The Temple was nothing like I had remembered it. What used to be a bright lively ground had turned lifeless like a permanent storm cloud had settled above it. The Warriors were quiet and missions had been canceled. The news of Chaos's "death" had struck them hard. Even the plants seemed depressed.
The Elders had interrogated each of us about the events of Chaos's and Zareck's deaths, and like clockwork we each told them the story. Zareck had tried to kill us and when Chaos went to use the spell to bind him it failed. Enigma had given them a different spell, sending both he and Zareck to the UnderWorld. As far as I could tell they believed it.
I spent hours in the Temple explaining to the Elders what had happened during my time at the castle. I told them what they wanted to hear – Zareck was cold and distant, keeping me locked in the castle until he needed my help to complete his Soul Binding spell. They asked me questions, I answered, and then they let me go seeming satisfied with the information I had given them. Not that it mattered anyways; Zareck wasn't a problem to them anymore.
They held a funeral for both of them. Though Zareck had gone rogue and the Elders hated him, he had still been a Warrior and one of the best. The other Warriors had seemed conflicted about the matter. Some of them believed Zareck had always been a Demon at heart, others thought of this as forgiving and moving on. Everybody found it hard to speak negatively about his time here though.
Chaos had been given a memorial. It was a statue of an armour plated wolf howling towards the sky placed atop the fountain in the center of the flower field. 'Ta ohmen ey razna' was engraved on the plaque at its feet.
When I had stood in the training field before the rest of the Warriors beside Mya and Spiro I had felt unnaturally light. I couldn't make myself focus enough on anything in particular. I heard Calvin's voice, the occasional "good man" and "strong Warrior. I caught the "will never be forgotten" and then the moment of silence that followed had felt like an eternity. My brother wasn't dead, but I still felt the lack of his presence. It had never felt quite real that he was my sibling until now. I felt like I hadn't appreciated that fact enough.
I felt sort of hollow in the couple following weeks. I found it hard to sleep but I was always tired. Everything that had been bothering me before then had been pushed to the back of my mind and locked there. Rowran had stopped by occasionally to see if I wanted to train, but I always declined. It wasn't until the last day of the second week that I had woken up feeling alright. So I threw on my uniform, strapped on my boots, and headed to the training field where I had found him sitting on the steps to the main base, carving into a piece of wood with his knife.
"I knew you'd come around eventually."
It hadn't been Rowran who had said it though, but it was a voice I recognized clearly. To my shock Decevar was there as well, stepping out from the building with Hamish at his side.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I asked.
He grinned. "Don't look so horrified, neimi. We just thought it was time for a little brotherly reunion." He shrugged and continued, saying, "That, and since the big boss is gone things have gotten pretty boring. Markus just avoids everyone now too. We figured it was time for a new adventure."
"So you decided to become Warriors?"
They glanced at each other before looking back at me. "Pretty much," they said in unison.
I introduced them to Rowran, who took them being Zareck's scouts with no trouble. Rowran had been one of the small few we had told the truth to. He and Alika's team, who had come back for the funeral, were the only ones we truly trusted for now. I had kept the information about the Night Walkers and the Five between Mya, Spiro and I though. That wasn't something I thought the rest of Black Moon was ready for, we needed more evidence first before we sent the world into a panic.
Hamish and I sat on the steps as we watched Rowran and Decevar spar.
"So…Does he know? I mean, they I guess. Do they know you're from, you know, Earth?" I asked.
He laughed. "Yes, they do."
I nodded and paused for a moment. "So…" I started again. "Zareck told you to be there, didn't he? He knew I was going to fall into the river and he told you to save me."
Hamish nodded and leaned back on his hands. "Yes, he did. I think you would have been fine though."
"Did Decevar know?"
"What he doesn't know won't kill him," he said with a shrug. He gave me a wink that told me this information stayed between us. "I have my fair share of secrets."
I woke up the next morning to an empty spot on the bed beside me again. With a sigh I rolled over and got to my feet. Spiro had been sleeping less than I had. Both Zareck and Chaos being gone had impacted him more than it had me. He was also stressed from the work the Elders had given him. Since he was going to be taking over the team he was under a lot of pressure, not simply because he had to keep the team's status up but because he was the first Dark Warrior in history to be chosen to be a captain.
There had been discussion about splitting up the team and paring us with other ones since Mya was in no emotional state to take over, I was still too new, and there was always controversy about Spiro leading. I had adamantly refused though and got the Elders to reconsider. In the end they had passed Chaos's title to Spiro. I couldn't tell if he was happy or not about it.
I found him in the kitchen downstairs, the most amazing smell filling the house. I hummed as I wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed my face to his back.
"Is that bacon?" I asked.
He laughed and turned around. I backed up but he pulled me to him again. "Why, in fact, it is. Your observational skills have greatly improved, Leah," he joked.
I rolled my eyes at him. "Don't get snarky with me now," I warned, "or I'll kick you out of my room."
He kissed me gently on the top of the head. "Technically it's my room…" he mumbled.
This was nice. I liked it here, with him holding me, where it was calm and everything seemed so simple. Outside just felt like a disaster I wasn't ready to face again. I had missed Spiro more than I had thought while I was away, and though I was still struggling to figure out how I really felt about the whole Zareck situation, my feelings for Spiro were steady and sure. It was nice to be completely certain about something for once.
"I've missed you," he said. He kissed my forehead and said, "I missed you here." Then he kissed my temple. "And here." Then my nose with a smile. "And here." Then his lips brushed mine and he whispered, "and here…"
The kiss didn't last long. There was a creak on the stairs and we both looked towards them. I stepped out of Spiro's arms as Mya came downstairs.
"How are you feeling?" I asked her. I pulled out a chair for her at the table but she paused on the last step and frowned.
"Is that bacon?" she asked.
We nodded. "I thought I'd make us a big breakfast today. I think we deserve to be a little spoiled after everything," he said.
Mya turned white as a sheet and covered her mouth with her hand before running back upstairs. Spiro and I shared questioning glances before I went after her. I the bathroom I knelt beside her, helping her hold her hair back. She looked awful.
Since the incident at the Temple, Mya had mostly stayed inside, locked in Spiro's room. She mostly slept and she hardly came down to eat. Whenever we actually got her to go outside she only lasted a few minutes before going back in. Honestly, I hadn't realized how much she had cared about Chaos. Mya had always been one of the toughest Warrior's I knew, I had never expected her to stay down so long.
I felt her face with the back of my hand, then her arm. She was burning up. When her stomach seemed to have settled she sat back against the counter and closed her eyes.
"Mya, you're sick. I really think you should get out more. It might be good for you…" I said.
I noticed a tear slide from the corner of her eyes. She wiped it away, wrapping her arms around her stomach and drawing her knees up.
"I'm not sick," she whispered. Her voice shook as she spoke.
More tears fell down her cheeks as she looked at me. I didn't understand what she meant. I was confused for a moment before it dawned on me. My eyes went wide.
"You're pregnant!?" I exclaimed as quietly as possible. I wasn't sure this was something she wanted Spiro to know about yet. It explained why she had been so upset and hadn't even pretended to be alright. If it was Chaos's…and he was gone…
"Is it…?" I started.
She nodded and leaned her head down to her knee's.
"Oh, wow…okay." I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say. Did I congratulate her? Did I tell her everything was going to be alright? When did it even happen? No. I mentally smacked myself. I probably didn't want to know anyways.
I moved to sit beside her, putting my arm around her shoulder. "Hey, we'll get through this, alright? We'll find a way to help them, don't you worry. I know you don't like me very much but I'm here for you, okay? You know, I once had to help a stray cat who gave birth to kittens on my front porch. I'm sort of a professional at these things."
Mya laughed a little, but it was only a breath. "I don't hate you, you know. I know I was rude to you but I never disliked you," she said quietly. She looked up to me. "I just knew the guys would go too easy on you. Someone had to push you a little harder."
I smiled and hugged her. "Damn, and here I was thinking we'd be archenemies. You just have to ruin all the fun, don't you?"
She laughed again. There was a knock on the bathroom door then. "Go away!" I yelled. "We're bonding over girl stuff!"
Spiro pushed open the door, just enough to peek in. "Sorry to disturb your feminine bonding, but there's someone at the door for you," he said.
I pointed to myself. "Me?" Nobody ever came to the door for me.
"Yes, you. And you might not want to be too long…" He stepped out then. Mya and I exchanged a look before we got to our feet. I told her she could go lie down but she waved it off and said she was fine.
Downstairs there was a Warrior I recognized by face but not by name standing by the front door. He was one of the messengers, a younger Warrior who was still in the Academy. He cleared his throat when he saw me and pressed his fist to his shoulder.
"Leah," he acknowledged me. "There's a man here who requested to speak to you directly. I insisted he wait at the Temple but he refused and force me to bring him here. He said it was important business."
I furrowed my brows in confusion. Who in the world would ever have important business they had to talk to me directly about. I couldn't think of anyone I knew who wouldn't have waited at the Temple.
"Alright…" I said as I stepped down to the front door.
The messenger opened the door for me and I stepped out onto the porch. The man had his back to me, but even when he turned I had difficulty remembering him at first. I took in his outfit, the crest on his pin, his serious expression. That's when it hit me.
"Mordecai?" I asked. I had only met the man once, at the first party I had gone to at Morvengur castle.
He scoffed. "You'd think you would have a little more respect knowing who I am, girl," he said. I stepped down from the porch and did a quick bow out of respect to him.
"Leah, who is this?" Spiro asked from the door.
"Spiro, this is Mordecai Lupish. He's the King of Fallenreath," I said.
Mordecai didn't even look in Spiro's direction. His eyes stayed fixed on me. He was as rude and gruff as ever. That he had come out here and asked to speak to me directly must have meant something was wrong.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
He folded his hands behind his back. I saw his eyes shift and recognized fear there.
"I have a job for you."