Friday, January 15, 2016

The King's Challenge #167 and #168

TKC 167 and 168

It degenerates into a confrontation of epic proportion.

The moment Damin reveals to us – Ilfin together in a cave where no one will overhear – that he knows how to tell the two bloodlines apart and that Manuel and Attis cannot be privy to our strategies, chaos ensues.

Kay draws his sword on Damin, I draw mine on him, Lyra screams for calm, and Siri shoves Mirlin out the way when he hurtles into the fray.

Soon every voice is raised, mine included, and thus no one hears another.

Weapons quiver in shaking hands.

By the stars, we are about to do what the Glonu want of us.

Swearing foully, I see the danger … and drop my weapon. Summoning the orb to me, I throw it up. It bounces upon the rough rock ceiling and shatters. Slivers of eerie green light suffuses everything.

Silence comes then. Motionlessness. The light dissipates.

Heaving, I manage to utter, “Cease. The enemy is out there, not inside with us.”

One by one weapons hit the stone floor. “Horin is right,” Lyra says in a voice hoarse from shouting. “It is hard to have a friend revealed as an enemy, but this is what Arc does. Let us listen to each other.”

Damin crouches, his head in his hands. He groans. “How did this happen to us?”

“The Ancients continue to play their games,” Mirlin growls. He sends me a speculative look. “I suspect you are one of those old ones.” When I do not reply, he throws his hands up. “Bloody knew it.”

“I will not accept this!” Kay roars. “Manuel is a good man, my brother, your brother, Mirlin. We have done everything together!”

Mirlin closes his eyes and slowly lowers to sit with his head cradled. On opposites sides of the cave, he and Damin mirror each other. Then, “Kay, that past is no longer with us.”

“How can you say that?” Kay shouts.

Damin lifts his head. “Because it is true.”

In that moment the westerner’s legs seem to lose all strength. He crumbles down to sit untidily, staring into space.

Lyra gazes around. “Someone needs to head Manuel off. He will be back soon. He will read what we know in our expressions.”

“I will do it,” Siri says quietly, and swiftly heads into the darkness.

“Attis, Damin?” Lyra asks then. “Are you sure?”

The fair man nods without speaking, an expression of sorrow upon his face.

Mirlin smacks at the ground. Everyone flinches. “Is there something we can do to change this fate?”

And thus we start talking as sane beings. No one sleeps this night, for the hours fill with suggestions, explanations, supposition and discussion. As dawn heralds its way into our thoughts, we have no new answers, but we have accepted.

Manuel does not return, but Siri enters with the sun’s first rays bearing an urn of fresh water. “Manuel told the children stories,” she tells us, “and fell asleep at their fire.”

Kay threads a hand through his hair and accepts the urn from her. “Thank you. You are a good friend.” Lifting the vessel, he drinks long before passing it to Damin.

“What do we do now?” Lyra asks.

I stand to stretch. “We separate Glonu and Ilfin.”

“How, without causing panic?” Lyra snaps out.

Mirlin clambers wearily to his feet. “Work detail. We give groups certain tasks and send them in directions to separate us from them.” Accepting the urn from Lyra, he drinks and then adds, “It will be difficult to organise, but it will mean less questions.”

“What about the kids?” Siri demands. “They don’t deserve any of this.”

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