Saturday, January 16, 2016

The King's Challenge #169 and #170

TKC 169 and 170

Kay leaves before Manuel returns to the cave, afraid he will give it away. Damin absconds as well with Lyra and Siri, but theirs is a search for sunshine. Joseph and Hanna left with first light to join the Messengers and share news. I find myself hoping every Messenger is also an Ilfin, for their services and skills will be needed again beyond these mountains.

Thus it is only Mirlin and I at the breakfast fire when Manuel enters.

The man comes in boldly, all smiles, his curly hair in disarray. “Man, those kids demanded tale after tale! The plateau kids wanted stories of the ocean, while the western ones demanded secrets of the mountains … not that I know any of those!” He laughs. “I prevailed on them to tell tales to each other and ended up entranced myself.”

He squats at the fire and sends me a look, before shifting his gaze to Mirlin. Perhaps he senses something; he definitely marks our silence.

“What is wrong?” he demands.

“Exhausted,” Mirlin mutters. “Got no sleep.”

“We were attacked,” I say by way of explanation. “We think Arc is beginning to change people.”

Manuel shakes his head. “I have noticed underlying aggression as well. What happened?”

I offer a shrug. “We were forced to defend ourselves.”

“This was meant to be a place of safety, by the sands,” Manuel mutters. “What do we do to prevent it spreading, this aggression?”

Mirlin heaves a sigh. “I am thinking we put everyone to work.”

“Keep them busy? That’s not a bad idea.” The westerner nods as he thinks it through. “Wood gathering teams, water fetchers, foraging parties, hunters, and those who can make camp life more comfortable should be detailed to organise laundry, set up shelters and so forth. Yes, it can work for us in many ways.”

“Will you make a list?” Mirlin asks. “I need an hour or two in dreamland first.”

Manuel grins. “Leave it with me.” He rises and heads out. “I’ll grab a bite at another fire.”

In the silence after, Mirlin says, “The frantic activity will distract him.”

“I agree.” I watch Mirlin expectantly. He does not disappoint.

“I am concerned, Horin. The Warrior talent eventually kills the host. We need you alive.” His tone is soft, but it is also determined.

“I still have time enough, have no fear.”

“How long?”

I look away. His intensity is now unsettling. “It depend on how often I wield my sword.”

“Not the orb?”

Reluctantly I admit, “The orb too.”

“You have used it frequently. How long, Horin?”

“A year at most,” I respond. “Ever stronger and larger … until the day my time comes to an end. In the moment of my death I will diminish back to the boy.”

“The boy Horin dies, but it is not your end, am I right?”

“No.”

“You are, in fact, an immortal.”

I glare at him. “It helps me none. As a soul I am unable to do much, except await a new birth.”

Now Mirlin is the one staring. “I have read much. Some of it pretty damn old. If I read it right, there is a way to prevent the diminish cycle. The lady Lyra can do this, for she possesses all the talents, does she not? Including Warrior. If she …”

“I cannot place this burden on her,” I interrupt angrily. By the stars, will the man keep quiet? The moment Lyra accesses her dormant Warrior, she too will transform. My beautiful sister will become someone else.

Mirlin spreads his hands. “I am merely pointing out your options.”

“Why?” I growl.

“We need you, Lord Makar. We both know, with a host of Glonu now in creation here, the shudders will summon others from the stars.”



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