The days passed into weeks, and Juriss settled into a sort of routine. Lodaris received three more requests, and sent the same response to each, warning them in rough terms of the coming dangers and explaining his position. For the most part, that was enough to dissuade any would-be pupils, but a pair of Outcaste arrived seeking training in the Fire and Water Dragon Forms, and Lodaris began to put them through the paths of enlightenment required to do so.
Halana Yura was one of the Tya â€“ a warrior of the Wavecrest Archipelago, who sought training to help her nation defend itself against the Emperor Crowned With The Blood Of The Martyrs, a Deathlord who had recently begun activities in the area. Although she knew it would be years before she was truly ready, she felt the sacrifice worthwhile â€“ and as the Lintha were also enemies of Wavecrest, she saw no difficulty in opposing them in the process. Lodaris smiled and nodded, and began her training. She acceeded to even the most difficult tasks with good grace and a slight smile, and when she was not training, she cheerfully mixed with the townsfolk as an equal. She was less comfortable around Alina or Steel, but did her best to hide her discomfort at living near a pair of Anathema.
By contrast, Pavesh Kyrren was a quiet man with a slight air of superiority, his skin crisscrossed with hundreds of tiny scars, who hailed from farther north. All that he would say of his past was that he sought control and balance, and that the Lintha were no fear to him. He accepted tasks without comment, and then withdrew to consider his path. He was not precisely hostile, but he had the air of one with no interest in conversation, and his slightly off-putting attitude kept many from seeking to know him better.
For Alina and Citrios, the month of peace and preparation were as a dream. Finally freed from her belief that she could never be his equal, Alinaâ€™s confidence grew, and the two could always be found together â€“ enough so that Steel, upon his return from the Underworld, frequently remarked that he felt like rainbows should be springing up in their footsteps. He and Jasmine, in the meanwhile, were hard at work with the handful of ghostly allies that they had recruited â€“ and neither would divulge from where, although Steel noted in passing that a number of nephwracks were briefly very annoyed with him. No angry spirits arrived to haunt him for his impudence, so the others assumed that the problems had resolved themselves, and settled for being glad for any help.
Of course, it could not last. Late in Resplendant Wood, Alina and Citrios were sitting on the docks when the waters of the harbour rippled and twisted, and a strange woman burst out fully-armored, with green skin and gills, and teeth like a barracuda. Citrios dropped his hands to his swords, but Alina laid a hand gently on his shoulder and shook her head, then stood and bowed to the woman, who had just landed on the docks. â€œMnalif Nganto. I was wondering when we might see you again.â€
Nganto bowed in return, then raised an eyebrow as she looked over Citrios. â€œAnd I, more than once. I have spoken with my people, and they agree about the threat that Dukantha poses. I am on my way to Sunken Luthe, to petiton the great Leviathan for a meeting about the matter.â€ She paused. â€œAnd you are?â€
â€œCathak Citrios.â€ Citrios bowed, either ignoring or not noticing the flicker of distaste that cross Ngantoâ€™s features at the mention of his house. â€œIâ€™m here on anâ€¦ indefinate basis.â€
â€œI see.â€ Nganto turned her attention towards Alina with a questioning look, and the girl laughed.
â€œDonâ€™t worry, he knows everything. Who is Leviathan? The name seems vaguely familiar, butâ€¦â€
â€œOld memories, perhaps.â€ Nganto smiled faintly. â€œLeviathan is the eldest living Lunar and the patron of my people and many others â€“ he is over three thousand years old, and has seen a great many things in his life. I hope that he will either consent to help us destroy Dukantha, or at least offer some assistance.â€ Her smile widened. â€œIf he entered the battle directly, I have no doubt that he could destroy Dukantha with ease.â€
â€œThat would be nice.â€ Alina nodded thoughtfully. â€œAny help he could give would be very much appreciated. If heâ€™s that old, he may even remember the gate itself.â€
â€œThat is my hope as well.â€ Nganto paused. â€œBut there is another reason I stopped here, now. There is a boat coming. A realm boat, carrying at least five Dragon-Blooded. And it is coming directly here.â€
â€œThe Hunt.â€ Citrios cursed quietly. â€œI was wondering how long it would take for them to track us down. How long do we have?â€
â€œNot long.â€ Nganto pointed to a speck on the horizon. â€œThey are making dangerously good time, and the spirits I convinced to watch for danger were mostly too afraid of the Immaculates to warn me. I only learned of this half an hour ago myself, and I came here as quickly as possible.â€ She sighed, and shook her head. â€œThe Immaculates will arrive within the hour.â€
â€œWeâ€™d better get the others, then.â€ Alina sighed, shaking her head. â€œAnd it was looking like such a nice dayâ€¦â€