Julia rode beside Kyte as they approached Findar’s cabin. It had simply appeared out of nowhere as their horses made their way along a seemingly unpassable clutch of forest. From the looks of things, Findar was the greying old man in brown cotton robes over a white tunic, and the man leaning against the wall of the cabin chewing idly on a bit of wheat must be Kael.
Julia thought back to the night of the desperate ride trying to escape from the Rath worshippers, and the confrontation in the clearing of the woods. She had seen a lot of amazing things in the past few days but this FairyKnight Kindle really topped them all. She glanced surreptitiously to her right where Kindle was fluttering along next to Rein, laughing and talking like a hired sword. That night, Kindle had seemed to be like a Fire Elemental, a force of nature, but then when she talked she seemed more like a teenager out for a night at the fair than a fierce warrior.
Kindle caught Julia’s eye and winked. Julia quickly looked back down at her horse, embarrassed at being caught staring. A second later Kindle buzzed up, smiling.
“I know what you are thinking, Julia. Believe it or not, this is all pretty new to me as well. It’s not every day you learn you can practically turn into a comet and defeat the bad guys all in one swoop!”
With the word “swoop” she buzzed around Julia with exaggerated drama, punching imaginary enemies with her fists. Julia found herself smiling despite her own worries.
“I’m just glad you found us in time. Rein is amazing, but I don’t think he would have been able to stop all of those Rath worshippers alone.” Julia said.
Kindle made a face and drifted up to Julia conspiratorially “Don’t let him hear you say that. It hurts his pride to think he cannot save the world with just those swords of his. He’s gloomy enough as it is.”
Julia nodded, smiling.
They stopped at the cabin and Kael pushed off from the wall. Kael opened his arms grandly, gestured to Rein, and said “Hey! Look what the cat dragged in,” teasing both Rein and Kindle with her catlike eyes all in one.
“Stop it Kael. You know my aim’s getting better.” Kindle teased back.
Rein just grimaced and stomped into the cabin without a word.
“Gee, what’s got in to him?” Kael wondered aloud.
“Greetings Julia, Kyte. I am Findar. I’ve been hearing quite a bit of the amazing things happening to you in your travels. Come in and sit down.”
Findar smiled, but not before sending a disapproving glance at Kael.
“Findar? Then this must be for you. I was told to hold on to this Mage staff and give it to you when we arrived.” Kyte said breathlessly as he dismounted.
He was more than a little awed by this famous Mage.
“The Chancellor trying to bribe me again I see.”
Findar took the wooden staff and eyed it with an air of appraisal. He noticed a number of gems embedded near the top of the staff and his eyes went wide for a second, before he masked his surprised and handed it back to Kyte.
“I’ll accept this gift only long enough to be able to give it to you, Kyte. I think you’re going to need it much more than I.”
Findar thrust the staff back to Kyte’s surprised hands and ushered everyone into the cabin.
Kyte suddenly realized his mouth was still open, closed it with an audible click, and followed them in.
It was now evening in Findar’s cabin, and the group had gathered around a large wooden table to eat a hearty dinner of roasted beef, freshly baked potatoes, stewed vegetables, and an apple cider that Julia suspected contained more than just apple juice. It was heavily spiced, but Julia felt a bit fuzzy around the edges. She still didn’t know where the food had come from, one moment the table was empty, the next it was overflowing with food. She knew she still had a lot to learn about magic.
As they finished their meal, Rein frowned and said, “We’ve been beating around the bush with pleasantries since we got here. We sacrificed a lot to get to you quickly, Findar, and I’d appreciate it if you could give us some answers.”
“Ah Rein, all work and no play eh?” Kael responded and leaned back in his chair to place his crossed feet on the table.
Kindle buzzed up to flick his ear and he sat up with an “Ow!”
“If we are finished with the posturing, I can try to help answer your questions. Julia why don’t you tell everyone here what has happened, and I can help fill in the blanks.”
All eyes turned to Julia, who suddenly felt very small and a bit overwhelmed.
“It’s ok Julia, we are all here to help.” Kindle said. She smiled in encouragement.
Julia swallowed and began to relay the events of the past weeks - her encounter with the Remnant, the cryptic message: “A great darkness is coming, you will be called to a great sorrow, but also a great hope. Keep the seed of hope safe.” and then the kidnapping and battle with the Rath worshippers. After she was done, Kindle and Kael described the events leading to them coming to Findar as well. Julia was astounded to hear about Kindle’s transformation into a FairyKnight and also surprised to learn that Kael was a Mage as well.
Rein scoffed at hearing Kael’s secret. “Kael’s more of a street magician than true Mage, by what I’ve seen of him. He’s more likely to conjure up some more coins for another ale than using his magic for something useful.”
Kael smirked. “Like buying a black suit and sulking about, hoping the next battle will fill that void left by the Goblins?”
Rein stood up abruptly and reached for his swords. “How dare you!”
Suddenly, the whole house shook. Findar had pounded his fist to the table, and the house shuddered in response.
“Sit down!” he bellowed.
Cowed, both Kael and Rein resumed sitting.
Kyte whispered to Julia, “Remind me not to get on that guy’s bad side” as he stared at Findar.
“Rath is out there, converting more innocent souls into slaves for his army, and you are squabbling over who has the biggest sword!”
Kael and Rein looked sheepish.
“Sorry, Rein. I know you must think of me as some kind of foppish fool, but really this is how I’m able to do undercover work for the ArchKnight. And sometimes it’s hard to separate the actor from the real person.”
Kael seemed sincere.
Rein chewed his bottom lip for a moment and said, “My apologies as well. As long are you are serving the ArchKnight, that’s good enough for me.”
“Speaking of the ArchKnight, he sent all of you here either directly or indirectly for a purpose. I have been reading up on the history of Rath as well as the Remnants and the ancient war. ”
*And how well I remember it .* Deltia said in Kindle’s thoughts.
She echoed them to the group. Julia was still trying to process how Kindle was bonded to an ancient Dragon, and how that Dragon could speak to her in her mind.
“Deltia’s knowledge of that battle will be invaluable to you all, because I have learned what the true purpose of that Seed you carry Julia, is. A hundred years ago, Rath rose to power and betrayed the other Dragons. The Elves, Mages, and other species banded together to fight him, and ultimately bound him deep beneath the earth under RavenBlight mountain. However, they knew that eventually he would recover enough strength to once again seek to dominate our world, and escape from his prison. The gathered races sought any kind of answer to defeat Rath once and for all and they found it exploring an ancient forest very far from our lands. There was a tree there called Cariniana. It has been alive since the forming of this world, and its power is beyond anything we’ve ever known. ”
Julia gasped. All eyes were on Findar as the light from the lanterns within the cabin cast darkened shadows throughout the room.
“The Elves found a way to communicate with Cariniana and explained the threat of Rath to this world. It’s first response was to form the Remnants that you’ve seen before. They helped defeat the last of Rath’s allies and served as guardians for the other races. They were also tasked with finding someone. Only the greatest Intuitive Mage that has ever lived could be entrusted with a Seed from Cariniana.”
“What!” Julia interrupted. “Are you saying that’s what this amber necklace is? A seed? ” her eyes were wide.
“Yes, and that seed must be taken to RavenBlight mountain and quickened next to Rath before he escapes his prison, otherwise we are all doomed.”
Julia shuddered, glanced at everyone in the room who were now looking directly at her. With a strangled cry she bolted from the table and ran out of the cabin.
“Way to go with the dramatic, Findar.” Kael quipped.
Findar blinked, surprised.
“I’ll go get her.” Kindle said and shook her finger at Findar. She buzzed out of the cabin into the night after Julia.