Genoran waited for them on board his nameless ship. He watched what happened during the battle, or at least tried to do so. He had his hands full with the battle around him at sea level. Above him, at some point, he heard a huge crack. He had only a moment to look skyward when a concussive explosion above knocked him down. And then he saw the enemy ship, fall right out of the sky. Landing with the force of a mountain upon the sea, it bubbled and churned at the surface before disappearing. Huge waves drifted around the bay as a result of it falling, a few of the enemy vessels had capsized, but none that the ships commanded! The massive thing was lost beneath the waves, a danger no more.
And then he saw the figures floating downwards towards him.
Who are these people? He thought.
He watched them as though they were a few left over feathers floating to the ground in the wind after a massive hurricane. Only a few were lost when the caldera erupted in a violent explosion of heat and steam and magma. Others, he lost when the airship struck them down through cannon fire. Now though, the ships had cleared the enemy lines and were rounding the inlet towards open water. They had done it. She had done it. Just as her brother had told her she would. He couldn’t believe the truth of it. It was simply more than he could bare. So he took a knee right then and there, watching her and her fellows land on his deck. There was nothing to say. No forgiveness he could ask. No thank you that would suffice. Only three words that he had practiced for so very long. And it was now that they needed to be said most of all.
“Iricah, your brother.”
Landing gracefully, Iricah placed a small jar in one of her bags and nonchalantly addressed the prince. “It is not the time, nor place to bring this up, Prince of Cellinor.”
Around them, the once slaves erupted in cheers. People crowded them, thanking them, hollering. Many were crying. But Genoran knew that he must get it out now. She had a right to know. Maybe, she always had. And because of the resolve of his mind in that moment, it came out in a flood, each new word releasing a lifetime of burden. Sensing it, the crowd moved back, giving space to the prince, now on one knee. This was a rare sight indeed.
“I had to do it Iricah. I had to. He told me you would never would have gone West, which is what we read the signs to mean. He was supposed to be here at Ferroun’s Station but is not among the slaves. I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t know how to say I’m sorry. The citadel is all there is, it’s everything that we’ve read, we’ve researched. It’s my life’s work, your life’s work. He said you’d understand. Someday. When the heroes return they will once more fight back the darkness, and this time we will be victorious! You know the signs. You’ve read them too!”
“I’ve read the signs you blithering idiot. Yes. yes, yes!” sighed Iricah. She was tired and this wasn’t the thank you she was looking for. Maybe a bunk that wasn’t next to a giant lizard. She could do without another argument in public too! Then, she stopped. The words that formed a question spat from her mouth at the same instant she saw the answer in Genoran’s eyes. She cocked her head to one side. Frank took a step back. With the grizzle and grime of battle still matted in her hair, she looked about to rage as well as Thrak. “Prince of Cellinor, who was supposed to be at Ferroun’s Station?”
The deck went silent. Like a mist spreading, talking stopped all around them. Genoran, lifted his head and stared up into the bard’s eyes. “Your brother Iricah. He is alive.”
The deck cleared faster than a cave full of stirges at sunset. Frank couldn’t remember what else was said, but he remembered a lot of cussing, things being thrown and someone, a man he thought, pleading for his life. He also caught a few words.
If the Sasser Alliance are victorious, they will capture the isles, and the citadel. The heroes will never come. Ket will rise once more.”
“That’s going to be some war,” Frank interrupted.
Thrak, whose mind had returned to it’s former glory, snarled a response and held his axe before him. “I’ve been waiting for it!”
Frank laughed realizing that the lizardman had not understood him. He looked back at Genoran, who was talking to Commander Fritz about something. He was stooped over as though injured and he grimaced each time he spoke. Then, he stared at Iricah, who had parked herself over a crate, every so often casting a spell that struck the Prince in the backside. She had nearly a dozen maps and notebooks out before her. Zy’an had gone to sit near her and they were discussing something hurriedly over her notes. He didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm.
“I’ve been waiting for it too, Thrak. This particular war is going to be very interesting.”