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    Demiurge
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Awaken - 25. Schemes

I didn’t hear much over the connection the following day. My training and lesson schedule had become more structured. I would be studying now Monday through Friday. Tyren and Athel had officially decided, and I was excited to have a bit of time off. For now, though, I was in the ring with my brother. Eon rolled his head on his shoulders, then rotated his arms in big circles. Athel stood nearby, appraising him. She glanced to me and nodded once before moving to sit on her favorite log near the ring. She clapped her hands twice and we both looked to her.

“No Magik, no weapons, this is learning.”

Eon nodded in affirmation and then turned to me, “This feels strange. We’ve not done anything remotely like this since we were children.

“I couldn’t kick your ass when we were children.” I grinned, bouncing on my heels.

“You can’t do it now either,” Eon smirked at me and I smiled at the amusement in his face. It seemed the cold, expressionless mask of his was gone. I sunk into my stance and he did as well. He got almost as low as me and I frowned. His seemed more grounded and wholly different than Talon’s stance. Talon was always loose-limbed and fluid. I tilted my head as we circled and glanced to Athel who was nodding as if this confirmed something for her. I made a mistake when I took my eyes off him. Eon was across the ring and in my space almost before I could react. His moves weren’t as fast as Talon’s, but what he lacked in speed he made up for in brute strength. I dodged, but then he was behind me, kicking my legs out from under me. I fell to my knees and rolled, a fist connecting with the earth where my head had been.

I jumped to my feet and he shook his hand out, his eyes running over me in a way I hadn’t mastered yet. He was seeing all my weaknesses, cataloging each one. Talon had done it too. I took a breath and dropped back down. He had reach on me. He was stronger than I was, and he was fast. I wasn’t sure if he was faster than me, or my inexperience was showing. Only one way to find out. I darted forward, ducking as he threw a punch. I moved under his guard and caught his surprised look as I aimed my fist for his jaw. He caught my arm at the last minute and shoved. It threw me off balance and my own momentum carried me to the ground. I fell hard on my face and winced.

“Good! You faster!” Athel clapped from her spot. Eon had regained his composure and a foot came down toward me. I rolled and sprung to my feet. His foot hit the ground and I kicked him hard in the ribs. I felt the air leave his body and winced as he gripped my leg. He twisted it and I was on the defensive, trying to free my foot. He spun us around and threw me to the ground again. Talon was fast and naturally flowed through his attacks with ease. Eon was explosive and insanely strong. I panted on the ground and he cracked his knuckles.

“Done?” Eon tilted his head to the side and grinned.

“For today.” Athel answered, “Practice combos and some running. You need to be faster.” I nodded and waved as she walked off to wherever Athel dwelled when not verbally berating her students.

“I heard Lex tried to spar with you.” Eon said as he ran a towel over his chest.

I sighed, “Yeah, and insulted Athel. Generally made an ass of himself.” I rubbed at the sweat on the back of my neck, then my chest and shoulders.

“Watch yourself around him. I know everyone’s told you that, but he’s different…that’s not the guy I grew up with. We can’t predict what he’s going to do because everything is so out of character.” Eon pulled a red short-sleeved shirt over his head and I sat on Athel’s favorite log.

“I know, I know. He’s crazy.” I rubbed my face with the towel and sighed again.

“Don’t write him off because of that. He’s still intelligent and if he’s crazy that makes him even more dangerous.” We walked together away from the training grounds. Classes for the day were ending and the sun was setting on the horizon. Eon looked better than he had in a long time. Maybe the sparring had helped after all.

“I’m not an invalid you know.” Eon grinned down at me as if reading my thoughts, “Doing something physical again was good for me. If you run later let me know and I’ll join you.” I smiled back as we made our way through the grounds, mostly ignored by the others walking passed us. At the front of the palace, our lone carriage awaited us. It seemed we were the last ones that lived off school grounds to leave today. Eon knocked his shoulder against mine and I careened off the path, scrambling to maintain my balance. Once I regained it, I threw all my weight against his side. We laughed as he stumbled. I was grinning like a mad man and then I watched the smile drop from his face. He pursed his lips and I turned. Soldiers came from the palace’s entrance. They all positioned themselves between the carriage and us. I heard Eon mumble softly. After a second, I made out the whispered numbers. He was counting. There were twelve and he grimaced then looked down at me. He sucked his teeth and came to a stop about ten feet away.

“I’m so glad we caught you!” Lex clapped his hands and I ignored him as he descended the short steps to stand in front of his men. He grinned at us, “My general would like to speak to you.”

Eon scoffed, “General. Anders never earned that title.”

Lex’s eyes narrowed, “If you want to accompany your brother, Eon, you will have to watch that mouth of yours.”

I was frozen for a moment and then my mind kicked into overdrive. I blinked at Lex and looked to the guards. There were so many. They were expecting a scene. Mallex probably assumed I would run my mouth and Eon, being the wonderful older sibling he was, would support me. I waved my hand, wrinkling my nose, “Eon, it’s fine. Is there a reason he waited until the very last moment? He’s going to have to make it quick. I want to go home.” Mallex seemed surprised as I strolled past him and his guards. I wasn’t fond of being summoned this way, but this was an opportunity. I wanted to feel this Anders out. How influential was he to the king? Was he the one calling the shots? If anything, I needed to use this to gather any information I could. I doubted Tyren got private audiences with the leader of the Oben. I had to use this to my advantage. Arguing with these people never seemed to get me anywhere. Perhaps, I’d give them a little show.

Lex quickly caught up with me and I glanced over my shoulder to make sure Eon was close behind.

“You’re rather…cooperative today.” Lex’s voice was soft. I knew he was looking at me, but I stared forward.

“If I want to be part of this court, it would be a wise choice to have a working relationship with those at the top of the hierarchy, no?” My voice was level and calm even though my mind was running a mile a minute. If only Tyren could see me now.

“You know, there’s a much easier way to rub elbows with those at the top, liebe.” His voice was saccharine, cloyingly sweet as his fingertips grazed the inside of my wrist. I forced myself to keep my face neutral, to not recoil from his touch. Lex wanted a reaction of some kind. That was why he couldn’t keep his mouth shut around Talon. It was why he had tried to turn Eon to his side with his words yesterday. He expected a specific reaction to every action, and I wouldn’t give it to him. He’d been playing me like a fiddle since we’d left home. He knew if he pushed the right buttons, my temper would win out and I’d look like an immature child. I again glanced to Eon, using it as an excuse to drift a bit further from Lex. I was out of his reach and Eon looked at me, confusion on his face. I smiled at him and his confusion switched to understanding. It was a silent, “Let me handle this.”

“Mallex, we’ve talked about this, the marriage dissolved as soon as I was disowned. My father thought he was hurting me, but the man ended up doing me a favor. To be honest Lex, you could offer me the world on a platter and I’m not sure it would be enough at this point in time.” He was staring at me, surely confused at my confidence. I had found it finally and I gripped onto it for dear life. I’d play this part for Lex and I had another in mind for Anders.

“I would ask you this time. For your hand that is.” His fingers slid over my shoulder as he guided me through the throne room. We next went down a side hallway I had never paid much attention to. Normally there were people mingling all over the grand hall and the crowds would cover it from view if you weren’t looking. It was simply decorated and another turn to the left led us right to a wooden door. He pulled me to a stop, and I noted Eon trying his hardest to burn a whole through Lex’s head with his eyes alone. I lifted my hand to scratch the back of my head as Lex reached for it.

“If you could listen Kalian.” The pleading tone in his voice made me smile genuinely and I had to hold myself back from enjoying it too much. For once, Mallex was not in control of the conversation or my emotions. I wondered what it felt like to have the tables turned?

“I believe I was summoned, correct? Can’t keep General Anders waiting.” I stepped around him and tugged the door open. It was a small room. A bookshelf sat against one wall, and another had a desk covered with paperwork. In the center of the room was a huge round table, a map of the continent stretched across it. Anders stood on the other side of it, his fingers poised above a small flag with our kingdom’s emblem. I walked forward, slamming all my confidence into a tiny box. I felt myself physically shrinking back to the uncertain person I’d been before I left Krinn. I smiled through my lashes at Anders. I poured all my nerves into the smile, hoping it would drop his guard. I was just the silly little Alauis boy. Unsure of myself, foolish, and quick to anger. There was no way I could be a threat.

Lex brushed past me, “Apologies Lord Anders. Here is Kalian Alauis as you requested.”

Anders set his piece down and his eyes drifted over my head, to Eon no doubt. I let my head hang, pretending I was unsure of myself. Afraid to meet his eyes like I had been the first day I arrived here and met the king and queen. I heard Lex explain who Eon was, but it sounded far away. My eyes darted around the map. So many flags. All of them spread like ants through our country and spilling into the surrounding ones. There were six at the Dlethian border, four at the one into Serran. I quickly took in the small purple flags that sat within Serran, orange gathered in Dleth. My breath caught at the one orange flag that had strayed south. Towards Krinn. It lay on its side and it unsettled me. Was this who attacked us? Anders had known that Dlethians had breached the borders to attack subjects of the kingdom? Was it now on its side because our group had dispatched them?

“Not Alauis anymore Captain. Just Kalian the student.” My head jerked up and I glared at him while I tried to remember where the flags were located and how many sat on the table. Once I thought I had that down, the foreign ones were next.

“Yes, I suppose y-you would be right.” I mumbled, toying with the orb and chain Tyren had given me.

“I have a problem Kalian.” His voice was flat as he walked around the table, his fingers steepled. I avoided looking directly at him and caught Eon’s gaze. My brother’s face was emotionless, and his eyebrow raised fractionally when our eyes met.

“So?” I tried to channel my normal petulance and hid my grin at his sharp look. Lex looked at me appraisingly, frowning slightly, no doubt marking the change in my demeanor.

“It involves our…future plans. You see, the king isn’t well. He relies on The Oben more and more every day. I seek to put his mind at ease. Your…friend,” The word scraped past his teeth, his distaste clear, “Talon Verloren is a variable. As are you and your brother now. Things were so much…neater when you were to wed Mallex.” Variables. What a tactful way to say we were a wrench in his schemes.

“What do you want me to do about it?” I mumbled, eyes sweeping over the paperwork on his desk.

“Work with us of course! We all want what’s best for the country and the king.” He slid gracefully around me until we were face to face. He reached for my necklace and for a moment I lost control. I slapped his hand away, meeting his gaze with a glare. The surprise on his face quickly smoothed out and his mouth curved in a small smile, “We want you as an ally Kalian. Of course, my Captain still wishes to marry you, but we could always arrange something else if the thought is truly abhorrent to you.”

“General-“ Lex’s voice was shocked, betrayed.

“Silence. What, sweet Kalian, are your demands for your loyalty? Your service?” He still smiled down at me, but I’d never seen eyes so dead. I was quiet for a moment, letting my gaze drop to the ground again as I thought. What did I want? Or more importantly, what did he want to hear? I’d rather die than help this man and Lex with whatever they were planning.

“What’s the end game here?” I asked softly, “The king is relying on The Oben more and more. Are you the one in control?” I looked up at him in time to see his expression, discomfort clear on his face. I had hit on something. That was for sure. I flicked my gaze to Lex, who was glaring at the ground, rage clear on his handsome face.

“The king is the king,” He answered vaguely and walked back around the table, “We wish to fortify our defenses here at home while spreading our… influence to the countries that have been misled.”

His words were carefully chosen. I tilted my head to the side, biting my lip as I looked at him with confusion, “How will we do that?” I put emphasis on the ‘we’ and Anders face broke into an empty smile again.

“Expansion is tricky with the Queen’s aversion to war on foreign lands, as I’m sure you’ve heard. The Oben is already working to appease her. We are hemorrhaging money on the school and on the student recruitment. That money can be better spent elsewhere. The king has made it clear that he wishes to conquer more land. We will make that happen for him. With you on the front lines or even as a courtier, I think we could work wonders. People seem easily taken with you. With your power and your strong connection to the king, the Oben’s military control and prowess, and my own strategic expertise, we would be an unstoppable force.” Unease rolled through me, but I kept a dumb smile plastered on my face. I didn’t like how he’d said they were working on “appeasing” the queen. I didn’t know what that meant, but I had a feeling it wasn’t good. It had felt ominous. The king was a figure head, and the queen was in their way. My mind cycled back to his earlier words and I frowned.

“Talon, is a variable?” I looked down at the sea, painted with detail on the map below me.

“He’s being dealt with already.” Lex snapped, a cruel smirk on his face. I turned to look at him slowly. He met my eyes and grinned. I don’t know how, but I managed to keep my face neutral. Even though I wanted to send a beam of light through his face.

“Mallex! Silence you imbecile!” I took a deep breath and trailed my fingers over the ocean, following it towards Krinn.

“It’s okay. I mean, he left me right? He’s not capable of being loyal, I’m sure of it. Plus,” I took another breath as my chest ached, “After what you told me yesterday, Lex, I don’t know if I could ever let him touch me again.” I looked sadly at Mallex, who’s mouth was hanging open, his face stunned. Anders studied my face for a long moment. I let tears pool in my eyes, my arm roughly dragging across them as I wiped my nose. Lex shook his head and crossed the space between us quickly, he gripped my chin and forced me to look at him. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, wrapping myself instead in every hurt I’d ever experienced. Tears slide down my cheeks and the suspicion in Lex’s eyes softened. He wiped my tears away.

“Are you quite done, Captain?” Anders snapped. Mallex stepped a bit away from me, concern all over his stupid face. Anders seemed to consider for a long moment and then his fingers circled the group of Dlethian flags on the map.

“Verloren is being handled with utmost care. He should be on his way back to Syrin as we speak. He will no longer be a threat when he returns however.” Anders eyes lit up and he laughed, “He won’t be much of anything when he gets here.”

“What the fuck did you do to him?” Eon stalked forward, slamming his hands on the table. The little flags rattled, and he glanced down at me. We both would play parts here, apparently.

Anders looked at him, his face impassive again, “Are you going to be the problem Eon? Your brother is the one we need. Not you. I can easily remove you from the equation as well.” He tilted his head to the side and Eon’s knees hit the ground immediately, his hands flying to his head, a cry of pain filling the room. I gripped the edge of the table and tried not to react.

“You’ve become very blasé quite suddenly Kalian.” There was growing suspicion in his voice. I may have convinced Mallex, but Anders was different.

“I’m sick of not having any choice.” I forced out, trying to block out the sound of Eon struggling, “He’s only been a good brother for three months of my 20 years. I don’t owe anyone anything.” The ache in my chest sharpened and I wiped my face as I looked up at Anders. As I did so, something caught my eye. My necklace’s orb had filled with a black mist. Duely noted.

“Is that so?” The corner of his mouth quirked up.

“I need time to think about all of this. I’m sure you understand.” I looked down at my feet.

“Of course. Know that we won’t wait for an answer forever. It will quickly turn into a different situation. If you are not with us, you are against the king.” I gave him a pained smile and Eon stopped writhing in pain, gasping quietly for breath. I dragged him to his feet and tried to keep all the hatred from my eyes as I gave Anders an awkward bow. Lex watched us suspiciously and I looked at him sadly as we exited the room. I hoped my little act was convincing enough to give us a little time. I supported half of Eon’s weight as I tried to get us out of the tight hallways. His feet didn’t want to cooperate, and he was still panting loudly. After much difficulty we made it back to the main doors and I nodded nervously at the guards who opened them for us. Neither of us spoke until I had hoisted him into the carriage and climbed in after, slamming the door.

“Are you okay?” I rushed to him and checked over his head, looking for any physical injuries.

“I have no idea what happened. It was as if someone stuck a giant fork into my brain and whisked it around.” He sighed, finally gaining control of his breathing, “I couldn’t move other than the involuntarily seizing, and I couldn’t talk. I had no control.”

I chewed my lip as he waved me off, “Anders’ Magik must have to do with the mind. Which explains why the king didn’t look present when I saw him last.” I ghosted my fingers over the necklace which had returned to normal.

“I hope you got whatever you needed. Seeing you act like that…”Eon shuddered and looked away from me, “Hearing you say those things was hard. I have a hard time with it. I’ve had those same thoughts since we started building our relationship. I don’t deserve to have you as a brother Kalian.”

“Everything I said was a lie Eon. I don’t care what Talon’s done. I know he hasn’t touched anyone else.” I swallowed hard, “He told me he’d come back to me. He promised. And you Eon, you’ve been a huge part of my strength here. You’ve made mistakes, but I love you. I love both of you.” I wiped at my eyes as I fell back onto my seat. I was so tired all the sudden, exhausted.

“Do you think they were lying? Talon must be okay right? It’s Talon!” He tried to chuckle at the last words, but his voice was strained.

“I don’t know Eon. I’m going to find out though. Heavens help them if one hair on his head is out of place. I’ll kill every single one of The Oben myself if that’s the case.” I gripped the seat’s fabric in my hand, rage building in me slowly. I meant every word.

“And Mallex?” Eon asked softly, hand rubbing across his face, “If it comes to it, will you kill him too?”

“If he was involved in hurting Talon, yes. I won’t hesitate.”

 

*

 

It was late. I’d brushed passed poor Lydia when we’d arrived at home. I had flown to the desk in the sitting room, opening each drawer to find what I needed. I slammed down paper and pencil and hurriedly tried to draw what I had seen on that map. For a few minutes, the room was silent save for my erratic scribbling. At some point, I heard Eon walk in. I registered that he now stood over me, but it was as if I was in a trance. Finally, I dropped my pencil and scanned my work. It was a bit sloppy, and I was no cartographer, but I had remembered everything.

Eon whistled low and looked it over, “How did you remember all this? I barely saw you look at it.”

“I’m glad my acting was at least believable then.” His fingers traced over the roughly outlined countries and he shook his head. I collapsed in the chair behind the desk, pressing my knuckles to my lips as I too studied the map.

“We’ll go to Tyren first thing in the morning.” I decided and Eon simply nodded, fingers trailing over the one stray Dlethian unit. I saw his brow furrow and I knew that he’d had the same thought. No way they made it that far by accident unless they’d come by sea. Dleth was landlocked. They had no naval force. I tilted my head to the side as I considered. It wasn’t impossible. They could very well have chartered a vessel from a different country and made the long journey around the tip of the continent. It didn’t make sense though. A journey like that would take months. I sucked my teeth as I ran the thought over in my mind.

“Have you tried ‘talking’ to him?” Eon’s voice was quiet, and he had moved to the fireplace. He started a fire and held his hands out toward the warmth.

“No.” In all honesty, I was terrified to reach across that connection and find nothing. I could not handle it if there weren’t any walls for my senses to bounce off, or that comforting presence answering me. What if I reached out and all I felt was a soul crushing absence?

“I told Lydia that we’d take dinner in here,” Eon smiled, “It can be our own little war room.” As if on cue the woman rolled in a cart with multiple cloches. She smiled sadly at me and dipped her head in greeting and then left the room. Eon was on the cart in an instant, lifting lids and smelling all the delicacies she’d prepared.

“Eon, I think I’m going to go to bed. I’m not feeling well.” His light blue eyes met mine and he frowned. My long-forgotten satchel still hung across my body, resting on my hip. I had forgotten its existence with all that had happened. I had studying to do and more importantly, whether it hurt or not, I needed to know if Talon was still at the end of the tether.

“Kalian…if this turns into a mini war, you have to be ready. It’s going to get ugly fast. If Talon is…if we don’t know where he is, then we’ll have to make other plans. He’s a major hole in our little group.” He tried to skirt around it. He tried not to say the words, but they hung between us. What were we going to do if Talon was dead?

“We’ll speak with Tyren tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll have some insight. He always does. Goodnight brother.” He smiled sadly at me as I passed and made my way out of the sitting room and up the stairs. Once I was in my bedroom, I sucked in a shaky breath. Hold it together. Deep breaths. Coming apart wasn’t going to help myself or anyone else. I had been so strong today. I could keep it going for a few more hours. I had to go over my letters and make sure I had them memorized like Tyren wanted. I felt my knees slowly give out and I slid down the door. My legs extended in front of me, and I stared up at the ceiling. I threw my bag to the side and closed my eyes. I had to know. I sent the smallest inkling over the connection, dreading what I may or may not receive in return. It was silent for a while but there wasn’t an absence. The connection didn’t feel empty, and it was still there. If Talon were gone, would the connection go immediately? Would I feel it sever? I pushed harder, frowning when I didn’t find any kind of mental defense. It was silent at first.

Then it hit. Wave after wave of unfiltered pain. I fell forward onto my hands and knees, gasping. My mind was assaulted, and every part of my body hurt. I tried to regain control of my limbs, but they burned. Phantom injuries littered my skin and I dry heaved. I crawled in what I hoped was the bed’s direction, my stomach lurching again. My fingers found the soft rug and I gripped it so tight my knuckles turned white. I imagined I was stuck in a storm, stranded in the ocean, being repeatedly thrown against jagged rocks. It felt like I was being shredded. I covered my mouth after my arms gave out. My cheek lay against the soft rug and I tried to wade through everything.

He was here. He was in this mess of pain and suffering. It was an awful thing to feel over the bond, but Talon was still here. He was holding on and that meant I must as well. I shifted through the pain, trying to send as much comfort as I could. I knew it’d never be enough to soothe the astronomical amount of pain, but I had to give him something. I didn’t know where he was, my presence was the only thing I could offer. I gripped my stomach as I gasped again.

“Where are you love?” I said it out loud, my voice a harsh rasp. I tried to sort faster through the maelstrom that was Talon’s mind, and I felt the tiniest bit of a spark. I sought it out, moving as quickly as I could to its source.

Talon?

It was quiet but there was stirring. An acknowledgment almost. So, I tried again.

Talon? Love?

Are you real? His voice was a broken, tiny thing and my heart shattered.

I’m real. Do you know where you are? Can you tell me?

Hurts. Everything fucking hurts. My fingers dug into the rug and I shook my head as tears wet my eyes. No. He was suffering. I had to be strong. I couldn’t let him know this was breaking me.

I know love. I can feel it. Do you know where you are? Please it’s important.

Moving. Honeysuckle. Red dirt. I felt a jolt of sharp bright pain and then he stopped answering me. I gave in then, gripping the rug as I cried and cried. After sobbing like a child, I wiped my face and rolled onto my back. I took deep breaths and then forced myself to my feet. My legs were wobbly and weak, but I urged them forward. I left my room and stormed back to the study. Eon set his fork down when I entered and looked at me with wide eyes.

“What’s happened?” He rose from his seat near the fire, concern clear on his face.

“Talon is alive. I’m guessing he’s been tortured or at least severely beaten. He could only tell me that he’s moving or being moved, I guess. He mentioned honeysuckle as well and red dirt.” I knew zero things about honeysuckle, other than it was a flower. I think. I now stood in front of the bookshelf and skimmed over the titles.

“Can I help?” Eon was at my side, holding his hands out as if I might break at any second. I took an even deeper breath and closed my eyes. For the hundredth time that day I told myself I needed to get it together. He was counting on us.

“I’m trying to find anything that may tell us where honeysuckle grows here. If it’s only in certain places. I-it would be along a road I believe. The dirt may narrow it down as well. If they’re transporting him back to Syrin there are limited paths to be taken. There is only the one entrance to this stupid fucking place.” Eon blinked at me and nodded, looking through the books on the bookshelf farthest from mine. We worked in silence and not once did I find anything that might help. We met in the middle and Eon turned his palms up.

“It isn’t practical that the palace only has one exit. If attacked they would need an escape route. It’s location may just be hidden. The palace has a library and I’m sure Tyren has a wealth of books somewhere.” Eon offered quietly, stealing glances at me. He wanted to touch me, to comfort, but he knew right now I wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“Plants. Dirt.” I mumbled to myself and tried to imagine how Tyren or Talon would solve this problem. Talon. My mind whirled back to Krinn, back to when we’d first met, and I’d been in his alchemy room. I tried to remember the room’s layout. The vials and bottles had all been on one wall, there were books on another, but where had Talon retrieved all the ingredients for that disgusting spell? I remembered him throwing things into the bowl and I cursed my past self for not paying attention. Had there been plants? Did plants have a place in alchemy? He’d mentioned lilies. When I’d burned him. Day lilies. Flowers.

“Talon may have something. I’m going to Syris’ house.” I made up my mind quickly.

“I’m coming with you.” I nodded and we separated, going to our respective rooms. I opened my closet and frowned at all the bright, attention grabbing colors. I closed the doors and looked around the room. Had Talon left his things in a different room? I poked around on the side of the bed where he’d slept and caught my foot in a strap. After almost falling on my face, I yanked a bag out from under the bed. A few simple clothes and then my fingers hit something cold. A knife, small, only about three inches. I set it to the side and dug some more. I found a strap I could use to attach said knife to my thigh and a simple black tunic. No pants, so I’d have to make do with the umber ones I’d been given by my parents.
I threw my findings on the bed and retrieved the small pins Potlyne had put in my hair when I’d met the queen. I messily secured my hair out of my face and changed clothes. I pulled the tunic together and tied the fabric in a knot by my hip, tucking the knot underneath,so the garment wasn’t hanging off me. I had gained a bit of muscle in my short time training, but Talon was still far larger and broader than me. It smelled of him and I needed another second to collect myself before retrieving the only pair of dark boots I had. I tugged them on and reached for the strap for the knife. I thought better of it and slid the cool metal into my boot.

I rushed from the room and down the stairs, conscious of how much time I had taken. Eon had changed into a navy jacket so dark it almost looked black and equally dark pants, tucked into black boots. He took note of my clothes, then grinned. I smiled back weakly and that was it. We made for the door and then set out for the second layer.

 

*

 

The house seemed cold. It was far less comforting than it had been a couple of days ago, but then again, everything was dull right now. It was like I was walking through a fog. My emotions had been going haywire, but they had simply stopped. While we walked, I felt myself go numb. As if a switch had been flipped in my mind. I had a task to complete and that was my only focus. There would be plenty of time to cry like a baby when this was all over. When I had Talon back and I had punished whoever thought they could take him from me. I looked around and then followed the hallway that Eon’s bedroom had been in. Sure enough, at the end of the hall, a door with a black tree. The leaves weren’t silver on this one, but the symbol comforted me either way. I turned the knob, but the door didn’t budge. After a minute of struggling, I stepped back and concentrated. A beam shot from my hand and burst through the entire locking mechanism and door handle. I had only wanted to hit the lock, but the outcome was still the same. I pushed the door open.

Eon followed me in and looked around, his unease clear. We’d been raised to think all of this was evil in some way. Superstition at its finest. Fearing what you didn’t understand. This room was almost an exact copy of the one in Krinn and I began looking around for anything that resembled plant matter. Eon shook off whatever thoughts he’d been having and made his way to the books.

Again, not much was said. I found some long-dead plants, but it occurred to me that if Talon never visited this house, he wouldn’t have left plants that needed to be tended. I joined Eon at the bookshelf and ran my fingers over the spines as I searched.

“Botany and Herbalism: A Complete Guide on How to Waste Time in Nature?” Eon slid the small book out, with a surprised grin on his face. It was only about an inch thick and the cover was simple, flowers carved into the leather. It was probably the smallest book in the room. I had gotten so used to the huge, heavy books that both Talon and Tyren favored. Eon handed it to me, and I flipped through. It was in alphabetical order and I slowed down when I looked at the writing. It was neat but looked rushed. It occurred to me that I’d never seen Talon write anything, but this had to be him. The book wasn’t worn, and it was dated. I scanned the dates and realized it had been written around the time that Talon would’ve been 16. I found the ‘H’ section and ran my finger down the words until I found honeysuckle.

I cleared my throat, “Honeysuckle can grow anywhere, really. There are multiple kinds and each one is equally boring. There are also different types such as vines, shrubs, and bushes. Why am I learning this if we don’t use it for anything? Literally none of our work includes honeysuckle. They like sun but grow better when their roots are shaded. Pretty but utterly useless. I can relate honeysuckle.” I had to stop as I heard Eon choke back a laugh. I felt myself defrosting a bit. Oh, this was Talon all right. I could taste his sarcasm dripping off the page. I scanned over the rest of the words and my spark of happiness died, “When Syris and I went to Dleth that one summer, the road for miles reeked of the stupid flowers. They were in every gods-forsaken ditch we passed.”

“That’s something. He could’ve been in Dleth. That narrows down the roads they could have possibly taken.” Eon grimaced and looked around the room as he rubbed the back of his neck, “Unfortunately, he said it grows anywhere. What if he wasn’t in Dleth at all?”

I closed the book and held it to my chest as I thought. It seemed I was out of brilliant ideas for the night, “We need Tyren.”

“Okay, we’ll both go tomorrow. It’s strategy time little brother. Bring the attitude you had today. We’re going to need that Kalian.”

As I said before, this part will have around 30 chapters and then I may take a short break.

I'm hoping to adhere to a Tuesday/Thursday post schedule.

Thanks 🖤

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Chapter Comments

Have to agree with the comments above, it looks as if Malevolent Malex isn't what he thought he was.

I think a clue almost overlooked is that Anders does not have full control over his underlings as Lecherous Lex had to be silenced a couple of times and put back in his place.

I can't imagine the Queen is so obtuse as to not know what is going on either, she must have her own informants...humm??

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15 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

Have to agree with the comments above, it looks as if Malevolent Malex isn't what he thought he was.

I think a clue almost overlooked is that Anders does not have full control over his underlings as Lecherous Lex had to be silenced a couple of times and put back in his place.

I can't imagine the Queen is so obtuse as to not know what is going on either, she must have her own informants...humm??

Lex has the emotional maturity of a petulant child.

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