The journey had its moments, but for the most part, watch was dutifully kept, meals were fairly rationed, differences were solved by distance, and flaring tempers were addressed by reminding ourselves of what the overall purpose of this trip was about.
“There was a reason for the Purge, Tina. The people who possessed the arts abused them. Why should they not be stripped of their powers and banished, if they weren’t a danger to the crown.”
“The crown be damned. Magic had the world in thrall long before men became kings, and will have it again when men wipe themselves from the earth. He targeted all, not just the abusers. He used those who feared death and turned them against their own.”
“And you think there are no cowards among the Cancelers? Not all were raised to that dark craft voluntarily. Some were sent by their rich fathers to be able to protect their wealth against those who abused magic to make their fortunes at the untimely deaths of rich relatives.
“They were right to send their sons and daughters. Once the children truly realized their wealth was at stake, they eagerly embraced the arts. Rightfully so, as far as I’m concerned.”
It was to be our last night on the road, and that Tyrel and Zephyr had managed to be civil if not friendly had been no small thing.
I was grateful for the end.
That night we kept the fire small; it was more of a mental comfort than physical against the forest night’s chilly overbite.
Tyrel was asleep; I knew that because I’d seen to it. He’d have sensed and cancelled a sleeping spell outright, and what mistrust remained between us would have been nurtured by him. His reluctance to do what might be required of him had grown more evident in the passing days. He became surly, and sometimes hostile, shouting and cursing over small things that didn’t require an outburst.
Zephyr and I stayed out of his way, and though he might have canceled my magic, biology was what it was, and he couldn’t cancel the effects of chamomile.
Abdiel, tired of looking at Zephyr’s guts and sensing Tyrel’s weakened presence, came out of the raven as we discussed what we’d do when we got to the Cancelers’ palace.
“What do you know of them?” I asked Zephyr.
“They know your power increases the closer we come, but can’t tell where you are. Tyrel’s own power throws them off. I’m surprised they did not send search parties for you.”
“Do you know they didn’t?”
I know. Abdiel’s voice was a comfort. Of course, the spirits could travel the woods faster. I was finding out that Abdiel had a good mind for strategy when he needed to utilize it. Of course, Gran would not have equipped me with anything less.
Still, we’d be in the midst of Cancelers, and Abdiel’s tolerance of the constant pull of magic that could actually dissolve him would be a major factor in our plans.
“And what happens to you and the others, Abdiel?”
We will not be a threat to them, Tina. We will not be able to defend you if things go wrong.
That wasn’t comforting; my ability to contain and control them wasn’t strong enough yet, and my own ability to cast spells wasn’t at a trustworthy level, though less of them were unraveling.
Now it would fall to Tyrel to convince them of our good intentions until we could attack. That would be the defining moment of whether we’d be successful, or I’d die from an act of betrayal.
“We will make it to their gates, but without your companion’s help, we won’t arrived undetected.”
“A conclusion I just reached on my own, Zephyr. Abdiel, what do you say?”
It is as Zephyr said. The next step will test his loyalty. We will endure the pain to come with Zephyr’s help.
There was no way, and no time, to devise a way to test him before we arrived. They would likely attack us if he did nothing. If he was in fact leading me into a trap, it was likely I wouldn’t survive, but without control, the spirits would wreak havoc on the Cancelers before their own demise.
There’s nothing to be done for it now, Tina. The moment will reveal the man.