The Aterland Chronicles

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Chapter 43: Allies

“Err… Is that who I think it is?” Ash squinted into the distance at two black robed figures heading towards them.

The sun was high now, and it’s light dazzling, as it bounced off a blanket of snow covering everything from the city walls - now over a mile behind them - to the distant foothills of the Ice Mountains. The glimmering peaks framed the distant horizon like a thorny white crown.

“El-on-ah?” Rose cupped her hand above her brow as she strained to make out the identities of the approaching couple. “and I think that’s Che she’s with. Also, I… Yes, It’s definitely El-on-ah, I don’t know anyone else who would be wandering around Rhodium with a Pukis. What I don’t understand is why they are heading towards us?”

“Beats me,” Ash shrugged, “maybe Che finally managed to talk some sense into her.”

“Hazel does not appear to be with them,” Rose frowned.

“So? That’s got to be good news. I’d take El-on-ah over Hazel any day.”

“Ash!” Rose was used to Ash’s humour, but sometimes he went too far, “Have you forgotten? El-on-ah killed Arjan, and she would have killed us too if not for him. I doubt she can ever be trusted. I’m surprised that you’ve not seen enough to come to that conclusion yourself by now. Hazel may be rather selfish and more than a little bigoted, but she is at least on our side.”

“I never much liked or trusted Hazel, to be fair,” Ash grinned, “anyone whose appearance is constantly that perfect, has got to be hiding something, and be bloody good at hiding it too. Anyway, didn’t you once say that we should fight for everyone regardless of allegiance, ancestry, breeding or status? That we are all beautiful individuals linked to each other by history and by blood dah-dee-dah-dee-dah?”

Rose pursed her lips in an attempt to stifle a smile. He’d quoted a section of Rose’s speech to Elder and the Twocasts almost word for word. Rose turned to meet his gaze. I made that speech months ago. He must have loved me even then…

“I thought it was agreed that you should not set out alone?” It was Auriel. She had trudged up behind Rose and Ash unnoticed. Lee was with her. He stomped his feet, shivering dramatically and pulling his cloak about himself in an apparent effort to keep warm. A large white snow leopard crouched in the snow at his side.

We aren’t alone,” said Ash with a grin. He gestured towards the two approaching figures, “and look who we found all by ourselves.”

Ro-eh-na transfigured, returning to her Ascendant form and moving instantly in front of Rose, forming an attack stance. She extended her ringed right hand towards the two approaching Bloods.

“Whoah - let’s not react too hastily now,” Ash tutted, “Ro-eh-na you are unusually impetuous for a Blood.”

“Ash is right,” Rose said, her eyes following El-on-ah’s approach. “I would like to hear what she has to say. She has to be returning for a reason.”

“Of that I am certain,” Ro-eh-na refused to temper her stance, “However, I have not forgotten that El-on-ah’s reason for coming here initially was to dispose of you.”

“I do not forget,” said Rose, “but it is possible that El-on-ah hopes to provide us with a reason to forgive. Just look at them.”

The pair walked hand in hand through the snow. El-on-ah had removed her ring and was holding it aloft ahead of her, between the gloved finger and thumb of her right hand. Puk hovered nervously above them.

“Get that beast on the ground,” said Ro-eh-na, turning her aim on the pukis, ”before I return it to dust.”

“Down Puk,” El-on-ah spoke the command gently. The tiny dragon responded immediately, coming to rest at her feet and hopping comically from one frosty toe to the other.

Ro-eh-na arched her wrist back aiming her ring towards El-on-ah and Che

“Ro-eh-na, please,” Che lifted his arms, open palms held out above his head. “El-on-ah has returned to join us. She will not harm Rose, she has given me her word.”

“Her word is like ice in the desert,” Ro-eh-na sneered, “the hotter it gets, the quicker it melts away.”

“I don’t blame any of you for thinking that way,” El-on-ah tossed her ring to Ash who caught it easily in one hand. “I would also be suspicious if I were you, but if you let your suspicions deter you from forming an important alliance, then you will be making a grave mistake. I have information that can be of great use to you, though if I am honest, I doubt it will be enough…”

“What have you done with Lady Hazel?” Auriel glared at El-on-ah. “I think we should at least know that before we consider forming an alliance with someone who is both a liar and a killer.”

“I have done no harm to Lady Hazel,” said El-on-ah, “By now she’s winging her way to Aurum with Lord Baroque and, I assure you, she went of her own volition. It appears she fancies herself as a bit of a peacemaker - Lady Hazel, saviour of the Afterlands.”

“Well, what a surprise…” Ash raised his brows with a look which, incongruously, underlined his complete lack of surprise.

“Everything El-on-ah has just told you is true,” said Che, “Lady Hazel asked me to take her to meet with El-on-ah, and she asked Baroque to take her to Lord Ka. We were in no position to stop them.”

“That statement is illogical,” said Lee. “Evidently El-on-ah maintained possession of her potens ring. If you truthfully wish to join us, surely capturing two traitors could only aid in convincing us of your loyalty. So, why did you not hold them?”

“It is true, I did not attempt to stop them.” El-on-ah, shuffled uncomfortably, “I could have, but if I had, then I would have been unable to protect Che. Either Baroque or Hazel would almost certainly have had the opportunity to kill him… and it was a risk I refused to take.”

“A Blood Ascendant risking everything to save the life of a Native servant?” Ash shook his head, “stick a pin in me, someone, I must still be in bed.”

“Do you really think this is the appropriate time to test out your Mud humour?” El-on-ah shrugged. “I have no objection if you wish to stand there and make silly jokes, but I suggest a wiser option would be for us to return to Isingwilde. Once there, we can discuss how I can help you stop Lord Ka from turning our world into a fractured wasteland inhabited only by Djinn.”

“She does have a point,” said Lee.

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