“Zephyr, how do the Cancelers know what you are?”
Hannah knew you would have to come to them and asked me to accompany you. As she saved my life, and for the love I bore her, I agreed.
“But you sacrificed your body.” I would’ve questioned him on when Gran contacted him, but she was capable of things far beyond my understanding then, and now. How much had she seen beforehand? How much had she known?
When he came to me, he’d been in such a frail state, his age so apparent, his feathers so faded and old looking, I thought him all but dead. I should have known better; Gran had always said death was a gateway to another realm, and nothing more, and his next words confirmed her proverb.
A small thing to lose at this time of magic warfare. In some ways, it’s better, but by all means, Little Mother, defend yourself. My power will only strengthen from now on, to your benefit.
Tyrel came and stood beside me.
I wanted to take his hand; he seemed so lost and resigned to his fate at their hands, I wanted to hold him, reassure him, but anything I said would mean nothing, especially now that it was known his people had no power over me. Still, I was grateful he was there, for we were now at a crossroad.
“What do you want, child?” Centerpiece asked.
There was no point to further delay, or an attempt to deceive; I forced myself not to drop my gaze as I answered. “To find the Traitors Guild, and bring them to justice for their part in the purging.”
A moment of silence, then some spluttering laughter, and an amused smile from their oracle, standing nearby.
“You? ” Centerpiece asked again. “And just how will you do that if the king protects them?”
I felt my face heat even as I said it. “By using the magic you couldn’t take from me.”
Tyrel hid a grin behind his hand, and the oracle stopped smiling as the Council’s laughter abruptly stopped.
“To what purpose, Tina?” another Canceler asked.
Tyrel stepped in front of me, and I let him, understanding what was at stake for his future. He needed to redeem his error with bringing me here to keep in their good graces. Mercifully, they were going to let him try.
“We’re not entirely sure their powers are completely gone,” he said.
This piqued Sarai’s interest. “How so?”
He looked at her. “The spells aren’t destroyed or broken when they enter the Void. We believe the Traitors never fully cooperated, and found a way to extract the spells, fix them, and reuse them against us.”
They looked to the oracle. “Sarai, is this possible?”
She closed her eyes for a long moment, then came back to herself, looking like she snuck back into the house after being told not to go out.
“I don’t sense anything amiss in the spirit realm, Lord Sydon.”
“They could be using one of you to hide what that something might be, or they might be using a turned Canceler to shield the magic from you, or a powerful familiar like Zephyr.”
A long stretch of silence began as the talked among themselves and I stood there shivering, not just from the draft in the hall, but for Sarai’s focused gaze and the fact that our mission would actually be starting in a matter of hours.
A long silence ensued for those of us tied and shackled as they talked amongst themselves; clearly they weren’t used to feeling threatened. Tyrel was fidgeting, and I had my own creeping doubt, but I decided to go for it anyway.
“If it comforts you, Councilmen, send Oracle Sarai with us.”
She hadn’t expected that, and glared at me; if they ordered her to go she could not refuse.
Tyrel looked at me too, his expression letting me know I’d made another big mistake.
Lord Sydon, formerly Centerpiece, at least made a pretense of considering it, but he decided to let Tyrel be responsible for our fates.
“Will she be of any use to you in your search, Canceler Tyrel?”
Given his predicament, I was surprised when he actually told them yes; she glared daggers at him too.
“Zephyr?” I needed his insight, and got more than I needed.
She is fond of him, Little Mother; she will compete with you for his attention.
“But I’m not competing for it.”
You don’t have to compete, because you already have it.
I’d suspected that, but to hear it spoken was something else again…
“And if have to summon Abdiel against her?”
I will not contain him, or interfere with whatever your will is for her.
“You leave at first light. We are adjourned,” Lord Sydon stated, giving a slight nod in my direction as they rose and filed out.
I fussed with my hair and clothes until Sarai finally took her eyes off me, taking Tyrel by the arm and leading him away so I’d be alone.
“It’s going to be a long trip, Zephyr.”
Indeed, but the spirits grow stronger, and take comfort that Abdiel and I will watch over you.
It was a comfort; he’d said if I needed Abdiel and his brood he’d release them.
I didn’t want to be put in a position to take Sarai’s life, but it wasn’t up to me.