I forced myself to remain calm and went back to the square every day for three days to listen to the young Daeva named Anschau. I needed as much information about his insidious plan before I tried anything, and I was dismayed to hear he was smart, planning his attack during the dark of the moon in Asmodae, a mere week before mine and Elethor’s next rendezvous in our secret cavern. More and more Daeva were amassing in the square each day to listen to the scout, and I was shocked at how many of them agreed with him, at how many of them thirsted for the blood of our lost brethren and I was afraid.
I took what kinah I had to the brokerage and spent it on supplies for the journey I knew I had to make. I bought mana and healing potions and serums and stocked my cube well; I also bought five kisk stones, the most expensive of my purchases by far. I made certain to bind myself to Sanctum’s great obelisk carefully, should my kisks be destroyed and should I have to try again, and then I went back to Ailsie’s. I thrust warm underclothing into my cube and strapped on my armor carefully securing my mace to my belt and shield to my back and tucking my staff away beneath them. Ailse watched me from the doorway.
“You aren’t going with those fools in the square are you?” she demanded. I smiled at her.
“I may be half cracked mind wise but you have to give me more credit than that.” I said. She made an ugly frown and glared at me.
“Make sure your warning is heard. I don’t condone murder either. Those pluma brains go too far and it baffles me that the Empyrean Lords are blind to their machinations.” She looked severely dismayed and I felt for her. Ailsie had always put her faith in our system, the fact that the Empyrean Lords turned a blind eye to an atrocity, a genocide in progress in our own capital city, out in the open like this had us frightened almost as much as anything else.
Military tactics in the Abyss and even on Asmodian soil was one thing but raiding for the sake of wanton blood spill was another. I snapped the top of my cube closed and went to hang it on my belt when Ailsie stopped me with a wave of her hand.
“Take these, I suspect you’ll need them.” She said and handed me a fat sheaf of scrolls. I began to read one and stopped, hugging her.
“I suspect you are right.” I tucked the running scrolls away and made for the door.
“I hope you know what you are doing Sirona, I don’t like what they are doing… but I don’t like what you are doing either. If it is so easy to tell them about something like this, one might think you give other secrets away.” I stopped cold and turned to her.
“Do you really think I am a traitor to my people?” I asked her, suddenly chilled and feeling hollow.
“No. I don’t think you would tell them anything else other than about this, still it is a short step from this to our methods in the abyss...” she chewed her lip thoughtfully and really looked at me before finally having the grace to say “Don’t get caught, be careful. I don’t think the rest of Elysea would see it the way I do you are my friend and no traitor. Now go find tall dark and Asmodian and save as many as you can.” She thrust her chin at the door and I slipped out and rushed for the teleporter to Heiron. I worried to myself that Ailsie may tell that it was me that had sent out the alarm to the Asmodian people, but she was my friend and I had faith in her that she would not.
I had no idea where the rift would be, nor where it would dump me out on the other side but I had to find it, I just had to and so I searched. I unfolded the crude map I had drawn from memory after studying the maps of known rift locations at the Library of the Sages and blessed my lessons in the cloister on memory. Priests were always schooled carefully in memory for prayers, chants and hymns. Most of us were fortunate enough to benefit from these lessons a near perfect recall of anything we saw written or drawn.
I prayed as I hiked through the jungle to the first rift location, that I would not only find it up but that I would be able to use it and cursed when I reached where it should be and found nothing. I checked the sky and satisfied that there was indeed a rift somewhere in the area pressed on, and luck would be with me. I found one. I sent a silent thank you to Aion and brought my shield off my back, settling it on my arm. I gripped my mace in the opposite hand and braced myself for the cold that lay on the other side as well as the unknown and stepped through.
Traveling by rift was nothing like traveling by a sorcerer’s gate. With a gate it was a slight moment of disorientation, a lurch if you will and then the world steadied and evened out. With a rift, it was entirely different. A primal bone grinding experience that left many a solid Daeva bent double on the other side retching. Some trips through were worse than others and as I felt my body pulled through the aether at an incredible rate I knew this was not going to be a good ride.
I was pitched violently out the other side of the rift, into the snow and landed hard on my knees. My fingers pinched between the handle of my mace and the ground painfully as I emptied the contents of my stomach into the snow. I retched helplessly for agonizing minutes knowing that at any moment an enterprising Daeva protecting Asmodian soil could come along and send me back to my bind point. Luck or Aion or both was with me as no such thing happened. I scrambled to my feet as quickly as I could and searched for cover, planting my kisk as near as I could tell out of sight and reciting the chant to bind that thread of my soul to it. My teeth chattered and my fingers tingled painfully with the icy cold and I worried about hypothermia for a fraction of a moment before I set out.
I had no notion of how I would find him, or even if I would get my warning through in time but I patted my ribs where the thick envelopes lay under my armor the same message repeated in each, and each bearing his name in the rough Asmodian language on the outside. It had cost me dearly to have the Shugo write them, even more than it had cost me to find the little scholar versed in both Elysean and Asmodian in the first place. Miriamonyerk had done well for me in that regard, though I had felt terribly guilty that she would take no coin for the information that led me to the Shugo that could put me in contact with the scholar for the exorbitant fee.
My plan was rough and imperfect but it was all I had. I would search the snowfields of Beluslan for any sign of my lover’s legion crest and I would engage the Asmodians I saw wearing that crest, not in combat but in conversation to the best of my ability. I would try to give them one of the envelopes before they sent me back to my bind point or Elysea and I would do this until I had none of the fifty or so envelopes left. I stayed off the roads but close enough to watch them for any occupants and frustratingly saw no one in the desolate landscape. I kept going, ranging out farther and farther from my kisk listening for footfall or breath, the rustle of cloth or the rub of leather. I fell into the training that Toxemia had given me, moving as quietly as I could stepping the ways he had shown me to lessen the chiming of my chain, when finally I heard it – a laugh. Sharp and clear and oh so familiar, though I could not remember for the life of me where I had heard it before. So much for memory lessons eh?
I crept to the edge of the brush and peeked out at the road and sent a silent prayer of thanks to Aion for his mercy and the shine of good fortune he had placed upon me because the Asmodian man that walked along the road I knew though the female at his side I did not. I slipped out one of the envelopes and stood up so they could see me, hands out and away from my body and kept my weapons sheathed and at bay. The woman leapt back and brought out her staff and shouted at the man who took a defensive staff, the glow of magic coalescing between his hands even as his water spirit made to attack. Recognition flashed across his face and he barked at his pet, an order which I could only guess was to stand down for he and it relaxed. The woman, however, did not. Though lovely to look at, with log white hair and gracefully curving horns over a delicate face, she spat something rough and harsh into the frosty air and Billy the spirit master and friend to my lover turned calmly to her and made for an explanation.
It was then that everything devolved into blood and pain. I had not seen or heard the assassin, in fact I had no clue at all he was there until his daggers tore into my side, the pain was sharp, searing and immediate and for a moment all I could do was scream before my wits collected and the prayers began to fall from my lips in a bid to heal myself. Billy was yelling the woman was yelling and the assassin pressed on, determined to end me, I healed myself and begged for him to stop all the while thrusting the letter at Billy finally he took it and I brought out my shield and tried my hardest to fend off my assailant’s blades, though by now I did not know if it would be enough…