Adama was fast asleep in his father's arms long before first light, but Ga'briyel was wide awake, staring at Sophyra in the dark, waiting for the sun to rise. He had the curtain pulled open to its fullest, and he glanced at the window often to judge if the sky was actually getting lighter or if it was just his wishful thinking. Finally, however, he could see without the light of his eyes, and he lowered his mouth to his son's ear.
"Adama, wake up," he whispered. "Your mama will awaken soon."
The little boy opened his eyes, yawned widely, and then climbed onto the bed next to his mother. He laid his head on her chest and waited for the beat that would show that she was alive once again. He waited and waited, and then he lifted his head and looked at his father.
"I do not understand, Baba. Why is she not awake?"
Ga'briyel looked at the window and prayed to Yisu that he was not wrong about her death. He dropped to his knees beside the bed, bowed his head, and prayed that it was not the Daitya's weapon or poison that made the difference in the final death of an Anmah, but the Daitya itself. He begged Yisu to let his wife live again, tears leaking from the corners of his eyes to fall onto the braided rug beneath his knees.
"Please, Yisu, please," he gasped, and then his head snapped up when he heard Sophyra take a deep breath and then cry out. He hastily wiped his face and stood as she opened her eyes.
"Fire and ashes, Ga'briyel! Is that what you went through in Difeld?"
With a smile, Ga'briyel sat down on the bed and kissed her softly. "No, my heart, what happened to me was much worse, I promise you. You saw the wound. What you received of the Daitya's poison was just a tiny bit, but I know it still hurt, and I am so sorry for that."
"Mama? Are you all right?"
Sophyra gathered Adama into her arms as she sat up against the headboard of the bed. "Yes, my sweet boy, I am all right." She looked at Ga'briyel, confusion in her eyes. "But I thought a Daitya could kill me, my love. Why am I not with Yisu right now?"
Trailing his fingers down her face, Ga'briyel grinned. "Because it was just a man with a Daitya's sword who scratched you, my heart. It was not a Daitya." He stopped, and his grin faded abruptly. "I did not know that at first, however, and I took my rage out on the daemons. They are all dead, Sophyra; one hacked into tiny pieces that the ravens cleaned up, and the other two burned. But we must leave this city soon. I am supposedly dead as well; hung for murdering the man who killed you." He leaned forward and kissed her again. "And I will kill anyone who tries to hurt you or Adama or..."
"Or who, Ga'briyel?" Sophyra grabbed his hands and held onto them tightly.
"May I tell her, please, Baba?" Adama said from his position on his mama's lap.
"Go ahead, Adama. We know, and it is only fair your mama knows, also."
Adama turned to his mother with a bright smile and glowing eyes. "You are going to have another baby, Mama, and I will be such a good big brother. I will help you take care of the baby and will teach him or her how to ride a horse, and, as soon as Baba shows me, I will teach the baby how to fight." The boy laid his head against his mother's chest, and she let go of Ga'briyel to hug him. "We will all protect you, Mama." Ga'briyel felt the little one's anger flowing over him, scorching him. "You will not die again, I promise."
"Do not make promises you might not be able to keep, my son," Ga'briyel said quietly. "The life of an Anmah is very long, and there will be many times you will not be able to protect your mama from death. Remember that always."
"Yes, Baba," the little boy said, and then he sighed, and his eyelids drooped. "May I go back to sleep now, please, Baba?"
"Go to sleep, my boy," Ga'briyel said as he laid his hand on Adama's head. "We will wake you when it is time to leave."
It did not take long for the child to fall asleep, and Sophyra gently laid him down on the bed. Then she held out her hand to Ga'briyel, and he pulled her to her feet and into his arms. He shuddered when he thought of what had happened the day before, and Sophyra held him tightly.
"I am fine, Ga'briyel, but I am very hungry." She smiled up at him. "Just like you always are."
He frowned and ran his hand over her hair. "Not always, Sophyra. Not after the Dirack." He took her hand and led her out of the room, shutting the door behind them to let his son sleep. They went down to the main room, and Ga'briyel's eyes went wide when he saw Telantes sitting at the bar talking with Luija.
"Telantes, my friend. Why are you here?" Ga'briyel kept his arm around his wife but walked up to the Debaduta and clasped his forearm.
"I am here to tell you where you are to go next, Ga'briyel."
With a skeptical look, Ga'briyel eyed his friend and tightened his grip. "Why did Yisu not just tell me Himself like before? Why are you really here?"
Grinning sheepishly, Telantes released the Sainika's forearm. "That is one reason, Ga'briyel. I cannot lie; you know this. But there is a second reason. You and your family..." The spirit looked at Sophyra. "I hear congratulations are in order again, Sophyra. Another addition to your family?"
"So Ga'briyel and Adama say, Telantes. I myself have no personal knowledge of this yet." She smiled up at the Debaduta.
"Anyway, the second reason is that you will have to take a ship to your next destination, Ga'briyel, and I am here to make sure you three get to the docks without anyone realizing you are still alive. There is celebration in the streets about your death, Sainika. Apparently the man you killed was well-liked in this city, and, amazingly enough, so were the daemons."
"The people here were not afraid of the daemons?" Ga'briyel asked incredulously as Sophyra pulled from his side and sat down at the table while Luija brought out a large platter full of meat and vegetables.
"No. It seems they ruled fairly and wisely, and everyone loved them." Telantes smiled. "I know, it does not seem possible, but it is so." He looked at the table. "I am truly happy Sophyra is not with Yisu now, my friend, but you must brace yourself for the possibility one day. If she does die permanently, you must go on, Sainika. For you and your children." He looked around. "Where is Adama?"
"Still sleeping. I woke him at first light to see his mama, but then he fell asleep again." Ga'briyel grinned when he saw his wife shoveling in food as if she had not eaten in moons. "When must we leave, Telantes?"
"Not until last light, Ga'briyel. Enjoy one more day in the safety of this inn, and I will come get you when it is time to take you to the docks. A ship will be waiting that will take you to Esiya, far across the Samudra Sea. It will probably take you four or five moons to reach Esiya, and once there, I will tell you what to do. Or Yisu will tell Adama; I am not sure which will happen. Until then, Sainika, relax and be with your family." Telantes slowly faded until he was gone, and Ga'briyel sat down next to Sophyra at the table.
"Do I get any, my heart?" he chuckled as she shoved a large piece of meat in her mouth.
"Of course, Ga'briyel," she said around the mouthful, "but you did not just die, so please leave the majority for me."
Ga'briyel laughed, pulled a metal plate from the stack on the table, and filled it with food. He and Sophyra talked about the new baby, the voyage they were about to take, and about what they might find there. By the time almost all the food was gone, Adama had joined them, his tiny feet kicking back and forth as he sat on his mother's lap, her arms holding him tightly. The boy ate what little was left on the platter when he came down the stairs.
"We are going on a journey across the sea, Adama. What do you think of that?" Ga'briyel asked his son. Adama frowned, and Ga'briyel did as well. "What is it, Adama?"
"I know why we are going to Esiya, Baba, and it is not for a good reason. There are many more daemons there than on Mahadesa. You will have many battles to fight, Baba, but maybe by then I will be able to help you."
"No, Adama, this is my fight, not yours. You are Yisu's priest, not His Sainika. Your task will be to protect your mama and your unborn brother or sister. I will fight the daemons and any other Hellspawn we come across." Then Ga'briyel smiled. "But no more talk of that. We will not need to deal with them until we reach Esiya, and that is several moons from now. I just want to be with my family until we have to leave."
"Yes, Baba. I understand," the little boy said quietly.
Just before last light, Telantes materialized in the main room where Ga'briyel and his family were waiting with their bags packed. "It is time, Sainika," the spirit said softly. "I truly wish you could stay and relax, but there will be time for that on the voyage across the sea. The ship that will take you will be safe with no Hellspawn. It is protected like this inn."
"That is good to know, my friend," Ga'briyel said. "What about our horses?"
"You will take them with you, of course. Esiya is not much smaller than Mahadesa, and you do not want to buy new ones once you get there. Prices are much higher on Esiya than they are here; remember that when you bargain for things. A horse that would sell for three golds here might go for six on Esiya."
"Let us go, then," the Sainika said, and the four of them exited through the back door, saddled the horses, and rode them around the inn. "How will you disguise us, Telantes? I have no desire to be seen as a ghost."
"You are already disguised, Ga'briyel, as are your horses. You are just another family looking for passage from Mahadesa to Esiya. No one will recognize you." Telantes looked at Ga'briyel. "Except Hellspawn perhaps, but I think the disguise will even work on them."
As they rode down the street toward the docks, Telantes floating next to the horses, Ga'briyel could feel Daitya and Azazil in every part of the city they passed through, and he gritted his teeth in frustration knowing that he could not stay and kill them. Whatever Telantes had done worked, however, and they reached the docks without incident. The spirit led them to the southernmost dock where a ship was anchored. It was named the Ribika, and it was beautiful. It had sleek lines, white sails on three tall masts, and the look of something very fast. When they stopped the horses, Telantes floated up to the ship and said something to the man standing at the wheel. The man nodded and then hollered out for the gangplank to be lowered. Once it was, Ga'briyel led his family and their horses up it and dropped to the deck once on board.
"The Sainika and his family are more than welcome onboard the Ribika," the man said, and then he turned to another man standing behind him. "Take the horses below and put the Sainika's bags in my cabin." He turned back to Ga'briyel with a deep bow. "My name is Captain Isahaka. Welcome, savior of Duniya."
"Thank you, Captain. How long will it take to reach Esiya?"
"Four, perhaps five moons, Sainika. But do not worry; Yisu's protection is laid on this ship, and we will not be harmed in any way. Please, follow me, and I will show you and your family to your cabin."
"You mean your cabin, yes, Captain?" Ga'briyel asked with a frown. "If we take your cabin, where will you stay?"
The man waved his hand dismissively. "Do not worry about me, Sainika. I will simply stay with the men in their quarters." He started walking, and Ga'briyel picked up Adama, took Sophyra's hand, and followed. "Now, meals are at first light, midday, and last light. They are generally eaten belowdecks, but if you would prefer to eat on deck, we can make that happen for you."
"Belowdecks would be with the crew, Captain?" Sophyra asked quietly.
"Yes, Mistress. Would that bother you?"
"No, I think I would prefer to eat with them. If we are to be on this ship for moons, it would be good to get to know the crew. Is that all right with you, Ga'briyel?"
"That is fine, my heart, if that is what you wish." Ga'briyel led his wife down the steps to the lower deck and into a large cabin at the bow of the ship. There was only one large bed in the cabin, but their bags were already placed at the foot of it.
"I hope this cabin serves your needs, Sainika," Captain Isahaka said quietly.
"I am sure it will be just fine, Captain, thank you," Ga'briyel answered, and then the ship's captain backed out of the door with another bow and shut the door.
"You may go abovedecks if you wish, my love," Sophya said as she kissed Ga'briyel. "Take Adama, and I will get our things settled in the chests."
"If you are sure, my heart," he said. "I am sure Adama would enjoy that."
"Very sure, Ga'briyel. Now go; I will join you soon."
Ga'briyel took his son and left the cabin. He climbed the stairs and stood looking out over the city of Mahasa even as the ship pulled away from the dock.
"Yes, my son?"
"Will you let me learn to sail on this voyage? I would like to."
"Of course, my son, if that is what you wish."
They stood staring at the lights of the city until they had faded into the blackness of the night and there was no more light to be seen except for the lamps on the ship.
"The stars are so pretty, Baba." Adama said, craning his head to look at the night sky. "There are so many of them."
Ga'briyel smiled as Sophyra joined them on the deck, and he pulled her close to himself. "Yes, Adama, there are so many, and may they and Yisu guide us safely on our way."
Adama grinned and hugged his father's leg tightly. "Yes, Baba, He will. We will reach Esiya safely. I know."
The three backed away from the railing as the ship picked up speed and the spray of the sea started to wet them. Ga'briyel sighed contentedly and held his family close.
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