Thais

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24

Thais and Kaio trudged, crawled, waded, climbed, stumbled, edged and shuffled their way through the tunnels for the better part of the day. Their method for choosing routes soon fell apart when they wasted an hour travelling through a series of claustrophobic tunnels only to find themselves back where they started. Thais tried to use the ether to guide them out while Kaio looked for signs and patterns in the rock formations. Neither child was terribly accurate in their chosen method, but they were moving forward, rarely needing to backtrack at a dead end. At last the sound of rushing water returned to the children and Thais led the way at a run to find a crumbling rock fall leading to a small wooden jetty with a boat moored at its side.

“Look!” the girl cried out to Kaio, who had hurried in her wake. The sight of the small boat made the boy’s stomach tighten, but why this should be so he could not explain. There lay a tunnel to their right, which he considered a better option by far.

“I say we stay clear of the water Thais, look at how fast the water’s flowing and it’s going the wrong way too,” Kaio told his friend, trying to stave her excitement at seeing the vessel. The girl spun around with a smile and a frown all at once.

“Are you joking?” she demanded with a laugh. “Kaio, that’s an elven boat, see the shape of the prow. This must be the way.”

“They probably don’t take this route in high winter Thais. Look at the water lying in the bottom of it, the currents are too strong.”

Thais’ face pulled together petulantly, her expression stubborn and defiant to match her strong voice, “This is the way Kaio. I can feel it.” Slender fingers pushed themselves into the girl’s sternum while she spoke to emphasise her words. Kaio looked from Thais’ desperate dark eyes to the tunnel he wished to lead her down.

“I have a bad feeling,” he finally whispered, softening his friend’s determination only slightly and certainly not enough to change her mind.

“So do I,” she replied happily. “I’ve had a bad feeling from the moment I left the palace. There’s nothing safe about this adventure of ours Kaio, only the hope that we might escape each danger by the skin of our teeth and not fall at the next.”

“You’re right, but we can still choose a lesser danger Thais. Please?”

The two children stared at one another, the air between them heavy with emotion and wills banging heads. Never had those who encountered Thais and Kaio met with stubborner children. Those who knew them both wondered at how these two had remained friends; these people knew not of the fondness that battled the arrogance. It was fondness for his friend that saw Kaio nod and start toward the boat.

“I give in,” he spoke in a stony voice while Thais followed him, a smirk of a smile wriggling onto her face, pulling her lower lip away from her upper teeth, which she had been biting in worry.

“You won’t regret it friend,” she sang in his wake.

The boat was wet, but built using solid heavy construction. Thais had been correct in her estimation that the elves still tended their shrine, for this boat couldn’t have been much older than the children. Even the immortals weren’t able to forge a boat to last the centuries. Within the curved elegant vessel lay long oars, which the children fixed in position and then started to row into the darkness. Thais was down to her last torch. It would soon go out leaving the children in darkness. So to help their eyes adjust the girl doused the flame and placed the torch in the bottom of the boat.

“The starlight will guide us,” the girl told a questioning Kaio, who hadn’t seen the array of lights dotted about the roof of the caves.

“How can we be sure they’ll be there the whole way?”

“We can’t, but the maggots are found by the water. So I’ll bet they last the length of the river.”

The silence swathed round the children. Even the smooth oars made little sound as they swam through the water. The cave roof rose and fell, bringing the light from the creatures closer and further away. Kaio made sure to duck when he was the least bit suspicious of finding his face embroiled in a battle with the maggot feeding strings. The river was fast, but made no sound as it ran its course. The children had to row firmly to fight their way against the current.

Always they were bathed in starlight.

“They are beautiful,” Kaio whispered in the gloom when the silence started to threaten him. “The lights I mean.”

“Aye, they are,” his companion agreed softly. She was right behind him in the narrow boat.

“More beautiful than the stars.”

“Don’t let Castor hear you say such a thing,” the girl chuckled. Kaio’s laughter met hers.

“King of the Night? I fear no Gods Thais.”

“You shouldn’t joke about the Gods. Bad luck comes to those who take their pleasure at Aius’ expense.”

“Don’t tell me you believe everything they lecture us with at Temple?”

“No,” Thais quickly countered firmly. “Not everything, but only a fool laughs at the Gods Kaio. You should make amends.”

“Now you’re the one who’s joking,” the boy countered fondly.

“I’m not joking Kaio, but if you don’t make amends then I’ll have to.”

“You’re mad!”

“Kaio please! This is hardly the time to be invoking the wrath of the Gods. We need them on side.”

“You royal types,” the boy groaned half seriously. “More pious than most!”

Kaio earned himself a splash from Thais’ oar for his attack on her character.

“Fine,” he laughed. “I’ll make amends.” Silence while in the distance the sound of mall stones tumbling into the river could be heard. Thais looked nervously ahead to see the source of the pebbles, but saw only the gloom perforated by the blue glow of the maggots. “Oh Aius, mighty King of the Gods, please forgive me for laughing at your expense. T’was not my intention to make a fool of you or your esteemed colleague Castor, God of the Skies…”

“Kaio take it seriously,” Thais complained with a small smile pulling at her face. If only she had her friend’s courage.

“Please forgive me…”

Ahead something large splashed into the river stealing Kaio’s smug voice from his throat and leaving both children staring ahead with wide eyes, seeing nothing but more river and lights.

“What was that?” Kaio whispered.

“I don’t know,” came the whispered reply.

The children started to glide back the way they had come, away from the source of the loud splash. When little else moved Thais’ mind started to ease. Surely rocks became dislodged in these caves all the time? It was unnecessary to work themselves up about something so easily explained.

“Keep going,” Thais urged, though Kaio still stared ahead in worry. The boy closed his eyes and uttered a small prayer under his breath, offering a more esteemed apology for his foolery. Thais smiled to herself; so even Kaio feared the Gods.

No more did the children speak, both alert for more rock falls. Kaio watched the pinpricks of glow in the cave roof; so beautiful. In the high ceiling the boy liked to imagine he could see patterns and constellations. See there, a warrior tall and strong fighting a southern barbarian and there a beautiful maiden stood upon a chariot pulled by horses.

While Kaio idled away in the darkness Thais remained alert. The silence closed in around her, pushing fear into the deep corners of her mind. Perhaps she ought to have listened to her friend. Her stomach churned in fear now too. How she wished she could have let Kaio win and lead her through the passageway.

Thais and Kaio fell to the side as the boat thudded against something. The children stared to one another with wide eyes.

“What was that?” Thais now demanded barely louder than a gust of wind. It was Kaio’s turn to shake his head.

“I don’t know.”

The children sat absolutely still, their eyes on the base of the boat as though it could suddenly reveal the source of its juddering. Unsurprisingly, it offered them little comfort. The silence bathed the children in darkness. There were no answers to be found.

“We must have hit a submerged rock,” Kaio finally offered more confidently than he felt. Thais nodded in the gloom, his sensible words easing her wild fear. Of course they hit a rock, they were travelling through a cave. Why oughtn’t there we submerged rocks?

“Yes,” she crowed, relief flooding through her. The girl picked up her oar and started rowing once more. Kaio quickly followed.

“You shouldn’t scare so easily Thais,” the boy scoffed, his heart beat pounding in his neck.

“Me? And what about you Kaio? You were just as scared as I was,” Thais complained proudly. “I wasn’t the one too scared to take the boat.”

“Well I wasn’t the one scared of a little submerged rock.”

“You were as scared as I…”

Thais stopped speaking, her wide eyes looking to her oar, far out in the gloomy water. She couldn’t see the end of it, but she could certainly feel it. It had been gliding smoothly through the water, but at that moment she had struck something soft.

“What’s the matter?” Kaio asked evenly, seeing fear anew in his friend’s face. Thais lifted her dark eyes from the water to Kaio’s worried face.

“There are fish in these waters aren’t there?” she asked breathily. Kaio shrugged his shoulders.

“There were fish further downstream, but I haven’t seen any up here.” Seeing Thais’ face falling Kaio quickly added, “I’m sure there are fish here as well. Why?”

Thais shook her head, forcing her fear away.

“These caves are bad for my imagination,” she grumbled instead, shaking her head as though to remove her wild imaginings out through her ears.

“Your imagination doesn’t need any help,” Kaio chuckled softly. He too was shaken. “Do you remember when we camped in the west tower of the palace? You tried so hard to convince us it was haunted. In the end, it was you who ran from the tower crying for your papa because you’d scared yourself and not us.” Thais glowered at the back of Kaio’s head.

“That’s not how I remember it Kaio. If I remember rightly you and Rachel abandoned me after I had fallen asleep leaving me alone in the tower. Is it any wonder I got scared?”

“Such lies!” Kaio crowed. “You…”

Kaio shut his eyes tightly, counted three seconds and then opened them again. Had he imagined the glowing pinpricks of light in the water?

“Yes?” Thais asked happily. “I what?”

“Thais do the maggots live in the water?”

“Pardon?”

“Well, you know, do they ever go for a swim?” Thais shook her head in the gloom.

“I doubt it. Why?”

“Oh…I thought I saw lights in the…no!” Kaio pointed at the water where the glowing lights emerged once more. “There! Look!” Thais leaned round her friend to see where he was pointing, but saw only the darkness of the water.

“Where?”

“They were there I assure you,” Kaio stated firmly, before he scratched the side of his head. “At least, I think…”

“Very funny Kaio,” Thais grumbled through a shaky voice.

“I wasn’t joking!”

“Well then you’re imagining things. How can they swim? They’re stuck to the roof? Keep your eyes forward, the current is quickening. We will need to be alert for falls. Kaio? Are you listening?”

But Kaio wasn’t listening. He kept his eyes on the ceiling growing rigid with fear. Every now and then the lights in the water rose up to meet his gaze before sinking beneath once more. They were getting closer.

In the distance sounds of fast moving water warned the children that the river was growing more treacherous. They would need to battle harder against the oncoming current. Thais listened keenly for signs of a waterfall. Should they be travelling the river they had already encountered then a very big waterfall lay in wait ready to crush them.

This couldn’t be that river, the girl told herself calmly. It’s too deep.

The boat thudded once more knocking the children onto their side. A long and tortured scream echoed off the walls. Kaio scrunched his face up in annoyance with Thais.

“Thais! Don’t scream like that!” the boy grumbled, turning round to see Thais’ eyes wide in fear. She was unmoving, rigid, terrified, her eyes wide in fear, but her mouth clamped shut. Kaio felt his hope fail when he realised his friend hadn’t made a sound.

The air grew loud with the children’s panting breaths. Kaio and Thais stared one another down.

“We are not alone,” the princess finally whispered.

The boat thudded once more and despite themselves both children whimpered in fear. A scream so tortured it sounded as though it had escaped the deepest darkest dungeons of Faro filled the underground chamber, making the very walls shudder in complaint. Kaio threw his hands over his ears, blocking out the wailing scream. He couldn’t see except for the faint glow in the ceiling and the outline of the prow of the boat. The boy turned around to see how Thais fared. He convulsed in fear.

“Thais,” a strangled cry escaped his throat. The girl’s wide worried eyes followed Kaio’s gaze. He was looking at something behind her. The girl moved toward her friend, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end with whatever danger lay there. Kaio reached forward and dragged Thais to his front. Both children stared at the long winding tail moving through the water. Pinpricks of light studded the dark moving object. No words of reassurance could be offered for this.

“Be very still…” Kaio whispered. The scream once more, from the prow this time. Thais and Kaio spun around to see a spiky back rising and falling in the water. Their breath escape them in quick pants. How they wished they too could fall from their bodies and escape into the air.

Ssssssssssssss.

Tears fell from Thais’ eyes. Something had joined them on the boat behind her. Rigidly the children turned their heads.

A long toothy snout came into sight, bearing foul nostrils leaking a pale glowing liquid. The mouth was enormous, surely this creature could swallow a person whole? The beast was longer than an adult man, with a long body and short agile legs. Its face was cruel and similar to the dragons Thais had seen depicted in the paintings of the gallery at the palace, but that was where the similarities ended. This foul beast, studded with pinpricks of glowing light, was a far cry from the noble dragons of the mountains.

Once more the creature screamed in the children’s faces, earning itself two screams in return from the terrified youngsters. The beast darted across the prow with terrifying speed. Without thinking both children pulled blades from their sheaths. Thais pushed her back against Kaio’s when the creature darted to the back of the boat quicker than her eyes were able to follow.

“Go away foul beast!” the girl cried, waving one of her swords at the creature with her uninjured arm. The lizard lunged forward, forcing Thais to wave her weapon before herself clumsily. Its movements were too fast for her to defend with any form of grace. The lizard barely escape her clumsy defence, which enraged it more. Furious, it leapt toward the prow of the boat once more. Kaio was prepared for its attack and he planted a blow on the lizard’s back as it passed him.

All of a sudden the creature shrieked and slunk over the edge of the boat into the gloomy water. Thais and Kaio were panting, their hearts racing in their chests.

“It’s too fast,” the boy managed through a tight chest. “I can’t take aim.”

“Nor I!”

“Thais, look, a ledge!” Kaio suddenly exclaimed, pointing to a dark lump of rock near the boat. “And up there, a passage. You have to get to it before the lizard returns. I’ll stay and fight it”

“On your own?” the princess demanded shakily. “You’re mad!”

“Your arm girl. How can you fight with one arm lame? I can barely fight with two,” Kaio countered frantically.

“I’m not leaving you.”

The boat tipped precariously eliciting cries from both children, who grappled with the sides to prevent themselves from falling into the icy cold river. Thuds from beneath the boat revealed the lizard’s efforts to overturn the children’s vessel. An image of the creature’s foul yellow sharp teeth flashed before Thais’ eyes, her heart was thudding powerfully in her chest. She met Kaio’s determined eyes, he was nodding toward the ledge.

“Please,” the girl pleaded, a tear falling from her scared eyes. Her stomach turned and suddenly icy water surrounded the princess. The mighty lizard had succeeded in upending its prey.

“Thais! The ledge! Swim to the ledge!” Kaio’s cries sounded in the distance, he had fallen into a faster current, which had already taken him out of Thais’ view.

“Kaio!” the girl cried, finding herself pushed up on to a submerged rock. Quickly she obeyed her friend and dragged herself up onto the ledge fate had deposited her beside. From her vantage point the girl caught sight of the boy in the distance. He was struggling with a thrashing tail, the flash of his blades, the monster’s shrieks, silence.

“No!” Thais wailed into the lonely darkness. Kaio was nowhere to be seen. “Kaio! Kaio!”

Only the soft sound of the rushing river and her thunderous heart surrounded Thais in her misery. The girl was alone with the terror that the lizard had eaten her friend and for what? This was her fault! Tears coursed down the girl’s cheeks while she hung her head limply. Drops of water rolled down her arms and neck, mixing with blood pouring from a multitude of scratches and cuts from the sharp rocks.

Sssssss.

Thais lifted her head, eyes wide, her breath caught in her mouth.

Ssssssssssss.

Slowly she turned around and her eyes found red ones only inches from her own. Her blood was not the only blood turning the pale rocks red, the lizard too was injured from a deep cut in its flank. Kaio had done it severe damage before the river dragged him under. As though someone else controlled her actions Thais skittered back from the lizard before her mind commanded her to. The creature followed furiously. It would not be denied again. Thais' fingers curled over the edge of the rock she had fallen upon. If she fell into the water she would lose this fight outright.

“You dare eat the princess of these lands?” the girl cried into the red fury of the lizard’s eyes. It lunged towards her finding a blade between it and its prey. Thais held her sword between herself and the lizard, forcing it back. Shrieks echoed about the cavern to be met with cries of anger from the little human trapped on the ledge. The lizard tumbled around to Thais’ other side. Agony coursed through her, but uneasily the child lifted her other blade. She could barely grip the hilt, but this fell beast need not know. Painfully the girl lunged forward scaring the lizard back towards the water.

“Be gone!” A battle cry, fiercer than any sound that had ever escaped the princess’ lips sent the lizard skittering back into the water. A second passed, and then ten, and then several minutes with only the soft sounds of the water meeting Thais’ ears.

Up above the entrance to a passageway loomed. Keeping her eyes always on the river Thais climbed quickly and did not stop when she reached the dark narrow tunnel, lit only by the glow of a few maggots. Painfully she dragged herself through the narrow openings in the dark, growing more and more frantic as she went.

“Kaio,” she mewled through her tears, banging her forehead painfully on the low cave roof. On she scrambled, stopping every now and then to listen for the lizard’s pursuit that did not come. The tunnel was growing painfully tight forcing Thais to lie on the sharp jagged stones and drag herself along in the dark. All the while she wailed for her friends. She had done this to them. And in aid of what? Her stubborn desire to be acknowledged by a coward she cared little for? Why did his opinion matter so much?

“Kaio,” she cried once more, her arms failing her. Thais’ face rested on the wet rocks, her eyes half closed, trickling with unstoppable tears. “I’m sorry. I am so so sorry.”

Avery and Thalius both had hangovers more pernicious than any they could remember having dealt with in a long time. Shield ale was not only highly intoxicating, but it would seem to leave the drinker with an ache deep in their soul that no amount of water or greasy food could remove from within. They had ridden all day from Messiat, traversing dangerous territory where one wrong move and your horse threw you from its back in disdain. Gallus and Selmain showed no signs of feeling the sting of last night’s frivolity, and they had led the way at an unkind pace for their suffering friends. They had allowed but a few moments for lunch and now the sun was lowering in the sky dinner seemed a far off promise. All in all, the two sickly men were very pleased when Gallus suddenly came to a halt.

“Finally,” Thalius grumbled, nearly falling from his horse to the road. He didn’t look upon the stony expression on his sovereign’s face while he pulled his empty flash from his saddle to go in search of the stream he could hear.

“Out of the way. I think I am going to be sick,” came Avery’s agonised cry and within moments he had sprinted past Thalius into the undergrowth. Thalius watched his chum run toward the stream he had spied to fill his flask.

“No Avery! Not in the stream!“ the warrior called out, breaking into a run to wrestle a green-looking Avery away from the water leaving only Selmain staring in concern at the king. Gallus’ face was unmoving, though beneath the cold exterior a strong heart beat thunderously and emotions waged war on one another. The mage could feel his own skin crawling with the disturbance Gallus was causing in the field of ether on the mountain road and quickly he road to stand beside the king.

“What is the matter friend?” the tall man asked urgently. Gallus turned wide eyes on his friend.

“Thais,” he spoke darkly. “Something has happened to Thais. She is in pain.”

Selmain expressed little of the shock he felt.

“The ether? You feel her through the ether?”

“Yes, sometimes, though there is normally not such a distance between us. Something terrible must have happened to her. Selmain what can I do? I am helpless to protect her. What if she is in danger?”

Selmain nodded and reached out to grasp the top of Gallus’ arm.

“We will send out our minds and find her together in the ether. Together we cannot fail. Perhaps assurance is all the princess needs.”

Gallus knew the mage was right and so he nodded. Selmain was already dismounting his steed and walking over to a patch of dead grass along the side of the path. The king followed him and after glancing to one another the two men lay down head to head. Selmain shifted so that his ear moved to a position beside Gallus’ and then he closed his eyes. At his side the king did the same.

Sending out their minds into the ether was a difficult process for a sensitive to undertake. Selmain was able to do so in the blink of an eye, but Gallus needed time to concentrate. He needed to clear his mind of all the troubles that shackled him to the world and this took time. The heaviness of his fears and memories anchored the king’s mind, holding him back from the ether. Eventually Gallus felt his consciousness loosening its grip on his mortal body and drifting into the field of the ether. Selmain was ready at his side to help ease the troubled mind from its body into the weightless ether plains.

For a moment Gallus’ mind drifted pleasantly in the currents swirling about his and Selmain’s now immobile bodies. His mind, now freed, forgot what his heart desired and instead followed an eddy of ether away from his friend. Selmain, more powerful in maintaining his focus in the ether plains rose up to centre Gallus on their reason for leaving their bodies below. The echo of his daughter’s pain was a cold awakening for Gallus and the intensity of it nearly sent his mind sinking back to his body.

Selmain once more shepherded Gallus’ mind away from the ground toward a strong current in the ether that drifted away from Gallus’ body over the mountains. The powerful mage could sense the connection between his friend and his child and it overwhelmed him for a moment. How could this be? How did the ether rise to serve the king, where he, Selmain, had always struggled to tame it. It was as though Aius’ will had been created for Gallus. Such thoughts troubled Selmain’s focus and he quickly let them fly away with a breeze. Thais was in danger, he needed to concentrate.

The king was surprised that his daughter’s pull was stronger than he had ever experienced it and easily he allowed his mind to flow toward her. Great distances, tall mountains, wide lakes and deep caves were spanned within seconds and quite suddenly the king knew he had found his daughter.

He felt her at first, a strong presence floundering alone in the dark. The feeling of her was too difficult to describe in words. It was as though a part of him he had not known he had left behind suddenly returned to him. She felt like childhood memories, spring mornings and the love in his wife’s eyes when she had first agreed to wed him. Wrapped up within his experiences of his child was the strongest brightest love Gallus had ever felt. In his daughter, his wife lived on.

Slowly, in his mind’s eye, Gallus began to see the orange glow of the ether grow around the girl’s face and hands, always the first places ether settled in the young. Delicate features were coming into focus and the sight of the girl’s half-open eyes leaking heartbroken lonely tears were enough to unsettle Gallus so much that had he not travelled with Selmain he would have lost his concentration. The sight of his young daughter so distraught brought Gallus the Great to his knees.

While Gallus floundered, Selmain brought the girl’s surroundings into clarity. Gallus could see the tight craggy tunnel where Selmain could sense it. It closed tightly around the small girl, flattening her though she lay on her front, her cheek resting on the ground. Both cast their minds out around the girl, searching behind to find she had come from a river, casting ahead to see a large cavern with an opening to a misty gorge. It lay only a few dozen metres from Thais’ crumpled defeated form.

*Thais,* Gallus attempted to say, his words reverberating about his own consciousness. *Girl ahead of you lies the way out. Lift your eyes. Thais lift your eyes.*

While Gallus tried to force himself to be heard Selmain attempted to bring more ether into the tunnel for the girl to sense. Gallus could not be heard if the juvenile sensitive had not enough ether to sense him. Gallus watched the tunnel fill with an orange glow, bringing Thais’ distraught face into clearer view. Slowly, their efforts seemed to have an affect on the princess, whose tears staved in the darkness. Warmth spread through the girl and she raised her head slightly, looking around into the gloom. Her skin tickled with the ether swirling about her.

*Yes Thais, there lies the way out. Move girl.*

“Papa?” a croaked whisper escaped the girl’s lips, while balled up fingers wiped at tearful eyes. “Is that you?”

Affirmation surrounded the girl in the warm flow of the ether over her skin. Thais was not alone. In this, her lowest moment her father had found her and showed her the way. Ahead of her the fresh air of the cave opening cooled her hot face and the knowledge that the way out lay ahead filled the broken girl with strength. Slowly Thais began to pull herself forward through the tight crack of a tunnel. Gallus and Selmain’s minds accompanied her, filling the passageway with encouraging kind thoughts. The youngster used what limited capabilities she possessed over the ether to sense the jagged rocks that could do her harm, made easier by the fact that the passageway was alive with the hum of the ether. Selmain had done well.

Confidence replaced heartbreak when Thais spotted daylight ahead and her passageway started widening. Gallus’ connection with his daughter started failing the moment her emotions started waning and by the time the girl had staggered from the passageway into the misty cave opening he could barely make out her features in the haze of the ether. The last time he saw her face the girl was looking over her shoulder, her expression tumultuous. What had happened to his little girl in those dangerous caverns?

Quite suddenly, she was gone, leaving Gallus and Selmain to drift back to their bodies. Simultaneously they opened their eyes to find Thalius and Avery stood looking down at them with raised eyebrows. Thalius was drinking greedily from his flask while Avery clutched at his weak stomach.

“Have a nice trip did we?” Thalius asked cheerily, dropping his flask to his side. “You know, there are easier ways for the pair of you to be alone if that is what you desire.”

“Be quiet fool,” Avery warned. He had spied the serious expression on Gallus’ face and without needing to be asked started walking away. “Come, my left stirrup is playing up. Help me mend it will you?”

Thalius and Avery slinked away leaving Gallus and Selmain to sit up and look upon one another with amazed expressions. Both knew where the princess was and both were astounded she had managed to travel so far north through so many dangers and obstacles.

“I could translocate to intercept her,“ Selmain urged quickly.

“Too dangerous friend, the mist makes it hard to find a good location,” Gallus countered. “You could translocate yourself straight into a tree. You might even find the girl and remove her vital organs in the process. And if you translocate to the boundary she will be long gone in the mist by the time you reach her.”

“But the patrols do not operate in the White Sea Gallus.”

“You think I am unaware of this?” Gallus demanded, his tone short. The words had not intended to sound so cold and the king shook his head sadly. “I apologise Selmain, I have been caught off guard. Never did I think the child capable of finding herself so far north considering the obstacles in her path. She must believe in her mission more than anything she has ever done.”

“You have no idea why she travels so far north?’”

“Oh I have every idea, now,” Gallus complained moodily. “She is defying me in every way she can imagine. She is travelling to find the city of the elves and then her grandfather.”

Selmain remained very quiet, but his eyes schemed revealing his calculating mind hard at work.

“That is unfortunate,” he finally concluded heavily eliciting a nod from the king.

“That my friend, is my daughter.” Despite his anger and worry Gallus seemed a little proud as he uttered these words. “Come, we delay, there are many hours of riding to be had this evening. I can only hope Thais keeps her wits about her. If she has made it so far with only a wolf-bite to show for her troubles then she is more capable than I gave her credit. The White Sea will not treat her kindly I fear, but there is little I can do for her here. Come, we must continue on our path. If we reach Khaled-Dîn I will find myself in a better position to protect my daughter.”

Gallus never showed his weaknesses, not even to his closest companions. Later in the privacy of his reverie he would quietly contemplate the life-threatening danger his daughter had placed herself in and suffer for it alone and in silence.



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