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Chapter I: A Breath
A quiet fell over the group as Selene finished describing what the Firstborn had revealed.
Hamish mulled over her words carefully, stroking his beard in silence.
Jezran swallowed, then muttered, “That’s…wow.”
Ari’s response was far less muted.
She grabbed Selene’s shoulders and turned her body to face her. Staring into her brown eyes, Selene could see an odd mixture of desperation and anger in them. Ari had only one question for her, “Where?”
“Wha—?” Selene sputtered.
“Where did they take him?” Ari demanded.
“Ummm…I…” Selene stammered, trying to figure out how to get there from here, “I can’t really say, I just…know where the Hall of Heart is.”
“Lendrig said he needed him for the ritual,” Jezran reasoned, “He’s probably there as well. So if we find the Hall of Heart, we’ll find Argent.”
Ari mulled over Jezran’s words. Eventually, she released her grip on Selene and said quietly, “I guess that will have to do.”
A mixture of guilt and disappointment touched her features as she gave Selene a silent apology. Selene gave her a comforting smile.
I know how much you two care about each other, Ari. After all, I… Selene felt a heat rush to her face as she suddenly remembered that quiet moment she had seen between the two elves. Quickly, she averted her gaze and tried not to think about it.
From her periphery, she could see Ari’s eyebrow raise in confusion.
Jezran noted none of this, and carried on.
“Now that that’s settled. Let me ask the more pressing question, what if the Firstborn was lying? How would we know it was telling the truth?” Jezran asked, “It’s possible the Firstborn is only tricking us so we can’t stop it in time.”
Hamish’s hands stopped moving as he turned to answer Jezran, “I may have answer to that, my friend.”
Rising from his seat, he motioned toward the door, “If Selene is feeling better, let us go outside. I believe we might find something there to help.”
A pregnant pause occurred among the group as they closely watched Selene move to get out of bed.
Selene rose up from the bed without any trouble, much to the relief of her friends. No longer fearing the worst, they followed Hamish out the door.
As they walked through the halls of the estate, Selene noted they were now in disarray. Dried blood from the previous attack still marked the walls, but now there appeared torn and scattered debris everywhere she looked. Opened doors revealed strewn clothes and broken furniture, as if the whole place had been ransacked.
“W—where…is everyone?” Selene asked, her voice catching as her eyes met the glazed expression of a corpse staring vacantly through one of the open doors.
“They’re all at the dockyard, scrambling to craft something seaworthy from whatever they can find,” Jezran sighed, “Lendrig’s final words were enough to scare them all. Besides, if he does revive the Igryss, anyone still in the city will be dead as it unearths itself.”
“Friends remain to ensure you were safe, then—” Hamish began, but was cut off as Ari’s expression soured.
“I was going to find Lendrig and wherever he took Argent,” Ari declared. For a moment, her eyes flashed a cyan before returning to their natural brown.
Hamish nodded sheepishly. “Yes, now that we know you are alright, we all can go together.”
Once they reached the final door he added, “But first…I believe there is something that can help us.”
The square was far worse for wear, even compared to the interior of the estate. The dead, both monster and man, lay rotting where they fell.
A pungent odour filled their lungs, the horrible scent of death, blood, and pain.
All was silent in the square, and nothing could be heard outside their footsteps.
Whether by the scene or stench, Selene gagged as a cold chill ran down her spine.
So…this is what it’s like. Staring at a battlefield. I can’t believe I…survived this.
Bile rose in the back of her throat. She wanted to vomit, but her stomach was empty, leading only to futile retching gasps.
Hamish, however, seemed unfazed. He moved amidst the scene with purpose, looking for something only he could see.
After a minute of searching, he exclaimed, “Ah, yes! I have found it, my friends!”
Reaching down into the filth, Hamish pulled something out of a thrall’s corpse and lifted it into the air for the others to see.
It was Argent’s longsword. Though it lacked much of the awe inspiring light it carried when wielded by its master, it was still undeniably the same blade that tore apart the battlefield with ease. A faint glow still emanated from its blade as Hamish held it aloft.
Ari gasped, a spark of hope filling her, she let out a great cry of joy, “The sword! You found the sword!!”
Hamish grinned, “Yes, felt it somewhere around here while caring for Selene. With this, we can follow Selene and confirm if Argent is there.”
Selene gasped, “Really? Just from his sword?”
“Yes,” Hamish said, “Finding someone is simple if I have thing they hold dear.”
Intrigued, Selene thought for a moment, then asked, “Can you do the reverse, use a person to find an item?”
Hamish frowned, then shrugged, “Maybe, if thing has close bond to person.”
Averting her gaze for a moment, Selene clasped her hands tightly behind her back as she traced circles in the ground with her foot. She then looked up as sweetly as possible and asked softly, “Could…could you try and find my sword and daggers?”
Hamish blinked, but her attempt to charm appeared to work as he smiled warmly and nodded.
In spite of his previous statement, Hamish did not appear to have trouble finding them. The thrall that threw her laid nearby. Its corpse lay near the center of the square, cleaved in two by a blade similar to Argent’s. Pushing the corpse over on its side, Hamish found and pulled the daggers and sword from the torso with ease.
He returned to her while trying to clean them with his sleeves, “It appears these blades are close to you friend, it was not hard to feel their aura here.”
“Wow!” Selene exclaimed, taking the daggers from Hamish and hugging him, “Thank you so much, Hamish!”
He seemed surprised by the embrace, but he was never one to deny a warm gesture. Massive arms soon wrapped tightly around her as he returned the hug.
Ari spoke up, “I appreciate the moment here, and I’m glad Selene has her weapons for the fight ahead but…”
Jezran piped up, cutting her off, “But we really should get moving, time is not exactly a luxury right now.”
“Of course, my friend,” Hamish said, ending the hug.
Selene, remembering their circumstances and slightly embarrassed to cause a scene, leapt backwards. Swiftly returning to the task at hand, she bolted down the road as she exclaimed, “Right, of course! We have to hurry! Follow me!”
The party ran for a few minutes, jumping over corpses and avoiding black pools of blood as they went. Dusk was falling, so visibility began to drop as the mists descended, but Selene had a preternatural sense of where to go. Not even the mists would slow their travel this time.
About halfway to the nearest gate, Selene slowed to a stop as a thought occurred to her.
Seeing her falter, the others stopped as well.
“Something wrong?” Ari said, worried.
“Yeah…what are we gonna do when we get there? I know we know Lendrig’s weakness, but how are we going to use it…?” Selene asked.
Silence fell as they all mulled over the question. Jezran was the first to speak, “I…may have an idea.”
“Ah-ha! Well done, my friend,” Hamish said, slapping him on the back, “What is it you are thinking?”
“I…don’t want to say…” Jezran said quietly, “Lendrig can get in our heads, and I don’t think it will be good if anyone knows but me.”
“He’ll know as soon as we arrive anyway,” Selene said, shrugging, “What good does it do not telling us?”
Jezran frowned a moment, then said, “…because it will require me to stay behind. I wish I could explain, but…”
Hamish clasped his hands on Jezran’s shoulders as he spoke, “We understand, my friend. Say no more. We trust you will be able to do whatever it takes to save our friend and stop Lendrig.”
“He’s right, if you can’t tell us…we…trust you,” Selene said, finding the words sticking in her mouth somewhat.
Ari said nothing, but nodded as well.
Jezran smiled warmly, “Then you can count on me.”
It was agreed the party would travel together until they reached the wall, then they would each go their separate ways.
The gates were still standing, but the scent of sea water filled the chamber. It was also below freezing, as a layer of ice covered the steel door and their breaths could be seen.
“Lendrig flooded the city in the attack,” Ari explained before anyone could ask, “I froze the waters around the wall to stop Lendrig’s creatures from destroying our forces.”
They ascended the steps quietly, careful not to slip as they were slick from the frost.
Atop the wall was a scene similar to the square around the Governor’s estate. Bodies scattered across the field intermingled with corpses of thralls, Merrow, and fish-men. Over the edge of the wall, tentacles stood frozen, contorted in agony.
A haunting picture.
Looking past the scene to the city beyond, it appeared the waters had receded.
Rubble filled the streets, as several buildings appeared to crumble from the flooding.
“Good, the water’s gone down. Let’s get to the edge and jump,” Jezran said, casting the Delayed Descent spell on everyone.
Scrambling across the ice was an unpleasant experience, but the tentacles did help Selene maintain her balance as they continued on.
Once they landed comfortably on the ground below, Jezran turned to them. His brow was furrowed and he gave everyone a sorrowful glance. “I really am sorry I cannot go with you. For this plan to work…I just can’t be there.”
Hamish was about to say a comforting word when Jezran raised his hand, “I know, but I still feel regret. Anyway, I have to let you know…this plan may not work. It’s…risky, but if it does, I believe you’ll have an opportunity to stop Lendrig and save Argent. That’s all I can give.”
Hamish placed a hand on his shoulder, “That will be enough, friend. I pray you will be safe, though. It sounds…as if you are afraid you will not return.”
Selene could not help but agree. Jezran’s expression was gaunt, his eyes sunken. He did not make this choice lightly.
“It’s possible, I don’t know if I can make it work, but without it…we’d need more of your incense, Hamish, and I believe that was all used up in the fight.”
Hamish nodded, regretfully.
“Thank you, Jezran,” Ari said, a small smile on her lips, “It means a lot to us you would go so far. I see why Kal speaks so highly of you.”
A smile touches Jezran’s lips. “Thank you. It helps to hear that.”
The group was pulled into a hug by Hamish before finally parting ways.
Time was now short, and the trio had a long way to go before they would reach the Hall of Heart.