The Five Wanderers

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Chapter 36

Hector yawned as he headed towards his sleeping quarters. He kept glancing at his hand and rubbing it lightly where that warmth had settled for only a moment to confirm their oath had been completed. He really wondered what this would do for them in the future. Would it really be harmless?

Magic was a useful asset, but it was often tricky.

“I’m overthinking,” Hector muttered to himself as he finally looked up. He was a little surprised to see Runi standing by his door, but he had sensed there was a human energy in the hallway. “Can I help you?”

“Maybe,” Runi nodded as he moved from leaning against the wall so he could face him. “I’m not going back home with the other Royals tomorrow. I was wondering if there was a possibility that I could stay here.”

“Stay here?” Hector repeated. He scratched his head, but then he shrugged. “I mean, I don’t think it’ll be a problem, but why would you want to stay?” The Royals had all seemed very close to each other, so this was a strange development.

Although, perhaps after Runi’s recent actions it made sense. He had been acting on his own and upsetting others, even if he felt what he was doing was right.

“I need to figure things out for a while,” Runi said as he removed a piece of paper from his back pocket. He unfolded the old piece of paper to reveal an illustration of an Oracle. Hector was offended for a moment that Runi had clearly defaced one of their books by taking that page out of it, but it must have been important to him so he decided not to mention that.

“You wish to find an Oracle?” Hector asked. “You know they’re gone. They left the world while we were sleeping, according to a few humans we’ve spoken to.”

“They must be somewhere, though,” Runi said. “The Wanderers hid in the mountains for years and the world forgot about them, except for Prudentius, of course. The Oracles could be hiding in the mountains, too.”

Hector didn’t look convinced, but he shrugged. “Sure, that’s a possibility,” he said. “But it’s still a long shot. You want to risk that?”

“Mhm,” Runi hummed. “I think you should come with me.”

“Me?” Hector laughed. “No, no thanks. I stay with my group.” He gestured to the castle. “We’re still doing a lot of work on our home, and we’ve recently connected with the village of people who are descended from the Child of Prophecy. We need to keep them safe, since they are the only ones who care for our existence.”

“They aren’t the only ones. I’m a human that cares about your existence,” Runi said as he folded his arms across his chest. “And I’m not really asking you to come with me. I’m telling you that you will be coming with me. I think it has something to do with the Child of Prophecy.”

Hector frowned. “Why would it have something to do with him? He died hundreds of years ago while we were asleep,” he said.

“He was important to you, though, right?” Runi questioned as he tilted his head a little. “There must be some unfinished business between you two.”

Hector began wondering what this could really mean, but then he remembered how easily Runi had manipulated his own friend with vague information he saw through his visions. He became angry at the thought of Runi using the Child against him.

“There’s nothing unfinished. How dare you even bring him up!” Hector snapped. “You can’t make me go with you. I won’t give into your games, young human.”

Runi sighed and then looked away. “I’m not saying that to trick you,” he said. “I’m saying it because it’s true. Well, whatever. You’ll see eventually that you need to accompany me.”

Hector watched him quietly for a moment. He wasn’t sure what to think of Runi, but he didn’t really think he was evil. He just didn’t know what to do with himself or the gift he had. Maybe he was seeking guidance, and he was afraid to go alone.

“Won’t one of your companions join you on such a risky venture?” Hector asked in a tone that was much more gentle than before.

“No,” Runi snorted in amusement. “After the stunts I’ve pulled? I think Elidi is the only one that’ll even have a conversation with me right now. And she can’t come because she’s pregnant and going to marry Cetas, or whatever.” He waved his hand. “I think you’ll see that you need to join me eventually. I don’t care how long it takes. I’ll wait here until you know.”

Hector’s brow furrowed, but then he shrugged and opened the door to his room. “You’ll be waiting a long time. Guardians don’t stray from their groups,” he said. “We’re safer in our groups, especially in these days when humans don’t trust us.”

Runi turned to watch him enter his room. “The Child of Prophecy left a message for you,” he said. “A long time ago. I think if you came with me, you would find that message. That’s why I’m trying to convince you. I really am not doing this to hurt you, or the other Monarchs.”

“Surely a message from that long ago would be gone with the wind by now,” Hector said softly. “You must sense that I truly cared for that Child, and it’s true. I loved him very much, and I hope he had a peaceful life after he left us...but I really don’t think there’s any possible way-”

“There is,” Runi said with a firm nod. “The Child of Prophecy was the Monarchs’ security, isn’t that right? He existed to ensure you would have a future. The Oracle told you that, right?”

Hector looked confused that Runi would know this. This wasn’t common knowledge in a world that had grown cold towards the Monarchs. Only that small village where the Child of Prophecy had lived knew of the Monarchs in a positive light, but...Runi wasn’t from that village. He wasn’t even from this country.

Maybe he was speaking truthfully.

“That’s true,” Hector said. “But what message would he leave us? How would it change our lives now?”

“I don’t have the answer for that,” Runi said. “I only sense that it’s out there somewhere. Maybe an Oracle is holding the message for you.”

“Oracles live long lives, but they aren’t immortal,” Hector stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Could they really live hundreds of years? I didn’t think it was that long…”

“No one knows,” Runi said. “They disappeared.”

Hector gave Runi a side glance that looked a little annoyed, but he was awful at hiding his expressions. “I’ll think about it,” he said. “But after Jakob and Minhee’s little adventure, I highly doubt the others will think it’s a good idea for me to leave with you.”

“Jakob’s ‘little adventure’ had nothing to do with me,” Runi said as he held up his hands. “I’ll take responsibility for the wrongs I’ve done, but I won’t take responsibility for how Jakob acted.”

“And you shouldn’t,” Hector agreed. “But I’m just saying that the others might not want me to go.”

“You can make your own decisions,” Runi said as he turned and began walking down the hallway. “I know guardians aren’t a hive mind.”

Hector frowned and watched him walk away. He was a difficult one to understand, but Hector knew there was a deep suffering inside that boy’s soul that had never been addressed. He was clearly good at burying his problems, but the thing about that...well, problems always manage to resurface when one least expects it.

Hector felt like a journey on his own would actually be very healthy for Runi. He needed to get away from the humans that were rather angry with him and find his own purpose in the world. Not that he couldn’t return the Royals in time, but he needed to heal on his own first. Hector wasn’t sure why Runi had chosen him to follow along, but he wondered if he was being really truthful about finding a message having to do with the Child of Prophecy.

Hector would do anything for some final words from that sweet Child that he had spent nine years protecting in that dark forest of exile. The Child had been the one human that had restored his faith in humanity, after all. If someone as good as he could exist, then surely there were others out there.

He felt that the Royals were good humans, too. Maybe he would take on this journey with Runi, but for now he’d take time and think. He still had other matters to attend to regarding the Wanderers, anyway.

But he would indeed think on this.

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