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A. W. G. Coleman

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Legacy of War - Part 1 Chapter 2: Suburban Secrets - Part 1 Chapter 3: Legacy of War - Part 2 Chapter 4: Suburban Secrets - Part 2 Chapter 5: Legacy of War - Part 3 Chapter 6: Suburban Secrets - Part 3 Chapter 7: Suburban Secrets - Part 4 Chapter 8: Legacy of War - Part 4 Chapter 9: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 1 Chapter 10: Destiny of the Descendants - Part 2 Chapter 11: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 1 Chapter 12: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 2 Chapter 13: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 3 Chapter 14: The Madman’s Ultimatum - Part 4 Chapter 15: The Displacement - Part 1 Chapter 16: The Displacement - Part 2 Chapter 17: The Displacement - Part 3 Chapter 18: The Displacement - Part 4 Chapter 19: The Displacement - Part 5 Chapter 20: The Displacement - Part 6 Chapter 21: The Displacement - Part 7 Chapter 22: The Displacement - Part 8 Chapter 23: The Quickener Prodigy - Part 1 Chapter 24: A Mother’s Mission - Part 1 Chapter 25: Search for the Summoner - Part 1 Chapter 26: A Mother’s Mission - Part 2 Chapter 27: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 1 Chapter 28: Into the Desert - Part 1 Chapter 29: Search for the Summoner - Part 2 Chapter 30: Search for the Summoner - Part 3 Chapter 31: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 2 Chapter 32: Search for the Summoner – Part 4 Chapter 33: A Mother’s Mission – Part 3 Chapter 34: Into the Desert – Part 2 Chapter 35: The Quickener Prodigy – Part 2 Chapter 36: The Weather Master - Part 1 Chapter 37: Search for the Summoner – Part 5 Chapter 38: The Weather Master – Part 2 Chapter 39: Into the Desert - Part 3 Chapter 40: Into the Desert – Part 4 Chapter 41: Late Night Revelations – Part 1 Chapter 42: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 3 Chapter 43: The Weather Master – Part 3 Chapter 44: Late Night Revelations - Part 2

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Chapter 31: The Wildcard & The Melder - Part 2

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Chapter 31

 

* Fantasmal Mountain *

It took an hour for Fantasma, Honsmordin, and Franklin to return to Fantasmal Mountain. The trio were in Sanctous, the capital city of Ellenon, meeting with the elven high council, but were eager to return after word reached them that one of the teens had been found and had urgent news. All three of them were in their robes, even Franklin who normally dressed more casually. His was blue, like Honsmordin’s, but with a white belt where the mind mage’s was silver. They met Ace and Pathos in a small lounge that held several comfortable armchairs.

“I’m glad it’s actually you this time,” Ace said as Fantasma’s party entered the room. “I don’t know if you remember me—”

“You’re Ace, correct?” Fantasma said immediately.

Ace beamed as they shook hands. “I guess it hasn’t been that long for you: just a few days, a week?”

Fantasma gave him a confused look. “I’m not sure what you mean?” He gestured to a grouping of chairs, and they all took a seat. “Pathos said that you were found on Estern. I didn’t think the quickener displacement would disperse you so far out, but it explains why we still haven’t found anyone in the mountains surrounding the cave.”

“I knew it.” Ace shook his head, clearly frustrated. “Fantasma, you don’t understand what really happened. We weren’t just physically displaced. It was temporal.”

Franklin gave an audible gasp. “That’s not possible.”

“I’m afraid it is,” Ace confirmed.

Honsmordin seemed less surprised. “It actually makes sense. Remember what Thomas told us about an unstable rift that sent him three months into the past? That quickener not only removed the Sun Stone but tampered with the rift. He could have destabilized it. There’s no telling what happened.”

“But I arrived in the present with Jandor, as did Veda and Becky.” Fantasma said, still hardly daring to believe Ace’s assertion could be true.

“Wait you have Jandor and Becky too?” Ace asked hopefully.

“It’s not what you think,” Honsmordin said. “Your young quickener friend tried to bring everyone together after we discovered they were displaced. He could see some, but not all. When he attempted to quicken though, he was only able to return Fantasma and Veda before his staff snapped due to stress.” The mind mage gave a pensive look, leaning back in the armchair and tapping the crystal in his scepter. “It makes sense now. If there was temporal displacement, the staff would have had to work far harder to make a link to those connected to it. That probably contributed greatly to the stress that broke it.”

“My nephew Lawrence is a quaver,” Franklin said. “He’s in the process of repairing the staff. With some guidance and training, Henry should be able to link to your friends, no matter where they are.”

“Assuming they’re all still alive,” Ace said a bit gloomily. “There’s no telling how long they’ve been here or what happened to them.”

“How long have you been here?” Franklin asked.

“It’s been just over forty years.”

No one seemed prepared for that answer. They stared at him in stunned disbelief.

Franklin was the first to recover his voice. “I don’t understand how that’s possible. I’ve never heard of a case of temporal displacement of this scale.”

“Yes, but that rift was over twelve hundred years old,” Honsmordin said. “If I recall correctly, current studies of rifts point to the possibility that one can theoretically displace as far back as its temporal point of origin. Of course, it’s all still new and this is the first rift of its size.”

Ace nodded in agreement. “I was told that I was pulled further back in time than anyone else because I was holding this.” Ace slipped his hand inside his robe and with some effort removed the large slab of rock.

“The seal!” Fantasma gasped.

Franklin stood to examine it closer. “You mean this is the seal of the Book of War,” he ran his hand along the symbols etched in the stone, “and you’ve been carrying it all this time.”

“I had to; the seal is crucial to stopping the Book of War,” Ace said.

“Wait, I don’t understand. What is this seal?” Honsmordin asked.

“Remember the legend of the Book of War? It was kept hidden and unusable by a powerful supernal seal,” Franklin pointed to the tablet in Ace’s hand, “this seal.”

“Well not quite,” Ace corrected. “This is what was left of the original seal. Our ancestors were bound to it so that it would have enough power to seal the Book of War temporarily with each generation taking up the mantle, renewing the seal every few months, but there was an accident, and they weren’t able to renew the seal for over a year. That’s what we were told at least.” He looked to Fantasma. “You were there when Illusion explained it. You remember right? I also learned the seal allows us to kill the creatures of the Book of War.”

Fantasma nodded. “Yes, I saw that with my own eyes in the cave on your world.”

Honsmordin gave Fantasma a searching look. “Sir, you never told us this.”

“There’s hardly been time; so much has happened since yesterday,” Fantasma said, though it seemed clear to Honsmordin that this wasn’t his only reason.

“Yesterday?” Ace repeated in shock. “It’s only been a day for you? No wonder!”

“You said you were told about the temporal displacement,” Honsmordin recalled. “Who told you?”

“High Mage Elizabeth Florentine,” Ace said solemnly.

“You spent the last forty years with High Mage Florentine?” Honsmordin sounded almost jealous. “Do all people who go back in time just end up with epouranals? If so, perhaps I should study rifts more.”

Franklin chuckled at this. “I’m sure our young friend did more with his time.” He sat again, giving a gesture to Ace as if asking him to explain further.

Ace shrugged. “I’m not sure how much there is to tell.” It was clear he was reluctant to talk, but seeing the imploring faces of the others in the room, he decided he had no choice. “I spent the first twenty years trying to figure out how to find my friends or reach Fantasma for help, but when I finally had an opportunity to meet the Fantasma, it wasn’t the same one I saw in the cave.”

“That makes sense, I only became Fantasma seventeen years ago,” Fantasma said, “and it’s pretty difficult to gain an audience with any Fantasma. How did you even manage it?”

Ace actually smirked at this. “It wasn’t easy. I tried a lot of different things and nothing worked. Then I found out the Fantasma loved hyperball and always attended the world championship games. So, after training for several years, I was finally recruited to the Otter Bay hyperball team. It took eight years, but we finally won a world championship. I was able to meet the Fantasma at the banquet afterward.” His smile faded. “Fifteen years of work, all for nothing.”

“Still, it was quite an impressive effort,” Honsmordin said in a conciliatory tone.

“I thought that if I could just get to you, then you could fix whatever went wrong,” Ace explained. “I sort of fell apart after that. Twenty years and I’d gotten nowhere. I spent the next twelve years wandering around all over the planet, going from place to place, learning what I could, but not really having any goal or purpose. I was ready to give up but then I met someone who told me about Vinchu.”

Honsmordin’s eyes widened at this. “You found the White Desert monastery?”

“What’s Vinchu?” Pathos asked.

“It’s one of the hidden monasteries. It’s home to an ancient sect of mentant monks and the techniques they teach are carefully guarded.’ Franklin explained. “I’ve never been there myself, but it’s rumored that there is an epouranal in residence at all times.” He looked to Ace for confirmation.

Ace nodded. “That’s where I met High Mage Florentine. I think she was actually waiting for me. She explained what happened, why I was so far in the past and that I would know when it was the right time to resume the search for my friends. I stayed there for seven years. It wasn’t until the seal started to glow, reacting to the presence of the Book of War returned to Mendala, that I knew it was time to leave Vinchu. I’ve spent the last several months trying to track down the book and started hearing rumors about strange monster attacks. I quickly realized a pattern. The monsters were going after remote towns that were barely ever visited, no quartz markers, and at war with other remote towns. I thought if I found the creatures or the Book of War itself, I’d find my friends, or at least someone who knew what was going on. That’s how I ended up in Murrilogic. It was the first time I actually got to a town during an attack.”

“Fantasma, I saw this man in action,” Pathos said. “Not only can he destroy the creatures of the Book of War but he’s an accomplished fighter and mandant.” He turned to Ace. “And you said all of your friends have this ability?”

Ace nodded. “All but Henry, Terri, Tabatha, and Ashley.”

“Surely this is a gift from the heavens,” Pathos said excitedly. “They can help us stop these creatures once and for all.”

Fantasma shook his head. “But they’re children and off-worlders; we can’t ask them to fight our battles.”

“With all due respect, sir,” Ace said, “we’re all of age, at least by Mendalian standards. All of us were over fifteen when we left Earth, and if my friends have been here even a fraction of the time I have, they’re technically much older now. Though you don’t physically age when you are sent back in time, I have forty years’ experience on your world, I consider it home, and I don’t want the Book of War to destroy it. I’ve read the accounts of the Great War. That can’t be allowed to start again. The damage could be much worse this time around.”

Fantasma didn’t look completely convinced. “Well, we don’t know how many were sent back into the past. Jandor, Henry, and Becky arrived at the same time as I did, in the present.” Ace looked as if he might speak again but Fantasma held up a staying hand. “First we must find the remainder of your friends, then we can discuss further.”

Ace gave a respectful nod and knew the conversation was over for now, so he changed subjects. “Do you have any leads? Have you figured out who has the Book of War?”

Fantasma gave him a quizzical look but then comprehension dawned. “That’s right, you left before it happened. You never saw Davron.”

“Davron?” Ace repeated, looking confused.

“Yes, it was quite chaotic,” Fantasma said as he launched into the tale.

Ace listened in rapt attention and was finally able to put several pieces together. “I knew that monsters were in the caves, but I had no idea where they came from. So Davron was after Ashley?”

“That’s what he said, and he got away with the Sun Stone,” Fantasma added.

“Do you know where he is?” Ace asked.

“No, we were hoping you might have some insight,” Honsmordin said.

“I’ve told you everything I know,” Ace confirmed, “and Tabatha was with me, so I doubt she knows anything, but I’ll ask her. I should probably go see how she’s doing.” He stood, picking up the seal as he did.

“I’ll call Lily to take you to see her,” Honsmordin offered.

Fantasma watched as Ace returned the stone tablet to his robe’s capacious inner pocket leaving no sign of its bulk. “Perhaps we should hold onto the seal.”

Ace shook his head. “I’ve kept this with me for forty years. I was told by the high mage that it was my duty to guard it until I reunite with my friends. That’s what I intend to do.”

There was a moment when it looked like Fantasma might insist, but he seemed to change his mind. It was clear Ace had been through a great deal, but also that he knew what he was doing and was deserving of trust.

Fantasma stood and his companions followed suit. “Well, I think you and your friend should stay here in the mountain where it’s safe. I have as many people as possible searching, but now that we know about the temporal displacement, this complicates things.”

“Our best hope still remains with the young quickener,” Honsmordin said. “Assuming all goes well with the repair of his staff, he should still be able to locate his friends regardless of the displacement. We’ll just need to wait.”

Ace shook hands all around. “If I think of anything else that might help, or if Tabatha has any leads, I’ll let you know.”

Lily arrived in the room, having been mentantly summoned by Honsmordin. “Your friend is awake now. I can take you to her room if you like.”

Ace nodded and followed Lily from the room.

Pathos waited until Lily pulled the door shut before speaking again. “Temporal displacement, this is huge.” He turned to Fantasma. “Sir, I understand why you don’t want to involve off-worlders in this war, but they seem crucial to our cause. They have the power to destroy the creatures and apparently they can reseal the Book of War.”

“I’m still at a loss as to how they came to have the seal and the Book of War in the first place,” Honsmordin admitted. “Sir, what aren’t you telling us?”

Fantasma sighed. “It’s long and complicated,”

“Actually, I think I understand now,” Franklin revealed. “The Twelve Warriors, the Daughter of the Sun, and their quickener all disappeared at the end of the Great War. No one knows what happened. However, my ancestor was there, and I have been reading his journals. Before heading into the final battle with Multus, High Mage Gilenhall appeared. She told them that the only way to stop the Book of War was to reseal it. The original seal was broken but still had some power left and could be used as a temporary seal if twelve souls were bound to it.

“The twelve volunteered. Apparently, the seal would only work for a short period of time, but that would be long enough to return with the Book of War and deal with it once and for all. Everyone assumed that the Twelve Warriors and the Daughter of the Sun died destroying the Book of War, but it seems they were instead sent through a rift to another world. If I understand correctly, they’ve passed the burden of bearing the seal down through their descendants and they’ve been trying to keep the book sealed all this time.”

Franklin paused, waiting for Fantasma to confirm his theory, and he received a nod of affirmation. “You never cease to amaze.”

The aged librarian beamed. “You’ve found not only the Daughter of the Sun but also the descendants of the Twelve Warriors; surely this is providence. This confirms the words of High Mage Gilenhall and the prophecies of many epouranals. The end of the era of war is upon us. This is the battle to destroy the Book of War once and for all. The Twelve Warriors have returned!”

“But they aren’t the Twelve Warriors, Frank,” Fantasma said in a tone that was harsher than he intended. “They’re civilians, they’re off-worlders, and they’re barely more than children—our new friend’s time on Mendala notwithstanding—I can’t just thrust them into a war they didn’t sign up for.”

“I don’t understand, sir,” Pathos said. “If they’re all truly of age, then as long as they volunteer and aren’t coerced or conscripted, there’s no issue with them joining the Fantasmal Forces, correct?”

Fantasma shook his head. “This isn’t about the legalities; it’s not even about the optics. It just seems…wrong.”

“I understand your reticence,” Franklin said in a calmer tone, “but when the time comes, we must give them the opportunity to make that choice. We can’t force them into it, but we also can’t deny them their destiny.”

Fantasma sighed. “I suppose you’re right. Still, there is a chance we can recover the Book of War and the Sun Stone without needing to send them into battle. We must redouble our efforts. Pathos, summon Elder Sorinson and General Rockwall. This latest attack on Murrilogic and the behavior of the creatures there has sparked new concern. We must regroup and reassess.”

Pathos gave a respectful bow and left Fantasma and his two companions to continue the discussion about what happened on Earth.

 

***

 

“Come in,” Tabatha called after hearing a knock on her door.

Ace stepped into the large suite that looked just like the one he’d been taken to earlier. “Hey, you look like you’re doing better.”

Tabatha was seated at a small table and her eyes narrowed when she saw him. “It was the energy you were radiating; that’s what made me faint. I’m fine now. I still sense it from you, but it’s not nearly as strong.”

Ace was confused for a moment but then seemed to have a sudden revelation. “It must be from the seal. I’m not sure why it would impact you, but I’m glad you’re okay now. I honestly wasn’t expecting you to be out of bed so soon.”

“I wasn’t going to lie around all day waiting on you; I already know how that ends.”

She grabbed the white robe that was next to her and headed for the full-length standing mirror in the corner.

Ace raised an eyebrow. “Uh, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that after five years, I’ve figured out how to take care of myself.” Tabatha said.

As if to purposefully look away from Ace, Tabatha stared at her reflection as she slipped on her robe and examined herself. She was wearing a blue, sleeveless shirt and black leggings. There was a silver chain around her neck with a red quartz rock charm at the end, but she tucked that under her shirt before tying her robe closed. Apparently satisfied, she headed for the door, intent on leaving.

Ace sighed as she passed him. “So, it’s been five years for you?”

Tabatha stopped at this. “What do you mean ‘for me?’” she asked genuinely curious.

“Well, it’s been…a lot longer for me and you’re the first one I’ve found.” Ace said.

“How long?” Tabatha asked looking wary.

“Forty years,” Ace admitted somberly.

Tabatha stared at him, her green eyes registering shock. “What? I don’t…what?” She plopped down in a nearby chair. It was clear she wasn’t expecting this. “I don’t understand,” she said finally.

Ace took a seat across from her, and began to explain, telling her the same story he told Fantasma and his associates.

“I knew it had to be something like that. I mean, I didn’t always know, but with everything that’s been happening, it was the only theory that made sense. Still, if you’ve been here this whole time, why didn’t you find anyone else? How come you didn’t find me sooner? Why did you stay at that monastery place for over seven years? You just abandoned us; you abandoned me!” There was accusation and hurt in her voice.

“I didn’t abandon you,” Ace said defensively, reaching for Tabatha’s hands, but she pulled away. “It’s just…that’s what I had to do.”

“What you had to do?” she scoffed. “You left me in that cave. You left me to die!”

“I…what?” Ace looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

“The cave back on Earth!” Tabatha looked close to tears. “I begged you not to leave me. The cave was collapsing, I was scared and dizzy and panicked, and you just left me there!” She stood and started to pace, clearly trying not to cry now. “I was terrified; rocks were falling all around me. I got knocked out and then I woke up with a bunch of people standing over me. I had no idea where I was or what was going on. You guys abandoned me! I guess I should’ve expected it since I’m not the Daughter of the Sun and I don’t matter.”

Ace stood, blocking Tabatha’s path to force her to stop pacing. He put his hands on her shoulders and held her in place. “Tabatha, we didn’t abandon you.” He repeated what Fantasma told him about what happened after they left the others. “When Davron sent those monsters after us, I left you at the end of the tunnel to protect you. I’m so sorry. I had no idea we’d be quickened to Mendala. Believe me, I understand what you went through.”

“You have no idea what I went through!” she shouted angrily. “You played hyperball and hung out with monks. My life was miserable for years! I kept getting sick and these weird things were happening to me. People thought I was cursed because things kept dying around me. Plants, trees, animals, even people were getting weak after I touched them. I was an outcast. No healer could help me and everywhere I went, people would shun me. Then I finally met a mind mage who figured out I was a melder.”

“You’re a melder? That’s incred—”

“So, I knew what was wrong with me, and I finally had people who helped me learn how to control my melder abilities. I eventually settled into a life here since I was stuck. I gave up on you and the others. What else could I do? It wasn’t until after the Book of War was found that I even realized what might’ve happened. Then you showed up.” She sighed, sitting again. “So now what?”

Ace sat as well. “Now we just have to wait a little bit longer, a couple of days at most. They have Henry, and he’s the one that quickened us.”

“Henry? How?”

Ace shook his head, not knowing how to explain. “The important thing is that once he gets his staff fixed, we can bring everyone together again.”

 “And then what? We go home?” Tabatha eyed him curiously.

 “I don’t know. I think it’s more complicated than that. This whole thing with the Book of War and the seal; I really think this is something that we need to do. We’re seal bearers.”

Tabatha scoffed. “Are you telling me you want to go up against the Book of War? Have you lost your mind? Why would you risk your life fighting monsters? You’ve already wasted forty years here.”

“Yeah but…” Ace tried to find words to explain everything he’d learned during his time in Mendala. “This thing’s just bigger than me, bigger than us. We started something when we went down to Henry’s basement, and I think we need to finish it.”

“Well, I don’t have that dumb tattoo.” Tabatha held up her hand. “And if there’s one thing I’ve learned after five years of being on this stupid planet, it’s that this world isn’t worth trying to save.”

Ace gave her a confused look. “Come on, you don’t mean that.”

 “Really?” Her voice was shrill. “Well think about this. We wouldn’t even be here if Fantasma and his lackeys hadn’t shown up to drag us into his stupid war. Who does that? We were kids!”

“Tabatha, I don’t think that’s why Fantasma came—”

“Right, he came for the Daughter of the Sun.” Tabatha rolled her eyes. “And I’m not her. I’m not anyone. I don’t even know why I’m here.” She stood and headed for the door again.

Ace stood as well. “Where are you going?”

“I need to figure some stuff out.” She left, closing the door before Ace had a chance to stop her.

 

***

 

Ace waited for several minutes in Tabatha’s suite to see if she would return. When she didn’t, he decided to leave and visit Mrs. Guardman. He had only made it down the corridor and around a corner when he saw Pathos walking toward him.

Ace hailed him. “Do you know where Mrs. Guardman’s room is? I’d like to go see her.”

“I actually don’t, but I’m sure Lily does.” Pathos said as he gestured for Ace to follow him. “She’s nowhere nearby that I can sense, so she must be at her desk.”

They went to the end of the corridor and opened a door that led to a circular quartz-lined chamber with sleek quartz polls that ran from ceiling to floor.

“The translifts here are really unique,” Ace observed. “I’ve never seen a multipoint system this complex before.”

Pathos was busy reading the words that were etched into each poll, trying to find a specific one. “Fantasmal Mountain is huge and filled with quartz. These things are a blessing since quickeners can’t really move about freely. Ah, here we go.” He pulled a small quartz rod from an inner robe pocket and struck one of the polls. Both he and Ace disappeared almost instantly.

Moments later they arrived in a near identical chamber connected to another area in the mountain, this one a brightly lit, open office space. Dozens of desks were scattered throughout the room, and many people bustled about.

“Are translifts common in your world?” Pathos said continuing the conversation as he pocketed his quartz rod.

Ace chuckled. “Not at all; the first one I ever used was right before we met Fantasma. I didn’t even know what it was, and it wasn’t working properly either. It was broken, so you couldn’t use it more than once an hour. I didn’t see a proper translift until I visited my first large city on Mendala, Weaver’s Road.”

“Ah yes, there intracity translift network is very impressive.” Pathos led him through the office to Lily’s desk only to find that both Karmandrian and Tabatha were there as well. “Karman, just the guardian I was looking for.”

Tabatha gave a confused look when she saw Ace approaching with Pathos. “How did you know I was here?”

“I didn’t,” Ace admitted. “I was looking for Mrs. Guardman.”

Lily passed Tabatha a small quartz card about the size of a credit card. “Here you go. This marker will serve as your guest pass, Now you can move freely between most of the residency, except the Fantasmal quarters; go to the public areas of the governance and libraries; and you can also visit the city.”

“Thanks.” Tabatha pocketed the purple marker. “Apparently I can’t just go wandering around this place without a pass,” she added as explanation to Ace. “They take their security seriously around here.”

“If you’re going to walk around anyway, maybe I can join you,” Ace offered.

Tabatha gave a noncommittal shrug. “I may just go back to my room.”

“Well, we should at least visit Mrs. Guardman together,” Ace said. “Where is she by the way?”

“She’s been given suite 301,” Lily revealed.

“I doubt she’s back yet though,” Karmandrian added. “She went with Alice to Gilmore.”

Tabatha’s mouth dropped. “What, why?”

“According to Elder Sorinson, they needed to go to some mines near the town.” Karmandrian shrugged. “I don’t know all the details, something about a rare type of quartz.”

Tabatha rounded on Lily angrily. “You didn’t tell me that.”

“I didn’t know,” Lily shrank at her glare. “But I’m sure everything’s fine. She’s with Elder Verning after all.”

“Wait, so Alice is Alice Verning?” Ace interrupted.

“Yes, do you know her?” Pathos asked.

Before Ace could answer, Tabatha interrupted. “Don’t you think it’s weird that they just sent Mrs. Guardman on some random trip deep in the mountains?”

“I don’t know,” Ace said, slightly distracted. “I’m sure it’s nothing bad. Besides, Mrs. Guardman knows what she’s doing.”

“You’re crazy.” Tabatha threw up her hands in disgust. “Can’t you see these people are using us.” She gestured emphatically at Pathos who looked taken aback. “This is exactly what I’ve been talking about. We’re just getting dragged into their war.”

“I think you’re overreacting,” Ace said which caused Tabatha to glare at him.

“Can you find out when they left?” Tabatha asked Lily, her voice more of a plea now.

As the flustered elf assistant tried to mentantly find someone who had the answers, Pathos pulled Karmandrian aside.

“I heard that because of what happened in Murrilogic, they sent a whole regiment to the Cascadian River area,” he said with a hint of excitement. “They’re fighting those Book of War creatures in Riverbed even as we speak. Want to head out? We were supposed to go there anyway.”

Karmandrian looked uncertain. “Shouldn’t we stay and keep an eye on them?” he said gesturing to Tabatha.

“Actually, I’d like to go with you guys,” Ace said, having overheard their conversation.

It was Pathos’s turn to look uncertain now. “I’m not sure how it would look bringing a civilian into combat.”

“I can help,” Ace insisted. “I have the mark of the seal.”

“I can’t believe you,” Tabatha snapped. “You’re letting yourself get dragged into this dumb war. It’s exactly what they want.”

“I’m not being dragged into anything; I can help, and I want to. You just don’t understand because you don’t have the mark.”

“Whatever,” Tabatha scoffed.

“They left around four hours ago,” Lily reported, “so they’re probably almost there by now.”

Tabatha seemed to deflate. “I guess there’s no point going after her then.”

Ace put a hand on her shoulder. “You should just wait until she comes back. I’m sure she’s fine. She’s with a guardian and that area’s safe. There’s been no monster attacks anywhere nearby; it’s all dead towns.”

 “Yeah, I guess.” Tabatha nodded her head slowly, her brow furrowed, evidently thinking hard.

“I’m sure it’s frustrating just sitting around waiting. How about I take you on a tour of the mountain?” Lily offered.

Tabatha considered for a moment but then finally nodded. “Okay, I’ll take you up on that, but it needs to be something fun. I bet this place has a ton of shady top secret government stuff that you guys keep hidden. I want to see some of that.”

Lily chuckled as she stood. “Well, we’ll see.”

“I’ll need better shoes if we’ll be doing a lot of walking. I saw some turgus shoes in my suite’s closet. I’ll be right back.” She turned and headed for the translift, purposefully ignoring Ace and the two guardians as she passed them.

“Maybe you should stay here with her. It doesn’t seem like she’s taking this well,” Pathos said, once again trying to dissuade Ace from going to Riverbed.

Ace shrugged as he watched her walk away. “Actually, I think she needs some space, especially from me. She’s been through a lot. I think when we’re all together again, it’ll be fine.” He turned back to the two guardians. “Anyway, I want to help. I don’t have much to do for the next day or so.”

Pathos relented. “I suppose. You did handle yourself in Murrilogic after all, but stick close to us.”

Karmandrian sighed. “I was really hoping for a bit of a break after this morning.”

Pathos clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Come now, you don’t want to let our friend show you up. If he’s ready for more action, certainly we guardians can keep up.”

Karmandrian rolled his eyes but smiled. “Fair enough, let’s go.”

 


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