They arrived back at the castle a few days later. It was rather bleak, as to be expected after such a horrible loss among them, but they were welcomed back with open arms.
Dari immediately took charge of ensuring the Wanderers had a place to rest so they could grieve properly. She was good at taking care of others like that, but Jeriah was concerned about being separated from Jakob now that they were back here. He wasn’t sure how the Royals might be feeling about him.
“Jakob should stay with us for now,” Jeriah suggested after being shown to a large room with two king sized beds. Emersyn was already laying down with her back facing the doorway, and Verity had slumped into a chair that looked like its cushions were made from velvet. It seemed that not everything from the past had been destroyed in this castle, or perhaps in the past few months the Monarchs had worked hard on restoring what had been lost during their cursed slumber.
“I don’t think he can right now, Jeriah,” Dari said with a small nod.
Jeriah frowned a little. “Why?”
“Jeriah, think about it. Jakob hasn’t been punished for what he did, yet. You have to let that happen,” Zhai mumbled from where he laid on the bed next to Emersyn and stared up at the ceiling. “I think they’ll be fair. Darya and Minda seemed like they had some compassion towards Jakob.”
Jeriah knew he couldn’t stop whatever punishment would come to Jakob, but he was worried. He didn’t know these Royals well and he wondered if some of them would still be enraged at what Jakob had done. It was understandable to be angry, of course, but he just hoped they would be kind. Jakob had been at the mercy of his Twin Soul nature at the time.
“I understand,” Jeriah said with a small nod. “I’ll...just rest here. Please come and tell me when they’ve decided what to do.”
“Of course,” Dari nodded and then watched as Jeriah went to the bathroom that was attached to the bedroom. He probably wanted to wash his face and clean up before resting. It had been such a long few days for all of them.
Dari closed the door behind her as she left and she went to go see how Oriana was doing. She was recovering well, with the help of Levant and some of the others, but she was still having to rest so she didn’t injure herself any further.
She walked into the guest room that had been turned into a medical room for Oriana and she was surprised to see that not many of the Royals were here right now. Perhaps they had decided to finally rest or eat.
“Levant, is she doing well?” Dari asked as she walked inside and looked at Oriana who appeared to be sleeping.
“She’s recovering faster than we thought,” Levant said with a small smile. “She’s definitely going to be okay. She just needs a few more days of rest.”
Dari sighed with relief. “What good news,” she said. “Oriana is a very brave person. It would be an awful loss to the world if she was gone.”
“Yes,” Levant said softly. “I...heard that your friends lost someone on their trip to the Underworld. I’m very sorry.”
Dari sighed softly and looked down. “Kiyah, yes. It’s an awful blow,” she ran her fingers through her hair lightly. “It will take the Wanderers some time to recover.”
“Of course,” Levant nodded. “Losing someone you love is not...it’s not something you can recover from easily.”
Dari nodded in agreement. She was just grateful that she still had all the people she held most dear to her, but she knew their lives were still frequented with danger and uncertainty. That could change at any time.
“Do you know where Cetas is?” she asked. “I need to discuss with him what he plans to do with Jakob.”
“He’s in the kitchen, I think. He went there with Tallis and Royse about an hour ago, anyway,” Levant said as he tilted his head a bit. “But Dari, I think it’ll all be okay, you know? It was a very scary thing that happened, but it wasn't entirely his fault. It was almost like he was possessed.”
“Mmm,” Dari hummed. “Possessed by his fear of losing Jeriah. Which was a completely valid fear seeing as how his life was in danger from Prudentius, but it certainly wasn’t in danger because of all of you. Even if there is no punishment, I’m sure Jakob will have to carry this burden of what he did for a long time. But it’s a choice he made, so...he’ll just have to endure it.”
“I think I can understand him a little,” Levant said with a small nod. “Protecting your family...I mean, that’s what life is about.”
Dari smiled a little in return and then she turned to walk out quietly so Oriana could continue to rest and get stronger.
She had discussed it at length with Apinya and Luca who had been on the field when Jakob had injured Oriana. Apinya had been insistent that Jakob had blatantly ignored her requests to stop his attack, even after she had grabbed him and pulled him away. Luca had said that Jakob was not himself and there was a light in his eyes that wasn’t natural. His Twin Soul nature had overtaken him, and although he should take responsibility for what he had done, he shouldn’t be overly punished or tortured for it. Apinya agreed that he should be punished, but she didn’t want him to be hurt too badly, either.
But that decision wasn't up to them.
Dari walked into the kitchen, which had been cleaned and restored and was very functional, and she saw the entire group- Cetas, Royse, Tallis, and now Minda had joined them- standing in the kitchen and quietly talking among each other as they ate some fruit that had been freshly cut.
“Cetas,” Dari said as she began to approach. “I was wondering if we could have a talk.”
Cetas looked up and then glanced at the others. “Do you want to talk alone?”
“I’m sure you’re all a part of the decision, so it doesn’t matter to me. But I imagine the final say comes from you,” Dari said with a small nod. “So...I suppose I want to know if you’ve made a decision.”
Cetas looked serious for a moment, and the others around him became silent as they waited for him to speak. He finally stood up straight, his arms folded across his chest, and he looked directly at Dari. “Our trust has been shaken, as I’m sure you’re well aware,” he said. “I’ve talked to Oriana and Elidi about how they feel. I wanted them to really help make the decision since they were the ones targeted by Jakob’s attack.”
Dari nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“They both said they forgive him for what happened,” Cetas said with a nod. “They felt that it wasn’t entirely his fault that something had overcome him. But...I still think we need to ensure our alliance stays true. I don’t want anything like this to happen ever again.”
“How can we help you feel assured by our alliance, then?” Dari asked as she tilted her head a bit. “Because I can assure you with my words that nothing is going to happen again like this, but I’m not sure that would be enough for you.”
“I think we need an Oath,” Cetas said with a small nod. “An Oath that binds us as allies.”
Dari raised an eyebrow. “An Oath? Like a spell, or something? Or do you mean...like a Blood Oath?” she asked.
“I’ll discuss it with the rest of the members, but I was given a book from Runi about oaths. According to him, your library is full of old books that have information on oaths that bind people to their word,” Cetas said. “I think, at the very least, Jakob has to have an oath with Elidi and Oriana that he will never harm them again. But, I also thought that perhaps all of us should create an oath with all of you so that none of us have to suffer something like this ever again.”
“I see,” Dari nodded a bit. “I think we can arrange that. Just bring the book that has the oath spell in it that you want us to use. I’ll discuss it with the other Monarchs.”
“Fine,” Cetas said as he held out his hand to Dari. “Let’s meet tomorrow night.”
Dari nodded and shook Cetas’ hand. “Tomorrow night, then.”
Dari nodded to the others who had been standing quietly as they discussed what to do and she walked out. As soon as she was outside of the kitchen she heard the others talking to Cetas again, probably sharing their concerns over the Oath and what that might mean for all of them.
Dari wasn’t actually concerned about taking an oath with the Royals at all. It would solidify them as allies and would ensure they would always help each other in times of need. It certainly wasn’t a bad idea.
The contract was over for the Royals, and the Monarchs were settling into a quieter existence, and now the Wanderers had found some sort of peace since they had returned the Life Stones to Renatus. Of course that peace had come at a price, as such things often do, but at least they were free to move forward now.
Dari just hoped things would settle down so they could rebuild all of their reputations as guardians of the human race. That was their task, wasn’t it? The Monarchs were a still living legend that had to rebuild their trust of the humans but they surely could, and the Wanderers would surely follow them in that task. She wasn’t sure what the Royals were going to do, but she knew how much they wanted to protect their homeland again.
It was going to be a long road to pave, since as the world had gotten more modern the humans had forgotten their need for guardians and had even turned on them, but she had hope that there were still some humans that remembered what the guardians had done in the past, and they even repeated their legends to younger generations. The Monarchs hadn’t been forgotten, and surely none of them would be.
But for now her priority was settling things among each other to ensure they wouldn’t turn on each other anymore. She couldn’t control what guardians beyond her knowledge would do, but she could hopefully control what happened between them and their friends.
That was most important right now; keeping the peace at any cost.