Cari awoke at the table, Cliff’s whining rousing her from her sleep. ” Hey boy,” She said rubbing his head ” You were worried about momma weren’t you.” Cliff licked her face. She got up from the table, opening the door to her cottage.
"Momma didn’t get to the market yesterday. So you are going to have to hunt for breakfast today.”
With a grin, he darted out into the forest to search for his prey.
She smiled. She wished she could run too.
The glare from the black crystal ball beckoned her back to the table. She couldn’t afford to run now.
"Schelmeh." Cari said. She weaved through the timelines, stopping at today. "Crap," she thought looking at the position of the sun. I have to get to town.
She washed the funk of yesterday off of her wrinkled body, dressed and headed into the forest. Putting her fingers in her mouth she whistled, its high pitch wane bouncing off the trees. Cliff appeared behind her, the tail of a hare sticking out of his mouth.
"Finish it on the way Cliff, momma has to go to town." Cari rushed down the mountain, hoping she wasn't too late for the announcement of the rounds.
She has reached the outskirts of Zahuto. The town was rife with shoppers, looking to get the latest wares for the festival. Looking towards the square in the centre of town she saw a large crowd gathered. The council was in full view; the announcement was about to be made.
Cari sidled through the crowd, trying to get closer to the council. She had to find a way to talk to Armaro. He was the first key.
" Stop. " Marin said, extending his hand into her path.
" I need to speak to Councilman Sujima." Cari replied. her gaze pierced Marin's.
" Wait to the side. I will see that he comes to you after the pronouncement of the candidates for the tournament. "
Cari sighed. She nodded in consent, stepping back into the crowd.
" Ladies and Gentlemen of Sirius," The announcer called out. " Welcome to the presentation of this year's Liberation Day tournament. "
The crowd cheered, sections chanting the names of their clans. It was the only time where the clans got to express the frictions that still remained between them. The announcer raised his hand for the crowd to be quiet."
" We will start from the Sujima clan. They will be represented by Shinto and Hiko Sujima. The Degal Clan put forward their sole Michinza Marken Degal. The Matena Clan select, Michel Matena. The Soujourn clan select Emmanuel Sojourn. The Suzaku clan put forward Uraki Suzaku. The Renol Clan select Amaris Renol. And finally, the Baku Clan select Suni Baku. "
The crowd cheered again. Each of the children was the best that their clan could offer.
" And now, " The announcer said, " Presenting the matches for the tournament." He moved over to a board on his left, removing the sheet covering it. "Feel free to come up, see the bracket and pick who you think will win the Liberation Trophy. "
The crowd clamoured to the board to see the matchups. Cari stayed put, her eyes glued to Armaro. He remained seated, chatting with Sumai. She felt a tap on her shoulder.
" Come with me," Maril said.
She followed him to where the council was seated, bowing her head as she entered their presence.
"Clan Leader Armaro," Maril spoke. " This lady would like to speak to you."
"Yes ma'am" Armaro replied. " What can I help you with?"
" Would it be possible to speak to you privately?" Cari whispered.
"Sure." Armaro extended his hand towards the council building. "After you."
As they walked, she felt the presence of someone trying to enter her mind. Malere! she thought. Too many streams, too many lives. She had forgotten. There were traitors on the council.
Cari winced, the force of the mental attack growing. She cluttered her mind with everything from childhood memories to her adventures with Cliff. Anything to buy her some time.
They entered the foyer, Armaro taking his time so Cari could keep up. " This way." Armaro said opening a door next to the staircase. It was a small office. The desk was littered with paperwork.
Armaro waited for Cari to sit, shutting the door behind them. "So what do you want to talk to little old me about?" Armaro inquired.
Cari sighed. The presence faded. There must be some enchantment on this building to prevent evesdroppers, Cari thought.
" I really hope you believe me when I say this." She started, " Be on your guard. You and your family are in danger."
Armaro's face grew cold. " This isn't funny."
" I agree. It's not. And I'm not trying to be. In four days time, you will meet a man in the forest. A handsome man with a wide white smile. You will meet him, and he will kill you. " Cari's eyes glowed white.
" A seer." Armaro slumped into his seat.
" The fate of your sons will depend on your choice that day."
" They're... They're... there?"
" What do I have to do."
"When you meet this man. Tell them run. Run and never look back. It's the only way to save them."
Armaro remained silent.
"I'm sorry," Cari said. " But the vision came and I figured that you should know and prepare."
"Thank you," Armaro replied.
Cari rose to leave. She looked at him; sunken in, face aghast. I just robbed him of everything. "Save?" that will a tough one to justify in Shoela.
She knew he would not question it; true seers were revered in this land. Cari imagined how he would spend the next four days. She wished there was another way.
Cari squinted as she returned to the morning sun. The crowd still stood around the placard, cliques quibbling about their favourites and who was going to win.
She felt a tug on her robe, its force pulling her into one of the alleyways. The hand turned her around, thrusting her body against the cold wall with a thud. It pressed into her chest, trapping the air inside her lungs.
" And what exactly are you doing here?" Tharren said, his tone contrasting the fury of his aura. " What did you tell Armaro?" He pressed further into her sternum, Cari winced in agony.
" I told him what I was supposed to tell him." She whispered.
" Don't play games with me Cari."
" You are the one that needs to stop playing games. Whether you like it or not, you still need me."
Cari felt her ribs begin to give way under the weight of Tharren's fist.
"What did you tell him?"
" That he would die by your hands. That it was unavoidable and that he should prepare himself for the end."
Tharren glared, hoping to see some crack in Cari's demeanour. Something to tell him she was lying. He couldn't
"No more interfering." He said releasing his grasp on her.
"I'm doing what you asked. If you want me to stop. Just kill me." Cari replied, her body still clutching for air.
"Don't tempt me." Tharren jeered. "You still have to explain all of this nexus point crap to me."
"Keep me alive long enough and I will." That's a promise.