From his vantage point, Brendan remains watchful as the black-haired woman and the Dark Master face off. While he can’t hear their words, as their voices lowered after the initial command the woman issued, he can feel the magical energies rolling off them. Tiberion, as the woman called him, steps forward as if to challenge her, but the same shield that repelled his dark magicks now denies him as well, throwing him physically back as if shocked by high voltage electricity.
Master Tiberion picks himself back up, approaches the woman again while being careful not to touch the shield this time. Whatever was spoken, they come to an impasse. The sorceress and the man standing quietly behind her move to The Destroyer’s side and carry her back the way they came. Brendan can just make out the roof and what looks like the worn steeple of an old chapel. The Dark Master seethes. With an angry roar he hurls a final ball of darkness against the impenetrable dome.
Brendan moves back from the crest of the hill, ensuring that he’s far enough back that he won’t be heard or seen from below. He pulls an ornate amulet out of his pocket—he had lifted it from the abbey’s library just before he sneaked out. It’s a scared tool used in his Order, but only those who have graduated to the rank of Reader are granted use of them. It’s how they contact the Patron while on their missions.
He runs his thumb over the detailed carvings on the gold face. He could well be thrown out of the Order for possessing this when he was still in his apprenticeship. He turns it in his hands, over and over, before doing what he must. He has no choice. The Dark Order is here and knows The Destroyer is alive…and she’s now got allies. Powerful ones, if the strength of the shield is any indication.
Settling in his meditation pose, Brendan slips the pendant on and takes a deep breath then closes his eyes. He feels his soul rip free of his body, fly to the abbey as fast as he could think about his destination. Then he’s standing in the Council’s Chambers, surrounded by the angry and confused faces of the Order’s leaders.
The Patron glares at Brother Brendan’s astral projection, interrupting the Council for the second time. “Leave us,” he commands of the other Council members. As they file out, he can see Brendan’s nervousness rising. As the chamber doors close, he clasps his hands behind his back and faces the young monk. “Now, Brother Brendan, tell me…what is so important that you have twice interrupted our proceedings? And by your current state of…” He moves a hand through the apprentice’s insubstantial form, causing the young man to grimace. “…matter, I would say you’ve taken one of the Aetherian Amulets, have you not?”
“Patron, I can explain!” Brendan blurts out.
“Oh I’m sure you can, in your mind. Tell me, what intrigue have you deemed this important now?”
Brendan tries to calm himself before speaking. He knows if he screws up this report, he’ll lose his future. “I followed The Destroyer. The Dark Order is also searching for her, but—”
“Wait!” The Patron’s eyes are narrow, sharp. “Her? The Prophecy said nothing of a woman.”
“Yes, Patron, I know. Neither did it deny the possibility.”
A thoughtful frown crosses the Patron’s face. “Continue. Tell me all you know. Then we shall decide punishment for your disobedience.”
Brannagh leans back in Liam’s arms as they watch their daughter sleep. Liam applied a poultice to her foot, gave her a potion he got from the healers when he worried over his wife that he had cast a sleep spell on. Even in the induced slumber Moyra tosses restlessly and moans in pain.
“Will her foot be saved?”
Liam shakes his head. “I cannot say, my love. Only in time will we know if the potions are stronger than the shadows that touched her.” He kisses her cheek. “All we can do is wait for her to wake.”
“I knew they would come for her, but I didn’t expect them to be so close behind her. And I certainly didn’t expect it to be him, or that he would try to harm her. In the Prophecy, the Dark unites under her.”
“Perhaps he thought he could lead them if he were to be the one who slayed The Destroyer.” He pauses at his wife’s disapproving look for calling their daughter by the title given long before her birth. “I’m just trying to figure out his reasoning. By killing her, if he unites them because of that act, she would, in essence, still be responsible for their joining.”
Brannagh sighs. “We’ll need to start her training at once, no matter how she feels when she wakes.” She looks again at her daughter. “I never wanted this life for her.”
Liam smiles sadly and squeezes her hand, to give comfort as much as to receive it. “I know you didn’t, my love. But now, we haven’t a choice.”
“Well this is an unexpected….honor.” The man who speaks would be an honored knight in times of old, but in these days he hides his magick within the brotherhood he guides. He bows low, mocking in his actions and voice. “I don’t recall the last time the Readers graced us with their Holy Presence.”
The Patron Reader scowls at his flippancy. “These are serious times, Abram. The darkness is rising, so times are desperate.” He could see that this man, the leader of the Brethren of the Peaceful Order, didn’t believe his words. “‘From light and dark one shall arise, power unlikened to any before’.” He watches as the other man’s face sobers. “Shall I continue, or do you understand all that’s at stake?”
“That’s impossible. The signs weren’t fulfilled. The Prophecy is null.”
“Not so. The signs were cleverly hidden to lead those that would stop it astray. The Destroyer lives, and even now my finest Seekers draw close.”
The Brother leans back in his chair and steeples his fingers. “Sounds like you have it handled, then. Why come to me?”
“There are too many variables for me to have control of this situation. My man’s report says that The Destroyer has allies—a dark sorceress, and a man who has a powerful protective shield cast that is protecting them. Mine can’t manipulate even the white magicks. I need you and yours to bring the shield down so we can get The Destroyer.” The Reader pauses and meets the Brother’s eyes. “Before The Dark Order. Leading them on that front is Master Tiberion.” The name carries weight with Abram, but well it should as Tiberion was one of the most ruthless and persistent of the Dark Masters.
The head of the Brethren rises at the unwelcome news, a strong sense of urgency flooding his veins. His lips narrow into a grim line. “How long? Where are they?”
“According to my Reader, they’re already there.”