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Jadis was roused by the sensation of heat. He stirred, opening his eyes to see Glires, one of the older clan matrons, reviving the fire place. She held a knife to the fire, using it to channel flame without the use of fuel.
He was in his bedchambers. Back in the Sellis clan hall. Safe.
But what of the Timberhorn clan?
“Glires,” he stated.
The woman jumped at the sound, scrambling to address the jarl. “Oh, my,” she stammered. “Beg your forgiveness, Jarl. I didn’t mean to wake you.” She bowed several times to augment her apology.
“It’s no fault of yours,” he replied. “How long have I been asleep? Did Walen and Cadock-Tir make it home safe? How many people died?” He moved to get up, but his legs were so heavy he could barely lift them.
“My lord, please!” she urged. “Stay in bed. You need rest. The Timberhorn jarls are both relatively well, and night is just approaching. You haven’t been unconscious eight hours. I’m surprised you’ve awoken at all with how much earth magic Walen said you used.”
“About that. I need to speak with Takeya.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know who that is, Jarl.”
“She’s the messenger from– ah forget it. Look, I need you to go fetch Tarres. Have him send for her.”
She looked confused. “I’m sorry? Is something the matter?”
“Just do as I say.”
“Yes, Jarl.” And with that she was gone.
The woman would probably know something about wyverns and magic. It was too much of a coincidence for a messenger from the Preservers to arrive and ban the use of magic, only to see the dragons using it for themselves the next day. He needed to speak with her. Find out what she knew.
An hour later, after the poor Tarres’ running back and forth throughout the entire Hollow, he had arranged a meeting with the Kitsuyan woman. She had made arrangements to depart that day, but accepted the jarl’s request to talk.
To Glires’ distress, he wouldn’t allow the fatigue of the earth magic to keep him bedridden. He could walk with the help of a cane, though it was difficult to manage even that.
Takeya greeted him downstairs, in the lounge of the Sellis clan hall. Most of the remaining clan members would have business to attend to around the Hollow, or simply be spending their time elsewhere. With the current state of things, the clan hall was primarily used as a housing structure for beds rather than a gathering place. They didn’t have to worry about people listening in.
“We meet again, Jarl,” she smiled.
“Please, sit,” he winced as he descended the last step. She accepted the seat, but didn’t get comfortable.
“I heard about what happened this morning,” she said. “You apparently saved many lives.”
“So I’m told,” he replied, sitting down opposite her. “If you heard about that, you must also have heard about the wyvern’s strange capabilities.”
She crossed one leg over another as she thought about her response. “Not strange at all, actually.”
“What are you saying? You knew about this?”
“The Preservers have no direct authority over how a nation leads its people, Jadis.”
“Your institution seems to think otherwise.” He furrowed his brow, curious at the sudden change in subject.
“Naturally. We are equipped with the information gathered from millennia past. Our judgments, in the very least, are quite well informed.”
“And the Preservers love to keep it that way. You tell us what we should be doing without even offering a reason as to why. You want to keep the rest of us in ignorance so you can all go about your lives being the smart and ‘informed’ ones lording over the common folk whom you’ve shared no knowledge with.”
Her expression darkened. “Some information is best not given in to the hands of the public.”
“Allow me to be the one to make that decision. A jarl cannot lead with only conclusions. He needs the information that lead to them.”
Takeya sighed. “The Rupture was a phenomenon that changed the entire world, Jarl. Nothing is the same anymore, and the Preservers are scrambling to make sure it doesn’t take more lives. It’s already wiped out the Veritians, but it has also indirectly caused the deaths of thousands of others.”
“The nation of Cedria has gone nearly silent,” she explained. “The vine domes that protect their cities now confine them. They are deadly to the touch, and absorb all magic they come into contact with. Some cities have been killed outright in bloodbaths we can’t source. It’s almost as though the vines cut off their ability to think clearly, and they killed each other. The Cedrian Keeper has also been missing since the Rupture occurred.”
“Blood of the Archons,” Jadis murmured.
“It is our current hypothesis that the Rupture has somehow given the fauna and flora of our world the ability to absorb or otherwise interact with elemental magic. It isn’t strange to hear that wyverns can do that as well.”
“You should have told us this in the council meeting.” His fists were clenched.
“If word of this spreads, there’s no telling what people woul–“
He rose to his feet, as much as the effort pained him. “People died today because you didn’t give us that information. We wouldn’t have fought a dragon that could throw our own magic back at us!”
“I told you to refrain from hunts for the time being.” She did not raise her voice. “You cannot blame me for their deaths.”
“You can’t use our ignorance as a weapon against us when you have the power to dispel it. You hold as much blame for not informing us of the danger we were getting into.”
“You can hardly hold me responsible. Even if wyverns couldn’t use magic they could easily have died just the same.”
A thunderous roar echoed through the Hollow.
Takeya snapped her head to look at Jadis. “What was that?”
A mass of blood. His brother’s corpse. “Death,” Jadis said, staring out into nothingness.
“I’ve never heard a wyvern call. I didn’t expect one to be that loud.”
“They aren’t. Not in the Hollow. The sound of the city would drown out anything going on outside.”
“What are you saying?” she asked, terrified.
“A wyvern has somehow managed to find its way inside.”
Tarres burst into the lounge of the clan hall. “Jarl!” the young man stammered, obviously distressed. “There’s a dragon in the Hollow!”
Takeya was on her feet immediately. Jadis simply nodded. “I heard. Help me up,” he commanded, holding a heavy arm up. Tarres obeyed, pulling the jarl up to his feet.
“What do we do?” Takeya asked.
“We have no choice. We fight. Get me my sword, Tarres.”
Tarres nodded quickly and flew up the stairs.
“You can’t fight in your current state,” Takeya scolded. “Your body is still too spent from so much earth magic.”
“As a jarl of the Luminous Hollow it is my duty to protect its people from harm by any means necessary, Preserver. I won’t ask you to fight. This isn’t your home.”
The sound of the dragon’s roar echoed through the city once more, muffled as the sound came through the walls, but loud. The sound made Takeya shudder. This obviously wasn’t what she had expected when she came to this nation.
“But I’m here. I’ll lend what aid I can, but I’m afraid I’m not trained in conventional weaponry. Is there a way to defeat it without magic?”
“We’ll make one,” he said as Tarres returned with the jarl’s greatsword. Swords don’t weigh as much as common folk unfamiliar with them would guess, but with his muscles as exhausted as they still were, he could barely lift the thing. “I want you two to go around the city spreading the word that magic is not to be used by order of Jarl Jadis. I don’t care if they ignore you, I just need the word to spread as quickly as possible. Understand?”
“Yes,” they both replied. Tarres added a ‘jarl’ at the end.
“You can’t possibly intend to fight that thing on your own,” Takeya said. “You and the Timberhorn clan didn’t stand a chance before.”
“This time I’m equipped with knowledge I didn’t have before. ‘When there’s a change in the winds. The weak must follow, but the strong can fight against it.’ Now go, we don’t have any time.”
They nodded, leaving without saying another word.
Today, he would join Serandis among the stars.
He wrapped the sword’s sling over his shoulder like a sash, the blade resting on his back. It would be easier to carry with its weight so evenly distributed. Then, he left the clan hall.