Chapter Eleven "Making of a Pact"
There were several inhabitants of the monastery walking outside that were startled by the sudden appearance of the eight Veronians and six creatures. The golden portal remained open but began to shrink as time passed. Several crates began to materialize around them while they struggled to come to terms with what had just happened.
Godric had to look around again to confirm that Fredrik pushed them through the portal under his own power. His grip became slack and the claymore clanged against the gravel road as it fell. Madeline stared at the spot where she last saw Fredrik before looking at the package and letters in her hands. Like the jolt of being thrown into the air, she was jerked her out of the daze.
Her cry broke the trance on Douglass just in time to prevent her from reaching the portal. He thought the usual hold would be fine but realized that Madeline was throwing everything she had into getting back to the portal.
"Mad'line! I need ye to focus for a moment!"
The others were beginning to come to their senses and realized the gravity of the situation they were in. At any moment, sil'lis could start pouring through the portal because of Fredrik's decision and scrambled to get people away for their own safety. Jewel stood ready to jump back through the portal but wasn't sure if it would be safe to jump through now or if something would appear in front of her.
Godric fell to his knees as he realized what was about to happen next. The last thing he saw before the force of Fredrik's aura threw him back was the glyphs wrapping up his grandson's arm signaling that Alberon's power was awakening again. There was no telling how well he would be able to control it this time but that must have been why he pushed them through the portal.
"Godric! We need a plan!" Jewel barked out of panic. "Do we head back? Do we stay here? What do we do?!"
His legs quaked with the effort as he turned to face the vanguard and the others pushed through the portal.
Everyone's faces paled at what he said—even Madeline had stopped struggling against Douglass' iron hold.
"What?" she croaked out.
He approached the portal with lightning arcing off of his arms, "We need to close the portal, now. Otherwise, Alberon's power may leak through and cause extensive damage to Oak-tree. We have to put our faith in Fredrik's choice."
"He's just a boy, Godric," Djinn whispered.
Saul gritted his teeth, "No, he's more than just a boy. He's Fredrik Caeruleo of Trojeim. I know that things are out of my hand but I always knew he would risk his life for the safety of others. He must know what he's doing and I will put my faith in his choice; just like I did when he chose to leave Oak-tree."
Madeline was unable to prevent the tears from streaming down her face. Her and Douglass found that he was alive and well, and now it was uncertain of what was to happen to him next. Everything was falling apart just as soon as it had been put back together.
Djinn raised his staff and nodded to Godric. Golden magic flowed from his hands and the staff that sped up the progress of the portal's collapse. Just as the spinning circle dissipated, a beam of light shot into the eastern sky illuminating the clouds above. A strong gust of wind raced across the tops of the trees and howled through the iron fence in front of the monastery and the village's buildings.
It lasted for a few moments before the pillar shimmered and dissipated. Godric's intuition had been correct in that had the portal remained open, there was a chance that the power could have caused extensive damage to village. The gusts died down and left everyone in a state of awe and shock.
The lump in Godric's throat remained as he whispered out, "The Fourth Disciple of Alberon awakens once more."
While everyone began to move again, Saul looked around and noticed that the wolves were nowhere to be found. It was strange because they were standing next to him a few moments before the pillar of light shot up but they weren't in his immediate line of sight.
Fredrik fell to the ground as the trees blurred in front of his vision. His head was swimming as it tried to grasp reality again. Smoke drifted across the ground where the countless bodies of sil'lis horde were strewn about in broken piles.
Ragha retreated from its position and dissipated into the shadows of the trees.
It seems that I underestimated the Disciple. For now, I will see what Nightwalker thinks about this development.
His senses were still foggy but he was beginning to come back around, after taking a couple deep breaths. His memories were clouded as well but images flashed back as he remembered the speed at which the events occurred. The last thing he could clearly recall was jumping over Godric and pushing everyone through the portal. After that, it was all a blur but his muscles said it was much more than just a fleeting moment.
"Hello? Are you there?"
Fredrik turned his head towards the origin of the voice. His vision was getting better but the smoke was still heavy and concealed the speaker.
"I'm here!" he called out.
The sound of quick steps grew closer as two figures emerged from the shifting smoke. Serena was in front of Ashe as they ran towards him with quick glances about in case something decided to leap out at them.
"What are you two still doing here? I made sure everyone was on the other side in Oak-tree."
"We know because we were sent to the village, but we made the decision to jump back through before they closed the portal."
"But why did you come back?" he persisted.
Ashe gave Serena a nod when she looked to her.
"My sister and I are not from Verona and do not know much about your history. We have heard stories about the place the other mongoose was talking about—the place where the fire wielders dwell in the mountains. We didn't really believe that fire wielders lived there until we saw you and him conjure blue fire on your arms, but I must make another request on top of asking for your aid in Hollowridge. Would you take my sister as an apprentice and teach her to control her fire?"
Fredrik shook his head slightly to see if this was just a post explosion dream but his senses were clear and it wasn't a dream. He rose to his feet and braced his hands against the tops of his knees before standing at his full height.
"Your sister is able to control fire?"
"She can summon the fire but she cannot control it like you or the other mongoose did. Please, can you help her and our town?"
He leaned back down as he tried to recover his breath again. The drone had vanished, his senses were clear, but his lungs had yet to catch up.
"While it's true I am from Trojeim," he started. "The fire you saw was lightning. I'm afraid I am not one of the fire wielders that live in Trojeim."
Serena's ears drooped at the news she was given. Ashe knew it was a longshot to begin with but it was still disheartening when a solution had been so close at hand.
"However, I can teach you how to wield your fire. I know how the warriors of Trojeim do it and you're already a step ahead of them by being able to summon fire."
"Will you teach me then?" Ashe beamed. "Will I finally be able to control my fire?"
Fredrik let out a sigh and stretched his stiffening back, "I will do my best as your mentor. Although, before we continue, what were your names?"
With Godric suddenly appearing with his vanguard, Serena and Ashe appearing from a smoke cloud, and the sil'lis attack, introductions had yet to be made between everyone.
Serena held out a hand towards Ashe before bringing it back to herself, "My sister's name is Ashe and I am Serena. We are both natives of the country Azraba located across the Caron Ocean."
Fredrik extended his hand where Serena shook his hand, "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance—my name is Fredrik. Before we start making our way to Hollowridge, let me see what I can scrounge up inside."
He navigated through the corpses of the sil'lis to where piles of rubble stood as remnants of the barricade Saul created. Most of the damage had been absorbed by them but there were still several panes of glass missing from the homestead's windows. The door hung from a single as well with the force of wind that threw it inward from when it was already open.
"Saul is going to kill me when I see him again," he muttered. "If you want to look around, Serena, you can definitely see if there's any food that I can take with us. I'm making a quick run upstairs for some personal items and clothes."
Serena and Ashe were left to root through to dust filled rooms for what hadn't been taken with the others to Oak-tree."
"That was a pretty big risk we just took coming back here and asking Fredrik to take me as an apprentice. It was surprising that he agreed so quickly to do it too," Ashe commented.
"It was worth the risk, but a close call at the same time," Serena opened one of the upper cupboards to locate where the canned food was kept. "Now that you mention it, it is a bit concerning on how quickly he agreed to help us."
"It's because I need to test something."
Serena and Ashe spun around and found themselves at the end of a sword. Fredrik's eyes burned with the same intensity as they did when he confronted Godric but their noses were not filled with the smell of ozone.
"How do I know this isn't another plan of Ragha's by sending you two as spies meant to gain my trust."
Serena tried to think of an escape plan in case things were to go south but she only had spell pouches meant for illusion and a recall spell to return to Hollowridge. She had no more teleport spells crafted, so the only choice was to try and trick Fredrik if it came to that.
"You can trust us," Ashe said. "It's possible that we could have returned here and run the risk of becoming another body on the ground, but even so I can prove we're not one them that is tricking your senses."
She knelt down and found one of the glass fragments of the window that had a sharp edge to it.
"I saw some of the sil'lis before we were pushed into the portal and how some of their wounds began to heal," she pressed the fragment against her upper forearm and winced as it cut through her skin. "My wound is not healing and my blood is not scarlet like those creatures. If you think that I am clouding your senses even now, then strike both of us down if you're so sure."
Fredrik hesitated and watched the dark red begin to stain the fur around the cut and drip onto the floor. He lowered the sword and returned it to its sheath before grabbing a washcloth on the counter. Ashe tensed as he approached her and shook the dust from the cloth. The initial sting faded as he pressed it against the cut before tying a quick knot.
"I'm sorry that I doubted you, Ashe. I wanted to make sure but I had no idea you'd go this far to prove a point. I'll see if I can get this properly wrapped before we leave."
He stood up and retrieved the satchel he had left next to the base of the counter.
"Also, I have a request I'd like to ask you about."
Serena inspected the cut Ashe made but she nodded that it was okay, "What did you have in mind?"
"When we're done in Hollowridge, I am planning to return home to Trojeim. I don't know the exact way back, so it will take some time but I will be going there. If I continue to train Ashe, then she is welcome to accompany me or she can stay in Hollowridge, but I would appreciate the company if you'd help me find my way home."
Compared to their request to teach Ashe how to control her fire, this was how black is to white in terms of the task. Asking him to help solve the possible problem in Hollowridge that was a few hours away by walking was like a trip to the market in comparison to asking them to travel halfway across Verona. They didn't know any more than he did but they did know the fabled city was somewhere in the north.
"I'll go with you."
Serena looked at Ashe with astonishment, "Are you serious?"
"I am, Serena. Fredrik has agreed to teach me and I can't expect him to give up on returning home to teach someone. It's about finding the compromise for the situation where it's beneficial for both parties. That's what dad would have said."
"To go across Verona, though; that is a great distance for anyone to go in search of a fable," she argued.
Ashe smiled and looked to where Fredrik was doing his best to clean up some of the glass on the floor, "If Trojeim is a fable, then what does that make him? He never said anything about you coming too so you could stay in Hollowridge, but I am planning on going with him. It's odd but I feel like I need to follow him just like when you were drawn to him when we escaped."
Serena bit her lip trying to think of anything else that could possibly sway her sister from following Fredrik. It was true that something drew her to him but they didn't know much about him and she couldn't imagine trusting her younger sister's life in the hands of an almost complete stranger. She knew Ashe could take care of herself if she needed to but there was no telling what they would encounter.
"Very well, Ashe. If that is your choice, then I must do what I must as your sister go with you to make sure you are safe. Fredrik!"
He jumped at the sudden increase in volume and looked back at the two wolves.
"Once we are finished in Hollowridge, and the creatures are evicted, Ashe and I will accompany you to Trojeim. If you're ready to leave, then let us go now before any more time passes."
Fredrik shifted one more pile of glass to the side before walking towards the door, "Shall we then? It'll take a while to get there on foot, so we better get going."
Serena and Ashe grabbed their things and tip-toed through the small section of floor still covered in glass. Serena reached inside her pouch to pull out the recall spell that she had as a quick solution to return home if they ever got lost.
"There's no need to walk back, Fredrik. I ran out of teleportation spells but I always keep a recall spell handy should I ever get lost. A quick toss, a word, and we're back in Hollowridge."
She motioned for them to group up before throwing the pouch onto the ground.
A golden plume of smoke enveloped them and dissipated with the blowing breeze. In the clearing, the smoke had been cleared out by the wind and revealed the mass of sil'lis corpses scattered across the area. There were no survivors of the raid and just as the smoke was blown away, the bodies turned to dust and disintegrated leaving nothing behind but the homestead.
Ragha paced the house where Tretch was one of the only surviving sil'lis left from his initial strike team. Ruse and Sibyl went with the raid and were destroyed while Kale was sent to meet up with the sil'lis to the north.
"This is quite the predicament we're in, Tretch. Contrary to my gathered information, the Fourth Disciple was able to tap into Alberon's power, so it is going to be dangerous for any of us to approach him. I will need to confer with Nightwalker about this; can I trust you to watch over Hollowridge? With any luck, I will be back before they make their way here with those wolves."
Tretch bowed with a sharp smile, "It would be my honor to watch over our future nest, Ragha. If they have a way back here, then I will be sure to stop them where they stand."
"Excellent. Practice caution, Tretch, I cannot tell how strong this Disciple is yet, but it would be in your best interest to avoid him."
"By your word, Ragha."
Ragha melted into the shadows prior to Tretch opening up the door to walk out. The sun beat down causing him to shield his eyes but the host's body prevented it from killing him. To insure that the sun would never kill him, he would need more energy before discarding the host.
He flexed his hands and felt the power that belonged to his host course through his body—fierce, sturdy, and unmoving. The next question was what he would do with this power while waiting for Ragha's return.
"That's one of them!"
Tretch jerked his head to side and saw the wolf from last night but another wolf stood two heads shorter than her with a mongoose about half a head shorter. He wasn't sure how they managed to get here so fast, but he now had his chance to test his power.
Something was off, though. He had kept his gaze on the group in front of him but for some reason the mongoose had vanished. Tretch felt a rush of wind and glanced down to see that in the split second of a blink the mongoose had closed the distance between them.