"Okay, can we just pause for a moment?" Prism asked, reaching out to touch Ghayle's arm. "There's a lot for me to unpack here. I realize you're showing me all the potential Chosen currently active right now, but I need to take a breath."
"Of course, Prism," Ghayle said, withdrawing her hand. "Let's take a moment to talk."
Prism nodded appreciatively, then turned to the Elrok at his side. "First, Telzath, when Bradeth said you had bonded yourself to Grim, did she mean what I think she meant?"
Telzath squeezed Prism's hand. "Yes, it's a form of marriage bond. I fell in love with whom I assumed was your widower at the time. Had we known you were in fact sealed in one of the pillars of Pentalus, I assure you we would've freed you first to ask your blessing."
Prism considered the point for a moment. "All things considered, though the notion will take some getting used to, I understand the position everyone was in. I wasn't exactly . . . available. Plus, even if I had been, it is Fedain nature to fall in love, and to answer that love. If it weren't, I don't think Grim and I would've been together either."
"Does that mean you accept me as your brother-husband?" Telzath asked hopefully.
"From the little I know of you, you have already welcomed me as family, and shown great peace and tranquility," Prism answered solemnly. He broke into a sudden grin and added, "also, Grim's judgment of character has always been paramount."
"If it helps, it took me three years to win him over," Telzath said with a light chuckle. It was light for an Elrok, that is, as it rumbled like a gentle landslide. Prism could feel the shaking through their linked hands. "It's not that he didn't love me, is that he didn't want to act on it, because he felt it would interfere with his mission."
"Hunting the Vhor?"
Telzath nodded. "He killed the second to last one saving me twenty-three years ago. He had no idea where the last one was, and I convinced him to stay with me and help my clan."
"I see," Prism said thoughtfully. "But then after your death, he didn't stay?"
Telzath's stony brow furrowed. "No, and I do not know exactly why he left. I have watched those memories through Ghayle time and time again, to the point where I can relive them at my will, but still I do not understand. He had not yet discovered the last Vhor in the employ of Salidar. Yet he left anyway, without any explanation to the clan."
"If I had any guess at all, it would be that he simply didn't want to rule," Prism offered. "But I can't say I fully understand the problem. What is Bradeth searching for? Why does she need to find him?"
"Perhaps it would be better if she explained that," Ghayle offered. "Seeing it through her eyes might offer you a greater understanding."
"Very well," Prism said, "we may resume observing the others, though I do have my questions, and I would like a chance to ask them later. I want to know why Kira refuses to accept help, why Styx is locked in inaction, and why the son of Veil is snapping at everyone who cares about him."
"All this is unfolding now," Ghayle said softly, "all we can do is watch, and see what they do."
Bradeth waited atop a flat roof, a small church dedicated to the worship of Neredos. Gargoyles adorned the top level of the church, their stony visages providing the best camouflage for her grey and rough skin. Entering Pentalus unnoticed had proven even simpler than she'd expected. No wall surrounded the city, and she'd moved from shrub to shrub as she approached the outskirts.
From there, she'd kept to the rooftops, easily leaping across narrow streets, and crossing broader ones through the aid of her familiar. The huge cloud owl glided above her even now, completely unnoticed in a skyline normally host to giant eagles. Parril usually shied away from cities unless ordered to enter one by Bradeth, which happened rarely. If any eagles currently occupied the sky, Bradeth didn't know if she would've been able to convince Parril to enter the airspace at all.
Small birds feared larger birds, after all. It was the same reason why Bradeth couldn't walk the streets of Pentalus openly. There was no specific ban of Elroks in the city, but the citizens feared them, as they had always feared them. It was due to a lack of understanding, of course. Humans especially feared that which they did not comprehend, the vast and unknown, things which differed from them.
In their minds, an Elrok was no more similar to a human than any other animal was. Any Elrok would tend to agree, though for completely different reasons. Every Elrok was raised with an understanding that all life was equally connected, and that one could not hate a piece of the body without hating the whole. One could not love a piece of the body without loving the whole.
Elroks generally stayed out of Pentalus for another reason. During the reign of Telzath and Grimfaeth, Neredos and his Shining Knights of the Firmament had been declared as cancer to the body. A necessary cancer, but cancer nonetheless. But that did not mean tumors would be allowed to grow. Neredos held the demons at bay, but he also divided the people against each other. It was an Elrok's mission to avoid contracting the perversions of Neredos' kingdom and bringing them back to the clans. The clans could not be allowed to fester as humanity had.
Over the last seven years, however, a sickness had spread through Elrok society. Grimfaeth had abandoned a united people without word or warning. Elrok tradition demanded that as long as the ruler of the clan still lived, and had not abdicated, there could be no other ruler.
Bradeth understood all of these conditions, and, for the sake of her people she would do everything in her power to change them. If this meant climbing on rooftops in Pentalus to avoid detection, she would do it. If it meant investigating the demons and the Knights who fought them, she would be a shadow on the wall until she learned all she needed to know.
It hadn't taken her long to hear the townsfolk below her speak of the great battle that had erupted just a few days earlier. The huge, fiery demon had burned its memory into the minds of the citizens. The event remained fresh in their minds, and with little else to talk about, remained the most common and interesting topic of conversation. It would not remain this way forever, and already details had begun to fade, but some still spoke as if they were telling the story for the first time.
Nearly all of them spoke of the valiant fight between the Knights and the demon, extolling the virtues of their champions in the sky. Many others recalled the presence of Shades in the streets, trying to face the demon. Then, in whispers of disbelief, fewer still spoke of an unusual pair who seemed to face the demon alone for a time. A human monk, and the naked pale Fedain.
A Fedain who could command Elroks.
It was all the detail she needed. She had found Chief Grimfaeth, or at least where he had been four days ago. She had only to determine where he had gone, and she was certain she would find him after that. She had never been this close to him before, at least, not since he had abandoned his people. It was time to bring him home.
She started at the Pillar of Ibrix, but learned nothing from staring at the giant column of air. Whatever secrets it contained, she could not access. In frustration, she'd searched for some other avenue to explore. That was when a small contingent of Knights arrived and descended on a building nearby.
Through stealth and cunning, she made her way to the building and waited among the gargoyles across the street. Eventually the Knights left, an older gentleman bidding them farewell from his office at the top of the stairs. Bradeth waited longer, weighing her options.
She could go directly to the man's office, and question all he knew of the Pillar of Ibrix, and the role of those who fought the demon. He'd likely knew more than the average citizen, considering his dealings with the Knights. But that came with its own share of risks. She could be discovered during her interrogation, as she had no way to gauge how many people visited the man throughout the day. Someone could walk into the office at any time, and she might be forced to kill them to protect her secrecy. She had no taste for senseless killing and wanted to avoid it.
Instead, she believed the best choice was to wait until the man left, and to abduct him. If she spoke to him in private, she was certain she could intimidate him into silence once she was done and still learn all that she wanted. This would probably involve violence, but at least she wouldn't have to kill anyone.
And so she waited, and waited longer, hours passing until there was some change, but it was completely unexpected. A lone Knight staggered down the street toward the office of the older gentleman. She didn't recognize him from the group of Knights who had visited the man before, though she hadn't gotten a good look at all of them. Unlike the others, this Knight did not have an eagle, and appeared a little worse for wear.
The Knight disappeared into the old man's office but was only inside for a matter of minutes before both exited the building. The old man walked down the street, but the Knight move toward an alleyway instead. Bradeth amended her plan to follow the old man, her instincts drawing her toward the young Knight instead.
She extended her will to Parril, instructing the owl to deliver the roll of leather it carried in its talons to the roof above the Knight. She then pulled a nearly identical roll of leather from her pack and spread it across the rooftop next to her. She stared at the circle of symbols that were impressed and dyed into the leather. These primal runes shared much in common with the ones the Gor used in their magics, though these were far more ancient.
Calming her mind as quickly as possible, Bradeth waited for Parril to land and spread the leather across the roof. As soon as the leather was set, Bradeth brought all her will to bear. This was amongst the most difficult magics she knew of, and not only was it difficult to perform, but it could go drastically wrong if her concentration wavered at all. She connected herself fully to her familiar's senses, feeling the exact state of the air and terrain around the opposite piece of leather. But with the full strength of her will, Bradeth concentrated on being surrounded by that air and terrain, while simultaneously connecting herself to the circle of runes beneath her.
She sank into the leather, and reemerged on its companion piece across the road, Parril flapping its welcome to her. Bradeth wasted no time in picking up the piece of leather, rolling it up, and sliding it back to her pack before ordering Parril back across the street to retrieve the other piece. Only then did she glance down the side of the building toward the Knight below her. Her eyes focused with determination, Bradeth clung to the edge of the roof and hopped over the side, perching with her feet against the building for a moment. She paused for breath, and then leaned into the side of the building to slow her fall just slightly as she let go.
Landing directly behind the Knight, she immediately reached out to clap a hand over his mouth, while her other arm restrained his sword hand. She pulled him back into the shadows at the back of the alley. Only then did she speak in the common human tongue of the region, "I will only say this once, Knight of the Firmament. Do not speak, do not alert anyone to my presence, and I will not harm you. Nod if you understand."
The Knight nodded, and Bradeth released him. As he spun away from her, she took note of the slight points on his ears. This young man had Gor heritage, and the violet eyes confirmed it. "What is your name, Knight?" Bradeth asked.
"Kirra," the Knight replied, "what is yours, Elrok? And why did you attack me?"
Bradeth snorted. "My name is unimportant to the likes of you, and the attack was only temporary, and as promised, no harm has come to you. Now, you will tell me what you know."
"I will tell you nothing until you give me some information," Kirra replied defiantly. "I've already agreed to your conditions, and I will not alert anyone to your presence. You want information, you must give some in exchange. I do not make a habit of giving out information to people who assault me in alleys."
Bradeth gave him a hard look. But after a moment, she nodded. "My name is Bradeth, of the Lion Clan, and I'm seeking information regarding the recent demon attack."
Kirra raised an eyebrow at this. "And what makes you think I know something about that?"
"You are wearing the clothing of a Knight of the Firmament. I already know the demons fought with the Knights, and you are alone," Bradeth replied, "this last part has little to do with whether or not you know anything, but it did make you convenient."
"I suppose it does make sense," Kirra said, "but why do you want to know anything about it? The only Elroks I've ever seen were in league with Salidar thulu'Khant, and I see little reason to trust you."
Bradeth barked a laugh. "You know anything about my people?" Kirra shook his head and Bradeth continued, "you see this bow I carry? You see the tattoo engraved into my arm? These mark me as a Fletcher, the highest distinction an Elrok warrior can aspire to. We send our young to Salidar in order to gain experience; we do not sacrifice our best warriors to his service. I have never met the man, though I hear he died during the battle."
Kirra stared at her blankly. "The only way you would know that is if you have affiliation to The Shade. No one on the streets would've told you that, if they even knew. But, you're in luck, where I'm concerned, having ties to The Shade makes me more inclined to trust you."
It was Bradeth's turn to look surprised. "What a strange thing for a Knight of the Firmament to say. Well then, Kirra, would you give me the information I seek?"
"I'm willing to hear you out, but I can't guarantee anything. It depends on exactly what you ask," Kirra said with a shrug. "I was there, but I didn't see all of it."
"Do you know what happened at the Pillar of the Ibrix?"
Kirra shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't know much, though I did hear some of your people were involved. Is that why you wanted to ask? If so, I'm told there are still some survivors in The Shade who might be able to tell you more."
"I am not looking for them, and I already have an associate who was meeting with those survivors," Bradeth replied solemnly. "I'm looking for a man named Grimfaeth. A Fedain."
Kirra's eyes widened. "I've heard of him, but not quite by that name. To my friend, he is known as Grim, which I assume is a shortened version of his name. I say assume, since I doubt there are two Fedain around here with similar names."
"Around here?" Bradeth echoed, leaning forward eagerly, "you know where he is?"
Kirra raised his hands to stop her, taking a step back and eyeing her warily, mistaking her eagerness for threat. "Calm down, he's a friend of my friend, and I won't have you going after him if you intend to cause him harm."
Bradeth glared at him. "Why in all the nine sacred mountains would I ever bring harm to the Chief of Lions?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Kirra said, "I simply wish to know why you want to find him."
"That is none of your concern," Bradeth said, her eyes narrowing. "It is an internal Elrok matter, but I swear to you I mean no harm to him."
Kirra paused, considering her words before responding, "My commander fought alongside him. Or, at least that's what makes sense from what I know. I was told that she fought the demon with a Fedain, and you're looking for a Fedain associated with the same demon. If we find her, perhaps she can tell you what happened."
"Or perhaps we could go see your friend," Bradeth suggested, "unless your friend and your commander are one and the same."
Kirra shook his head. "My friend doesn't know where Grim is. Our mutual associate, Prism, told Styx— that would be my friend's name, by the way—that Grim needed to be freed from somewhere, but he didn't say where. That's all I know, but my commander may know more."
Bradeth growled and punched the wall in frustration. Her fist indented the clay bricks slightly. "Imprisoned?" She scoffed, growling heavily. "That means he's not even moving and still he escapes me. How can one man be so elusive that even the greatest hunters in the world can't catch him?"
Kirra raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
"Very well, Kirra," Bradeth said after a moment, "take me to your commander. If that means I have to go to the Everbright City, then so be it."
"She's not there," Kirra replied. "She's at Port Salmus. I'm trying to find transportation there myself, as my eagle was slain during the attack."
Bradeth caught hint of the emotion in Kirra's voice and regarded him curiously. "This eagle was your companion?"
"Yes," Kirra said darkly, "slain by the same demon my commander now hunts."
"Peace be to you, and may the stones know your sorrow," Bradeth said solemnly. "I can get you to Port Salmus as fast as any eagle could. If you help me find Grimfaeth, I will help you avenge your companion's death."
"You can get me there?" Kirra asked incredulously. "How?"
"The same way I sneaked up on you," Bradeth replied with a grin. "You'd think a Gor like you would understand the capabilities of magic."
Kirra didn't hesitate, feeling a sudden liking for the stone-faced woman. "If you get me to my commander, I will help you find Grim."
Kirra found Bradeth waiting for him at the edge of Pentalus. They'd agreed to rendezvous there, since Kirra didn't feel like taking to the rooftops, and Bradeth didn't want to walk the streets. He had spent a little extra time to leave a note for Mister Swallow, to inform the old clerk that he'd found another way to meet up with Alsha.
Bradeth walked out from behind a bush as soon as Kirra came into view, though Kirra heard her first. He doubted he'd have been able to, had she been trying to conceal her movements. This was another way that she earned his trust, though it was not the most important.
He rested his hand casually on the hilt of his sword as he said to Bradeth, "Are you still sure about this?"
Bradeth nodded, but it was not her response Kirra waited for. The sword spoke to his mind, a reassurance that he was on the right path. Yes, she is whom she says she is. The markings of an Elrok Fletcher are unmistakable to those who know them. We can trust her, I promise.
"Then lead the way, I guess," Kirra said, dropping his hand from the sword. The sword had told him to trust Bradeth in the alleyway as well, otherwise he would not have given up any information nearly as easily as he had. He trusted the sword's opinion in most cases, as she was ancient in her own right.
"First, we go into the hills," Bradeth said. "My owl, Parril will fly to Port Salmus."
"How does walking away from our destination and sending someone else get us there?" Kirra asked.
"I will explain," Bradeth said. She pointed in the distance to a small shape flying toward the horizon. "I've already sent Parril, and he'll arrive within the day, I bet. We'll arrive as soon as he does."
"That doesn't make any sense," Kirra protested.
Bradeth growled at him. "You have no patience. I see your human heritage outweighs your Gor heritage significantly."
Kirra bristled at the comment. "It does, actually," he replied icily, "and I'm proud of both. There's barely any traces of Gor left in me, just enough for a few traits to show through. You have to go back centuries to find a full-blooded Gor ancestor of mine, though my ancestors seemed to attract plenty of mixed bloods, and I'm proud of all of them. Are you going to sit there and insult my heritage, or are you going to tell me what I want to know?"
Bradeth harrumphed and started in the direction that she indicated, waving for him to follow. "I will explain as we go, at least as well as I can until we get there. "What do you know of Elrok magic?"
"Nothing," Kirra replied. "I didn't even know the Elroks used magic. I thought in this age only the Gor did. Well, the Gor and the Gor-trained, anyway."
"Typical Gor arrogance," Bradeth said with a snort. "I guess that must be one of those traits you held onto . . ." She added dryly, giving him a sidelong glance.
"Don't mistake ignorance for arrogance," Kirra said glaring at her sternly. "I was raised among humans. I was educated by them, and I only know as much as they told me and as much as I've experienced since. The Gor stay away from Pentalus and the Everbright City, as do the Elroks. I've had little opportunity to learn about either."
Bradeth sighed and nodded, "I suppose I wasn't being fair to you, and if we're to work together, I will have to respect your world and accept you for who you are."
"Apology accepted," Kirra said neutrally.
"The Elroks and the Gor learned magic from the same source, many thousands of years ago," Bradeth said, her tone becoming almost academic. "The Sendar taught both races how to see the energies behind the world, though both cultures took to it in a different way. Elrok magic is mostly about harmony, while Gor magic is about control and transference. I don't mean to sound judgmental, Gor magic works well enough, but I would rather harmonize with the forces of the universe than attempt to control them."
"While I love learning new things," Kirra said, "I'd rather know the specifics of what we're going to do, than worry about the full history of magic. I'd love to listen to it afterward, however."
"Human impatience, once again," Bradeth said, shaking her head ruefully. "What we're going to do is teleport to Port Salmus."
"Teleport!" Kirra said, laughing. The absurdity of the idea stopped him in his tracks. When Bradeth turned toward him, he was staring at her like she was mad. "Teleportation is a fire tale, something used to inspire imagination in gullible children, and nothing more. If people could teleport, it would change everything. Assassinations, adultery, burglary . . . People would use it all the time in nefarious ways."
"You speak as if it is easy," Bradeth growled. "I assure you, it isn't, but it is very much real. I am one of only four known to be capable of doing it, and three of us are Elroks. There is a single Gor hermit who is able to teleport within the bounds of the forest he guards over by using the root system, but that is not the method I use."
"So, you're telling me, on top of being one of your clan's greatest warriors, you are also a wizard?" Kirra shook his head. "No one is so accomplished as that."
"Do you not believe in the great accomplishments of your own King Neredos?" Bradeth asked. "Was he not a great Knight, an artist, an engineer, and the most powerful human wizard to ever live? I, for the record, never made a claim to be a wizard, only that I can teleport, and that teleportation is rare."
"So, you put yourself on the same level as Neredos?" Kirra scoffed, completely missing the latter part of her statement and staring at her in disgust. "That's quite a leap."
"No, I only wish to point out to you that great accomplishments are achievable," Bradeth said. She considered him for a moment, and then said thoughtfully, "You know what? Maybe it's better if I just do this alone. What was the name of your commander again?"
Kirra glowered at her. "Fine, I'm willing to entertain the possibility that teleportation can get us to Port Salmus. How does it work?"
"As I was saying before," Bradeth said after a moment, "Elrok magic is based on a theory of harmony. Which means, the more alike or connected things are, the easier it is to establish a flow of energy." She reached behind her and moved the flap of her pack to reveal the roll of leather. "This piece of leather came from a Hujam. Are you familiar with the animal?"
"No, it doesn't sound familiar it all."
"They are very large, similar to elephants, but hairy and they live on the high plateaus of the Braeg," Bradeth explained. "I hunted this one for twelve days, learning everything about her. I could've killed her on the second day, but I was hunting her for a specific purpose—to make this." She tapped of the piece of leather and then let the flap fall back into place. "There is an identical one carried by my owl, made from the exact same hide. To understand the leather, you must understand the beast it came from. For those twelve days of hunting, I observed her constantly, barely sleeping, barely eating. I learned her patterns, what she preferred to eat, what she looked for in a mate . . . I could tell you which way she would twitch based upon the way the wind blew around her . . ." She paused, her eyes lowered for just a moment. "When I killed her, it was the most painful thing I had ever done in my life, because she was a part of me."
"I'm sorry," Kirra said, and meant it. He could feel her sorrow, and it stirred feelings for Saiyo up within him. He had known his eagle to a similar extent.
"I accepted the responsibility of the kill, knowing it was the only way to achieve what I sought," Bradeth went on. "After I killed her, I skinned her, ate her flesh, and tanned her hide myself, getting to know her insides as well as I had known her outsides. This probably sounds gruesome or morbid to your human sensibilities, but you must understand, this is a rite of passage to become a Fletcher. To know a beast intimately, and to slay it. Though not all Fletchers then desecrate the memory of those beasts as I have."
Bradeth went silent, and Kirra thought she was waiting for him to speak, so he asked the most neutral thing he could think of, "What do you mean?"
"I mixed some of her blood with some of mine," she pointed to the tattoo of a lion on her shoulder. "It was first used to create my Fletcher mark, marking my distinction as a warrior of my tribe. But, I also asked the shamans to connect me to her hide as well. On both pieces of leather is a symbol which connects my essence to hers. I am as much in this piece of leather as I am myself."
"So how does that give you the ability to teleport?" Kirra asked. Bradeth gave him a dark look and he hastily apologized, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to sound insensitive, I'm just curious."
"It is a two-part process," Bradeth said. "First, I must believe with all my heart that one piece of leather is the same as the other. I stand in the center of the rune circle and focus, connecting fully to the piece beneath me. Then, I draw on the senses of my familiar, which connects me to the companion piece of leather. I and my familiar are one, the two pieces of leather are one, I and the leather are one. All of these things must be firmly true in my mind in order to transfer all of my energy across time and space to emerge out the other side."
Kirra nodded. From the descriptions of magic he had heard in the past, it seemed to follow the proper pattern. Even though he remained skeptical that it actually worked. Especially since one thing still did not make sense. "But how do you intend to take me along?"
Bradeth chuckled. "Oh, this won't be the first time I've taken someone along with me, don't worry. It's difficult, and it doesn't always work, but the concept is simple enough. All I have to do, is make you a part of me as well."
"How do we do that?" Kirra asked, raising an anxious eyebrow. "I don't have to firmly believe this, do I?"
Bradeth shook her head. "No, just be yourself, and we'll make it in one piece. You should be honored, Kirra, you're the first human or Gor I've ever taken with me."
"Why does that not put me at ease?" Kirra said, smiling, despite his comment.
"Well, you sound like you don't think I'm quite as crazy anymore, at least," Bradeth said, eyeing him curiously. "I think I'm starting to like you."
Kirra rolled his eyes. "Well, you better if you're supposed to make me part of you. Can't have you hating yourself on account of me."
They shared a low chuckle and then focused on their journey. Before long, they arrived at the boulders that marked the entrance into The Shade where Bradeth had parted ways with Gobrak. Kirra eyed the cave mouth and felt a slight longing for Styx, though he pushed it away and focused on the Elrok next to him.
Bradeth found an appropriately clear spot of ground nearby and removed her pack. Kirra expected her to take out a piece of leather, but instead she drew out a small shovel and handed it to him.
"What's this for?" He asked as he took it.
"I intend to bury the leather, and then stand over it," Bradeth explained, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Trust me, compared to teleportation, moving through a few inches of dirt magically is simple. I have done this before, and I need to prevent the leather from being tampered with while we're away."
"Aren't you worried it'll be damaged by the dirt and rocks?" Kirra asked.
Bradeth stared at him in disbelief. "As opposed to being worried it'll be damaged by the rain and wind by leaving it on the surface?" She replied. "No, I'm not worried. If you think I would go through all this trouble to make something that could be damaged so easily, you must be an idiot. It is magically preserved to prevent that sort of damage."
Grudgingly accepting that point, Kirra began to dig. Within the space of an hour, they had dug a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate the leather. They worked without speaking, and Kirra found it surprisingly pleasant work. Bradeth was a professional, and for all her rough edges, he found himself quickly growing fond of her.
They buried the leather in the loose dirt, and Bradeth set to marking it with a series of stones. They formed a symbol Kirra didn't recognize. "Why are you doing that?" He asked after a moment.
"It's so I can find it in the event that I don't simply teleport back to it," Bradeth explained. "Plus, this is the Elrok symbol for Hujam. If I need to tell someone else to find it, I can describe the location easily."
Nodding, Kirra moved to recline against a boulder while he waited for her to finish. Once done, Bradeth took the shovel and return it to her pack, then assumed a sitting position on another boulder. After a few minutes, Kirra couldn't take the silence anymore.
"What now?" He asked.
Bradeth gave him a barely patient look. "We wait. Parril has not yet arrived at the city. Do you really want to make more light conversation?"
Kirra shrugged. "I'm not opposed to it."
Bradeth pursed her lips thoughtfully, then shrugged as well. "Very well then, tell me, how did a Knight of the Firmament come to trust The Shade so much?"
With a wide grin, Kirra replied, "It all started with a boy named Styx . . ."
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