The Five Wanderers

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Chapter 35

The night came quickly, which was a blessing in Jakob’s eyes. He wanted to get this over with so he could focus his attention on Jeriah and help him get through his grieving process. That was where he wanted to be able to put his time, but the oath was the first order of business.

Jakob heard a knock at the door to his room and he opened the door to see Hector standing there in dark attire. He offered a small smile and waved for him to follow and Jakob walked out of his room and followed him down the hallway.

They walked into the massive room where the Monarchs had once kept their mystical necklace that held the souls of their enemies, but now the room was empty and just a vast space that almost seemed to fit the idea of a ‘ritual room’, and the first ritual would indeed be this oath.

Jakob looked across the room and saw the Royals all standing there together. They seemed to have gotten the dress code memo as they were also in dark attire, but only a few of them were standing in front, while the rest stood back and seemed to just be taking in the atmosphere of the room.

Hector tugged on Jakob’s sleeve. “It’s going to be okay,” he insisted. “Don’t be afraid.”

Jakob smiled a little and nodded. He knew that was true, and he was ready for this...he just hoped it wouldn’t change them too much. Would an oath change anything about them? He hadn’t read about that in the book.

“Alright, it seems that we have everyone now,” Dari said with a nod as she looked back at Jakob and Hector’s entrance. “Royals, what do you wish for us to do for you tonight to secure our alliance?”

Cetas stepped forward, glancing to his left and right as the ones who wished to complete the oath stepped up alongside him. “We have found an oath in an ancient book that I believe would bring us some comfort in our alliance. But we also decided that not all of us need to complete the oath, so only those who feel like it’s necessary to do so in order to feel safe as your allies will do it.”

“So, I’m assuming that’s the five of you,” Luca said as he gestured to them.

“Yes, myself, Tallis, Oriana, Royse and Darya will do the oath,” Cetas said with a nod. “The others are just here to support us.”

“So...only the five of you fear us?” Hector asked as he glanced at the line of Royals as they stood before them.

“We don’t fear you, we just don’t trust you,” Tallis said in his deep tones. “After what happened...after seeing something so devastating happen right before our can you even judge us for wanting some extra certainty that it won’t happen again?”

“We certainly aren’t judging you, I just feel like it’s curious,” Hector said with a shrug as he glanced aside.

“What about the rest? What will they do?” Minhee asked. “Do us?”

“I think all of our trust has been shaken,” Laguna spoke up. “But we’re choosing not to participate because we don’t feel like being tied to anyone else through oaths. Our only oath is to each other.”

“That sentiment is very heartfelt, but doesn’t it feel strange for only some of you to commit this oath, then?” Apinya asked as she folded her arms across her chest. “You want all of us to be bound by some spell of loyalty to only...five of you?”

Levant sighed. “Why question it? This is what they decided,” he said. “The night grows long and we want to leave early tomorrow morning. Let’s begin whatever ceremony there is.”

Runi, who was standing next to Levant, looked at him with amusement. “Wow, you must be on edge,” he said with a smirk on his lips. “You’re not usually so short with people. Does this whole thing make you nervous, Levy?”

Levant just sighed and looked at Runi, not giving a reply. It was likely Runi already knew what was on his mind, anyway.

"Don't talk to him like that, Runi," Royse said as he looked back at him with that cold stare that hadn't changed since their last interaction. Runi just nodded and glanced aside. He had no witty comeback today.

Apinya raised an eyebrow at Levant, and then leaned over to see Elidi as she stood back behind the others. “You were the one Jakob was trying to attack. You, out of all of them, don’t want to have an oath with us?” she asked curiously.

“I don’t,” Elidi said as she lifted her chin. “I don’t really like dealing with magic much, but I trust that the others are making the right decisions for themselves. I can’t decide where their paths will take them, I just have to be there to support them. As a leader and member of this team...that’s my job. I don’t have to explain myself further than that.”

Apinya nodded in agreement and then glanced at Dari. “I guess we move forward, then.”

“Fine by me,” Dari said as she stepped forward and approached Cetas. “What spell do you wish to cast?”

Cetas removed the book from the large pocket of the black trench coat he was wearing. Dari raised an eyebrow and then took the book, which had a page marked to a specific oath: The Loyalty Oath.

“To speak this oath means to commit true loyalty to the one you’re bound to,” Dari read. The other Monarchs had come around her now and were reading over her shoulder as best they could. Dari lifted her gaze and looked back at Cetas. “To speak this oath means to never find each other in opposition, for the one who causes strife will be struck with bad luck and ill tidings.”

“Well, at least it’s not death,” Luca said with a shrug. “That’s not so bad.”

“This is truly what you want?” Dari asked once more.

“It’s what we decided! Don’t keep questioning us like we’re too young to know what we’re doing,” Oriana exclaimed. That was the loudest she’d been since finally recovering, but it seemed her temper remained intact and her lungs were healthy. That was a good sign. “I know you’ve lived many more years than us, but we can make decisions, too.”

Dari smiled and nodded. “You’re right,” she said. “Then it looks like we need to hold hands with the one we wish to be bound to and speak these spell words. A perfectly simple spell, but obviously effective.”

“Take hands with the one we wish to do the spell with? So...we have to do this spell like...six times?” Hector asked.

“No, of course not. We’ll make a circle. Everyone take hands,” Dari instructed as she took Hector’s hand and Apinya’s hand.

The Royals and Monarchs were linked together by their held hands and now they could begin the oath. Dari could feel the magical energy rising in this place even as they held hands. She was grateful that this land had not lost its magic, even through the ages.

“What I have bound with this spell, let no man break. This is an oath of loyalty to the one in front of me, that we might always stand side by side. Battles and adversity will make us stronger, and times of peace will help us to grow. Now, let us be bound by this Oath of Loyalty. I cannot shed your blood, I cannot break your bones, and I will never destroy that which you have created. That is my Oath.”

The room seemed like it was almost electrified with energy once the words had been spoken, and even the Royals who were not participating seemed shaken by it.

Jakob was surprised as a warmth seemed to rush up his arm, settling in the palm of his hand as he still held Oriana’s hand. They were definitely bound by the magic in these words now, there was no doubting that sensation.

They slowly released their hands and each one took a moment, glancing at their hands and inspecting it as though expecting to see some sort of sign of the magic that had enacted the oath.

“That was weird,” Tallis said as he wiped his hand on his black jeans. “But I guess it’s done now. That’s good.”

Jakob nodded and smiled a little as he looked at Tallis. “I loyalty is obvious to all of you now. I’m sorry for all the distress I caused you,” he said. Tallis just nodded a little but he looked down. Jakob sighed and glanced aside. Maybe eventually he could mend that friendship, but probably not yet. It was too soon.

“I feel much more relieved now,” Cetas admitted as he put a hand to his chest. “Oriana, how do you feel?”

Oriana smiled. “I feel great about it,” she said. “Thank you, Jakob.”

Jakob was surprised to hear that from her, but he bowed politely. “No...thank you for forgiving me and giving me this chance to form a friendship with all of you again,” he said. “I feel relieved that this is done.”

“So do we,” Darya smiled brightly and patted Jakob’s arm. “Well, I guess if that’s that...we should probably get to bed! Like Levant said, we have an early morning tomorrow.”

“Ah, right,” Dari nodded and smiled a little as he watched the Royals begin to file out of the massive room. “Rest well, Royals. We are grateful for our alliance.”

Tallis smiled and nodded to Dari, his arm was around Minda’s waist now and the two were walking in sync. Darya waved happily to Dari as she walked by, and Levant pushed Darya out of the room even as she giggled.

“As are we,” Elidi said with a small nod as she walked by Dari. “We just had to make sure things remained as they were before.”

“And so they will,” Luca said as he folded his arms across his chest. “They weren’t going to change, anyway, but I can see why you’d need the extra assurance.”

“Things did change, though,” Minda said as she stopped walking and looked back at Luca. “One of your people attacked one of ours. That’s the very definition of the status quo between us changing.”

Luca sighed. “Do we have to keep going over this?”

“I just want to make sure you understand us. I don’t like that it seems like you think we’re unreasonable,” Minda said with a small frown. Tallis reached out to take her hand to try and pull her along again, but she just pushed his hand away.

“Let it go,” Laguna patted Minda’s back and then gave her a little push. “Luca is just stubborn.” Minda seemed to agree and she simply walked out before Luca could follow up with any sort of retort.

“I’m just stubborn, am I?” Luca muttered as he watched the last Royal walk out. “They really seem to think low of us these days...after all we did for them not that long ago!”

“Calm down,” Minhee said as he wrapped his arms around Luca in a casual hug. “They’ve been through a lot. You didn’t see how much stress they went through, Luca. I stayed in the medical room with them when Oriana was first brought was really scary. I mean, I was scared, too! I thought Oriana was really going to die. And...and I kept worrying about what would happen if she did die. I knew it would be very bad for so many reasons.”

Luca hesitated, and then he sighed softly and shrugged away from Minhee’s grip. “I see what you’re saying,” he said. “I mean, we’ve endured a lot of bad things, too. I’ve almost lost all of you a few times and my heart...I know my heart wouldn’t be able to handle that. I guess I’m not seeing it from their perspective enough.”

“You just want things to be peaceful again,” Apinya said with a shrug. “It’s understandable. I want that, too.”

“Hopefully it will now,” Hector said as he put a hand on his hip. “I mean, I can’t imagine another scenario where we would be opposed to them for any reason.”

“You're right. Jeriah is Jakob's weakness, but now he's safe so we should be fine,” Luca agreed, but then he realized what he said and he looked back at Jakob as he stood quietly. “Jakob, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“No, that’s true,” Jakob said with a sigh. “Jeriah is my weakness. I’d do anything to save him and keep him safe. As soon as I knew he was alive...I already had that idea set in my heart. I wasn’t going to let anyone take him from me.” he looked up at his other Monarchs. “If you had been the ones that had to take Jeriah to the Underworld, I would have fought you, too.”

Dari’s brow furrowed a little, and then she put her arm around Jakob’s shoulders and pulled him into her side. “But we don’t have to think like that anymore. Jeriah and the Wanderers are safe under our roof,” she said. “Unfortunately a loss had to happen before they could be safe and he won’t be forgotten. I think our next goal has to be giving Kiyah a proper memorial, don’t have to live in the past anymore, Jakob. Tonight sealed that away and now we move forward.”

“Right,” Jakob nodded a little. “But what if something happens to Jeriah again? Will I lose myself like that again…?”

“You can’t,” Hector said with a huff. “We can’t keep doing oaths like these everyday.”

“You won’t,” Apinya said with a shrug. “I think Jeriah has learned his lesson about stealing stuff from Immortals. I doubt he’ll do anything like that again. I mean, as guardians our lives are going to be full of danger but I can’t imagine we’ll end up in any trouble with the Royals again.”

“Let’s pray we won’t,” Minhee said with a firm nod.

Dari smiled softly and then started to walk towards one of the massive archways that led out onto a balcony that overlooked the ocean. The night sky was beautiful and the stars were brilliant in the sky and the moon was full and the purest white. The light from it seemed to bathe the entire landscape in a light glow.

“We won’t get into trouble with them again,” she said as she looked out at the night sky. “There is something out there that protects us. I believe that, since I doubt we would have made it this far on our own strength. long as we have that, let’s stay hopeful for the future.”

“Something out there? Do you mean The One? I don't think the Immortals are looking out for us,” Hector asked as he looked out at the night as well. He tilted his head, as though he was trying to see what Dari was seeing.

“I don’t know,” Dari said. “It’s just a feeling. How did we wake up from our endless slumber? It couldn’t have just been us, could it? I just wonder.”

“Well, I don’t think we need all the details,” Minhee said as he stood on Dari’s other side. “I think we just need to be grateful that we managed to get our lives back. Now it’s time to give back to others and make this world a safe place for humans to live. That is our destiny, isn’t it? To protect the humans.”

“What about making this world safe for us to live in? For guardians to live in?” Luca questioned as he leaned against the archway and looked out into the night.

“I think we need to protect the humans in order to make the world safe for us,” Apinya followed up with a small nod as she stood next to Luca. “If the humans see our work and see how we keep them safe, then they’ll trust us. They won’t reject us. It’s like our oath with the Royals tonight...yes, this is just the beginning of our trust, but as time passes and they see how much we want to keep them safe, too, they’ll trust us more and more. Humans are like that.”

Jakob stood next to Apinya and leaned his head against her shoulder. “Then let’s do it,” he said. “Let’s be the guardians we used to be. I miss those days. I mean...the days before things became awful.”

“Of course,” Apinya snorted and tickled Jakob’s side lightly which made him squirm away from his friend. “And we’ll have Jeriah, Verity, Emersyn, and Zhai to help us. Don’t you think they’ll like to fight alongside us, too?”

“Maybe one day,” Jakob said as he walked out onto the balcony. “I don’t know. They were always more peaceful than anything. They like to keep the peace, they don’t like to look for fights.”

“Well, then we can look for the fights and they can just stand guard,” Apinya shrugged. “That sounds like a good arrangement to me.”

“Whatever happens, this is a new chapter for us,” Dari said with a nod. “We’ve changed a lot since waking up from our sleep. I guess change doesn’t stop as long as you’re awake and living in the world, so let’s just get used to it.”

“Works for me,” Luca said as he pushed off of the wall and turned to walk out of the room. “I’m tired. I’m heading to bed.”

“Wait for me,” Hector turned and followed at his heels. “Night everyone! Great, uh...oath ceremony! We did good.” And then the two disappeared beyond the door which led into the main living area of the castle.

“I suppose we should all go and rest now,” Minhee agreed.

“Right,” Dari nodded but then she looked back out at the night. “You can all go to bed. I’ll take a moment here still.”

Minhee smiled and then turned and walked in the same direction as Luca and Hector with Apinya, and Jakob started to follow but he couldn’t help but hesitate and look back at Dari as she stared fondly up at the moon.

“Is something on your mind, Dari?” Jakob asked softly.

“I’m just grateful,” Dari said. “The moon is bright and clear and moves across the sky as it knows it will only have a short time and soon the sun will replace her during the day. I guess I’m still in awe that the endless night is over, you know? The moon isn’t red...tainted with the praises of the wicked. All that we’ve fought for is something we have lived to see. Isn’t that just the greatest gift?”

Jakob smiled a bit. “You’re so sentimental, Dari.”

Dari chuckled. “I’m a sentimental old woman these days,” she agreed. “But we’ve been through a lot. I have to enjoy the good moments. Tonight was a good moment.”

“The Royals will be our friends again,” Jakob nodded. “I’m sorry I put such a burden on everyone-”

“It’s over now, Jakob,” Dari said as she glanced at him. “Don’t even apologize. I won’t hear it. You’re free from that burden, and so are we.”

Jakob pursed his lips, and then he smiled faintly before turning to walk out. “Don’t stay up too late,” he called back to her as he glanced over his shoulder and took in Dari’s silhouette. He hoped one day he could be as strong, resilient, and confident as Dari. He knew he was still coming into his own after waking from that nightmare.

But he would do it. He’d do anything to become the man he wanted to be. He was already on his way there.

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