Frank followed Thrak and Zy’an through the jungle, hoping to be back before the cold of the mountain set in. Adventuring is fun kids, but he was starting to appreciate the comforts of a fine rich meal, and a hammock swing in a cabin he didn’t need to share with a lizard man. Tail or no tail. Next to him walked Iricah. She trudged through the mountain mud and in between the twisting roots she set her feet as silently as she could. She was never that quiet, but like Frank in his armor, Iricah draped in bags tried her best. For some time since they had left the monastery grounds, she would not speak.
She said only what she had first told them, but no one would listen then. No one really could then, for each had found themselves close to death, and a battle like that takes time to recover from. Her face was frozen in deep thought now. Her eyes stared ahead seeking some answer that she was no doubt chewing on. Stubborn, thought Frank. She is stubborn, and doesn’t want to deal with the loss of another. It isn’t fear. It’s fear of loss. He remembered his own training on the subject. His master, before the intensive training in the order, had shown him the path of acceptance. It had taken him a long time. He wondered what loss Iricah had endured before this day. He knew wounds like that ran deep. This one, whatever she carried, wasn’t something he could heal with the power of the flame. This one was something Iricah herself would need to cure.
The loss in the monastery had indeed been great, and it had taken all of them to convince Iricah to accept it. For the time being Iricah. We must consider more than one of us sometimes. Areia waits for us. We should not be divided like this for long. We will return. We will find her.
The trickster’s tool provides the spark
That holds dear our virtue from the dark.
The battle in the clouds was over, and although they had defeated their foes in the monastery, one of their number had been taken. Ulua was now gone, carried away by the foul giant into the mist. Desperate, bleeding and unable to do more then strike back at the onslaught of their attackers, they had watched helplessly as the warrior princess was carried away. Up and out of the monastery’s inner sanctum. A lifeless body carried by a massive troll, disappearing into the clouds and the peaks beyond the ancient buildings. Frank’s powers had grown strong in the Flame. He could bring others back from the brink, but not if he couldn’t find them.
“She’s still alive,” said Iricah . “I feel it.”
Frank hadn’t understood what Iricah meant when she said that. A reaction, nothing more. Denial? A few of the monks lay around him dead, and try as they all might, there were no clues as to where the beasts had taken Ulua. Zy’an tried to scout into the clouds and beyond, but found nothing.
They were bruised, cut and wounded, and now they were at their weakest. Could they find her? Should they risk it? With no one sure, they chose to remain. But Iricah, could not be free of her guilt. Or was it even guilt? Wondered Frank.
Ulua had been carried off. The princess of the Atua, the warrior princess.
Frank stood next to the bard and waited for Zy’an to return. His face told them she would not be found. At least not today. He remembered looking to Iricah then, and noticing that although his face had grown grave with concern. Something had shown itself there too. Beneath the sweat and the tears and the grime. Something that resembled hope.
“She’s alive Frank, I know it.”
He searched for a sign of doubt. But found none. She really believes it.
Frank stood there in the mist, and nodded. Because what else could he say to her? “Ok Iricah. Ok. She’s alive. But she’s beyond our reach. Her destiny is not in our hands. Our path lies elsewhere. You must have faith. With wisdom, comes time. We will have that time when we are wiser than we are now.”
Now they were making their journey to the ship. His feet, tired and sore slogged their way through the island’s mud.
She said she knew Ulua was still alive. But how could she know that?
Every step gave him a chance to wince, unable to heal himself as he now was. It also gave him an incessant reminder that there was one set of footfalls that were missing on the journey down. Somewhere through the jungle ahead lay the ship, and the ocean beyond. The ocean that would take them back to Areia’s Landing; where Iricah would research what they now knew about Zy’an, without Ulua.
Somewhere on the journey down, Frank decided to finally ask her what she meant about Ulua. As a man of faith himself, he had to know.
“I just know, Frank,” she said. “I can’t describe it. Since Thrak’s death on the beach. I just know now. Don’t you feel it?”
“No,” replied the cleric. “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tiresias, my mentor, once explained to me there is a part of each of us in all other goodly folk. I never understood what he meant by that. But if my mentor said something to me, it was important.”
“You’ve mentioned him before. The name, Frank, is not unknown to me.”
“You have met him?”
“No, I have not. Not in person. Only in writing. On stone.” She paused. “Ancient stone. Kasillian stone.”
“I don’t understand,” said Frank. “Are you saying that somehow my mentor is named after an ancient Kasillian who appears in your historical research?”
“Somethings Frank, we don’t need to say something to know it.”
“Well, it sure sounds like you’ve met him,” said the cleric.
“There!” came Zy’an’s voice. “The ship is ahead, just a league off. But…wait,” he paused, bent over, looking through the trees on a small bluff. Below, the ship was visible under the moon light. “Areia’s flare is lit. Hurry! To the ship!”