The Guardians of Rhea

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Chapter Nine

The next morning in the Great Hall, Philip was slumped in his chair, rubbing his tired eyes.

Everyone from the night before, except for Leon, walked in and took their seats. Sara and Arthur sat beside Philip.

“Opinions?” Philip asked.

“Hard to believe,” Sara said.

Arthur spoke, “Considering the fact that we’re dealing with the afterlife, I’m forced to agree. However, I think it’s safe to say anything is possible.”

“Assuming he’s telling the truth,” Thomas said, “How in the world can we organize any kind of attack? We were created to support the regular army, which isn’t equipped or even trained to deal with the Rheans, much less any of their problems. If we decide to help, there clearly aren’t enough Guardians to wage any kind of war.”

Philip sighed, “We’ve been put in a difficult spot. Even I must admit that I find Leon’s story hard to believe.”

Sara crossed her arms, “The only way we can know for sure is if someone goes and sees the Netherworld for themselves, and it might not hurt to get a look at this Shadow Realm.”

Everyone looked at Sara as if she were crazy.

“Any idea who’s going?” Arthur asked.

“I will,” Sara said.

Philip cleared his throat, “The Vesuvian is expecting an answer.”

Sara shrugged her shoulders, “It’s our necks on the line. The way I see it unless Leon can prove everything he’s said, we don’t have to answer anything.”

Philip smirked, “I had a feeling your insight would be useful. Sometimes it takes a younger, more adventurous line of thought to see what needs to be done.”

Arthur leaned to Sara, “You sure about this?”

“It’s the only way,” Sara answered.

“Yes.” Philip said, “It’s been decided. Sara, go with Thomas and bring Leon...and Thomas, try not to kill him this time.”

Walking through the corridor with Sara, Thomas moped to himself, “...try not to kill him...”

“If I may ask--” Sara began.

Thomas was quick to answer, “--no, you may not! I’ve never met a Vesuvian that wasn’t trying to drain me of my blood, and I am not about to trust this one.”

As they came to Leon’s room, guarded by two Elites, Thomas motioned with his head for Sara to approach the door.

However, Leon opened it just before Sara could knock.

Slightly startled, Sara said, “Follow me.”

Walking back to the Great Hall, no one said a word.

Philip respectfully stood when they entered, “Leon, welcome. Please have a seat.”

Leon sat, seemingly oblivious to the skeptical stares he was getting.

Arthur spoke, “Before we begin, Leon, I’d like to ask if you know anything about what happened two nights ago. Two Vesuvians-”

“Yes,” Leon answered, then looking at Sara, “I was one of them. I regret you had to get involved.”

“What were you doing?” Sara asked.

“Bekal was in violation of Vesuvian law, Leon answered, “It’s illegal to enter the human-held territory. The Council wishes to avoid any conflict with you, for now.”

Philip then asked, “Leon, is there any way you can prove that the Netherworld or Shadow Realm exists?”

“Not unless I take you there.” Leon answered.

“Then you understand how difficult it is for us to come to any kind of decision. If possible, we would like you to take a Guardian to see the Netherworld and the Shadow Realm to confirm everything. For the time being, I’d like to offer a formal truce.”

After a moment, Leon said, “I guess that will have to do, but shouldn’t your Governor be here for this kind of decision?”

Philip answered, “The Governor represents our people to our Senate back home. In some situations, especially military ones, the Guardians are given full autonomy.”

“How do you know about our political structure?” Henry asked.

“I’ve done my research,” Leon said.

Some Guardians in the room exchanged concerned glances.

“No matter,” Philip said, “Sara, make any preparations you need for the journey. You are to leave as soon as possible.”

Within the hour, Sara was in the armory placing some flint in her backpack.

Arthur stood by, “Did you remember to pack your weather gear?”

“Of course,” Sara replied, putting the backpack on. She equipped a talon on each wrist and tested them to make sure the blades extended.

“Here,” Arthur said, handing Sara a halo. He grabbed a bow, collapsed it, and attached it to Sara’s pack.

“Thanks,” Sara said, then putting on a small hip quiver with arrows. She put one foot on a table and buckled a holster with small throwing daggers around her thigh.

“Ready?” Arthur asked.

Sara quickly checked to make sure she had her equinox, “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

Leon waited with several Guardians by the main gate as Sara and Arthur approached.

“You know,” Arthur began, “Even though you’re new, I can’t think of anyone better to send than you.”

Sara thought Arthur was trying to comfort her, “I’m not that nervous.”

“I mean it,” Arthur said, “You’ve got the attitude, the training, and... well, not much experience, but a little is better than...”

“Hey, look at Leon,” Sara said.

“What about him?” Arthur asked.

“Sun is out, and his hood is down.” Sara replied.

As he came up to Leon, Arthur said, “Vesuvians don’t like sunlight. Let me guess, a birth defect?”

“You could call it that,” Leon answered.

“Are you sure?” Sara said, sarcastically, “Most Vesuvians would die in an instant.”

“I assure you,” Leon said, “I’m a Vesuvian.”

Arthur signaled the guards to open the gate, “Leon, this had better not be some kind of trick.” He turned to Sara, “See you soon.”

“Thanks,” Sara said, “Okay, Leon, lead the way.”

Arthur watched as Sara and Leon went on their way past the gate, “Wait!”

Sara and Leon turned.

“Here.” Arthur said, holding out his custom equinox.

Sara was surprised, “Arthur, I can’t.”

“I’m not giving it to you,” Arthur said, “I want it back when you return.”

Sara hesitated, but took the equinox and holstered it, “Thanks, Arthur.”

With a final nod, Arthur returned to the gate and had it closed.

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