Of Mortals: Chapter Nine

There was no mollifying the gathered travelers, not after all they had seen or all that Mishonrayel had done in his fit of rage. Sirian had no ambition to turn the crowd’s overall emotions towards something less fearful; they had all the right to worry. For her part, Sirian was herself a bit concerned, to say the least. She tried to maintain a calm detachment from the real problem, but it was less than possible for her. Sirian had been convinced that Mishonrayel was cured of the blood demon’s touch on his mind. Yet, here he was again, on a violent rampage through a mass of people who could not have meant him any harm for all the world. Surely it wasn’t that he was thrown into a tantrum of rage and made to demolish part of the camp as well as far too many of the northern refugees. Lost in thought, Sirian just barely clicked back to reality to catch what the priestess was going on about.

“I don’t blame you, can’t blame you even slightly for it. The others, they want you and those two wolves bound and gagged and left for whatever wicked thing will come this way. I’m making sure they don’t, but we need a solution, an answer for what happened here tonight and what will be done for tomorrow,” Shi’Karil’s tone was calm, but her breaths came shaky. Sirian could only assert she had some touch of that mythic power in her veins. Erkinan was a rare thing, something to hold tight to, something that very few would be granted within this age was what Sirian was told. She could understand how the lynx had been made so weak; burn through all you had and then pushing yourself further would leave any wielder of the power in such a state. After all, if she hadn’t forced herself to do all she could and then some, Sirian would never have had to be carried back to the camp.

Keeping her own tone confident and reassuring, Sirian addressed the woman she was quickly seeing as an equal, “We’re going to head out come morning. The mingling with your group has already been costly for our time. I mean no offense, but we would have done better to carry on north into the night instead of stopping.”

“You needed information, you had to stop, and after all, what kind of person would you be if you didn’t seek to apprehended any possible invader into your land? No, I think you were right to stop, even if this is the outcome. I will get the word about the camp; perhaps your departure will quell the worries of our group,” she sighed, not a relieved sound but one of burden.

Sirian set a paw on the other woman’s shoulder, trying to comfort Shi’Karil despite the fact the tent should have been a calming place in the first. With a forced smile, Sirian tried her best again at reassurance, “Priestess, we will track Mishonrayel down, and if I can’t bring him back under control, you have my word we will handle the situation properly.”

“I’d rather you be cautious and handle it with that more direct approach first rather than falling back on it. I don’t want to have to worry that someone as capable as you may have gotten themselves murdered by such a brute. A power like yours, I can’t say I have ever seen it, but I wouldn’t guess it comes along often, if ever twice,” Shi’Karil confessed to a confused looking Sirian. Without much more to add or even a proper way to address what she had just been told, Sirian dismissed herself promptly.

It was still next to impossible for Sirian to believe that someone who had healed so much from their time beneath the demon’s influence would turn back to that darker side of life. What she had gathered about his time under the blood god’s control previously, more what Mishonrayel would let slip, was very little. She hadn’t the slightest idea if the arrangement had been simply the devil taking hold of the man or a deal written in blood. There remained the knowledge that for some part of that time, Mishon was in less than full control over things. He was Sirian’s reference point for any contract with the demons as Mishonrayel would insist those creatures would force his paw at times. Sometimes it would be a subtle manipulation of the mind or even the senses, while other times, he was confident his bodily control had been taken from him by force. Whatever the case was, Sirian had to trust that what had happened to Mishonrayel had been accidental, and all that followed were the acts of a puppet master. Immediately after leaving Shi’Karil’s tent, Sirian sought out the wolves, hoping those two would be able to shed light on the whole situation.

Jaium and Sothoh had been looked over by the group’s healers and were more or less alright after some patching up. The two had seen far worse in their shared time, most of that having been since meeting Sirian. Now they remained distant from the encampment, having only stuck close to the mass of travelers long enough to help right the wagon toppled by Mishonrayel. Of course, they shouldn’t have felt any obligation to aid in that effort, but they were not going to leave things the way they were if they expected any hospitality from the northerners. Even beaten down from a long day and an attack by Mishon, the two had managed to find themselves game to fill themselves with for that night. A few young, wild myters weren’t ideal, but it was far better than starvation. They were just looking to bed down when the fox made herself known to them.

“All right, you two, I need to know exactly what happened with Mishonrayel today and why it is we’re going to have to search all of the burning countryside for two wild men,” Sirian condemned, almost unable to control her tone.

Jaium propped himself up on an elbow, the firelight casting his face in shadows, “Listen here girly, we didn’t quite sign on to do any chasing about of anyone north country or not. We could just as well head back to Roya without any questioning from the chief there. Just because Moqura set us to this task doesn’t mean it’s a proper order. Even after all the cycles he’s held rank, he hasn’t learned spit about what he can and can not do. So realize this isn’t a service, it’s a favor for your little lover boy too busy at home with his ugly, little orphan.”

“Jai! Hush up!” Sothoh chided, a harsh glare cut across his sharp features. After a moment, Sothoh softened slightly and regarded Sirian properly, “What Jaium means is that we are tired, bruised, and none too happy with how things have gone. Mishonrayel’s breakdown today wasn’t anything we could have perceived until it was too late, and the cause is well beyond us. To be to the point, Mishon was with us for a while, we got lucky with a shren, and before we could get it cooked up…”

“The brute snapped his blood-marked chains. Not after swinging me about at the other end like I was nothing but a plaything. He’s damned lucky to have run when he did. I was a moment away from calling out the Goredrinker with all the blood of his I was going to spill,” Jaium erupted, clearly still bitter about the event.

Sirian allowed the comments to sink in. She kept her gaze fixed on Sothoh as he was obviously the only one of the two that was looking to be genuine and helpful. For a moment, Sirian felt her knees wobble, her insides turn to stagnant water, and eyes blaze with welling tears, yet that was all only temporary. She whisked away those feelings, throwing them back into the past where the weak and childish girl who owned them belonged. This was no time to crumble under the weight of her responsibility; she needed to plan and act. The world was not going to become a better or easier place for her just because she started crying. Sirian had left such useless things, all of those worthless tantrums, buried in the past with a personality she could now no longer recognize, and all of that was for the better.

Sharpening her resolved, Sirian addressed the wolves, “I see. Well, it doesn’t matter how it happened. No one can be blamed for this aside from that blood-marked fiend, the Goredrinker. But just because we hit a snag, circumstances have changed, and we are out one of our group doesn’t mean we can give up. There are now two men on the run who could be a great threat not only to our kingdoms, aware of their existence but to others who have yet to see the terror they bring. If not for ourselves than for all of those innocent lives that would be destroyed and turned over to the Goredrinker, we must pursue them, less we allow the devil to build himself an army.” Silence swallowed the tight area around the bonfire sitting independent of the larger camps. Sirian allowed herself to weaken only slightly in light of the wolves’ lack of a response, “I know you two don’t owe me anything, nor do you owe Mishonrayel another minute of your time. As a matter of fact, between the two of us, we owe you a lifetime of leisure, but that isn’t something he or I can give. But I’m not telling you this is your duty, not asking this as a favor, or begging for your help, I’m simply wanting you to look into your heart of hearts. Think about how much upheaval just one of these men could cause in Roya or Seras where they’ve been seen before and ask yourselves how much damage could they do together on an unknowing city. And once you’ve concluded just what the implications of that would be, ask yourself if you could live with the knowledge you didn’t stop them when you could, and whatever comes of it must sit, at least partially, on your shoulders.”

“Look, Sirian, we…” Sothoh had begun to formulate an answer after only a few seconds, but any such words died then and there. A blood-curdling shriek broke the otherwise quiet night air and set every one’s nerves on edge. Sothoh reached for his ax, Sirian sought her Erkinan even if it were only her merest reserve of power, and even Jaium was upright, his paw in his tunic finding some fine-point daggers there. Another scream roared from within the camp, and then came sounds of struggle, of destruction, of chaos contained within the circle of wagons. There was no call to arms, no cry for help to the three, nothing came in the way of a demand they were needed; the trio simply knew the signs of trouble by now. And where in all three of them this form of trouble was met with an incessant urge to flee no matter the costs, they instead charged in, head first, only to see what may come of their interference. What they would get and what they would see for their willingness to lend a paw on this occasion was far more than any of them could have bargained for.

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