I woke to the sound of Tyrel singing to himself, and the smell of roasting rabbit.
The sun was just breaking the horizon, and a few cirrus clouds fanned out like horse tails across the sky, lit underneath with the blended pinks and blues of an ending night and a new day.
I propped myself up on an elbow and rubbed at crusty eyes. “When did you get back?”
“Yesterday. I couldn’t wake you, and I had no need to, so I let you sleep. Bandits would have picked the place clean.”
“Abdiel was guarding things, and spirits don’t sleep.”
“No, but they do disappear.”
Tell the boy we are here, and we never left your side.
“Abdiel said to tell you, boy, that they are here, and never left me.”
He frowned at that, and I couldn’t suppress my grin. Sometimes Tyrel could be so full of himself, he needed a little deflating.
“I heard him.” He didn’t rise to the bait and say more about calling him a boy, but what he did say turned the tables, and it was my turn to worry. He stopped tending the rabbit, stood up, and directed his words to me without looking at me.
“It’s best we not get too familiar, Tina. I know how I am, and I will not have you or the spirits you command belittle me.” He cut off a slice of the rabbit and brought it over to me on a piece of hollowed out bread. “Do we understand each other?”
I was surprised at how much the words stung, softly spoken as they were. but ever since I met him, there was no moment of levity, not even when the spirits took themselves to safety.
Now, it wasn’t just them at risk if he couldn’t persuade the Cancelers to help us find the traitors. They’d simply cast the spirits into the Void and kill us, or strip Tyrel of his power if he violated any such code that forbade him to help me.
And if we find out they are only storing magic there and not destroying it, how will we counter such power then?
We are here, and all is well. The long rest has strengthened you.
We can withstand him now, but we will see about the collective.
“And what of Zephyr?”
“I am here, Little Mother. The Canceler threw my body into the fire.”
“I’m sorry for that. I wanted to…”
“No need for sorrow. He only hastened that which would become of it much later.”
I couldn’t argue with the logic. “Can you get a new body?”
“I will rest for a time with Abdiel, then we ‘ll see.”
I turned my attention to Tyrel: “What happened at the palace?”
“They’re willing to meet with you.”
“There was no other way; I told them that I took your power and bound you here, and I needed to question you further about the rumors of a Traitors Guild because they were hiding people and creatures that could harm us.”
It took a moment to gather my senses, coming to grips that he’d been so openly stupid.
When I found my voice again, I asked. “Are they going to torture me?”
We won’t let them.
“They’ll cast all of you into the Void, Abdiel.”
Then we will harvest as many of them as we can to join us.
I shook off the bravado of his reply, though he’d made me curious.
“I don’t know, Tina. I don’t think they’ll let me question you alone, but I can’t say how far they’ll take it if you don’t answer me. They’ll be able to tell if you’re lying.”
“Is that why you told them what we planned?”
“I told them my part in it. Nothing more. They don’t know you’re not bound here, or tied up, or even dead. I can’t leave you here, since you asked me to join you, though you had the spirits to protect you.
“If I tell you they will know if you’re lying, don’t you think they’d know if I lie too?”
“You might have told me that, since our entire plan was based on deceiving them.”
He was pacing, taking off his hood and running his fingers through lengthening hair that was now at his shoulders. “That’s just it, that wasn’t a power they possessed before.”
He stopped pacing, and came back to stand in front of me. I felt Abdiel tug, but he didn’t shrink away.
“Something is about to happen, Tina,” Tyrel said. “There’s going to be a collision of power. The gathering of strength, spells, coin, spirits and blood all point to it.
“And we’re going to be in the middle of it all.”