Table of Contents
Slightly shorter chapter this time; hopefully, you'll forgive me my horrible cliffhangers.
Sirrim flicked blue and black blood from his claws as he let his beastman form melt away, and smiled. Standing next to him, Nia smiled back, cautiously, still wreathed in paper, her anima swirling with coloured lights. After a moment, she spoke.
â€œI think we won.â€
Sirrim nodded, looking towards the lake. â€œI think youâ€™re right. See that tornado? No air elementals work with the Water Courts willingly.â€ He gestured, glancing over towards the village. The tsunami that Nia had conjured had pulled water out of the lake, and the the elementals, true to form, had mobilized before she could continue and empty the lake. They couldnâ€™t know that she had already cast another spell, and that her essence was depleted. And when they came, Sirrim and Nia had been waiting.
He paused, looking down at the ground. â€œJust like old times.â€
The silence lengthened, before Nia spoke. â€œI was wrong, then. Sirrim, I know that I left you all behind. I had my mission, and it wasâ€¦ it was so important.â€ She shook her head, fighting back tears. â€œNothing else mattered.â€
â€œAnd now?â€ Sirrimâ€™s voice was soft, but with an edge of steel. â€œI lost two friends that day, all those years ago, because you werenâ€™t where you were supposed to be. Because your quest was more important than stopping the Dead.â€
â€œMy quest was â€“ is â€“ to stop them. I have the secret.â€ Nia smiled sadly. â€œBut I have to take it back to be used.â€ Paper fluttered around her as her spell gave way, her clothes taking form through the falling shreds of white, fluttering to the ground. â€œI was wrong. I should have waited. But it wasnâ€™t for nothing.â€
â€œYou didnâ€™t answer my question.â€ Nia looked away, and Sirrim nodded. â€œShe knows. She had to, or at least she will soon. And then what will happen to those that you travel with?â€
â€œI canâ€™t fight her alone.â€ The words were little more than a whisper. â€œAnd I canâ€™t tell him the truth.â€
â€œWhy?â€ Sirrim frowned, waving a hand. â€œYouâ€™re willing to put him in danger, and youâ€™re willing to put yourself in danger to help him â€“ which is at least halfway different from what I had expected out of you.â€ Nia stared intently at the ground as Sirrim continued. â€œIf he knows the truth, Iâ€™d imagine that would be safer for you. None of this ridiculous skulking around andâ€¦â€
â€œHe knows me.â€ Sirrimâ€™s words cut off mid-sentence, and he stared at Nia, who finally looked up to meet his eyes. â€œNot him, him. And not me, me either. But I can recognize him. And heâ€™ll recognize me, andâ€¦â€
â€œAhdamos.â€ Nia nodded, and Sirrim sighed. â€œNeither of you were even there when that happened.â€
â€œBut I remember from my father. And heâ€™ll remember from his Shard, and if that repeatsâ€¦â€ She trailed off helplessly, and Sirrim sighed slowly.
â€œAlright, fine.â€ That story had been one of the few that Nia had shared with him, once, and he knew how it went. â€œNia, you already have my word that I wonâ€™t tell him. But this canâ€™t last. Youâ€™re going to have to tell him at some p- hold on, whatâ€™s that?â€
Nia turned to follow Sirrimâ€™s gaze, and she blinked. Something was flying across the water towards them. Something big. And it was moving fast. She gulped. â€œShould Iâ€¦ should I start casting?â€
â€œI hope not. I donâ€™t think water elementals would move that fast that high, andâ€¦â€ Sirrim stopped dead. â€œBlessed Luna, thatâ€™s a huraka! But itâ€™s larger than any Iâ€™ve ever seen. And flying alongside itâ€¦ Nia, hide!â€
â€œWhat?â€ Nia frowned in confusion, but it was already too late.
Sitting on one shoulder of the fast-flying huraka, Kieran started to wave cheerfully as he saw Sirrim. As he did so, however, his gaze shifted to Nia, who was standing as if transfixed next to the Lunar. Khory blinked, and turned to Kieran.
â€œIs somethinâ€™ wrong with my eyes, or is that our Nia over there glowinâ€™ up a storm?â€ Kieran didnâ€™t answer, and Khory frowned. â€œHey, kid. You listeninâ€™?â€
He wasnâ€™t. Because it was true; Nia was surrounded by thousands of specks of light, spiralling around her, faint but clearly visible. Red, green, and blue lights twinkled around her as they gradually fell towards the ground, only to curve up again in an endless spiral of light. She stared at Kieran in horror, and he stared back.
Seven Winds Dancing landed, gently depositing Kieran and Khory, and Elena touched down next to them. She was the first to speak. â€œNia! Are you alright? What happened to you?â€
Nia opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Khory and Elena looked from her to Kieran, whose face was taking on a thunderous appearance. They glanced at each other in confusion, as Sirrim winced.
For Kieran, it was like being at the centre of a storm. Memories from another life were boiling within him, and all that he could see was a prismatic array of colours. The world narrowed, until only he and Nia were visible.
â€œnoâ€¦â€ By all rights, Niaâ€™s voice shouldnâ€™t have been audible, but it seemed like the entire coast had fallen silent, and the next word that Kieran spoke, a word that was almost torn unwillingly from his throat, echoed across the water, with a force that made Nia blanch.