the coup shall occur. Those signs are still read with ease."

"Though you know not who leads it?" Gone was my hope we had bitten the head from the coup before it could occur.

"I know not."

"Know we who to trust in?" Soliumant asked.

"We need to ascertain loyalties, rohirm." Tominent asked.

"I have an idea." The thought struck me in haste. It seemed divine inspiration. They seemed surprised at my outburst. "How many queriane guard the sacred texts?"

"Twenty and five queriane." The old man answered.

"How many are known to the cordermers and other guards?"

"Only those from families of rank. There are perhaps seven of those." The queriane near to the old man answered.

"We shall employ the remaining eight and ten. Soliumant, if you would hear of a custom of our people?"

"I should like to hear of one, though has it importance to this?" He seemed puzzled.

"I believe it does, rohirm." Salenia seemed to share my thoughts. It was the strength of our bond. I knew then it would not fail. Solisiric's blessed had such abilities.

"In our homeland, those wishing to join must announce their attentions to the village after the fathers have reached agreement. There is a large celebration, a ritual of betrothal that takes many moons to complete. Regardless, we shall mix customs. If you would announce at court this morning your intention to celebrate a custom of Kierian's, I believe we shall corner our prey."

"What custom?" He seemed puzzled still, though Kierian had learned enough to follow. She smiled in understanding.

"If you were to announce a ritual ceremony of joining, say it is from respect to Kierian's heritage, and plan it for one week hence, it would give us time to prepare. It would seem to offer a time for the coup to begin. There would be a crowd, much confusion, and few guards as always. If I were the traitors, I would see not the trap, merely the opportunity." I explained.

"Where in is the trap?" Tominent seemed curious.

"We shall bid the eight and ten to hide among the assembled cordermers. They shall not be known and seen only as part of the court. We shall bid the others hid in the balcony. I think it best we trust in only those close to us. Tominent, Iolaine and few other students, the queriane, the mute, Salenia and I shall be your protection."

"Shall it be enough?" Siveruian asked.

"If we plan it correctly, it shall be." Salenia smiled. "I believe, keytheda, it is a good plan."

"I believe it as well, Torienne." Kierian imparted her confidence. She spoke in our native tongue. "You show the marks of your training and your parentage."

"My gratitude for your faith in me. We shall soon discover if I am a tactician." In truth, I had little confidence in my skills to plan. I did only as my training and my instinct dictated.

"I have faith in this plan. It shall succeed." Salenia reassured me.

"It has a chance, I grant it. Though I see not the outcome." The old man added. He seemed ill at ease still after his confession. He was not as wise as he wished us to believe.

"It shall succeed, I think." Soliumant seemed thoughtful. "It would seem the perfect opportunity."

"They shall have no better. If it is to happen, it should happen at our design. We shall speak of it only as if we believe the coup to have been thwarted. It shall strengthen their resolve if they believe we know not their plans. We should not involve any save those mentioned or approved of by Salenia, Tominent or myself. If we have your approval?" Though my duty to protect him bid me to dictate his actions at times, I had no wish to offend him. If it seemed to fail, we would require even his blade to assist our plan.

"It seems a good plan. It has my approval." He nodded. "You shall have the freedom to do as you wish."

"We shall seem confident we succeeded last night. We shall seem to live as normal. Though we shall continue lessons. We shall all be required to be as skilled as time allows."

"How shall we continue lessons?" Tominent asked. "Would not training the students seem as if we doubted our success?"

"We have use of the library, my chambers, and Soliumant's practice chamber. We shall meet when able, at the least two hours daily." I informed him. "We shall train in pairs and in groups. We shall need every edge, I believe."

"It is near to time for court." Siveruian gazed through the library's only window. "Shall we?"

"We shall. We shall meet when duty permits this day. Perhaps we should meet here after the evening meal." Salenia suggested.

"It is a good plan. We shall. Come, we shall be late. Lyliane, I wish you continue in pairings as if it were still festival season."

"We shall, Torienne. We shall consume the meal and research the way of the virithen." She smiled. We had not taken advantage of the meal. "We shall see you at the midday meal."

"Guard yourselves." I knew we had but a small measure of safety. I still had concern for my companions. I waited not for an answer.

We kept watch at morning court for those who seemed surprised at our return. Tominent and I stood each to one side of the Jilhsaed. Salenia and the mute stood each to one side of Soliumant. We made an impressive picture, though some wounds were but half healed. Regardless of our plans, we each kept hands near to the hilt of our swords. Soliumant rested one near to his own as well. The inherited sword seemed more massive than the one he bid me use at our first meeting. I knew not where it was kept. It brought to mind the words of the old man. I wondered then how he knew I carried my mother's sword. I resolved to ask. It seemed important, though only because it would satisfy my curiosity.

None seemed aware of our adventures the previous evening. If any were aware of them, they showed no sign. It was no matter. We knew at the least a son of the Jilhsaed was involved. We knew not which, nor did we know of the cordermers involved. I trusted in none, not even Johianei. I counted only my friends and companions as allies.

After I escorted the Jilhsaed to the dining chambers, I returned to my own. Sevianth and Tre were enthralled in a scroll when I entered. Lyliane, Salenia and Iolaine were speaking of the previous evening's events. The meal was set out on the table. They had waited for me to join them.

"Have we learned of virithen?" I asked as Sevianth and Tre sat aside the scroll to join us at the table.

"We have. They consume much we do, though they prefer flies and a type of flower we know not of." Tre seemed amused. "We discovered it likes fruit, though it seems to act in a peculiar manner."

"Perhaps fruit should not be allowed in its diet." Sal laughed. "We have no need of a virithen intoxicated on fruit."

"Nothen. It would be entertaining, though perhaps bad for it. Have you thought of a name for it?"

"I have not, Torienne. Should I choose one?" Sevianth seemed to regard the question in a serious manner.

"It requires a name. Though you should take care when you choose one. You would not wish to regret the naming of a beast." Sal favored me with a strange look. I knew she referred to my horse.

"Regardless, the beast's name would take on its own life. It would not always call to mind the one it was named for." I smiled at my keytheda. "It should fit the beast well."

"I shall think on it." He promised.

"Tell me, what of Reinea?" I redirected the conversation. I had learned the art from one greatly skilled.

"She has been arrested and shall not be freed unless she answers for her role in the events of last evening." Iolaine informed us.

"She gave much resistance. She seemed to have played her role well. We did not suspect in her." Lyliane did not seem content with the betrayal.

"We knew not of her motives. She acted her role well, in truth, sister. We cannot shoulder the blame for her actions. She fooled us all."

"Torienne, how knew you she had betrayed us?" Iolaine asked the question, though all seemed interested in the answer.

"The dagger I keep in my boot was missing, though I gave it little thought at the time. The messenger she kept company with was in Kierian's room with Soliumant. He seemed not surprised at what we encountered. I had meant only to question her. Her refusal to answer did not assuage my belief of her guilt. I knew then she betrayed us. It was confirmed when I questioned the messenger near to the river. He was carrying my dagger and attempted to use it to end my life. It ended his."

"It seems logical. She knew of our whereabouts." Sal shrugged. "It is unfortunate we trusted in her."

"It was a difficult lesson, though one well learned. We shall not trust with ease again." Finally, I asked the question I had wished to ask since Salenia woke. "How did they overtake you?"

"The viniare was drugged. We had not consumed enough to render us to dreams, though we had consumed enough to make me sluggish. I fought and harmed at the least two, a third struck me with his dagger. I woke at the house bound and gagged."

"They did not?" Lyliane seemed incapable of completing the question. I wished to know the answer, though I could not voice the question either.

"Nothen. They merely wished to use Kierian and I for bait. We were part of a trap set for Soliumant and Torienne. I was drugged again only because I attempted escape."

"You would have done well to have waited."

"Shehala, would you not have done likewise?" She seemed amused at my counsel.

"Perhaps. I know not. I was not in your position." I knew it was a bad answer.

"I know you. You would not have waited. If the need arose, you would have pummeled them to death with the virithen. You think I should have waited as if I had not the ability to defend myself? You are not the only kirgeur in the family, Tor. I can best you with daggers, though I am not your match at sword work." With that, she departed.

"I think perhaps I am in trouble."

"I know you are." Lyliane seemed determined not to laugh at my mistake. I appreciated it. Even Tre seemed amused. Sevianth and Iolaine seemed embarrassed. "Go you to her. She shall calm. I know my sister. She has a temper when concerned."

"I shall." I left my meal partially consumed.

I had no need to ask. I knew one place would draw Salenia. I knew she had journeyed to the river. It called to her as the plains and a fast horse called to me. I saw her before she heard my approach. She had chosen the same spot where I had vented my grief.

"Shehala, I spoke from concern only. I doubt not your ability to defend yourself. You have used your blade to guard me fully as much as I have guarded you. I wish you to remain unharmed as well."

"I should have controlled my temper. I knew you meant not what I heard. I remembered only my fear. The giant wished for your head. He taunted me with his desires for your death. I wished to kill him myself."

"He shall not harm another."

"Tell me, Torienne, had you known the prophecy bid you die in the attempt, would you have rescued us?"

"Aight." I answered without hesitation. "I know not what you wish to hear. I know only I would risk my life to ensure your safety. I think perhaps you would do likewise."

"Do not think I would, keytheda. Know I would do so." She smiled. "We are soft for warriors."

"We are. It shall greatly harm our reputations. I care not."

"After the tirgeaur was killed, I had an image of Jarndinia when you held me." It explained her words as she woke. I had pondered them greatly since the event. "When we are called to sit with the gods, I wish it to be together."

"As do I, Salenia. As do I." I stood and offered her my hand. "Come. Loath though I am this day to admit it, we have duty."

Continue to part 20

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