The Aterland Chronicles

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Chapter 48: Choices

“I’ll do a recognisance flight at dawn,” said Ash, as he gazed down on the city of Aureus from their makeshift campsite, high in the Northern hills of Aurum, “it’s the only way to locate a safe path into the citadel without getting caught. You can join me if you want Ro-eh-na, we can watch each other’s back, though thanks to the Fae, I doubt that even here, there are many Afreet left to worry about.”

“No, I will go alone,” said Rose, her eyes squinting as she studied the ensigns of the Djinn, flying high on the spires of the Aurum Pyrus. “I will not have any of you put in danger, there is no point to it. Your lives mean nothing to Lord Ka. He’ll not hesitate to use torture to get to me, and whether he is successful or not, I guarantee you wouldn’t survive the encounter. Let’s face it, it was always going to come down to Lord Ka and me. This confrontation is my destiny, and mine alone.”

“No Rose, you are wrong,” Auriel stuck out her chin like a petulant child, “Lee, Ash and I ascended with you. Prophecy or not, clearly, it is our destiny too.”

“And Ro-eh-na and I have chosen our fate,” there was a defiant edge to El-on-ah’s voice, “The decision is ours to take, and I don’t believe either of us could live with ourselves if we were to remain here and watch you go off to fight our battle alone. It is not only your war Rose, is ours too, every one of our lives and the future of all the people of the Afterlands depends on the outcome of this encounter.”

El-on-ah’s eyes burned with defiance as she dared Rose to respond.

“Isn’t there a way in from the coast?” Lee, as usual, was lost in his thoughts. Seemingly oblivious to the tense atmosphere, his words were directed at no-one in particular, “Dux evacuated everyone he could from the city by using the old tunnels, maybe we can get in the same way?”

“Good idea,” said Auriel, “only we don’t know where the tunnels are, and have no way of locating anyone who does.”

“It’s a brilliant idea!” Said Ash, slapping Lee on the shoulder and grinning as he caught Lee’s transient expression of pride. “Auriel, you must have something hidden away in that head of yours about the Aurum tunnels?”

“Nope,” Auriel shook her head, “I was just as surprised as everyone else when Lord Dux told us. They kept that secret pretty well.”

“Fine,” Ash grinned, “I’ll switch my recognisance to the Port area of Aurora, if you are happy to accompany me Ro-eh-na, we should be able to find the entrance to the tunnels and check them out a bit in the morning.”

“Okay by me,” said Ro-eh-na.

“What are the rest of us going to do while you two go galavanting off to Aurora?” El-on-ah said as she took off her cloak and laid it on the ground, balling up one end to form a pillow.

“The rest of us,” said Rose, “are going to plan.”

Ash was woken by the buzzing of a large monitus, swirling above his head in the dark. Who’s sending an apis message? There are no bees in Rhodium.

“Indica mihi,” Ash whispered the command for the bees to reveal their message.

The bees landed on the ground before him, their bodies moving quickly in the figure of eight patterns of the waggle dance. Ash read the message with ease.

Lord Ash, We are, all of us, in grave danger. I need you to meet with me urgently. Lord Ka intends to use the confractio. I may have a way to prevent this carnage, but to do this, I need your help. I believe you are our only hope. If you want to save Rose, then meet me in the Apis Courtyard at the Oratory at Dawn. It is imperative that you come alone and tell no one.

Lady Hazel, Glynisfarne High Councilor, Ascendant Memorix.

The swarm curled like a wisp of smoke, flying off in the direction of Aureus. Troubled, Ash turned his eyes on Rose’s sleeping figure. He would do anything to keep Rose from harm, but dare he trust a woman who had deserted them all, seemingly without a second thought. A woman who, in all likelihood, left with the very intention of striking a bargain with Lord Ka?

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