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After travelling all day and night, the winds began to descend, and Kieran looked down at the island rapidly approaching. He frowned, and looked over to Nia. â€œIs that it?â€ She nodded, worriedly, and followed his gaze.
The island was large, but barren. Broken rocks littered the ground, and only a few scraggled bushes and tufts of grass gave any sign of life at all; had he not known, Kieran would have assumed that it was completely abandoned. Not too far away, a great peak rose above the land, but it was just as dark and inhospitable looking, and there were no birdcalls or other sounds. He frowned. â€œNot exactly a golden palace. I imagine itâ€™s nicer inside, though.â€
â€œUmâ€¦â€ Nia chewed her lip, and shook her head. As the cloud landed on the island, dissolving into wisps of smoke, she sighed. â€œSort of? Itâ€™s complicated.â€ She looked around, taking a deep breath. â€œThe masterâ€™s not in the position he once occupied, after all, and he, well... he doesnâ€™t care for too much luxury anymore.â€
â€œRight.â€ Elena shook her head, and then smiled. She turned, poking the wisps, which quavered but failed to dissolve. â€œWell, good news is we have a way to leave, courtesy of Lord Skulking Bear. Letâ€™s go ahead and get Nia home.â€
Kieran nodded, turning to Nia. â€œNia, weâ€™ll be right here with you. Everythingâ€™s going to be fine.â€
â€œI hope so.â€ Nia started walking forwards. â€œI havenâ€™t been in contact with Mokrelus for over fourty years. I donâ€™t know what might have happened in the mean time. Maybe he thinks I abandoned himâ€¦â€
â€œIsnâ€™t that, yâ€™know, not possible?â€ Khory frowned thoughtfully, as the troop proceeded across the ruined landscape towards the mountain. â€œI was given to understand that you were a part of this Mokrelus fellow. How can a part of something turn against the whole?â€
â€œIt happens. We are part of his personality, but he is a complex being, and â€“ as you noticed, I hope â€“ I have a personality of my own. Similar to, but not the same as, his. It makes for anâ€¦ interesting relationship.â€ She sighed, and looked around. â€œBut I had forgotten how bleak it was here.â€
â€œIt merely reflects our masterâ€™s sense of loss at the betrayals that the world has wrought.â€ Everyone spun in surprise at the voice. Standing behind them was a man, apparantly a Westerner, bigger than even Khory, with his long blue hair stopping at his waist, tied back in a tight ponytail. His eyes glittered blue in the sun, and he smiled unpleasantly. â€œNia. I didnâ€™t expect to see you alive again.â€
â€œSarn.â€ Nia bowed her head respectfully. â€œIt took far longer than expected, but my mission was a success. These people helped me to return here, with the secret of the Deathlords at my command.â€
â€œExcellent.â€ Sarn smiled broadly, and raised a hand. The rocks moved, and a half-dozen similar-looking people stepped out from them. Kieran noticed that two were not human at all, but elementals, and frowned thoughtfully. â€œIn that case, friends, we owe you a great debt. Niaâ€™s loss is one that we had never understood, but had resigned ourselves to. The news of her re-emergence was greeted with great joy.â€ His smile broadened. â€œYou have brought joy to our master even in these dark days, and he is most anxious to see you. Please, if you will follow us.â€ He swept a hand towards the mountain, and Kieran bowed in return.
â€œWe would be most honoured, Sarn. Thank you.â€ As they started walking, the guards fell in around them, halfway between an honour guard and a prison detail. Kieran leaned over to Nia, whispering to her. â€œIs this good, or bad?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know. Somethingâ€™s wrong, but Iâ€™m not sure what.â€ Nia looked around nervously, and then sighed. â€œIt might be my imagination.â€
â€œI doubt it.â€ Grimly, Khory looked at their escort. â€œTheyâ€™re actinâ€™ afraid. Somethingâ€™s sure wrong with all this.â€
â€œWell, weâ€™ll find out soon enough.â€ Kieran sighed, wondering why things couldnâ€™t just go their way. â€œSoon, we can talk with Mokrelus, and sort all of this out.â€
But privately, he wasnâ€™t so sure.